Do we need a Talent Management Initiative? No . . . Part I

I created a Talent Scorecard to help leaders think through what they have been doing around connecting with their people to make sure they are focused, understanding their challenges, getting their needs met, and receiving feedback on their progress.  In the human resources world we call this talent management.  To most of the rest of the world this is called leadership, management, or friendship.

The first set of numbers shocked me.  Here they are and remember that I asked HR leaders to fill these out as if their CEO was doing this survey.  The only two measures are 100% and <100%, because those are they only two measures that matter.  100% means you are doing the right things.  <100% means that there is a person out there with a name, friends, bills to pay, skills/talents, and goals . . .  that is not getting their needs met.  These are basic needs.  Here are the numbers.

 Key Habits for Managing Talent

  100% <100%
I delivered all of the evaluations on time. 36.7 % 63.3 %
I have one-on-one discussions with each member of my staff at least once a month. 63.3 % 36.7%
I have reviewed all the evaluations of my team’s staff. 51.7 % 48.3 %
Each person on my team has a development plan. 27.6 % 72.4 %

Too many people are getting late evaluations and do not have any sort of development plans. 

Remember the Gallup Q12?  The first two questions are:  I know what is expected of me at work and I have the tools I need to do my job.  On-time performance conversations and frequent one on ones to hear progress, identify needs, and solve problems make these questions a reality.  The development plan is critical in getting people thinking about the future and helping them grow.

Based on these numbers, it is not happening enough.

For a quick look at a performance conversation tool/development plan that works see trUTips #13.

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.

What I admire most about Steve Jobs – and it is not the iPad

As I watch the opinions pour out after the announcement of Steve Jobs stepping down from the CEO role, it makes me wonder if we are talking about the right things.  There are certainly lots of worries about not having him leading Apple.  Whether you are a shareholder, a reseller, a supplier, or an Apple lover worrying about future technology, this is certainly the changing of the guard at Apple and future success for the company is a big question.

As of today I do not own any Apple products (that might change tomorrow with an iPhone purchase) and up until I read the Fortune article about Apple several months ago I did not know much about him as a leader. 

I do know enough about his career to see some special accomplishments.  What I admire about Steve Jobs is that he did not quit, and much of his success came after he had been fired from his own company.   Often we forget that he lost his job at Apple and went on to a pretty mediocre second run with NeXT.  If I could talk with him for 5 minutes I would ask him two questions:

  • What did you learn from your time away from Apple that allowed you to be successful the second time around?
  • How has cancer impacted how you live and how you lead?

On a recent family vacation I dragged my family 30 miles off a main road in Iowa to visit the birthplace of John Wayne in Winterset, Iowa.  It was partly because I was interested in seeing it and partly because I wanted to hear my kids complain for years about what a crazy Dad they had.   I love his movies, got a kick out of the memorabilia that adorned this small house, and the complaining exceeded expectations.  But the thing that impacted me the most was some letters on the wall that came from stars asked to record some memories to put on display in the museum/home that opened shortly after his death.  In a quick summary, George Burns said he “was tall” and Ronald Reagan said he “made great movies”.   I left wondering – That was it?

With Steve Jobs there is lots to talk about and a lot that I don’t know about him, which is all fine.  I just think there is a lot more to him than the touch screens, easy to use products, and well integrated services. 

Steve, thanks for trying again and not giving up.

Boss Watching: 3 Actions to Manage it

I was listening to a webinar from a seasoned OD/Leadership professional and she threw out a word that made me smile.  Her statement was – The #1 hobby in the office is boss watching.”

I was once reminded that people watch leaders.  After one of those month-long stretches of dealing with several difficult situations in a row I met one of our team members in a hall and greeted him with a smile and a “Hello Charlie”.  He provided a similar reply, and then added “it is good to see you smile.  I have not seen that from you in 3-4 weeks.”  It had been a tough month for me, and he had noticed.

Remember that 90+% of communication is nonverbal.  Leaders that are in a hurry provide information to the people around them in sound bits and actions.  It is also natural to gather information and fill in the blanks.  I think back to a game played with children where we make a circle and start by wispering a message in the ear of the person next to us.  The message returning is always different.   Our actions and non verbal cues are like little whispers to our teams.

Here are three purposeful ways to deal with boss watching:

  • Onboard well:  Tell new people up front what your nonverbals are around busy/buried with work, and when it is okay to interrupt.  If people know your habits and you know theirs it will be easier to understand/interpret messages.
  • Meeting Habit:  Weekly updates with your team should include a quick around the room What is on my plate this week? to address what stressors everyone is dealing with.
  • Make it clear – ASK!  If you hear a rumor that could have been generated from boss watching, address it openly.  Your script should sound like this:  “I have heard . . . . . . . . and know that I have been acting like . . . . . this week, so I can see how my actions could feed that.  Here is what is happening . . . . . .    If you ever wonder about such things please ask.”

What story are your actions  telling?

Here is a way to have some fun with this.  At your next team meeting ask three questions: How do you know when I am having a good day?  How do you know I am having a bad day?  What are my habits at work?  Just blame it on a leadership blog that talked about boss watching. 🙂

Lifeguards for Leaders: Who is watching?

I am a father of four.  With a sixteen year-old driver as part of that mix I sometimes think I have seen it all, but I am still hit by things that make me go Hmmmmm.  Here is one of those moments . . . . .

Who is watching your new leaders or new teams?

At swimming lessons for my 8 year old I looked down and saw 30+ kids, 5 instructors, and in the middle a lone lifeguard watching everything.  I saw the need for the lifeguard, but did not recall them being present for past lessons.  Later I asked my wife about it because one of her summer jobs was being a lifeguard, and sometimes she has proven more observant than me. 🙂   Her response – There is always a lifeguard because when you are teaching it is difficult to watch all the kids all the time.  There is real risk in not watching young children near water, when being 99% safe is not enough because the 1% has a name, parents, friends, and a beating heart. 

My mission is to be a guide for others so they realize the excellence they were born to achieve, and in living that mission I often engage with and worry about the safety of new leaders and teams.  My world is growth organizations and leaders/teams in transition, and I see the real risk in not having a lifeguard around to monitor safety/progress in their pools.  Here are three ways organizations create lifeguards for leaders/teams:

  1. Mentors:  Assign mentors(not their boss) to meet frequently (1-2x a month) with new leaders to see how they are doing, watch the team during the transition for evidence of issues, and just provide support.
  2. Six month transition plans:  New leaders need to connect with their teams, build the trust of their teams, and get assignments where they can generate wins for themselves/their team.   Formal written plans helps make this happen.
  3. Leadership peer groups: Some call it Leadership Orientation or New Leader Training.  Fortune 500 companies can afford a program, but the main benefit of these programs is to create a peer support network.  Peer support can happen with no impact on the income statment, so any organization can afford it. 

One myth . . . Our human resources leader is our lifeguard: You mean the HR leader who has to respond to daily people emergencies, do it now calls from the CEO, worry about legal compliance, and answer frequent questions about benefits/payroll/etc?  Reality check . . . Do you want your lifeguard watching the pool 70% of the time?

Lots has been written about leadership transitions.  Michael Watkins is an expert in leadership transitions and his research has determined 40% of leadership hires from outside of a company fail within 18 months.  Brad Smart is an expert in hiring and his research suggests that it takes organizations 18 months to let go of a bad leadership hire at the cost of 14.6x their base salary. 

A 40% failure rate is a lot of drownings.  I think organizations need to do a better job having lifeguards around. 

  • How safe is your pool for new leaders / teams? 
  • Who is your lifeguard?

Why People Don’t Hear – 3 Actions To Help

  • I did not see this coming.
  • How can you let me go?  Just last week you said I was doing well.
  • It is too late for a counter offer.  The decision has been made.

I have seen lots of different situations in 20 years of working in and around organizations.  It was not until recently that I stopped being surprised by situations in which people did not see the news they should have heard.  We could discuss the endless reasons why, but that would not stop it.  Here are three ways to make most of the confusion go away.

  1. Write it down: Verbally telling people their performance is not up to par is only half the task.  When asking for more or defining minimum expectations it has to be written down.  Limit yourself to a page, but write it down.  If it is positive, do the same thing.  I am confident that 100% of the time verbal feedback is misinterpreted.
  2. Never deliver ANY news (good or bad) without scheduling a next step:  Bad news:  Take this and think about it for 48 hours and then lets get back together and make plans for  what will fix this situation.  Good news:  You are very valuable to this organization and I would like to come up with a list of projects/roles we should be working towards over the next 3-5 years.  Give it some thought and lets sit back down in a month and do some planning together.  People need time to process bad news.  Good news needs to be celebrated, then processed.   Next steps ensures the processing time is valuable.
  3. Ask them what they heard:  It is important to check for understanding in either situation.  In the delivery of good and bad news leaders usually talk too much because of nerves.  That is normal, but it is always a good check to end with – I have talked a lot, and it is important that some key points were clear.  What are you taking away from this conversation?  If they cannot repeat the main points you should repeat them (even if they are written down).

Assumptions are dangerous and we all have a hard time telling / hearing certain messages.  Follow these simple steps and make the confusion go away.

Do you have any helpful hints to add based on your experience?

Your voice is smiling

Recently I had the opportunity to share some good news with someone over the phone, and as I listened to their answer I could hear some added energy in their voice.  My comment back was “Your voice is smiling”.  The giggle (and it was a giggle!) on the other end of the line confirmed my suspicions.  It was a special moment.

Business puts us on the phone a lot.  As I listen to voices or the standard “I am not available to take your call right now . . . . . ” messages, too often I do not hear a smile.  Business can still get done without smiles, but the energy of a smile makes it feel different.

For you:

  • Record your message this morning while smiling, then listen to the replay.  Can you hear your smile?  What difference will it make with your people?  Your clients?
  • Start your next voice conference with a “Share some good news . . ” section.  Do you hear smiles?
  • When you hear a smile, use the same line I shared above.

As kids we played follow the leader purposefully, as adults we do it unconsciously, but we still do it. 

Today, try leading with a smile.

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100th Post: What do I believe?

I looked up and saw the number 99 at the top, indicating I am at a milestone with this post – it is #100.  I thought I would celebrate that by asking myself a question I think all people and all teams should do routinely.  What do I believe?

I believe . . .

  • . . . the best conversations start with a commitment to listening.
  • . . .  people are amazingly resourceful and resilient, and sometimes they just need a little help.
  • . . .  friendship is defined more by the mountains we climb together than the celebrations we have at the top or bottom.
  • . . .  feeling lonely is a reality, being alone is a choice.
  • . . . change is a reality, managing the change well is a choice. 
  • . . .  a commitment to serve others should come first, followed by the willingness to say “thank you” and “I am sorry”.
  • . . .   life begins to make more sense when we have a foundational belief about something – but BEWARE of foundations that shift often. (this is my VALUE OF WISDOM belief)
  • . . .  leadership is working with people to accomplish their goals and the goals of the organization. (thanks Ken Blanchard)
  • . . .  to be loved by others is a gift, to accept that love and to love others back are choices.
  • . . .  to be trusted by others is a gift, to trust others is a choice.
  • . . . companies are in business to make money and to make a positive impact on the world around them (ie.  make a difference), AND they get into trouble when they forget to apply these two rules to their decisions.

There are probably a few more to add, but I also believe in keeping most posts under 300 words. 🙂

Here are a frew questions for you / your team:

  • What do I/we believe? (it can be called a SWOT analysis or strategic planning)
  • What are the top 3? Which are new?

Approachability: A practice

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.

Great Teams are Like Great Family Vacations

I just returned from a two week family vacation spanning 3940 miles and 9 states – all in a car.  It was great! . . but not all the time.  Somewhere in the drive across one of our beautiful, but LONG western states it hit me what a great family/team I was traveling with.  It also hit me that successful family vacations and successful teams have lots of similarities.  Here are a few: 

  1. Commitment to make the best of it – When the car starts it has begun and no amount of complaining changes it.  Great teams and families disagree.  Debate, complain, argue, maybe scream . . but when the car starts, it is time to make it work. 
  2. Something for everyone – Asking the question in the beginning What would you like to do? changes the journey.  When people get to do certain activities they want to do, it makes non-grumbling participation easier for other have to do activities. (for our kids have to do = museums)  This also helps with #1.
  3. Find tasks that fit talents – Everyone has something to contribute.  Older kids carry more.  Planners do research and put shopping lists together.  Everyone helps pack and unpack.  The youngest makes people laugh.  Everyone having a role ensures everyone is working together.
  4. Accept imperfection – Even the greatest leader will have an If I have to stop this car! moment.  Don’t let it define the event.  Followers acknowledge it and leaders apologize for it.  Both work to get beyond it.
  5. Create quiet time for engagement – Emails, texting, and all the other distractions are ways to escape.  Turn things off and focus on being together.  It changes things for the better.

There are probably a few more, but every like every vacation – every blog must have an end.

Want to practice leading a team this summer.  How about leading a vacation differently.