Time – How to have this discussion

I am working with two teams right now trying to manage explosive growth (50+%) and all of the challenges that go with it.  One theme that ALWAYS comes up is time.  Here is what it sounds like:

  • I want my work week to go from 70 hours to 50 hours
  • I am working hard, and yet I am still not getting it done
  • My family has not seen me at a meal in weeks
  • My email is overflowing and people have expressed frustrations with my ability to complete things
  • There are not enough hours in the day
  • I will make time for woodworking when I retire

Time is always an issue, and in the age of “customer focused” and “collaboration” saying NO is not an option —  if it is there has to be some reasoning to it and people want to hear options.

Here is a hint, if teams are struggling with that or you have a person on your team struggling with it, dust off a copy of Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, turn to the time management matrix on page 151, do this:

Covey's Time Management Matrix
  1. Introduce this as a way to sort through our to do lists
  2. Draw the matrix on the wall and give everyone a stack of post-it notes
  3. Ask them to write their top 10 things that come up during the day (you might ask them to record some of this before the meeting, especially if they are in a customer facing role)
  4. Explain the matrix to them, and have them place it in a quadrant
  5. Talk through it.  Here are some questions:  
  •  
    • What does this say about your priorities? 
    • What can move? (from my perspective as your leader)
    • What is one change I can make that would help my ‘time issue”? 
    • What is one thing I can do as your leader to help?

Leadership is about great conversations, and within those conversations helping people sort through and overcome barriers.  This is a great conversation around time, and many thanks to Covey for helping frame this discussion.  (hint:  7 Habits is a great resource for any leadership library. )

Universal truths: Relationships and Leadership

I can remember his face and his words like it was yesterday.  He stood up in a leadership class during a section where we were exploring leadership and how to manage the talents of a team and said “I am a very different person at home.  I have a work personality and a home personality.”  If it were only that simple. . . .

In the book How Full Is Your Bucket(p. 55), a study is shared that explored the connection between how we talked to each other and marital success.  They spent 15 minutes with each couple, logged in positive and negative interactions, and then used that to predict marital success.  They were 94% accurate, and the magic ratio was 5 positive to 1 negative.  When they looked at how that applied at work, the magic ratio was 3 to 1. 

Relationships at work and at home need the same thing – interactions and a healthy balance between positive and negative comments.

A lot has been written about one event that has been tied to helping kids grow up healthy (less drug use, depression, etc.).  The conclusion, families that eat together more often and use the time to talk/debate has a postive impact on kids. (link to story)   Gallup had a similar message with their Q12 when they proved the significance of people answering the question “In the last 7 days I have received recognition or praise”. 

So presence and the right conversations make a difference whether you are parenting or leading. 

Becoming an impactful leader is a lot like becoming a great parent or a great friend.  Be there, speak the truth (good and the bad), and keep doing it.  At least that is what the research says.

It takes a lot of energy to keep up work me and home me.

They asked: Hi Po selection, Hiring the right people, Succession Planning

For my blog readers – this is a second post inspired by questions received from HR leaders that I talked with yesterday.  It was great to see a packed lunch meeting with 100 busy HR leaders taking time to talk and go through my Talent Scorecard.  Great questions, and I was happy to get my development plan template in the hands of so many HR leaders who can hopefully use it to impact their people.  

I will start back with more normal posts next week – 150 to 300 words.  Also, I apologize for any spelling /grammar issues.  I work hard to scrub a normal post, but at 1000 words the editing to perfection is not a battle I will fight.  Remember that trUe conversations are not always done in perfect english. 🙂

How do you effectively identify high potential employees based on data rather than who the manager likes?

I am guessing this comes from a negative experience trying to convince a group of leaders that they were wrong. 🙂  First of all, HR has to argue enough with business leaders about things like compensation that do not make this conversation an argument, but make it a collaboration.  Here are a few tips to make it happen.

