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.

Friday Thought: Finding Your Growth Mindset – Is it there?

I work with high growth companies and growth focused leaders.  Daily I get to experience people that, in spite of setbacks, inspire me with their resiliency.  There is a name for it this – growth mindset.  In her book Mindset, Carol Dweck shares her research and belief that there are growth and fixed mindset individuals.

We all know these people:

  • Growth mindset people believe in their ability to learn and figure out almost anything.
  • Fixed mindset people are quick to point out ‘why not’ when faced with a challenge – and keep that voice throughout the work.
  • Growth mindset people have a mechanism to adapt when situations require them to make a personal change.
  • Fixed mindset people lead and/or end with That is the way I am.
  • Growth mindset people are quick to set aside their EGO, and ask a question.
  • Fixed mindset people are quick to protect their EGO, and make a statement.
  • Growth mindset people have feelings and get butterflies, they just don’t hide behind them or allow them to define their next step.

Which one do you see or hear in yourself?  Which do you see most prominently on your team?

Entrepreneurial spirit is a trait that is desired by both Fortune 100 and Inc. 5000 companies.  The powerful thing about this distinction is that it’s quickly displayed when the work starts.

It is one reason why a company in Ann Arbor called Menlo Innovations does a test in an interview where two people have to solve a problem with on pencil and one piece of paper.  It is why a strategic planning process I use (EOS) has direct feedback from your teammates in day 1 around whether you Get It, Want It, and have the Capacity to do the job the organization needs you to do.  It is the reason selection for a growth company first asks the question  – Right Person?  The Right Seat will show up eventually if it is not there already.

I have a formula in my book that urges people in the midst of change to manage their mental state so Hope > Fear + Anger + Frustration + Worry + Hunger + Weariness + ______ + _______.  NOBODY is always in balance – but I have watched growth mindset people bounce back time after time from tough situations where they were clearly in a Hope < Fear + Anger + etc. situation.

As you end your week – how is your formula looking?  Which label are you living into?  How can you support a shift in someone around you?

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.

 

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.

3 Questions that help create a culture that SUPPORTS performance

3 Questions that help create a culture that SUPPORTS performance

As a coach and consultant, performance conversations tend to start with emotions and adjectives.  One of the challenges in gaining clarity is to have a conversation that gets down to the root cause, and it also means talking to both the frustrated leader and the individual. Here are the questions I ask:

  1. Do they/you know what is expected of you at work?  What are they?
  2. Do they/you have the tools and resources to do your job well?  (see question 3 for how to deep dive on the specifics)
  3. If Yes to both 1 and 2, do you feel you/they GWC the role.  (G = Get It,  W = Want It, C = Capacity to do it)  *GWC is from a strategic planning tool I use called EOS

 

I don’t look at creating a performance focused culture, because my experience has shown me that leaders take this path by starting with accountability and expecting work to get done.  I have learned through Denison, a partner company I use for surveys, and my own experience that it is important to focus on creating a culture that supports performance.  It aligns with my own belief that individuals own their performance and development, and the organization owns support.

When we start with defining the target together and supporting the work to get there (frequent one on ones, asking what they need, following through, repeating often), more often than not it ends in a trusting relationship where the important things can get talked about.  Leaders, this is your work in SUPPORTING performance through the culture you create.

When people ask you what they can do to help, tell them.  Beware of asking for the extremes – no help (because you are frustrated, angry at someone, or your EGO is on overdrive) or having them do everything.  Sales is a great example because of the frequent ups and downs in a challenging market.  When you are missing sales numbers – role playing, prioritizing your leads, reviewing your pipeline are all great support activities.  Maybe even asking some people to make some calls for you or leverage relationships they have in some of your maybe companies.

Support is a two way street, it has to be offered and it has to be accepted.  The times we get in life when it has to be forced are the tough times.  Just ask an adult child who has arranged assisted living or nursing home care for a parent.  If the point is reached where a leader feels they need to force assistance in getting work done (what individuals often call micro-managing) it is probably time for you to leave.

I know it is never that easy, but it is that simple.  If that outcome is not what you want, then start back at the beginning and make a commitment to change your half of the conversation.

 

 

Change – 3 things you can do to lead it from ANY role

Change is relatively easy, when it’s our choice.  They key is how you react when it is not your choice.

  • I wanted to try a different haircut.  Easy.  Mom takes you to the salon and ‘the stylist was terrible’.  Not so easy and you cry and tell her you hate her.
  • You make a choice to leave a job for a new one.  relatively Easy.  Your employer decides you need a new job.  Hard and you stop trusting leaders and companies.
  • Your leader involves you in a conversation about a restructuring of the work in your company. relatively Easy.  Your leader brings you into a room to share the new organizational structure they created in the last few months AND your job changes.  Hard and you tell your leader it is a dumb idea and you will not support it under any circumstances.

Leaders involve people in conversations that drive change.  Effective leaders do anyway.

It is also a harsh reality that we cannot expect our leaders to involve us in everything.  There are lots of reasons why you will not be involved – time, leader decides not to ask, leader can’t tell you, you are viewed as bringing little value to strategic conversations, they forgot to ask, etc.

Here are three things individuals need to do to reset themselves for change:

  1. Get emotional – constructively!  Go work out, write an email – then DELETE it, put your corporate logo/leaders picture on a dart board and play darts, or go watch Office Space.  Bottling it up is no good.  Just let it out in a way that does not pollute the atmosphere around the change.  Not everything we are thinking needs to be heard, and it is normal to experience a strong voice of resistance in our heads when the change hits.
  2. Make a choice: Are you ready to lead it or explore what it means and what role you can play?  Not asking you to be a lemming, just telling you not to be the person who silently tries to make it fail.  If you decide to become the resistance to change, don’t be surprised if your role in future changes becomes smaller.
  3. Ask questions:  Information is needed for us to process change and it will help the leader share the why for the change.  The only way for you to effectively lead the change is to be able to talk about it with the passion and knowledge of your leader.  Asking great questions will help that.

