Joy: Why It Should Matter to the CEO

I just finished reading Born To Run by Christopher McDougall.  I won’t give you a whole book report, but one part of the story is etched in my brain.  The story is based around a tribe in Mexico called the Tarahumara and their amazing ability to run many miles (50 to 100 plus) at a time.  Legendary running coach Joe Vigil was watching two Tarahumara runners late in a 100 mile race they would eventually win, and it struck him that they were smiling.  Vigil had spent 50 years studying runners and attempting to define the physiological keys that would make people faster, only to discover the last piece to the puzzle for him was character.  As it is stated in the book “Vigil’s notion of character wasn’t toughness.  It was compassion.  Kindness. Love.”  The Tarahumara had never forgotten their love of running, and the joy they felt oozed out of them even after 50+ miles.

Joy is the  key ingredient in opening our hearts, minds, and bodies up for a whole new level of performance.  In Daniel Pink’s book A Whole New Mind he makes a case for the presence of play and laughter in the workplace and the impact it has on innovation and engagement.  What happens when we lack joy in our work? Dr. Stuart Brown wrote in his book Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul that younger people suffer the same “crisis of the soul that comes from pouring every moment of your time and every ounce of your being into other’ expectations.”

As a leader, take a pulse of your organization by walking around.  Are people smiling?  Do they approach you to say hello or do they wait for you to say it?  Watch people in your lobby being greeted.  Is there any warmth?  At 5pm, how many cars are left in the parking lot?  How often do you hear laughter?  When you ask the question Why do you work? what kinds of answers do you hear?  How would you answer that question?

Imagine what a day at work would be like if we celebrated just being there.  What if we brought a little of the Tarahumara to work.  Imagine the difference it would make in everything that we do.  The best news for the bottom line – joy is free.  The best news for everyone – joy is a personal choice.

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:

B players aren’t all coasting – Some are waiting. So lead . . . (video)

Here are some extra thoughts on how to use your existing time and performance evaluation process to get your B players more engaged.  B players are not necessarily coasting or hiding, many are waiting.  Waiting for someone to ask them to help.  Waiting for someone to give them some feedback, to say it is okay to not want a promotion, and to recognize they have lots of value to the organization.

Do NOT hide behind the performance evaluation form or process as being a barrier to having a great conversation with your people.  It is NOT the form.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kW8m9b5keM]

B players have lots of value – How to tap into it

*this is an excerpt from a frequent publication by The trU Group called trU Tips.  To view past topics click here.

What I’m hearing

A friend and mentor sent me this question “You’ve given advice on how to handle the strongest and weakest performers on a team, but what about the B players?”

What it means

First, let’s quickly define who the B players are: they’re the people who get the work done, have limited aspirations or potential to move higher in the organization, and likely have a nickname around an adjective like “Steady Eddy,” “Reliable Ruth” or “Dependable Dave.” Having these people around is priceless yet frustrating because they do their jobs but often aren’t looking for more work.

We hide people in this category, so just saying “B player” is often misleading. A client described a person on his team who was solid, knowledgeable and dependable — and everyone in the office was afraid of her (including her boss) because she was also domineering and abrasive. Yet she was a solid performer in his eyes. We HIDE too many people in the “B” area because they are “valuable” or “knowledgeable,” all while creating fear in peers and negatively impacting the team. So I would expand the definition of “B player” into three categories:

  • B-plus: Content in their current roles but willing to share their vast knowledge to mentor new people. They contribute to teams looking to innovate and optimize what work is being done.
  • B: Solid contributors who are not interested in or capable of growing others at this point in their careers. They generally build positive relationships with teammates and consistently get things done.
  • B-minus: Solid to exceptional contributors who get the work done but build few, if any, positive relationships with people around them. They do not cultivate expertise in the group, but give direction instead.

What you should do

People need to hear the truth, and the performance evaluation process is the perfect place to challenge B players — who likely comprise 50 to 60 percent of your workforce — but in a different way than you would A or C players. Don’t rewrite your form, but include the following items as post-it addendums if needed:

  1. Three to five things you see them doing extremely well.
  2. A list of adjectives that come to mind when thinking about what they accomplish but how they accomplish it. Include words that describe how others perceive them.
  3. One request, in the form of a goal, that they could accomplish that would help the overall strength of the team —mentoring, permanently fixing a process, cultivating a key customer relationship, etc.

That third item can provide you with an opportunity to divide your B players up a little and challenge them to move the team forward.

B and B-plus players have a place on the team. They have ideas, and may respond to challenges in a way that will surprise you. Those who fall into the B-minus category have to be put on notice, and as the leader you need to be bold enough to have that conversation.

Want to hear more?  View the video supplement on YouTube.

Mastery = 10,000 hours! Part 2 of 3

It is a big number.  10,000 hours translates into 5 years of doing something BEFORE you can be considered to have attained Mastery.  So where did this number come from and what does it mean to people trying to attain it and leaders who are trying to grow and retain people who have this?

First question – Where did this number come from? In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers he explores success and presents what he has found to be common themes to those who have achieved it.  One of his findings was that success might look overnight or based on talent, but a common theme is preparation (aka.  hours of work). He references a study of young musicians that examined who achieved the highest level of achievement vs those who became good.  The difference between average, above average, and excellence?  Hours of practice.  In the end, the number was 10,000 hours.  He also presented other anecdotal evidence of famous athletes, musicians, and business icons.  This is not his only point to success, but it is a significant one.

This 5 year number is one that I have also heard shared.  Studies have been done in the area of nursing that support that the length of time for a nurse to achieve the status of a clinical expert in a particular area is 5 years.  So if it is important for a nursing supervisor to also be a clinical expert, promoting them at 2 years or 3 years is a risk, especially if their team needs them to be an expert.  Mastery is about preparation.

Second question – What does it mean to people trying to attain Mastery and leaders who are trying to grow and retain  people who have this? Think about our society – microwaves, fast food, IM(now Twitter), Facebook (instant updates of life vs yearly Christmas cards), etc.  We do not like to wait for things.  When we do wait we do not wait very long.  So this number 10,000 hours seems like a looonnnnng time.

I was presenting to a group of nursing leaders one time and I said something that clicked with them because everyone went for their pencils and wrote it down.  I said “When you think about career development, imagine a crock pot, not a microwave.” I was shocked at their response, but this visual made them realize the time needed to grow expertise AND the commitment that it takes from all to achieve it.  Helping people achieve this takes a plan AND a commitment from a leader to revisit it and revise it every 6 – 12 months.

So what can be done with this number?   First, as an individual pick an area you want to achieve Mastery in and get to work.  A job, special projects, volunteering, reading each week, or whatever other way you can find to accumulate hours doing and learning.   Secondly, as a leader make a habit of asking questions of your people.

  • What is an area that you want to become an expert in?
  • What things do you want to learn or do over the next year?
  • How are you progressing  on the development goals we set for you last year?
  • Where do you want to be in 5 years?
  • 

Mastery – A great goal and a significant goal!  Just don’t get frightened by the number.  Remember, when you are doing what you love time passes quickly.