Followership: Moving/Leading up the model

We make models to define an idea – so that it can be discussed, challenged, shreaded, and refined.  I call this learning.

Yesterday I had a chance to talk through the Five Levels of Followership with a team and here are my highlights: (here is a link to my original post defining the idea)

1. “I see myself bouncing between levels 2, 3, 4, and sometimes 5 as a follower.  To do my job well requires me to work in different ways.”

2.  What does it take for a leader to help someone move from:

  • Level 1 – level 2:  Explain the tasks/success measures for the role and/or deliver the message that their presence is costing the team more than they are contributing.
  • Level 2 – Level 3:  Recognize the great doing / Challenge to look for moments to create fans with their energy and attitude.
  • Level 3 – Level 4:  Ask occassionally “What do you see that needs to be fixed/streamlined?  What would make your job or our jobs easier?”
  • Level 4 – Level 5:  Hmmm . . . . . .  . (no answer to this – you have one?)

3.  What does it take from the perspective of a follower to move from:

  • Level 1 – level 2:  An individual making the choice to approach their work differently.
  • Level 2 – Level 3:  An individual making an internal shift from duty to passion for their work and the impact they can make.
  • Level 3 – Level 4:  Thinking and experience in doing a task and knowing how it works today – then asking “What is possible here that would be better?”
  • Level 4 – Level 5:  Asking “What if?” at a higher level.   Knowing the vision for the group and being able to see a shift needed to move there.

It is a great discussion to get leaders and followers in a room to talk about what real teamwork looks like.  Invariably, followers leave seeing their role with greater clarity(and ownership) and leaders recognize they have a role, but do not have to shoulder the whole burden for performance (ie.  it is okay to ask for help!)

I love this topic and I also love how this video captures it.  Take a look at this one from TEDx – and it might be a good way to kick off your next leadership meeting, followed by the questions:

  • What does this say about leadership?
  • What does this say about followership?
  • What challenges to we face as a team that this speaks to?

What the mirror says . . .

I spent the day with a leadership team recently that has a big job to do and is receiving limited resources, changing targets, and ever demanding customer expectations.  Sound familiar?  The goal is to help this team figure out how to survive/thrive over the next 18 months despite the uncertainty of the environment they operate in. What is in the mirror

We used the Birkman Method, which is the most effective tool I have found to help teams in this discussion because it measures our Usual Working Style (what people see under normal circumstances), what our Needs are (often different than how we act), and it names the stress behaviors that result if our needs are not being met.  The A-HA moment for the team came when most ended up in the stress behavior of hyper-task focus when the pressure really hit (ie.  needs not being met). 

It is not uncommon for an individual leader to look at a chart like this and make the statement – “I can handle lots of stress”.  That is true for most leaders, they push through challenges well and find ways to get to the other side.  But what about the people these same leaders lead?  The second A-HA for this team was the feedback their teams had just given them on an employee survey.  One of the issues highlighted was understanding what their roles were and communication of what is happening.  Hmmm . . . .

Leadership is hard, and probably especially hard right now. Taking the time to look in the mirror at a time like this is even harder, because it takes resources (time/money) and we are bound to see something that will ask us to change.  Yet, teams that are successfully growing a business have something to celebrate.  Part of that celebration should be the question “What can we do to make the next 18 months easier (on our teams/self) and better.

It is good to take a quick look every now and then, remembering the talents that have come together to move the organization are good, and yet there still might be an easier way to go forward.

When are you/your team planning the next look in the mirror?

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

Words that make me go Hmmmm – Hold accountable

I read a letter to the editor in our local paper this morning that included the sentence . .

I urge parents of all children in the district to be activist parents and hold their public schools accountable for the quality of services their children are receiving.

Too often I see the word accountable held up as an initiative that is, in itself, the way to fix a business.  I then look for what words appear around it to suggest what else needs to be happening to build this accountability.  In this sentence you will see the words activist / hold / quality.  So what do you think will be the next step in the minds of the people reading this sentence?

Accountability is important in business, performance, and life – but the words around it are probably more important.

I will do more for you if I respect you and feel your commitment to helping me be successful.  I will perform better for you if I get a chance to share my thoughts or if I am invited to a team to solve a problem together.  Great teams have accountability, but they also have trust, a shared sense of commitment, and the willingness to listen, to forgive, and to fix. 

As a coach, clients will often express the accountability they feel knowing that I will ask the question “What has happened with your commitments since the last time we talked?”, which is good.  What I remind them is that there is lots of learning to happen in commitments that do not get done, and rather than feel guilty and view a coach as the accountability police, see me as a partner to explore, understand, and to solve.  Great accountability also has a element of safety.

Feel free to use the word accountability as a leader, but I challenge you to examine the words around it first.

Nobody Behaves Well In The Corner

My business/mission is being a guide for people so they realize the excellence they were born to achieve and helping organizations achieve their business goals by aligning a people strategy behind them (and helping to build the strategy on occassion). In my experience walking in to unfamiliar territory, I have developed an ear for certain words. Here is a short list:

  • Crazy
  • Narcicist
  • Unreasonable
  • Abnormal
  • Wierd
  • Bipolar
  • Nuts

Get the idea? Sometimes I wonder how many people truly have a mental disorder, because it can feel like there is an epidemic in certain corporate settings. So I googled What percent of adults have a mental disorder?. This brought me to a site that shared the information that in any one year 28-30% of adults experience mental or addictive disorder. Of that group, only 5.4% have a serious disorder that is likely to last beyond a year.

Yesterday a friend shared with me the quote Nobody behaves well in the corner.  Another way I say it is that stress does things to people that often are not very positive.  Dr. Roger Birkman spent decades perfecting his own assessment along these lines that has become the Birkman Method.  This is a tool I use to help people name the source of their stress and the resulting behavior.  The Birkman Method provides input on both usual behavior (what people see), needs(mostly hidden, but identify preferred environment; clarify motivational needs, highlight inner strengths), and stress behavior(counter productive, frustrated actions).  Here is an example of what these sound like:

Area:  Relating one on one with others:

  • Usual Behavior:  Candid and matter-of-fact, minimal self-conscious feelings, outspoken and unevasive, at ease with superiors.
  • Needs:  Frank and direct relationships, genuine praise free of sentiment, direct/straight forward corrections and instructions, candor from superiors and associates
  • Stress Behavior (happens when needs are not met):  Inconsiderate in personal relationships, downplays the importance of personal needs of others, uncomfortable when relationships require sensitive understanding

Any of these sound familiar?  When we back people into a corner (low resources, threat of job loss, inconsiderate teammates, no communication, lots of long hours) some strange behavior often results.  The Birkman Method has been a great tool for leaders I work with to help them see the sources of their stress and deal with it.

There are some people that genuinely need professional help to address things they are feeling.  But beware of labeling without first understanding.  If someone is in a corner, that COULD BE the reason for their behavior.

Lifeguards for Leaders: Who is watching?

I am a father of four.  With a sixteen year-old driver as part of that mix I sometimes think I have seen it all, but I am still hit by things that make me go Hmmmmm.  Here is one of those moments . . . . .

Who is watching your new leaders or new teams?

At swimming lessons for my 8 year old I looked down and saw 30+ kids, 5 instructors, and in the middle a lone lifeguard watching everything.  I saw the need for the lifeguard, but did not recall them being present for past lessons.  Later I asked my wife about it because one of her summer jobs was being a lifeguard, and sometimes she has proven more observant than me. 🙂   Her response – There is always a lifeguard because when you are teaching it is difficult to watch all the kids all the time.  There is real risk in not watching young children near water, when being 99% safe is not enough because the 1% has a name, parents, friends, and a beating heart. 

My mission is to be a guide for others so they realize the excellence they were born to achieve, and in living that mission I often engage with and worry about the safety of new leaders and teams.  My world is growth organizations and leaders/teams in transition, and I see the real risk in not having a lifeguard around to monitor safety/progress in their pools.  Here are three ways organizations create lifeguards for leaders/teams:

  1. Mentors:  Assign mentors(not their boss) to meet frequently (1-2x a month) with new leaders to see how they are doing, watch the team during the transition for evidence of issues, and just provide support.
  2. Six month transition plans:  New leaders need to connect with their teams, build the trust of their teams, and get assignments where they can generate wins for themselves/their team.   Formal written plans helps make this happen.
  3. Leadership peer groups: Some call it Leadership Orientation or New Leader Training.  Fortune 500 companies can afford a program, but the main benefit of these programs is to create a peer support network.  Peer support can happen with no impact on the income statment, so any organization can afford it. 

One myth . . . Our human resources leader is our lifeguard: You mean the HR leader who has to respond to daily people emergencies, do it now calls from the CEO, worry about legal compliance, and answer frequent questions about benefits/payroll/etc?  Reality check . . . Do you want your lifeguard watching the pool 70% of the time?

Lots has been written about leadership transitions.  Michael Watkins is an expert in leadership transitions and his research has determined 40% of leadership hires from outside of a company fail within 18 months.  Brad Smart is an expert in hiring and his research suggests that it takes organizations 18 months to let go of a bad leadership hire at the cost of 14.6x their base salary. 

A 40% failure rate is a lot of drownings.  I think organizations need to do a better job having lifeguards around. 

  • How safe is your pool for new leaders / teams? 
  • Who is your lifeguard?

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.

My Lessons from the The Go-Giver – and why Millenials are way ahead . . .

I do not do a lot of book reviews in this blog, but I just completed The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann.  First, let me say that I resisted reading this book until three different people that I highly respect recommended it.  The following entry was inspired by the thoughts this book generated.

Why did I start a business?  How do I measure my success?  

When hearing a story of success we often focus on the opportunity presented to make money.  Sometimes a genius (Bill Gates, Steve Jobs) or sometimes an ordinary person (look at the people around your town) see an opportunity to fill a need in the market and turn it into successful business.  We call them entrepreneurs.  In our history as a country, many of our super wealthy focused solely on building their wealth, and became socially concious later in their lives when the “What is my legacy?” question started swirling in their mind.  We should celebrate their conversion, but recognize that they did not start their business with that as a priority.  The Go-Giver fundamentally challenges the notion that giving comes after success.

The Go-Giver generated two questions for me that have been rolling around in my head. 

  • Who (or whom) do you serve?
  • How do you/will you measure success?

I think of some young entrepreneurs I have met recently and they don’t necessarily think of these questions because their answers are already woven into the fabric of their life and business.

For anyone over 35ish, remember there is a generation behind us that has these questions as part of their fabric.  They have experienced  the fragile nature of life (9/11), the uncertainty of employment (2 major economic downturns in 10 years), and the ability to build meaningful relationships with a keyboard (internet).    I wonder how a millenial would view this book?

Worth the read, but don’t do it alone.  Find a partner, with the goal of writing two question that it generates for you.  Then spend your time together trying to answer them.

Great Teams are Like Great Family Vacations

I just returned from a two week family vacation spanning 3940 miles and 9 states – all in a car.  It was great! . . but not all the time.  Somewhere in the drive across one of our beautiful, but LONG western states it hit me what a great family/team I was traveling with.  It also hit me that successful family vacations and successful teams have lots of similarities.  Here are a few: 

  1. Commitment to make the best of it – When the car starts it has begun and no amount of complaining changes it.  Great teams and families disagree.  Debate, complain, argue, maybe scream . . but when the car starts, it is time to make it work. 
  2. Something for everyone – Asking the question in the beginning What would you like to do? changes the journey.  When people get to do certain activities they want to do, it makes non-grumbling participation easier for other have to do activities. (for our kids have to do = museums)  This also helps with #1.
  3. Find tasks that fit talents – Everyone has something to contribute.  Older kids carry more.  Planners do research and put shopping lists together.  Everyone helps pack and unpack.  The youngest makes people laugh.  Everyone having a role ensures everyone is working together.
  4. Accept imperfection – Even the greatest leader will have an If I have to stop this car! moment.  Don’t let it define the event.  Followers acknowledge it and leaders apologize for it.  Both work to get beyond it.
  5. Create quiet time for engagement – Emails, texting, and all the other distractions are ways to escape.  Turn things off and focus on being together.  It changes things for the better.

There are probably a few more, but every like every vacation – every blog must have an end.

Want to practice leading a team this summer.  How about leading a vacation differently.