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.

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.

 

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.

Becoming Adaptable

Are you adaptable?

I am reminded of a conversation I had with Greg Hartle who spent 18 months doing something I thought was crazy.  He started with $10 and a laptop and travelled around the US meeting people in transition and helping them.  He blogged about it, took odd jobs when he could, and spoke to groups about his journey (fyi – before his trip he almost died from kidney failure – so there was quite a story there).

One observation he made was that the key ability he saw as critical to the people he was meeting in career transitions was the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn.  For me, it was a simple, yet profound statement as I work with organizations and leaders in growth transitions.  Here are two thoughts . . .

1.  It does not mean abandon your values and beliefs.  Adaptable is ‘able to change or be Are you adaptable?  Success in business and in life means understanding and managing the changes that approach.  Transitions as leaders, parents, spouses, friends are full of moments where the current way of doing things/reacting will not work, and we have to ask ourselves – in order to fit or work better in some situation or for some purpose.’  If you have to work for an organization with a social focus – great!  If we are being asked to build a process around sales so others can do what we do and do it the same way and we resist – hmm?

2. It does mean that when we find ourselves stuck or frustrated, the first question we need to ask is “What about this situation frustrates me?”  At the core of our answer is the issue, and in my experience most often the issue is in our recognition of the change and how we will have to adapt to operate in the new normal.

One habit that helps this – When entering change conversations – once we process the issue and the end goal, to simply ask “To be successful, what do we need to: Keep doing? Start doing?  Stop doing?”

As a person – I go back to Greg’s observation – “Based on what challenges I face – What do I need to: Learn?  Unlearn? Relearn?”

 

Do What You Love

Do What You Love

When I am bored with TV and having hundreds of channels with nothing to watch, I fire up the AppleTV and go to Vimeo.  That habit has given me  two videos that I think about often – one for a guy now called Slomo and another chronicling the challenges of Formula 1 driver Alex Zanardi.  I can remember watching each and just smiling.  It was a smile not based on something being funny (although Slomo reminded me of a friend of mine), but more on the fact that two individuals made a choice to chart a different future – one on their own and one because circumstances forced a change.  It was a smile celebrating a choice made and the inspirational story that resulted.

A foundation of professional development at any level is based on a similar choice.  It is hard to see that choice when we dislike our boss, worry about the debt that needs a paycheck to support it, or are scared of not having a keycard to enter the building you have been going to for a decade.  It is also hard when like our team or the praise that comes from having the same customers that know us and love us.  I preach the lines great conversations start with a question and when we have honest conversations that lead to thoughtful actions, the result is improved performance.  Three questions that come to mind when I think of these videos are:

  • What are my choices?
  • How do I want to be remembered?
  • What matters to me?

Here is a link to my 5 Tips for Managing Your Career and Performance – and the number one is Own It.  If you know someone (or maybe someone that works for you) struggling with their next step, please pass this on.  The caveat I am adding is that most Own It outcomes don’t mean rollerblades on the strand in LA.  More often it means some different projects, a bigger smile at work, or finding more balance between work and life outside of work.  I call these pivots, and whether big or small, they all start at the same point – ownership.

Living into choice is simple, but rarely easy.

Do What You Love.

 

What Seth Said – and more . .

I listen to many experts/sources – Seth Godin, Wired Magazine, Inc. Magazine, Parker Palmer, Huffington Post, Thomas Friedman, Emily Bennington, my Mom, the Wall Street Journal.  There are more, but these stand out for me this morning.

The one I go back to daily is Seth Godin.  I like Seth because his voice is edgy and challenging, and he writes about things that are important.  Here is a piece of his recent post called The feedback you’ve been waiting for . . .

“You did a great job. This is exactly what I was hoping for. I wouldn’t change a thing. You completely nailed it, it’s fabulous.”

Of course, that’s not feedback, really. It’s applause.

Applause is great. We all need more of it.

But if you want to improve, you should actively seek feedback.

(here is the full post if you are interested)

It is so true, and I am guiltier than most.  I know that.  Traditional wisdom would tell us, as leaders, to commit to this and go start asking for it.  That will be nice, but it won’t work because unless we put ourselves in situations where it HAS to happen it won’t.  Most people are too nice, and most of us are too afraid to ask.

For leaders – Here is what you can to get feedback:  1) Create a safe space where it can be given   2) Ask  3) Be genuinely excited/grateful when you get it  4) Don’t give up.  (fyi:  #3 is harder than #2 – and you won’t be successful unless you do #4)

For individuals – See above – – and when you see a leader looking for help to get better, be courageous and constructive.  We are constructive when we focus on behaviors, not intent.  If you are not sure what that means – go study Fierce Conversations)

The safe space is the one on one.  When we create time for others to help us lead them/support them, and ask the right questions we will get feedback eventually. (see previous post).

Seth started this thought, and I am more than happy to finish it.  More importantly – Are you ready to finish it with your actions?

