Tracking Our Happiness – My experience + an exercise for leaders

So I am at Day 4 of measuring my happiness as I participate in the Happiness Research project of Matthew Killingsworth (my last post referenced his article in the Jan/Feb 2012 Harvard Business Review – which I will call HBR from this point on).  One of my blog readers followed suit and shared that the 3x a day reminders were making him angry – which made me smile, so the study is working for me.  I am guessing we will balance each other out in the research. 🙂

Here is what I have noticed:

  • The goal is not about being happy all the time, that is impossible.
  • When I stop to think about it, it makes a difference on how I feel.
  • I get annoyed by the emails – then I remember I asked to be part of it, so I laugh at myself and do it.

This might be a fun experience with a group of managers.

First: Present the opportunity to a group of people and ask for 3 volunteers to participate and own reporting back (sorry, they must have iphones).

Second: It is about a 15 day study, so (as the organizer) email them every 3 days and ask them to send you a quick email (1-2 minutes) answering the question “What a-ha moments have you had in the last three days being part of this study and watching your happiness?”

Third: Set aside an hour with the whole group to process the topic.  As preparation, ask the group to read the article The Science Behind the Smile from HBR Jan/Feb 2012.  For the three volunteers – ask specific questions about what were some of the things that impacted them from the outside (what they were doing? other people? events?) and how what they were doing had an impact?  The agenda might look like this:

1.  Share what you learned (3 peopole) – 15 minutes

2. Brainstorm / Discussion:  What we do as individuals to achieve more happiness today?  Draw a line and ask what we learned that we could/should do more of to increase happiness?  What jumps out at me when I look at this list? (go around the room)? – 15 minutes

3.  Brainstorm / Discussion:  What do we do as leaders do to increase the happiness in our workplace today?  What are some things we could do?  What jumps out at me when I look at this list (go around the room) – 15 minutes

4.  Wrap-up:  What is one thing I am going to do differently for myself or my team? Be specific, and partner people up as partners for success – 15 minutes

FYI – Remember talent management is about conversations, not training.  Leaders getting together to share observations/experiences, make little changes on how they manage themselves/others, and partnering to support each other is like training – but better, and less expensive. 🙂

 

Onboarding Equation . . and 4 Ways to Influence it

I am reading a book called Emotional Equations by Chip Conley.  As a recovering engineer, I am still attracted to simple ways to understand a complex event – and for anyone who has spent time in a science class, that is what an equation represents.

So here is an equation:  Disappointment = Expectations – Reality

The fundamental event of hiring and effectively onboarding a new person is captured in this equation.  It is no wonder that 40% of leaders from outside organizations fail within 18 months (Watkins – The First 90 Days).  We all have stories of experiencing or observing the moment when the This is not what I signed up for panic hits.

A key part of managing talent coming into your organization or transitioning into a new role is managing this equation.  Here are two ways to better manage this equation for new people:

  1. Name it in orientation:  EVERYONE will feel this at some point, so openly talk about it and have a few people share when it happened for them AND how they worked through it.  (great reason to have a panel discussion of newer employees at some point)
  2. Make connections for them Day 1 so they do not feel alone:  Assign someone in the department or another department as a mentor and guide (someone who can empathize with this person).  It takes 6-12 months to become comfortable/productive in a new role, so this person should stick around (especially if the leader is not good at this).

For a person transitioning into a new role:

  1. Create a plan for success:  On day 1, use a development plan template to talk about why they got the role (their talents/successes), what success looks like, and what they need to be successful.  This provides the individual with a target, some encouragement, and a framework for revisiting the how is it going question and make adjustments as necessary.
  2. Assign a friend/mentor:  For individual contributors or managers give them a mentor (or the leader should do weekly one on ones for 6 months).  For an executive get them a coach.  The ROI for a coach is in avoiding the cost of a bad transition (team turnover, mismanaged budget, etc.).  It will pay for itself, and there is plenty of research to back that up.

Talent management is about great conversations.  Talking about this equation is a great conversation for a person in transition.

Time – How to have this discussion

I am working with two teams right now trying to manage explosive growth (50+%) and all of the challenges that go with it.  One theme that ALWAYS comes up is time.  Here is what it sounds like:

  • I want my work week to go from 70 hours to 50 hours
  • I am working hard, and yet I am still not getting it done
  • My family has not seen me at a meal in weeks
  • My email is overflowing and people have expressed frustrations with my ability to complete things
  • There are not enough hours in the day
  • I will make time for woodworking when I retire

Time is always an issue, and in the age of “customer focused” and “collaboration” saying NO is not an option —  if it is there has to be some reasoning to it and people want to hear options.