You should expect your leaders to manage change well, and give them a little grace when it does not go so well.  You can help by mastering the process of going through change as someone who contributes and participates in it.  As Seth Godin would say – those people are Linchpins.  Leaders need more Linchpins!

Jackhammers and Leadership

I learned a very valuable leadership lesson when I was 19.  I was working as a laborer on a curb repair crew for the summer.  Part of the job was breaking up the old curbs using a jackhammer.  I remember the first time I was asked to operate it I was very excited – it was loud, dirty, and made me feel very manly.  I received the instructions from my crew chief, and off I went to break up 100ft of curb.  After 5 minutes I started to feel weak and I was sweating profusely.  After 10 minutes I was light headed and almost ready to throw up when I had to stop. It was then I noticed the whole crew standing back laughing at me as they saw the fatigue and nausea overtake me.  When I shut the jackhammer off, my crew chief came over and gave me my first leadership lesson.

“Kid, you have to learn to let the jackhammer do the work.  When you learn to work with it and not try and control it, then you really get work done.”

That summer I gradually learned to let the jackhammer do the work, and as I look back on that day, I realize how it was a lesson for every important role I would ever have – leader, husband, parent, friend, and facilitator.

As I work with new leaders – The biggest mistake I see new leaders make is to over-manage their teams and not focus on setting clear goals and working to remove the things that are getting in the way of their people.  Leadership is exhausting if you opt for total control vs working with it.

As I lead entrepreneurs and their leadership teams through a process to build a strategy and culture focused on performance – I have to stand back and let them work through the change, learn what works for them, and struggle with growing up as a team.  They have to delegate the work that will allow them to lead more effectively.  I have to be patient and persistent.  If either of us tries to do too much for others, it will exhaust us and the effort will not be successful.

In my work as a coach – If I go into a coaching session trying to guess the answers ahead of time and force knowledge into my coachee – it is exhausting.  When I go in with the intent of being present and working through the process of coaching with a coachee, they leave with the strength of conviction and ownership, and I leave amazed at the work that gets done when I am present and allow space for exploration.

As a parent of teenagers – If I go into conversations armed with the intent that I will convince them they are wrong and I am right, it usually ends with tears and loud voices.  If I am patient and work on listening and drawing out what is on their mind and gather their reflections on the event, it does not alway end in a hug with music playing in the background, but it generally ends with energy in reserve for us to work on the next challenge or to celebrate the next victory.

Kid, you have to let the jackhammer do the work.  Leader, you have to let your people do the work.

Coach/Leader, you have to listen well and draw out the reality and possibilities from your partners in performance.

Dad, you have to let your daughter grow up a little, and feel loved on their journey.

Friend, sometimes you just have to sit there and listen, because you can’t cure the cancer, fix the marriage, or bring their child back to life.

What are you challenged with today that you have to learn to let the jackhammer do the work?

Lead well – in whatever role you take on today.

The Impact of Values, and 3 Things You HAVE to do with them

I have a client who sent me a late night text showing me a picture of the executive team dressed as superheros.  I am sharing the picture because I like to celebrate when business leaders show such passion for their work, and have fun in front of and with their people – They also told me I could.  The story behind this moment is almost 18 months of trying to capture what they value as an organization, before growth challenges them with diluting what matters because nobody has taken the time to put a stake in the ground and define it.  The journey to this point is a story that would need many more words than I like to commit to my daily postings to do it justice, so I will just share the outcome of their work.  Here are their values:Worksighted Team

  • I am most comfortable dressed as a Superhero
  • I am a unique piece to the puzzle
  • I focus on today, but dream of tomorrow
  • I scoop my dog’s poop

Any company, but especially my high growth partners/clients, need to write these down, but that is only the beginning of the journey.  In Good to Great, Jim Collins shares the three things about values that he found in great companies.  In great companies, they do three things with their values:

  1. Define Them/Know what they are
  2. Build them into the organization
  3. Preserve them over time

The truth around values is this picture is part of step 1.  There is work to be done, but great companies know that celebrations have to happen to name significant steps that they have taken.  Celebrations mean FUN and showing up as people who passionately believe in the words being shared, not just leaders reading the script they were given.  This group of leaders inspires me.

What are some of the unique and inspiring values that you have seen companies share and build into their culture?

The Smartest Person In The Room

Have you ever met the smartest person in the room?

Yesterday I had the opportunity to see Captain John Meier, the commanding officer of the Commanding Officer of the USS Gerald R. Ford.  He asked this question as he talked about steps he was taking to build the team that will launch this new aircraft carrier in 2016.  The one thing I will say about Captain Meier is that he spoke simply about leadership, and showed a deep understanding of the power of serving others first as a leader.  Another great thing is he was not selling a book, he was just taking time out of his busy day to tell his story.

How many of you walk into a room chanting “I am not the smartest person in this room . . . “?  I would never ask a leader to do that, and yet there are ways our actions can say it.

Captain Meier shared a couple of tips he had for living this mantra through your actions as a leader:

  • Always keep an open mind in problem solving sessions – challenge your team to bring/share solutions and just listen.
  • Make Learning a part of your day.

Imagine the power of spending time each day having someone on your team teach you something?  You implement Salesforce?  Ask someone to show you how to enter a new customer and then do 2 on your own with their help.  When we make a habit out of the two tips shared above we are demonstrating our intent to serve first as a leader.  It is never that easy, but it is always that simple.

Great conversations start with a question.  I spend time with leaders like Captain Meier because they ask great questions.

If you have never met the smartest person in the room you are not looking hard enough.