Time – How to have this discussion

I am working with two teams right now trying to manage explosive growth (50+%) and all of the challenges that go with it.  One theme that ALWAYS comes up is time.  Here is what it sounds like:

  • I want my work week to go from 70 hours to 50 hours
  • I am working hard, and yet I am still not getting it done
  • My family has not seen me at a meal in weeks
  • My email is overflowing and people have expressed frustrations with my ability to complete things
  • There are not enough hours in the day
  • I will make time for woodworking when I retire

Time is always an issue, and in the age of “customer focused” and “collaboration” saying NO is not an option —  if it is there has to be some reasoning to it and people want to hear options.

Here is a hint, if teams are struggling with that or you have a person on your team struggling with it, dust off a copy of Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, turn to the time management matrix on page 151, do this:

Covey's Time Management Matrix
  1. Introduce this as a way to sort through our to do lists
  2. Draw the matrix on the wall and give everyone a stack of post-it notes
  3. Ask them to write their top 10 things that come up during the day (you might ask them to record some of this before the meeting, especially if they are in a customer facing role)
  4. Explain the matrix to them, and have them place it in a quadrant
  5. Talk through it.  Here are some questions:  
  •  
    • What does this say about your priorities? 
    • What can move? (from my perspective as your leader)
    • What is one change I can make that would help my ‘time issue”? 
    • What is one thing I can do as your leader to help?

Leadership is about great conversations, and within those conversations helping people sort through and overcome barriers.  This is a great conversation around time, and many thanks to Covey for helping frame this discussion.  (hint:  7 Habits is a great resource for any leadership library. )

What do you do?

I was reviewing one of my daughter’s assignments, and in it she was asked what 3 careers would she be interested in and what people do in these jobs.  Here is her description of one:

I would like a career as a nurse because my Mom is one.  The duties are being on time for work and willing to do anything.

When people look at our jobs, it is good to hear what others think is important to do it well.  This is through the eyes of a 9 year old, but confirmed as accurate by the experts. 🙂

I have found that it is surprisingly difficult for people to identify the 5 most important things they do at their job.  I once made the mistake of setting aside only 30 minutes for an exercise with a group.  We needed 2+ hours.  My experience has shown me that when we ask this question, the response is either a high level summary similar to what my daughter provided above, or a detailed list of 20+ items along with an eye roll that sends the message I am too busy! 

This is why I incorporated this check-in for every talent management template I have published.  The performance conversation questionnaire, the one on one sheet, and the development plan.  In a world where resources are scarce, positions stay open for weeks/months, job absorption is very common, and people are afraid to say no . . . it is important to always be comparing perceptions.

Gallup’s #1 question for engagement – I know what is expected of me at work.  Be relentless in sharing/talking about this.  It will make a difference for leaders, followers, and teams. 

Some of the answers might also make you smile.

trU Tips 17+ – Three comments that drove me to write it

Yesterday I published volume 17 of trU Tips – this is a follow-up post. (I introduced a tool called the Talent Calendar)

The source of my trU Tips is usually something that has been planted in my brain or belly that just bothers me.  This months trU Tips came from three comments that are etched into my memory:

  1. “I can’t afford leadership development” (from a CEO)
  2. “I tell my people when they start – I am busy so you will not see me much.  If you need me let me know.”
  3. “Should I ask my boss for an evaluation?  I don’t want to get in trouble, but I would like to know how I am doing.” (from a senior leader after SIX months of thinking about it – and they were identified as a high potential by their organization)

In my almost 3 years of consulting I have worked in a half dozen different industries and companies from 20 to 80,000 employees.  I get called to help leaders prepare for and manage high growth/change, and when something is broken (team, individual performance, organizational structure).  In the latter my role is to help get things back on track.  In both situations I use the same tools: personal perspective (what I call trUYou™) and conversation.  The outcomes we work towards are at the heart of this calendar and captured in what I call trUPerformance™.  I am convinced(and have seen it work over and over again) that if a leader committed to the 10 hour outlined in this calendar many of the issues I see(and they feel) around individuals and teams go away.  Can they spend more time – Yes!  Is there a lean calendar coming?  No.

It is as simple as this calendar, and at the same time it is not easy.  Within the conversations will be disagreements, mis-communication, minds that are distracted to bigger problems, feelings of mistrust, and a host of other barriers.  I am an optimist, and figure that if I can get two people to quiet the world for 30 minutes/once a month, then the barriers will be overcome.

Are there any of these barriers that you see most often?  What has been effective in working through them?

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.

An Interview and Book Giveaway with Leadership Expert & Author David Baker

As readers of my blog, you know that I like to meet intriguing people, and I share some of those meetings with you on these pages.  I met author David C. Baker first through reading his book, Managing Right For the First Time:  A Field Guide For Doing It Well.  I liked his book because it was focused on providing managers with tangible tools/knowledge they needed to be successful.  I could also see this as a tool a mentor could use in helping a manager learn and grow in their role. 

 

A little about David (although a full bio can be found on his website) – He was born in Michigan, but lived in San Miguel Acatan, Guatemala with a tribe of Mayan indians until he was 18, after which he moved to the United States.   He went on to earn advanced degrees in ancient languages and theology.  He has consulted with more than 650 firms, and has written three books, including Managing (Right) for the First Time and Financial Management of a Marketing Firm. His work has been discussed in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Fast Company, Inc., Forbes, CBS Business Network, MarketingProfs, and BusinessWeek. He lives in Nashville, TN with his wife Julie. David plays racquetball, rides fast motorcycles, loves photography, and enjoys aviation (as a helicopter and airplane pilot).

It is a worthwhile read and a great addition to any leader’s toolbox, which is why I interviewed David.  My only advice is that this book is best read in a group of two or three so the peer/mentor support can be used to help apply the things that you will learn about management and leadership.  As I was preparing for the interview, Inc Magazine recognized David/his book as a 2011 Best Book for Entrepreneurs.  Now I cannot say I found him first. 🙂

Book Giveaway:  In addition to the interview, I am giving away five (5) copies of his book.  (Information below on how to qualify)

Here is my interview with David . . .

You have worked for a long time helping people become better leaders and managers.  What moved you to write this book?

I was speaking at a conference in Atlanta to 700 new managers, and I began to ask them what they were struggling with, thinking I might adjust my presentation to address those particular needs. Then at the end of the presentation I said, “You know, this seems like such a big issue with so many common themes, that I ought to write a book about it.” I then gave them my email address and asked them to submit their struggles. I received about 150 emails.

Since your book was published in 2010, what are some ways you have seen it used by individuals and organizations?

It’s been a little surprising, because the primary audience was intended to be the person who was managing others for the first time. But from what I can tell, it’s had more impact on existing managers who would like some guidance on how to do it well.

What is the biggest mistake you see new managers make?  What is your message to them?

The biggest mistake by far is to misunderstand the fact that a promotion means that you “do” less and “manage” more. Someone who is not so much promoted but “sentenced” to management hides in the “doing” and ignores the managing. That’s the fatal mistake. What makes it particularly sad is that very few people complain about bad management—what they complain about is no management.

What is an emerging trend you see around the role of managers in the last 5 years?

One would be learning how to manage remote teams, either permanently living/working somewhere else or just working from home from time to time. Another would be the flexibility that employees value in their jobs, to attend a soccer game or a doctor’s appointment. Finally, I think the culture in an organization is far more important than it used to be, especially as benefits are stripped away, pay increases are curtailed, and the workloads have increased.

You mention parenting being a part of your experience as a manager.  What is a personal example of how a parenting experience helped develop your skills as a manager?

I think primarily it’s been about just talking over things. It’s easy to live in the same house but never really talk about meaningful things. As a friend of mine says, you only feel tension about the things you DON’T say, not the things you DO say. So addressing things in an honest, straightforward, truly listening sort of way as a parent has helped me a lot as a manager.

A discussion of competency building is often the focus of new manager training, but not a big part of what you share in this book.  Where do you see it fitting in?

There are tools out there that help a manager first be self-aware, and then if they are successful, they will transfer to that developing a management style that matches the style the managed employee prefers.  It’s a shame, really, but there’s a criminal lack of attention to management and leadership skills in undergraduate work. Yet you have graduates who want to “change the world,” not realizing that their best chance at doing that is through their management style, one by one.

From a technical standpoint, I don’t think managers need to be super competent, and I certainly don’t think they need to be the most competent person in the department. That’s a huge fallacy. Some of the most well-run (and largest) companies in the world are led by good leaders, not competent technicians.

If you were going to make sure a new leader read two chapters of your book, which ones would they be?

Chapter 12 on a performance review you might enjoy, and chapter 14 on being a leader they want to follow.

You end your book with a compilation of advice from current managers.  What is the best advice you have received in your career and who provided it?

I invited a friend, Michael Gerber, the author of “The E-Myth Revisited,” and I’ll never forget his emphasis on working on the business instead of in it. To me, managing is about working on the business.

Thanks David for a great interview.

If you would like to win a copy of David’s book, Managing Right For The First Time, here’s what you need to do to qualify:

  1. RT this post on Twitter or Share on LinkedIn
  2. Comment on this post
  3. Make sure I have a valid email address (I ask for it when you post to my blog)

All posts made by the end of this week(week of Jan. 16) qualify – and from that I will randomly select the 5 winners.

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.

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?

Some Hmm . . . #’s – Appreciation at work, Tablet usage, If I were CFO

Some numbers this week that made me pause – and what they might mean to a leader

 

Employee Satisfaction (from current Inc magazine – source Global Workforce Mood Tracker; Staples.com)

Share of employees who say they feel underappreciated at work:      39% (up from 32% in Feb)

Leaders:  Do you have a Habit of doing one on ones monthly?  If no – Hmmmm . . . .    Here is a posting that might help you get started. 

 

If I were the CFO . . . . Employees top choices if allowed to make afew improvements to their work environment:

  • Eliminate office politics – 44%
  • Encourage telecommuting – 41%
  • Upgrade computers – 37%
  • Improve Office Furniture – 35%
  • Provide Private Work Areas – 34%
  • Allow More Flexible Hours – 34%

Leaders:  The first one on the list is FREE.  Are you great at communicating change?  Makes a big difference.  If you are spending money next year on stuff – what about some new computers?  A few $100 flat screens might go a long way. . .

 

Tablet Usage in the US (here is the link to all the numbers)

# of people who own tablets (IPads, etc.) :  54 Million (early 2012)                  108+ (1/3 of US population) by 2015

Leaders:  Are you at least experimenting with tablets for your teachers? salesforce? Anyone for 2012?  If you are – GREAT.  If not, hmm . . ..

Typical Tablet user:

  • Wealthy (50% have $100K+ income)
  • Male, Age 18-34
  • College graduate (51%)

Leader:  Who on the exec team uses them?  Don’t assume that number is the norm . . . ..

 

Executive:  It is a good habit every now and then to have your leaders go listen to people who are listening to what people outside your company are feeling and doing.  Then ask – Is it accurate?  Is it relevant?  What should we do with it?

I like to listen.  This is just some of what I heard this week that made me go Hmm . . .