Here is a hint, if teams are struggling with that or you have a person on your team struggling with it, dust off a copy of Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, turn to the time management matrix on page 151, do this:

Covey's Time Management Matrix
  1. Introduce this as a way to sort through our to do lists
  2. Draw the matrix on the wall and give everyone a stack of post-it notes
  3. Ask them to write their top 10 things that come up during the day (you might ask them to record some of this before the meeting, especially if they are in a customer facing role)
  4. Explain the matrix to them, and have them place it in a quadrant
  5. Talk through it.  Here are some questions:  
  •  
    • What does this say about your priorities? 
    • What can move? (from my perspective as your leader)
    • What is one change I can make that would help my ‘time issue”? 
    • What is one thing I can do as your leader to help?

Leadership is about great conversations, and within those conversations helping people sort through and overcome barriers.  This is a great conversation around time, and many thanks to Covey for helping frame this discussion.  (hint:  7 Habits is a great resource for any leadership library. )

trU Tips 17+ – Three comments that drove me to write it

Yesterday I published volume 17 of trU Tips – this is a follow-up post. (I introduced a tool called the Talent Calendar)

The source of my trU Tips is usually something that has been planted in my brain or belly that just bothers me.  This months trU Tips came from three comments that are etched into my memory:

  1. “I can’t afford leadership development” (from a CEO)
  2. “I tell my people when they start – I am busy so you will not see me much.  If you need me let me know.”
  3. “Should I ask my boss for an evaluation?  I don’t want to get in trouble, but I would like to know how I am doing.” (from a senior leader after SIX months of thinking about it – and they were identified as a high potential by their organization)

In my almost 3 years of consulting I have worked in a half dozen different industries and companies from 20 to 80,000 employees.  I get called to help leaders prepare for and manage high growth/change, and when something is broken (team, individual performance, organizational structure).  In the latter my role is to help get things back on track.  In both situations I use the same tools: personal perspective (what I call trUYou™) and conversation.  The outcomes we work towards are at the heart of this calendar and captured in what I call trUPerformance™.  I am convinced(and have seen it work over and over again) that if a leader committed to the 10 hour outlined in this calendar many of the issues I see(and they feel) around individuals and teams go away.  Can they spend more time – Yes!  Is there a lean calendar coming?  No.

It is as simple as this calendar, and at the same time it is not easy.  Within the conversations will be disagreements, mis-communication, minds that are distracted to bigger problems, feelings of mistrust, and a host of other barriers.  I am an optimist, and figure that if I can get two people to quiet the world for 30 minutes/once a month, then the barriers will be overcome.

Are there any of these barriers that you see most often?  What has been effective in working through them?

Universal truths: Relationships and Leadership

I can remember his face and his words like it was yesterday.  He stood up in a leadership class during a section where we were exploring leadership and how to manage the talents of a team and said “I am a very different person at home.  I have a work personality and a home personality.”  If it were only that simple. . . .

In the book How Full Is Your Bucket(p. 55), a study is shared that explored the connection between how we talked to each other and marital success.  They spent 15 minutes with each couple, logged in positive and negative interactions, and then used that to predict marital success.  They were 94% accurate, and the magic ratio was 5 positive to 1 negative.  When they looked at how that applied at work, the magic ratio was 3 to 1. 

Relationships at work and at home need the same thing – interactions and a healthy balance between positive and negative comments.

A lot has been written about one event that has been tied to helping kids grow up healthy (less drug use, depression, etc.).  The conclusion, families that eat together more often and use the time to talk/debate has a postive impact on kids. (link to story)   Gallup had a similar message with their Q12 when they proved the significance of people answering the question “In the last 7 days I have received recognition or praise”. 

So presence and the right conversations make a difference whether you are parenting or leading. 

Becoming an impactful leader is a lot like becoming a great parent or a great friend.  Be there, speak the truth (good and the bad), and keep doing it.  At least that is what the research says.

It takes a lot of energy to keep up work me and home me.

