Developing People = Crockpot Cooking, not a microwave

I once stood in front of a group of nursing leaders and thetopic was developing people.  In order to help them better understand what it took to develop people I used the analogy of a crockpot vs a microwave.  One of the challenges in a healthcare is the strength of the organization / culture of the organization is focused on managing emergencies.  Hospitals are at their best when the situation is most difficult – which we should all be thankful for.

Developing people is not an ’emergency item’ or like cooking in a microwave, it is more like a crockpot.  Put in the key ingredients, make sure the temperature is right, then walk away.  You might check how things are cooking a few times, but once you start the process your main concern is whether the power is still on.

Why do leaders struggle with a consistent focus on developing people?  I would offer one simple explanation – most leaders are wired to drive for immediate results and overcome anything that gets in their way.  What a gift!  Developing people is about starting the ‘cooking’ by sitting down and listening to where the person is with their role, helping to paint a picture of a future level of performance that is the goal, assisting in defining some key actions that can be taken, and then delegating ownership to the person for their plan with the promise to circle back with them quarterly to ‘check to see if the power is still on’.

Questions for leaders?

  • Does you approach to development look more like a microwave or a crock pot?
  • What % of the people working for you have development plans?
  • How often do you sit down with your people to spend time on their development?

Rotten Apple or Rotten Barrel?

A friend shared the following question:

When someone is not performing well, is it because they are a rotten apple or do they work in a rotten barrel?

I have a couple of core beliefs about people:

  1. Everyone has a place where they can be great and have a huge impact on the world around them.
  2. Not everyone is ready or able to have an impact in their current place (barriers are real and do happen – low self esteem, addiction, too much life happening at once, etc.).
  3. Huge Impact takes combination of talents, passions, and rewards (being fed by your work).
  4. Huge Impact does not come solely through a career/job.

Sticking with my friends terminology . . . A rotten apple is someone in a place where they are asked to perform at a level that is beyond them at this time.  Lots of reasons (see #2 above) and it is easy to slap a label on them.  I struggle with the term rotten apple.  I prefer to describe and treat them as a good person in a tough spot.

I challenge followers to always be working on awareness of self, have the courage to share it with their leaders, and to remember their ownership of performance.  Some times it is too easy to slip into the rotten barrel excuse.

I challenge leaders to ask the question of themselves, Is this a rotten apple or have I created a rotten barrel?  It is a difficult question to ask,  but if you want your people to ask themselves the rotten apple question, then you need to go first.

Don’t Be Mean – Part Two . . the 5 step solution for leaders

I am a big fan of Mary Jo Asmus of Aspire Collaborative Services.  She is a great coach and passionate about developing leaders that make a difference.  She is also thoughtful and nice.  The kind of person you trust as soon as you meet. 

I had the privilege of doing a two guest posts on her blog around leadership development and coaching. 

Here is the link to the second part of the post: 

I am a big fan of Mary Jo Asmus of Aspire Collaborative Services.  She is a great coach and passionate about developing leaders that make a difference.  She is also thoughtful and nice.  The kind of person you trust as soon as you meet.  I had the privilege of doing a guest post on her blog around leadership development and coaching. 

Here is the link to Part 2 of the post.  http://www.aspire-cs.com/don%e2%80%99t-be-mean-part-2

If you missed it, here is the link to Part 1 of the post.  http://www.aspire-cs.com/don%e2%80%99t-be-mean-part-one?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Don’t Be Mean – Part One

I am a big fan of Mary Jo Asmus of Aspire Collaborative Services.  She is a great coach and passionate about developing leaders that make a difference.  She is also thoughtful and nice.  The kind of person you trust as soon as you meet.  I had the privilege of doing a guest post on her blog around leadership development and coaching.  Here is the first part of the post.  http://www.aspire-cs.com/don%e2%80%99t-be-mean-part-one?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Resilience – What we can learn from the military

Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. George W. Cas...
Image via Wikipedia

Do any of us in the private sector experience any more stress than a soldier in battle?  We all know the answer.  No.  Which is why it is worth taking 300 words to explore an effort to help soldiers build their resilience.

Resilience is the word of the year for the discussion around assisting people to manage through a stressful business environment.  I found a great clinical discussion in the Harvard Business Review around resilience (link).  I like clinical approaches to topics because they provide great information about what works, what doesn’t, and an outline of the critical steps/pieces of a solution.  They learn and I apply.