  • Start the process with this question:  What do we look for in a successful leader here? (Hi Pots by definition are people destined for a significant leadership role – 2 moves up in a larger organization).  Take the list and prioritize it to a top 5 critieria.
  • Insert into the conversation the definition of learning agility from the book The Leadership Machine (by Lominger).  Use that description to help the group make sure the pieces of that definition are captured in your criteria.  (I am assuming you are using a 9 box of some sort somewhere in your process)
  • Make sure there is a section called Accomplishments as part of the Talent Profile you are creating for each candidate.
  • Have the discussion and air disagreements and capture(write it down) any concerns or questions people have about this person.
  • Action Plans / Next Steps should include having leaders questioning the inclusion find an opportunity to work more closely with this person and for the leader supporting them to find ways to showcase this person’s skills in projects, presentations, etc.

I have a post talking about how developing people is like cooking in a crockpot.  Here is the link.  Do not try and microwave this process and feel like ALL the answers have to be clear at the end of the process. 

Other than personal referrals, what have you found to be the most effective way(s) of determining those who will end up being high quality employees?

This is a big one, and there are endless vendors out there ready to sell you their silver bullet solution to this problem.  My favorite solution is outlined in TopGrading, but know that it is not an easy implementation.  It will be a live long skill(that will be marketable and useful) once you master it.  I have worked/networked with lots of startup/early growth companies and here are a few tips based on what they say made a difference and a few hints from me.

  • Divide interviewing into Skills/Experience to do the job and cultural fit for your organization.  Spend some time defining your culture (values, beliefs, mission) and be purposeful about evaluating people based on that.
  • Find ways to work with people first – via contracts, projects, including a ride along with someone as part of an interview, or maybe even giving them a real problem to solve during an interview.  Too many people think interviewing starts with the posting on monster or has to be confined to questions in a room. 
  • Do a 30 day, 90 day, and 6 month review of hires to determine “Good Choice?  Bad Choice? What did we learn?  How do we apply the learning?”  Over time this will make your process better.
  • In hiring decisions center the discussion around answering three questions:  Are the willing?  Are they able?  Are the manageable?
  • Give it time.  If you only have 30 minutes to interview a hire you will likely get a 30 minute hire.  If that is good enough for the leader then move on to a manager/leader who cares.  (sorry that was a bit blunt, but there is no other way to say it.)

If we are not able to have a formal succession planning system can you please provide some other ways and/or tools that we can informally work through this with leaders we support within our organization?  Thank you!

I left the Thank you in your question because I wondered if it would still be there after I gave my answer.  🙂  My answer is No, not yet.  I say this because Succession Planning is such a big topic and really the culmination of doing the basics of Talent Management well that if it is too hard, the reasons are you are not doing the basics well and the relationships within the leadership team are probably not trusting enough to make it work anyway.  The number one barrier to this happening well at the leadership level is ego.

I do have a couple of bits of advice that hit me as I talked with the 100+ HR leaders yesterday.  Stop calling it succession planning and use the terms Most Valuable People and Most Critical Roles to identify your efforts.  I did that in my Talent Scorecard because I wanted to communicate it in more ‘non HR’ language.  Leaders might balk at the ‘valuable’ or ‘critical’ labels because they will exclude people.  This process is meant to focus scarce resources (time, money) on the most critical areas(roles) and most valuable resources(best people) in the business.  I guess the question is whether the leader proposes spending a little bit on everyone?  Another thought is “Do we want our talent management efforts to resemble socialism or capitalism?  On second thought, better hold that one back unless you want a real ideological argument.  🙂  I commit to trU Tips #18 to focus on that, so sign-up for trU Tips  and I commit to addressing this for you and others that are asking the same questions. 

In the meantime, the basics I reference are already out there on my resource page.  Check it out.

If you want clarification on any of this feel free to post a question on this blog and I will gladly do my best to answer it.

They asked: Performance management in small companies and Crucial Conversations

For my blog readers – the following is a post inspired by questions received from HR leaders that I will be talking with tomorrow as I share with them my talent scorecard presentation.  My pledge is that I will answer questions they have, and these were submitted as part of a survey I asked them to take.  It is in the vein of what I normally talk about, but exceeds my personal 200-300 word limit that I try and stick to because I want our conversation to fit into your busy schedule. 🙂

Question:  How do you create an employee development program specific to the needs of each employee?

I found out an interesting fact several months ago – 99.9% of organizations in the United States have less than 500 employees.   These organizations employ about half of the people in our economy.  This feeds into this question because the traditional answer to the question from training and development is to:  1) Develop job descriptions  2) Define competencies/measures for each role  3) Perform a gap analysis  4) Create a plan based on gaps  5) Revisit yearly with a performance evaluation.  Most organizations do not have the time, HR expertise, and patience to do all of these things.   Two things that are critical in developing people:  1) A trusting relationship between leader and follower  2)  A conversation around what they need (both company and individual) that is captured in a plan   2.5)  A follower ready to own the plan and a leader committed to supporting it.  Here is a link to the development plan and other templates I provide that will drive the right conversations and capture key information in a written form that can be managed.    fyi – it is that simple, but not necessarily easy.  I can blog on that at another time if you would like – just ask.  ANY size organization can put development plans in place for their people, and it is the key to helping people develop.

It states in Crucial Conversations that “one study of 500 stunningly productive organizations revealed that peak performance had absolutely nothing to do with forms, procedures, and policies that drive performance management.”  From my experience, I agree.  Please discuss how the process you are presenting makes a true difference in peak performance, including the aspects of the process which are most crucial to success. 

The reference to Crucial Conversations is a series of two books published by and sold by a consulting group called Vital Smarts.  My belief system on performance was actually born out of a conversation I had with one of their partners and a co-author from another book they published, Influencer.  I spent a couple of days with David Maxfield listening to him teach and working with him on a rollout plan.  Let me say the guy is brilliant, experienced, and their focus on helping organization/leaders become great at having difficult conversations is world class.  But in one conversation I asked “Do you assume that organizations you are trying to help already have a culture in place where regular one on one discussions are already happening, because it seems that is the key place where it would be easiest to practice what you are teaching.”  His answer was “Yes’.  What I knew based on my conversations with leaders in this growing organization was the one on one habit was not firmly in place.  As a result, the implementation of this key leadership skill was spotty at best.  I agree that conflict management is a critical leadership skill to enable great performance, but  I base performance/talent management on the relationship first, and then the other pieces/habits build off that.  I also agree that it is not policy, procedures first – – but I also know from experience that in order to Build Rhythm there has to be some structure in place.

I love talking to groups and want to make the conversation longer than an hour long keynote.  Feel free to comment or ask follow-up questions.  I welcome them.

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.

My Top Shelf – Books that I love

Everyone should have a top shelf – the one you share with people at work when they ask for a reading recommendation.  A few caveats on my list:

  1. I generally only recommend books <200 pages, with a few exceptions.  (I favor authors who have mastered clarity, passion, and brevity)
  2. These are around business and/or personal development books.
  3. I will explain any selection, but not apologize or argue about it.  It is my shelf – so build your own if you disagree. 🙂
  4. I do not loan these out, but will often buy people a copy.  They are marked up and I would hate to lose them.

It has expanded over the years, but my general rule is that the number has to be limited.  Now to add one I have to take one off.  I had a shelf with about 8 books for many years, then I got a bigger shelf. 

Here is my top shelf:

(they are in no particular order – but left to right in the picture)

  1. The Mindful Coach – Doug Silsbee
  2. Co-Active Coaching – Whitworth/Kimsey-House, Sandahl
  3. Sway – Ori/Ram Brafman
  4. Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell
  5. All Things New, A Fable of Renewal – Rodger Price
  6. Confessions of a Public Speaker – Scott Berkun
  7. Good to Great – Jim Collins
  8. First, Break all the Rules – Marcus Buckingham/Curt Coffman
  9. Fierce Conversations – Susan Scott
  10. Linchpin – Seth Godin
  11. Strengthsfinder 2.0 – Tom Rath
  12. How Full is Your Bucket – Tom Rath/Don Clifton
  13. Mastering the Rockefeller Habits – Verne Harnish
  14. Drive – Daniel Pink
  15. One Minute Manager – Ken Blanchard/Spencer Johnson
  16. For Men Only – Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn
  17. Mastery – George Leonard
  18. Let Your Life Speak – Parker Palmer
  19. Rework – Jason Fried/David Heinemeier Hansson
  20. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Patrick Lencioni
  21. Death By Meeting – Patrick Lencioni
  22. The Will of God As A Way of Life – Gerald Sittser
  23. Season of Life – Jeffrey Marx
  24. The Servant – James Hunter
  25. Who Moved My Cheese – Spencer Johnson
  26. Into The Wild – Jon Krakauer
  27. HalfTime – Bob Buford
  28. Tribes – Seth Godin
  29. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
  30. Jonathan Livingston Seagull – Richard Bach
  31. Do the Work – Steve Pressfield

Some are great books, and some have achieved significance for other reasons.  In the end, I will recommend other books on occassion, but I love these selections.  In addition, I also have 2-3 Harvard Business Review articles I love for people not having time to read.

Looking for a good question to ask your new leader?  What two books stand out in your mind as great?  (might be a good idea to read them – it will often explain how they think and what they value)

Submit a question to this posting if you want a more detailed explanation on any of these selections.

A trap: Over Leading and Under Caring

I have seen several recent posts about leadership vs management.  Here is a link to one from Seth Godin .  They made me think.  First let me say that when I see this topic come up I roll my eyes, because most discussions seem to elevate the importance of leadership and the confining nature of management.   Here is my take . . .

It is important to be a leader.  Vision has to be cast, the rallying cry needs to be heard, and the organization needs to see relentless energy towards the goal.  But, the relationships that make your team really go are built when you manage.  Managing is about connecting to people one on one, knowing their struggles, understanding their needs, and being familiar with their lives(distractions/support) outside work.  One piece of evidence I point to is something a peer shared with me about executive onboarding.   Her business is built 100% around helping executives make successful transitions.  Part is to highlight/fix communication issues and help navigate the complexities of organizations.  But part is to just bring some of the ‘other’ things into the discussion like:   What is my true job description? and How prepared is my family for this change?.

We need to be careful about outsourcing managing.  Is it wise to spend $xx,xxx on a successful transition of a $xxx,xxx executive?  An ROI can be easily proven based on the leader’s impact on the income statement and the balance sheet. 

The hidden benefit of spending a little time as a manager/CEO gives you a glimpse into the person, not the leader.  This is where the relationships are built.

I think back to a ‘relationship/leadership’ session I lead one time with a CEO and leadership group.  The day after that session the CEO quietly asked the HR team to assemble a list of  family members for all the people on the team.  I celebrated the request, but was reminded that some of these people had worked for him for 3+ years.

My advice for leaders – Don’t forget to manage a little.

Post tomorrow – 3 Habits That Will Help Leaders Manage Well

7 Key Numbers All Leaders Should Know

So you are a leader and you want to develop your people.  Here are 7 key numbers you need to know.

21 – The number of consecutive days of practice it takes to add (ie. change) a habit.  Personal change takes help, so don’t let people commit to major change without help.  If you are going to do it – this is where an executive coach or peer network is critical.  If you don’t believe it check out the Weight Watchers model – – it is tested! 

90 – The percent of learning that happens outside the classroom.  Do not ever say I cannot afford learning when I am in the room.  I will likely make a scene. 🙂

10,000 – The number of hours it takes to become an expert at something.  Excellence takes a sustained effort. 

