Breathing Rate vs Talent Management: What is healthy?

I learned a new fact yesterday – On average, people in the US take 17 breaths a minute.  In Africa, that number is 6 breaths a minute.

Conclusion?  Our steady state is not a relaxed state.  Normal isn’t healthy.

How does this connect to how effectively companies leverage their greatest resource – people?  A trend I see is to begin to re-hire the talent management roles that were cut during the recent downturn.  A good thing – but reactive.  Use the statistics above to think about your organization right now:

Here is what talent management looks like at 17 breaths a minute:  

  • An employee engagement initiative is under way.
  • HR people hounding overworked leaders to get performance evaluations done.
  • Top performers getting generous conteroffers after announcing their intent to leave.
  • Poor performers stay in key roles > 4 months.
  • The most critical project happening is the implementation of a learning management system.

Here is what talent management looks like at 6 breaths a minute:

  • Performance Conversations happen with leader and follower input, no surprises, and follower leaves with a development plan they are ready and equipped to own.  (here is al ink to what I mean by follower)
  • CEO hears key people update(2x a year) from each leader and sees proof that they are being challenged, developed, supported, and cared for.
  • Regular one on ones are happening down to at least the manager level, preferably the professional contributor level.
  • No painful departures.

People initiatives happen because we forget about the healthy habits.  Talent management is about developing a homeostatic state.  It is about Building Rhythm.

How is your organization breathing?

Can You Hire and Lead the Ignorant?

In a meeting recently I was with a group of people deliberating the hiring of a leader for a not for profit organization.  One observation was a lack of experience in a fairly important area.  A wise member of our group pointed out that it could be a good thing because ignorance = fresh eyes.  We all agreed that it was a good choice, but only if we all committed to supporting this new leader and connected her with a mentor.  We committed.

I like the word ignorance.  I like using it in front of groups because people snicker, almost like it is some sort of soft cussing word.  I have to remind people that it just means I don’t know.  Not I can’t know or I will never know . . . just I don’t know.

Here are some rules for hiring ignorance:

  1. DO IT if you see passion and gifts that get you excited about having this person thinking with you AND you are committed to #2.
  2. DO IT if you are ready to actively support (mentor/coach) for 6-12 months and forgive some mistakes.
  3. DON’T DO IT if your industry is too complex/specialized, you are too busy, and your team is too talented to be patient with a learner.  You might read this as sarcasm – but I really mean don’t do it.  If any of these three things are true or perceived to be true it is not a good place to shed ignorance.
  4. DON’T DO IT if you sense a comfort with the ignorance – if there is not hunger to leave that state.  Look somewhere else.

Ignorance is actually the basis of a good development question for leaders and followers alike. 

  • What do you feel ignorant about right now? 
  • What would it mean to have that feeling go away?
  • What is one thing I could do to help make it go away?

Carry that word around with you for a couple days and see what you notice.

Written a note lately?

Yesterday I received a letter in the mail that said ‘thank you’ for something I had done.  I read it once, then a second time later in the evening, and started to throw it away when I realized I needed to keep it.  So I put it with some other letters I had received previously.  As I looked at the stack I realized some had been in my possession for over 10 years.  The written word has something special about it.  I read a statistic one time that said 3% of thank yous were written and over 80% of those notes were still being saved 12 months later. 

Written one of these lately?

A staple in any leadership development program is to write a note to someone thanking them for something they did that had real value.  A habit for any leader should be to have a stack of cards in their office and write 2 per month.  Here is the card I have used for 5+ years and having them ready removes the excuse of I will do it tomorrow when I have something to write on.

I always look at writing a thank you as making a deposit into a trust account.  There will be a point in time when I will have to say I am sorry for doing something that hurts a relationship.  My mental goal is thank you notes >= sorry statements.  If I am sorry > thank you then withdrawals are greater than deposits, and it is a bad trend. 

If you control this equation by never saying I am sorry as a leader then you win, but there will be a price to pay.

In my house there is a standing joke that anything Dad has that is older than the kids is special.  So far that list includes my marriage, some tools, some sporting equipment, a few t-shirts, underwear, and thank-you notes.  I know – too much information. 🙂

Watch yourself this week – How often did you say thank you?  How often did you say I am sorry?  . . . . and write just one note!

Friday Fun – An example of making a transition fun AND special

People like to hear their own name.  This is a bit of wisdom that a mentor once shared with me and I have never forgotten it.  Nothing irritates me more than a quiet or non introduction of a new person.  Assuming all people will find their way misses an opportunity to provide a great start to someone who is looking for a way to connect with their team.