Here are the key pieces of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) program.

  1. Test for psychological fitness – Identify strengths in four areas:  emotional, family, social, and spiritual fitness.  All four have been found to reduce depression and anxiety.
  2. Learning – A mandatory course on post-traumatic growth and optional on-line classes on the four fitness areas.  Mandatory class covers five areas: Understanding a normal response to trauma, learning techniques for controlling intrusive thoughts/images, how to talk about it, see the trauma as a fork in the road, and transforming the trauma into new/reinforced principles of life.
  3. Train key leaders – Called Master Resiliency Training (MRT), the goal is to teach them how to embrace resilience and pass on the knowledge.  This last piece focuses on:  Building mental toughness, Building on our signature strengths, and Building relationships. 

I am not sure where this study will go, but when 900,000 people go through something and someone is measuring the outcomes and sharing the learning it should have a lasting benefit.

How can we apply this today? What do you see from their approach that reinforces how you lead today?  How you coach or mentor?  How you can create your own CSF program? How does your own awarness of self make you more resilient?  or less . . . . .

On a side note: I am glad someone is looking out for the health of our soldiers.

To Know Yourself – Know your Art

The Mona Lisa (or La Joconde, La Gioconda).
Image via Wikipedia

Seth Godin made the comment “Art is not in the eye of the beholder.  It’s in the soul of the artist.”  One thing I always see when talking with people about careers is their art.  It is the heart of their story, and if I don’t see it I make them talk until it oozes out of them.  It is there, it just needs to be named.  Here are a few artists I have met recently:

The construction project manager who takes over a project that is behind schedule and over budget.  The work –  many hours and many difficult decisions.  The Art – completed, on time and on budget. 

The entrepreneur who is fanatical about taking care of the customer and giving back to the community.  The work –  two jobs through the first two years of being in business.  The Art – twenty people, a just completed 100% growth year, and numerous awards recognizing the big heart of this small company.

The administrative assistant who sees the workplace as something to be organized.  The work – anything to make sure meetings go smoothly, things get fixed, emergencies get handled, and nobody ever sees her sweat.  The Art – an amazingly well run department where things just happen smoothly and finding things is easy and logical. 

The administrative assistant who realizes everyone needs a friend at work – and a occassional kick in the pants.  The work – always willing to listen and connect with people in the organization, even while getting her work done.  The Art – some call her mom, some call her friend, I call her the pulse taker and doctor – in any case she is a cultural definer.

Final point, the art takes work.  Funny thing, the artist does not see the work, just the art. 

Today, look around at the artists and make sure they know you see their art.  Challenge others to create some art.  What art are you creating and sharing today?

Want to develop as a leader? Focus on these three adjectives

Leadership is not easy.  It does not get any easier by the endless number of competency models, development programs, books, blogs, and opinions that seem to get thrown at new leaders.  In case you were wondering, I don’t have an answer on a sure fire way to become a great leader in the next 300 words.

What I offer is a solution to something I see in leaders at all levels, and that is an incredible talent for getting work done but a struggle building relationships with peers and their team.  Here are three adjectives that should be part of the selection and development of any leader.  If people are willing to use these words to describe a leader then they are  doing something right.

  • Transparent – What are your priorities?  What are you worried about?  Often the speed at which you are operating and the dozens of things you are dealing with at any one time make it hard for people to know what you are thinking. 
  • Consistent – Respect comes before like for leaders.  Do people know what to expect from you around vacations?  Lunch breaks?  Professional development requests?  Deadlines?  Personal calls?  Celebrations?
  • Authentic – Regular people laugh, cry, have bad hair days, and sometimes have to say they are sorry for something they did or said.  Leadership models too often paint a picture of someone who sounds more like Superman or Wonder Woman.  Leaders do all the things regular people do – with a balance of providing strength, energy, and passion for an effort.  This one is probably the toughest.

So what do these adjectives look like in practice?  Here are a few tips:

  • When taking over a new team, take time to find out what they do and don’t pretend to have all the answers.  (authentic, transparent)
  • Develop standard events around communication, performance discussions, follow-up to questions/issues, and celebrating special events. (consistent)
  • Get to know the outside lives of your people and let them get to know yours. (transparent)

There are many more, but hopefully this starts the discussion.  Feel free to share some important things that I might have missed.  I don’t know everything. (transparent, authentic)  🙂

Secret Sauce for Performance – Knowing What Matters to Your People. A story . . .

Movie or concert tickets symbol
Image via Wikipedia

A friend recently told me a great story.  As part of a performance evaluation for one of his people who had worked hard this past year he gave all the things he was expected to provide – feedback in the form of an evaluation and a wage increase.  But for this employee, he also handed tickets to a concert for he and his wife.  The source of this gift was a conversation a couple of months earlier when it was shared that his wife loved this artist, but they could not justify the cost at that time.  This third piece brought forth a response of passion and gratitude that way exceeded the response to the first two rewards.  My friend hit the secret sauce of performance – knowing your people and giving them something REALLY special when they deserve it.

One question I love to ask people is What rewards mean the most to you?  Too often Management 101 discussions neglect to tell the new leader that money is not a motivator.  If that is not understood then you only have to sit in a room with 10 of your people and have someone like me ask that question.  Money will be mentioned, but it is not at the top of the list. 

Great rewards go deeper than just the standard list.  The ability to connect family members, hobbies, or passions outside of work allows you to do two things:

  1. Show that you care about them as a person.
  2. Speak to other significant people in their lives with a message that you/your company cares.  These friends/spouses are the people who encourage them after a day when maybe you are not so great a leader (we all have those days).  They will also tell the story to other great people who might be looking to work for a great company/leader.  The textbooks call these two things retention and attraction – and they are pretty important.

Interested in being this kind of leader?  Here are two moves you can make:

  1. Keep a file with everyone’s name and their answer to the question What rewards mean the most to you?
  2. Keep notes in your file anytime they say I love to  _________ or We would really like to see/go to _____________.

Then you just have to follow through when they do something great – but that is the easy part.

Lessons in Leadership – Learning delegation from a child

Last night my youngest daughter delivered these faithful words at 2am – “Daddy, my tummy hurts.”  I turned on the light and asked her “Tell me about the hurt?”  Her response was pretty simple “I think I am going to get sick.  I need to go to the bathroom.”  My response “Go ahead.”  I will spare you the details of the next 20 minutes, but I judge the endings of these things based on how much work I end up having to do.  In this case, I was just needed for comfort.  Whew.

As I think about that event today, I realized that my daughter is growing up.  She got up when she felt bad, came to tell me, and with very little help from me other than a slight nudge, she took care of herself.  We have raised a child that is showing signs of maturity and independence.  It feels good.

One of the big challenges of leaders is growing individuals and teams that show that kind of independence.  I have always been struck by all the different ways people have created to measure the effectiveness of a leader.   Too often we depend on a test or a psychologist to measure how well individuals and teams are developing into independent thinkers. 

Here is a simple one to measure how independent your team is today.  Take a piece of paper and every time someone on your team comes to you with a need for help today make a mark.  If they bring the answer or you are able to get them to provide their own answer, circle that mark.   At the end of the day what does the sheet say about your leadership style and their ability to solve their own problems?

Your development plan – more marks with circles tomorrow because you ask what they think the answer is more often. 

When they leave with their own answer, you are becoming a developer of people . . and a leader.  Trust me, it will feel good.

Finally Friday! – Why it is the best day to connect with your people

Friday’s are great days.  As you look out in your office everyone has expectations of the coming two days that will tell you a lot about where they are in life.  Here are a few messages you might hear and what they actually are telling you that is significant to know about them:

  1. “It will be great to get out of here” says – I have worked hard all week and it is a nice break.
  2. “It will be great to get out of here” says – This place is killing me and any time away is like gold.
  3. “I can’t wait to spend time with my family” says – I love work, but family time is important to me.
  4. “It will be quiet, the kids are with my ex” – It will be alone time to either do what I love or miss being connected with the significant people in my life.
  5. “Oh a little of this and a little of that.  What are you doing?” says – Usually you don’t care what I do outside of work.  So why ask now?
  6. “Nothing” says – Usually you don’t care about what I do outside of work.  So why ask now?

So what do you hear when you ask?  If what they are actually saying is unclear, why not ask another question to allow them to share a little more.

Listening on Friday does commit you to ask again on Monday to see how the weekend turned out.  Eventually the last #5 and #6 will go away.

What does your answer tell me about where you are?  Is it the same place you want to be next Friday? Happy Friday.