Managing is about being face to face with people and helping them work through the steps to success. Great leadership is often draped in words like vision, inspiration, and determination. But even great leaders have to put on the manager hat and address the needs of their direct staff. Here are three habits that will make that happen.
1. Get to know your people: Building trust starts with knowing someone. When I walk into start-up companies it is common for people to hire friends and family first. They do that because the relationship is there, and with relationships comes speed in decision making and patience with stress behaviors/poor decisions. One tool I use with all clients is what I call a Team Member Fact Sheet. Use this in your onboarding process(after you hire) to get to know your people and for them to get to know you.
2. Commit to regular/uninterrupted One on One Time: At least monthly you should be sitting down with every direct report and checking in. 30 minutes is ideal, but 15 minutes is acceptable. Two key things about these meetings. First, you do not allow interruptions. Show them your commitment by delaying calls from anyone (including spouse and CEO). Secondly, give the agenda to them. I will be publishing a template later this month to enable this, but this being their time is key.
3. Memorize these questions:What do you need from me?Outside of this task list, what other significant things are happening for you? The focus of one on ones from a manager perspective is in the first question. If the tasks are well defined and the success measures are in place the celebrations (getting things done) or problem solving (getting stuck/behind) will happen. I NEED are two very powerful words for followers to say, and very difficult because too often NEED = WEAKNESS in the minds of people. The second question allows you to learn what is happening outside of work. Don’t be surprised if they start asking you this question.
Robert Hurley shared 5 principles leaders can adopt to demonstrate trustworthiness and increase trust across their organizations. Here is the full post, but the 5 points were:
Show that your interests are the same.
Demonstrate concern for others
Deliver on your promises
Be consistent and honest
Communicate frequently, clearly and openly
These principles are embedded in the actions I shared.
I heard this line recently. Not from Ken Blanchard or Jim Collins, but a volunteer at a local nature center as they prepared a group of third graders for their walk in the woods. Simple words, but a great lesson – especially for leaders.
90% of learning happens outside of a classroom. Yet my feeling is that most leaders have not taken time to sit down and identify their needs and make a plan. That feeling continues to be reinforced as leaders take my Talent Scorecard. Based on feedback, less than half of all leadership teams have development plans for all their people. Without the focus a development plan, I worry that too many learning opportunities for leaders are being missed.
Here are 3 key habits for leaders in their journey to learn:
Build a peer network. Whether it is pay per use like TEC, through your local chamber, or just with a few key friends – this is a great place to share ideas and struggles. It is also a constant reminder that you are not alone in finding leading being hard.
Build reflection time into your schedule: I can hear the calls now “I will not start a diary.” Taking 20 minutes a week to answer the following questions: What did I learn this week? How did I do with my commitment from last week? Where did I struggle? How can I make one struggle go away next week? Who can I get to help me?
Every 18-24 months, find some help: Most leaders are great at hitting a targt once it is targeted. Having a 360 where input from all of those around you on how you are leading will help paint that target. With a solid development plan in place, any investment in coaching or classroom learning will have a high probability of paying off. (I just read a great posting from a friend, Mary Jo Asmus, on this. Here is the link.)
Out there is your classroom. Great words for leaders to live by.
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.
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.
I stumbled upon an article titled How to Get Anyone To Like You In Two Minutes or Less in my monthly edition of Bottom Line. Admittedly some of these list articles can get kind of cheesy, but the first one hit me: Use a slow-flooding smile.
I think back to a recent conversation about the onboarding of a new executive and after 9 months the feedback was “not approachable”. We explored the reason why?, and the feedback was that when they are in the office they are on the run all day and do not stop by to say Hello. Sound Familiar?
In my coaching practice, this is a very common area of focus. As part of the coaching relationship, a client makes a commitment to a practice that will help them make a shift through a combination of self-observation and practicing some personal change. So my quesiton: How would a relationally challenged executive use a slow flooding smile practice?
First, recreate that feeling of a slow-flooding smile. Allow your face to just relax. Now think of someone you really enjoy and imagine them approaching you in a hallway. As you approach them, think of something funny they did or said, or one thing they always do that makes them unique. Now allow your face to reflect what you are feeling inside – if it has not already. What did you notice about yourself? What happened inside? What happened outside? Without using a mirror, describe what parts of your body/face changed?
So here is what a practice might look like for someone addressing a need to connect with people more effectively:
Commit to leaving 2-3 minutes early for 1 meeting a day and take the long way and look for someone to run into.
