5 Habits To Build a Trust Savings Account

Lots is made about telling the truth.  As a parent of four children I vividly remember several occassions using the parent-ism “We are not leaving this room until someone tells me who . . . . . .  “.  It is amazing what can happen and nobody remembers how or why.  Maybe a pick your battles posting should be in the queue somewhere. 🙂

People want leaders to tell them the truth.  In this economic downturn I have been impressed by the many stories from clients and friends on the transparency moments that leaders have had with their people. 

The lesson we teach our children is the energy it takes and the damage it does to others when we keep a lie (or half truth) going.  As adults, this lesson does not leave us.  But there are times when we have to be evasive or withhold the truth.  Here are a couple examples:

  • Sale of a business / Negotiation of a purchase:  When a legal non-disclosure is in place we have to keep things secret.
  • Letting someone go because of bad behavior/poor performance – Call it professional courtesy, but we don’t always air dirty laundry and allow people to leave for better opportunities or personal reasons.

Dave Ramsey preaches an emergency fund in case we have an unforseen event and we do not want to overdraft our account.  Think of telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth as a deposit into a Trust Savings Account.  Here is the complexity, every person on our team has  separate account, and will add to it and withdraw at different rates. 

Here are 5 habits that help maximize money going into the truth emergency fund, and minimize overdrafts:

  1. Know the needs of your people around truth.  Some want straight talk, others want more one one on discussions, and still others want to know early.  The Birkman Method does a great job revealing these individual needs.
  2. If you are often out of the office – set aside time (Fri pm, Mon am) when people know you will be around to answer questions.  Make a habit to ask people What are you hearing?.
  3. Allow all your direct reports to see your schedule and add meetings if needed.
  4. Coach your leadership team to tell the same story you are telling and adopt the same habits.
  5. NEVER – roll out a big change to the organization without first telling your leaders and equipping them to tell the truth when asked all of the What?  Why? How? What about? questions.  Always have them follow-up with one on one conversations within 24 hours, especially when jobs are affected.

I know everyone has a story around this topic.  Anything to add to the list?

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?

Talent – What your CEO is reading today

I shared with a group of human resources leaders last week my trick for finding out what others think about the terms I like to use.  Are you ready for some brilliance?  Here it is . . . . . . . I Google it.  Sometimes the clearest answers are right in front of us.  My aha . . . .  moment came as I prepared to talk to HR leaders from Wisconsin about talent management.  I Googled the term Talent Management Michigan, the top five hits were sites related to managing actors and models.

Today(10/24/2011) you have an opportunity to get a sense for what your CEO is hearing about talent management because there is a special section in the Wall Street Journal called Leadership: Human Resources.  One of the reasons I had an aha . . .  – there is no headline has the word Talent in it. (a good reminder for us as HR leaders that we sometimes speak a different language).  It is a great read and offers an opinion on the talent shortage that made me go hmmm . . .   . The opinion is around whether we have a talent shortage or are we scoping jobs to big and paying too little for people to do the jobs?  Hmmm . . . .

Two things to do with this:

1.  Use it as a conversation starter.  Is there anything in the article that addresses a problem you know a leader is facing?  Pass the article on and offer to sit down to problem solve with them.

2.   Pass it on to a Senior Leader in your group.  Leaders love to be equipped to prepared for tough questions from peers or in a position to drive tough discussions.  You have heard me talk about followership – it is a good follower practice to make sure leaders see things their peers will likely be talking/asking about.

Wisconsin SHRM 2011: My presentations

As promised to those who attended, below are the links to the presentations I gave at the 2011 Wisconsin SHRM conference.  As I reflect back on the questions and the conversations around each topic, I am especially drawn to the feeling around talent management that their needs to be more top down practicing of these habits.  The economic environment is Wisconsin is comparable to Michigan because of what has happened to manufacturing, and yet imagine the untapped potential of the people who are working that DO NOT have development plans.   In my resilience presentation a majority of the attendees were worried about the commitment and attitude of a workforce that is pretty battered.  At the core of talent management is a conversation to build/rebuild trust and invite people to start looking towards a better future.  It is important AND it does not have to be expensive.  Remember that I detest expensive initiative!  🙂

Look for trUTips #15 to talk about how to create a great development plan – no matter what your performance evaluation looks like.

I made the 2011 SHRM WI Promotional video!

My Wisconsin SHRM Talent Scorecard presentation:  http://www.thetrugroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Talent-Scorecard-WI-Final.pdf

My Wisconsin SHRM Resilience presentation:  http://www.thetrugroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Resilience-Wisconsin-Final.pdf

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.

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.

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

I can’t afford leadership training right now . . . what does that mean?

I see a great trend happening, organizations starting to get back to the routine of developing leaders – both current and future.  It is good for people and for leaders.  It is a nice trend.

My only concern is the mindset that focus = money in the minds of many leaders.  I know real priorities receive budget and headcount, but let me offer some competing thoughts.

  • Importance = time
  • Importance = presence

Let me explain.

Your best people are not looking for more compensation or awards, they just want new challenges, engaged teammates, and a chance to do what they love.  Uncertain of my compensation claim?  Read Drive by Daniel Pink or chapter 7 in Sway by Ori/Rom Brafman. Not buying into what high potentials need?  Read trU Tips #2 that I published.

Instead of starting with a pay per use leadership program or hiring a Director of Talent Management, step back and ask yourself “Are we doing the basic things that will drive the right development conversations regardless of the economy?”  Here is a guide for your self assessment. 

Developing your leaders for today and tomorrow is not about spending money, it is about investing time into:

  • Conversations that let people know they matter
  • Conversations that help you understand what people want /need
  • Conversations that help create a target for people to strive for
  • Conversations that let people know that you are watching, willing to help, AND that you care about their success

Great talent management is about investing time. 

Budget does not replace time.  If you can only do one – – – start with time.

People are not like plants – how to treat them like people

Plants are not People

I am reminded this time of year of a basic truth in most of us – we like to put our energy into fixing things. I have a vegetable garden, and 5 weeks ago I put seeds into pots and started to grow them indoors. Each morning I look at the progress represented by 22 little pots and only about 5 showing signs of life. Yes, I am not a very good gardener. I only wish the bare pots would tell me what they need.

How does this relate to leadership? Often I go into organizations with the goal of helping a leader look at their team, have a conversation around team potential vs business strategy, help the team members think about their own development needs to meet the strategy, and then leave them with action items/goals to help them successfully hit the targets in the plan. In every team are people that are not growing. Leaders tend to worry about these people and put some direct energy (talking) and lots of indirect energy(worry, frustration) into fixing them.

The traditional solution? Gallup once made the statement “Put most of your energy into your best people”, which also can sound like the GE mantra of ‘cut your bottom 10%”. These statements sell books but implementing is risky and hard for leaders, people, and cultures.

The reality . . . .

Plants are not like people. Plants cannot tell you what they need more of to grow.

People are not plants, they can tell you what they need to be successful if they trust you AND if you ask.

 

The solution . . .

What if in your one on one conversations and performance conversations you asked?  Recently I helped a leader of a small organization implement a performance evaluation that focused on asking – and I call that a performance conversation. He was amazed at what he heard from his people.

People are not like plants, so lets stop treating them like plants . . . . and to some people, stop acting like a plant and blaming the gardener.

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: