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? 🙂

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.

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

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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My Lessons from the The Go-Giver – and why Millenials are way ahead . . .

I do not do a lot of book reviews in this blog, but I just completed The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann.  First, let me say that I resisted reading this book until three different people that I highly respect recommended it.  The following entry was inspired by the thoughts this book generated.

Why did I start a business?  How do I measure my success?  

When hearing a story of success we often focus on the opportunity presented to make money.  Sometimes a genius (Bill Gates, Steve Jobs) or sometimes an ordinary person (look at the people around your town) see an opportunity to fill a need in the market and turn it into successful business.  We call them entrepreneurs.  In our history as a country, many of our super wealthy focused solely on building their wealth, and became socially concious later in their lives when the “What is my legacy?” question started swirling in their mind.  We should celebrate their conversion, but recognize that they did not start their business with that as a priority.  The Go-Giver fundamentally challenges the notion that giving comes after success.

The Go-Giver generated two questions for me that have been rolling around in my head. 

  • Who (or whom) do you serve?
  • How do you/will you measure success?

I think of some young entrepreneurs I have met recently and they don’t necessarily think of these questions because their answers are already woven into the fabric of their life and business.

For anyone over 35ish, remember there is a generation behind us that has these questions as part of their fabric.  They have experienced  the fragile nature of life (9/11), the uncertainty of employment (2 major economic downturns in 10 years), and the ability to build meaningful relationships with a keyboard (internet).    I wonder how a millenial would view this book?

Worth the read, but don’t do it alone.  Find a partner, with the goal of writing two question that it generates for you.  Then spend your time together trying to answer them.

Ego and Leadership: My story

On a recent trip my kids tired of looking for different license plates, so they decided to count the number of Prius’ that passed Dad.  They found it funny when a little 134 horsepower car passed a 310 horsepower truck.  I was reminded of the number 2 throughout our journey.  My way out was to exceed my limit of driving the speed limit +6 mph (avoiding risk of a ticket) to over take the Prius’ that zoomed by.  My ego said go faster, but the thought of a ticket vs pursuing the artificial win kept my ego in check.

Ego is a noun.  It is that thing within us that mediates between who we are inside and our external reality.  We often hear it used as a negative, especially when we talk about leaders.

  • His ego won’t let him admit that he was wrong. 
  • This decision was all about her ego and not about what was right for the organization.

Is ego bad?

Not always.  Too often we forget that ego is the driving force behind great accomplishments.  The DiSC profile talks about the D and the I styles seeing themselves as more powerful than their environment.  Their ego allows them to face big challenges, keep a clear focus, and find a way to persevere to a solution.  For many leaders, ego drives them to success.

Then what happens?  Flip Flippen and others talk about how strengths, when overused, become our constraints.  Ego is one of them.  Ego might provide stamina, but in a leader it can easily be perceived as ignoring needs/goals of others to satisfy self.  When their ego takes over and warning signs or boundaries are ignored to secure the victory or preserve power, it becomes a destructive force.

To finish my story, I am not an ego-less driver.  On the return home while entering Illinois a third Prius tried to overtake me.  For 31 miles my cruise was adjusted to speed limit + 11.  They exited for a stop, and I finished my trip:  Prius 2, Dad/Suburban 1.  It did not quiet the kids, but my ego was satisfied. 🙂

What part is ego playing in your decisions today?  How has it helped?  How would others see it?  What boundaries (values, beliefs, rules) do you have that guide your ego? (write them down)

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