Calling All Remote Workers

Since 2000 there has been a growing trend to let workers do their duties remotely; telecommuting it was once called. With the availability of so much good technology, it seemed extra generous of employers to allow workers to avoid the hassles of doing a daily commute. The company saved on facilities expense. While the trend grew steadily for a number of years, there is now a reversal happening.

Work at Home

Between 2012 and 2016, the share of employees who spend 80% or more of their time working remotely grew from 24% to 31%, according to a survey from Gallup. Some 59% of business executives said that more than half of their companies’ full-time workforce would be remote by 2020, per the results of a 2014 survey at London Business School’s Global Leadership Summit.

But not all business leaders are in favor of this trend. In May, IBM told thousands of its remote employees that they needed to return to a regional office or leave the company, Fox Business reported. Last year, insurance giant Aetna began to cut back on its work-from-home program due to concerns regarding collaboration. And in 2013, Yahoo ended its telecommuting program shortly after the beginning of former CEO Marissa Mayer’s tenure with the company.

Smaller businesses who jumped on the bandwagon are now getting off. I received a question from one of my readers who said:

…  love to see something on how to move people “ back to the office”. Many companies are doing that now since [much of their] collaborative energy has been lost as more and more people work remote from home. Is their a best practice on how to [make this recall] to limit impact on morale? 

I didn’t want to jump on this grenade by myself, so I consulted a few of my colleagues who also have successful executive coaching practices. Here are some of the issues to consider (in no particular order).

Mastering the Commute

The original reason many employers ventured down this rabbit hole was to assist workers by lessening commute times. In large metropolitan areas, daily commutes can consume 2 to 5 hours for workers. That doesn’t leave room for any family life. By eliminating the grind of a daunting commute, workers can spend time with family in a.m., get a good breakfast and be “at work” by whatever start time you declare.

The Commute

On the flip side, shutting down in the p.m. involves a simple flip of a switch and a short walk to the kitchen to say hello to kids and spouses.

By reversing the policy and asking workers to return to central facilities, you invoke the dreaded commute. As an employer, even though it’s not your fault where your people choose to live, if they’ve gotten used to no commute, the shift back may be more egregious than you think.

It Gets More Complicated

There are numerous pros and cons of telecommuting. Ultimately the primary factors that determine whether an employees experience with working remotely is successful or not involves that person’s natural personality and needs for feedback.

We have plenty of workers who want the camaraderie of working inside a team. They feed off the energy and vibe of the team around them. Team chemistry can become a perk for many employees.

If a good esprit de corps is established within the workgroup when everyone is together, you get a bonus incentive for the workers who want and need such feedback.

On the other side of that coin is the worker who likes going solo. A personality that is a little more introverted may appreciate the solitude of being able to do their work without disruptive chatter and buzz around them.

It’s not easy to accurately determine which camp all employees fall into. It has been reported that even some workers who seemed like they would be OK working alone are reporting a problem with the solitude after an extended absence from the team setting. This can be explained by the new thinking about ambivert personalities. An ambivert is someone who, depending on the situation, switches between being an extrovert and introvert.

Management’s Trust Factor

All too often I hear managers expressing concerns about whether their people are “really” working. For a boss who is prone to go there first, you may have some trust issues, my friend. If you and your company do not have accountability and productivity measures figured out, then yes, I get it. Remote workers would be a problem for you. However, if you are missing those indicators, you likely don’t know any more information about the people sitting outside your door either.

Any owner or executive who agrees to let workers stay at home must decide on what they will do to create and maintain visibility for consistent delivery of company mission/vision and value propositions.

The person in charge needs to check their motives for wanting everyone back in the office after remote commuting has been the policy. Unwinding that arrangement must be done for the best of reasons. A manager, partner, owner or principal should never ask people to give up the freedom of the remote work for bad ideas like ego, and their own control issues. Hiding behind thinly veiled ideas won’t work. Here are the excuses I know about:

  • We work better together
  • We need the chemistry
  • We need the energy of being able to collaborate

Perhaps remote delegation should have never been allowed in the first place.

What About the Office Culture?

Even if you get everyone to come back together, you as the boss may not be creating the optimum operating environment. I’ve seen too many smaller businesses with a so-called entrepreneurial spirit that are just nut houses (pardon me). The principals lead the pack with a wired and frenzied climate where meetings run too long too often, minds get changed too much, and direction is scattered at best.

Good employees will never suffer that environment for long. If a good and talented worker likes the mission and the work but hates the way the boss treats everyone, working from home is a sanctuary. It will be next to impossible to unwind that scenario.

After all, it’s been said

In the End

It’s all about setting clear expectations. Not all managers know enough about leadership to be able to do this. The leader must be able to articulate clear, concise expectations about work demands. Then you need to stick with them.

If you do end up deciding that you generally want people limiting their working from home to one day a week, I’d say this:

I want to talk to you about our work from home policy. In general, I prefer people to work from home no more than _____ days a week, because of (give your reasons). On rare occasions, I’m willing to approve more than that, but I’d like the default to be no more than ____ a week. I realize I didn’t clarify this earlier, and you haven’t done anything wrong by doing it more often, but going forward, please stick to this guideline.

Also, say this now rather than just rejecting their next work from home request and explaining it then. This is a big-picture conversation to have since they’re now used to doing it a different way, not something to spring on them the next time it comes up.

Leadership : #MeToo vs Improving Personal Accountability

Personal accountability is a wide and somewhat confusing concept. When it comes to leadership, the best leaders not only embrace personal accountability, but they demand it.

Sadly, the headlines today contain stories about cover-ups and sexual improprieties (that’s me being very nice about it). Celebrities, athletes, politicians, key executives, and others are being “found out”. Those who are reported allegedly engaged in bad acts that included theft, fraud, sexual abuses, and collusion, just to name a few.

The #MeToo movement is not limited to the entertainment world. It reaches the boardrooms and back rooms of many of our best respected corporate brands. [Writer’s note: in case you are wondering, the #MeToo movement hit Twitter after the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke. People who had been sexually assaulted were encouraged to tweet simply #MeToo.].

It seems that the old saying is still true:

Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

People in power take license with the authority that comes with their position. When the power is abused as in lording it over those with whom you work, whether for sexual favor or financial twisting, it is still wrong. So what is the remedy, the fix?

Personal Accountability

Large corporations and many smaller businesses have built-in accountabilities for things like accounting, finance, compliance, and other regulatory mandates. Yet the integrity of the leadership is left somewhat unchecked. Yes, there are Boards who write morality clauses into employment contracts. People are fired for violation of those clauses. Great for the Board who demanded that control. Unfortunately, the presence of these controls is seen in only a few cases.

When there is a contractual clause, there is accountability of a statutory nature. The person subject to such control may or may not be very influenced by its presence. If the leader’s tendency is to conduct bad acts, they will figure out ways to do it in secret. The secret only lasts so long.

Accountability must begin in the heart. A moral compass must be engaged that prevents any such bad act. The best leader has long ago figured out what, when and how to establish their own personal system of accountability.

Over the years I’ve had the good fortune of knowing a group of business leaders who started very young making pledges to one another for accountability. They met regularly and shared the temptations they faced. If one member was slipping, the group lifted them up (figuratively). They routinely reaffirmed the pledge for proper conduct. The discipline grew. As they rose in prominence in their respective professions, the habits for accountability became the foundation of integrity. To this day these leaders enjoy reputations for good character and high standards of integrity.

Accountable

I argue this came from a discipline adopted at that early stage of their career. They made decisions long ago about the right ways to act.

Fighting the Beast

The coin here definitely has two sides; at least if you try to be objective. As I began preparing this article, I spoke with several close confidants. Even within this small sampling, the extremes on the scale revealed thoughts I had never considered.

One executive, a male, expressed total frustration with the dynamic. While he couldn’t deny the presence of a small percentage of male managers with horrible reputations for sexual harassment, he was equally appalled by the presence of females who cry foul without a real threat.

My friend contends, at a minimum, the line gets blurry. What action at work, physical or verbal, can be construed to be harmful? What about the office dating that has led to marriages that work. Yes, many do not, but plenty do. In the story above, my friend, a life-long HR professional said that he’s even heard complaints about “Susie, you look nice today.” Where is the line?

Managers have been sunk by false allegations of impropriety, careers ruined, yet there was no recourse. The consensus was, trust the female’s complaint. My friend’s summary statement was “there are some crazy people out there.”

On the other extreme, a female entrepreneur I know just happened to be writing her own story about the #MeToo movement. In her version she states yes, she’s been the ‘victim’ of actions that could be taken as sexually explicit, but she admits never being forced into being violated. While she’s had her own experience with men making statements and doing things like reaching and groping, she calls it a blessing to have never had to experience what many other women are now revealing.

While acknowledging this smaller segment of bad actors, she chooses to stake a claim on the men who have been mentors, champions, coaches, and supporters of her career. She says the ‘good guy’ population is much larger (thankfully). She even goes so far as to say we should add a #WeToo alternative to the #MeToo campaign. i.e. for every woman who has felt threatened, there are probably two or more who have been encouraged and helped by male influence.

If you need help building your own system for personal accountability, consider joining a Mastermind group like those we host at HeadwayExec.

In the end

It all comes back to moral character or decay. Which direction are you heading? If you are a leader (male or female) have you established your own moral high ground from which you choose to operate? In small entrepreneurial shops, you may get away with being a hugging kind of person, but larger corporate settings may not allow such behavior. Regardless, the boundaries have to be set.

Boundary setting is not just for your employees to protect themselves from you, but boundaries you choose never to cross. As an example, I know one male leader who will not permit private, one-on-one meetings with female staffers. It doesn’t matter how long the employee has been there, if a woman wants to meet with him, there will be another party in the room. That may be extreme, but I can tell you it has earned him a high degree of respect. People don’t even try to share an off-color story with him. He wants a straight narrow line shining brightly in his organization. His people respect that and want to work there.

Do they have fun? Yes, they do. It’s the kind of fun everyone can enjoy. The business thrives.

Question: What have you done to establish accountability and raise your own standards for office behavior? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

 

 

Leading in Life: Survive or Thrive

Leadership in life and business is about influencing others to achieve something; hit a goal, make a mark, win a prize. Usually, we think about leadership in terms of doing something special. But being “special” is not a natural human condition.

In a recent interview, Alabama football coach Nick Saban made these remarks:

The human condition is programmed to survive. That’s how we got here. It is not natural to perform at a special level for an extended period of time. If you want to be on top, you have to figure out how to be and stay special. You must work to thrive rather than just survive.”

Think about that for a moment. As a tribe, we came from a heritage of living and working to survive. “Survival of the fittest,” they say. Scientific studies support that idea. Our brains are wired for fight or flight reactions to threats around us. If we choose to flee the scene, we are trying to survive. If flight is not an option, as in the foe to too fast or too strong, we have no choice but to fight. Usually, the fight is not to win for winning’s sake, but to win to survive.

The way we think and the emotions we feel that have survival value will then produce behaviors that increase our chances of survival. Our “fight-or-flight” reaction may be the best-known expression of our survival instinct. This response set is triggered when we (and all animals) perceive a situation as a threat to our existence; our sympathetic nervous system activates rapid emotional, psychological, and physical changes.

Emotionally, we feel either fear or anger intensely. Psychologically, our senses are heightened, and we’re able to make faster decisions. Physically, we get a shot of adrenaline, our heart rate increases, blood flow is diverted to essential parts of the body, and we experience increased strength and stamina. Without these essential changes, our primitive forbears would have died, their genes wouldn’t have been passed on.

Thankfully, you likely don’t have that direct survival challenge each and every day, at least not in terms of dying. Yet we all face uphill battles that test our sense of survival. So the question is whether you choose to merely survive the day or do something special.

Survive or Thrive

Employment statistics tell us the average workforce is not all that engaged. The average employee recommends their workplace at a 3.2 / 5, according to Glassdoor ratings. That’s a measly 64% confidence rating. Companies performing above this are not necessarily large or small or in a particularly “sexy” industry. Rather, they are focused on their people.

If you look at Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work you see companies of all size, all industry, and all ages. The reason is that employee engagement is not a simple thing: it takes leadership commitment, investment, and a complete and integrated focus.

This translates into large populations of workers merely trying to survive; punch the clock, get the paycheck, feed and shelter ourselves and our families, then do it all over again.

To go back to Nick Saban’s remarks, there is a small percentage who choose to be special. They do this by doing more. They establish daily routines for health and welfare that include fitness, mental health, technical expertise, and personal growth.

Whatever personal predisposition you may have, becoming the owner of a business or the manager of a work team forces your hand. Will you survive or thrive?

Taking on Leadership

When you assume the role of leader within any group setting, you not only have to produce personal performance, but you become responsible for group performance as well. Saban’s role as a coach puts him in the hot seat for that “special” performance he describes. In this case, it is winning national football championships. He’s done it both at LSU and now at Alabama.

People outside of Saban’s programs study his methods for achieving high performance that is both repeatable and sustainable. In business, those are key characteristics that any business leader should aspire to have. We need performance that is repeatable, scalable, and sustainable.

Repeatable – allows you to do it again. If you have a great month or great quarter, can it become a great year? If you have a great year, can you do it again next year?

Scalable – is your system and platform scalable for growth? Can you replicate what you do in such a way that you can increase capacity without losing efficiency and effectiveness?

Sustainable – this is the extension of repeatable. You might repeat success once or twice, but can you do it multiple times.

Creating a System and a Process

The key to achieving these special results comes from establishing a system and a process by which great things can happen. Yes, Nick Saban recruits capable and talented athletes, as you should too in your business. Finding the right employees to plug into your system is critical. However, having a room full of gifted employees will not result in high performance without a system and a process to get you there.

Systems

As the leader, you must either create the system yourself or learn to use the system that exists. If you are the owner/founder of the enterprise, either you develop the system or you engage an expert at execution who can design it. If you are a senior manager/executive, you must embrace what has been designed.

If you suspect the system is flawed, you can work with the creator of the system to make changes or you can choose to abandon the effort and take your talents some other place.

Football coaches like Nick Saban expect the assistant coaches to follow his system, make subtle changes appropriate to the details they are responsible for, but stay true to the system. If the assistant doesn’t agree, then they won’t stay there long (see the long list of coaches who have worked for Saban).

In upcoming articles, we will explore the things that make an effective system work.

Question: What sort of system do you use to achieve special performance? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

Harnessing the Power of Your Mind’s Attention and Your Heart’s Affection

It’s a noisy world out there with all the dopamine induced gratification we get from social media. That ping on our smart phone or that message in our inbox telling us something about someone else somewhere. Ah, the satisfaction. How do you sift through it all?

Learning Styles Debunked

For quite some time, I have been a student of management and leadership. The topic is not limited to just the business world. Rather it is all around us. I believe our world is in serious need of solid, meaningful leadership. I don’t mean the kind that wears red or blue, but the kind that truly inspires us to be more and do more.

Yet the “more” is not only about corporate growth. I mean ‘more’ in terms of life; seeing those around us thrive and prosper intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually as well as financially. A real leader can help do that. It doesn’t matter whether the leadership role is formally appointed as in head of some community group, or informally ordained for a bunch of well-meaning volunteers as we witnessed during the Harvey flooding on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Leadership can raise the bar of success regardless of the domain it influences.

We need leaders in all sectors of life. Yet what distinguishes some leaders from others? From my observations both being a leader and working for great leaders, I find one common bond. The best leader has found a way to harness the power of marrying the mind’s attention with the heart’s affection. What does that mean?

The Mind’s Attention

Much has been written about the power of positive thinking. For decades we have heard about “you are what you think”. No doubt a positive mental state adds much to one’s ability to focus and thrive. Likewise a bad frame of mind can draw you down into deep depression and even suicide.

Don’t get me wrong. I am an advocate for working on positive thinking, eliminating limiting thoughts, and building your mind muscle for more positive thinking. A wise old farmer called it “getting rid of stinkin’ thinkin.” The Bible calls it renewing your mind. I’m all in favor of that.

As much as having a great attitude about your outlook and daily regiment is powerful, it can only go so far. Someone once said, if thinking the right thoughts is all there is to final outcome, we’d all be brains on a stick.

No, the best outcome takes more.

The Heart’s Affection

Our heart must be engaged. Our passion must be summoned to give fuel to the fire. It is the fire. When a person becomes passionate about their cause, there is little anyone can do to deter them.

Passion gives us energy to climb mountains, cross great divides, and leap tall buildings (ok yes that sounds like Superman). This heart’s affection for a purpose gives almost unstoppable energy to any situation.

Workers who have not had their passion for the job tapped into, will only perform at  a modest level. This is why making employment selection is so critical for employers and employees alike. Make the wrong fit, and you passion will never rise up. Yet by finding that work where you can become passionate, you can inspire others.

Harness the Power

Binding both parts together can achieve great things. Great minds don’t go very far without a heart filled passion. Conversely passion can be wasted without a clever mind to design a solution.

The best leaders know how to do both. They are driven by a sense of purpose which fuels the passion. Their heart’s affection is a dominating force. In conjunction, they have their mind’s attention fully engaged, finding solutions for problems and devising great alternatives to the hurdles that come up.

Leaders leverage this power, catching lightening in a bottle so to speak. You can hear and almost feel the power of the passion in their voice. You sense the wisdom in their mind’s vision for things to come. You can more easily buy-in to their ideas and direction.

Leaders build this inspiration in their team.

Here’s the Test

If you are in a management or leadership role, do you have both parts engaged and fully deployed? Is your mind flowing with ideas for ways to go to the next level, solving the problems of the day and offering great ideas? Is your heart in it? Do you feel passionate about your cause, your purpose where you are?

One without the other is a broken, unbalanced equation. You might find temporary success, but it will not last. Usually it will not be enough to get to the next level.

Make an evaluation of this amazing blend of your mind’s attention and your heart’s affection. If you have been operating too heavily with one and not the other, look around. You might be missing some achievement. You are likely not to be your best.

Take a moment and project what it would be like to harness this power, with both spheres in better balance, overlapping at the center for amazing results.

Question: Let us know when and how you found this balance? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

Leaders: Which Way Do You Shift?

Shift is a simple word, yet it has so many possible meanings. Shift is a motion word. It implies change. We shift gears when we drive. We also make life choices that involve shifting about. First you’re right here, then you’re not. That is shift. More importantly, when it comes to leadership, the shift you make may be critical.

Shifting

Shifting

My wife and I are blessed with a small army of grandkids, all under the age of 4. When they are together, there is a lot of shifting going on. Getting one or more of them to sit still is almost impossible. They have this natural energy to move. One of the boys, a two year old, loves climbing up in my lap to watch his shows. Yet even when he tries to be focused on the cartoon or program on the screen there is movement. It’s just there.

As we grow older though, the ways we shift and the reasons for a shift take on new significance.

First the Downside

Motion or action does not mean success. I know people who can get very busy and accomplish nothing. I’ve been guilty of that myself. If all your effort has no plan or purpose, you might be shifting for the wrong reasons. Hopping from task to task or even job to job may feel like progress, but in reality, it is not.

Causing change in your personal life or work life just for the sake of change is a problem. Before you decide on a new direction, be sure it is consistent with a plan. Napoleon Hill, in his epic book “Think and Grow Rich”, suggests that only 2 people in 100 have ever designed a life plan.

From many years in coaching people through career change, I learned the vast majority of American workers land jobs out of school just to have a paycheck. Then they get stuck doing something that has nothing to do with their real passion in life. It takes years, if not decades, to realize what the passion should have been. A few fortunate souls make the shift and get aligned with what their heart desires for vocation.

