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.

Failure 101 – The Movie Is Better Than The Book

One of my favorite TED talks is Connected, but alone? by Sherry Turkle.  It is significant because it brings research behind my belief that social media DOES NOT replace talking in building healthy relationships, and that is a significant concept as Millenials, Gen X, Boomers, and any other groups continue to form teams and work together.  We already made the label/assumption mistake in the diversity conversation, and I see the world repeating that mistake with technology and generations working together.

I was so excited about the video I bought the book (Alone Together) and it has been painful to read.  One word for the book – Terrible.

So do I dismiss the video and reframe my view of Sherry Turkle?  ABSOLUTELY NOT.  Failure in one form of art does not mean a voice should be dismissed.  Ten years ago I worried about failure as a career derailer, then I joined an entrepreneurial organization and realized failing fast and moving on was the measure in this world.

It still hurts to suck sometimes.  Failure is painful, regardless of the external smile people put on.  The choice is to wear the failure as a weight or as wisdom for the next opportunity.

Remember leaders – you play a significant role in helping your people with this choice.  How do you use failure with your team?

As a test:  Next meeting brainstorm around the biggest personal/team failures of the past quarter – and end with a conversation about What did I/we learn? and What will we do differently in the next 3 months because of it?  Your teams ability to do this will give you your answer on how you lead through failure/mistakes.

Leadership as a Buffer

Leadership as a Buffer

My job was to be a buffer between the media, the president, and all the other parties so General Schwarzkopf could do his job.”

I saw General Colin Powell speak last night, and this is the comment he made when asked about his relationship with Stormin Norman.  It made me think about situations I hear about and have experienced before, especially as I try and streamline decision making in high growth companies and help leaders create processes that support decentralized decision making and yet still help the organization effectively balance priorities.

I often here the word politics or territory in conversations about how work gets done.  One of my goals when working with clients around the EOS process is helping them lead more effectively by NOT making all the decisions, and yet giving up some instant access to everyone in the company.  You see – no matter what size the company, when the CEO comes in and says something most people will take anything they say as a ‘to do’ and drop everything.  I think back to a CEO’s surprise that his suggested reading list had become a must do item for new leaders and totaled 2,461 pages.  When executives speak, whether it is an order or a suggestion, it either becomes a deliverable or a source of extreme frustration for people who won’t object .  In my experience a majority of the time it becomes both.

It is hard to have an open and honest conversation between the top and bottom of the organization, and yet it is critical to figure out a way to make it happen.

  • What if we asked other leaders to talk to us before talking to our people not because we wanted to protect our people/agenda, but because we wanted to be a buffer so we could help our team re-prioritize work when needed?
  • What if we did it because we had an amazing performer that was a hot head, and being a buffer allowed us to work with them on not swearing when they get frustrated – and it was okay if they made a few mistakes with us for now?
  • What if we did it because you wanted to make sure our people knew how to constructively share their opinions with executives, and being a buffer gave us a chance to coach them on speaking up?
  • What if you had one of these three reasons above AND you shared them with your peers up front so they did not see your actions as SILO Building but TALENT Building?  It might also put you in a position to support their development on listening more effectively and clearly communicating the WHY behind their requests.

There are lots of reasons to respect and admire Colin Powell, and my 90 minutes with him last night certainly reinforced that.  He is definitely a leader worth listening to.

Writing More Effective Goals – Some tools that will help

The most important part of professional development is writing the goals.  We can talk about it, we can get excited about attending a great class or program, but in the end what we do with what we have learned is the ROI!  Sure it takes support, maybe some coaching, but it has to start with defining a target we can focus on.  The goals and action plan are critical.

I was leading a book study with a group of entrepreneurial leaders, and as usual one of the conversations we had inspired me.  Also, as usual I had about 15 minutes to share some tips I have learned around writing goals and it was not enough.  So I wrote an article on LinkedIn titled Leaders – Write Better Goals for Yourself: 3 Critical Mistakes And How to Fix Them.   If you are at or near evaluation time for yourself or delivering evaluations for others, take a look.  My goal, as always, is to equip leaders with the tools they need to have more impactful conversations around growth and development.

Could you share it with your LinkedIn community?  Thanks for the help in starting a conversation around this.

Also – Here is a worksheet I use with clients to help them write better goals as they go through their own evaluation/development

 

Passion and Art: Why does it matter?

Passion – I am torn on this topic by people that come up to me for advice on starting their own business and realizing the independence they long for.  I have learned to listen closely for their why, and if they start with the outcome of entrepreneurism and not the work, they have it backwards.  I challenge those people (and myself) to keep the focus on the gifts you have and the work that excites you.  Seth Godin shifts our perspective on our gifts by challenging each of us to think of ourselves as Artists – and makes the comment Art is the intentional act of using your humanity to create change in another person.   He goes on to share that most artists can’t draw.

Hidden in the whole conversation of performance is passion.  Here are three things I have learned about passion of the artist:

  1. Passion is the hidden ingredient in performance:  In my book People-Centered Performance I share my belief that Performance = Talent + Passion + Work
  2. Passion does not have to reside in just the work, it could be the team, or the cause, or even the need to eat.
  3. Passion is without complaint, so if we can do the work with excitement and ownership, and without complaint, we are close.
  4. It is impossible to be an artist and not have passion.

A great summary of passion came from a recent book I read called The Boys in the Boat.  In it, the master shell builder George Pocock talks about his work and what drove his choices:

My ambition has always been to be the greatest shell buiilder in the world; and without false modesty I believe I have attained that goal.  If I were to sell the stock, I fear I would lose my incentive and become a wealthy man, but a second-rate artisan.  I prefer to remain a first-class artisan.

I like watching for passion in others, and instead of starting with a pen and paper to write your statement of passion, start by observing and talking to others.  There is energy in watching the artist work, and they can be found all around us.

Remember, most artists can’t draw, and most artists aren’t entrepreneurs.

Leadership and EGO: Words of Wisdom from Alan Mulally

Below is an excerpt from Eric Schurenberg’s column in the March 2015 edition of Inc. Magazine.  He is the editor.  I also think Inc. is the best source of leadership advice for entrepreneurial minded leaders.  Here is the full post.

. . . ideas alone don’t build companies.  Building takes leadership, and leadership takes continuous, counterintuitive, ego-minimizing work.  That was one lesson I took from a recent half-day meeting led by Alan Mulally, retired CEO of Ford and Boeing. . . . . “Keep reminding yourself,” he kept reminding the room, “it’s not about you.”  It’s about the plan.  The leader’s job is to ensure that the team has a compelling vision; to help everyone understand the strategy for realizing that vision; and to see that everyone is working together to implement the plan.  When teams truly need to mesh, it doesn’t matter whether you were once the world’s best coder or salesperson or idea man.  Your job is now facilitator.  Behavior matters. . . . what was allowed at Boeing and Ford: admitting problems and asking for help.  What was not: texting in meetings, finger-pointing, putdowns, or anything else that interfered with a sense of shared effort. “Working together works,” says Mulally.  “Smart people working together always works.”

In my second chapter of my book(People-Centered Performance) I talk about the OBN leader – the one who knows what they OUGHT to do, BUT they DON’T.  Mulally’s gives some practical advice for fighting the OBN trap.