A Hmmm # for leaders – What’s in your mail?

From a USA Today article on February 8th breaking down what comes in someone’s mail.

  • 22% Standard mail (mostly advertising)
  • 17% Fliers and circulars
  • 8% Catalogs
  • 5% Financial statements
  • 5% First class advertising
  • 4% Periodicals (newspapers, magazines)
  • 3% Greeting cards
  • .7% Personal Letters
  • etc

Imagine how you could stand out as a leader sending a personal note to someone on your team?  A whole lot less competition than email.  Here is a link to the cards I use to say thank you or congratulations.  Having them handy makes it easy to write a quick note.

Email is better than nothing – if you want to measure yourself against nothing. 🙂

Are you a BUT or AND leader?

A coach and mentor taught me the lesson of substituting the word AND for BUT in my statements.

BUT . . .

  • sends the message that the important part of the message is coming.
  • begins the process of rebuilding a thought or action plan.
  • says start listening.
  • is an accountability word.

AND . . .

  • recognizes progress and paints a picture of a preferred future.
  • begins the process of building upon a thought or action plan.
  • says keep listening
  • is an accountability and problem solving word.

Assignment:  Listen to how you and those around you use BUT / AND today.  What do you notice?

I would welcome a few posts of BUT or AND sentences that you hear.

Universal truths: Leadership, Parenting . . . and conflict

I recently reviewed a book on these pages by David C. Baker, and in my interview with him he talked about parenting being a place where leaders can learn.  He related it to his own experience where the things unsaid often consumed more energy than the things that were said.  Reminding us, as leaders, parents, wives, husbands, and friends – we need to find ways to share the truths as we see them.

I was reminded how being a parent or leader is so similar, and the things we learn to be effective at both roles are the same.  It hit home for me when I want to a parenting seminar from celebratecalm.com and Kirk Martin talk about dealing with teen children.  First he described the boiling over of emotions that often happens in tense situations,  and for me and several friends it was a familiar reaction.  Then he talked about a more effective way to acknowledge what was happening, step back (find another place), and then address it.  He even talked about using the simple action of sitting to help put ourselves in a physical position to effectively deal with conflict.  It was obvious how these skills, used consistently, would alter the conversation and help create a more positive outcome on many levels.

It is important to recognize the roles we play in life (parent, leader, teammate, spouse, friend), our priorities for those roles, and the actions that need to accompany our commitments in these roles.  Too often we think we have to shift gears to play those roles, when in reality many of the skills that make us a good leader will make us a good parent, a good neighbor, or a good friend. 

And if we are an overbearing/directive leader – well maybe that is why teenagers were created. 🙂

Leadership: The Power (And Trap) Of Non-Verbals

We have been studying nonverbal communications in class and it is interesting how you can tell what people are thinking by their actions – especially when they are inconsistent with their words.  Is it important for leaders to know this?

I received this note from a leader who also loves to learn.  It reminded me of a couple of things:

  1. 60-70% of our communication is non-verbal 
  2. Great communicators have mastered non-verbal cues
  3. Stress behaviors for leaders (according the the Birkman Method) often shows up as us sending the wrong nonverbal signals

My big concern about teaching leaders how to read non-verbal signs is that we fail to teach them the skills needed to use it to have a great conversation about how a person really feels.

It is a slippery slope if we start taking a nonverbal cue as their statement.  Imagine the power of a leader saying “I heard you say you supported the decision, but I sense that support is not 100%.  What % would most accurately gauge your support? . . . . “ 

Understanding non-verbals gives leaders/individuals a tool to know when to hit pause in a conversation and allow someone space to share what they are thinking/feeling. 

My admission (I am supposed to be skilled at this) – Today I read a nonverbal (watery eyes) cue and my interpretation was someone is done reviewing their Birkman results after a 90 minute discussion.  They had absorbed all they could in one sitting. When I shared that perception it turns out it was allergies, and that launched us into 15 minutes of great conversation.  I was wrong, and I am glad I found out before I unilaterally shut the conversation down.

Read them – yes.  But remember that it is a cue to keep talking / listening.

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: 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.

3 Things Leaders Should Ask For More Of In 2012

I love the holidays because of the conversations that I have been a part of and the themes that come out as people reflect on the year.  Based on some of the things I am hearing, here are a few themes that have stood out for me as people I met reflected on work/life.  These are ideas for leaders to help make the lives of their people/teams better in 2012.

1. More Networking: I had 3 conversations with leaders/followers in very different employment situations, and yet they had one thing in common.  None of them did any purposeful networking.  When I mentioned LinkedIn to them, they all gave various answers of I am not looking for a job or I am happy where I am.  Let me yell two things from the rooftop right now:

  • Networking is not about finding a job – it is about getting smarter and helping others get smarter.
  • If you are not networking outside of your zip code regularly you are on the road to be marginalized (or you are already there).

What this might look like for a leader:

  • Encourage everyone on your team to develop a LinkedIn profile and join two professional groups.
  • Add a question to the beginning of every big decision that is What does your network say?. Whether it is buying software, looking for a great business book to read, or just finding a 10 minute energizer for your next sales meeting – mine for different ideas or different approaches.

