A tool to help leaders listen

After my most recent post a colleague asked me “Do you have a tool for helping leaders to listen?”  I did not then, but 24 hours later here it is.  As with anything I load up on my website, you can have it if you use it, improve on it, and share it back.

The primary listening tool for leaders is the one on one TIME with your people.  If you have 10+ direct reports you might want to modify this for a team setting. (I would be happy to help with that)

First, remember what people need from you.  Ken Blanchard said “Leadership is an influence process.  It is about working with people to accomplish their goals and the goals of the organization.”  Listening is about making what the organization (ie. YOU) needs very clear and providing space for them to tell you what they need.  My one caveat is that this form assumes you have already had some sort of discussion around development with them. (here is a link to those templates – posted last month)

Here is a link to the form and four MUSTS for using it:

  1. The individual owns updating it and sharing a copy with the leader.
  2. The leader owns the effort to help define the core job duties, being clear about when they need a call on things, and showing up for the time. (ie.  make it a priority)
  3. Keep the time focused on celebrating greens or completes and hearing/devising plans to make reds turn yellow or green.
  4. Limit time to 15-30 minutes, and it can be done on the phone if needed – but if possible work in face time (even if it is Skype).

If you do not have a habit like this listening is extra hard, if not impossible. 

If you are wondering how the One on One fits into everything else you are asked to do as a leader around managing your people, I created a talent scorecard for leaders to get a free assessment of their habits and some feedback.  Here is a link.

Lead well!

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?

3 Habits To Help Great Leaders Be Good Managers

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. 

Lead well!  And manage a little along the way.

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.

Wisconsin SHRM 2011: My presentations

As promised to those who attended, below are the links to the presentations I gave at the 2011 Wisconsin SHRM conference.  As I reflect back on the questions and the conversations around each topic, I am especially drawn to the feeling around talent management that their needs to be more top down practicing of these habits.  The economic environment is Wisconsin is comparable to Michigan because of what has happened to manufacturing, and yet imagine the untapped potential of the people who are working that DO NOT have development plans.   In my resilience presentation a majority of the attendees were worried about the commitment and attitude of a workforce that is pretty battered.  At the core of talent management is a conversation to build/rebuild trust and invite people to start looking towards a better future.  It is important AND it does not have to be expensive.  Remember that I detest expensive initiative!  🙂

Look for trUTips #15 to talk about how to create a great development plan – no matter what your performance evaluation looks like.

I made the 2011 SHRM WI Promotional video!

My Wisconsin SHRM Talent Scorecard presentation:  http://www.thetrugroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Talent-Scorecard-WI-Final.pdf

My Wisconsin SHRM Resilience presentation:  http://www.thetrugroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Resilience-Wisconsin-Final.pdf

WISHRM2011 – How to support development plans?

(note:  Whenever I speak to groups I provide cards to them in case they have a question I cannot answer during our conversation(fyi:  I call all my presentations ‘conversations’).   My commitment is that I will blog answers in 2 weeks.  This question was submitted to me after my Talent Scorecard presentation at the 2011 Wisconsin SHRM Conference in Madison.  I do not edit questions – because my commitment is to answer what is asked.)

Question:  How do you recommend supporting momentum once development plans are established?

In our time together the Talent Scorecard revealed that development plans are not being created for employees in general and high potentials.  There are 3 foundational things that need to be established are part of building the habit of creating development plans.  The foundational keys to a great development plan are: (fyi:  I will use the term follower – if you are wondering why see this post)

  1. It comes out of a great performance conversation.  By great I mean that the leader and follower sit down and agree on a couple of areas that are job related and one goal that is from the individual.  The individual goal is something focused on long term growth or pursuing an interest.  They earn the right to have a longer term goal by performing their job well and proving they can balance daily work and taking on some other assignments.
  2. The Follower owns the plan:  The individual leaves the meeting committed to pursuing the projects, classes, conversations, or whatever else needs to happen as part of the plan.  It is truly their development plan, and understand that they need to update their leader and initiate conversations around help they might need along the way.
  3.  The leader owns the support:  Support includes quarterly “How is it going?/What can I do questions?”  If there is money for travel/time away from work they commit to providing it.  If one of the development items is involvement in a project in another area or partnering with another leader to solve a problem, support might be just keeping their ears open for opportunities.  They also must be responsive if asked for help.

Finally, What can HR do to support this?  If the three things happen above, then HR should not find itself in the role of oversight.  I would say in the first year a good check-in would be to meet with leaders to review the plans and have the “What worked?/What could we do differently? discussion.

In my experience, the most difficult part of this whole process is writing the goals.  I would hate for the leader to get frustrated and say ‘good enough’ and the follower to feel kind of adrift.  One way I have seen myself bring value to this conversation is to help people imagine different ways to address development needs that fit within the constraints of the situation (time, budget, etc).  Remember that 90% of learning happens outside of a class, so often formal education is the easy and least effective way to address a need. 

I think HR could provide lots of value by telling the leaders to get close in their conversation, then feel free to send people to us to help refine the plan prior to having the leader do a final sign-off.  For some leaders, you might even find yourself spending a little time with them before the performance conversation helping them identify some recommended areas to focus on.  Again, this fits into the partner role HR should be playing without putting us in an oversight/ownership role.

I know there are some HR professionals reading this, so I welcome any other comments.

Is Your Talent At-Risk? Talent Scorecard – Part 2

I asked the roomful of HR Leaders this question:  Why  do over 50% of your CEO’s have lists of key people/key positions, and yet <20% are doing anything to follow-up on those lists? 

The room was very silent, then one lone voice offered an answer:  Talking with them would mean we are making some guarantees – and nobody wants to break a promise.  This is one of those things that make me go hmmmm . . .  statements.  I wonder what a high performer in an organization thinks of the silence?

Here are the results after I asked HR leaders to fill out the Talent Scorecard as if their CEO was doing the 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 Most Valuable People and Roles

  100% <100%  
1. I have a list of key people whom we cannot afford to lose AND: 56.7  % 43.3 %
  •   I have checked in with them within the last month to see how they’re doing.
40.0 % 60.0 %
  • I have written development plans for them.
20.7 % 79.3 %
2. I have a list of the key roles in my company AND: 51.7 % 48.3 %
  •  I have a performance/potential chart for people currently in each role.
17.2 % 82.8 %
  •  I have list of candidates in case of openings in these roles.
20.7 % 79.3 %
3. I have a list of high potentials for promotion and we have spoken with each person on the list within the last six months about his/her future. 14.3 % 85.7 %

 

Development programs are not a promise, they are a map.  A map that provides an individual with key places they need to visit/experience over the next 12 months in their career journey.  It gives an individual ownership of their development and puts the leader in the position of support.  So what is the ROI of this conversation?  The cost is about 2-4 hours of work on the part of the leader.  Their might be some training costs, but they should be minimal given that 90% of learning happens outside a classroom.  An effective development plan leverages real experiences and great mentors.  What is the benefit of someone being 5% more excited about their work?

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

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.

The Resilience Formula – for Leaders . . . for Followers

The Resilience Formula – for Leaders . . . for Followers

I grew up in a community of scientists. I went to school with lots of engineers.  While science is not my passion, connecting the dots for people by finding a way to simplify big things is how my brain is wired.  I see a need to understand what stress looks like for leaders in transition, people trying to self-manage through over promised and under resourced projects, individuals starting a new company, and a host of other situations.  More than understand, a key life skill is to figure out how to get unstuck and moving forward.  This is resilience.

Through personal trials, coaching, walking with friends, leading, and a host of other experiences I’ve settled on an equation I use to represent resilience.  

Hope > Fear + Anger + Despair + Frustration + Worry + Hunger + Mistrust + (Fill in the blank)

When the > (greater than)sign switches and the right side takes over our personality changes.  Is it normal for the equation to change on occasion?  Yes.  That’s life.  Is it healthy to let the right side dominate too long?  No. 

This has been talked about before.  In Good to Great Jim Collins talked about the Stockdale Paradox.  Admiral James Stockdale’s(a prisoner of war) presented the survival method of acknowlodging the brutal facts of a situation but never losing faith that he would prevail.  This is resilience.  

As leaders, we need to take care of ourselves.  Exercise.  Prayer.  Vacations.  Healthy Diet.  Reading.  Naps.  All of the above. 

Remember that your resilience will rub off on your organization.  When you are leading from the right side your stress behaviors come out and your ability to react/flex your leadership style to manage others goes away.  The Birkman Method assessment identifies these as stress behaviors.  When we name them, we have a chance to manage them.

In a slow economic recovery, resilience becomes as important as cash.

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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.