Learning to listen to ourselves

Perception.

It is a word that comes up often in coaching and helping people develop a real knowledge of themselves.  When we are able to step back from our perceptions and consider other options, we gain the flexibility as people and leaders to deal with a variety of new situations.  Here is what it might sound like in a coaching situation.

  • Leader:  I cannot believe they made that decision without asking.  They think they are above process and team, and this action just proves it.
  • Coach:  What are some other posibilities for their motives?
  • Leader:  What do you mean?
  • Coach:  You have years of experience leading and working in a similar situation.  How might they view their actions?
  • Leader:  Well, they have been pushing really hard to solve this problem.  We all have actually.  This week we did not have our normal leadership team meeting, so they were probably just trying to move things forward.
  • Coach:  What is another possible motive?
  • Leader:  Well last month I gave him some feedback around being more decisive and making some difficult decisions.  One of the things I have been working on with you is turning my business back over to my team because these last three years have dragged me back into focusing on day to day issues like cash flow and sales, when I need to be more strategic.
  • Coach:  How has your view of this action changed with this question?
  • Leader:  I am calmer now, I see some other possibilities, and I realize how I have probably contributed to it.
  • Coach:  How do you move forward?

Resilience is about Hope > fear + anger + frustration + worry + mistrust + hunger + ________ (you fill in the blank).

Part of resilience as a leader is to step back when we see ourselves feeding the right side of the equation, and seek the Truth before guessing it.  When people see us genuinely trying to understand their perspective/truth, the conversation changes.  Even in conflict we Build Trust because people see us listening and caring first.  This impacts their Resilience equation . . . and so on . . . and so on.

How much energy would this habit save you?  Where else could you use it?

I look forward to spending time in Wisconsin with their SHRM members talking about resilience.

Do we need a Talent Management Initiative? No . . . Part I

I created a Talent Scorecard to help leaders think through what they have been doing around connecting with their people to make sure they are focused, understanding their challenges, getting their needs met, and receiving feedback on their progress.  In the human resources world we call this talent management.  To most of the rest of the world this is called leadership, management, or friendship.

The first set of numbers shocked me.  Here they are and remember that I asked HR leaders to fill these out as if their CEO was doing this survey.  The only two measures are 100% and <100%, because those are they only two measures that matter.  100% means you are doing the right things.  <100% means that there is a person out there with a name, friends, bills to pay, skills/talents, and goals . . .  that is not getting their needs met.  These are basic needs.  Here are the numbers.

 Key Habits for Managing Talent

  100% <100%
I delivered all of the evaluations on time. 36.7 % 63.3 %
I have one-on-one discussions with each member of my staff at least once a month. 63.3 % 36.7%
I have reviewed all the evaluations of my team’s staff. 51.7 % 48.3 %
Each person on my team has a development plan. 27.6 % 72.4 %

Too many people are getting late evaluations and do not have any sort of development plans. 

Remember the Gallup Q12?  The first two questions are:  I know what is expected of me at work and I have the tools I need to do my job.  On-time performance conversations and frequent one on ones to hear progress, identify needs, and solve problems make these questions a reality.  The development plan is critical in getting people thinking about the future and helping them grow.

Based on these numbers, it is not happening enough.

For a quick look at a performance conversation tool/development plan that works see trUTips #13.

Words that make me go Hmmmm – Hold accountable

I read a letter to the editor in our local paper this morning that included the sentence . .

I urge parents of all children in the district to be activist parents and hold their public schools accountable for the quality of services their children are receiving.

Too often I see the word accountable held up as an initiative that is, in itself, the way to fix a business.  I then look for what words appear around it to suggest what else needs to be happening to build this accountability.  In this sentence you will see the words activist / hold / quality.  So what do you think will be the next step in the minds of the people reading this sentence?

Accountability is important in business, performance, and life – but the words around it are probably more important.