When you see them , let your eyes focus on them and:
If you recognize them, think: What about this person makes them special? Think about a time when you saw them at their best?
If you don’t know them: What does their face / pace / posture tell you about how their day is going?
When they make eye contact, say ehllow, and share with them what you were thinking. As you talk, relax your face and allow the corners of your mouth to turn up a little.
It might sound like:
Hi Mike. Seeing you today jogged my memory about how great that visit was with customer x last week – and the way you rolled out the red carpet with lunch, the tour, and connecting them with some of the workers on the line made a huge difference. What has you excited or energized this week?
It might also sound like this:
It looks like you are deep in thought about something important. What has your brain working so hard?
As you part company, make a Thank you statement and offer an encouraging word. Relax your face again and allow a smile. It might sound like this:
Thanks for sharing what is going on. I like to hear about our wins (or our challenges).
As you walk away, ask yourself:
What did I notice about the person? Was I right?
What did I notice about them when I spoke to them?
What did I notice about them when I smiled?
How did the exchange/the smile make me feel?
Slow-flooding smiles come from the heart telling you to smile, not the brain. People notice the difference, and we feel the difference. Try this practice today.
I am reminded this time of year of a basic truth in most of us – we like to put our energy into fixing things. I have a vegetable garden, and 5 weeks ago I put seeds into pots and started to grow them indoors. Each morning I look at the progress represented by 22 little pots and only about 5 showing signs of life. Yes, I am not a very good gardener. I only wish the bare pots would tell me what they need.
How does this relate to leadership? Often I go into organizations with the goal of helping a leader look at their team, have a conversation around team potential vs business strategy, help the team members think about their own development needs to meet the strategy, and then leave them with action items/goals to help them successfully hit the targets in the plan. In every team are people that are not growing. Leaders tend to worry about these people and put some direct energy (talking) and lots of indirect energy(worry, frustration) into fixing them.
The traditional solution? Gallup once made the statement “Put most of your energy into your best people”, which also can sound like the GE mantra of ‘cut your bottom 10%”. These statements sell books but implementing is risky and hard for leaders, people, and cultures.
The reality . . . .
Plants are not like people. Plants cannot tell you what they need more of to grow.
People are not plants, they can tell you what they need to be successful if they trust you AND if you ask.
The solution . . .
What if in your one on one conversations and performance conversations you asked? Recently I helped a leader of a small organization implement a performance evaluation that focused on asking – and I call that a performance conversation. He was amazed at what he heard from his people.
People are not like plants, so lets stop treating them like plants . . . . and to some people, stop acting like a plant and blaming the gardener.
I am a big fan of Mary Jo Asmus of Aspire Collaborative Services. She is a great coach and passionate about developing leaders that make a difference. She is also thoughtful and nice. The kind of person you trust as soon as you meet.
I had the privilege of doing a two guest posts on her blog around leadership development and coaching.
Here is the link to the second part of the post:
I am a big fan of Mary Jo Asmus of Aspire Collaborative Services. She is a great coach and passionate about developing leaders that make a difference. She is also thoughtful and nice. The kind of person you trust as soon as you meet. I had the privilege of doing a guest post on her blog around leadership development and coaching.
Last night my youngest daughter delivered these faithful words at 2am – “Daddy, my tummy hurts.” I turned on the light and asked her “Tell me about the hurt?” Her response was pretty simple “I think I am going to get sick. I need to go to the bathroom.” My response “Go ahead.” I will spare you the details of the next 20 minutes, but I judge the endings of these things based on how much work I end up having to do. In this case, I was just needed for comfort. Whew.
As I think about that event today, I realized that my daughter is growing up. She got up when she felt bad, came to tell me, and with very little help from me other than a slight nudge, she took care of herself. We have raised a child that is showing signs of maturity and independence. It feels good.
One of the big challenges of leaders is growing individuals and teams that show that kind of independence. I have always been struck by all the different ways people have created to measure the effectiveness of a leader. Too often we depend on a test or a psychologist to measure how well individuals and teams are developing into independent thinkers.
Here is a simple one to measure how independent your team is today. Take a piece of paper and every time someone on your team comes to you with a need for help today make a mark. If they bring the answer or you are able to get them to provide their own answer, circle that mark. At the end of the day what does the sheet say about your leadership style and their ability to solve their own problems?
Your development plan – more marks with circles tomorrow because you ask what they think the answer is more often.
When they leave with their own answer, you are becoming a developer of people . . and a leader. Trust me, it will feel good.