Breathing Rate vs Talent Management: What is healthy?

I learned a new fact yesterday – On average, people in the US take 17 breaths a minute.  In Africa, that number is 6 breaths a minute.

Conclusion?  Our steady state is not a relaxed state.  Normal isn’t healthy.

How does this connect to how effectively companies leverage their greatest resource – people?  A trend I see is to begin to re-hire the talent management roles that were cut during the recent downturn.  A good thing – but reactive.  Use the statistics above to think about your organization right now:

Here is what talent management looks like at 17 breaths a minute:  

  • An employee engagement initiative is under way.
  • HR people hounding overworked leaders to get performance evaluations done.
  • Top performers getting generous conteroffers after announcing their intent to leave.
  • Poor performers stay in key roles > 4 months.
  • The most critical project happening is the implementation of a learning management system.

Here is what talent management looks like at 6 breaths a minute:

  • Performance Conversations happen with leader and follower input, no surprises, and follower leaves with a development plan they are ready and equipped to own.  (here is al ink to what I mean by follower)
  • CEO hears key people update(2x a year) from each leader and sees proof that they are being challenged, developed, supported, and cared for.
  • Regular one on ones are happening down to at least the manager level, preferably the professional contributor level.
  • No painful departures.

People initiatives happen because we forget about the healthy habits.  Talent management is about developing a homeostatic state.  It is about Building Rhythm.

How is your organization breathing?

Can You Hire and Lead the Ignorant?

In a meeting recently I was with a group of people deliberating the hiring of a leader for a not for profit organization.  One observation was a lack of experience in a fairly important area.  A wise member of our group pointed out that it could be a good thing because ignorance = fresh eyes.  We all agreed that it was a good choice, but only if we all committed to supporting this new leader and connected her with a mentor.  We committed.

I like the word ignorance.  I like using it in front of groups because people snicker, almost like it is some sort of soft cussing word.  I have to remind people that it just means I don’t know.  Not I can’t know or I will never know . . . just I don’t know.

Here are some rules for hiring ignorance:

  1. DO IT if you see passion and gifts that get you excited about having this person thinking with you AND you are committed to #2.
  2. DO IT if you are ready to actively support (mentor/coach) for 6-12 months and forgive some mistakes.
  3. DON’T DO IT if your industry is too complex/specialized, you are too busy, and your team is too talented to be patient with a learner.  You might read this as sarcasm – but I really mean don’t do it.  If any of these three things are true or perceived to be true it is not a good place to shed ignorance.
  4. DON’T DO IT if you sense a comfort with the ignorance – if there is not hunger to leave that state.  Look somewhere else.

Ignorance is actually the basis of a good development question for leaders and followers alike. 

  • What do you feel ignorant about right now? 
  • What would it mean to have that feeling go away?
  • What is one thing I could do to help make it go away?

Carry that word around with you for a couple days and see what you notice.

Leadership and Followership: A simple habit around Building Trust

I teach a class that brings leaders and followers into a room and they learn about great leadership and followership together.  During a class a couple of weeks ago, when we were talking about Building Trust, I asked the following questions:

Followers:  What do you think the leaders need from you to Build Trust?

Leaders:  What do you need from your followers in the area of Build Trust?

The general answers from the followers (on what leaders needed from them to Build Trust) leaned towards work getting done.  Statements were made like “Doing what you say you will do” and “Following through on your work”.

When I asked the leaders a similar question, the first answer was from someone new to leadership.  He raised his hand and said “Telling me that I am doing things well, along with letting me know what I am doing wrong.”

It is in moments like these that both sides of the performance equation realize they do not always understand each other. 

It is in these moments that just a little sharing helps us understand what we need to provide to others to help them be successful.

Followers:  What if you committed once a week to seek out your leader and ask them “What do you need from me this week?

Leaders:  What if you did the same, and said thank you when you saw your people looking out for you.

Initiatives become necessary because we forget about simple habits that help create success for people and teams.  Commit to this simple habit.

The truth can hurt, and it can inspire

At the retirement celebration of a pastor who had served a congregation for 30 years, he shared this story.

Halfway through seminary two professors pulled him aside with the same message “Based on your effort, you don’t deserve to be here”.  Instead of stopping there, they went on to say “But we know you belong here, so if you want to stay here this is what you need to do . . .  and we will help you.”  He made the changes, went on to a wonderful career, and touched many lives.

Too often accountability starts and stops with getting skilled at having the tough conversations.  Of telling people what they are not doing.

What about challenging them to an unseen, yet imagined, potential?

How much time do we take to see the value of the person beyond the task?

What is the cost of asking – What do you need to be successful?  Then providing it.  Imagine the potential impact!

Leadership is about asking the question, painting the picture, and assisting in the journey.  Great followership is about listening, accepting, working, and appreciating.

How many people will be including you in their story 30 years from now?

Resilience – What we can learn from the military

Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. George W. Cas...
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Do any of us in the private sector experience any more stress than a soldier in battle?  We all know the answer.  No.  Which is why it is worth taking 300 words to explore an effort to help soldiers build their resilience.

Resilience is the word of the year for the discussion around assisting people to manage through a stressful business environment.  I found a great clinical discussion in the Harvard Business Review around resilience (link).  I like clinical approaches to topics because they provide great information about what works, what doesn’t, and an outline of the critical steps/pieces of a solution.  They learn and I apply.

Here are the key pieces of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) program.

  1. Test for psychological fitness – Identify strengths in four areas:  emotional, family, social, and spiritual fitness.  All four have been found to reduce depression and anxiety.
  2. Learning – A mandatory course on post-traumatic growth and optional on-line classes on the four fitness areas.  Mandatory class covers five areas: Understanding a normal response to trauma, learning techniques for controlling intrusive thoughts/images, how to talk about it, see the trauma as a fork in the road, and transforming the trauma into new/reinforced principles of life.
  3. Train key leaders – Called Master Resiliency Training (MRT), the goal is to teach them how to embrace resilience and pass on the knowledge.  This last piece focuses on:  Building mental toughness, Building on our signature strengths, and Building relationships. 

I am not sure where this study will go, but when 900,000 people go through something and someone is measuring the outcomes and sharing the learning it should have a lasting benefit.

How can we apply this today? What do you see from their approach that reinforces how you lead today?  How you coach or mentor?  How you can create your own CSF program? How does your own awarness of self make you more resilient?  or less . . . . .

On a side note: I am glad someone is looking out for the health of our soldiers.

Communication – Always room for improvement. Right?

Nice elderly couple with ear muffs
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I keep wondering when I will get over the hump and never have to worry about my communication skills.  I thought I had kids figured out, then I had a teenager.  I thought I had marriage nailed down, then I started my business and my wife started working.  I am ready to admit that maybe I just need to keep working at it.

What about you?  Is there a person, a situation, or maybe a group that just has you scratching your head?  Here are a few resources that are staples in my library.

Communicating (listening) to yourself:

  • Career?  Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer
  • Job loss or another traumatic event?  Journal – It builds personal resilience by processing your experiences for the day/week.

Communication with spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend:  2 book series by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn – For Women Only and For Men Only

Communicating in Conflict: Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott

I am convinced that every year a standard part of any development plan should be one item around communicating more effectively with a certain person, group, or in a particular situation.  Imagine if we made a 5% improvement in this every year?

What resources for certain situations have you found helpful?  Please share your thoughts . . . .

Mastery – One of keys to success! Part 3 of 3

Mastery is “available to anyone who is willing to get on the path and stay on it-regardless of age, sex, or previous experience.”   These are the words of George Leonard in a book he wrote called Mastery.  This is not a new book.  My copy was printed in 1992 and looks/feels like it has been on the journey that the author describes.

This predates the 10,000 hour discussion I presented (see past blog), but reminds us that committing to Mastery is really about getting on a path and staying there for a lifetime.  For achieving Mastery is not about the destination, but the journey to get there.  The author provides many vivid images of the journey, from sports analogies around tennis to illustrations using the martial art of aikido.  If you are interested in a rich exploration of the topic, read the book.  But let me share a couple of parts that stuck with me.

A significant point was around our view of practice.  Practice if often viewed as a verb, but as it relates to Mastery it is best viewed as a noun.  The author points out the Chinese word tao and the Japanese word do – both of which mean road or path.  So achieving Mastery is about practice (remember 10,000 hours).  Practice is a journey on which you embark.

Leonard also shares his five keys to Mastery, which are:

  • Instruction
  • Practice
  • Surrender
  • Intentionality
  • The Edge

So what can you do as a leader to increase Mastery?

First, your performance management system has to promote Mastery conversations.  These questions need to be addressed:

  • What Mastery is needed in a role? (defined and measured at some level yearly)
  • What Mastery is the individual interested in attaining? (their own career goals – integrated into what the organization needs)
  • How is the Mastery journey going?  (for you and for us)

Secondly, the ownership of the journey has to be made very clear.  It is up to the individual.  A leader/organization owns providing a target and the support and resources.  Ultimately, the decision to go on and stay on the journey is owned by the individual.  Do you agree with this?  Think of it this way, most leaders will not be around a person for five years, and keeping track of 5 or 10 or 30 different people is not realistic for any leader.  So if the individual owns the plan, the commitment of  the leader become to create the time to review it, provide feedback on their progress, and assist in removing barriers that might be encountered along the way. (ex. time, resources, skills)

So how does your organization promote the journey to Mastery?  How well are you leading this journey?

Mastery – Does it matter? Part 1 of 3

All this talk of Mastery – Initial Thoughts . . .

I watched a 10 minute YouTube video from Daniel Pink and I was blown away.  He shares the portion of his book (DRIVE) that shares the research based finding that the knowledge worker is motivated by three main things:

  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose

What caught my attention was the word Mastery, which has become a familiar word for me recently.  The dictionary defines it as the possession of a consummate skill or the full command of some subject of study.  Now it is being heralded as a key to motivation for many workers.  Is this a surprise?

As a father of four I have had several more experienced men tell me that adolescence is easier if your child finds what they are good at doing.  This makes sense, but I am surprised that suddenly, in the adult world, this becomes newsworthy.  This is not intended to be an attack on someone making money for stating the obvious, but a recognition that we should view these new lessons for what they are – a reminder that many of the things we have learned in life still apply.

So how does this change how we manage our careers?  How does this change how we lead?  If Mastery is about being good at something, what has the most recent recession done to motivation if people are in one of two states – overloaded doing the work of 1+ people or trying to look overloaded by keeping their head down and staying in constant motion doing something.

Whether your people are in either of these states, I would offer to leaders that the  first step is sitting down and starting some dialogue by asking “What % of your job do you enjoy and want to get better at doing?”.  Then come up with a plan for increasing that by 5% over the next month.   Mastery starts with focus – and focus starts with leadership, from the inside and the outside.  A leader has the chance to bring focus from the outside by helping to define some targets/goals for the individuals.   We all have a chance to build focus from the inside by trusting, relaxing, and working at resuming our journey to Mastery.  After all, it is our journey and it is important.  Pink reminds us of that.  Where are you on your journey to Mastery?

There is more to be said on this topic.  Watch Daniel Pink’s take on this at  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc.