How to win the Talent War – Part 3 – Be people-centered leader

At a key midpoint in my career I was in a job that was not stimulating and wondering what was next.  My manager at the time gave me space to say that and actively helped me get into classes and get a coach to help me find some answers.  He stated at the time that his goal was “what was best for me, even if it meant leaving the organization.”  I ended up going through a 12 month journey (as I continued to contribute in my current role) that resulted in me moving to another role within the organization that was a perfect fit for my talents and passions.  I stayed five more years in that organization and did some great work.   Ironically I stayed there longer than my manager did.  He was a people-centered leader.

How committed are you to the development of your people?  A people-centered leader is committed to aligning the unique abilities of their people with the work that has to get done for the organization.  Committed to a point where the person realizes their ideal role might be outside of their current organization.  Committed to moving beyond that point until the right match is found.

Yes, there are lots of reasons to draw boundaries around our support, but know that every boundary sends a clear message that “I am a people-centered leader, but . . . . “.  At the heart of the OBN leader is great intent, but actions that raise doubt in others.  (OBN is Ought But Not leader – a term from my book – People-Centered Performance)

What if you asked people at their annual performance review to share their career plans?  I guarantee that if you ask 5 people and they are honest – at least one has a role they are targeting that would take them outside your organization.  This will be the ultimate test of your capacity as a people-centered leader, and testing our capacity is the only way to build it.

Here is the other challenging (or liberating) part of this solution – you don’t have to ask anyone else’s permission or blame a company policy for getting in your way.

Listen . . . Lead.  Repeat often!

 

Extra: If you ask people for their career plans you will get some blank stares.  Here is a whitepaper that outlines my 5 Steps for managing your career and development.  This will get them started.

Owning Your Performance: Gremlin Training 101

The biggest thing getting in the way of performance for most of us is US.  It is why Tony Robbins is a multi-millonaire and countless other people make a living at getting us unstuck and doing our best work.

One book that I have always liked in this area is Taming the Gremlin:  A Surprisingly Simple Method for Getting Out of Your Own Way by Rick Carson.  When I read his book I quickly became aware of the stories that I am telling myself and it made a big difference in how I experienced life and others.  Recently I found a video of his where he summarizes much of what he says in his book.

Here is the link – Rick Carson – Gremlin Taming Part I

Many of you are in positions where people come to you with problems, and in many cases want an answer to fix it.  If you fix it, they will likely be back with the same question next time.  If you help THEM fix it, then the next time they come back it will probably be with a bigger problem because they have the confidence to handle the other ones.  Listen well and you will hear gremlins in their story.

Keep this video handy because it challenges us to examine our stories/assumptions that become our Gremlins.

 

Post #300 – Two Things That Are Critical For Great Development Conversations

(quietly I am celebrating my 300th post.  Thanks to those who continue to include me in their leadership journey.)

I believe the cornerstones of improved performance are honest conversations that lead to thoughtful actions.

Two things to help prime these conversations for leaders and individuals who desire to continue the journey to mastery.

Key Thought #1:  When people are not successful in their roles because of poor performance, what are the reasons?

  1. Lack of knowledge – 6% of the time
  2. Lack of skill – 13% of the time
  3. Lake of motivation – 10% of the time
  4. Lack of a supporting situation (ie. resources and leadership) – 71% of the time

This is the main reason that the first reaction by a leader to poor performance should be to assume #4 and work first to meet their needs by addressing gaps in knowledge, skill, or resources.  Then it is on the individual to work to close the gap.  (See my Own It!  5 Tips for Managing Your Career and Performance whitepaper)

Key Thought #2:  A quote to remind us about the importance of our actions and/or behaviors.

To know and not do is to not yet know ~ Kurt Lewin

Remember, at the core of a great relationship is TRUST and TRUTH.  With those as the foundation, we can have honest conversations that lead to thoughtful actions and improved performance.  It is Monday, which is a good day to start.

Lead well . . . . . .

How to win the Talent War – part 2

Nature abhors a vacuum.  When something is left empty of a critical piece for life something will fill it.

Take performance conversations with your people as an example:

  1. When we tell them nothing – they assume they are doing great.
  2. When we don’t explain why a leadership change happened – the  small talk around the office will create a reason.  It will become the truth, and everyone except the person involved in the change will likely hear it.
  3. When you wait two weeks to talk to someone about unproductive behavior it becomes more difficult because that action has already been filed away as ‘successful’ because the work is done and no feedback indicated it was not perfect.

A gift of leadership is creating a vacuum so something positive can happen:

  1. You share your biggest issue with your team and you create a vacuum by saying I do not know how to fix this, What do you think?
  2. You share a vision with your team that outlines dividing up Sales and Marketing when your growth exceeds $xM in sales in 12-18 months.  People begin to lay the foundation for processes that need to be in place to support that change and the current leader will start thinking about which role they will want to stay in.  People then will start to tell you who they think should be elevated to a leadership role.
  3. Monthly financials are shared, and in it you point out that a $100K gap exists in profitability that needs to be closed.  Anyone have any ideas?  Your top people will bring all the ideas you need.

In my book, People-Centered Performance, I hit this several different ways, and one is my observation that OBN leaders are afraid if they tell the truth, others will leave.  If you make a change. telling the person who received the role Why? is only part of the issue.  Telling the people who did not get the role Why Not? (which creates a vacuum – gap in performance) helps them understand what they need to work on to close the gap.  The right people will appreciate the honesty and work to get better or to shift to an area where they can be more successful and impactful.

Sometimes those conversations are hard, which is why many of your competitors (the other leaders wanting your talent) don’t do them well.  You position yourself to win the war by telling the truth in a way that creates a vacuum for people, and you follow-up to support those who want to fill it.

What vacuums are you creating today?

(for some examples of creating vacuums through performance conversations here are some templates for some of the most critical conversations leaders have with their people)

 

How to win the Talent War – part 1

How to win the Talent War – part 1

How worried are you about finding the right people?

Lots has been written about the talent shortage recently.  In a recent study my state (Michigan) actually ranked as the fourth toughest state for finding talent based on a survey of employers.  As I interact with leaders the thing I hear most centers around finding people and all the data suggests that is the #1 thing on the minds of leaders.  I continue to stress the importance of retaining and developing the people they have, and it is great to see that many leaders get this.  They recognize the inherent value of already having someone in place that already knows their organization, products, customers, etc.

Here is the key point to keeping those people – when employees were asked what they want more of, the top answer is career development.  They want an organization to invest in them.  I can remember the first time I asked a group of HR professionals if all of their best people had development plans – and 80% said no.  Two weeks ago I was presenting at a conference and polled the audience, and 61% of the people in the room did not have a development plan.

Two reasons why this matters to people:

  1. Talking about their future creates HOPE:  Remember my formula about having a good day vs a bad day?  Hope > Fear + Anger + Frustration + Worry + Hunger + ______ + ________?  When we have a career conversation we fuel the left side of the equation and address things that exist on the right.
  2. Talking to them about their future means you care:  When I present to leadership groups 100% of leaders say they care about their people.  When I ask them if all of their people have a development plan the answer of ‘Yes’ is somewhere between 20-30%.  A second shift supervisor from Murfreesboro, Tennessee once put it this way – “So Scott, what you are saying is Intentions without Actions equals Squat.”  Helping people form their own future plans and providing the support they need to be more successful and enjoy their work more is huge!

A wise CEO once put it this way when it comes to engagement and talent.

Most people come to work giving 85% of what they have, and we get that as a default if we pay them and provide them with a good environment to do their job.  The key to leading more effectively is to create conditions where that employee will give that extra 10-15%.

The ironic thing – not doing career plans in the 2008-2010 recession was the main problem driving down employee engagement then.  This simple habit will set you apart as a leader and as an employer, regardless of the economic conditions.  As a start – here are some templates that you can use to get started.

Go win.

The ONE key to performance

What is the single greatest impact on my performance?

A fairly simple question, and yet the answer tells the story about what needs to change to get things done.

The answer:  ME

My attitude.  My resilience through change.  My courage to be honest with myself and others when the work does not align with my heart. My willingness to ask for help.

In an era where our leaders, our companies, our world change more often than they ever have in history – who owns what I get done today becomes critically important.

Change gives us a reason the right things might not be happening, our first job is to not allow it to become an excuse.

When we own it – our situation looks different.

When we own it and readily ask for help/wisdom/guidance – teams have a chance to develop.

When we own it, ask for help, and our teammates come to our aid – teams have a chance to become healthy teams.

When we say thank you and bring in pizza/donuts/apples to celebrate teamwork – healthy teams can evolve into friendships.

And it all starts with ME.

Go own it – – or not.  It is your choice.

(fyi – here is a whitepaper I created with 5 Tips to help individuals manage their performance.)

Empathy: 3 Things Leaders Can Do to Develop It

Seth Godin recently published a post on empathy – and it starts with the observation that Empathy doesn’t involve feeling sorry for someone. It is our honest answer to the question, “why did they do what they did?”  He goes on to share that if we really honest with ourselves, the answer to that question is rarely because they are stupid.

Simple advice, but in the world of business people doing the right things immediately impact our businesses, and often more importantly – when we get to go home at night or how much we can actually relax when we are on vacation.  Developing empathy is hard in these situations because we start in a frustrated place where the only questions on our mind are What were you thinking? or Why do I always have to fix this for you?.  These questions create fear and cause people to hide, and empathy does not reside in that place.

The thing is, empathy is a cornerstone for developing the talent in others, because when we do the work to see the things through their eyes helps to drive the conversation – What can we do together to close the performance gap that we both see?.  Asking and listening ultimately leads to the barriers others see that are getting in the way of the work.  Do you hear empathy in that statement?

Here are three things any leader can do to build empathy:

1.  Read – One thing I recommend for women and men is a book series call For Men Only/For Women Only by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn.  It was designed for couples to read about the perspective of the opposite sex, and I guarantee it will drive conversations and ah ha moments for both men and women.  Any book that gives you a perspective into a culture or person will create opportunities to develop empathy.  Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg was a book that did that for me this summer.

2. Do their job – In his book Rework, Jason Fried (founder of BaseCamp/37Signals) encourages entrepreneurs to do key jobs for 3 months before hiring people.  His reason is that it will give you an opportunity to know the work and challenges intimately so when you hire you find the right person and you know how to support them. Do you hear empathy in that statement?

3. Ask them – In my one-on-one templatesI share questions to help leaders start and end their time by listening.  Great conversations start with a question.  These questions are designed to hear someone else’s perspective on truth.  Remember, in performance situations the truth has multiple perspectives.

    • Recent successes and failures (to celebrate)?
    • What is energizing you right now?
    • What is frustrating you right now?
    • What is one thing that needs to be addressed by me? This organization?
    • How have I made your job harder in the last 30 days?

If we make the assumption that people want to tell the truth and we create a safe place to do that, empathy will happen when we really listen to the answer and learn how/when to act to support them.  Some things (many things) we cannot fix, but we can listen.

Listen . . . Lead.  Repeat often.

Time to DEVELOP PEOPLE – 3 Tips to Make It Happen

“I don’t have time for development for myself, how can I do it for my people.”

In 2008-2011 money was the number one reason I heard for not being able to develop people.  Today, the most common reason I hear is time.  Three thoughts on this:

Thought #1:  If it is really important you will make time.  If it is not you won’t.

As a parent I started to use the phrase “There are lots of reasons, but there are no excuses.” in response to teenagers in my life coming up with various excuses why things don’t get done.  It helped me shift them from passing the blame with an excuse back to thinking about the reason something happened so we could have an Adult to Adult conversation around the importance of what was supposed to get done and what we could do to make that barrier (aka. reason) go away.  It also helped remind me that these reasons are real for them and I cannot unilaterally fix them, but together we can probably figure it out if they will own the reasons and agree on the priorities.

There are lots of reasons for not sitting down for 30-45 minutes once a quarter with your people to focus on their growth, but no excuses – – if you really do care about their professional development.

Thought #2:  Employees own their development.  The organization owns support. (Note:  As the leader, you represent the voice of the organization)

I recently talked to a leader struggling with the One-on-One template/meeting structure I share on my website.  It was lots of work for him, and his people were not really engaged.  As we talked, I learned he was filling out the form and owning the updating of it and the scheduling of the meeting.  It was lots of work because he was doing their work.  We are working on flipping the model.

Remember to encourage and support them.  If they are not sure what their role is give them my whitepaper – 5 Tips for Owning Your Career and Development.

Thought #3: Beware of the Myth of Controlling your Time

In my book, I talk about how OBN (Ought But Not) Leaders have fallen for the illusion of control around time.  Leaders need to make sure their TIME is focused on THEIR PRIORITIES and the ORGANIZATION’S PRIORITIES.  It is not easy, but if you really believe investing in your people is a priority, then we can find the time.  The tools are easy – read the HBR article Who’s Got the Monkey or read my trUTips on this and go to the special web page for additional resources to help you start owning your time.  The work of change is not easy, but it is important and achievable.

The ironic think is that I made the statement that started this post.  I believe Learning + Doing = Growth, so I am busy making my development a priority and finding time to make it happen.  I have no excuses.

3 Tips for Doing Leadership Development Better Than Your Competitors

I was with a leadership team of a high growth/dynamic company yesterday. One target they put on their Rock list was developing their future leaders. They inherently understand a couple of things:  *Rock = high priority/commitment item from my strategic planning process

  1. Developing future leaders means intentionally devoting effort to it.
  2. A constraint to doing this well IS NOT money. Time and/or focus are their real constraints.
  3. As an Inc 5000 company – their company is their best classroom.

I have done a past trUTips on this very topic.  It is actually a very simple process, and yet not that easy because there is so much you can do with it.  While this trUTips is a recipe to structure a great program, there are some details that will differentiate you. Here are three additional tips to making it great:

  1. Focus on selection(with executive team) – Use your values and three conversations with your leadership team to select the right people.
    • First conversation:  What are the criteria we will use to select our leaders?  (Focus more on attitude than aptitude)
    • Second conversation:  Finalize criteria and take first pass at the people who stand out.  At the end ask questions like:  How can we make this group more diverse?  What questions do I still have about each person that I need to work on finding an answer to before I can cast my vote?
    • Third conversation:  Vote for the final candidates.  Pick a threshhold for the number and create a list of why we picked you for each person.
  2.  Make the first phase a 12 month commitment, and begin by asking each person if they would be interested (share list from Step 1-Third Conversation).
  3. Make the first step a learning about myself (assessment based) and learning about what will be asked of me as part of the program. (there is an opt out option at the end of this step with no negative impact.

In his book Linchpin, Seth Godin says:

Telling people leadership is important is one thing.  Showing them step by step precisely how to be a leader is impossible.

He goes on to say:

The alternative is to draw a map and lead.

Make sure your leadership development effort puts people to work on real problems(and make real mistakes), gives them feedback and support, and challenges them to always be learning.

It is that simple – so make it a Rock and get started.

 

4 Questions People-Centered Change Leaders Ask

4 Questions People-Centered Change Leaders Ask

For those of you in Michigan, you know the name Rich Rodriguez.  He coached football at Michigan for several years and was fired for not being successful.  The ironic thing is that he was successful before Michigan (West Virginia) and he has had success since (Arizona).  The story I have about him is about being a new neighbor.  I was teaching a class and in small talk I met one of his neighbors in Ann Arbor.  She told me a story about him moving into a house that had 6-12 trees in the front yard and he did not like trees so he cut them all down when he moved in.  The neighbors were angry, and by this time he was also not winning on the football field, so the story ended with they were still angry and ‘he was a bad coach‘ on top of it.

Leadership is about managing change, and part of managing change is picking your battles initially until key people know you and trust you.  In any role there are a few key people that have to be on your side, and the key to success initially is taking steps to build trust with them.  These are called stakeholders, key people, or sometimes just neighbors.  A leader has 3-12 months to win over these stakeholders.

I specialize in leadership transitions, and one rule is not allowing a new leader fire anyone for 3-6 months.  My second rule for a new leader is to get a ‘grace’ period light on deliverables for about 3 months so they have a chance to build relationships with people.  When they do get deliverables they need to be heavily focused on getting wins with the people that need to trust and support a new leader when they do make mistakes, and mistakes are a given.

Back to Rich – as a leader and homeowner he can do whatever he wants.  His mistake at his house was cutting down every tree before people got to know him – which was only made worse when he did not win on top of it.  Ironic thing, he did the same with the program and alienated many people so fond of traditions he cut (like a weekly radio show) that when he started to lose more than win they did not support him.  The lesson, as a new leader ask before you cut down any trees – maybe by asking first which trees need to be cut down.  What does that sound like in a conversation?  Imagine interviewing all your new team and asking:

  • What questions do you/the team want to ask me?
  • What is working here?
  • What needs to be fixed?
  • What is one thing I could do to make you more excited about your job?

Listen well and they will tell you which trees to cut down.  My experience tells me that their list will look eerily similar to yours.

It is not that Rich Rodriguez is not an effective coach – he has proven he can win in the right situations.  His problem is that he does not adapt well to situations where he has to be patient and cannot just cut all the trees down at once.  What kind of leader are you?

Here are my proven processes on change.  I use them because they are people-centered and less focused on the outcome and more on emotionally moving people through the change.  Still performance focused, but people-centered.