I will do more for you if I respect you and feel your commitment to helping me be successful.  I will perform better for you if I get a chance to share my thoughts or if I am invited to a team to solve a problem together.  Great teams have accountability, but they also have trust, a shared sense of commitment, and the willingness to listen, to forgive, and to fix. 

As a coach, clients will often express the accountability they feel knowing that I will ask the question “What has happened with your commitments since the last time we talked?”, which is good.  What I remind them is that there is lots of learning to happen in commitments that do not get done, and rather than feel guilty and view a coach as the accountability police, see me as a partner to explore, understand, and to solve.  Great accountability also has a element of safety.

Feel free to use the word accountability as a leader, but I challenge you to examine the words around it first.

What are your Leadership Rocks?

Yesterday I was invited to take a look at a peer’s reading list and it overwhelmed me.  I have read a lot of books, but we shared very few in common.  For a moment, the thought of relearning what I believe made me kind of tired.

Then I remembered what I believe, and the thought of starting there and seeing where the new material fit  and where it challenged my beliefs sounded exciting.  I look forward to the cup of coffee and conversation we will share in the near future.

So what is your leadership rock?  The foundation of what you believe that keeps you grounded?  For me, it is a definition given by Ken Blanchard that I memorized as an instructor for his Situational Leadership II class and carried with me into my leadership roles.  

Leadership is and influence process. When you work with people to accomplish their goals and the goals of the organization.

It is one of my rocks.  I so enjoy sharing it and asking the question “What words jump out for you?  Why?”

Rocks shift, but it takes a lot of effort to move them.  We should all be ready to shift and grow, but we need our rocks.  Leaders need a foundational set of beliefs to help them to stay steady.

What are the Leadership Rocks for you?

Nobody Behaves Well In The Corner

My business/mission is being a guide for people so they realize the excellence they were born to achieve and helping organizations achieve their business goals by aligning a people strategy behind them (and helping to build the strategy on occassion). In my experience walking in to unfamiliar territory, I have developed an ear for certain words. Here is a short list:

  • Crazy
  • Narcicist
  • Unreasonable
  • Abnormal
  • Wierd
  • Bipolar
  • Nuts

Get the idea? Sometimes I wonder how many people truly have a mental disorder, because it can feel like there is an epidemic in certain corporate settings. So I googled What percent of adults have a mental disorder?. This brought me to a site that shared the information that in any one year 28-30% of adults experience mental or addictive disorder. Of that group, only 5.4% have a serious disorder that is likely to last beyond a year.

Yesterday a friend shared with me the quote Nobody behaves well in the corner.  Another way I say it is that stress does things to people that often are not very positive.  Dr. Roger Birkman spent decades perfecting his own assessment along these lines that has become the Birkman Method.  This is a tool I use to help people name the source of their stress and the resulting behavior.  The Birkman Method provides input on both usual behavior (what people see), needs(mostly hidden, but identify preferred environment; clarify motivational needs, highlight inner strengths), and stress behavior(counter productive, frustrated actions).  Here is an example of what these sound like:

Area:  Relating one on one with others:

  • Usual Behavior:  Candid and matter-of-fact, minimal self-conscious feelings, outspoken and unevasive, at ease with superiors.
  • Needs:  Frank and direct relationships, genuine praise free of sentiment, direct/straight forward corrections and instructions, candor from superiors and associates
  • Stress Behavior (happens when needs are not met):  Inconsiderate in personal relationships, downplays the importance of personal needs of others, uncomfortable when relationships require sensitive understanding

Any of these sound familiar?  When we back people into a corner (low resources, threat of job loss, inconsiderate teammates, no communication, lots of long hours) some strange behavior often results.  The Birkman Method has been a great tool for leaders I work with to help them see the sources of their stress and deal with it.

There are some people that genuinely need professional help to address things they are feeling.  But beware of labeling without first understanding.  If someone is in a corner, that COULD BE the reason for their behavior.

What I admire most about Steve Jobs – and it is not the iPad

As I watch the opinions pour out after the announcement of Steve Jobs stepping down from the CEO role, it makes me wonder if we are talking about the right things.  There are certainly lots of worries about not having him leading Apple.  Whether you are a shareholder, a reseller, a supplier, or an Apple lover worrying about future technology, this is certainly the changing of the guard at Apple and future success for the company is a big question.

As of today I do not own any Apple products (that might change tomorrow with an iPhone purchase) and up until I read the Fortune article about Apple several months ago I did not know much about him as a leader. 

I do know enough about his career to see some special accomplishments.  What I admire about Steve Jobs is that he did not quit, and much of his success came after he had been fired from his own company.   Often we forget that he lost his job at Apple and went on to a pretty mediocre second run with NeXT.  If I could talk with him for 5 minutes I would ask him two questions:

  • What did you learn from your time away from Apple that allowed you to be successful the second time around?
  • How has cancer impacted how you live and how you lead?

On a recent family vacation I dragged my family 30 miles off a main road in Iowa to visit the birthplace of John Wayne in Winterset, Iowa.  It was partly because I was interested in seeing it and partly because I wanted to hear my kids complain for years about what a crazy Dad they had.   I love his movies, got a kick out of the memorabilia that adorned this small house, and the complaining exceeded expectations.  But the thing that impacted me the most was some letters on the wall that came from stars asked to record some memories to put on display in the museum/home that opened shortly after his death.  In a quick summary, George Burns said he “was tall” and Ronald Reagan said he “made great movies”.   I left wondering – That was it?

With Steve Jobs there is lots to talk about and a lot that I don’t know about him, which is all fine.  I just think there is a lot more to him than the touch screens, easy to use products, and well integrated services. 

Steve, thanks for trying again and not giving up.

Boss Watching: 3 Actions to Manage it

I was listening to a webinar from a seasoned OD/Leadership professional and she threw out a word that made me smile.  Her statement was – The #1 hobby in the office is boss watching.”

I was once reminded that people watch leaders.  After one of those month-long stretches of dealing with several difficult situations in a row I met one of our team members in a hall and greeted him with a smile and a “Hello Charlie”.  He provided a similar reply, and then added “it is good to see you smile.  I have not seen that from you in 3-4 weeks.”  It had been a tough month for me, and he had noticed.

Remember that 90+% of communication is nonverbal.  Leaders that are in a hurry provide information to the people around them in sound bits and actions.  It is also natural to gather information and fill in the blanks.  I think back to a game played with children where we make a circle and start by wispering a message in the ear of the person next to us.  The message returning is always different.   Our actions and non verbal cues are like little whispers to our teams.

Here are three purposeful ways to deal with boss watching:

  • Onboard well:  Tell new people up front what your nonverbals are around busy/buried with work, and when it is okay to interrupt.  If people know your habits and you know theirs it will be easier to understand/interpret messages.
  • Meeting Habit:  Weekly updates with your team should include a quick around the room What is on my plate this week? to address what stressors everyone is dealing with.
  • Make it clear – ASK!  If you hear a rumor that could have been generated from boss watching, address it openly.  Your script should sound like this:  “I have heard . . . . . . . . and know that I have been acting like . . . . . this week, so I can see how my actions could feed that.  Here is what is happening . . . . . .    If you ever wonder about such things please ask.”

What story are your actions  telling?

Here is a way to have some fun with this.  At your next team meeting ask three questions: How do you know when I am having a good day?  How do you know I am having a bad day?  What are my habits at work?  Just blame it on a leadership blog that talked about boss watching. 🙂

Why People Don’t Hear – 3 Actions To Help

  • I did not see this coming.
  • How can you let me go?  Just last week you said I was doing well.
  • It is too late for a counter offer.  The decision has been made.

I have seen lots of different situations in 20 years of working in and around organizations.  It was not until recently that I stopped being surprised by situations in which people did not see the news they should have heard.  We could discuss the endless reasons why, but that would not stop it.  Here are three ways to make most of the confusion go away.