 

7 Books That Make Great Gifts For A New Job

My personal graduation party count is in the teens now and I am not done.  Strangely I find myself energized with each new party because it gives me a chance to connect with a graduate, hear some of their plans, and revisit their first 18 years by looking at all the pictures they (or their parents) have posted.  It if fun and scary at the same time.  I always appreciate the graduates that look me in the eye and admit some of those fears.  I get it.

Transitions are like that – fun and scary.  Fun because of all the new things that are presented to us – new people, new challenges, new learning, and new perspectives.  Scary because they often bring us into unfamiliar territory that will challenge our basic beliefs and put us into situations where we will experience failure.

Failure.  It is a word that nobody likes to hear, and yet it is so necessary to learn.  One of the reasons I like hanging around a start-up minded community is they see failure as a way to grow.  You cannot have growth without it.  While graduation is a great thing to celebrate, those graduates that will be going off to their first job in the next several months will need more help.  The help they need is the support from the people around them for a great start in that new role.  In the corporate world it is called, and when it is done well it provides a foundation for success.  The key to onboarding is really after the program(or first 2 weeks), when the work begins.  Being able to step into that work with the right perspective and attitude is critical.

Lets focus on the college graduate that will be starting their first job. As part of any new beginning, it is good to mark that day with a gift.  Here are several books that have the potential to equip people and start some great conversations that will lead to a successful transition into their new role.

If you have read my blog long enough you know that I believe in learning pairs.  My philosophy of giving a book as a gift is simple – keep the books thin(<200 pages) and as part of the gift offer to read it/discuss it with them.  (here are some other helpful gift giving tips)

 

 

3 Books That Make Great Graduation Gifts

College graduation is coming up, and after last weekend working with 21 students in Michigan through our Governor’s Economic Summit I have been thinking a lot about what I experienced and ways in which all of us can invest in someone starting a career.  While high school graduations might compel us to get something like Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss, college is a little different.  Here are three books that would be great gifts for a new grad to help them to success in their first job and connect you with that success:

LinchPin by Seth Godin:  A little longer, but is focused on helping people be purposeful about building their brand and reputation through their work.  It is a good balance between practical advice and thinking bigger.

Great On The Job by Jodi Glickman: This book is targeted at college students.  I have also used some of the advice Jodi gives (especially around getting feedback) with some of the mid/late career transition individuals I coach through Shifting Gears, but she targets the new grad.  Our governor is actually giving a signed copy to each student from our recent summit.

Effective Immediately by Emily Bennington and Skip Lineberg: I am preparing to review this book and share my thoughts through my TruTips, but in advance I also like this book.  It differs from Jodi’s book in that it provides lots of 1 page tips for individuals.  How I would make this a great gift would be for you to write a note that identified your top 5 and pledge to be a mentor as they read and use this in their first job.

There are other books new professionals should read, but hold off until they get a job.  I actually like one of the chapters in Effective Immediately where the authors give them a list of books to keep in their cubicle and to read.  The great thing about all of these books is they are focused on helping them be successful, and coupled with a pledge from you of some time to read it with them/mentor them – this actually become a great gift.

4 Keys To Successful Transitions

4 Keys To Successful Transitions

Not Cool Robert Frost

If you have not seen the Kid President video on YouTube you should.  It has been played in our house through Apple TV no less than 12 times, with the funniest being watching my 86 year old father viewing it with his grandchildren saying “Isn’t this great Grandpa!”  It might not connect with all generations, but he was gracious. 🙂

There is a part in the video where Robert Frost’s famous poem, The Road Not Taken, is referenced and the kid president talks about how hard that road is with all the rocks, thorns, etc. . .   He then delivers the line – “Not cool Robert Frost”.  That line resonated and has been often repeated by my teenage daughter.  In the last two weeks, almost daily I have found situations where I repeat it.

Not cool Robert Frost

I love transitions.  People.  Teams.  Companies.  There is much to be gained in a great transition, and there is lots at stake because it is not an easy road.  Even in a successful transition there will be moments of failure.  My experience tells me that there are four key things that have to be there for a successful transition (whether it is corporate or individual):

  1. Desire to make the change
  2. Community of support for individuals doing the change (including at least 2 people willing to provide one on one support)
  3. Willingness and ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn (thanks for those words Greg Hartle) as part of the process.
  4. Resilience to do the work, regardless of the conditions (this is leadership)

As I look at this list, I see number 2 and 3 as the things anyone can be working on today regardless of their situation.  In fact, if you are not doing the work of making those a part of your work life, you are guaranteeing yourself / team / organization a difficult journey.

A story.  I was talking to someone who had successfully transitioned to a new role, only to have it go away months later.  The one thing they stopped doing when they landed?  Building/maintaining their community (#2).   Networking and maintaining your community is easy to stop when we are ‘busy’.   But it is the road that will become overgrown if not used at least a little.  It is also the piece that takes time to rebuild.  We create more rocks and thorns for ourselves when we stop doing all of the work of preparing ourselves, our teams, or our organizations for the transitions that will occur.

It is okay to rest, but don’t stop doing the work of preparation.  And when you hit a rock or a thorn, just blame Robert Frost and keep moving. 🙂