70 – The percent of people that show up to a class without a clear learning objective.  Want to increase your ROI on classroom learning?  Make sure 100% of your people have development plans.  If your CFO challenges you on this give them my number and I will argue with them for free. 🙂

30 / 30 / 40 – The percent of time a performance evaluation should spend on the areas of past / current state / future as it relates to someone’s job. 

I love talking about these numbers with leaders BEFORE talking about what they need to develop themselves or before they commit to developing their teams.  I also share these with followers BEFORE they enter into a conversation with their leader, so they understand the commitment they need to make. 

Personal growth and development takes energy (some call it pain), but think of the payoff! 

If you see these numbers as barriers or a burden, maybe you are not ready to start or continue the journey. 

If you see opportunity in these numbers, enjoy the journey!

Quick trU Tips: 4 Destructive Myths

I read a great blog posting today from Tony Schwartz on the HBR site around destructive myths that are too often norms with leaders.  Here are the highlights and a link to the actual post.  I have added links to some studies I have seen that support some of his assertions.

Tip for leaders:  This list might make for a good discussion with leadership teams or groups of high potentials.  Some seed questions might be:

  1. Do you agree or disagree?
  2. How do we see any of these in practice at our organization?
  3. Which one are you most guilty of? 
  4. Over the next month, which one are you going to focus on personally to make it go away?  What is your commitment/plan?

Four Destructive Myths Most Companies Still Live By

1.  Multitasking is critical in a world of infinite demand.

  • Here is a link to the Stanford study that challenges the assertion that multi-tasking is possible and a more effective way of working.  link

2.  A little bit of anxiety helps us perform better.

  • There is always an A-Ha moment when I review the Birkman Method results, and it is generally around the stress behaviors that result when needs are not met.  Anxiety often = Stress, and leading from a point of stress can be very destructive on others / organizations.

3.  Creativity is genetically inherited, and it’s impossible to teach.

4.   The best way to get more work done is to work longer hours.

  • Be careful taking this article into your CEO’s office and demanding a nap room. 🙂  There is some support for resting along the way vs just working long hours.  link

Here is a link to the full post on the Harvard Business Review website.  Check it out.

WI SHRM: What to do with a talent anchor?

(note:  Whenever I speak to groups I provide cards to them in case they have a question I cannot answer during our conversation(fyi:  I call all my presentations ‘conversations’).   My commitment is that I will blog answers in 2 weeks.  This question was submitted to me after my Talent Scorecard presentation at the 2011 Wisconsin SHRM Conference in Madison.  I do not edit questions – because my commitment is to answer what is asked.)

Question:  What doyou do if your most successful sales employee and shareholder is the one costing leadership to lose money and sleep?

One of my core beliefs since working with many smaller businesses is that loyalty matters, and being slow to let someone go is okay.  As I read your question two things come to mind:

  1. How is success defined for this person?
  2. When their performance is evaluated – are they judged based on WHAT they accomplish, as well as HOW they accomplish it?

I think back to a situation where the top technology person at a company struggled for years with alcoholism that caused multiple missed work days, missed deadlines, and bristled work relationships as he relapsed repeatedly at company parties, sales events, etc.  All of this, and he stayed in place for many years.

One key habit that is critical for any organization is the CEO going down the list of their people and talking through each person in terms of what they provide, what success looks like for them, and how they are performing from a metrics as well as a culture standpoint.  The key people/key role discussion that is described in the Talent Scorecard is critical to bringing focus to this issue.  Since doing this with an internal HR person is often difficult, it should be done with a board group or an outside consultant.  The value is a safe place to process information and ask yourself some tough questions.

Finally, the book SWAY made a point about irrational decisions.  In studies of people, if they looked at a situation from a net loss perspective, they were less likely to make a rational decision.  An example is investing:  When people say to themselves – If I sell today I will lose 10% of my initial investment – then the are more likely to ride it down lower, even if the outlook is grim.  People are the same way.  When they start looking at people and saying – if we let this person go then our sales will suffer, or the knowledge they have will go away – then we keep them, even if all the other evidence points to it being a bad decision.

Anything to add based on your experience?