I have been asked to read and review David C. Baker’s new book Managing Right: For The First Time. As I go through it I will share some thoughts that make me go Hmmmm . . . This posting is based on one of those moments. **Special Offer for my blog readers: If you are interested in reading this book yourself, the publisher has given me 10 copies to give to my readership. I liked the book because of the simple wisdom it shares and how it fits nicely into a mentor/mentee or group study. Email me if you want a copy – email@example.com.
Why Were You Promoted? (from Chapter4: Managing Your Boss)
Simple, but extremely important question. The answer tells us, as leaders, about the situation we are stepping into and what we need to focus on to fulfill the expectations of our leaders and win over our new team. Here is David Baker’s list for the most common reasons you are promoted:
- Keep you from leaving
- Improve the technical skills of the department (you are the expert)
- Continue the course started by your boss
- Acknowledge and take advantage of your management and leadership skills
Have you ever asked this question of yourself as you assumed a new leadership role? Self-awareness and having a close friend to give you a reality check is critical in transitions. The easy answer #4, and yet what if the real answer is #3? I have known people to be promoted and asked to continue the direction of their predecessor, when their true talent was asking difficult questions and finding new approaches. Mismatches like this do not end well.
What if the answer is #1 – and you really don’t want to lead? Hmm . . . . .
For new leaders, add this to your question bank and look for proof by following up with the question “What are the 5 things you want me to accomplish in the first 3 months?”
For current leaders, acknowledge the true reason for your selection and make sure it fits the goals/talents of the person you are selecting.
True Talent Management is about great conversations, and this question is the cornerstone of a great conversation that needs to happen to help leaders make the right choice and have a successful transition.
Do you have any reasons to add to the author’s list?
I spent the day with a leadership team recently that has a big job to do and is receiving limited resources, changing targets, and ever demanding customer expectations. Sound familiar? The goal is to help this team figure out how to survive/thrive over the next 18 months despite the uncertainty of the environment they operate in.
We used the Birkman Method, which is the most effective tool I have found to help teams in this discussion because it measures our Usual Working Style (what people see under normal circumstances), what our Needs are (often different than how we act), and it names the stress behaviors that result if our needs are not being met. The A-HA moment for the team came when most ended up in the stress behavior of hyper-task focus when the pressure really hit (ie. needs not being met).
It is not uncommon for an individual leader to look at a chart like this and make the statement – “I can handle lots of stress”. That is true for most leaders, they push through challenges well and find ways to get to the other side. But what about the people these same leaders lead? The second A-HA for this team was the feedback their teams had just given them on an employee survey. One of the issues highlighted was understanding what their roles were and communication of what is happening. Hmmm . . . .
Leadership is hard, and probably especially hard right now. Taking the time to look in the mirror at a time like this is even harder, because it takes resources (time/money) and we are bound to see something that will ask us to change. Yet, teams that are successfully growing a business have something to celebrate. Part of that celebration should be the question “What can we do to make the next 18 months easier (on our teams/self) and better.
It is good to take a quick look every now and then, remembering the talents that have come together to move the organization are good, and yet there still might be an easier way to go forward.
When are you/your team planning the next look in the mirror?
(note: Whenever I speak to groups I provide cards to them in case they have a question I cannot answer during our conversation(fyi: I call all my presentations ‘conversations’). My commitment is that I will blog answers in 2 weeks. This question was submitted to me after my Talent Scorecard presentation at the 2011 Wisconsin SHRM Conference in Madison. I do not edit questions – because my commitment is to answer what is asked.)
Question: What doyou do if your most successful sales employee and shareholder is the one costing leadership to lose money and sleep?
One of my core beliefs since working with many smaller businesses is that loyalty matters, and being slow to let someone go is okay. As I read your question two things come to mind:
- How is success defined for this person?
- When their performance is evaluated – are they judged based on WHAT they accomplish, as well as HOW they accomplish it?
I think back to a situation where the top technology person at a company struggled for years with alcoholism that caused multiple missed work days, missed deadlines, and bristled work relationships as he relapsed repeatedly at company parties, sales events, etc. All of this, and he stayed in place for many years.
One key habit that is critical for any organization is the CEO going down the list of their people and talking through each person in terms of what they provide, what success looks like for them, and how they are performing from a metrics as well as a culture standpoint. The key people/key role discussion that is described in the Talent Scorecard is critical to bringing focus to this issue. Since doing this with an internal HR person is often difficult, it should be done with a board group or an outside consultant. The value is a safe place to process information and ask yourself some tough questions.
Finally, the book SWAY made a point about irrational decisions. In studies of people, if they looked at a situation from a net loss perspective, they were less likely to make a rational decision. An example is investing: When people say to themselves – If I sell today I will lose 10% of my initial investment – then the are more likely to ride it down lower, even if the outlook is grim. People are the same way. When they start looking at people and saying – if we let this person go then our sales will suffer, or the knowledge they have will go away – then we keep them, even if all the other evidence points to it being a bad decision.
Anything to add based on your experience?
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.
TrustBUSTER™ #7 – Values individual success over team goals
I facilitated 30 people from a department doing a basic what is your behavioral style activity that divided the team up into 4 styles. I made the comment that it is not uncommon for a senior leadership team to be almost 100% concentrated in the more task focused groups in an exercise like this. I asked the leaders in the room to raise their hands. The count was 5 task focused to 1 people focused. Surprising to them, but not to me.
This TrustBUSTER™ is almost 100% focused on people who tend to put task (getting job done) before people (building relationships). This happens for two reasons. First, executives have been rewarded for getting work accomplished. Their talents for achievement, problem solving, and energy to overcome obstacles helped bring them to the c-suite. They are used to winning. If you are on their team it works. If you are on another team it often looks like TrustBUSTER™ #7. Secondly, communication and change management come after the debate and decision-making has already happened within the executive team. Unfortunately, it is the communication plan and ensuing change management that gets overlooked because all the energy has gone into the decision. Without providing the reasons why this is a good move for the overall organization, teams will fill in the blanks. This is where people begin to assign reasons for the change that are based on what they perceive is important to the leaders. Is it reality? Without any other information, perception becomes reality. Enter TrustBUSTER™ #7.
How do leaders avoid this? Here are three steps to making this TrustBUSTER™ less of an issue:
- Be diligent about establishing goals and resolving conflicting goals as part of the planning process. This team should leave this process ready to support the decisions that were made.
- Communicate WHY a decision is made when rolling out a change to your teams. Be transparent about the reasons and get their input during the decision making when possible.
- Focus on building relationships and trust all the time. There will be decisions you have to make where you cannot share the entire WHY. Having built trust will make forgiveness available when it is needed.