There is great success in finding the right balance between your heart’s affection and your mind’s attention. Be sure you get those in right balance and you will have a far more successful career.

When to Shift

There are the wrong kinds of shifting, then the right ones. The right kind of shift happens when we:

  • Realize a conflict has arisen that we must avoid
  • Recognize a situation as being immoral, unethical, or illegal
  • Feel a need to grow
  • Take on a new challenge

Dealing with Conflict

As conflict arises, you might need a shift. Perhaps your mindset needs adjusting. Your attitude about a subject may be the contributing factor to the conflict. As a leader, conflict is not welcome. You need to be the peace maker.

Yes, there may be a critical decision that is all on you. When you make the decision, some conflict might come up. Yet the way you choose to handle it (a shift in mindset) may be the greatest contribution you can make. Draw deep into your inner core. Use your values and leadership principles to set the course, making the shift as smoothly as you can.

Not all of your decisions will be seen as perfect, but you can minimize conflict by having your own willingness to shift your approach as needed without compromising your values and vision.

Facing a Bad Situation

From time to time, you may find yourself inadvertently getting pulled into a circumstance that is either immoral, illegal, or unethical. One of my early mentors in banking was a very senior executive who was a well respected banker. When we brought new loan requests to him, we would review the risk reward factors, but then he would ask “Is there anything about this person or this company that is illegal, immoral or unethical?” You knew he was always going to ask that question. However, it always gave us pause.

I’ve also known business partners who may get into a bind and one or the other person reaches a little too far into this area in hopes of solving the problem. As soon as you sense that a partner is veering off course, you must make the shift to return things to center or abandon the deal. Your reputation is at stake.

If your moral compass (some call it your BS meter) is going wild, check the signals. Avoid the trouble, it’s not worth it. This kind of shift away from destruction is healthy, wise, and prudent.

The Need to Grow

We all have moments in our professional lives where we begin to sense a need to grow. The job is stale. The opportunity is capped. Or you’re just bored. You may need a shift for growth.

Now, I must caution my Millennial readers that this kind of boredom should not set in on a job inside of 90 days. Job opportunities take longer than that to reveal what the job really involves. If you feel bored within 90 days, you made a bad choice to start. It’s not the company or the boss. It is your decision to take the job that needs adjusting. Leave if you must but figure out why you made the bad choice and learn something from that before you go to work somewhere else.

Growth may also come without a job change. You may just feel the need to learn more about your role. You realize you need deeper knowledge of a subject or more technical know-how to perform at a higher level. A growth shift is in order.

Taking on a New Challenge

A shift is required when change happens. Whether the change is in your position or your duties at work. Or maybe it involves a relocation. New challenges come in the birth of a child or grandchild. All of the other major life events create change that requires a shift of some sort or another. Making the right shift is critical to having the best possible outcome.

The life shifts we make to handle the changes around us will dictate whether we succeed or fail. Choose wisely my friend.

Question: When was the last time you had to shift? Was it the right kind of shift? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Link Your Brand to a Story for Greater Success

Your business provides a great product or service, right? What sets you apart from the next guy? Study successful brands, and you’ll see they each link their brand with a story. Doing so generates more than simple interest; it connects with their clients’ unconscious minds.

your brand needs a storyLink your brand with a narrative, and you will increase business success.

Why people love a story

The human brain loves a good story. Stories connect with the subconscious mind, which, incidentally is where beliefs are stored. Potential clients don’t just adopt logical thinking when deciding whether to buy products or employ a firm’s services. Their beliefs influence their choices as well.

The subconscious mind uses metaphors to communicate with the conscious mind.

Its wisdom rises in the form of stories and pictures to guide people’s actions. Thus, it might show you an image of someone carrying a heavy load if you contemplate tackling what you consider a difficult task. Or, your mind might present a picture of you meeting success if you believe doing so is possible.

Create a story for your brand that inspires people, and they will like your business. Their unconscious minds will tap into the story, and it will influence their decision to use your services.

What type of story do people love?

First, on an unconscious level, people adore a story that feeds their need to overcome obstacles. They love narratives about rising from difficult circumstances and accomplishing success. Think about your favorite movies. Usually there is a struggle in the story. Whether it is overcoming evil for good, rags to riches, or the victory for a cause, this dynamic reach for something better grabs our hearts and minds.

Furthermore, the human brain is designed to seek improvement. Tales of starting small and achieving big victories provide a feel-good factor that puts people in a good mood. Connecting with this internal wiring for improvement through a good story line helps lock in the message.

Why authenticity counts

At this point, you might imagine you can simply make up a brilliant story to attract customers, but hold on a moment. Before you get too creative, remember, people love authenticity as much as they love a great story. Winning stories are based on facts. Clients will soon smell a rat if your brand’s narrative isn’t genuine.

We all have our own BS meter. We know when people are not being real. The story you choose to build your brand must originate from sincerity and authenticity.

Finding a story for your brand

Your brand already has a story; it just needs to be recognized. You’ll uncover the right story if you think of its beginning stemming from how you had a dream. After all, there was a time when your business was a thought rather than a reality. Here lies the part of the tale where you hadn’t yet achieved success.

What were you doing back then? How did you know you wanted your life to change? What did you want to give to the world by starting your business? Answer such questions, and you’ll have the basis for the story.

The tale needs to inspire awe and help your clients believe 

Bear in mind the tale needs to inspire awe and help your clients believe your business has what it takes to improve their lives. Thus, don’t only mention how you were poor but rose from the ashes of poverty like a phoenix to make money. Consider how you discovered you could help others overcome challenges and meet their needs, and weave this element into the story.

12392060 brand story large

Do NOT be afraid

Apart from not thinking of the idea, want to know why some business people never tell their story and link it to their brand? They are scared. Telling their tale involves stepping out of their comfort zone and getting personal. When you reveal your struggles in life, you are vulnerable. However, speaking about how you began your journey will help your clients feel a connection with your brand.

If your story were only about the success of your brand, it wouldn’t be inspiring. Your customers want to be able to relate to the story. Thus, it needs to feed their desire to hear about moving from humble beginnings to achieving a dream.

You might not think you need to link your brand to a story to find success, and you may be right.

You’re more likely to succeed if you uncover the real tale

You are more likely to succeed if you uncover the real tale of your business to tell. Doing so will not only attract clients, but it will also boost your confidence, inspire employees, and make you proud. You’ll love your business even more than you do now, and what you love you nurture.

Footnote: Much of this article was contributed by Austin Tenette, a certified business coach at Focal Point.

Dealing with the Pain of Uncertainty

Uncertainty grips us all at some point in our lives. Perhaps it happens multiple times. It comes in many ways. When circumstances become unclear about “where this is going”, you suffer from doubt, fear, and a whole host of other emotions.

Dealing with Uncertainty

Dealing with Uncertainty

I am writing this firsthand as I and my community are experiencing the unfolding uncertainty of Hurricane Harvey. The Houston area has been impacted by what some are calling rain fall of Biblical proportions. The last reading was 52 inches in five days. For most parts of the world, that amount is a couple of years of rainfall. Houston got it in a few days.

The widespread flooding has forced thousands out of cars, homes and apartments. This event has not been partial to age, race, creed, or financial status. Anyone in the path of the flooding has been impacted. Volunteer effort has also been epic in its response. The efforts of local, state and government officials has been amazing. Thankfully the death toll has been very low, relatively speaking. With an area that is home to 6.5 million, the loss of life can be counted on both hands. This could have been much worse.

In my own neighborhood, we have not been impacted as much as the central Houston area flood water. Yet we have had our own uncertainty. My community is inside a levee district. We have the levee because of the Brazos River. The Brazos is a main artery and the largest river that slices across Texas, running from high central Texas all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Its watershed collects a lot of rain when virtually any part of Texas gets downfall. Last year this river flooded at all-time highs. This year, we are forecast to exceed those levels by 3 feet. That’s a record you don’t want to beat.

The uncertainty of what the outcomes of these events may look like is easy to understand, but hard to comprehend. More importantly it is hard to rationalize your decisions about what to do, who to listen to, and how to go forward.

Uncertainty is by no means limited to catastrophic weather events. It can happen in all other aspects of life too. I’ve had coaching clients who are facing great uncertainty at work. The company is getting bought, sold, or reorganized. Pre and post-merger scenarios often create great uncertainty, even for the chief executives driving those changes.

Uncertainty is difficult because you suffer a wide range of possible human emotion and reaction. The list includes these:

  • Fear
  • Doubt
  • Mistrust
  • Faulty information/assumptions
  • Bad conclusions
  • Compounding effects

FEAR

Fear may be the greatest of all reactions to uncertainty. The fear of the unknown. You may have your own reaction to circumstances. Yet the person right next to, perhaps your spouse, may have a totally different response.

When we take in the information that is surrounding us, we try to process it against the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs. Will this thing effect my safety, my security, my well-being, my livelihood, or my sense of self? If you decide YES, it does effect one or all of those things, then fear kicks in.

Fear is often associated with the fight or flight mechanisms we have. If the threat, whether real or perceived, exists, then we ultimately choose to fight to defend ourselves (literally or figuratively) or we flee from danger, running away.

If you are experiencing uncertainty, the first emotion to get in check is your fear. Though it is a natural response, the energy and emotion it consumes is detrimental to successful outcomes in the face of uncertainty.

DOUBT

Uncertainty creates doubt. What you may have believed to be true is now called into question when uncertainty arises. You can doubt the circumstance, the source of information, or the people around you. Worst of all is starting to doubt yourself.

If you are in management and leadership, self-doubt is a killer. You must avoid doubting yourself. When any question about you comes up because of an uncertain situation, dig deep into your soul. Pull on your character. Stay strong in your beliefs about who and what you are.

