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.

A trap: Over Leading and Under Caring

I have seen several recent posts about leadership vs management.  Here is a link to one from Seth Godin .  They made me think.  First let me say that when I see this topic come up I roll my eyes, because most discussions seem to elevate the importance of leadership and the confining nature of management.   Here is my take . . .

It is important to be a leader.  Vision has to be cast, the rallying cry needs to be heard, and the organization needs to see relentless energy towards the goal.  But, the relationships that make your team really go are built when you manage.  Managing is about connecting to people one on one, knowing their struggles, understanding their needs, and being familiar with their lives(distractions/support) outside work.  One piece of evidence I point to is something a peer shared with me about executive onboarding.   Her business is built 100% around helping executives make successful transitions.  Part is to highlight/fix communication issues and help navigate the complexities of organizations.  But part is to just bring some of the ‘other’ things into the discussion like:   What is my true job description? and How prepared is my family for this change?.

We need to be careful about outsourcing managing.  Is it wise to spend $xx,xxx on a successful transition of a $xxx,xxx executive?  An ROI can be easily proven based on the leader’s impact on the income statement and the balance sheet. 

The hidden benefit of spending a little time as a manager/CEO gives you a glimpse into the person, not the leader.  This is where the relationships are built.

I think back to a ‘relationship/leadership’ session I lead one time with a CEO and leadership group.  The day after that session the CEO quietly asked the HR team to assemble a list of  family members for all the people on the team.  I celebrated the request, but was reminded that some of these people had worked for him for 3+ years.

My advice for leaders – Don’t forget to manage a little.

Post tomorrow – 3 Habits That Will Help Leaders Manage Well

Failure (continuing a thought from Seth Godin)

 Learning from a failure is critical. Connecting effort with failure at an emotional level is crippling. After all, we’ve already agreed you did your best.

Early in our careers, we’re encouraged to avoid failure, and one way we do that is by building up a set of emotions around failure, emotions we try to avoid, and emotions that we associate with the effort of people who fail. It turns out that this is precisely the opposite of the approach of people who end up succeeding.

See entire post from Seth Godin.

Great leaders make lots of mistakes.  They get the title GREAT LEADER because they push through the mistakes and get on with things.  In the end, they make more good/great decisions than bad ones.

I have learned over the years that many of these same leaders had to grow through getting hung up on thinking about some of those bad decisions.  No one really accepts failure with no pain, some just dwell on it less.  In addition, too often their people are still pointing at the bad decision and going “See!” – but doing it secretly.

So how does a leader get through this?  One way is to process bad decisions openly with their team so everyone learns from those choices – including them.  It shows transparency, vulnerability, creates safety for other people to step forward, and teaches people to problem solve and push through.

When I see leaders saying I am sorry and leveraging their team to learn I stop and pay attention.  It takes a special leader to do that and a special follower to allow it.  I like being part of teams like that.

7 Key Numbers All Leaders Should Know

So you are a leader and you want to develop your people.  Here are 7 key numbers you need to know.

21 – The number of consecutive days of practice it takes to add (ie. change) a habit.  Personal change takes help, so don’t let people commit to major change without help.  If you are going to do it – this is where an executive coach or peer network is critical.  If you don’t believe it check out the Weight Watchers model – – it is tested! 

90 – The percent of learning that happens outside the classroom.  Do not ever say I cannot afford learning when I am in the room.  I will likely make a scene. 🙂

10,000 – The number of hours it takes to become an expert at something.  Excellence takes a sustained effort. 

70 – The percent of people that show up to a class without a clear learning objective.  Want to increase your ROI on classroom learning?  Make sure 100% of your people have development plans.  If your CFO challenges you on this give them my number and I will argue with them for free. 🙂

30 / 30 / 40 – The percent of time a performance evaluation should spend on the areas of past / current state / future as it relates to someone’s job. 

I love talking about these numbers with leaders BEFORE talking about what they need to develop themselves or before they commit to developing their teams.  I also share these with followers BEFORE they enter into a conversation with their leader, so they understand the commitment they need to make. 

Personal growth and development takes energy (some call it pain), but think of the payoff! 

If you see these numbers as barriers or a burden, maybe you are not ready to start or continue the journey. 

If you see opportunity in these numbers, enjoy the journey!

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?

Quick trU Tips: 4 Destructive Myths

I read a great blog posting today from Tony Schwartz on the HBR site around destructive myths that are too often norms with leaders.  Here are the highlights and a link to the actual post.  I have added links to some studies I have seen that support some of his assertions.

Tip for leaders:  This list might make for a good discussion with leadership teams or groups of high potentials.  Some seed questions might be:

  1. Do you agree or disagree?
  2. How do we see any of these in practice at our organization?
  3. Which one are you most guilty of? 
  4. Over the next month, which one are you going to focus on personally to make it go away?  What is your commitment/plan?

Four Destructive Myths Most Companies Still Live By

1.  Multitasking is critical in a world of infinite demand.

  • Here is a link to the Stanford study that challenges the assertion that multi-tasking is possible and a more effective way of working.  link

2.  A little bit of anxiety helps us perform better.

  • There is always an A-Ha moment when I review the Birkman Method results, and it is generally around the stress behaviors that result when needs are not met.  Anxiety often = Stress, and leading from a point of stress can be very destructive on others / organizations.

3.  Creativity is genetically inherited, and it’s impossible to teach.

4.   The best way to get more work done is to work longer hours.

  • Be careful taking this article into your CEO’s office and demanding a nap room. 🙂  There is some support for resting along the way vs just working long hours.  link

Here is a link to the full post on the Harvard Business Review website.  Check it out.

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.

Where Leaders Learn and 3 Ways To Make It Stick

Out there is your classroom.

I heard this line recently. Not from Ken Blanchard or Jim Collins, but a volunteer at a local nature center as they prepared a group of third graders for their walk  in the woods. Simple words, but a great lesson – especially for leaders.Our Leadership Forest

90% of learning happens outside of a classroom. Yet my feeling is that most leaders have not taken time to sit down and identify their needs and make a plan.  That feeling continues to be reinforced as leaders take my Talent Scorecard.  Based on feedback, less than half of all leadership teams have development plans for all their people.  Without the focus a development plan, I worry that too many learning opportunities for leaders are being missed.

Here are 3 key habits for leaders in their journey to learn:

  1. Build a peer network. Whether it is pay per use like TEC, through your local  chamber, or just with a few key friends – this is a great place to share ideas and struggles. It is also a constant reminder that you are not alone in finding leading being hard.
  2. Build reflection time into your schedule: I can hear the calls now “I will not start a diary.” Taking 20 minutes a week to answer the following questions: What did I learn this week? How did I do with my commitment from last week? Where did I struggle? How can I make one struggle go away next week? Who can I get to help me?
  3. Every 18-24 months, find some help: Most leaders are great at hitting a targt once it is targeted. Having a 360 where input from all of those around you on how you are leading will help paint that target. With a solid development plan in place, any investment in coaching or classroom learning will have a high probability of paying off. (I just read a great posting from a friend, Mary Jo Asmus, on this. Here is the link.)

Out there is your classroom.  Great words for leaders to live by.

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?