  1. Write it down: Verbally telling people their performance is not up to par is only half the task.  When asking for more or defining minimum expectations it has to be written down.  Limit yourself to a page, but write it down.  If it is positive, do the same thing.  I am confident that 100% of the time verbal feedback is misinterpreted.
  2. Never deliver ANY news (good or bad) without scheduling a next step:  Bad news:  Take this and think about it for 48 hours and then lets get back together and make plans for  what will fix this situation.  Good news:  You are very valuable to this organization and I would like to come up with a list of projects/roles we should be working towards over the next 3-5 years.  Give it some thought and lets sit back down in a month and do some planning together.  People need time to process bad news.  Good news needs to be celebrated, then processed.   Next steps ensures the processing time is valuable.
  3. Ask them what they heard:  It is important to check for understanding in either situation.  In the delivery of good and bad news leaders usually talk too much because of nerves.  That is normal, but it is always a good check to end with – I have talked a lot, and it is important that some key points were clear.  What are you taking away from this conversation?  If they cannot repeat the main points you should repeat them (even if they are written down).

Assumptions are dangerous and we all have a hard time telling / hearing certain messages.  Follow these simple steps and make the confusion go away.

Do you have any helpful hints to add based on your experience?

Your voice is smiling

Recently I had the opportunity to share some good news with someone over the phone, and as I listened to their answer I could hear some added energy in their voice.  My comment back was “Your voice is smiling”.  The giggle (and it was a giggle!) on the other end of the line confirmed my suspicions.  It was a special moment.

Business puts us on the phone a lot.  As I listen to voices or the standard “I am not available to take your call right now . . . . . ” messages, too often I do not hear a smile.  Business can still get done without smiles, but the energy of a smile makes it feel different.

For you:

  • Record your message this morning while smiling, then listen to the replay.  Can you hear your smile?  What difference will it make with your people?  Your clients?
  • Start your next voice conference with a “Share some good news . . ” section.  Do you hear smiles?
  • When you hear a smile, use the same line I shared above.

As kids we played follow the leader purposefully, as adults we do it unconsciously, but we still do it. 

Today, try leading with a smile.

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Ego and Leadership: My story

On a recent trip my kids tired of looking for different license plates, so they decided to count the number of Prius’ that passed Dad.  They found it funny when a little 134 horsepower car passed a 310 horsepower truck.  I was reminded of the number 2 throughout our journey.  My way out was to exceed my limit of driving the speed limit +6 mph (avoiding risk of a ticket) to over take the Prius’ that zoomed by.  My ego said go faster, but the thought of a ticket vs pursuing the artificial win kept my ego in check.

Ego is a noun.  It is that thing within us that mediates between who we are inside and our external reality.  We often hear it used as a negative, especially when we talk about leaders.

  • His ego won’t let him admit that he was wrong. 
  • This decision was all about her ego and not about what was right for the organization.

Is ego bad?

Not always.  Too often we forget that ego is the driving force behind great accomplishments.  The DiSC profile talks about the D and the I styles seeing themselves as more powerful than their environment.  Their ego allows them to face big challenges, keep a clear focus, and find a way to persevere to a solution.  For many leaders, ego drives them to success.

Then what happens?  Flip Flippen and others talk about how strengths, when overused, become our constraints.  Ego is one of them.  Ego might provide stamina, but in a leader it can easily be perceived as ignoring needs/goals of others to satisfy self.  When their ego takes over and warning signs or boundaries are ignored to secure the victory or preserve power, it becomes a destructive force.

To finish my story, I am not an ego-less driver.  On the return home while entering Illinois a third Prius tried to overtake me.  For 31 miles my cruise was adjusted to speed limit + 11.  They exited for a stop, and I finished my trip:  Prius 2, Dad/Suburban 1.  It did not quiet the kids, but my ego was satisfied. 🙂

What part is ego playing in your decisions today?  How has it helped?  How would others see it?  What boundaries (values, beliefs, rules) do you have that guide your ego? (write them down)

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