Is Resilience The Right Message? Three things to consider before starting this discussion in your organization

Many years ago a friend shared this story.  At the birth of their first child they reached a point where the doctor asked them if they wanted an epidural.  They had discussed it during birthing classes and decided to go through the delivery process without it because it was not covered by insurance.  Several hours of real labor had changed his wife’s thinking on the matter and she wanted it.  My friend, still being a rookie at marriage and childbirth, decided to coach his wife through the final stages of childbirth by offering the advice “Suck it up honey”.   I will stop the story here, but will share that they ended up getting the epidural.

Coming back from the recent economic downturn will take resilience from everyone.  How often does the message of resilience sound like the response of the father above when being delivered from others.  This is emerging as one of the hot topics in 2011 as companies grow with limited hiring and budgets.  Here are three key things to remember when tackling this topic:

1. What it means?  In the January 2011 edition of HR Magazine author William Atkinson provides a nice summary of the topic. (link to article)  A key point is this is not a new topic, but the current conditions in the workforce make this critical because the pressure caused by increasing expectations for performance versus the unprecedented push for efficiency.  People have more to do and fewer resources.  In his article, Atkinson refers to a survey that found 75% of people saying they were stressed to unhealthy levels.  The take away is that we need to equip our people to cope with this new reality.

How we should talk about it?  The topic goes beyond the wellness discussion, although how we take care of ourselves is important.  To start, the message has to focus on the reality that all levels of the organization are facing this challenge.  It has been said, but has it been said from the standpoint of “We feel we are doing what we have to do for this business to be successful.  Yet we know that it is stressing people beyond what is healthy.”  Next, focus on open and honest discussions about what stresses each person out, what we can do to relieve the stress, and what can be done to lesson it (both by the leader and the employee).  If there is going to be training, it needs to first focus on equipping the leaders to have these conversations with their teams and provide ongoing support.

Who we should be listening to?  A standard piece of every management library is a stress management book.  If it is not there go buy one.  Jim Loehr is an author that has been around this topic for a while using the analogy of creating a corporate athlete.  Another voice that I like to listen to is Doug Silsbee.  He has placed a few videos that outline his thoughts on the topic that will provide a perspective on how resilience can help and provided some basic stress management techniques.  Here is a link to the videos.

Back to my initial story.  Was my friend purposefully trying to be insensitive to his wife?  No.  They are still married and that baby son is now off to college.  But when stress hits sometimes the words out of our mouth don’t accurately reflect what we are thinking/feeling.  For leaders, just make sure the words out of your mouth take the discussion in a healthy direction, not to a place where people interpret the message as “deal with it”.  This is a topic we should all be talking about.

TrustBUSTER™ #7 – Values individual success over team goals

TrustBUSTER™ #7 – Values individual success over team goals

I facilitated 30 people from a department doing a basic what is your behavioral style activity that divided the team up into 4 styles.  I made the comment that it is not uncommon for a senior leadership team to be almost 100% concentrated in the more task focused groups in an exercise like this.  I asked the leaders in the room to raise their hands.  The count was 5 task focused to 1 people focused.  Surprising to them, but not to me.

This TrustBUSTER™ is almost 100% focused on people who tend to put task (getting job done) before people (building relationships).  This happens for two reasons.  First, executives have been rewarded for getting work accomplished.  Their talents for achievement, problem solving, and energy to overcome obstacles helped bring them to the c-suite.  They are used to winning.  If you are on their team it works.  If you are on another team it often looks like TrustBUSTER™ #7.  Secondly, communication and change management come after the debate and decision-making has already happened within the executive team.  Unfortunately, it is the communication plan and ensuing change management that gets overlooked because all the energy has gone into the decision.  Without providing the reasons why this is a good move for the overall organization, teams will fill in the blanks.  This is where people begin to assign reasons for the change that are based on what they perceive is important to the leaders.  Is it reality?  Without any other information, perception becomes reality.  Enter TrustBUSTER™ #7.

How do leaders avoid this?  Here are three steps to making this TrustBUSTER™ less of an issue:

  1. Be diligent about establishing goals and resolving conflicting goals as part of the planning process.  This team should leave this process ready to support the decisions that were made.
  2. Communicate WHY a decision is made when rolling out a change to your teams.  Be transparent about the reasons and get their input during the decision making when possible.
  3. Focus on building relationships and trust all the time.  There will be decisions you have to make where you cannot share the entire WHY.  Having built trust will make forgiveness available when it is needed.

trU Tips 9: There is no ‘I’ in team – When and why this is wrong

This is a reprint of the monthly publication called trU Tips – Strategic People Reminders for the busy executive.  To subscribe to receive a monthly trU Tips, click here.

