A trap: Over Leading and Under Caring

I have seen several recent posts about leadership vs management.  Here is a link to one from Seth Godin .  They made me think.  First let me say that when I see this topic come up I roll my eyes, because most discussions seem to elevate the importance of leadership and the confining nature of management.   Here is my take . . .

It is important to be a leader.  Vision has to be cast, the rallying cry needs to be heard, and the organization needs to see relentless energy towards the goal.  But, the relationships that make your team really go are built when you manage.  Managing is about connecting to people one on one, knowing their struggles, understanding their needs, and being familiar with their lives(distractions/support) outside work.  One piece of evidence I point to is something a peer shared with me about executive onboarding.   Her business is built 100% around helping executives make successful transitions.  Part is to highlight/fix communication issues and help navigate the complexities of organizations.  But part is to just bring some of the ‘other’ things into the discussion like:   What is my true job description? and How prepared is my family for this change?.

We need to be careful about outsourcing managing.  Is it wise to spend $xx,xxx on a successful transition of a $xxx,xxx executive?  An ROI can be easily proven based on the leader’s impact on the income statement and the balance sheet. 

The hidden benefit of spending a little time as a manager/CEO gives you a glimpse into the person, not the leader.  This is where the relationships are built.

I think back to a ‘relationship/leadership’ session I lead one time with a CEO and leadership group.  The day after that session the CEO quietly asked the HR team to assemble a list of  family members for all the people on the team.  I celebrated the request, but was reminded that some of these people had worked for him for 3+ years.

My advice for leaders – Don’t forget to manage a little.

Post tomorrow – 3 Habits That Will Help Leaders Manage Well

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!

Why Were You Promoted?

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 – scott@thetrugroup.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:

  1. Keep you from leaving
  2. Improve the technical skills of the department (you are the expert)
  3. Continue the course started by your boss
  4. 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?

Leadership Development Starts – BEFORE you lead

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.

Your Aptitude Comes Largely From The Choices You’ve Already Made.  This is a section title from the chapter, What Managers Are and How You Become One.  It reminds us that leadership development starts the day we decide we like to work and will commit extra time to becoming better at whatever we do.  I am reminded of a CEO telling me ‘We can’t afford leadership development right now’, and realize that too many people do not see the simple steps involved in developing as a leader.

So what do we do with this wisdom? 

Use this thought as a guide for yourself/others that desire to grow as leaders.  Make a simple list of what you look for in a leader and pick one area to focus on generating success/experience in that area.  Here are some examples:

  • Leaders: Effectively deal with different personalities.  Action:  Who in this office do you dislike the most?  Go build a relationship with them and partner with them on some project.
  • Leaders:  Find solutions to problems and solve them.  Action:  Find something to fix that will take resources/time, present your solution to the leadership group, and fix it.
  • Leaders:  Help teams work together towards a common goal.  Action:  Find a not for profit or outside event, volunteer to help lead an event they have planned, and then do it.  (plan 30 minutes debriefing with your own leader what you learned)
  • Leaders:  Have infectious attitudes, are seen as positive forces in the workplace.  Action:  Ask a few close people – Am I more like Eeyore or Winnie the Pooh? (sounds stupid, but it will cut right to the point).  If you receive feedback that you are a glass half empty person, commit bringing three positive comments to every meeting for every one criticism for the next 3 months.  Ask again at the end of three months.
  • Leaders:  Make learning a habit and help others learn.  Ask two or three leaders in your company what their favorite business book it, pick one, and find 2-3 other people to read it and discuss it over 2 or 3 lunches.  Maybe invite the leader in for one session to share with you their thoughts.

Becoming a leader starts before you lead.

Where Leaders Learn and 3 Ways To Make It Stick

Out there is your classroom.

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.Our Leadership Forest

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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.

Learning to listen to ourselves

Perception.

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.

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.

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?

Leadership Assistance Program

One day an employee showed up at my office and spent 5 minutes sharing some very personal medical problems.  I listened, and her greatest fear was not about the procedure, but how to tell her actual direct boss because the solution would require her to miss work.  She was worried about losing her job.  I calmed her fears, and she was then able to go have a discussion that she should have had several weeks before, but couldn’t.

This ever happen to you?  While health issues are serious things, it felt good to be a trusted.  It also took me back to some coaching training I had years before that taught me to listen well, and to know where there might be boundaries to be drawn.  Some conversations stay within boundaries, but there are things as leaders that we need to direct people to get help.  Sometimes Leaders need an Assistance Program.

When I was a leading HR in an organization we implemented an employee assistance program.  EAP’s require organizations pay a monthly or yearly fee per employee and the employees and their families have access to basic personal counseling services, referral help for substance abuse issues, career counseling, and other forms of assistance.  It is confidential for the employee, and the employer only gets a report on the number of people who have used it and basic service information.  I remember getting the first usage report and our usage was a couple percentage points above their norm.  In people terms it equated to two individuals receiving help.

I was grateful that those 11 individuals had received the help, and that the leaders of those people had also benefited from this safety net.

Leadership is about being there for your people, and it is also about knowing when you need to get assistance.  Celebrate being asked to be part of a tough conversation, but know the limits of your burdens/responsibilities. 

Gallup research shows people are happier/more engaged if they have 1 to 3 best friends at work. 

Friendships is another form of Leadership Assistance Program – and it is a free.

People are not like plants – how to treat them like people

Plants are not People

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.