If you are not yet certain about those elements of your being, then you have an opportunity to do some work to improve. If grabbing onto core values and key principles is hard for you, then perhaps you have not yet accurately identified them. A coach can help build that base.

MISTRUST

Uncertainty can cause a great deal of mistrust between otherwise civil partners. Friends, neighbors, or co-workers can become adversaries when uncertainty raises its ugly head. As people make decisions about the uncertainty they are facing, their conclusions may run contrary to others.

This is especially problematic between partners and co-workers. When the uncertainty causes a rift between parties, the damage in the relationship may become permanent.

There is no good reason to mistrust someone you formerly trusted during a momentary condition. Wait for the actual, final outcomes to pass judgment on the other person. Hopefully, you will find the temporary interruption in the relationship was not about trust at all. Instead it was a difference of opinions and outlooks that can be repaired with some basic collaboration and communication after the fact. Clear the air as it were.

FAULTY INFORMATION OR ASSUMPTIONS

The panic that might happen inside of uncertainty can be hungry for good information. But you have to be careful. The appetite cannot be satisfied with bad information. Check your facts.

As Reagan once said, “Trust but verify”. Check that data.

Within a team setting, information can take strange shapes. There will be those who insist they have the inside track, getting juicy info to explain the situation or even cast further fear and doubt. In my case lately, there have been those who want to yell “the levee has been breached” when in fact it has not.

It is hard to understand the desire some people may have for spreading such bad information, but they do it anyway. As a leader, you must quiet those storms and share as much good information as you can.

Nothing can confuse a situation more than bad information. Prudent people perform best with solid, reliable information and assumptions. Get the facts, then craft your ideas for desirable outcomes.

BAD CONCLUSIONS

Combining all of the pieces above will usually lead to bad conclusions. Fear, doubt, lack of trust, and bad data create the perfect storm for making bad decisions. Whether these decisions are personal or professional, avoid making a bad decision by fixing the other things first.

During uncertainty, you may still make a bad decision, but you can minimize its risk and significance by eliminating the other things we talked about above.

COMPOUNDING EFFECTS

Lastly, be cautious of compounding effects. If you period of uncertainty is prolonged, one bad decisions can compound and create more bad decisions. Stay vigilant when you are facing uncertainty. You will know when you are.

Avoid making rash choices based on fear and doubt. Dig for the truth and as much actual information as you can so that your choices are smarter, more effective ones.

CONCLUSION

As I write this piece, I sit in the midst of uncertainty. A nearby river is rising to an all-time flood level. There are real people already in jeopardy. Some are homeless, some are displaced, most are just very wet. Property damages are yet to be totalled. It may be days if not weeks before we can get accurate information about what has happened.

This is no time to make decisions based on fear and doubt. We must find trusted relationships to lean on. Anyone introducing new, inflammatory information must be questioned or ignored.

Solid leadership is required.

You can eliminate the uncertainty from your job as a manager by hiring a coach to lead you through to the next level of certainty.

 

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10 Rules for High-Performing Teams

Being a successful leader implies success within the team you influence. While a leader’s impact on specific individuals is easier to measure, team dynamics create exponential challenges for leaders.

21139567 – teamwork works together to build a gear system

Success in today’s work world is more about team than individual performance. A team is more than just a group of workers, located together, doing their jobs. Real teams are interdependent. That means they must rely on one another to get the job done. So what are best practices for effective teams? Here are 10 rules from a chapter on “Best Practices in Team Leadership” by Kevin Stagl, Eduardo Salas, and C.Shawn Burke.

1. Define and Create Interdependencies. There is a need to define and structure team members’ roles. Think of sports teams, everyone has their position to play, and success happens when all of the players are playing their roles effectively. In baseball, a double-play is a beautiful example of team interdependency.

2. Establish Goals. Teams need to be focused on shared goals and outcomes. Commitment to that goal is essential for success. Ideally, team goals should allow both the team as a unit and the individual members to achieve both personal and group goals.

3. Determine How Teams Will Make Decisions. Whether the leader makes the decision, or it is a democratic or consensus process, the team needs to understand beforehand how decisions will be made. This reduces conflict within the team when a decision or choice has to be made.

4. Provide Clear and Constant Feedback. Teams need to know how they are doing in order to stay motivated and to correct performance problems or inefficiencies. Ideally, a system should be in place so that team members receive ongoing feedback while doing their jobs. A simple example from manufacturing is when the team members do both production and quality control testing. They find out immediately what their success/failure rate is and can take action to improve.

5. Keep Team Membership Stable. Particularly in complex tasks, it takes a lot of time for team members to learn to work together at an optimum level. In sports, there is a relationship between how long team members have played together and their winning record.

6. Allow Team Members to Challenge the Status Quo. If innovation is important, it is critical that team members feel secure in being able to challenge processes if they feel that there is a way to improve. In order to innovate, teams need to be open to considering and constructively criticizing existing practices when needed.

7. Learn How to Identify and Attract Talent. Just as processes sometimes need improvement, teams can get better by attracting new talent. Organizations that put a lot of resources into identifying and recruiting talent simply do better.

8. Use Team-Based Reward Systems. Too much emphasis on individual rewards can lead to in-fighting and resentment. A combination of individual and team-based rewards is often best.

9. Create a Learning Environment. Emphasize the development of the team, learning through successes, but particularly through mistakes. A team with a culture of continuous improvement and where members are motivated to develop their skills and knowledge are high-performing teams.

10. Focus on the Collective Mission. Mission-driven teams and organizations perform better because they see beyond their individual workload and tasks and feel as if they are working for a higher purpose. It is imperative that team members be committed to the shared mission, or they should be replaced.

These rules apply whether teams have a formal, appointed leader, or whether they are self-governing. The key is to put in the time and energy needed to adhere to these best practices.

Reference:

Stagl, K.C., Salas, E., & Burke, C.S. (2007). Best Practices in Team Leadership. In Jay Conger and Ronald Riggio (Eds.). The Practice of Leadership (pp. 172-197). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

This article is contributed by Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D.. Ron is the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology and former Director of the Kravis Leadership Institute at Claremont McKenna College. Professor Riggio is the author of over 100 books, book chapters, and research articles in the areas of leadership, assessment centers, organizational psychology and social psychology.

Where Do the Other Guys Go?

Have you ever been to a leadership conference where everyone in the room tries to give you the impression they already know the answers? You spend the day or two making small talk, perhaps exploring some “new ideas”, yet there is an overwhelming sense that all the people there have already climbed the mountain.

Where do the Other Guys go?

Where do the Other Guys go?

If that’s true, where did all the other guys go? Surely there are some colleagues in your industry who don’t have all the answers. You know it’s true because you deal with some of them on a regular basis.

I never seem to meet the executives who are the “bad guys”; the ones who are bad bosses. Where do they go? Is there a bad boss conference that is secretly held at some discreet location halfway around the globe?

Or is it possible the bad bosses are just simply so bad they aren’t even aware they need help?

Enter the 80/20

The practical reality is The Pareto Principle. You may know it as the 80/20 rule. Yes, I firmly believe only about 20% of our business executives can be rated as good leaders. The other 80% might be rated as OK managers, but they fail to achieve effective leadership.

The good ones are the ones that keep looking for ways to improve. They are hungry to participate in industry groups, networking, TED Talks, round-tables, or workshops attended by other like-minded leaders. They keep growing. They even help facilitate and organize events to attract great leaders.

Sadly, the other 80% keep going to work making life relatively miserable for employees or volunteers.

When I try to broach this topic at a leadership mastermind, I get mixed responses. On one hand, I get reactions like the preachers see every Sunday at church. When a touchy subject is mentioned, people squirm in their seats, but look around as if to say, “certainly that is not me, it must be the other person over there”. On the other hand, I have people say “yes, I want to work on this”.

Executives who have been thrown into management roles are seldom fully prepared to be in the position. They were identified as a high potential or a leading single performer. For that effort, they are rewarded with a promotion into management. Yet they lack the preparation to lead, so there is a need to grow. The other option is the fake-it-until-you-make-it mindset. Maybe they will be successful, likely not.

Lastly, there is a small percentage of talent in the leadership pool who move around between companies and industries because they have achieved proven results. Then there are those “up-and-comers” who are demonstrating leadership talent and who will one day be the next wave of key leaders.

Where Are You?

Where do you fit in this spectrum? Have you recognized the need to do more or be more to be a better leader? There may be forces working against you.

When your company asks you to take on a management role, are you ready to accept it and admit you need help? Probably not. You dive in, using the same energy and zeal that got you recognized as a key contributor. You work harder. Maybe you spend more hours at the office or take work home.

The pressure will mount. Various things you try to do are received with mixed results. Some things work. Other things do not. Your team is getting restless. You know there is a gap in what the job requires versus what you can deliver. What can you do?

Hiring an Executive Coach might be the best investment you can make.
You might want to talk to someone on our team today
to discuss ways to achieve measurable results from executive coaching.

Three Things to Master

Maintain your confidence –  stay true to yourself. You were selected because the company needed you in that job. They had a reason to give it a try. Be confident in knowing that. Come back to that truth as often as you need to. Use trusted advisors to prop up your confidence. Share what you can with close associates (not work colleagues).

Core competencies –  there will be key elements of the job you should master. Whether it is technical knowledge or subject matter expertise, become the guru on those topics. Read more, search more; get the most information you can to show the team you have a mastery of the work.

Stay centered –  don’t let the demands of the job take you off your game. Re-establish your core beliefs about who and what you are, how you can contribute, and the ways you can make a difference. Be true to those beliefs. Maintain an identity as the person you want to be at work. I’m not talking about arrogance. I’m talking about reliability and trust.

Highly effective and well-respected leaders didn’t get there by chance. They work an intentional plan. They grow, they seek counsel, and they are constantly learning.

Question: Where are you in the leadership growth process? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

If you own or operate a mid-stage company, you may want to explore ways to strengthen your leadership team. I am here to help make that transition.

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