Enter my friend, who missed an opportunity to be a circus clown, trading it for a career as a Marketing Director.  Time has taught him to bring his unique brand of humor to his job.  He gave me his approval to share an email on how his team  announces new team members / changes in roles:

I am happy to announce that James Greene will be moving from part-time intern to a 3-4 month long full-time internship with our company.  While you may know James as the squishy orb guy or the resident ladies man; he actually has been working as our Pay-per-click (PPC) specialist, which is a critical component of our Marketing team that spends around 20% of each division’s budget.  James will continue to manage our PPC working for Kathy, he will also be adding the second phase of the call center trial.  Expect to see him on a shifted schedule up to midnight in the office during the week and potentially weekends.  Please welcome James to his new role. 

A few little known facts about James:

  • Attended THE Michigan State University, received a degree in Marketing (Sales emphasis)
  • Grew up in Marquette, MI
  • There is an “e” at the end of his last name.  Oddly, at age 12, he dropped the extra “e” in Jamese.
  • Has one younger brother
  • He can guess any ladies age with an accuracy +/- one year. 
  • Enjoys playing most sports, but especially Golf, Tennis, Jarts, and Basketball
  • His Dad loves big campfires. 
  • He can’t get enough music in his life and is an avid guitar player (a wanna be hipster)
  • He is Butler Bulldog Brad Stephens’ evil twin – separated at birth?  (after this he showed a picture of the new team member next to Brad Stephens – striking resemblance!)

Of course there are limits in what to say and how sarcastic or inventive to get.  The key point – there is a chance to make someone feel special and make a job change an event to celebrate!  The best part of this story is the IT department did an announcment using this format the next week.  Good ideas have a way of being adopted by others.

Here is another method I have used to speed up the get to know each other process. 

Have any other ideas?  Comments to this post are welcome.

Leadership and Followership: A simple habit around Building Trust

I teach a class that brings leaders and followers into a room and they learn about great leadership and followership together.  During a class a couple of weeks ago, when we were talking about Building Trust, I asked the following questions:

Followers:  What do you think the leaders need from you to Build Trust?

Leaders:  What do you need from your followers in the area of Build Trust?

The general answers from the followers (on what leaders needed from them to Build Trust) leaned towards work getting done.  Statements were made like “Doing what you say you will do” and “Following through on your work”.

When I asked the leaders a similar question, the first answer was from someone new to leadership.  He raised his hand and said “Telling me that I am doing things well, along with letting me know what I am doing wrong.”

It is in moments like these that both sides of the performance equation realize they do not always understand each other. 

It is in these moments that just a little sharing helps us understand what we need to provide to others to help them be successful.

Followers:  What if you committed once a week to seek out your leader and ask them “What do you need from me this week?

Leaders:  What if you did the same, and said thank you when you saw your people looking out for you.

Initiatives become necessary because we forget about simple habits that help create success for people and teams.  Commit to this simple habit.

The truth can hurt, and it can inspire

At the retirement celebration of a pastor who had served a congregation for 30 years, he shared this story.

Halfway through seminary two professors pulled him aside with the same message “Based on your effort, you don’t deserve to be here”.  Instead of stopping there, they went on to say “But we know you belong here, so if you want to stay here this is what you need to do . . .  and we will help you.”  He made the changes, went on to a wonderful career, and touched many lives.

Too often accountability starts and stops with getting skilled at having the tough conversations.  Of telling people what they are not doing.

What about challenging them to an unseen, yet imagined, potential?

How much time do we take to see the value of the person beyond the task?

What is the cost of asking – What do you need to be successful?  Then providing it.  Imagine the potential impact!

Leadership is about asking the question, painting the picture, and assisting in the journey.  Great followership is about listening, accepting, working, and appreciating.

How many people will be including you in their story 30 years from now?

Knowing Someone Changes How We Treat Them

I joined the board of a great organization that cares for seniors and at my orientation they shared this story.

In building a new facility display cases were placed by each room.  Filled with pictures and items for residents of adjacent rooms, they were meant as landmarks to make finding rooms easier.  This practice had proven effective even with dimentia cases.  They received a surprise.  Employees and others observed a higher quality of care because these residents became people with an 80+ year history that was known to all those around them.  In one case, it explained why a resident veteran who had been a POW tried to crawl out a window because of loud noises.  Instead of medicating the resident they provided comfort. 

History gives us context for current decisions we see people make.

When a friend acts irrational we know the history – and work through it.

What a stranger acts irrational we judge the action – and walk away or around it.

When we ask and listen it sends a powerful signal – we care.

Under stress, we too often forget to stop and listen to stories.  We see ourselve as busy.  Others see us as cold and uncaring.

Here is a tool I use to jumpstart the work relationship building process.  Instead waiting to hear the question “Tell me about yourself”, I give this info and ask for the same in return.  It is just a start, but it is a good start.

One last story . . . I used this tool to kickoff a planning session for a leadership team.  The next day the CEO called the HR leader and quietly asked for a list of names of all family members for each executive on his team.

Some things are important no matter how old we are.  Knowing someone changes how we treat them – and how they treat us.

How do you motivate others to do more? #followership

For my regular readers of my blog – this is a longer than usual entry.  Here is why . . . . . . .

I taught my class on Leadership / Followership (Building Organizational Performance Through Teamwork and Understanding) at the Holland Chamber of Commerce on Thursday (May 19th) and pledged to the participants that I would blog answers to any questions they had that could not be answered in class.   Here is the question and my answer – for clarification make a comment and we will continue the discussion . . . .

Question:  How do you motivate a follower to move up to the next level(s) without influencing, or dragging down, the others on the team?  Example:  A Minimizer to a Doer?

Answer:  This is a big question, so I will focus on the toughest situation, which is working with a Minimizer to move to a Doer.  (Here is a link to a post where I define my 5 Levels of Followership)

First question:  Start by asking yourself if this person has demonstrated a positive attitude and commitment to the organization.  Is it someone you want to have around?  If the anser is “No” or Not really”, then follow whatever process you have, but make plans to move the employee out of your organization.  Minimizers take energy that could be given to other, more valuable people in your organization.  If the answer is yes I want to keep them read on.

Part 1:  Understand the Situation (especially your role)

My first thought is to recognize the role of the leader in this situation.  The basic information that people need about their role is: (these are from the Gallup Q12 that are explained in the book First, Break All The Rules)

  1. Clear understanding of their job duties and measures of success.
  2. The tools (skills, training, support) to do the job well.
  3. An opportunity to do what they do best every day.

The first question is one that you define for them, and it would be a good exercise for you to write down the 5 or 6 key things you expect them to do in their role.  Question 2 is one you should address together based on your knowledge of what specific things they need to know and their knowledge of what they need (or might be uncomfortable with).

The challenge you will have is in the conversation to get this information on the table and have a great discussion about it.  As a leader, your key role is to get this information on the table in such a way that it can be dealt with and decisions can be made.

Part 2 – The Traps

The second issue is around the harsh realities of these situations.  In your question you mention wanting to avoid dragging the team down.  Here are three things to think about:

  1. If there is a Minimizer on the team everyone knows it and are probably waiting for you to deal with it.  Your inaction is having a negative impact on the Trust they have in you as a leader.
  2. The Minimizer probably does not know they are thought of that way.  I know leaders always struggle with this, but after being pulled into dozens of situations like this, I can safely say that at least 90% of people being fired or getting talked with about their lack of performance are surprised when it happens.
  3. Ask yourself the questions Am I ready to let them go if their performance does not improve and Am I willing to put in some hard work for the next 60-90 days to help them be successful?  These are the two questions I ask in choosing to help save someone.  If either question is NO then it is a situation that cannot be fixed so live with it.  If it is a relative (as happens with small businesses) – Maybe pay the person to stay home and get on with work.  This sounds crazy, but if they are taking energy from you and making mistakes that are costing the organization dollars it is too expensive to have them around.

Part 3 – A solution:

1.  Meet to get the issue on the table.  The key to this conversation is to make your observations known about their performance.  When sharing your feedback, focus on the situation and not the person.  When sharing the performance use the format “Here is the behavior I see, Here is the impact, and here is how it makes me feel.  Any conflict management book uses this as the basic outline.  Here is an example of how this might sound in a sentence.

Joe, you have worked here a long time and I have appreciated your dedication to this organization.  I have observed a few things recently in your performance that I want to talk about.  Last Tuesday a customer called with a problem and I heard you say “That is the only answer I have so if you do not like it, tough.”  The outcome of that discussion is the customer has taken all of their business to a competitor.  I am feeling frustrated because we worked hard to land that customer and keeping customers happy is critical to the future success of the business. 

A great resource to explore this discussion is Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott.

They have two things to do in step 1 before things move on:  1) Take ownership for the performance issues you point out   2)  Express and demonstrate the desire to make the changes necessary to be successful.  If these both do not happen (give them 24 hrs to think about it if necessary) then there is no sense keeping them.

A key piece for you in this conversation is to be open to their feedback on things you could be doing differently that would help them be successful.  Maybe they need weekly check-ins or you have not been really prompt about returning calls.  It could also be that they are in the wrong role.  Be willing to listen and consider things they bring up.

2.  Create a plan for their success that includes:  1) Short term(1-4 weeks) and long term (3-6 month) goals   2)  Area of focus to improve their performance – Build Trust, Build Focus, Build Confidence, Build Rhythm  3)  Needs they express (in areas of Support and Personal Development)

This is not an area where there is a set recipe.  The key is to ask yourself the critical question up front (do you want to keep them) and then get the truth(of their performance) on the table and Build Trust by demonstrating that you want them to be successful. 

Here is a link to a trU Tips  and a video on the topic of dealing with low performers that might also be helpful.

Great question – thanks for asking.

Breaking a team impasse #followership

For my regular readers of my blog – this is a longer than usual entry.  Here is why . . . . . . .

I taught my class on leadership and followership (Building Organizational Performance Through Teamwork and Understanding) at the Holland Chamber of Commerce on Thursday (May 19th) and pledged to the participants that I would blog answers to any questions they had that could not be answered in the class.   Here is the questions and my answer – for clarification make a comment and we will continue the discussion . . . .

Question:  I am facilitating a team decision making activity and consensus has been a challenge.  Though my emphasis is on harmony, consensus isn’t always attainable.  What do you recommend to help move beyond the stalemate?  How can I act with boldness without offending or alienating?

Answer:  Getting teams to work together towards a common goal can be a challenge, especially when it seems that personal agendas are taking priority over a team goal.  Also, if you see behaviors that are keeping the team from moving things ahead, you will have to say some things that have the potential to offend or alienate.  So let me make some assumptions here:

  • This team has a leader, but it is not you – your role is the facilitator.
  • The team has a clear goal / outcome they are working towards.
  • The individuals want to be on the team.
  • You have the ability to walk away if the team is not working

A couple of questions:

  • How clear is the team goal?  (what they are supposed to accomplish)
  • What behaviors do you see happening that are distructive?
  • How strong is the Trust within the team?
  • Are you willing / able to tell them what you see?

I assume the team is stuck and they feel it.  First, meet with the leader and plan a team meeting focused on three things:  1)  Restating (and reaching agreement) on the problem the team was brought together to solve  2)  Documenting (on a board where all can see) the solutions that have been presented   3)  Asking:  How everyone is feeling about the team? (what one word would you use to describe your excitement towards this team / process right now?) 

Point 3 will tell you where people are and might give an opening for you to describe what you see.   The discussion then should focus around What can we do to get thing back on track so we reach a decision that we can all support.  It might also give you a window to address some of the behaviors that are not moving things forward, and you might even encourage the team to create a set of guidelines they all agree upon to guide future discussions. 

The key is getting them to see the goal, agree on it, and make a commitment to finding a solution.  This will give you a chance to share what you see and restart the process using some good brainstorming, documenting, and teaming techniques so people begin to understand the value each brings to the table.

If the commitment is not there, I would walk away.

4 Habits to Build, 1 Initiative to Avoid (#Retention)

In organizations, initiaves around people and talent happen because we allow good habits to go away.  Keep the key habits and you avoid most initiatives.  Let me give an example:

I am hearing lots about the latest Initiative —>  EMPLOYEE RETENTION

Big initiative: Employee Engagement

Great focus, but did anyone ever ask Why are we refocusing on this? Layoffs?  Maybe.  But let me offer you another perspective.

Have any of these HABITS left your organization in the last few years?

  1. Performance evaluations (if we can’t give raises why do them?)
  2. One on ones with staff (too busy?)
  3. Monthly check-ins with your most valuable people – how are they doing? what do they need? what do they want to be doing next year? (they know they are valuable – they still have a job don’t they?)
  4. Development plans for people – investing time in their areas of interest and preparing them for the future. (we cannot afford development right now

One more conversation that has stuck with me.  A CEO shared that they cannot afford leadership development right now, but it is in the list for next year.  Sounds like a great initiative.  

Of course there are some free habits laying around . .

A few more blogs around this: