Leaders understand the need for having better trust in their organization. It impacts companies of all sizes. However, just knowing you need trust and wanting to build trust does not make it happen. Nurturing trust at work is the leader’s job.
Trust is a very basic need to form healthy relationships whether at work, at home, or in the community around us. We all know the saying “you do business with someone you know, like, and trust.”
Nurturing trust is not something that can happen by accident. It takes direct, intentional effort to get there.
Recent studies, principally the “Project Aristotle” published by Google in 2016 highlight the key role that trust or ‘psychological safety’ can play in producing high-performing work teams.
Since then I have had the opportunity to share something I call the “Team Trust Model” which is a simple-to-follow framework for ways leaders can do more to build trust at work. The model has been used at large global brands like Coca-Cola and UPS as well as my smaller privately owned client companies. It works.
Not long ago, I had an opportunity to present and record a workshop with the Growth10 community of coaches. Growth10 serves entrepreneurs and business leaders who want to grow. The growth might be measured in terms of company performance, but it also includes individual growth as leaders.
Those who join Growth10 enter a national community of like-minded business leaders. In addition to receiving one-on-one mentorship and participating in a mastermind group, members are part of the G10 Community. You have an opportunity to network with hundreds of high-performers, engage in expert workshops each week, access on-demand micro-lessons on key topics, receive a member briefing every Thursday morning, listen to weekly podcasts and participate in a peer learning community. You’ll get the answers you need from your peers and our expert content providers.
As much as I love all the science, academia, and psychology of leadership development, and believe me I follow a lot of it, I often find the biggest achievements come from simple steps. I call these triggers.
I had a client recently who was tasked with improving his executive presence. He had developed a reputation as having a somewhat short fuse when it came to interactions in the field.
In his defense, he works in a labor-intensive industry, with much of the workforce being trade skills and blue-collar. Nothing wrong with that picture other than you must understand confrontations can be ‘lively.’
My client had a tendency to meet his folks on their level whenever prompted by conflict.
As we worked through his options for changing his style and approach, we discussed specific instances and role-played the scenarios. After we had explored his options, I asked him “How do you think you will be able to affect this behavior once you’re back in the field?”
He was stumped for a moment. He really couldn’t think of ways to make it work.
The choice was simple. Either react the old way or respond with the new framework and mindset.
I suggested he think of a trigger. It was going to be easy to know when a confrontation was about to begin.
I asked him if he thought he could decide between two simple choices; either “on” or “off”. What I meant was, decide whether the employee reactions were “on”, as in, “I don’t like this instruction, but…. I can see why I need to do that.” That is an “on” position.
If the employee is totally opposed and becoming agitated, then the matter is “off”.
He agreed that would be easy to process.
By knowing whether the moment was on or off, he could choose to use his new methods for dealing with “off” situations.
The central theme we had landed upon was “an executive must act as he should, not as he feels.”
When circumstances were looking like they were in the “off” position, he needed to be extra diligent to be MORE executive about the situation, refrain from responding in kind, and become the peacemaker rather than another combatant.
By not forcing himself to have to think too deeply about the situation, he could rely on simple on/off logic to know which response was appropriate.
It worked very well.
After all my years of business and community leadership, I firmly believe there is a great deal you can accomplish as a leader with good common sense. That’s why I refer to much of my work as “Leadership Powered by Common Sense.”
Again, I love brain science, emotional intelligence, psychology, and all other facets of effective leadership study. Yet when you are in the heat of battle, you need simple, effective triggers to guide your response.
Question: What are some triggers you can use in your leadership to become a more effective leader? Leave a comment.
Also, if you are looking for ways to become a better manager, leader, or boss, check out my Best Boss Ever Challenge. I’ve pledged to connect with 10,000 business owners, managers, and leaders in 2022. Click the button below to learn more.
The month of January not only starts the new year, but it serves to end the old one. For many businesses, January sends HR folks and Managers into a frenzy trying to finalize employee reviews, ratings and rankings for the entire staff.
There are score sheets, narratives, interviews, and ‘coaching sessions’ done to inform employees how they did with the last twelve months of performance. Thousands of hours are dedicated to performing this daunting task. And to what end?
Anyone who has ever worked for a company with more than 50 employees has likely been subject to or responsible for the processing of this archaic ritual.
It’s a Littered Road
Let’s look at some history. The idea of doing such a process no doubt started with good intentions. Let’s face it, we all like some appreciation for the work we do. Furthermore, if we’ve been doing the work for a while, we feel the need to get a raise or bonus. It’s a risk/reward mindset. “I took the risk by dedicating my time and effort, so what is my reward.”
From the company’s viewpoint, if we’re going to permit merit raises for good performance, we need to be ‘fair’ in how we do that. If we have a larger population to administer, not all frontline raters will think the same, so we need layers to screen the outcomes. Hopefully (and I stress that word), the layered process can more evenly distribute the budget we allocated to the raises and bonuses.
Having said just this much, the system is already broken, right? I mean what about the individual contribution? Does it get melded and mashed into a corporate box ranked one thru ten? Or worse yet, rated one thru five? What’s the real difference between a seven and an eight, or a four and a five?
Compound this method by declaring the rankings need to be distributed on some bell curve, now you have a real mess that totally unmotivates even the best of performers. I’ve even seen “force-placed” ranking systems using scores one through 100. Managers are told you only get one person at 100 and somebody has to be the one.
From where I sit, with 40+ years of leadership experience, the rigid ranking and rating systems produce no positive outcome. It relegates your best people to ask simply, “What am I going to get paid?” Your lower performers likely already know they are slacking and the process only agitates an already bad attitude.
Throughout the year, bosses who may have thanked an employee for a good project outcome or praised them openly at a team meeting get ambushed at year-end when that employee is rated a three out of five and told “you met my expectations.” The boss rates them that way because, compared to the rest of the group, the middle of the pack is where they stand. Or, still bad news, the boss forgot about the good outcome from May when trying to rank the whole team at year-end. Yes, it happens.
Remember, I said the HR folks get hammered during these rating cycles? Here’s one for you. I got a call from an HR professional I’ve known for 20+ years. Her company had gone through major layoffs due to the COVID pandemic. The division she supports had suffered what amounted to a 33% cut in the team last year. Everything was wild and wooly for a while but seem to have settled down now.
They did their year-end performance appraisals and all the surviving people met their goals, according to the commercial software system they use for administering employee performance appraisals. The goals, by the way, were set by corporate, not by the local managers, and are lock-tight tracked and reported by the system. They apparently use a three-point system for assigning an overall score… ‘met goals’, ‘needs improvement’, or ‘move them out’. (How’s that for motivational messaging?)
Corporate called her to say that THE COMPLETED PROCESS was unacceptable. The results should have produced more of a bell curve with 2-3% of the highest-ranking at the top, and equal distributions below. By the way, it’s not clear what happened to the STANDARD bell curve with 20% at the top and bottom, 60% in the middle? She also reported she was totally confused why she wasn’t given these instructions at the beginning of the process.
So they are asking her and her managers to change the ratings after the entire process has been completed! She is about to lose her mind. All of this non-sense from a Fortune 500 that should know better. No wonder people hate HR.
In addition, you must ask yourself, what about the employees who have already been told about their standing?
That ‘Less Than’ Feeling
The whole artificial mess leaves employees with a ‘less-than’ feeling. ‘I am less than what the company wants.’ I feel ‘less than’ excited to work here.
I am convinced it is programs like this that are contributing to the Great Resignation. It’s exactly why good people are leaving what otherwise might be considered good jobs to start their own businesses or search for more employee-friendly environments. People are simply fed up with old systems, narrow mindsets, and poor evaluation systems.
Leaders at all levels must realize the need for better employee communication. Communication of expectations, clear goals, and priorities, plus fair accountability standards. It’s a huge challenge. But it can be done.
Join me in my 2022 Challenge to Be a Better Boss. Visit the challenge here.
As a bonus, here are several other articles I’ve written on this important subject.
The new year is always full of new possibilities. Yet sometimes we drag old situations into the new year. One big area where I see people struggle has to do with identifying and managing “red flags.”
What is it about red flags? You know, those subtle warning signs that a new situation is going to have problems.
Whether a new relationship, a new business arrangement, or just a new possibility in our life, the first signs of a red flag should give us pause. Yet too often they don’t. Why is that?
The answer lies in the gap between the “known” and the “unknown”. As you move toward anything new, you will be leaving the known factors and circumstances to move into the unknown. This transition is also why people have difficulty facing change. Change causes this same movement from known to unknown.
Dealing with Comfort Zones
Comfort zones come from the “known” parts of our life. Experiences from the past establish our sense of the known elements in our life. Some experiences are good, some are bad, but all are known.
With the unknown, we establish our own set of expectations. Perceptions about “what could be” start to look very appealing. That’s why we decide to make a change.
Red flags always appear in the “known”. Some fact point is presented right now, today, and it is easy to declare it a red flag. Here’s the rub.
The new red flag, although it is now a “known” item, is weighed against the perceived value of the new deal (the “unknown”). When you choose to ignore a red flag, you have decided the benefit of the unknown is greater than what you know to be true; right here, right now.
Relationships are the easiest examples of dealing with red flags. Entering into a new relationship there is always the phase of getting to know the other person. You make a date, you go out, you spend time talking about each other, sharing experiences and values.
As time goes on, behavioral habits are displayed. Is the other person on time, do they dress well, do they treat other people kindly? The list of possibilities is long. As each item is demonstrated or expressed, you do a mental check off of whether each trait is good or bad. Are they appealing or appalling? The bad ones are red flags.
Sure, no one is perfect, so we allow a certain few red flags to remain. Why, because the potential (remember this is still perceived value) for a better relationship outweighs the red flag.
Occasionally, we look at red flags and think “Oh, we can fix that after we settle down.” Bad idea! My experience says red flags only get worse. They were at odds with one of your values when they were introduced, they will only get worse as time goes on.
Here’s how to burn red flags:
1. Be true to your own values – Stay centered in your core beliefs and values. Don’t allow yourself to be swayed into a new line of thinking or a new standard of behavior, unless that new direction is a choice you make.
2. Recognize today’s reality – Make decisions based on as much fact as you can possibly collect. A known, demonstrated behavior that is not acceptable must be rejected. That new life partner or business associate will not change the bad behavior. It might even get worse.
3. Check your perceptions – The excitement of a new possibility is wonderful. However, if the steps leading up to the new relationship are littered with red flags, take caution.
4. Be assertive – If you have standards that are going to be compromised by the red flag traits in the other person, stand your ground. Speak the truth. Try to talk it out, be firm. If it costs you the relationship, so be it.
5. Be confident, don’t settle – Most of all, be confident that you do not have to settle for red flags. Just because that person is available today, if they come with a bag full of red flags, walk away. Search for a better deal.
Managing the red flag scenario is one of the toughest life choices we make. Usually, there are so many reasons to carry on thus ignoring the red flag. However, the red flag is a universal symbol of caution. Why wouldn’t you treat it the same in your personal life and at work? Establish a method to identify and deal with red flags. Your final outcomes will be far more rewarding.
Starting fresh in the new year might be a good time to rethink your views of customer service. For businesses of all sizes, the first question is simply “Who is my customer?”
The word customer usually applies to the end-user; the person paying for the goods or services. However, in larger corporate settings, your team’s customer may not be external at all. You may be serving an internal ‘customer.’
Either way, the notion that there is someone out there to consume or receive what you do should be important to review on a regular basis.
First, let’s do a little myth-busting about customers. Leading the list is the age-old favorite “The customer is always right.”
This myth was busted for me many years ago by Herb Kelleher, the infamous founding CEO of Southwest Airlines. Herb told a story one day.
There was this disgruntled and somewhat drunk customer waiting to board a flight at the Southwest hub in Dallas (their home). The weather had caused delays throughout the system. As one delay after another was announced, this one customer got more and more belligerent. He yelled at and belittled the gate agents. Then he event took to spewing abusive rants at fellow customers.
Finally, the flight was ready to board. He pushed his way to the front of the line, only to be greeted by two Dallas cops. They cuffed him and escorted him behind the line. The crowd in the terminal cheered.
Herb said while they (his crew at Southwest) made one customer really mad, they made 300 others very happy.
This stuck with me.
Myth #2 – ‘So long as customer needs are met, we’ve done our job well’
Supplying the customer with what they asked for is one thing, but in reality, it’s only half of the service. To build a real customer experience, it is all about how you make the customer feel — from the moment they become acquainted with your company, to the last interaction you have with them.
This includes everything from their surroundings and environment, your employees’ tone of voice, extra facilities, availability, the speed of service, and so on. Everything about the customer’s experience must be as close to perfect as possible (and yes, if something goes wrong, you can indeed still achieve this).
It is not enough to simply satisfy a customer’s primary request. The customer experience is made up of tons of micro-interactions that all influence how that person will see your brand. In short … it really is the little things that matter.
Myth #3 – ‘Our customer service should be built and governed by policies and procedures.’
Policies and procedures are indeed necessary for a business to run safely and smoothly, but following them rigidly to the letter can often be the reason a customer leaves dissatisfied. This might involve the hours that you’re open, your policy on returns, or a simple customer mistake based on human oversight. Rather than play rigidly by the rules, your employees should be empowered to make independent, on-the-spot decisions in favor of the customer, without consulting a more authoritative member of staff first.
Employee empowerment is not about breaking or ignoring the rules, but about bending the rules to keep customers happy. If employees are afraid of negative consequences such as losing salary, losing their job or simply being belittled, then your customer service will quickly become stagnant and unresponsive to customer needs. Instead, it must be creative, free-flowing, reactive, and dynamic as new solutions are sought every day.
Going out of the box to make customers happy lets them know you value their custom. It is naive to worry about what side-stepping rules and policies might cost you. These same customers are likely to return more frequently and spread the word of their experience to others, making this practice a worthy investment.
Myth #4 – ‘Low customer complaint numbers mean we are doing well.’
There are several flaws in this one. First, your complaint count might be low because your customers are too frustrated to care about reporting it.
Or, your customer service process may be so bad that the real complaints are not getting through. Either way, don’t get complacent about low complaint counts. Be sure you’re getting the right picture.
Ask questions. routinely, get in touch with your customers. Ask why they like working with you. Find out what they expect. Be sure you fully understand what they want, why they picked you, and what it will take for them to stay.
Myth #5 – ‘I can’t fire any customers. They’re too hard to find.’
This is a lie straight from Hell. A bad customer should be fired quickly. What is bad? Well, any customer who makes unrealistic demands on your time and the time of your team members. Any customer who expects to be first in line regardless of the other business you have in progress.
If you are delivering on your word and providing good service, a customer who constantly gripes and complains about the service should be fired. Plain and simple.
The time you take trying to coddle these clowns can best be used to land and support good customers.
New Year: Same Results?
Are you expecting better results but planning to do the same things? Now is the time to renew your thinking about your business. Review what worked well and what didn’t work.
Set a fresh course for where you want your business going in 2022. If you’d like to schedule a no-obligation discovery call to learn what business coaching can do for you, then click the button below.
Welcome to 2022. Yes, we have entered a new year. Like many of you, I have reviewed my accomplishments and plotted a course for this new trip around the sun.
As for me, I have chosen a noble task.
I want to help 10,000 business leaders and company owners become Better Bosses. Let’s start with WHY.
For a long time, there has been a saying among HR professionals. “People join companies but quit bosses.”
Have you ever felt that way? I know I have.
The individuals who get promoted into management jobs and/or start businesses rely on chance and circumstance for ways to figure out how to lead a team. Experience tells me that most fail in some way or another.
I think it’s time we seriously focus on making our bosses be accountable for better behavior.
First, let’s be real. In western commerce and so-called ‘big business’, we have this strange tradition of promoting the brightest bulb on the string to be a supervisor when a spot comes open. The logic goes something like this.
“Sally is our best producer. She would be the best one to lead this team.”
WRONG! Instead, we usually end up ruining the best producer and frustrating the team because Sally doesn’t do well leading people. (No knock on Sally. It could be a Bill or a George here too.)
In the case of the entrepreneur, this person has an idea for a product or service. So they start a company. The idea takes off. Pretty soon the owner knows they need a bigger team to keep things going. Hiring begins and the fun starts.
Like the promoted high-performer, most small business founders seldom know how to manage people.
In both cases, you can hope for a collection of positive experiences with prior bosses to model good habits, but guess what? Those folks had their own journey arriving where they were. So did you really get a good lesson?
Nature or Nurture?
Then there is another thought. In the halls of most business schools, you can find a raging debate among academicians about whether leadership is born or bred, nature vs nurture.
I’m not going to rehash the whole debate here. Instead, I will say this. I have met and worked with clients who clearly have more natural talent to be a leader. They have a sixth sense of reading people and making decisions. They are comfortable at the podium speaking to a team or a whole organization.
These individuals do shine in positions of leadership, running companies. And, like professional athletes, they get better with coaching to help them refine the natural-born skills they seem to have.
I wanted to play sports in school. But growing quickly to six feet tall before any notion of hand-eye coordination kicked in limited my future in athletics. Obviously, I was NOT a natural-born athlete. The few things I’ve tried since then, like golf or tennis, have required hard work.
On the other hand, I have worked with clients who did not start with “natural” leadership ability. Instead, they embraced the need to be a leader. They worked hard to learn concepts, principles, and values they could use to become better leaders and, hence, better bosses.
Therefore, my observation is simply this. Some people may be born to be leaders and get better with training. Others can learn to be better leaders with the right coaching, hard work, and commitment.
Back to Human Resources
I knew a global HR professional who boldly led a charge to redesign his company’s entire HR role. His premiss said, “If we trained better managers, our people problems would go away.”
While the company didn’t accept the theory outright, they did permit him to test it with a large global project he was assigned to support. The results were never empirically proven, but the overall success was positive based on exit reviews and employee feedback.
The idea is solid. Better bosses can make a difference in the way work teams view the company. More importantly, it impacts the quality and quantity of work contributed by employees.
Add to the above factors the rapidly changing world of work today in the face of COVID lockdowns, remote working, and workforce change.
Studies are beginning to emerge wherein labor pools are voicing one common theme. People are tired of toxic cultures created by bad bosses. Here are a few of these studies:
Management teams who have historically ignored employee feedback are being systemically voted out of office. No, I don’t mean literally, because there is no such vote. But symbolically, they are receiving a “no confidence” vote from people walking off the job. The “Great Resignation” it is being called.
In essence, the modern workforce is saying “Enough!”
Should You Be Surprised?
If you are in a management position, now is the time to take action. There is always time to review what you do with your team. You can make a change.
Want to be a better boss? Here are a few tips to help get the journey started.
First, disconnect from the tradition and legacy of your company’s “less than” culture. Take a serious inventory of the standards enforced by tradition. Does the culture rely on command and control leadership styles?
More specifically, does the culture rely on any aspect of interaction that serves to diminish an employee’s status? Is it customary to always talk down to the people below you by job grade?
When an employee brings bad news, are they subjected to ridicule and admonishment?
Break that chain. Treat people with respect. No one deserves to be subjected to harsh emotional lashings for trying to do their job.
Next, decide on an intentional change in the way you look at your responsibilities.
Shift your thinking. Can you do more to represent your team? Are there better ways to show your support for them?
Then, upgrade your communication ability. Are you the best communicator you can be?
Step outside your own box for a moment and get a read on the way your messaging lands. Ask for some 360 feedback about your communication style and effectiveness.
Just because you say it, doesn’t mean people get it.
Make your communication a true two-way exchange. State your issues, then ask for feedback on the spot. You can start with a simple ask from your people, “Please tell me what I said, in your own words.”
Also, don’t rehearse tragedies.
This is aline I picked up from the hit TV show “Blue Bloods.” It means don’t dwell on the bad stuff going on. If something fails, make a one-time review of why, learn from it, then move on. Don’t keep dredging up the negativity.
With this also, never use a team or individual fail to justify a ‘public execution.’ Good people fundamentally know if they made an error. You as the boss, don’t have to keep reminding them of it.
Finally, learn how to read the room.
Pay attention to what is going on around you. If people seem on edge about a problem that is in front of them, you have to handle the problem first. Then you can announce a new piece of guidance or instruction. You can’t teach a sailor to tie a knot when the ship is sinking.
The New Year
Turning the page on the calendar is a great way to reset your own focus. Please take a moment to think about how you manage and lead your team.
Can you be a Better Boss? We all can do something to up our leadership game. Why not join me in making 2022 the year of the Better Boss?
As I sit down at my trusty old PC to write some thoughts on this, the week before Christmas, I was tempted to “mail it in” by digging into my archive and dusting off an oldie but goodie.
Yet as I pondered what to do, I started thinking about the early Christmas we just finished celebrating in my family. The wife and I like to alternate Christmas day each year to allow our married kids to swap with the in-laws. Spreading the wealth if you will. Not hogging ‘the day’, but rather willing to be flexible in alternating years.
So this was the year for early Christmas. The whole clan gathered for the day to meet, eat, swap gifts, and let the grandkids get the maximum benefit from our brand of family Christmas. It was simply great.
The jolly crew is pictured above. BTW we do ‘themed’ celebrations. This year was a Camo-Christmas.
Anyway, one of the gifts the grandkids got (the boys, that is) was a set of building pieces based on a little STEM learning. The kits were to teach the basics of electronics. The parts would snap together to complete a circuit. There were buzzers, bells, motors, and gadgets to plug in-line to feed off a battery pack. The successful accomplishment was realized by a whole range of noises, beeps, buzzes, and whirrs.
I coached my 8-year-old on the principles. In no time, he was building pretty amazing layouts. The first, most basic concept he mastered was to follow the flow of the circuit, starting with the positive side of the batteries, winding thru the model, and ending on the negative side. Positive and negative.
There it is – the Muse for this Message
Thinking about the positive and negative made me start thinking about the world around my little family unit. Today, there is so much negativity. Seldom do we focus on the positives.
Speak with any colleague or friend and it won’t be long before something negative comes up. Maybe I’m writing an indictment on my circle of friends. However, I really don’t think so. Too many good people are getting beaten down by the negative rhetoric and the cynicism in the daily news.
I decided to take a quick poll, just within my own head. Here are the scientific results I just made up.
There is good in the world
My neighborhood goes all out decorating for Christmas. Yards are strung with all manner of “exterior illumination” man can buy (thank you Clark Griswald). Then beginning right after Thanksgiving, hayrides begin cruising the streets taking large groups on tours. It’s a fun, enjoyable human experience.
Last year my street started hosting what we call Candy Cane Lane. Our cul de sac turns into a unified theme park adorned with large 6′ lit candy canes. Every night, Santa appears in person along with several elf helpers to hand out candy canes to the hayrides. OK – yes, it’s taking things up a big notch, but the neighbors on our street love doing it.
Being on the front line, looking at humanity from behind a fake Santa’s beard can be very cathartic. You should try it sometime. The little kids stare in amazement. Even the adults melt into memories of childhoods long ago. Times when things were not so complex or demanding. It’s easy to see.
It offers a brief break from the otherwise crazed world we live in. And people LOVE it.
By doing something positive, our little group is restoring joy and harmony.
Volunteerism is alive
I have the joy of working with several non-profits. The spirit of giving and serving is alive.
It’s not easy, nor are the finances bountiful, but dedicated souls to can identify with causes they love are still coming out in droves to help, serve, and give.
We all can make a difference
You’ve likely heard the story of the boy and the starfish. A small boy was walking on the beach. The high tide had washed hundreds of starfish onto the sand. An old man saw the boy bending over, picking up a starfish, and then throwing it into the sea.
As the man came up to the boy, he said “Young boy, what are you doing?”
The lad said, “I am saving the starfish.”
The old man said, “You’ll never make much difference.”
The young boy looked down at the starfish in his hand and said “I’ll make a difference for this one.”
We can spread positivity one person at a time.
Just show up
I thank a fellow coach, Mike Van Hoozer, for helping me learn the concept of focus in the moment. Every human endeavor is not really about the long journey, but rather the way we show up in the moment. Our legacies and reputations are built on moments not big projects or programs.
As an example, professional baseball players build careers after a long run of moments. Moments when they come to bat. Bottom of the 9th, ballgame tied, two outs, and two strikes. One pitch, one swing can make the moment. Strikeout, you might be forgotten. Hit a home run and you will forever be remembered.
The same is true for good managers and great leaders. You build the reputation as a good boss by the moment by moment steps that happen every day.
Good people show up in the moment. When your moment happens, you can choose to be positive or negative. Choose positive.
Please join me
For 2022, please join me in choosing to be positive. Let’s drown out negativity. Sure there can be differing opinions. But when it comes down to it, why not decide to be positive?
Lift people up, don’t tear them down. Even your so-called enemies. How hard will it be to at least hear them out?
Right now I am thinking of a few people I know who have sunk so low into the muck that it will be hard for them to read this. Heck, they’ve probably already scrolled past. That’s ok. But if I can get hold of them, I’m going to do all I can to be positive, encouraging, and helpful toward them.
There is a better way. Please join me in spreading a little positivity. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Joyous New Year. Leave a comment or share with your tribe.
As we run screaming into the end of the year 2021 (where has this one gone?), it’s always a good time to reflect, regroup, and renew our thinking for the year that is just around the corner. The best bosses I have known use this time to make reflections.
There are those among us that do very little reflective work. What I mean is, they seldom stop to look at their own impact and effectiveness. Instead, they meander through life doing what they want to do, choosing what they choose, and paying very little attention to the consequences.
In my mind, I am fortunate to never work with that kind of client. Why? First, because they never call for coaching. Remember, they are NOT reflective. More importantly, they wouldn’t be a good coaching client. I’d likely get blamed for producing no results. So to that end, I am happy they never call.
The Good Guys
However, it is my good fortune to work with clients who want to make a difference. They want to become better bosses. These heroes are willing to stop and ask the tough questions like:
How did I do as a leader?
What could be better?
Which things worked well, what didn’t?
What should I do more of?
And what should I STOP doing?
It is by allowing these reflections that one can achieve growth. Change is inevitable. So why not be intentional with the changes? Build a plan for mastering your skills as a leader. You can’t do it all in one giant leap forward.
Rather, you have to decide on specific behaviors or skills you want to use to become the leader you want to be. Decide on a few key things that can make the most difference right now. Then get help understanding the details about what you can change.
It’s in the Bag
When asked about leadership, I like the analogy of the golfer. In the bag is a set of clubs, 14 by regulation. Each club is designed for a specific purpose like hitting long or hitting short with finesse. Good golfers know how to use each club with varying degrees. The golfer will ‘bend’ or ‘shape’ shots depending on the course in front of them. Choosing the right club and the right swing in the moment is what differentiates good golfers from great golfers. Or in my case, pretty mediocre weekend golfers.
Building a leadership skill set is like the golfer. You can add tools to your leadership bag. But one size does not fit all. You have to practice to learn how to shape the moment with the tool you’ve chosen.
As an example, communication can be one of those leadership tools. Your communication can be very direct if you must make some form of announcement to the group. On the other hand, if you are coaching an employee, your communication may be very warm and empathetic.
Other examples of leadership tools (or clubs – no not lethal weapons) used by the best bosses are delegating, accountability, decision making, motivation, listening, speaking, planning, giving feedback, nurturing, coaching, character, integrity, etc.
The list can be long. You need to decide the elements and attributes that you want to define your leadership style and substance. The longer the list, the more work you will do to improve your skill at applying these behaviors in the moment.
This is why you simply cannot work to develop all of the skills in one big push. You have to work with them throughout your career. In my experience, you will have whole seasons of work where certain skills will dominate the situation. A select few of your leadership skills will be needed to win the day. You won’t ignore or forget your other leadership skills, you just won’t call on them as often.
The calendar year-end is always a convenient time to remember the need to look back, evaluate, and make new plans.
I’m not talking about funky new year resolutions. Instead, I mean valuable reviews of what has happened before and a focus on what can lie ahead.
The best bosses include just such a look at their own ability to lead. Having the self-discipline to sit down and prepare a year-end review is a great start to making next year your best year ever for the best boss ever, YOU!
Let me also wish Happy Holidays to all my friends and colleagues who do not observe Christmas time celebrations. Blessings to you and your families!
What would it take to make you the best boss ever? If you get promoted into a supervisory or management role, you might be asking this question. That is if you get past the “Oh snap, what do I do now” stage.
But seriously, wouldn’t it be better if you really could be the best boss ever to your team? It is said people join companies but quit bosses. How can you avoid being ‘that guy?’
The best place to start is to think about the good bosses you have known. Certainly, you knew some. Maybe it was a coach in school or maybe your first boss who took you under his/her wing. For me, the idea of the best boss ever is more of a collage of many; a patchwork quilt of skills and abilities demonstrated in the trenches by bosses I have had.
As I work with my coaching clients, I often ask them to do this same exercise. Think about leaders you have known or know about. What attributes make them good leaders? I have the client write out the list they identify.
In no particular order, here are the common themes I get.
Interpersonal skill – having the ability to connect with employees. The time we spend at work should not be ‘all work’. There has to be some connection that happens. Otherwise, people lose interest.
I was told about a senior leader at a company who had the uncanny ability to recall names and details about workers’ family matters. It was not uncommon for him to see someone in the hall and ask “How did Jimmy’s project go at school?” He was following up on a small detail shared with him in a prior meeting.
Being able to relate to your people is not simply calling them by their names. It’s about getting down to earth with matters that mean something to them.
Integrity – This theme comes up a lot. People simply trust a person of integrity more than they trust anyone else.
Integrity has many layers. It starts with doing what you say you’re going to do. It also means staying away from the petty politics that can happen at work.
In addition, it means not cutting corners or making shady deals to get ahead, win the bid, or get your way.
Being decisive – This one has power. If you want to be a great boss, you have to make decisions, then stick by them. When you take on management of a team, the people need a leader who can make the call. When things happen, decisions must be made.
If you want to earn the respect of your people, you cannot shy away from making the decision when the time comes for one to be made.
Know Your Stuff – easier said than done. Good bosses contribute by knowing something about what they are leading. On occasion, you may be asked to move into an area you know very little about. When that happens, you should make every effort to learn about the critical aspects of the work being done there. Get coaching, mentoring or other advice from the senior experts on the team.
Don’t fake it. A false effort will be sniffed out. You’ll lose all credibility. But people can accept the new manager who is showing effort to properly learn the scope.
In my banking days, I was recruited to join our real estate lending group to build a team of administrators and take over some operations functions. I told the department head I had a little experience in home building but had no idea what commercial real estate lending was about. He said “No worries.” Then he called our lead counsel at the law firm that supported the bank. He asked for what eventually became my tutoring.
For about three months I had regular weekly sessions with the attorney. I got a first-hand look at all aspects of proper lending and governance of loan agreements. With that learning, I was comfortable leading my team, working with bank executives, and even negotiating with customers. To this day, I value that opportunity. (In subsequent negotiations I’ve even been asked where I got my law degree.)
Process and People
Create the Process – scalable, sustainable work requires a reliable process. This doesn’t matter whether you are building cars, drilling for oil, or pushing paper. A solid process gives you the ability to train, equip, and prepare your people for success.
If you ask your team to do things differently every day, they will get very frustrated. You won’t be able to build accountability. Nor will you be able to build reliable output.
Deal with People – as Jim Collins put it, having the right people on the bus is critical to success. Work on your hiring process and build a solid evaluation system for maintaining accountability. Be clear in setting expectations for the team. Then inspect what you expect.
As potential performance issues arise, deal with them swiftly. A languishing problem employee sucks the life out of your team. Plus if you delay in making the right moves to resolve the problem, the good performers you have will lose respect for YOU.
For those on the team who perform at high levels, celebrate the wins. Give recognition where and when it is deserved.
There are dozens more to list, but these are the common ones I hear within my own coaching practice. They make sense. Take these ideas to heart and you just might be on your way to being called, the Best Boss Ever.