Leader/Manager as Culture Builder

I have been asked to read and review David C. Baker’s new book Managing Right: For The First Time.  I write in books.  I circle, highlight, and dog ear pages I want to return to.  This posting is based on one of those pages**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. 

Manager = Culture Builder  (from Chapter 15:  Creating and Sustaining Culture)

I can hear it now – “You want me to worry about culture?  I am a manager trying to keep my head above water learning the job and reacting to all the change above me and below me, and now you tell me I am a culture builder?” 

Culture is the sum total of all your choices – this statement from David Baker caught my eye because it is simple and scary.  It reminds us that everything we do contributes to the environment (culture) we create.  A lot to digest, so let’s focus in on one thing that Baker calls out in his list “Enemies of Culture”.

The first enemy of culture for you as the leader is the technically proficient or very capable jerk.  I love the blunt language.  There should be a name for the person who uses their knowledge to elevate themselves and to step on others.   Jerk fits.

I have learned to ask certain questions when receiving the “They are really smart but everyone hates them.  Can you help?” call.  The first question is “Why do you want to keep them?”  I have to hear a compelling reason and a strong commitment from the leader or it is not worth my time.  I know from experience that 80+% of the people that are stepping on people do not know it, and when they get hit with that information they will need to see some extremely strong support to help them be successful or it will not work.

Action:  Here is a template I published for a performance conversation that makes it next to impossible to side step this situation as a leader.  Every performance conversation needs to be very explicit around: 1)  What you do on your job and 2) How you do it (ie: culture).  This enemy should receive high marks for being smart, and a substantially below standards for being mean.  

I can here the reaction now.  Scott – it is not that easy

Just to let you know, I did not say it was easy, but I feel very comfortable saying it is that simple.  Remember, as a leader the Culture is the sum total of all your choices.  Make the choice to address this enemy.

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 . . .

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!

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.

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?

Transformation or Training?

Parenting teenagers is not for the faint of heart.  A mother of a teenager shared some wisdom with me last night that her moment of awakening came when she realized that she “could not go to college with her son.”  While there is obviously lots of opinions/grey area around control and parenting, growing up means making independent choices to do some things and not do other things.  It takes lots of energy for the parent, and for the teen.  Growing up is a transformation for both.

So how does this relate to professional development? A cornerstone of the Gallup Research is a statement that says “People don’t change that much.  Don’t waste time trying to put in what was left out.  Try to draw out what was left in.  That is hard enough.”  I think back to a person who went through Franklin Planner class 4 times (when paper was king) to become more organized – – and I think about the effort trying to put in something.

Helping someone chart a course to a future level of performance means asking two questions:

  1. Is this about adding some skills/knowledge/experience to help them work smarter OR
  2. Are we asking for more transformational growth (shedding old habits and adopting new ones)?

If it is the former, then classes, peer support, the whole practice/feedback/practice loop will work.  People who like to learn will get it done.

If it is the latter, then a moment of reckoning has come.  The next question to ask is:  This will take hard work, lots of your energy (for a while), and undoubtedly some pain.  Are you ready – – – (if yes) then how can I help?

Too often in helping people to grow at work (often called talent management/professional development) we forget what real change takes.

How many classes have you been to more than once? 🙂

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.

What the mirror says . . .

I spent the day with a leadership team recently that has a big job to do and is receiving limited resources, changing targets, and ever demanding customer expectations.  Sound familiar?  The goal is to help this team figure out how to survive/thrive over the next 18 months despite the uncertainty of the environment they operate in. What is in the mirror

We used the Birkman Method, which is the most effective tool I have found to help teams in this discussion because it measures our Usual Working Style (what people see under normal circumstances), what our Needs are (often different than how we act), and it names the stress behaviors that result if our needs are not being met.  The A-HA moment for the team came when most ended up in the stress behavior of hyper-task focus when the pressure really hit (ie.  needs not being met). 

It is not uncommon for an individual leader to look at a chart like this and make the statement – “I can handle lots of stress”.  That is true for most leaders, they push through challenges well and find ways to get to the other side.  But what about the people these same leaders lead?  The second A-HA for this team was the feedback their teams had just given them on an employee survey.  One of the issues highlighted was understanding what their roles were and communication of what is happening.  Hmmm . . . .

Leadership is hard, and probably especially hard right now. Taking the time to look in the mirror at a time like this is even harder, because it takes resources (time/money) and we are bound to see something that will ask us to change.  Yet, teams that are successfully growing a business have something to celebrate.  Part of that celebration should be the question “What can we do to make the next 18 months easier (on our teams/self) and better.

It is good to take a quick look every now and then, remembering the talents that have come together to move the organization are good, and yet there still might be an easier way to go forward.

When are you/your team planning the next look in the mirror?

WI SHRM: What to do with a talent anchor?

(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:  What doyou do if your most successful sales employee and shareholder is the one costing leadership to lose money and sleep?

One of my core beliefs since working with many smaller businesses is that loyalty matters, and being slow to let someone go is okay.  As I read your question two things come to mind:

  1. How is success defined for this person?
  2. When their performance is evaluated – are they judged based on WHAT they accomplish, as well as HOW they accomplish it?

I think back to a situation where the top technology person at a company struggled for years with alcoholism that caused multiple missed work days, missed deadlines, and bristled work relationships as he relapsed repeatedly at company parties, sales events, etc.  All of this, and he stayed in place for many years.

One key habit that is critical for any organization is the CEO going down the list of their people and talking through each person in terms of what they provide, what success looks like for them, and how they are performing from a metrics as well as a culture standpoint.  The key people/key role discussion that is described in the Talent Scorecard is critical to bringing focus to this issue.  Since doing this with an internal HR person is often difficult, it should be done with a board group or an outside consultant.  The value is a safe place to process information and ask yourself some tough questions.

Finally, the book SWAY made a point about irrational decisions.  In studies of people, if they looked at a situation from a net loss perspective, they were less likely to make a rational decision.  An example is investing:  When people say to themselves – If I sell today I will lose 10% of my initial investment – then the are more likely to ride it down lower, even if the outlook is grim.  People are the same way.  When they start looking at people and saying – if we let this person go then our sales will suffer, or the knowledge they have will go away – then we keep them, even if all the other evidence points to it being a bad decision.

Anything to add based on your experience?

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.