Tracking Our Happiness – My experience + an exercise for leaders

So I am at Day 4 of measuring my happiness as I participate in the Happiness Research project of Matthew Killingsworth (my last post referenced his article in the Jan/Feb 2012 Harvard Business Review – which I will call HBR from this point on).  One of my blog readers followed suit and shared that the 3x a day reminders were making him angry – which made me smile, so the study is working for me.  I am guessing we will balance each other out in the research. 🙂

Here is what I have noticed:

  • The goal is not about being happy all the time, that is impossible.
  • When I stop to think about it, it makes a difference on how I feel.
  • I get annoyed by the emails – then I remember I asked to be part of it, so I laugh at myself and do it.

This might be a fun experience with a group of managers.

First: Present the opportunity to a group of people and ask for 3 volunteers to participate and own reporting back (sorry, they must have iphones).

Second: It is about a 15 day study, so (as the organizer) email them every 3 days and ask them to send you a quick email (1-2 minutes) answering the question “What a-ha moments have you had in the last three days being part of this study and watching your happiness?”

Third: Set aside an hour with the whole group to process the topic.  As preparation, ask the group to read the article The Science Behind the Smile from HBR Jan/Feb 2012.  For the three volunteers – ask specific questions about what were some of the things that impacted them from the outside (what they were doing? other people? events?) and how what they were doing had an impact?  The agenda might look like this:

1.  Share what you learned (3 peopole) – 15 minutes

2. Brainstorm / Discussion:  What we do as individuals to achieve more happiness today?  Draw a line and ask what we learned that we could/should do more of to increase happiness?  What jumps out at me when I look at this list? (go around the room)? – 15 minutes

3.  Brainstorm / Discussion:  What do we do as leaders do to increase the happiness in our workplace today?  What are some things we could do?  What jumps out at me when I look at this list (go around the room) – 15 minutes

4.  Wrap-up:  What is one thing I am going to do differently for myself or my team? Be specific, and partner people up as partners for success – 15 minutes

FYI – Remember talent management is about conversations, not training.  Leaders getting together to share observations/experiences, make little changes on how they manage themselves/others, and partnering to support each other is like training – but better, and less expensive. 🙂

 

What does my leader do . . .

A leader I respect recently shared a frustration – “My people don’t think I do anything.”  In the ensuing conversation we explored the silent things they do to help their team stay focused, and different ways to help them see the investment being made in their success.  Leadership behind closed doors too often leads to communication gaps that are filled with opinions.

I am in the middle of a family project to document some letters my Grandpa received during his service in Europe during WWI as a leader of an artillery battery.  The follow letter (unedited by me) came addressed simply to the Commanding Officer, Battery A. 123rd Field Artillery.  It is dated December 16th, 1918 – Delton, Michigan.

Dear Sir,

Will you please inform about Private Henry C. Akers.  The report came in to Carthage, Ill that Henry and his brother was both killed and his brother is not, and I haven’t heard from Henry since the 28 of July 1918 and I am so worry over him.  Will you please be so kind and look it up as soon as possible and let me know.  I wrote the war department at Washington D.C. and they said no report of any kind of mishap had reach thems but theys refer me to write to you.

Will you please tell me if the Battery A 123 F.A. is going to come across to U.S.A soon or when?  Will thank you ever so much for your trouble.

Florence M – ,  Delton, Michigan

My guess is this an example of a  ‘Do things as assigned’ activity from the job description of a leader.  I don’t know my Grandpa’s response, but based on my time with him I am sure he dealt with it quickly and without a lot of fanfare.  This 94 year old letter is also a testament that leadership has not changed all that much.  There are some things you just have to get involved in as a leader that the rest of the world cannot see, or are just to busy to really notice. 

Leaders – A good parallel to an open door policy is a transparency policy.  A seasoned leader once shared with me a habit where they shared their personal list of problems they were trying to solve at their monthly staff meeting.  They also asked for input/help from their team.  Suprisingly (or not) over time they often received some very creative ideas and help

 Followers – Why not ask your leader to share the top five three things that are consuming their mind/time right now? 

Choices. (career and talent management)

Choices. 

It is the word that sums up the goal for our own career development and what every person (young or old) works for.  It is also the goal of helping people find success in their role (called talent management) and in our organizations.  When I sit down with clients or friends to talk through development of leaders or managing a change initiative (especially when jobs are going to change) – my mind and questions wander back to the lens I always use to analyze their talent management habits or change plans:  How effectively is their plan creating a conversation?

Ultimately for people to buy into and successfully help your organization get to a different place, there are four questions they(we) need to bring to the conversation.  This is what makes talent management / change management personal.trUYou: our model for developing self-awareness

  1. What do I know about me?  (here is a link to my model for this – trUYou™)
  2. How do my talents, skills, experience and needs match my role and the roles I am looking at?
  3. Can I work for the person leading this group?  How do I feel about the list of tasks I am being asked to ship?
  4. Am I willing to help them be successful, regardless of my answer to question 3?

This Friday I am doing a key note address for a Junior Achievement Job Shadow Day.  I use 3 different size bikes (that students will ride) and cash to drive home a point – you have choices to make.  It is not always an easy journey, but it has some great rewards.  Here are videos I posted of one of my presentations.  Part 1    Part 2    Part 3

Funny thing – if I were to stand up in front of a bunch of seasoned professionals, I would give the same speech.  It is one of those messages that needs to be learned/relearned throughout our professional lives.

Choices are good.

trU Tips #16a – One on Ones and Leadership

Since you are my faithful readers that want to engage with me daily/weekly to talk about leadership – both of groups and self, with a splash of developing culture in organizations, I thought I would add some thoughts that did not make it past the 430 word trU Tip limit. (here is a link to trU Tip 16 if you missed it).

There are three things that are critical to making a One on One really work:

1. What is my job?  I am still surprised how hard it is for people to define this.  The list is either really long and detailed, or so generic that it would be impossible to use to recruit a new candidate or help with guidance/accountability for anyone in their job.  My goal over the next couple months is to create a tool to help people do this – – – if you have any input or want to help let me know.  I think it could be very cool, but maybe a bit scary to unleash a bunch of people with a clear sense of purpose or asking for just a little leadership from their manager.  More to come . . . .

2. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER Reschedule:  This might be impossible, but can we all agree on one thing – it is important that people Trust you as their leader, right?  In Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust, he makes the point that People judge themselves based on their intent, and judge others based on their actions. 

Here is a scenerio:  Leader tells everyone in a staff meeting how important they are and he/she will start doing one on ones to make sure they are getting support they need and any issues/changes that are happening get clarified quickly.  In first six meetings, three get cancelled.  Leader thinks:  We are doing one on ones just like the book!  I really care about my people.  People think:  He/She said it was important, but must not think it is that important.  Just another example of . . . . .   

3.  Make it a Followership tool:  Remember the ownership of this conversation rests with the individual, not the leader.  The leader’s job is to:  1) Show up  2) Follow-up (on commitments) 3) NOT Gobble up time (ie.  show some restraint from making their agenda the most important.

Recently I was talking to a leader that was kicking off an organization wide effort to help managers become coaches for their people.  The barrier I saw – they had no habit around one on ones and generally people did not have enough clarity in their roles to ask for help.  If they had this form/habit, their vision has a chance to be real.  Without this form/habit, it will be still be great training, but as for the ROI . . .

If you were going to add one thing to my list or one piece to my one on one form what would it be?

A tool to help leaders listen

After my most recent post a colleague asked me “Do you have a tool for helping leaders to listen?”  I did not then, but 24 hours later here it is.  As with anything I load up on my website, you can have it if you use it, improve on it, and share it back.

The primary listening tool for leaders is the one on one TIME with your people.  If you have 10+ direct reports you might want to modify this for a team setting. (I would be happy to help with that)

First, remember what people need from you.  Ken Blanchard said “Leadership is an influence process.  It is about working with people to accomplish their goals and the goals of the organization.”  Listening is about making what the organization (ie. YOU) needs very clear and providing space for them to tell you what they need.  My one caveat is that this form assumes you have already had some sort of discussion around development with them. (here is a link to those templates – posted last month)

Here is a link to the form and four MUSTS for using it:

  1. The individual owns updating it and sharing a copy with the leader.
  2. The leader owns the effort to help define the core job duties, being clear about when they need a call on things, and showing up for the time. (ie.  make it a priority)
  3. Keep the time focused on celebrating greens or completes and hearing/devising plans to make reds turn yellow or green.
  4. Limit time to 15-30 minutes, and it can be done on the phone if needed – but if possible work in face time (even if it is Skype).

If you do not have a habit like this listening is extra hard, if not impossible. 

If you are wondering how the One on One fits into everything else you are asked to do as a leader around managing your people, I created a talent scorecard for leaders to get a free assessment of their habits and some feedback.  Here is a link.

Lead well!

3 Habits To Help Great Leaders Be Good Managers

Managing is about being face to face with people and helping them work through the steps to success.  Great leadership is often draped in words like vision, inspiration, and determination.  But even great leaders have to put on the manager hat and address the needs of their direct staff.  Here are three habits that will make that happen.

1.  Get to know your people:  Building trust starts with knowing someone.  When I walk into start-up companies it is common for people to hire friends and family first.  They do that because the relationship is there, and with relationships comes speed in decision making and patience with stress behaviors/poor decisions.  One tool I use with all clients is what I call a Team Member Fact Sheet.  Use this in your onboarding process(after you hire) to get to know your people and for them to get to know you. 

2. Commit to regular/uninterrupted One on One Time:  At least monthly you should be sitting down with every direct report and checking in.  30 minutes is ideal, but 15 minutes is acceptable.  Two key things about these meetings.  First, you do not allow interruptions.  Show them your commitment by delaying calls from anyone (including spouse and CEO).  Secondly, give the agenda to them.  I will be publishing a template later this month to enable this, but this being their time is key.

3.  Memorize these questions: What do you need from me?  Outside of this task list, what other significant things are happening for you?  The focus of one on ones from a manager perspective is in the first question.  If the tasks are well defined and the success measures are in place the celebrations (getting things done) or problem solving (getting stuck/behind) will happen.  I NEED are two very powerful words for followers to say, and very difficult because too often NEED = WEAKNESS in the minds of people.  The second question allows you to learn what is happening outside of work.  Don’t be surprised if they start asking you this question.

Robert Hurley shared 5 principles leaders can adopt to demonstrate trustworthiness and increase trust across their organizations.  Here is the full post, but the 5 points were:

  • Show that your interests are the same.
  • Demonstrate concern for others
  • Deliver on your promises
  • Be consistent and honest
  • Communicate frequently, clearly and openly

These principles are embedded in the actions I shared. 

Lead well!  And manage a little along the way.

Failure (continuing a thought from Seth Godin)

 Learning from a failure is critical. Connecting effort with failure at an emotional level is crippling. After all, we’ve already agreed you did your best.

Early in our careers, we’re encouraged to avoid failure, and one way we do that is by building up a set of emotions around failure, emotions we try to avoid, and emotions that we associate with the effort of people who fail. It turns out that this is precisely the opposite of the approach of people who end up succeeding.

See entire post from Seth Godin.

Great leaders make lots of mistakes.  They get the title GREAT LEADER because they push through the mistakes and get on with things.  In the end, they make more good/great decisions than bad ones.

I have learned over the years that many of these same leaders had to grow through getting hung up on thinking about some of those bad decisions.  No one really accepts failure with no pain, some just dwell on it less.  In addition, too often their people are still pointing at the bad decision and going “See!” – but doing it secretly.

So how does a leader get through this?  One way is to process bad decisions openly with their team so everyone learns from those choices – including them.  It shows transparency, vulnerability, creates safety for other people to step forward, and teaches people to problem solve and push through.

When I see leaders saying I am sorry and leveraging their team to learn I stop and pay attention.  It takes a special leader to do that and a special follower to allow it.  I like being part of teams like that.

Transformation or Training?

Parenting teenagers is not for the faint of heart.  A mother of a teenager shared some wisdom with me last night that her moment of awakening came when she realized that she “could not go to college with her son.”  While there is obviously lots of opinions/grey area around control and parenting, growing up means making independent choices to do some things and not do other things.  It takes lots of energy for the parent, and for the teen.  Growing up is a transformation for both.

So how does this relate to professional development? A cornerstone of the Gallup Research is a statement that says “People don’t change that much.  Don’t waste time trying to put in what was left out.  Try to draw out what was left in.  That is hard enough.”  I think back to a person who went through Franklin Planner class 4 times (when paper was king) to become more organized – – and I think about the effort trying to put in something.

Helping someone chart a course to a future level of performance means asking two questions:

  1. Is this about adding some skills/knowledge/experience to help them work smarter OR
  2. Are we asking for more transformational growth (shedding old habits and adopting new ones)?

If it is the former, then classes, peer support, the whole practice/feedback/practice loop will work.  People who like to learn will get it done.

If it is the latter, then a moment of reckoning has come.  The next question to ask is:  This will take hard work, lots of your energy (for a while), and undoubtedly some pain.  Are you ready – – – (if yes) then how can I help?

Too often in helping people to grow at work (often called talent management/professional development) we forget what real change takes.

How many classes have you been to more than once? 🙂

Leadership Development Starts – BEFORE you lead

I have been asked to read and review David C. Baker’s new book Managing Right For The First Time.  As I go through it I will share some thoughts that make me go Hmmmm . . .  This posting is based on one of those moments.

Your Aptitude Comes Largely From The Choices You’ve Already Made.  This is a section title from the chapter, What Managers Are and How You Become One.  It reminds us that leadership development starts the day we decide we like to work and will commit extra time to becoming better at whatever we do.  I am reminded of a CEO telling me ‘We can’t afford leadership development right now’, and realize that too many people do not see the simple steps involved in developing as a leader.

So what do we do with this wisdom? 

Use this thought as a guide for yourself/others that desire to grow as leaders.  Make a simple list of what you look for in a leader and pick one area to focus on generating success/experience in that area.  Here are some examples:

  • Leaders: Effectively deal with different personalities.  Action:  Who in this office do you dislike the most?  Go build a relationship with them and partner with them on some project.
  • Leaders:  Find solutions to problems and solve them.  Action:  Find something to fix that will take resources/time, present your solution to the leadership group, and fix it.
  • Leaders:  Help teams work together towards a common goal.  Action:  Find a not for profit or outside event, volunteer to help lead an event they have planned, and then do it.  (plan 30 minutes debriefing with your own leader what you learned)
  • Leaders:  Have infectious attitudes, are seen as positive forces in the workplace.  Action:  Ask a few close people – Am I more like Eeyore or Winnie the Pooh? (sounds stupid, but it will cut right to the point).  If you receive feedback that you are a glass half empty person, commit bringing three positive comments to every meeting for every one criticism for the next 3 months.  Ask again at the end of three months.
  • Leaders:  Make learning a habit and help others learn.  Ask two or three leaders in your company what their favorite business book it, pick one, and find 2-3 other people to read it and discuss it over 2 or 3 lunches.  Maybe invite the leader in for one session to share with you their thoughts.

Becoming a leader starts before you lead.

Followership: Moving/Leading up the model

We make models to define an idea – so that it can be discussed, challenged, shreaded, and refined.  I call this learning.

Yesterday I had a chance to talk through the Five Levels of Followership with a team and here are my highlights: (here is a link to my original post defining the idea)

1. “I see myself bouncing between levels 2, 3, 4, and sometimes 5 as a follower.  To do my job well requires me to work in different ways.”

2.  What does it take for a leader to help someone move from:

  • Level 1 – level 2:  Explain the tasks/success measures for the role and/or deliver the message that their presence is costing the team more than they are contributing.
  • Level 2 – Level 3:  Recognize the great doing / Challenge to look for moments to create fans with their energy and attitude.
  • Level 3 – Level 4:  Ask occassionally “What do you see that needs to be fixed/streamlined?  What would make your job or our jobs easier?”
  • Level 4 – Level 5:  Hmmm . . . . . .  . (no answer to this – you have one?)

3.  What does it take from the perspective of a follower to move from:

  • Level 1 – level 2:  An individual making the choice to approach their work differently.
  • Level 2 – Level 3:  An individual making an internal shift from duty to passion for their work and the impact they can make.
  • Level 3 – Level 4:  Thinking and experience in doing a task and knowing how it works today – then asking “What is possible here that would be better?”
  • Level 4 – Level 5:  Asking “What if?” at a higher level.   Knowing the vision for the group and being able to see a shift needed to move there.

It is a great discussion to get leaders and followers in a room to talk about what real teamwork looks like.  Invariably, followers leave seeing their role with greater clarity(and ownership) and leaders recognize they have a role, but do not have to shoulder the whole burden for performance (ie.  it is okay to ask for help!)

I love this topic and I also love how this video captures it.  Take a look at this one from TEDx – and it might be a good way to kick off your next leadership meeting, followed by the questions:

  • What does this say about leadership?
  • What does this say about followership?
  • What challenges to we face as a team that this speaks to?