What I’m hearing

Forming teams is not a new concept. It can be, however, a new experience for many entrepreneurial organizations entering their next phase of growth, and for industries such as financial services.  Teams can help raise revenue, keep relationships connected with service, and reduce the risk of having one person dictate the success of the organization.  While the process of team building is simple, doing it effectively is a bigger challenge when the people being asked to join a team are successful largely because of their individual drives.  
 

What it means

“There is no ‘I’ in team.”  Great slogan, but it’s wrong.  When bringing people together who have been successful largely because of their personal drives to succeed, there has to be room for “I” somewhere, or the team won’t work.  It’s unrealistic to ask someone — a top sales person, a driving entrepreneur, a teacher — who has basically worked independently for the first decade of his or her career to change overnight and become a great team member.  Bringing independent-minded people together requires an open and honest conversation focused on defining both individual needs and team goals, then deciding if a balance can be achieved.
 
Building trust is the basic component of performance.  In my experience, trust comes before the other three pieces in a four-step process I call trUPerformance: build trust, build focus, build confidence and build rhythm.  While the last three parts are essential for a great, high-functioning team, trust is the key. Allowing people to process through their individual needs, as well as those of the team as a whole, will promote an understanding of how the team can meet its overall goals while allowing its members to have their own needs met.  In the end, individuals might decide that being part of a team won’t work for them.  Sharing truth allows for good choices to be made.  
 

What you should do

The key in all of this is having a series of conversations with potential team members to identify:
 

  1. A list of what they bring to the team, including strengths and weaknesses
  2. A list of things they want or need from the team
  3. A list of personal reasons for joining the team, including what they see as the group’s goals or potential

Process these pieces by sharing openly, identifying common themes in both individual needs and team goals. Challenge people to identify needs that are purely “Me” goals (e.g., keeping one’s top 20 clients) and those that are “We” goals that benefit the entire team (e.g., offering a more complete service solution to customers).  By systematically going through these conversations, it will become evident whether or not potential team members are compatible, and whether joining the team is the right move for an individual.
 
Need a partner in effectively forming a team that will have a huge impact on your business?  Contact me.   Scott@thetrugroup.com

Emails in CAPS – Here is how NOT to send them

He entered my office with a look on his face that was both quizzical and bothered.  He was wondering why he was here.  In front of me was an email with no four letter words, no inappropriate nouns or adjectives, but lots of capital letters.  He was 24 years old, a hard-driving and successful sales person, and he saw capital letters as a way of conveying how passionate he felt about what he was saying.  Of course, the person who had received this and everyone on his team viewed this as yelling.  He made it through that conversation, but only lasted about three more months in the organization.

In a recent post by Jason Diamond Arnold (see post: http://ht.ly/35a5Nhe chronicles the process of using restraint and time to pull the emotion out of an email so that it does not result in damage to a relationship.  It is a good message and a reminder of how to know when you have crossed the line and show some restraint by NOT hitting the send button.

Let me go one step further – NEVER send an email where the message contains anger, frustration, disappointment, disillusionment, or has the sole purpose of holding someone accountable for actions.   Write it, read it, think about it (I recommend 24 hours), and in the end if the feeling is still there get on the phone or walk over and deal with it.   I have a file full of email arguments that are great material for Dilbert, but would make you shake your head because they all involve executive level leaders.

If you are a leader and find yourself wanting to write one of these emails to your company/department – here is an alternative.

  1. Write the email
  2. Share it personally with your leadership team – what you see, why it frustrates you, and what you want to see.
  3. Ask for their input – Are your observations accurate?  What might you be missing?  What will it take to correct this?
  4. Listen
  5. Listen (this is an important step so I thought I would bring it up twice)
  6. Thank them for their input – and make a decision on next steps – If moving forward with a message to the organization is important, enlist the help of someone else to craft a message and agree (as a team) what the follow-up will be from everyone in the group.

Correcting mistakes or redirecting the actions of many is important to the success of your organization.  But there is a right way and a wrong way to do it.  Emotionally charged emails are the wrong way.  stop it!  (see – no caps, and you still get the message)

B Players: 3 Things Leaders Can Do to Energize Them

Good News!  Getting B players more energized, engaged, and acting like an A player is not an expensive initiative.  The reality?  It will take a time commitment from leaders.  Here are three moves you can make today to raise the energy level and commitment of  your B players.

1.  Communicate, Communicate, Communicate: Leaders need to spend time monthly talking about the performance of the business, quarterly talking about the near term goals, and yearly reviewing the goals and vision for the business.  B’s are out there looking for leadership, some clear direction, authenticity, and something to get excited about – so give it to them! 

2.  Regular One on One Time: As leaders, we look at our solid players and give thanks they are low maintenance.  When the demands on our time increases the common response is to take them for granted and slip into a more no maintenance mode.  Nothing says you are valued more than time, and people need to feel valued before they will get excited .  What if you sat down monthly with your B’s and started asking questions like:

  • What challenges are you/the team experiencing this week?
  • What questions are you hearing from people about the business?
  • What do you see out there that needs fixing?
  • What questions do you have for me?

After you ask a question just listen.  If having regular one on one time is new be patient.  It might take several weeks or  months for people to open up because they need to see your commitment to them.  If you listen and follow-up on any commitments you make trust will increase and engagement will follow.

3.  Help Them Set Goals:  B’s are generally doing the core part of their job very well.  Use the yearly evaluation time or one on one time to affirm their value, offer support to help them grow to meet personal goals, and invite them to help fix a few things or guide some change.  B’s are not looking for a 60 hour work week so they might appear hesitant.  If they have some personal constraints that restrict them from giving the business extra time get creative.  Whether it is testing a new system, meeting with customers coming in for a visit, or taking a new person under their wing to help them learn – there is untapped potential with these solid team members.

Remember, LOW maintenance is not NO maintenance.  Pay a little attention, be authentic, and invite them to jump in.  What would be the impact on your business if 50% of your B players poured some extra energy into solving one problem, finding one more customer, or identifying and implementing one efficiency improvement?

Is it possible to hire all A players? Three Realities

It makes great headlines to talk about hiring “A” players.  Guy Kawasaki makes the statement that “People need to hire people smarter than they are”, but the reality is “A players hire A players; B players hire C players.”  In his book Topgrading, Brad Smart outlines an approach that is designed to ensure 90% of your hires will be A players in the role they are hired into.  Few would argue that having great people doing the right things is critical for a business to be successful.  To start this discussion, here are three realities for hiring A players.

1.  Organizations have a tendency to transform A’s into B’s and C’s: What keeps A’s acting like A’s?  The Gallup organization did extensive research that resulted in identifying 12 questions(Q12) to measure engagement, among other things.  The first three questions say a lot about what keeps A’s acting like A’s:  1)  I know what is expected of me at work  2)  I have the tools and resources I need to do my job  3) I have an opportunity to do what I do best everyday.  At the core of keeping A’s acting like A’s is communication.  This includes keeping them informed about changes in the business and listening to their questions/needs/opinions.

2.  Hiring people ‘smarter than they are’ is hard.  It takes a tremendous amount of self-confidence and cultural support: This starts with the CEO, and their willingness to allow their executive team to lead, which might result in them not have all the answers all of the time.  A key challenge to hiring smarter people is delegating the work (because they are better able to do it) and giving them space to make decisions.  This will put leaders in a position to not know all the decisions being made all the time.  So, the CEO needs to provide some space to bring information back and leaders need to be comfortable saying and allowing the comment “I don’t know, but let me look into that.”

3.  Hiring – Do people really have the time to be that rigorous? Hiring the best people for a job takes a clear understanding of the role (job description), a vision of how this role will impact the direction of the company (operational/strategic objectives), and time to really get to know the candidates.  In Topgrading, Brad Smart outlines a rigorous process that could easily take 6+ hours per candidate.  Teaching managers the reason for these three pieces and the importance of spending time to find great people is critical.

If you are a CEO trying to attract and keep the best talent, it is worth a 2-3 hour discussion with your team to explore this topic and find ways to fine tune your hiring and onboarding of  people so they are successful.   Some questions to consider in that process:

  • How do you define A players, B players, and C players?
  • What do you see as impediments in your own organization to hiring A players?
  • What are practical ways you have seen to make sure A’s do not get turned into B or C players? What are you doing?  What should you be doing?
Some other good reads: