Crack the Leadership Code: Lead with Confidence, Inspire Performance and Make a Difference

Hosted by Dr. Michelle Pizer

The 21-day event has just begun--and it is FREE!

Click to reserve your seat! <www.cracktheleadershipcode.com>

We hear all the time about the suffering of employees, but what about the silent suffering of leaders? The truth is, leadership can be lonely and we need a place to reflect and learn.

Thats why Im speaking at Dr. Michelle Pizers special summit, along with 20 other leadership experts. Dr. Michelle Pizer is an executive coach and organizational psychologist bringing credibility and compelling strategies to the idea that great leaders arent born - theyre bred.

Great leadership is a mindset. It’s not just about getting the job done; it’s about how you get it done. It’s about humanizing the workplace.

Over the course of the 21 days of the summit, learn essential skills from conversational intelligence to finding your charisma and cultivating talent in today’s changing business environment.

No matter where you are in the hierarchy, you can turn your silent suffering into productive and dynamic leadership and your employees will thank you for it. That’s good news for the workplace – and good news for the bottom line.

Crack the secret code of leadership.

Click <www.cracktheleadershipcode.com> to register. 

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Nobody Follows A Tentative Person

I was standing at the meat counter at the local market and watched a leadership principle unfold before me: Nobody Follows a Tentative Person.

Normally, they have little slips of paper with numbers that make the process run smoothly: take your number and wait for it to be called. But they ran out of numbers. Which meant we had to figure out for ourselves who was next.

The nice part: people were concerned about not "butting" ahead.Meatcounter

The bad part: as a result, when the butcher yelled, "Next", there was a lot of shuffling, faux self-deprecation, and confusion. No meat was moving out of the display case.

Finally, someone said strongly, "I believe I am next" and, at the same time. stepped forward right in front of the butcher. Following her move, there was a similar response at the ensuing, "Next!"

The "Aw, Shucks Shuffle"

This struck me as being similar to what we often see in meetings and presentations. In an effort to not want to stand out or seem "pushy", meeting leaders or speakers do the "Aw, Shucks Shuffle".  The result: people in the room wait forever--uncomfortably--to get to the topical meat counter.

It's popular to want to seem like "one of the guys" and do the "we're all equal" thing.

We're not. When you are in front of a room you've been given the responsibility to lead the rest of the group.

So remember: no one follows a tentative person.

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Self-Awareness Matters

Organizations gain a lot more from leaders who take responsibility for what they know they don't know than from leaders who pretend to know everything.

Self Awareness Dog MirrorWhat recently occurred to me in an "aha" moment is this: self-awareness is one of the most valuable leadership competencies, yet it is one of the least discussed. In an effort to appear task-focused and "business-like," organizational feedback often gravitates toward hard skills and competencies that are more easily measurable. 

Have You Thought About This?

People who don't know their strengths and weaknesses actually tend to overestimate themselves. Research literature and my own coaching experiences have shown that poor self-awareness leads to poor performance and, frequently, termination. 

We live in a highly competitive culture. I've watched more than a few leaders and leader wannabes try to appear as if they know everything all the time. They believe that if they don't, people will question and even challenge their capability, undermining their leadership effectiveness. In fact, the opposite is true. Whether you acknowledge your weaknesses or not, those around you still see them. The result: trying to hide a weakness actually magnifies it, leading to a perceived lack of integrity and, ultimately, trust. 

Knowing yourself helps you use your strengths better, develop where you can, and avoid or compensate for areas where you are unskilled or just plain unsuited. 

The simple truth: People who know themselves better do better.

 

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Changing Something? Start It Right

If you're about to change something, remember that it's your change.

You've thought about what you want to do--most likely for a long time. You've weighed the risks and benefits. You've visualized what things would look like if your new idea/project/improvement is implemented. You've even thought about at least some of the details. But most of all. . .

You are convinced of it's worth and you feel good about it.

Hey, I'm pumped up! Why isn't everybody else feeling good? 

When you introduce your new thing, you are at the end of your process. Everyone else is at the beginning. They can't get to where you are without you laying out your full process--including your own apprehensions.

50-reasons-not-to-change

What have you needed in the past to commit to someone else's new idea? Think about it and see if these match pretty closely

To maximize your chances of gaining commitment, be real and. . .

1. Tell people what you want to accomplish.
2. Tell them what led you to believe it's important to them and to you.
3. Tell them your own struggles along the way.
4. Tell them how long you've been thinking about it.
5. Tell them you are committed to it.
6. Tell them your plan for helping them be able to do "it."

Then give people a reasonable amount of time to think about it, question it, be uncomfortable with the newness of it, begin to accept it, and then be involved with how it will be  implemented.

How long will it take?

Depending upon the size of the change, the time line for building critical mass of acceptance and action will vary. Your relational behavior--physical presence, clarity, direction, ability to listen, and encouragement--will help determine  your success.

Remember that it's your idea. Do what it takes to help make it their idea. Well, that sounds manipulative. I hate manipulative.  Let's look at it this way: It's your idea. But ownership by others comes through being allowed to use one's own ideas for the implementation. After all, the people involved know best how their operations work.  So let other people develop and mold the "how to." Then provide a reasonable amount of time along with your support.

The outcome: you stand a great chance of other people making your idea even better in the process. Everybody gets a chance at creating something new.  Satisfaction and success follow.

Big win for all concerned.

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Tell The Truth About Talent

If you want to be the person who offers real value in a Talent Management discussion, then be the person who demands the truth about performance.

Organizations are all about power and equilibrium. Over time, "conventional wisdom"  creates the list of high potential candidates. Then, at "developmental discussion" time the same names often keep popping up, unquestioned.

Seek TruthPreparing for a keynote at a healthcare conference, I interviewed some CEO clients and their direct reports. The question: "What would make a manager or HR director a leader in your eyes?" The answer: "Ask the hard questions when a name is proposed for promotion or a new assignment." 

The execs shared how easy it is to have someone perform well in one assignment, then have that single success create a "career aura." When it comes time for succession planning and development, no one really questions the totality of the individual's success.

The lesson for all of us: Ask for the evidence. Value rests with the one who helps uncover the truth about performance.

Your organization's future depends on it.

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Culture and Perception

Clear-thinking people everywhere acknowledge that it's easy for two people to see the same situation very differently. 

In a world where we increasingly work across time zones and cultures, this would have even greater meaning if perceptions were influenced by one's culture. While those of us who work globally may have experienced--and thought about-- the inherent reality of these perceptive differences, a few years ago Canadian and Japanese researchers  confirmed some very specific distinctions.

East westWhen East Doesn't Meet West

According to the study:

Researchers showed Japanese and North American participants images, each of which consisted of one center model and four background models in each image. The researchers manipulated the facial emotion (happy, angry, sad) in the center or background models and asked the participants to determine the dominant emotion of the center figure.

The outcome?

The majority of Japanese participants (72%) reported that their judgments of the center person's emotions were influenced by the emotions of the background figures, while most North Americans (also 72%) reported they were not influenced by the background figures at all.

Takahiko Masuda, a Psychology professor from the University of Alberta, noted:

"Our results demonstrate that when North Americans are trying to figure out how a person is feeling, they selectively focus on that particular person's facial expression, whereas Japanese consider the emotions of the other people in the situation."

This may be because Japanese attention is not concentrated on the individual, but includes everyone in the group, says Masuda.

Why Is This Important for Business?

1. It has always baffled me when I've watched Western corporations decide to indiscriminately import programs and processes that  work well in the East. Looking for a "quick fix" or a "magic pill" is a very North American business characteristic. At the same time, there is no reason not to examine theprinciples behind things that work elsewhere; then, figure out what might be applicable and how to make it work.

When corporate meeting rooms ring with the cry, "Perception is reality," then Masuda's study should be a caution that global reality can't be driven by local perceptions.

2. Even more specifically, definitions of "team" hugely influence what happens across cultures. North American "teams" are made up of individuals who see themselves as individuals participating in a group with a common purpose for some finite period of time (my observation and experience). Eastern team members honor the group as the important entity to be served, not as a vehicle to one's individual career aspirations.

While time and exposure have somewhat altered instances of the above in the minds of some, Masuda's study should be taken seriously by organizations involved in East-West business and collaboration.

This is one instance where perception can be grounded in reality--for the good of all concerned.

 

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Build Trust By Saying "No"

There's some twisted thinking going on about building trusting relationships. It goes like this:

"If I make people happy by not disagreeing with them they will like me more. Then they'll trust me more because I'm agreeable. Wow. Then when I need something or want something I'm more likely to get it. And if I'm a manager, that's good."

Right?

NoThink for a moment about the people--or person--you trust the most. Do they always say "yes? No. And that's why you trust them.

We trust people who have limits and beliefs, then care enough to state what they are. A relationship of "yeses" leaves us suspicious at best.

People don't have to be disagreeable in order to disagree. We often respect someone who tells us not only that (s)he sees things differently, but who then takes time to calmly explain "why." Taking time to explain "why" is a sign of respect toward us.

When you mean "yes" say "yes." When you mean "no" say "no." And share your reason.

In an era that seems to beg for leadership, become someone who people want to follow because they trust that you mean what you say. An honest "no" to others will get you an honest "yes" on their trust scale.

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Make A Difference With Differences

I've always been bothered by the seemingly well-intentioned books and workshops that fall under some variation of  "Managing Differences".

Have a look at the graphic and we'll continue. You  can click on it for a full-page view.

Deep Enough_Difference

Style vs. Substance

Style:

It would be safe to say that most "Differences" activities focus on issues of Style. These are attributes that we all see in each other and which become magnified when we try to work together in groups. It's a good idea to become aware of one's own inherent approach to these things and how others inherently go at them in a totally different way. I heartily endorse and, in my consulting business, practice that kind of understanding.

The Style issues reveal more about how you are. However, they're only the tip of the iceberg and that's not what sank the Titanic.

Substance:

 

These are the "Why" questions of life. They tell people who you are and what you believe and value, personally and professionally. It's the level of information needed to get past a surface relationship and into a real one.

 

Workplace rules and legislation exist to protect people from undue and ill-willed intrusion into some of these areas. At the same time, it's pretty tough to be "engaged" with other people if we don't know what they are really about. Taking time to find out hopes and expectations for teamwork; what each person values in interactions and task-performance; and some previous experiences that have led them to those concerns will go a long way toward deeper relational understanding without playing the "let's spill our guts on the meeting table" gambit. However, you might just find that each time you learn something more of significance about each other, the willingness to have even deeper relationships will increase.

Thank You For Your Service. We are Deporting You.

A number of years ago I accepted a 2-year consulting and training gig in the Middle East. It was suggested that we develop a "Time Management" program for the executives. This raised a flag for me since, culturally, the notion of "managing time" showed up nowhere in daily experiences, personal or professional; and, I don't believe in "Time Management." Time is finite and unchanging; one has to be clear about priorities and manage those.

If you are anywhere close to the training and development industry, you know that certain eras produce "must have" programs whose related buzzwords  go unquestioned. And so it was with Time Management. A program was developed and then advertised in the company curriculum newsletter. Which is when we showed up on the front page of the local newspaper with a headline that I won't fully repeat but which included the word Infidels (actually, a lot of companies would refer to their consultants that way) and other unflattering adjectives which had been attached to us by the Committee for the Preservation of Virtue and The Elimination of Vice.

Cut to the chase: Indeed, the notion of time management went much deeper than the typical "we move a bit more slowly in hot climates" type of thing. According to the Cleric who was the spokesperson, "managing" time was an affront to the god of their faith who was in control of all things related to time.

OK. We got it. No more Time Management. Instead, "Setting Priorities At Work" satisfied both parties' underlying beliefs. And we didn't have to pack up and head to the airport.

It wasn't a matter of Style, it was a matter of very deep Substance.

What needs to happen where you are to float your corporate iceberg a little higher in the water?

 

 

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Fear: Success or Failure?

Lets be honest:  All of us have doubts that block us from doing things. It's even socially acceptable to talk about some "fear of failure."

But "fear of success?"

Success-FailureIt's just as real. Being afraid to achieve the very things that we want.

How does it happen?

The Future/Change Factor: Personal

The good news is that when we experience this fear, it's because we're imagining a "better" future. We're actually thinking about change.

But we don't know what else that's going to bring. Since it's all about the future, we can imagine anything and everything about what might be. In the absence of factual information we fantasize, often negatively.

  • "I don't deserve it"
  • "If I achieve what I set out to do, everyone will know that I don't really deserve it"
  • "If I get it I won't be able to sustain it. Why try?"
  • "If I am successful, someone will come along who is better than me. Then, what will happen to me?"
  • "If I am successful, the nature and equilibrium of my relationships will change and I'll have to make new friends. My current friends would never accept a more successful (bigger, deeper, better, healthier) me."

(Feel free to list your own and others you've hear in the comments section).

What happens as a result of this kind of thinking?

  • Self-defeating thinking leads to self-defeating actions. Here are just a few:
  • Doing the wrong thing even when you know the right thing to do. That way, one can avoid having to deal with success.
  • Minimizing your accomplishments so they are ultimately negated. Then, you don't have to live up to being all that you really are.
  • Feeling guilty when you have a success. This creates a slowdown in momentum, hesitancy to act, and a self-fulfilling inability to move on to another success.

What you can do differently

Here are some suggestions that aren't complicated but do place the responsibility clearly on our personal shoulders:

1. Act in a way that will genuinely help build a sense of self: Find ways to encourage and acknowledge accomplishments of those around you.

2. Get an accountability partner--or maybe a couple. These people have your explicit permission to give you feedback--positive and negative --about how they are experiencing your progress. This is a reality check. Honest, factual, periodic conversations will help you replace the unknown negative fantasies with reality-based information.

3. When someone compliments you, respond with a firm "Thank you!" No false modesty or additional talk. Simply hear the compliments and let them begin to influence how you see yourself.

In the next post, we'll look at how this plays out at work and in organizational life. 

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Ten Life Lessons From Business

I'm not usually a list kind of guy-- and the title might lead one to expect thoughts on marketing, capital, or organization development. But business is part of life, not the other way around. So here are things that have emerged as important learnings for me over the past 30 years of organizational and consulting life:

%2210%22Ten Life Lessons From Business and Consulting

1. You can be in charge, but you're never in control.

2. If you have a Powerpoint slide with a graph whose curve always points upward, you're lying. Delete it.

3. If you look at people through your own eyes, you'll judge them for who you think they are. If you look at them through God's eyes, you'll see them for who they can become.

4. You can't be good at who you are until you stop trying to be all the things you are not.

5. Charge what you are worth. If you don't, you'll begin to resent your employer or client, even though you decided to take the assignment.

6. You can't control circumstances. You can control your response to them. Those who learn to respond thoughtfully and peacefully are the ones who are accorded trust and power.

7. Overt displays of position power show weakness.  Genuine humility shows power.

8. All groups aren't "teams". Often they are just collections of people who work really, really well together. Leave them alone.

9. No one can know how to be an effective leader until they've toiled as a dedicated follower.

10. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is knowledge applied with discernment.

What Are Your Business Life Lessons?

Do you have life lessons from business that you would like to add? By all means, click on the comment box and contribute what you've learned. You'll make an impact on other readers who are looking for real-life advice.

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Strengths, Weaknesses and Engagement

What engages you most, building on your talent or overcoming what you see as some "gap" in your inherent abilities?

Where do you get the bigger payoff?

I read through a Gallup Management Journal article that reflected these findings:

   1. If your manager primarily ignores you your chances of being actively disengaged are 40%

   2. If your manager focuses on your weaknesses your chances of being actively disengaged are 22%

   3. If you manager focuses on your strengths your chances of being actively disengaged are only 1%

Barbell-StrengthI think these factoids are powerful in their simplicity. They point the way to what managers and their people should be paying attention to if they're really concerned with being engaged.

First: Managers would be wise to initiate conversation and discussion with all of their people. Otherwise, the numbers show that they'll lose the active commitment of nearly half.

Note to employees: I know that you know that your manager is supposed to know this. Well, clearly they may not. If you aren't getting attention, initiate a conversation with your boss about how important it is to you. Some people, by nature, don't initiate those things. Then, if you find out that this isn't a department or organization where you can flourish, you have some  solid information for making career decisions. And if you do make a difference by initiating the discussion and see it continue, you've helped at least two people.

Second: Here is a way to start thinking about where to invest energy: Building Strengths or Overcoming Weaknesses.

I'll use a sales example:

Let's say you are a sales rep who has a track record of getting appointments and a presentation with 60% of the people on whom you call.  But  your  ability to close the sale is  25%.  You have been a sales rep at different companies for 18 years.(Stick with me, I've been a sales manager).

What you now know is that you're strength lies in building the initial relationship and being able to get in front of the client. No matter how hard you've worked at closing the sale, you've never gotten above 25%.

As your sales manager, I'd start thinking:

If I help you focus on getting appointments and presentations--and you improve just 10%--then I have someone who can get us in front of a prospective client 66% of the time. If I start focusing on your closing deficit and you manage to improve 10%, you still only get to a 27.5% success rate.

So I decide that I --or another "closer" with a high percentage of success--will come along to the presentations. You become the "star" door opener and we find another "star" closer.

I'd be crazy to spend my time and energy focusing on your weakness. It would be the same as telling Yo Yo Ma "You're a phenomenal musician. I know you are a cellist, but we're going to put all of our energy into making you a pianist."

Let's talk with people about about their "star power"--those talents we caught a glimpse of and that prompted us to hire them in the first place!

 

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Be A Mentor, Learn A Lot

I have an idea.

You and I should simply decide that we will be mentors to someone.Mentor

Why be a Mentor?

1. Most of us want some help in some area of our work but, for various reasons, don't ask for it. That means that there are people who could use some guidance.

2. Your experience navigating organizational life is valuable to those who don't yet have it.

3. Many corporate programs are struggling. There seems to be something unnatural when we try to institutionalize mentoring.

4. You'll learn more than the person you are helping. It's not a selfish thing, but a fact. When you have to teach, you have to prepare. And when you prepare, you learn a lot.

5. You'll have the satisfaction of contributing something positive to another person's life.

How do you get started?

Look around.

Who could use some organizational know-how? Approach them with the idea that you've got some experience and would enjoy sitting down once in a while for a "how are things going?" cup of coffee. Keep it informal and see where it goes. Let the relationships last as long--or as short--as is helpful.

This is a very simple, but practical, idea. It seems as if we are always looking for a good charity or a cause to support. Why not contribute to the development of a co-worker?

You'll even have a chance to see the results!

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Are You Coachable?

This topic emerged while I was preparing for a corporate client webinar for sales managers with the simple title,  "How To Coach with Confidence". A lot of good research plus personal experiences show that most managers want to coach--they just aren't sure of the most effective ways to do it. Or, what people are really expecting.

They also wonder about this:

Who Is Coachable?

The fact is, everyone isn't. Those who are uncoachable often think they have no performance issues and if there is one, believe everyone "out there" is the cause. In these cases, coaching isn't a very good option to produce positive results. It's kind of like one spouse dragging another to marriage counseling in the hope that the counselor can "fix" the partner. (Ever see how well that works?). The sticking point here is a mindset that doesn't allow someone to reflect on one's own behavior, create a desire to change it, or see their personal responsibility in a relationship. So, forcing someone into a coaching relationship isn't the best organizational solution for certain issues and individuals.

CoachingFive Characteristics Of Coachability

If you are considering coaching someone else or being coached, here are five attributes I've observed in people who successfully "own" their part of the coaching process. You might want to use this as a quick diagnostic tool.

1. Committed to Change. Individuals who don't think they're perfect, want to improve, exhibit responsibility for their lives, and are willing to step outside of their comfort zones are good candidates for a successful coaching relationship.

2. Open to information about themselves. Be willing and able to listen and hear constructive criticism without being defensive; then, synthesize their coach's suggestions with their own personal reflections on the issue.

3. Open about themselves. Willing to engage in topics that may be uncomfortable but are getting in the way of their professional development; talks about "what's really going on" so the coach can have a complete and honest picture of the total situation.

4. Appreciate New Perspectives. People who get excited about hearing someone else's take on a situation and figure out how to learn from it can really benefit from coaching.

5. Awareness about one's self and others. Coachable people already have at least a fair amount of awareness about themselves. Equally important, they use it to reflect on their behavior and how it impacts other people in the range of situations that come their way.

You may have some others that you use to gauge coachability. Take a moment to add your tips with a comment below.

 __________________________________

Important Update About Comments at All Things Workplace

I just invited comments in the post above and do hope that our readers--many with a lot of managerial experience--take time to weigh in. 

That said, I want to share some information regarding my own ability to engage in the give and take of commenting.

Since May my dear wife, Barb, has spent most of the time either hospitalized or receiving physical therapy at a rehab facility. She has Parkinson's Disease as well as other related neurological challenges. Obviously, my first priority is ensuring that Barb is safe and continually receiving the care and attention she needs, not the least of which is our relationship.

I still read all of the comments submitted. All Things Workplace has been a place, since 2006, where people can create conversations and interactive learning without my presence because of their own interest, experience, and enthusiasm about growth and development in organizational life. 

I'll continue posting regularly; please keep using the site as a place to exchange ideas, tips, and research. I will certainly add my two cents when I can and look forward to learning from everyone who graciously takes time to add to the topic at hand.

Warmest regards,

Steve

 

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Get The Most From Assessments

How is your organization using professional assessments?

Self-assessments, 360 degree feedback, assessment centers, and other similar tools are widely used in the workplace. What's your experience with them?

A lot of information is generated during the assessment process. I was reviewing some feedback that was coming in for a client and realized that there are lots of good uses for it. And we may not always be taking the best advantage of the information and the potential process. So. . .

Would Some of These Help You and Your Organization?

Online-assessmentAssessment feedback, by definition, is given to the subject of the assessment. That person is often asked to reflect  and decide what, if anything, to do with it. That's fine. Making changes is a choice. But here are some other ways to get the most from the data. You may be doing some are all of them now. If not, here are some thoughts that I hope you will find helpful:

1. In the case of 360 feedback, encourage the recipient (I'll use the word "Manager") to get together with the group that generated the data. It's an opportunity, at minimum, to acknowledge the time and energy they put into the activity.

Suggest that the Manager share the themes and take-aways from the data. 360 activities have some of the same dynamics as surveys. Participants want to know what happened with their input--and what will change as a result. This is a chance to do just that. And, if the Manager has misinterpreted something, the group can add clarity.

Yes, I know that the feedback is anonymous, blah blah. However, the act of inviting the respondents to come together also invites a deeper level of candor. And the fact of the matter is: These are people with whom the Manager has to work. Sooner or later it will be time to increase the honesty of conversations. This is an ideal framework in which to do that.

2. A Good Reason For A Good Conversation with "The Boss."

If you're the Manager, make an appointment with your boss. Tell what you think you want to do differently. Ask if the boss sees the data and your intended changes in the same way. Or differently. Here's the principle: Giving straight feedback is difficult for a lot, if not most, people. Including the boss. If you provide the data and ask for suggestions, you've done the work that your boss my find tough. It may be the most meaningful conversation the two of you have ever had.

3. A Good Reason For a Good Conversation with Your Reports.

If it's a 360, some or all of those folks provided feedback. I wouldn't call a departmental meeting and declare "Let's share." I would do one of these two:

  • Make it a point to informally share what you learned and are working on with each person. Do it in the course of normal conversation.
  • If you have a full group meeting coming up soon, take 10 minutes to talk about the assessment, the process, what you learned, what you are working on, and what kind of support you need to do those things. The payoff? You get help. You set the model that getting feedback and doing assessments is a valuable activity.

4. Self Assessments. Any or all of the above will be helpful to validate your self perception. We have ways of deceiving ourselves on both scales: positive and negative. Have the conversations that will give you an accurate picture.

Let's assume that you--or whoever is being assessed--will use the info for development. Here's the payoff you don't want to miss: the data provide an "objective" reason to have a "subjective" conversation. When you rally around the information, you are in an arena that's focused on performance factors and not necessarily you as a person. (That may be a result. Why not find out while you still have time to make changes?).

Most of all: an assessment offers  a legitimate reason to have the kind of conversation you've been missing.

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When Managers Ask "How?"

I'll tell you how. How to build individuals and teams. How to create the conditions for motivation and engagement.

Here it is: If you are a manager giving an assignment, be clear about the "what"--then let your people deliver on how it will be done.

How

Why? Because you hired them for the how. Think about it. You looked at resumes and then hired people who had something that seemed unique or different. When you tell people how to do their jobs, you take away their identity. We all want to contribute. And that contribution is in the form of the unique way--how--we do our jobs.

Action: Define and get commitment on what you want done--then let people use their unique talents to decide how to do it. They'll grow by using their own trial-and-error process to perfect their methodologies.

You'll be seen as the manager who knows how to develop and engage your team. Suddenly, you'll find people approaching you and asking "Hey, how do you do it?"

Photo Source: Pittsburgh Glass

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Decisions: Confused or Conflicted?

You and I go to meetings where the decision-making can seem unbelievably confusing.

And how about those decisions where we just can't seem to arrive at a peaceful conclusion?

After giving it some thought and observation, I think I've got a way to look at this that I hope will be helpful.

DecisionConfused or Conflicted?

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines the two this way:


Confused:
 being disordered or mixed up. 

The result is not being able to think at your usual speed.

Conflicted: (a feeling of) mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes, or external or internal demands.

The result is inaction, over-reaction, or both.

Yes, both are possible. We can react strongly to the conversation around the decision, but still not be able to make the decision.

Note: Each of these phenomena apply to individual as well as group decisions. Those self-conversations in our heads can get every bit as frustrating as the ones across the table!

What To Do?

1.Stop and diagnose.

(Please remember Steve's rule for everything: "Prognosis Without Diagnosis is Malpractice").

2. If the issue is Confusion, ask:

    a. Are we clear on the goal of the decision?

    b. Do we have the right information, and all of it--or as much as possible?

    c. Do we have the information organized in an understandable way?

    d. Does everyone involved have the same understanding of the goal and the information?

    e. Do we have a structured process for making our decision?

When you are clear that all of the above have been satisfied, then you're probably dealing with Conflicted-ness. (My spell checker is definitely conflicted trying to deal with that one).

3. If the issue is being Conflicted, then you'll probably experience silence or overt argument. You're  seeing the result of deeper issues--perhaps even at the personal values level--that need to be resolved. Whether silence or argument:

    a. Talk straight immediately. Say, "We've got a good understanding and a good process. But there's something else stopping us.What's really getting in the way?

    b. Don't speak again until someone offers a comment. After the first person responds, don't evaluate the remark. Thank them. Allow for everyone to respond without evaluation.

Principle: Until the real issue is named out loud, it will silently undermine the decision process. Once it's named and acknowledged, it is neutralized. When it comes out into the light of day, it can be seen clearly for what it is and discussed accurately. This is the most difficult thing for groups (and individuals) to deal with. Why? There's always the fear that "my issue" will be discounted, misunderstood, or seen as a blockage to "good teamwork."

Yet the person who offers the first bit of truth is the one who leads the group to a more satisfying decision.

    c. After 'b', you will know exactly how to proceed because the substantive issues will be out there in clear view. You'll see both an increase in both energy and collaboration.

Note: Organizations are usually pretty good at organizing. And even those of us with a more casual approach to life still have our own method of organizing it.

If you are really stuck on a decision, go with "Conflicted." In fact, I'll go out on a limb here and say that more often than not, we aren't confused. We usually know the right thing or best thing to do. It's facing up to our conflicting wants and needs that get in the way. "Having it all," whether in a business meeting or personal life, is a decision criterion that can only lead to internal conflict.

Thought for Today: Clear priorities offer the soundest foundation to decision making.

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Employee Retention: How About "Thanks!"?

Here are some thought-provoking statistics:

"Research by UK performance improvement consultants Maritz has found that almost one in five of us (19 per cent) have never been thanked for our efforts at work while more than a third only hear those two little words once or twice a year.

Perhaps not-entirely coincidentally, that's about the same proportion as another recent survey found have no loyalty towards the organisation they work for and couldn't care less about their job.

Yet at the other end of the spectrum, around a third of us do receive regular recognition and are thanked several times a week, something that (as more than eight out of 10 of those surveyed acknowledged) has a positive impact on their desire to remain with their employer."

Screen Shot 2013-09-03 at 11.29.05 AM

"Thank You" & the "War for Talent"

Check out the screen shot of my "the war for talent"  Google search: 138,000,000 results! Books, articles,  training programs, software systems, and academic research. Conferences are being held to ponder the meaning of talent acquisition and retention.

Let's assume for a minute that the statistics noted in the article are true. The third who receive thanks regularly feel positive about their employer and are inclined to remain at the firm.

My suggestion: Executives need to start thanking their managers regularly. Then they need to tell them to start thanking their people. Maybe we could get uppity and call it "Building a Culture of Thanks." Clearly, it would be more effective and less costly than conferences and software.

And it would make our mothers proud.


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5 Ways To Increase Your Influence

"You cannot antagonize and influence at the same time." J.S. Knox

TemptsAlignment

This is one of the great buzzwords of our time. When used consciously, it's also the key to building solid relationships as well as the foundation for being influential. When you are able to show how someone else's needs can be met through your idea or process, you both stand a chance of walking away satisfied. 

The question: How do you do it?

Five Styles to Help You Influence

1. Demonstrate. Give a successful example of your idea. 

How? Highlight related examples of the same idea already taking place in your organization or in another business. 

2. Cost-Focus. Show how problems and costs can be minimized. 

How?  Run through the numbers to reveal, factually, the cost benefits of your approach. Do this on paper and hand the other person(s) a copy to hold in their grubby little paws. This makes it real. Don't just say it; print out the math.

3. Values-based consistency. Show that your solution is consistent with, and strongly supports, the other person's values. 

How? Do your homework and find out the non negotiables in the business lives of those listening. Then, clearly point out the values-alignment that your solution brings.

4. Time Awareness. Demonstrate how the plan will unfold over a specific period of time.

How? My favorite--because it is low risk and high payoff--is to do a trial project implemented in stages with "client" review at designated points. It is very powerful because the other person is actively involved, shares likes and dislikes at each step, and is part of the successes and problem-solving. Ownership emerges rather quickly.

5. Testimonials. Show that your idea already has the support of other respected people. 

How? Ask others who have used the idea to give you a blurb or, internally, to come to the meeting. Nothing succeeds like someone else showing how successful you have been with them. You hardly have to say a word except "thank you" to those who have helped.

Some Other Thoughts

  • Listen to what sound like objections and acknowledge them. You'll gain respect. You'll lose respect if you don't treat feedback to your ideas as being legitimate. 
  • Stay focused on your theme and not everything you know about the idea or proposal. Too many details will distract your listeners. However, if they ask for details, be prepared to respond. It means they are interested. 
  • Consistent with #4 above: People are more likely to accept a smaller proposal if they've just rejected a larger one. Keep the pilot program in your back pocket as a reasonable alternative to implementing the entire idea. It will seem sensible to the individual or group.

 

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Stamina and Leadership

The cheetah survives on the African plains by running down its prey and can sprint 70 miles per hour. But, according to the TV documentary I was watching, the cheetah Cheetah-leapingcan't sustain that pace for long. Inside its long, sleek body is a disproportionately small heart. This causes the cheetah to tire out quickly. Unless the speedster catches its prey on the first try, it has to abandon the chase. 

Sometimes we approach leadership the same way. We zoom into projects with unbridled energy. But lacking energy for sustained effort, we fizzle out before we finish. We garner more resources, try new strategies, cut costs, manage the metrics, and vow to start faster and run harder.

What we need may not be more speed, but more staying power--stamina that comes only from having a bigger heart.

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How Do You Build Performance?

I'll tell you how. How to create the conditions for motivation, engagement, retention, and performance. 

If you are a manager giving an assignment, be crystal clear about the what--then let your people deliver on how it will be done. 

Why?

How_to_bowl_ Because you hired them for the how. Think about it. You looked at resumes and carefully selected people who had something that seemed unique or different from the others. 

When you tell people how to do their jobs you take away their identity. We all want to contribute. And that contribution is in the form of the unique way--how--we do our jobs.

Action: Define and get commitment on what you want done, then let people use their unique talents to decide how to do it. 

Does this mean you walk away and totally ignore how things are getting done? No. Your payoff comes when you orchestrate quality, deadlines, and feedback. 

There are certain jobs, especially those related to safety, that don't offer much variation on the "how.": airline pilot, nuclear power plant operator, brain surgeon. For most of us, though, trial-and-error works well to perfect our methodologies and offer a sense of accomplishment. 

This is why more and more employees are looking for managers who coach. If you are unsure of how to do that, go ahead and download the free guide available in the right-hand column. More than a thousand readers have found it helpful and I hope you do, too.

 

photo source: blog.modernmechanix.com/

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Business or Busyness?

Recently I met with a corporate Executive VP in New York City. I'll call him Phil. Phil said his division was struggling. But instead of leading the charge to turn things around, he was being called into meetings regularly to make lengthy, detailed, Powerpoint presentations explaining what was wrong. He was too busy doing business to be doing the business. Interestingly, one of his recommendations was for the company to get out of some of its operations because they were draining money and other resources. He explained that his people were spending too much time on things that no longer yielded the kind of margins the company desired.

People-walking-fast-blurred

Does any of this sound remotely familiar to you? I realized while he was talking to me that I had gotten up at 5 a.m. to deal with emails from a European client; spent time on the cell phone in transit with a non-profit, pro bono client who needed to talk; and allowed myself to be sidetracked by hallway conversations with managers from the client group who I hadn't seen in a while. A similar schedule unraveled today.

What is there to learn?

1. If you do business globally in the electronic age, the expectation is that you are available on "their" time...or you should be. So choose carefully--you can't afford to be awake 24 hours a day.

2. Time management isn't really just about time. It's about clear priorities. Which means...

3. It's important to say "no." In fact, I think "no" is the solution to a lot of this craziness.

4. If you are in Phil's position, at some point you need to tell those above you that the very act of "over-reporting" is exacerbating the problem. Do it respectfully. Share the impact and consequences on your business and let them take responsibility for whether or not it makes sense to continue the external demands on your time.

How are you handling this in your life?

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Still Doing More With Less?

Hope you can join us on the Ken Blanchard Livecast:


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Leadership's "Big Three"

BrownDogTalkingtoBlackDog331x222 We say we want a mentor, a coach, a trusted advisor.

We want to grow and become more effective.

We ask for help. For "feedback."

This is what you need to make it a success:

The patience to listen, the humility to hear, and the courage to act.

Do you have all three?

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Grow By Subtraction

Most career inventories and branding activities are additive. They ask you to identify success factors by adding up your talents, hopes, and goals. That's part of the process. 

100%One of the desirable ingredients for personal and business success that we constantly hear shouted from the rooftops is "authenticity" (being real).Fine. But in order to "get real" we first have to "get honest" about all of the things we are not. Authenticity is nothing more than a buzzword until we acknowledge:

1. What we think we should be--but we are not.

2. What someone else told us we should be-- but  we are not.

3. What we think others want to hear that we are-- but  we are not.

4. What we think we can become--but we know we cannot.

Let's face it: self-knowledge is a never-ending journey. Accurate self-knowledge makes it a healthier one. Part of that journey is humility. (Humility is not false modesty--false modesty is unauthentic). Humility is  the element of self-knowledge that frees you from carrying the heavy burden of "What I want you to think I am" and allows you to relax and be "Who I am."

Before you continue adding, do some subtraction. The answer will be authentic.

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Career: Self-Leadership & 3 Key Variables

You, Your Boss, Your Organization

Shortly after my 27th birthday I landed the ideal job following graduate school: Director of PR for a college in New Jersey. I reported directly to the President, participated in the Board of Trustees meetings, and had lots of visibility in the media.

I felt dead inside at the end of the first year. But why? I had "made" it.

What Was I Trying To Change?

I wanted my boss--a good guy and a good President--to manage me a little differently. He didn't.

I wanted my initiatives to move through the organization faster. They didn't.

At the end of the second year I resigned on good terms and took an overseas assignment doing management training while living and working in the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. Jetting from country to country, running workshops, developing managers, designing programs--almost every day was a peak experience.

Change Graphic_Good One
When I returned to the US two years later I was recruited by a Fortune 50 company. More responsibility. Broader organizational development assignments. Good salary.

But I wanted my boss to manage me a little differently. He didn't.

And I wanted my initiatives to move through the organization faster. They didn't.

So I left on good terms and started by own consulting, training, and speaking practice. I'm still at it.

What really changed?

Me. It's the only thing I had the power to change. I was forced to evaluate what I wanted, why I wanted it, who I was and, more importantly, who I wasn't. . .and then take a leap of faith that it would work. It did.  And  my  last employer became a client for nearly 20 years.

What are you trying to change?

If it's your boss or your organization--and you like both--it's worth investing in a conversation to see if you can change your circumstances.

But the one place where you are assured the most impact--and influence--is you.

Are you willing to do that today? It could transform the rest of your life.

____________________________________________________________________

Quote of the day, courtesy of the meteorologist at WNEP TV in Scranton, PA:

"Rain will begin at onset of precipitation." 

Duh.

 Thanks to our marketing Diva, Darlene Hill at GraphX Evolution for passing that along during our morning Skype conference.


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Leadership, Stamina, and Heart

The cheetah survives on the African plains by running down its prey and can sprint 70 miles per hour. But, according to the TV documentary I was watching, the cheetah Cheetah-leaping can't sustain that pace for long. Inside its long, sleek body is a disproportionately small heart. This causes the cheetah to tire out quickly. Unless the speedster catches its prey on the first try, it has to abandon the chase. 

Sometimes we approach leadership the same way. We zoom into projects with unbridled energy. But lacking energy for sustained effort, we fizzle out before we finish. We garner more resources, try new strategies, cut costs, manage the metrics, and vow to start faster and run harder.

What we need may not be more speed, but more staying power--stamina that comes only from having a bigger heart.

Leadership Bonus: Check out a broad array of tips and advice at the Leadership Development Carnival, graciously hosted this month by Jesse Lyn Stoner.

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Managers: Increase Feedback, Reduce Stress

"Whatever is unresolved becomes a stressor"

Managers add stress to their lives by postponing important conversations and letting them build up until their heads start to feel like a balloon waiting to burst. Or, we try to submerge those thoughts until we discover that they tend to pop out in strange and often harmful ways. How many times have we received--or given--a terse comment that really was the result of some long- unspoken feeling?

Why Does Feedback Matter?

Feedback started as a term used to describe the signals sent from a rocket back to earth in order to determine the accuracy of the rocket's course. By tracking speed and trajectory, ground crews could determine when and where to make corrections.

At some point in time, the term Feedback was incorporated into business language as a way to talk about performance. And, as in rocket flight, it has been determined that the best way for a person to stay "on course" is to assess where one stands at any given moment in relation to the task or goal at hand.

Here's the really important point: The chances of impacting performance increase with frequency and timeliness of feedback. That implies the need for ongoing "How are we doing?" conversations. It's our best chance at knowing whether we're on track or not.

Feedback Where's Mine_600x425

So, What Gets In The Way of Giving Feedback?

1. Let's face it: few of us enjoy hearing about those areas of work life where we're coming up short. It's human nature. The flip side is that managers are people, too, and they have the same thoughts and feelings. So it's not exactly a peak experience being the proverbial "messenger" even though it comes with the job.

2. The term "feedback" has morphed into "Here's what you need to correct" instead of "Here's how I think we're doing."

3. Feedback has been institutionalized to the point where it is often done at yearly or semi-annual performance reviews. That's usually too far away from the actual performance for a person to make the kind of changes that will alter an outcome. So, it become  a "Gotcha!"

4. It takes a relationship built on trust to have meaningful conversations about performance.

Trust comes from a series of interactions where people have made agreements, talked about how things were going, and then lived up to what they said they would do. And if something goes wrong, one person points that out to the other. They talk about what to do differently. And they learn that, even if something does go wrong, they care enough to bring it up and do something about it. I've said this before: The people you trust the most are the people who tell you the truth--good and bad. If it's good, they offer encouragement. If it's bad, they offer ways to work with you to sort things out.

5. Lack of ongoing, natural conversation about work life gets in the way of building relationships that breed the level of trust we need to have ongoing, natural conversations. It's circular.

What Can You Do?

1. Managers: Start the conversation from Day 1.

Set the tone for the future early on by asking, "How are things going with project x?" What didn't we anticipate? What's going well? What isn't going well, so we can find out how to get it on track? Then make sure that both of you do what you say you'll do.

2. Employees: If there isn't a conversation, start one.

Turn the questions in #1 into statements. For example, "Here's how project x is going." "Here's what we didn't anticipate." Sure, maybe your boss doesn't like bad news. Here's a secret: Surprises are worse than bad news.If you start the conversation, you have a better chance of putting your boss at ease with the whole idea of "How are we doing?"

3. Keep talking about having conversations, not feedback.

Language conveys feeling. The whole notion of feedback has degenerated to the point where the word contains more negative connotations than positive. Why? Maybe because it was never meant to be associated with the human condition in the first place. From the time we're kids we have conversations. We talk about "What's going on" and "How are things going?"

4. Start having ongoing "How are we doing?" conversations. Start now.



I absolutely guarantee you that two people of goodwill can increase their combined performance and reduce their stress-inducing baggage by having regular, honest talks about their progress and the factors impacting it. These kinds of talks are the foundation of every good relationship, on and off the job.

Bonus Thought: The longer you wait, the larger the "negative" becomes and the more difficult it is to discuss. Regular, frequent conversations mean that the problem areas will be smaller and easier to talk about!

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Halos, Horns, and Expectations

What do your company's talent  conversations sound like?

If you've spent more than a few minutes managing, succession planning, or doing a performance review, you know that total talent conversations can morph into a bias founded upon a single experience. Here's what I mean.

HalosHornsThe Halo Effect

The Halo Effect surfaces when someone has an outstanding characteristic and we allow our positive reaction to that singe characteristic to influence our total judgment of the individual. What follows is a high assessment on many traits because we believe the person is a star in one trait. We ascribe a range of related talents that simply may not now, nor ever will, exist.

We see this in the realms of celebrity and politics when a physically attractive person is presumed to have a host of other positive traits. We also see it in companies where "the smartest guy in the room" moves up the hierarchy until it's discovered that his "smartness" not only doesn't extend to other fundamental traits e.g., cooperation, teamwork, initiating communication--but the individual may actually get in the way of the flow of work.

The Horn Effect

This one, often called the "Devil Effect," is the flip side of the Halo Effect and doesn't get quite as much attention. I don't know why that is. Its organizational impact is equally profound. 

