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.

The 5 Levels of Followership

A recent blog posting from Kate Nasser got me thinking.  She made the case that the opposite of leader is not follower.  Here is her post.

I agree with her, but struggle with a word that captures how people work AND facilitates a discussion that allows a leader and follower to share their perception of performance.  I propose the 5 levels, with Kate’s term being level 5.  Yes, I did borrow the concept from Jim Collins, but these are my words.  So here are the Five levels of Followership.

  1. Minimizer   – An individual that consumes oxygen in the workplace.  They are present, but getting things done is not a priority.  They measure their contribution by getting just enough done to stay employed.
  2. Doer – Do what they are asked consistently and with very little negative emotion.  Solid and very dependable.  Measure their contribution by getting done what is asked by when it was asked.
  3. Attractor – Do their job with joy, attracting customers both inside and outside of their organization.  Measure their contribution by the smiles they receive back and the work they get done.
  4. Improver – Does the work presented and looks for ways to improve the efficiency.  Measure their contribution by the dollars/time that they save or the improvements they make in the lives of their customers.
  5. Influencer – Someone who sees opportunities to alter strategies or activities that will have a big impact on the direction of the organization and the work that is being done.  Measure their contribution by the big things they get started and the opportunities they have to engage in work they consider to be significant.

It is always a great conversation to ask people how they perceive their contribution, then compare that with what you see.  Gaps drive more conversations.  Perpetual gaps indicate outcomes of conversations need to be written down.  Words and labels do matter, but great conversations matter more.

Don’t Be Mean – Part Two . . the 5 step solution for leaders

I am a big fan of Mary Jo Asmus of Aspire Collaborative Services.  She is a great coach and passionate about developing leaders that make a difference.  She is also thoughtful and nice.  The kind of person you trust as soon as you meet. 

I had the privilege of doing a two guest posts on her blog around leadership development and coaching. 

Here is the link to the second part of the post: 

I am a big fan of Mary Jo Asmus of Aspire Collaborative Services.  She is a great coach and passionate about developing leaders that make a difference.  She is also thoughtful and nice.  The kind of person you trust as soon as you meet.  I had the privilege of doing a guest post on her blog around leadership development and coaching. 

Here is the link to Part 2 of the post.  http://www.aspire-cs.com/don%e2%80%99t-be-mean-part-2

If you missed it, here is the link to Part 1 of the post.  http://www.aspire-cs.com/don%e2%80%99t-be-mean-part-one?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Don’t Be Mean – Part One

I am a big fan of Mary Jo Asmus of Aspire Collaborative Services.  She is a great coach and passionate about developing leaders that make a difference.  She is also thoughtful and nice.  The kind of person you trust as soon as you meet.  I had the privilege of doing a guest post on her blog around leadership development and coaching.  Here is the first part of the post.  http://www.aspire-cs.com/don%e2%80%99t-be-mean-part-one?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Silence – Creating it

Snowy day.
Image via Wikipedia

I have a weird tradition (at least according to my children) – I like to run in the middle of blizzards.  I have learned to love it because of the silence I experience.  Although I live in Michigan, sometimes it does not snow enough.

Most leaders I meet with display a real skill for driving action and results.  Through one of the assessments I use, the Birkman Method, some of those leaders realize they have internal needs for time to rejuvenate.  Silence helps them recover. 

Unfortunately, leaders don’t get rewarded for silence, only action and results.  The problem is without the former, focusing solely on the latter becomes a habit that can be destructive to ourselves and others.

Making a personal change requires focus and awareness, which requires some level of silence.  A mentor of mine, Doug Silsbee, teaches a technique that gives the body a moment of silence.  He calls it centering. Here is a link to his demonstration.  Our ability to adopt new ways of doing things or to deal with an unexpected event depends on our ability to center, to find silence.

If you don’t think you need it, at least allow others around you to create it. 

You do need it.  We all need it.

Here is what I think. . . TrustBUSTER™ #5 – Tells a lot, listens very little

TrustBUSTER™ #5 – Tells a lot, listens very little

A study was shared with me once that calculated the average time a doctor listened to a patient before making a diagnosis was 23 seconds.  For many of my visits that number has actually proven to be long enough.  But for a complex medical issue, Twenty-three seconds is not long enough.  In my experience working with the results of employee surveys, not enough listening is always a root cause of the top issues.

Here are some broad generalizations on listening. 

  • As people become experts at doing something, they become less adept at listening. 
  • When individuals are rewarded for being great at doing and made a leader, most feel the need to talk louder to make sure things happen.
  • A high salary has to be justified by knowing everything and never letting people see your mistakes.

I will let someone else to worry about the issue of twenty-three seconds for doctors, lets talk about how this applies for leaders. 

LEADERS:  The ability to hear what people need and understand what is going on in an organizations is probably the most important skill a leader will need as they move up the organization.  Recently a client shared with me that they were concerned about the statistic that 60% of people currently in jobs are open to moving to another job as the economy improves.  Their response?  Begin to provide the CEO time to meet with small groups of people so he can hear what they are thinking about.  Listening for leaders is about slowing down.  The cost? Free!

ORGANIZATIONS:  The top three ‘listening’ processes in an organization are performance evaluations, one on ones, and staff meetings.  Why do I say this?  Listening to individuals requires face time in a setting where they are comfortable and the agenda is about them.  Ken Blanchard offers guidelines for one on ones of meeting every other week for 15-30 minutes.  How many organizations do that?  As for performance evaluations, how many managers see this as listening time vs “I have to get through this and get their signature so I can turn it in and get credit for it” time?  Then there is the staff meeting.  Does the agenda promote open listening or lots of talking with no questions or debate?

Do we need to do employee surveys?  They do serve a purpose and there is always benefit in asking people’s opinion. The mistake is leaning on the surveys as the primary way that listening happens in an organization.  It is supposed to be supplemental data to ensure that good listening is happening.

How effectively do you use the ‘big three’ listening times mentioned above?  How would you grade yourself on this TrustBUSTER™?  How would others grade you?