Social Media, Relationships, and Leadership

Relationships are built through connections.  Connections happen when we have great conversations – – over and over again.  The numbers I preach to leaders and followers alike are:

  • 5 to 1: The optimal number of positive to negative interactions in a marriage
  • 3 to 1: The optimal number of positive to negative interactions in a work relationship
  • 3:  If we have this many close friends at work we are 96% more likely to be extremely satisfied with our life
  • If I were a smoker and a loner – I will live longer if I keep smoking and find some friends

Then comes social media.  Recently I was wondering if some day I would read a headline that would turn my world/beliefs upside down.  Something like:

  • Facebook changing the way we build close friends
  • The Tweets/day  = Happiness number is known:  14
  • Top 5 social media tools for creating healthy marriages and friendships
  • Keep Smoking, but open a Facebook account

My gut tells me that ignoring social media at work and in my life, in general, is the wrong move.  I also believe the fundamental things I preach to leaders and followers about success in work, building healthy relationships, building strong teams, and building strong companies will not change.

Then I stumbled upon a great TED talk that took on the topic of social media from Sherry Turkle called Connected, but alone? . I think I will stick with what my gut tells me – even as I continue to use Foursquare.  fyi – I just became Mayor of my street and no one treats me differently. 🙂

EXTRA:  An idea for using this video with high potentials/leadership groups: Watch the video (18 minutes) and explore the following questions:

  • How do I personally use social media tools?  What benefits do they provide me?
  • How do some of the important people in my life use them?
  • What comments from the video stand out for me?  Agree?  Disagree?
  • How can I use this to become better – Leaders?  Teammates?  Friends?  (Make one commitment)

Do You Know How to Start and End a Conversation?

I am in the process of reading/reviewing Jodi Glickman’s book Great On The Job – What To Say, How To Say It – The Secrets of Getting Ahead.  As I go through it I will share some thoughts that make me go Hmmmm . . .  This posting is based on one of those moments.

I watch the eyes, because they always tell the truth. 

Have you ever experienced the glazed, lifeless stare that happens within 10 seconds of starting a conversation with someone?  It is most often the result of them being in the middle of something and me being too urgent to simply ask “Is this a good time?”

Jodi Glickman shares her secrets to opening and closing a conversation under a section she refers to as The Basics.  How to avoid the lifeless stare is addressed up front.  It made me chuckle when she talked about the feedback she received initially from two trusted friends that this section was too basic.  I loved it!  When I talk to people about talent management I stress the partnership between a leader and a follower, and the transparency that has to exist for the relationship to work.  Being specific about What I need is critical, and recognizing that this is not the right time to talk is equally as critical.  In the era of open office doors/no doors at all and cell phones that make everyone accessible 24/7, it is important to be able to say not the right time.

One of the unique pieces of her approach was the ending.  In it she shares two steps:

  1. Thank you
  2. Forward momentum


I love the concept of forward momentum.  Think of it – we have talked and here is where I am going next.  Imagine if every interaction led to some sort of forward momentum?  In talent management: forward momentum = ownership = engagement = great followership

An exercise: What percent of your conversations today lead to forward momentum?


Leadership Rounding – A great example of how leading leaders is different

Going from a Director to a Vice President is a big jump – because all of the sudden how you lead becomes different.  It is often hard to explain this to people, but at some point they feel it through critcism for Never being around, and in their frustration they say something like I was just there last week or maybe even You never invite me!

I have blogged often about followership – which is knowing the priorities/challenges of your own leader and being purposeful about meeting those as you communicate and work towards meeting your own needs/priorities.  Here is a video from Quint Studer (The Studer Group) that talks about leadership rounding in healthcare.  Most of you are not in healthcare, but it is a great example of a message that needs to be heard by the executive and the leaders that report to them.  It does an amazing job of laying out the fears/frustrations of an executive and how some simple moves by front line leaders can help maximize the impact of a visit from a senior leader and help your own people connect with them in a way that will have lasting impact on your own team.

Check it out – and schedule a viewing with some leaders.  It is a great investment of 28 minutes.  Talent management is about having great conversations – this will start a great conversation.

Friday Fun – The cumulative effect of Happy moments . . .

In his interview about happiness in HBR, Daniel Gilbert makes the following statement:  “…the frequency of your positive experiences is a much better predictor of your happiness than is the intensity of your positive experiences.”  It is not the big initiatives, but the cumulative effect of the little things we do at work and at home to generate smiles that makes the biggest difference.  While we are thankful for some research – Did we really need some PhD to tell us that?

So what can we do with this?

Every culture treats humor differently.  For example, I am not sure a That Was Easy button or a zany sound effects box would work in a bank.  What about comments about what people are wearing, or smiles received or handing a sucker to a customer with a smile?  Anything where we purposely create one of those moments that Gilbert talks about will make a difference.

Maybe a good Friday goal would be to generate 6 smiles in other people.

Here is my first try:  A great video about how making people smile caused a shift in their behavior.  It made me smile, and is just good clean fun.  Take a look.


Companies are Like People, Our Culture Defines the Relationship – Tips for doing it well

Companies are like people.  There is actually a study of how organizations act and change, which is where the terms organizational development and industrial/organizational psychology come from.

As individuals we build relationships/trust by working/living along side people and showing them consistent behavior so they know what to expect – what we value.  So how does that apply to organizations?

Culture is built through a relentless demonstration of what organizations value. While perfection is the goal, it is not realistic.  At some point we will have to say we are sorry.  This lens can be used to examine when organizations first meet new people – during onboarding.

Here is a miss / don’t miss list based on years of experiencing it and building it as a leader:

Don’t Miss

  • Clean desk / supplies
  • Someone to greet you and say “we were expecting you”
  • Frequent communication with your leader for 3 months
  • Teammates taking you to lunch or inviting you into the circle/social events
  • Paycheck / benefits
  • All the tools that connect us to others – email, phone, computer, mailbox, list of who to call
  • Plan to direct learning for first three months

Miss Sometimes

  • Nameplate on desk
  • Meeting boss’ boss (because of business) day 1 or week 1
  • Formal orientation in week one (not enough people)
  • 100% achievement of everything on the onboarding plan
  • Email Day 1 welcoming new teammate
  • Quick check-in at the end of every day to see how things are going

I am not a hypocracy chaser, and it is important that a line be drawn in the sand saying that “If we do not do these things how can we expect anyone to buy into our values as an organization?”  As Collins said in Good To Great:

The point is not what core values you have, but that you have core values at all, that you know what they are, that you build them explicitly into the organization, and that you preserve them over time. (p. 195)

Living it is more powerful than speaking it, and speaking it is the first step in living it.  It why I put Build Trust at the base of the trUPerformance model.  Working relentlessly at living what we say makes it easier for people to forgive us when we (as organizations) slip up.

After all, organizations are like people.

What is on your Don’t Miss list?

Three Ways to Make Recognition a Habit, 1 Thing to Avoid

On one of the first days at my new job I was handed a box.  It was large enough to fit 50-100 8.5 x 11 inch folders, and it was a nice shade of green with a pattern that told me someone had put some thought into the design of this box.  Then I was told what it was – my Recognition Toolbox.  I opened it, and was surprised at how little was inside.  The contents consisted of a few thank you notes, some process sheets for getting gift cards and other rewards, and some post-it notes with a positive slogan printed on them.

Before creating a box – here are three habits that will get you the better outcomes and save some printing costs:

  1. Dedicate 5 minutes at meetings: Start every meeting with everyone sharing a star performer from the week, with the action plan being “how did you recognize them”.
  2. Regular ‘listening’ time for leaders / Also known as one on ones: Sometimes great reminders come from extreme cases.  There is a study shared in the book SWAY (p. 120) about what factors influenced how convicted felons felt about the judicial process.  In the end, it came down to one variable (and it was NOT whether they were found guilty):  How much time had their lawyer spent with them.  People feel better about their jobs, their companies, etc. when leaders spend time with them.
  3. Dedicated visibility time: Plug 30 minutes into your schedule Monday am and Friday pm (or even after weekly/monthly meetings) to just walk around armed with simple questions like:  What’s occupying your mind this week?  What was a high point for this week/weekend?  What do you wish had happened differently?

None of these fit into a box, but they are habits that, when done over time, will make a measurable difference in how people feel and will keep you (the leader) better connected to the business.



Introversion (TED video) and trUYou

At the most recent TED conference in California there was a great presentation about introversion by Susan Cain, who recently published a book on the topic.  It has been watched 1 million+ times already and is a good message.  The title is The Power of Introverts.

I preach talent management as being a conversation, and I like this video because understanding our tendency to think more vs talk is important.  Having a conversation means two people showing up and talking/listening in equal parts.  Susan also makes the distinction that introverts can do public speaking (after all, she is presenting), but it is an activity that taps her energy stores, not fills them.  Her power is in thinking problems through by listening to others share their expertise, researching, and drawing on her own experience.  A great gift for a team, but often hard to tap into.

Here is my add-on to the video:

  • For Introverts – Speak up.  The world, your company, the planning for your neighborhood party will go on without you because you are surrounded by people that have a more natural style to talk and influence.  It is not easy, but with the world moving faster, you are at risk of being marginalized more now than 10 years ago because your leaders/peers have more noise in their lives.  Whispers do not cut it anymore – and a tweet, text, or email is too often just a whisper.
  • For leaders of introverts – How hard have you tried to listen?  To set them(introverts) up to be successful?  At any point in team discussions do you stop the free for all and just go around the room and give everyone 45 seconds of input?  Do you meet one on one with everyone regularly so listening is a habit?  Does your challenge (speak up) come with encouragement and purposeful moves to help them step out?

This is not the only thing a person needs to know about themselves, but it is a good start because how we communicate (or not) is one big measure the world will use to measure us.  Here is a link to a tool I use called my trUYou model. It is a guide for what we need to know about us.  Introversion/extroversion is one piece to us, but it is pretty important.

Want to know how introverted or extroverted you are?  Try this free Jung Typology Test (basically the same as the Myers-Briggs).

What does my leader do . . .

A leader I respect recently shared a frustration – “My people don’t think I do anything.”  In the ensuing conversation we explored the silent things they do to help their team stay focused, and different ways to help them see the investment being made in their success.  Leadership behind closed doors too often leads to communication gaps that are filled with opinions.

I am in the middle of a family project to document some letters my Grandpa received during his service in Europe during WWI as a leader of an artillery battery.  The follow letter (unedited by me) came addressed simply to the Commanding Officer, Battery A. 123rd Field Artillery.  It is dated December 16th, 1918 – Delton, Michigan.

Dear Sir,

Will you please inform about Private Henry C. Akers.  The report came in to Carthage, Ill that Henry and his brother was both killed and his brother is not, and I haven’t heard from Henry since the 28 of July 1918 and I am so worry over him.  Will you please be so kind and look it up as soon as possible and let me know.  I wrote the war department at Washington D.C. and they said no report of any kind of mishap had reach thems but theys refer me to write to you.

Will you please tell me if the Battery A 123 F.A. is going to come across to U.S.A soon or when?  Will thank you ever so much for your trouble.

Florence M – ,  Delton, Michigan

My guess is this an example of a  ‘Do things as assigned’ activity from the job description of a leader.  I don’t know my Grandpa’s response, but based on my time with him I am sure he dealt with it quickly and without a lot of fanfare.  This 94 year old letter is also a testament that leadership has not changed all that much.  There are some things you just have to get involved in as a leader that the rest of the world cannot see, or are just to busy to really notice. 

Leaders – A good parallel to an open door policy is a transparency policy.  A seasoned leader once shared with me a habit where they shared their personal list of problems they were trying to solve at their monthly staff meeting.  They also asked for input/help from their team.  Suprisingly (or not) over time they often received some very creative ideas and help

 Followers – Why not ask your leader to share the top five three things that are consuming their mind/time right now? 

A great question to end your week (or your meeting)

It was a situation I had been in many times before.  Presenting to a group (this being a group of students at Grand Valley State University) and enjoying the interaction.  I was talking about my business/journey, talent management, and connecting back to their topics of diversity and ethics.  I did what every speaker does during a session, I paused and asked “Are there any questions?”.  Quickly a hand shot up in the back from a student who had been engaged all night.  Then he changed my week with one question:

“Through all of your startup, What are you most proud of?” 

Know that my week had not started well, and I had been second guessing this commitment to speak.  My mind quickly went to the faces of a team I had just been talking with that were bringing a different level of energy to their leadership.  I thought of a friend who had recently shared he was adding a one on one with his regimen and using my scorecard.  I thought of the energy my family had put into helping me get started.  I am not sure what I shared, but it was only a portion of the great thoughts that entered my head.

The trajectory of my week changed at that moment.

I love this question.  It makes people think of successes, of relationships they cherish, and of things in their lives that went right.

Try this at a meeting or offsite somtime with your team.  I have even seen it done where people are asked before to bring in an artifact (picture, items, etc.) that identifies something they are proud of.  It will lead to smiles and intimate knowledge of what makes people tick. 

So as you end your week, take a couple of minutes to ponder and answer the question “What am I most proud of?”

Onboarding Equation . . and 4 Ways to Influence it

I am reading a book called Emotional Equations by Chip Conley.  As a recovering engineer, I am still attracted to simple ways to understand a complex event – and for anyone who has spent time in a science class, that is what an equation represents.

So here is an equation:  Disappointment = Expectations – Reality

The fundamental event of hiring and effectively onboarding a new person is captured in this equation.  It is no wonder that 40% of leaders from outside organizations fail within 18 months (Watkins – The First 90 Days).  We all have stories of experiencing or observing the moment when the This is not what I signed up for panic hits.

A key part of managing talent coming into your organization or transitioning into a new role is managing this equation.  Here are two ways to better manage this equation for new people:

  1. Name it in orientation:  EVERYONE will feel this at some point, so openly talk about it and have a few people share when it happened for them AND how they worked through it.  (great reason to have a panel discussion of newer employees at some point)
  2. Make connections for them Day 1 so they do not feel alone:  Assign someone in the department or another department as a mentor and guide (someone who can empathize with this person).  It takes 6-12 months to become comfortable/productive in a new role, so this person should stick around (especially if the leader is not good at this).

For a person transitioning into a new role:

  1. Create a plan for success:  On day 1, use a development plan template to talk about why they got the role (their talents/successes), what success looks like, and what they need to be successful.  This provides the individual with a target, some encouragement, and a framework for revisiting the how is it going question and make adjustments as necessary.
  2. Assign a friend/mentor:  For individual contributors or managers give them a mentor (or the leader should do weekly one on ones for 6 months).  For an executive get them a coach.  The ROI for a coach is in avoiding the cost of a bad transition (team turnover, mismanaged budget, etc.).  It will pay for itself, and there is plenty of research to back that up.

Talent management is about great conversations.  Talking about this equation is a great conversation for a person in transition.