In this scenario, if a person seems particularly lacking in one key trait, then that person will often be assumed to be deficient in many other traits. A manager who is constantly overdue on  project delivery (possibly due to unreasonable work demands and a boss who won't renegotiate what makes realistic sense) is assumed to be uncommitted, perhaps a little lazy, and even negligent in their overall work life.

Expectations and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

We live up to our expectations. People who expect to be successful are more likely to succeed. People who expect failure are more likely to fail.

A manager's or supervisor's expectations about employees' performance will effect that performance. Period. Remember that performance evaluations and performance feedback will influence and mold future performance based upon the implicit and explicit expectations that managers convey. 
(The same is true in families regarding the messages conveyed between spouses those between parents and children).

Today's thought: Be aware of how you might be contributing to self-fulfilling prophecies in your workplace and in your life. It's important, because you very often get what you expect. 


 

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Who Will Influence You?

Every leader must also follow.

ElephantsThose who show no accountability to others--in business, non-profits, or government--may hold a position of leadership but won't hold on to it without some version of brute or "political" force, overt or covert. (If that kind of leadership appeals to you, you may want to check Craigslist for the "Dictators Wanted" ads).

Be selective about who you allow to influence your thinking, attitudes, decisions, and behavior. What are the values you hold most dear--the ones you would like others to adopt as a result of being influenced by you?

Please consider that question. Then, make sure the influences on your life mirror those values.

If you do, your life and your leadership will be reinforced and lifted up. If you don't, you put yourself in a position to be led away from your life's vision. Perhaps even worse, you'll lead others in the wrong direction.

Who are you choosing to follow?

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Presentation? Do This

Tell the people in the room what you expect from them.

There are at least 3 common reasons why you give a presentation:

1. To educate in order for people to make a decision

2. To prompt action or implementation

3. To educate for the sake of knowledge

Emerson-2

You need to tell them at the beginning what you're doing and what they have to do. Without giving them a "mental assignment," people don't have a context in which to process the information. If they don't know what's expected of them, human nature  leads the audience into a passive mode. The burden of the presentation is entirely on you.

Do this:

1. "At the end of the meeting we'll decide on the best supply chain software for our organization. You'll  be expected to offer your rationale for the risks and benefits of each. So I expect that we'll have a lot of questions and discussion during the next hour."

2. "I'm going to lay out the steps of the product launch. Each of you will play a role in its execution. At the end of the meeting I'll ask for a commitment to a timetable from each of the managers here. As I lay out the information, be sure to speak up and discuss the pros and cons from your perspective. The deadline for the launch is 60 days from now."

3. "We've discovered a possible new opportunity as a result of R&D. My purpose is to show you what led to this so that you can understand what is evolving with the technology."

Make your audience mentally active

  • Tell them at the beginning what their role is and how to play it. 

 

  • They'll appreciate the direction.

 

  • You'll get more participation.

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Professional Assessments: Are You Getting What You Need?

How is your organization using professional and leadership assessments?

Self-assessments, 360 degree feedback, assessment centers, and other similar tools are widely used in the workplace. What's your experience with them?

A lot of information is generated during the assessment process. I was reviewing some feedback that was coming in for a client and realized that there are lots of good uses for it. And we may not always be taking the best advantage of the information and the potential process. So:

Assessment

Would Some of These Help You and Your Organization?

Assessment feedback, by definition, is given to the subject of the assessment. That person is often asked to reflect and decide what, if anything, to do with it. That's fine. Making behavioral changes is an individual's choice. But here are some other ways to get the most from the data. You may be doing some are all of them now. If not, here are some thoughts that I hope you will find helpful:

1. In the case of 360 feedback, encourage the recipient (I'll use the word "Manager") to get together with the group that generated the data. It's an opportunity, at minimum, to acknowledge the time and energy they put into the activity.

Suggest that the Manager share the themes and take-aways from the data. 360 activities have some of the same dynamics as surveys. Participants want to know what happened with their input--and what will change as a result. This is a chance to do just that. And, if the Manager has misinterpreted something, the group can add clarity.

Yes, I know that the feedback is anonymous, blah blah. However, the act of inviting the respondents to come together also invites a deeper level of candor. And the fact of the matter is: These are people with whom the Manager has to work. Sooner or later it will be time to increase the honesty of conversations. This is an ideal framework in which to do that.

2. A Good Reason For A Good Conversation with "The Boss."

If you're the Manager, make an appointment with your boss. Tell what you think you want to do differently. Ask if the boss sees the data and your intended changes in the same way. Or differently. Here's the principle: Giving straight feedback is difficult for a lot, if not most, people. Including the boss. If you provide the data and ask for suggestions, you've done the work that your boss my find tough. It may be the most meaningful conversation you've had with that person.

3. A Good Reason For a Good Conversation with Your Reports.

If it's a 360, some or all of those folks provided feedback. I wouldn't call a departmental meeting and declare "Let's share." I would do one of these two:

  • Make it a point to informally share what you learned and are working on with each person. Do it in the course of normal conversation.
  • If you have a full group meeting coming up soon, take 10 minutes to talk about the assessment, the process, what you learned, what you are working on, and what kind of support you need to do those things. The payoff? You get help. You set the model that getting feedback and doing assessments is a valuable activity.

4. Self Assessments. Any or all of the above will be helpful to validate your self perception. We have ways of deceiving ourselves on both scales: positive and negative. Have the conversations that will give you an accurate picture.

Let's assume that you--or whoever is being assessed--will use the info for development. Here's the payoff you don't want to miss: the data provide an "objective" reason to have a "subjective" conversation. When you rally around the information, you are in an arena that's focused on performance factors and not necessarily you as a person. (That may be a result. Why not find out while you still have time to make changes?).

Most of all: an assessment offers  a legitimate reason to have the kind of conversation you've been missing.

Go for it!

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Five Real-Life Tips For Leading

One of the benefits of working with lots of leaders & managers in many different organizations is the chance to see what really works, regardless of the individual personality or industry. I'll use the term "Manager" to avoid extra words and acknowledge the truth that leaders manage.

So, here are:

5 Tips That Make A Difference

Tips1. Managing starts with clarity. The time a manager spends getting clear about what needs to be done will pay off in focused effort from increased understanding. 

When things aren't clear, the day doesn't  go well. Minds and bodies gravitate toward something that does seem clear. The world abhors a vacuum. When one is created, people will fill in the blanks with their own content.That content seldom matches your fuzzy intent.

2. The Manager is the Mediator of Meaning. Clarity is the first part of  the issue. The other part is taking the time to show exactly how "what" you are proposing to do is directly connected to the success of over-arching goals.Your kids will tell you to "make it real." Your employees are thinking it.

3. Managers Understand How People Learn and Work. Intellectually, we all acknowledge that people learn differently and work differently. Really successful managers take time to pinpoint what those styles are and genuinely acknowledge their inherent value. Hands-on 'Doers,' Readers, Questioners, Ponderers. . .

4. Managing Means Knowing How to Orchestrate the Experience. When to have a meeting or not have a meeting; who needs one-on-one attention? What isn't negotiable and what will work best with a full discussion? Is the objective really achievable--at the level of quality desired--in the originally designated timetable? Managers, go ahead and add your favorites to this list.

5. Managers Lead from Every Proximity. You'll spot a good manager out in front of the group; alongside of a direct report who is struggling; or standing in the back of the room listening to a discussion and only joining in when re-direction or a fact is needed. And everyone knows how they're doing in relation to what's expected.

Consistently add these five to your repertoire and you'll bump up your game exponentially.

What would you add to the mix that's proven a "must do" for you?

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Leadership: Nobody Follows a Tentative Person

 Tentative efforts lead to tentative outcomes. Therefore, give yourself fully to your endeavors. Decide to construct your character through excellent actions and determine to pay the price of a worthy goal. The trials you encounter will introduce you to your strengths. Remain steadfast...and one day you will build something that endures, something worthy of your potential Epictetus

                     ________________________

I was standing at the meat counter at the local market and watched a leadership principle unfold before me: Nobody Follows a Tentative Person.

Normally, they have little slips of paper with numbers that make the process run smoothly: take your number and wait for it to be called. But they ran out of Butcher numbers. Which meant we had to figure out for ourselves who was next.

The nice part: people were concerned about not "butting" ahead.

The bad part: as a result, when the butcher yelled, "Next", there was a lot of shuffling, faux self-deprecation, and confusion. No meat was moving out of the display case.

Finally, someone said strongly, "I believe I am next" and, at the same time. stepped forward right in front of the butcher. Following her move, there was a similar response at the ensuing, "Next!"

The "Aw, Shucks Shuffle"

This struck me as being similar to what we often see in meetings and presentations. In an effort to not want to stand out or seem "pushy", speakers do the "Aw, Shucks Shuffle".  The result: people in the room wait forever--and uncomfortably--to get to the topical "meat counter".

It's popular to want to seem like "one of the guys" and do the "we're all equal" thing.

We're not. When you are in front of a room you've been given the responsibility to lead the rest of the group. This is perfect time to remember: no one follows a tentative person.

___________________

Need a little boost? Here's an inspirational bit of poetry, courtesy of coach extraordinnaire Mary Jo Asmus. 

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Your Character and Legacy: One Question

"Comfort and prosperity have never enriched the world as much as adversity has"
--Billy Graham

Consider these: 

  • Sir Walter Raleigh, after getting in deep doo-doo Music with the queen, spent 13
    years in prison. How did he spend his time? He wrote The History of the World.

 

  • Beethoven composed his greatest music after he went deaf.

 

  • The poet Dante worked--and died--in exile.

 

  • Daniel DeFoe wrote Robinson Crusoe while in prison.

 

  • Pilgrim's Progress was penned by John Bunyan during his imprisonment in Bedford Jail.

 

  • He was too poor to buy paper so he used scraps of leather. That's how MIguel de Cervantes managed to produce Don Quixote while jailed in Madrid.

At times, we all feel as if we're being sentenced to something. So, we have a choice: Do we lament what is happening in our life or do we live the life we've been given?

Our character and legacy are built on that decision.

____________________

In case you missed it: Enjoyed conributing recently to Canada's Globe & Mail Business feature section: How to Draw Attention to Your Great Idea! Good interview with Wallace Immen.

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"Communication" Does Not Communicate

How many workplace issues are introduced to you as, "We've got a communication problem?"

Communication is a catch-all phrase. It's  generic, socially acceptable, and really just sends the signal that someone wants to start a conversation. But it probably won't end up being about communication.

Psychologists and counselors refer to these kinds of introductory pronouncements as "presenting" problems." They're  a call for help when someone doesn't know what to do or may not even be aware of the real issue.

Unless you know the genuine issue, you can spend a lot of time creating an elegant solution for the wrong problem.

In organizations, communication is the #1  presenting problem.

DogsThe next time someone lays a communication issue on you, follow through with:

"That sounds interesting. Help me out. Describe specifically what you see happening and why it's a problem."

You may discover that the Marketing group refused to follow guidelines from Research and ended up slightly misrepresenting a product.

You don't yet know the cause. But you do know the real situation and where to focus your energy.

How many presenting problems can you uncover today?

If you've got a favorite "presenting problem" story, toss it into the mix with a comment below. You may help someone else see how to probe and work on the right thing at the right time.

How about when "You Know The Words But Don't Understand the Meaning ?" I recall an article my online friend Jackie Cameron wrote a while back that highlights a new communication challenge prompted by social media.


 

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What, Why, and How: Feedback

Why Is Feedback Important?

Feedback started as a term used to describe the signals sent from a rocket back to earth in order to determine the accuracy of the rocket's course. By tracking speed and trajectory, ground crews could determine when and where to make corrections.

At some point in time, the term Feedback was incorporated into business language as a way to talk about performance. And, as in rocket flight, it has been determined that the best way for a person to stay "on course" is to assess where one stands at any given moment in relation to the task or goal at hand.

Here's the really important point: The chances of impacting performance increase with frequency and timeliness of feedback. That implies the need for ongoing "How are we doing?" conversations. It's our best chance at knowing whether we're on track or not.

Feedback

What Gets In The Way of Giving Feedback?

1. Let's face it: few of us enjoy hearing about those areas of work life where we're coming up short. It's human nature. The flip side is that managers are people, too, and they have the same thoughts and feelings. So it's not exactly a peak experience being the proverbial "messenger" even though it comes with the job.

2. The term "feedback" has morphed into "Here's what you need to correct" instead of "Here's how I think we're doing."

3. Feedback has been institutionalized to the point where it is often done at yearly or semi-annual performance reviews. That's usually too far away from the actual performance for a person to make the kind of changes that will alter an outcome. So it's almost like a "Gotcha!"

4. It takes a relationship built on trust to have meaningful conversations about performance.

Trust comes from a series of interactions where people have made agreements, talked about how things were going, and then lived up to what they said they would do. And if something goes wrong, one person points that out to the other. They talk about what to do differently. And they learn that, even if something does go wrong, they care enough to bring it up and do something about it. I've said this before: The people you trust the most are the people who tell you the truth--good and bad. If it's good, they offer encouragement. If it's bad, they offer ways to work with you to sort things out.

5. Lack of ongoing, natural conversation about work life gets in the way of building relationships that breed the level of trust we need to have ongoing, natural conversations. It's circular.

What Can You Do About This?

1. Managers: Start the conversation from Day 1.

Set the tone for the future early on by asking, "How are things going with project x?" What didn't we anticipate? What's going well? What isn't going well, so we can find out how to get it on track?

Then make sure that both of you do what you say you'll do.

2. Employees: If there isn't a conversation, start one. Turn the questions in #1 into statements. For example, "Here's how project x is going." "Here's what we didn't anticipate."

Sure, maybe your boss doesn't like bad news. Here's a secret: Surprises are worse than bad news.

If you start the conversation, you have a better chance of putting your boss at ease with the whole idea of "How are we doing?"

3. Keep talking about having conversations, not feedback.

Language conveys feeling. The whole notion of feedback has degenerated to the point where the word contains more negative connotations than positive. Why? Maybe because it was never meant to be associated with the human condition in the first place.

From the time we're kids we have conversations. We talk about "What's going on" and "How are things going?"

Start having ongoing "How are we doing?" conversations. Start now. 

I absolutely guarantee you that two people of goodwill can increase their combined performance and reduce their stress-inducing baggage by having regular, honest talks about their progress and the factors impacting it. These kinds of talks are the foundation of every good relationship, on and off the job.

Bonus Thought: The longer you wait, the larger the "negative" becomes and the more difficult it is to discuss. Regular, frequent conversations mean that the problem areas will be smaller and easier to talk about!

 

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Change: What Gets In The Way?

Defending the status quo.

  • "That will never work."
     
  • "... That said, the labor laws make it difficult for us to do a lot of the suggestions [you] put out. And we do live in a lawsuit oriented society.""
     
  • "Can you show me some research that demonstrates that this will work?"

Bigstock-Status-Quo-Crossword-14855162

These are just a few of the real-life quotes about defending the status quo from a Seth Godin post that I saved about six years ago. Given that our work here always includes organizational or individual change, we've heard most of them more than once. How about you?

Tip: When you hear any one of these, ask this question: "Tell me specifically what information you have that supports why that won't work in this situation?"

a. Sometimes there is enough evidence to show that certain changes can't be productively initiated at a specific time and place. Hope is not a strategy.

b. If there is insufficient evidence, then ask the question "If you were in charge--and had to do it--what would you do to make "it" happen anyway?"

Help the individual(s) begin to focus on solutions instead of problems.

 

Photo: www.bigstock.com

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"What Do I Want To Be?" or "What Do I Want To Become?"

Which question are you asking yourself?

Your choice will help determine the depth of your life as well as the comfort-level of your career.

Bigstock-Growth-5437176

I've been watching a new CEO client begin his tenure at a global company. He is very comfortable listening, talking, giving direction, and saying "I don't know. That sounds good to me. Go ahead and do it." (Whatever the "it" is).

What I'm really seeing is a man who has, over a lifetime, decided to "become" the kind of person he wanted to be. I know for a fact that he didn't set out to be a CEO. In fact, he was invited into the role. The reason he received the invitation, I believe, rests in great part on who he is to the people around him.

Yet "who he is" was shaped by not ambitiously jumping into a position that was too far ahead of "who he was" at the moment. His career path shows a progression that was slow and steady, building solid relationships and new knowledge along the way.  And each step on the ladder reflected genuine accomplishment.

Now he has become a CEO; he doesn't have to play the role of CEO.

And that's the distinction between where the two questions above will lead you.

Who do you want to become?

Or do you want to play a role?

Think about the how the difference will affect your life.

 

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Wisdom, Integrity, Discernment and 1,000 Posts

This is the 1,000th post here at All Things Workplace! Today's post was first published in 2007 and I decided to bring it back because its comments prompted an entire series to be generated as a result. I hope it adds meaning to your day and your career.

________________________________________________________________________________________ 

How often do you hear the terms wisdomdiscernment, and integrity used during the business day?

And just what are organizations looking for when they are hiring or promoting?

We hear words like intelligent, problem-solver, action-oriented, results-driven, and good decision-making ability.

But what good are any of those if they aren't carried out with wisdom, discernment, and integrity?

Wisdom GraphicIt's possible to be action-oriented and still take a lot of wrong actions.

Does intelligence guarantee sound leadership?  History reveals that many leaders with intelligence that was clearly "above average" have oppressed their people, ruined their economies, and even committed genocide.

What Are We Dealing With Here?

First, some slightly paraphrased definitions from Merriam-Webster Online.

Wisdom: ability to discern inner qualities and relationships : (insight) c : good sense : (judgment).

Discernment: the power to distinguish and select what is true or appropriate or excellent; the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure.

Integrity: firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : (incorruptibility); the quality or state of being complete or undivided : (completeness).

Why Do They Make a Difference?

Let's start with integrity. It's probably the easiest to deal with and something that we do talk about on the job, at least when it is violated.

Integrity makes a difference because it's an outward indication of our internal character. If we say we have a set of "corporate" values and then live by them--even if it means sacrificing extra revenue--then we are known as having integrity. When we live up to our word, we have integrity. Most of all, integrity is what allows a person or a company to be trusted.

When you possess wisdom, you are able to make judgments that go beneath the surface issue or decision being presented. My observation and experience show that those possessing wisdom have actually learned from their previous experiences and mistakes; have confronted their own part in them; and now are able to see more clearly what is happening within other people and other situations. Maturity--not age alone--is necessary for wisdom.

Discernment is probably the least-used word in business. It implies a well-honed wisdom that allows one to accurately "read between the lines" when dealing with people and situations and see what is true. You and I know lots of people who say "I know how to 'read' people. However, I don't really know lots of people whodiscern the truth very well at all.

What Happens in The Absence of Those Three ?

When we hire and promote based upon education, experience, and behavioral traits, we're still working on the surface. To get "keepers" we need to dig one level deeper.

At a business luncheon meeting a few years ago our well-educated, high-level executive speaker spent his entire block of time talking about his accomplishments, what he was going to achieve in the coming year, and the plan to get there. When he asked for questions, the guy next to me said something gutsy:

"I'm sorry. Who you are spoke so loudly that I was unable to hear what you had to say."

My neighbor had discerned the self-centered character of the presenter. The speaker had not discerned the values, maturity and character of his audience. As a result, his accomplishments couldn't overcome the low regard in which his peers began to hold him as a result of his bravado. It was a defining moment that impacted his career mobility.

When we're hiring and promoting, wouldn't it be worthwhile to know who we're getting--not just whatwe're getting?

It seems to me that we need to understand at least two things in order to make that happen:

1. What "kind of people" do we want? (What values do we hold that need to be evident in our people)?

2. What does it take to develop the wisdom and discernment needed in business?

___________________________________________________________________________

 Special Note: Thank you all for your readership, comments, and encouragement since the launch of All Things Workplace in August, 2006.The interaction here has generated friendships, professsional exchanges, and business opportunities never imagined prior to clicking "publish" on the first post. I value all three and am thankful for the chance to participate in the lives of others dedicated to filling workplaces with solid performers and productive relationships. 

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360 Feedback: It's About the Conversation

Finding out "how we're doing" is an important part of life, on and off the job.

360 degree feedback tools can be especially helpful when you want to know how you are doing in relation to your boss, your direct reports, and peers in the organization. I like 360's because they:

Feedback_icon

 


1. Let you see how others believe you are doing in specific areas that are important to on-the-job success

2. Provide a quick look at how each of your constituencies is experiencing you.

For example, your direct reports may be getting everything they need, while your peer group may tell you that they need something other than what they are getting now. So you know where to keep doing what you are doing now, and where to make some changes. That helps you prioritize things.

3. Offer the opportunity for a structured conversation.

When you want to talk about your performance it can be difficult to know just where to begin. The 360 process allows you to get specific feedback in specific categories. When you see the results, you can sit down and ask questions that address meaningful areas of work life. And, you are dealing with information already acknowledged as important by the different groups of respondents. It can be a lot easier discussing things that have already been generated--and therefore owned--by the people who are important to your success. You have a place to start--and isn't that sometimes the toughest part?

360: It's the Conversation That Matters

Raw data are just that. What's important is the "why" behind "what" was said. Without finding out the answers, you really don't have an accurate picture. Why not?

Always remember that feedback is more indicative of the sender than the recipient. Feedback says, "Here's what I think based on my expectations of you in these specific areas. The real payoff can come from discovering where you need to clarify or re-visit what's really expected and honestly discussing what's really possible. And, when people of goodwill have those kinds of discussions, it can lead to a quick boost in trust as well as new energy to move ahead.

Are you or your organization using 360 feedback? Then make sure there are conversations that follow. Without them, no one knows the real meaning of the data. With conversations, you stand to get an exponential payoff in understanding, trust, learning, and improved performance.

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Business or Busyness?

Recently I met with a corporate Executive VP in New York City. I'll call him Phil. Phil said his division was struggling. But instead of leading the charge to turn things around, he was being called into meetings regularly to make lengthy, detailed, Powerpoint presentations explaining what was wrong. He was too busy doing business to be doing the business. Interestingly, one of his recommendations was for the company to get out of some of its operations because they were draining money and other resources. He explained that his people were spending too much time on things that no longer yielded the kind of margins the company desired.

People-walking-fast-blurred 

Does any of this sound remotely familiar to you? I realized while he was talking to me that I had gotten up at 5 a.m. to deal with emails from a European client; spent time on the cell phone in transit with a non-profit, pro bono client who needed to talk; and allowed myself to be sidetracked by hallway conversations with managers from the client group who I hadn't seen in a while. A similar schedule unraveled today.

What is there to learn?

1. If you do business globally in the electronic age, the expectation is that you are available on "their" time...or you should be. So choose carefully--you can't afford to be awake 24 hours a day.

2. Time management isn't really just about time. It's about clear priorities. Which means...

3. It's important to say "no." In fact, I think "no" is the solution to a lot of this craziness.

4. If you are in Phil's position, at some point you need to tell those above you that the very act of "over-reporting" is exacerbating the problem. Do it respectfully. Share the impact and consequences on your business and let them take responsibility for whether or not it makes sense to continue the external demands on your time.

How are you handling this in your life?

 

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Leadership: It Is About You

There seems to be an ongoing attempt to recycle, re-package, re-label and microwave new leaders into  existence. Yet that approach must be important, fascinating, or both, because it's a huge moneymaker. Look at this:

Leadership books at Amazon: 72,587  vs. 26,086 for Nutrition & Diet. There are twice as many authors and publishers banking on people wanting to become leaders than paying attention to staying alive long enough to get there.

Google the word "leadership" and you can spend the rest of your lunch break reading your choice of 160,000,000 results. Want to know the definition of "leadership"? No problem. There are 9,650,000 search results for "leadership definition". That one got me thinking: "If we have so many people concerned about leadership (a good thing), what happens if they all define it differently (a potentially confusing thing).

Pause for just a moment. If you were asked by a "leader" how you define that role, what would you say?

Leadership Definitions From Four Experts:

  • Peter Drucker: "The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers."

  • John C. Maxwell: "leadership is influence - nothing more, nothing less."

  • Warren Bennis:  "Leadership is a function of knowing yourself, having a vision that is well communicated, building trust among colleagues, and taking effective action to realize your own leadership potential."

  • John W. Gardner: Leadership is the process of persuasion and example by which an individual (or leadership team) induces a group to take action that is in accord with the leader’s purpose, or the shared purposes of all.”

Bigstock_Leadership_abstract_18875753
Can You Find the Similarities?

One striking similarity for me is that none of the definitions includes rank or title. Three of the four are explicit about influence and persuasion. Two of the four state or imply process and potential vs. "I've reached it!"

But my personal favorite is Drucker. He's saying "Look over your shoulder. If you don't see anyone, you're not leading." More importantly, if you have followers, you better recognize that you're leading!

Some food for thought:

  • If it's really that simple, then why do you and I, along with thousands of others, meditate on the deep meaning of "leadership?"
  • Do individual definitions vary so much that leaders simply can't win when employees are surveyed?
  • Could part of the problem be that you and I won't let someone lead because we refuse to be followers? (Instead of arrogant, "sucky" leadership, perhaps we have some arrogant, "sucky" followership.
  • If it's all about influence and being influenced, what gets in the way?

Leadership, stripped bare, involves two elements:  the boldness to stand up and lead, and the humility to stand up and follow. I'm wondering if the bigger leadership challenge may actually rest with the second.


 

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5 Meeting Traps and How To Fix Them

I just returned from a good meeting.

Everyone was engaged, no one dominated (unless it made sense because of specific expertise), and every speaker followed up to check for understanding. It was more like sitting around a warm fireplace in winter than a typical business meeting.  So, it made me think about the planning that went into it and how it was led.

If you've struggled through more than a few bad meetings, I'm guessing you've experienced the following traps. Here they are and how to fix them.

1) People think they are experts.

Many people tell me that they know how to run an effective meeting. Actually, all they do is host a party. They invite guests, provide treats, and preside over a conversation. People talk. People eat. And nothing happens. Or, if they somehow manage to reach an agreement, there's no concrete follow-up to implement it.

What to do: Learn how to design and lead successful meetings. Attend a workshop, buy a book, or hire a facilitator who also teaches you what and why (s)he is doing so you can do it yourself the next time. If you are a leader at any level, being a meeting pro is linked closely to your long-term success. Recognize that there are systematic ways that can help people make practical, methodical progress toward results. Of course, you have to know what they are in order to use them. 
If you want professional help, contact me (609.654.7376) and we can look at the most sensible way for you to learn how to become a meeting pro.

2) People think they are inspiring.

(Inhaling deeply for extra breath): Too many meeting leaders labor under the delusion that long-winded announcements and dissertations impress others. The opposite is true. A long lecture quickly becomes a boring (and sometimes offensive) harangue. Why? Most employees want an active role in contributing to the business; listening to a lecturette feels like a waste of time.

What to do: Design meetings that give attendees opportunities to contribute. 
Plan questions that focus thinking on the situation at hand. Use activities 
that help people make decisions. Communicate your own thoughts  in e-
mails and casual converstations. If you must use a meeting, keep announcements brief and crisp (less than a few minutes).

Sleeping+in+Meeting

3) People think others agree with them.

Many of us rely on nods, smiles, and eye contact to measure acceptance. Most employees will do anything to appease a boss. And if the boss seems to be 
upset, the employees will become even more agreeable. Then, once the meeting 
ends, the employees will do one of three things: 1) forget the lecture, 2) ignore the message, 3) sabotage the idea.

What to do: Conduct meetings using an agreed process that everyone considers to be fair and effective. The single best element to remember: people will accept decisions that they helped make.

4) People think others are clairvoyant.

How many times have you received a meeting invitation without an agenda? At the same time, you were expected to arrive with a vision for what needs to be done. Whenever we go to a meeting, we do bring our private hopes, fears, and solutions to the situation supposedly being addressed. But without a clear agenda and a solid process to work the agenda, the result is something between chitchat and chaos, depending upon the complexity of the issue.

Note: A vague agenda, such as a list of topics, is about as useful as no agenda.

What to do: Write out your goal for the meeting. Then prepare an agenda that is so 
complete someone else could use it to run the meeting without you. Specify each 
step and provide blocks of time scheduled time. Send the agenda at least a few days before the meeting so that the attendees can use it to prepare. Call key participants before the meeting to see if they have questions or want to talk about the agenda.

5) People think meetings are necessary.

Have an emergency, surprise, or a twitch? Call a meeting. 

Uh, no.

A meeting is a special and often expensive process. It should be used only to 
obtain results that require the efforts of the right group of people working together in the right way on the right issue. Meetings are not universal cures for whatever ails the work group. Held for the wrong reasons, meetings waste everyone's time and can undermine the leader's actual intentions.

What to do: Challenge every meeting for its ability to add verifiable value to your business objectives. If successful, do the results outweigh the cost of holding a 
meeting. Is there another activity that could accomplish the same result? 

Yes?

Use it.

Number 5 is the one that really gets to me; I often come down fairly hard on clients and associates whose first step in addressing an issue is to call a meeting. Given my business and the importance of using time wisely, unnecessary meetings are unnecessarily costly. I hate when that happens.

Reader Expertise Wanted!

Meetings are one thing we all have in common. Weigh in with your own experiences, traps, and techniques--you'll provide help to a lot of people who are looking for it.

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Leadership & Influence: Raise The Standard

"Fitting in" is a big deal, and in many organizations it's seen as the way to career longevity.

That's a problem.

Raise-the-Bar-620x480People are influenced by those they see as being "ahead of them." If you simply match the rest of the workforce and blend in, your influence is diminished. Eventually, you become invisible.

If you want to lead, be willing to raise your personal standards to exceed the common expectations of your organization or work group. "Raising" equates with "elevating." Once you raise the bar for yourself, you begin to view things from a heightened position that expands your perspective. When that happens, you're able to see and describe a greater vision for those around you.

What can you start doing today to raise your standards and increase your ability to lead?

_________________________________

Bonus : Check out my online colleague and consulting pro, Denise Green, as she shares an important truth about Changing How You Are, Not Who You Are.  

 

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5 Tips To Make Things Happen

Decisions get made. It's time to start.

The goal is clear. There is a picture of what the result should look like.

Now we just have to "do it."

Take_action__tour_0 Some don't make it...

.. .individually or organizationally.

Given that there are entire industries built around "doing it"--continuous improvement, change management, life coaching-- there must be some trick to that whole in between area. If you are involved in any kind of a change, here are 5 tips that you can take to the bank. (Ignoring them may put you in the collection agency).

1. Language matters.

"We're going to make a transition from___to____" impacts the brain a lot better than "We're going to change."

(Honestly, I don't want to change--do you? But I don't have any problem making a transition).

2. Friendships matter.

Be willing to talk and be willing to listen. When things change at home or in your family, you have coffee and conversation with friends. Why? It's cathartic. And you don't feel alone. Changes at work are no different.

3. Grace matters.

Transitions and change imply, by definition, that people are trying something for the first time. When your little child tried out her first steps and fell after the third one, you didn't offer a performance appraisal. You hugged her, made a big fuss, took a video, and called the grandparents.

Offer the same to adults who are trying something for the first time. Truth be told, they are feeling like kids at that moment.

Note: I'd avoid the hug and the video; it's your call on whether to phone the grandparents.

4. Accountability matters.

This isn't opposed to numbers 2 or 3. Accountability is an act of deep friendship. Friends don't let friends drive drunk. They also don't let friends do things--or avoid doing things--that are hurting their careers.

5. Small wins matter.

Make an example of anyone or any result that approximates the longer term ideal. Do it often.

If you wait until everyone gets it perfect, there won't be a celebration. There may not be a reason for it.

That's why continuous improvement is called continuous improvement. 

_______________________________

Bonus for You For 2012

During the Christmas/New Year respite, I scrolled through the list of leadership and workplace blogs that I've subscribed to over the years. Some I read religiously, others I spot-check for information. Here are seven that I recommend for those who want a glimpse into the insights of writers who possess depth and breadth of experience and are engaging in their writing and subject matter. The numbers aren't rankings, simply an orderly way to present the information. These seven writers will add, exponentially, to your leadership and workplace savvy.

1. Michael Hyatt, Intentional Leadership. The Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers shares personal leadership insights, productivity tips, and and offers glimpses of his life, personal and professional. The model of transparency, authenticity, and a leaders of substance.

2. Steve Farber consistently reflects his commitment to his theme for Extreme Leadership. His message is simple, yet profound: "Truly great leaders in life become so because they cause others to become greater than themselves."

3. Managing Leadership is the engaging online presence of Jim Stroup whose military and academic credentials go a long way in explaining the depth of his thinking and writing. Jim is a must-read for those who want to delve into the facts and fantasies of modern management development.

4. Wally Bock is the force behind Three Star Leadership. Each week, Wally makes sure you are in touch with new and useful resources; helps readers look at what really works (and doesn't) when it comes to developing supervisors; and provides a free weekly newsletter (you just need to sign up) that will give you fascinating and surprising glimpses into the lives of people who have made a difference in our lives.

5. Dan McCarthy combines years of experience as a learning executive with Paychex with his current role as Director of Development Programs at the Whittemore School of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire. Great Leadership By Dan is a place where you can explore working models for talent and leadership development and interact with Dan (he's all about learning and his responses to comments are frequently mini-lessons unto themselves.

6. Mike Myatt focuses on his work with CEOs and, as a result, allows a glimpse into the daily challenges of the C-world. Mike is also enjoys engaging with his readers and trying out different ways to connect and keep others connected.

7. The term Remarkable Leadership points to just one person: Kevin Eikenberry. Leadership Coach and Author, online teacher, and social media maven, Kevin is the kind of of guy you want to meet after reading a few of his articles and listening to what he's up to on any given week. The place to do it all? Leadership & Learning.

You can't get off to a better "leadership learning" start in 2012 than with this gang. Enjoy!


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5 Tips Leaders Can Use Today

One of the benefits of working with lots of leaders in many different organizations is the chance to see what really works, regardless of the individual personality or industry. 

So, here are:

5 Tips That Make A Difference

1. Leading starts with clarity. The time that a leader spends getting clear about what needs to be done will pay off in quickly-focused effort as a result of increased understanding. 

When things aren't clear, the day doesn't  go well. Minds and bodies gravitate toward something that does seem clear. The world abhors a vacuum. When a vacuum is created, people will fill in the blanks with their own content.That content seldom matches your fuzzy intent and is frequently a more negative interpretation.

HelpfulTips

2. The Leader is the Mediator of Meaning. Clarity is the first part of the issue. The other part is taking the time to show exactly how "what" you are proposing to do is directly connected to the success of over-arching goals.Your kids will tell you to "make it real." Your employees are thinking it.

3. Leaders Understand How People Learn and Work. Intellectually, we all acknowledge that people learn and work differently. Really successful leaders take time to pinpoint what those styles are and genuinely acknowledge their inherent value. Hands-on 'Doers,' Readers, Questioners, Ponderers. . .

4. Leading Means Knowing How to Orchestrate the Experience. When to have a meeting or not have a meeting; who needs one-on-one attention? What isn't negotiable and what will work best with a full discussion? Is the objective really achievable--at the level of quality desired--in the originally designated timetable? (Go ahead and add your favorites to this list).

5. Leaders Lead from Every Proximity. You'll spot a good leader out in front of the group; alongside of a direct report who is struggling; or standing in the back of the room listening to a discussion and only joining in when re-direction or a fact is needed. And everyone knows how they're doing in relation to what's expected.

Consistently add these five to your repertoire and you'll bump up your game exponentially.

 

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5 Ways To Be Coachable

Who Is Coachable?

The fact is, everyone isn't. Those who are uncoachable often think they have no performance issues and if there is one, believe everyone "out there" is the cause. In these cases, coaching isn't a very good option to produce positive results. It's kind of like one spouse dragging another to marriage counseling in the hope that the counselor can "fix" the partner. (Ever see how well that works?). The sticking point here is a mindset that doesn't allow someone to reflect on their own behavior, a desire to change it, and their personal responsibility for the relationship. So, forcing someone into a coaching relationship isn't the best organizational solution for certain issues and individuals.

Advice_catsFive Characteristics Of Coachability

If you are considering coaching someone else or being coached, here are five attributes I've observed in people who successfully "own" their part of the coaching process. You might want to use this as a quick diagnostic tool.

1. Committed to Change. Individuals who don't think they're perfect, want to improve, exhibit responsibility for their lives, and are willing to step outside of their comfort zones are good candidates for a successful coaching relationship.

2. Open to information about themselves. Be willing and able to listen and hear constructive criticism without being defensive; then, synthesize their coach's suggestions with their own personal reflections on the issue.

3. Open about themselves. Willing to engage in topics that may be uncomfortable but are getting in the way of their professional development; talks about "what's really going on" so the coach can have a complete and honest picture of the total situation.

4. Appreciate New Perspectives. People who get excited about hearing someone else's take on a situation and figure out how to learn from it can really benefit from coaching.

5. Awareness about one's self and others. Coachable people already have at least a fair amount of awareness about themselves. Equally important, they use it to reflect on their behavior and how it impacts other people in the range of situations that come their way.

You may have some others that you use to gauge coachability. If so, take a moment to add your tips with a comment below.

 

 

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Help People Get Ready for Changes

Readiness and Resistance

Every systematic approach to making large-scale change usually talks about these two factors. 

Readiness refers to whether or not the people who will be involved are prepared for the changes that are coming.

Resistance refers to the assumption that many people will balk at doing the "new" thing because it is different.

I'm no longer sure that the word "change" has any real impact. Everyone knows that life is filled with changes. Many of the programmed approaches have been designed in a way that creates an "us and them" dynamic, not unlike "employee" engagement. In other words: "I want something different than I'm getting now so you have to change." 

Change

Making changes for the better, whether at work or in your personal life, each have some common elements. Here are some real-life, practical tips accompanied by some semi-deep thoughts:

If you, as a leader, have done a thorough job of explaining your organization's situation and why it is critical to do specific things differently, you will enable readiness and reduce resistance before it even starts.

Why? Because the human condition demands a reason for doing something differently. Until you answer the "Why?" question satisfactorily, forget about trying to get to the "What." (See, I just did it).

Readiness is all about understanding and acceptance. Yes, both of those. You can understand something intellectually but you need a certain amount of acceptance to want to act on your understanding. 

What to do:
 When a change is needed, start talking about the situation and what you think needs to happen differently. Make the topic an ongoing conversation over lunch, in meetings, emails, etc. Engage other people in the discussion at every opportunity. Ask them what they think could be done to make this "new" thing happen. Tell managers to make it a conversation in their meetings.

Why? (See, I am trying to model this thing). When the decision to make the change finally happens, it's not a surprise.

Save surprises for a significant birthday.

 

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Really Smart People Keep Learning

Is that just too obvious to you?

The impact on organizations is huge and, I think, grossly underestimated.

Hiring "smart people" often consists of hiring recent grads with high grade point averages or candidates with related experience.

LearningMy consistent observation within organizations is that this is only a fraction of what's needed--and frequently meaningless.

More and more, especially with ongoing change, the path to performance is learning. But there is a cry continuing to be heard in board rooms and hallways: "But (name) is so smart. Why can't (s)he get what we're doing?

The answer lies in willingness and ability on a person's part to:

1. Recognize that something new requires learning

2. Understand that "new" means it's time to learn again

3. Suspend judgment and try  a different way of doing things

This isn't an issue of IQ. It's an issue of EQ.

When I created the tag line "Teaching Smart People Practical Ways to Become Extraordinary", the response from clients and colleagues was positive. The question that does pop up is : How do you decide who is smart and who isn't?

The answer: I don't know who will fit into that category until I start working with  an individual or an organization. When facing a challenge or simply wanting to grow, those who are willing to make the necessary changes look awfully smart to me. And it's the willingness to learn that defines "smart".

Under the same circumstances, those who dig in and make excuses for why they shouldn't at least give it a try fall into the opposite category.

Would your organization be willing to define "smart" in a similar way?

Bonus:  Mary Jo Asmus lays out a key leadership skill that will make a difference in your career, regardless of your position in the organization. Check out The Key Missing Piece

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Encourage Talent If You Want It To Grow

Every so often I check the keyword searches that land people here at All Things Workplace. A lot of them have to do with "find my strengths" or "how do I manage talented people?"

People at work appear deeply invested in clarifying their own strengths and understanding the inherent talent in others. If that's so, I was wondering why there is so much angst about "growing talent." It seems that people are already interested and committed for the long term if their strengths and talents are being valued.

"Your Lips Say 'Yes-Yes' But There's 'No-No' In Your Eyes"

There is at least one reason why some people--including managers--shop their resumes even in bad times.In part, it has to do with verbally advocating development and then doing the opposite.

A real life example:

Jason (not his real name) is an operations manager in one of my client companies. He's quite experienced and has been in the manufacturing industry for 20+ years. He is also the most well-read client ever. Whenever I see him, he waxes poetically about the wonderful "new" managerial ideas he's picked up from the most recent leadership books he's read. And he's read all of them.

One of those ideas had to do with recognizing someone's small successes and following through with verbal encouragement or even a small reward (lunch, movie tickets, a $25 gift certificate. . .) Or better yet, acknowledge the person's accomplishment during a regular departmental meeting. He even made it a point to talk about the importance of those ideas during a meeting with his supervisors.

So what's the problem?

He wouldn't do any of those. So, I asked him why not.

His reply: "I'm not going to spend time rewarding or telling someone how good they are if the company is already paying them a salary. They are supposed to do good work."

What's baffling is this: He doesn't have the same approach with his kids. I've seen him at home, in action. He acknowledges them when they've succeeded at something. Anything. And he does it spontaneously.

Good grief:

Blog Insert.001

Every day we're all trying to learn or do something new. Let's be honest: part of our day is spent being a kid again when it comes to struggling with a new problem that needs a solution. And we could use a few encouraging words of recognition when we demonstrate a talent that helps the organization.

("Gee, that felt good. I think I'll do it again!)

What would a well-known, successful business person say about the importance of encouragement?

"My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me."
~ Henry Ford

A Final Thought to Encourage Encouragement
The human mind abhors a vacuum. In the absence of accurate information we'll create our own story to fill the space. Unfortunately, we humans usually create a more negative reality than actually exists. Therefore, the absence of acknowledgment and encouragement can very easily turn into the perception of a "critique." (If my boss isn't telling me I'm doing well then I must be doing poorly).
Find someone who is doing something well today and tell them so. You'll be growing talent.

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Steve Roesler, Principal & Founder
The Steve Roesler Group
Office: 609.654.7376
Mobile: 856.275.4002

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