2.  More of doing something besides your job: Efficiency for organizations has become a way of life, and it is time to recognize formally that everyone needs some of what I call Google-Time.  It is a reference to Google’s famous practice of spending a certain amount of time working on new ideas that have nothing to do with your job.  The message we send when we give people space is that “I care about you.”  I define Google-Time as work that re-energizes your body, your work, and our organization.

What this might look like for a leader:

  • In your one on ones, tell everyone on your team that you want to give them 8 hours a month to do whatever they want, and there are only 2 guidelines:
    • 4 hours must be spent working with someone on business renewal  – fixing something, reinventing something, rethinking/changing something.
    • 4 hours must be spent on personal renewal, maybe something you stopped doing because of work –   time with family, lunch with friends, exercise, sleep.
  • Ask for an update every month on where there Google-time was spent and what difference it made for them?
  • Don’t critique, just encourage.

3.  More feedback on how I am doing: I do lots of team development, and the topic of trust is always a big one.  One measure I give to leaders is How often do people disagree with your ideas? and How often do they change your mind?. I added the second question because I personally became tired of hearing the answer “Everyone argues with me” from leaders that I knew were feared.  The second question created discomfort for them, and led to richer conversations.

What this might look like for a leader:

  • In your monthly one on ones, add a 2 minute section around What are you hearing that I should know? or Of all the decisions we are facing (or I have made) – which one do you disagree with or have strong feelings about?
  • Listen (or be patient when this flops in Month 1 and 2, some people might be reluctant to share)
  • Make sure you emphasize with them that, as a leader, you often find things moving so fast and decisions being made quickly, so you appreciate it when people slow you down to re-think things every now and then.
  • Thank people for ideas / input – then do something with it.

Final direction – just pick one of these ideas to do. Remember most of your team is already trying to eat less, excercise more, pay off their credit cards, or just trying to deal with the general winter lack of sunlight.  Done for 3-6 months any one of these will make a difference.

trU Tips #16a – One on Ones and Leadership

Since you are my faithful readers that want to engage with me daily/weekly to talk about leadership – both of groups and self, with a splash of developing culture in organizations, I thought I would add some thoughts that did not make it past the 430 word trU Tip limit. (here is a link to trU Tip 16 if you missed it).

There are three things that are critical to making a One on One really work:

1. What is my job?  I am still surprised how hard it is for people to define this.  The list is either really long and detailed, or so generic that it would be impossible to use to recruit a new candidate or help with guidance/accountability for anyone in their job.  My goal over the next couple months is to create a tool to help people do this – – – if you have any input or want to help let me know.  I think it could be very cool, but maybe a bit scary to unleash a bunch of people with a clear sense of purpose or asking for just a little leadership from their manager.  More to come . . . .

2. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER Reschedule:  This might be impossible, but can we all agree on one thing – it is important that people Trust you as their leader, right?  In Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust, he makes the point that People judge themselves based on their intent, and judge others based on their actions. 

Here is a scenerio:  Leader tells everyone in a staff meeting how important they are and he/she will start doing one on ones to make sure they are getting support they need and any issues/changes that are happening get clarified quickly.  In first six meetings, three get cancelled.  Leader thinks:  We are doing one on ones just like the book!  I really care about my people.  People think:  He/She said it was important, but must not think it is that important.  Just another example of . . . . .   

3.  Make it a Followership tool:  Remember the ownership of this conversation rests with the individual, not the leader.  The leader’s job is to:  1) Show up  2) Follow-up (on commitments) 3) NOT Gobble up time (ie.  show some restraint from making their agenda the most important.

Recently I was talking to a leader that was kicking off an organization wide effort to help managers become coaches for their people.  The barrier I saw – they had no habit around one on ones and generally people did not have enough clarity in their roles to ask for help.  If they had this form/habit, their vision has a chance to be real.  Without this form/habit, it will be still be great training, but as for the ROI . . .

If you were going to add one thing to my list or one piece to my one on one form what would it be?

How long do you listen?

I make it a habit of spending time with people smarter than I am.  This past year I went to see a neuropsychologist named Tim Royer talk and within a few seconds I knew I was in the right place. 🙂

He shared a startling fact:  On average, doctors diagnosing a brain disorder (ADD, ADHD, Depression, etc.) spent just under 7 minutes with their patients before making the diagnosis?

Really?  I was actually relieved because the other statistic I knew from a study was that when you visit the doctor’s they spend an average of 23 seconds listening before making a diagnosis. 

Good news:  The brain is complex so physicians spend more time (maybe 18x) before diagnosing you. (assuming the 7 minutes is spent listening, questioning, and observing)

Bad news:  Is that really enough?  For an organ that has 10,000 miles of neurons, 20 terrabytes of storage, and consumes 80% of the energy your body produces – is 7 minutes long enough?

People are complex.  Teams are complex.  How much time do you spend listening or trying to understand peers?  Your leader? People on your team?

Activity:  At your next staff meeting or one on one – Keep track of the following things: 

Number of questions you ask vs # of times you tell people something 

Time spent listening vs time spent  time talking (fyi:  doodling or answering texts is not actively listening)  

What does it tell you?

Words that make me go Hmmmm – Hold accountable

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.