Who Wants to be CEO?

In over a decade of helping leaders develop themselves and their people I have developed a secret question.  It is probably the most impactful thing out of my mouth as I listen to the processess that are in place and the dreams/frustrations of senior leaders as they try to get the right people in place to make their business plans a reality. (aka:  talent management)

Ready?  Here it is . . . .

So what was their input on specific development needs and career goals?

I do not promote performance evaluations, career plans, or development plans – – I promote performance conversations, career conversations, and development conversations.  The plan piece is the outcome that promotes ownership, supportive commitments, and ultimately the buzzword of the year for 2011 – accountability.  In many ways, the plan is the easy part.

Yesterday I went to a Family Business Alliance event and listened to an executive from White Castle, Jamie Richardson, speak about their family business and share some great stories around everything from preserving culture to being a key small business voice in the healthcare debate.  (fyi:  the Harold and Kumar movie was NOT their idea. You have to love having people do movies about your product 🙂 )  When asked about how the nine 3rd generation leaders approached the question of “Who wants to be CEO?”, he said they did two things:

  1. Gave each a 360 and, as a group, shared the results and explored strengths, weaknesses, and needs together.
  2. Asked each the question “Do you want to be CEO?”

In the end, two people answered yes, so the process continues.  This is one of those processes that is not easy, but it is simple.

Great talent management processes are well designed, well communicated, and have to be understood by the participants. 

AND . . . . Don’t forget to put most of your effort into making it a conversation.

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.

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

Is Failure The End?

I went to a class sponsored by our local chamber of commerce this week.  The presenter was terrible and it was two hours of wasted content.  The benefit was that it got me thinking about when we fail, what it means, and what it should mean.

A mentor of mine, Doug Silsbee, once shared the observation that “We have to shift from a success/failure belief system.”  As a startup, I have that posted on a piece of paper on my desk to give me some perspective on viewing good and bad days.  I am not to the point where I want to ban the word because it has power.  It has the power to be positive if we do things with it.  Here are three ways failure can be a building block: 

  1. If it means the beginning of something – In Parker Palmer’s classic book  Let Your Life Speak he shares some wisdom from a Quaker elder.  She said “A lot of way(doors) has closed behind me, and that’s had the same guiding effect.”  Failure should be a guide on a journey, not an end.  The ability to see it and process it this way does take some strength and maturity, but it will make a huge difference on your journey.
  2. It is only part of what defines us – When I talk to groups around career choices and job searches one of the main themes I use is ‘Your Story’, and that any resume, LinkedIn profile, or references should tell our story.  Part of our story are failures in jobs, projects, and degrees.  When I hire I want to hear them and hear how the person has processed them.  It is that part of our story that helps us either not repeat past mistakes or handle the same situation differently to produce a different outcome.
  3. We learn empathy –  Let’s face it, to walk off the stage after a poor presentation, get escorted out of our workplace, or fly home from a failed selling presentation it hurts.  But once we experience it we understand what it feels like and what kinds of darker choices enter our mind when the memory is fresh.  By dark, I mean the emotions or things you want to do to lash out at those you view as responsible.  I will stop here.  If you have been here you know what I mean, and being familiar with this place allows us to guide others past it and on to better places.

The final thought is that failure often needs a friend.  Someone to come along side you, help identify the event for what it was, and help put some positive energy into the event that will allow you to move along.  Gallup did a study that identified the positive outcomes of having 3 friends at work.  Buried in the reasons is the benefit of having someone familiar with you that can help process these moments.  It is not the only reason for building relationships at work, but it is a significant one. 

I hope the presenter makes our time together the beginning of something better.

The Career Question No One Asks – and 5 Questions All Leaders Should Answer

A couple of times a year I do a keynote address to high school students for something Junior Achievement calls a reverse job shadow.  This is a day where people come to the school to talk about their careers.  One question I always ask the students is:

  • Did any of the presenters share a mistake they made during their career journey? 

The answer is always no – which is a shame.  We get the students into a room to help them consider career choices, and we don’t take the time to tell them mistakes are part of the journey.  Like any journey, career journeys are not defined by the mistakes, but by our response to those mistakes.   They should know that, and we all need to remember that.

Next time you have a chance to tell your story, make sure you include the answers to these questions:

  • What careers/degrees/jobs did you have before you found this one?
  • What is one thing you wish someone had told you before you started?
  • What is the biggest mistake you ever made and what did it teach you?
  • What part of your job is more fun than hard?
  • What part of your job is more hard than fun?

If you are a leader, what would be the impact of sharing this information with your people? 

Remember . . . Vulnerable <> Weak.

TrustBUSTER™ #3 – Slow to extend trust to others (and Why onboarding matters)

TrustBUSTER™ #3 – Slow to extend trust to others

I was facilitating a team building conversation with a group of twelve people.  Half of them knew each other well and the other half were new team members who were working in regional offices.  For the trust part of the session I asked each person to answer three questions and we went around the room to share answers.  The three questions were:

  1. Trust – do you give it automatically or do people have to earn it?
  2. If you give it – how do they lose it?  OR  If people have to earn it – how do they earn it?
  3. Bonus question:  What are “forgiveness factors for you” – ie.  If these factors are in place you will forgive trustBUSTING behavior.

There were two A-HA moments.  The first was when someone shared her surprise that everyone did not share her answer to the first question.  She thought everyone required people to earn trust.  The second moment was from my perspective at the front of the room.  I saw many of the new people taking note of what their new peers said about trust.  For them, the information being shared was helping them understand how to establish solid relationships in a new organization. 

So what is the impact of being slow to trust others?  I like to focus on transitions(leadership and job) because this behavior will be most evident in the building of a new relationships. 

For a new leader, people will sense your lack of trust because of the questions you ask and actions like taking work away from them or micromanaging.  If they do not know why you are staying so close their likely response will be to lower their trust in you.  This begins the slippery slope of eroding morale and engagement.  It can be fixed, but it will take lots of effort on your part. 

A good move for a leader is just to be open about it.  It could be as simple and direct as saying “I need to see the work your capable of so that I understand what skills you have and what you need from me in terms of support and development.”  By putting it on the table your motives become known and might even provide a way for your new people to manage you by keeping you in the loop on things.  Remember, your people will judge you based on your actions NOT your intentions.

For a new employee, your peers need to get to know you and being slow to extend trust will slow the building of new relationships.  You will need to trust somebody.  When I hired people with low trust (we assessed this as part of the interviewing process) I made specific moves during the selection and onboarding process to earn their trust.  Things like never missing a committed deadline, over communicating, and being transparent about what was happening.  If there is not a onboarding process in place to support your need to build trust quickly, find a way to fulfill your own needs to build those relationships.

For anyone, transparency is the best policy to counteract this behavior.  If you are open it can be handled.  A good onboarding program greatly lessens the effect of this because trust is being built from the beginning and this should cease to be an issue.