They asked: Hi Po selection, Hiring the right people, Succession Planning

For my blog readers – this is a second post inspired by questions received from HR leaders that I talked with yesterday.  It was great to see a packed lunch meeting with 100 busy HR leaders taking time to talk and go through my Talent Scorecard.  Great questions, and I was happy to get my development plan template in the hands of so many HR leaders who can hopefully use it to impact their people.  

I will start back with more normal posts next week – 150 to 300 words.  Also, I apologize for any spelling /grammar issues.  I work hard to scrub a normal post, but at 1000 words the editing to perfection is not a battle I will fight.  Remember that trUe conversations are not always done in perfect english. 🙂

How do you effectively identify high potential employees based on data rather than who the manager likes?

I am guessing this comes from a negative experience trying to convince a group of leaders that they were wrong. 🙂  First of all, HR has to argue enough with business leaders about things like compensation that do not make this conversation an argument, but make it a collaboration.  Here are a few tips to make it happen.

  • Start the process with this question:  What do we look for in a successful leader here? (Hi Pots by definition are people destined for a significant leadership role – 2 moves up in a larger organization).  Take the list and prioritize it to a top 5 critieria.
  • Insert into the conversation the definition of learning agility from the book The Leadership Machine (by Lominger).  Use that description to help the group make sure the pieces of that definition are captured in your criteria.  (I am assuming you are using a 9 box of some sort somewhere in your process)
  • Make sure there is a section called Accomplishments as part of the Talent Profile you are creating for each candidate.
  • Have the discussion and air disagreements and capture(write it down) any concerns or questions people have about this person.
  • Action Plans / Next Steps should include having leaders questioning the inclusion find an opportunity to work more closely with this person and for the leader supporting them to find ways to showcase this person’s skills in projects, presentations, etc.

I have a post talking about how developing people is like cooking in a crockpot.  Here is the link.  Do not try and microwave this process and feel like ALL the answers have to be clear at the end of the process. 

Other than personal referrals, what have you found to be the most effective way(s) of determining those who will end up being high quality employees?

This is a big one, and there are endless vendors out there ready to sell you their silver bullet solution to this problem.  My favorite solution is outlined in TopGrading, but know that it is not an easy implementation.  It will be a live long skill(that will be marketable and useful) once you master it.  I have worked/networked with lots of startup/early growth companies and here are a few tips based on what they say made a difference and a few hints from me.

  • Divide interviewing into Skills/Experience to do the job and cultural fit for your organization.  Spend some time defining your culture (values, beliefs, mission) and be purposeful about evaluating people based on that.
  • Find ways to work with people first – via contracts, projects, including a ride along with someone as part of an interview, or maybe even giving them a real problem to solve during an interview.  Too many people think interviewing starts with the posting on monster or has to be confined to questions in a room. 
  • Do a 30 day, 90 day, and 6 month review of hires to determine “Good Choice?  Bad Choice? What did we learn?  How do we apply the learning?”  Over time this will make your process better.
  • In hiring decisions center the discussion around answering three questions:  Are the willing?  Are they able?  Are the manageable?
  • Give it time.  If you only have 30 minutes to interview a hire you will likely get a 30 minute hire.  If that is good enough for the leader then move on to a manager/leader who cares.  (sorry that was a bit blunt, but there is no other way to say it.)

If we are not able to have a formal succession planning system can you please provide some other ways and/or tools that we can informally work through this with leaders we support within our organization?  Thank you!

I left the Thank you in your question because I wondered if it would still be there after I gave my answer.  🙂  My answer is No, not yet.  I say this because Succession Planning is such a big topic and really the culmination of doing the basics of Talent Management well that if it is too hard, the reasons are you are not doing the basics well and the relationships within the leadership team are probably not trusting enough to make it work anyway.  The number one barrier to this happening well at the leadership level is ego.

I do have a couple of bits of advice that hit me as I talked with the 100+ HR leaders yesterday.  Stop calling it succession planning and use the terms Most Valuable People and Most Critical Roles to identify your efforts.  I did that in my Talent Scorecard because I wanted to communicate it in more ‘non HR’ language.  Leaders might balk at the ‘valuable’ or ‘critical’ labels because they will exclude people.  This process is meant to focus scarce resources (time, money) on the most critical areas(roles) and most valuable resources(best people) in the business.  I guess the question is whether the leader proposes spending a little bit on everyone?  Another thought is “Do we want our talent management efforts to resemble socialism or capitalism?  On second thought, better hold that one back unless you want a real ideological argument.  🙂  I commit to trU Tips #18 to focus on that, so sign-up for trU Tips  and I commit to addressing this for you and others that are asking the same questions. 

In the meantime, the basics I reference are already out there on my resource page.  Check it out.

If you want clarification on any of this feel free to post a question on this blog and I will gladly do my best to answer it.

They asked: Performance management in small companies and Crucial Conversations

For my blog readers – the following is a post inspired by questions received from HR leaders that I will be talking with tomorrow as I share with them my talent scorecard presentation.  My pledge is that I will answer questions they have, and these were submitted as part of a survey I asked them to take.  It is in the vein of what I normally talk about, but exceeds my personal 200-300 word limit that I try and stick to because I want our conversation to fit into your busy schedule. 🙂

Question:  How do you create an employee development program specific to the needs of each employee?

I found out an interesting fact several months ago – 99.9% of organizations in the United States have less than 500 employees.   These organizations employ about half of the people in our economy.  This feeds into this question because the traditional answer to the question from training and development is to:  1) Develop job descriptions  2) Define competencies/measures for each role  3) Perform a gap analysis  4) Create a plan based on gaps  5) Revisit yearly with a performance evaluation.  Most organizations do not have the time, HR expertise, and patience to do all of these things.   Two things that are critical in developing people:  1) A trusting relationship between leader and follower  2)  A conversation around what they need (both company and individual) that is captured in a plan   2.5)  A follower ready to own the plan and a leader committed to supporting it.  Here is a link to the development plan and other templates I provide that will drive the right conversations and capture key information in a written form that can be managed.    fyi – it is that simple, but not necessarily easy.  I can blog on that at another time if you would like – just ask.  ANY size organization can put development plans in place for their people, and it is the key to helping people develop.

It states in Crucial Conversations that “one study of 500 stunningly productive organizations revealed that peak performance had absolutely nothing to do with forms, procedures, and policies that drive performance management.”  From my experience, I agree.  Please discuss how the process you are presenting makes a true difference in peak performance, including the aspects of the process which are most crucial to success. 

The reference to Crucial Conversations is a series of two books published by and sold by a consulting group called Vital Smarts.  My belief system on performance was actually born out of a conversation I had with one of their partners and a co-author from another book they published, Influencer.  I spent a couple of days with David Maxfield listening to him teach and working with him on a rollout plan.  Let me say the guy is brilliant, experienced, and their focus on helping organization/leaders become great at having difficult conversations is world class.  But in one conversation I asked “Do you assume that organizations you are trying to help already have a culture in place where regular one on one discussions are already happening, because it seems that is the key place where it would be easiest to practice what you are teaching.”  His answer was “Yes’.  What I knew based on my conversations with leaders in this growing organization was the one on one habit was not firmly in place.  As a result, the implementation of this key leadership skill was spotty at best.  I agree that conflict management is a critical leadership skill to enable great performance, but  I base performance/talent management on the relationship first, and then the other pieces/habits build off that.  I also agree that it is not policy, procedures first – – but I also know from experience that in order to Build Rhythm there has to be some structure in place.

I love talking to groups and want to make the conversation longer than an hour long keynote.  Feel free to comment or ask follow-up questions.  I welcome them.

My Top Shelf – Books that I love

Everyone should have a top shelf – the one you share with people at work when they ask for a reading recommendation.  A few caveats on my list:

  1. I generally only recommend books <200 pages, with a few exceptions.  (I favor authors who have mastered clarity, passion, and brevity)
  2. These are around business and/or personal development books.
  3. I will explain any selection, but not apologize or argue about it.  It is my shelf – so build your own if you disagree. 🙂
  4. I do not loan these out, but will often buy people a copy.  They are marked up and I would hate to lose them.

It has expanded over the years, but my general rule is that the number has to be limited.  Now to add one I have to take one off.  I had a shelf with about 8 books for many years, then I got a bigger shelf. 

Here is my top shelf:

(they are in no particular order – but left to right in the picture)

  1. The Mindful Coach – Doug Silsbee
  2. Co-Active Coaching – Whitworth/Kimsey-House, Sandahl
  3. Sway – Ori/Ram Brafman
  4. Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell
  5. All Things New, A Fable of Renewal – Rodger Price
  6. Confessions of a Public Speaker – Scott Berkun
  7. Good to Great – Jim Collins
  8. First, Break all the Rules – Marcus Buckingham/Curt Coffman
  9. Fierce Conversations – Susan Scott
  10. Linchpin – Seth Godin
  11. Strengthsfinder 2.0 – Tom Rath
  12. How Full is Your Bucket – Tom Rath/Don Clifton
  13. Mastering the Rockefeller Habits – Verne Harnish
  14. Drive – Daniel Pink
  15. One Minute Manager – Ken Blanchard/Spencer Johnson
  16. For Men Only – Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn
  17. Mastery – George Leonard
  18. Let Your Life Speak – Parker Palmer
  19. Rework – Jason Fried/David Heinemeier Hansson
  20. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Patrick Lencioni
  21. Death By Meeting – Patrick Lencioni
  22. The Will of God As A Way of Life – Gerald Sittser
  23. Season of Life – Jeffrey Marx
  24. The Servant – James Hunter
  25. Who Moved My Cheese – Spencer Johnson
  26. Into The Wild – Jon Krakauer
  27. HalfTime – Bob Buford
  28. Tribes – Seth Godin
  29. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
  30. Jonathan Livingston Seagull – Richard Bach
  31. Do the Work – Steve Pressfield

Some are great books, and some have achieved significance for other reasons.  In the end, I will recommend other books on occassion, but I love these selections.  In addition, I also have 2-3 Harvard Business Review articles I love for people not having time to read.

Looking for a good question to ask your new leader?  What two books stand out in your mind as great?  (might be a good idea to read them – it will often explain how they think and what they value)

Submit a question to this posting if you want a more detailed explanation on any of these selections.

Failure (continuing a thought from Seth Godin)

 Learning from a failure is critical. Connecting effort with failure at an emotional level is crippling. After all, we’ve already agreed you did your best.

Early in our careers, we’re encouraged to avoid failure, and one way we do that is by building up a set of emotions around failure, emotions we try to avoid, and emotions that we associate with the effort of people who fail. It turns out that this is precisely the opposite of the approach of people who end up succeeding.

See entire post from Seth Godin.

Great leaders make lots of mistakes.  They get the title GREAT LEADER because they push through the mistakes and get on with things.  In the end, they make more good/great decisions than bad ones.

I have learned over the years that many of these same leaders had to grow through getting hung up on thinking about some of those bad decisions.  No one really accepts failure with no pain, some just dwell on it less.  In addition, too often their people are still pointing at the bad decision and going “See!” – but doing it secretly.

So how does a leader get through this?  One way is to process bad decisions openly with their team so everyone learns from those choices – including them.  It shows transparency, vulnerability, creates safety for other people to step forward, and teaches people to problem solve and push through.

When I see leaders saying I am sorry and leveraging their team to learn I stop and pay attention.  It takes a special leader to do that and a special follower to allow it.  I like being part of teams like that.

7 Key Numbers All Leaders Should Know

So you are a leader and you want to develop your people.  Here are 7 key numbers you need to know.

21 – The number of consecutive days of practice it takes to add (ie. change) a habit.  Personal change takes help, so don’t let people commit to major change without help.  If you are going to do it – this is where an executive coach or peer network is critical.  If you don’t believe it check out the Weight Watchers model – – it is tested! 

90 – The percent of learning that happens outside the classroom.  Do not ever say I cannot afford learning when I am in the room.  I will likely make a scene. 🙂

10,000 – The number of hours it takes to become an expert at something.  Excellence takes a sustained effort. 

70 – The percent of people that show up to a class without a clear learning objective.  Want to increase your ROI on classroom learning?  Make sure 100% of your people have development plans.  If your CFO challenges you on this give them my number and I will argue with them for free. 🙂

30 / 30 / 40 – The percent of time a performance evaluation should spend on the areas of past / current state / future as it relates to someone’s job. 

I love talking about these numbers with leaders BEFORE talking about what they need to develop themselves or before they commit to developing their teams.  I also share these with followers BEFORE they enter into a conversation with their leader, so they understand the commitment they need to make. 

Personal growth and development takes energy (some call it pain), but think of the payoff! 

If you see these numbers as barriers or a burden, maybe you are not ready to start or continue the journey. 

If you see opportunity in these numbers, enjoy the journey!