Leaders: If you Confuse, You Lose

There’s an old saying in the sales world. “The confused mind says NO.” Clearly that has big implications when trying to sell a product or service.

A prospect who gets confused by your sales pitch will revert to a NO answer all the time. On the other hand, a clear, concise explanation of the thing you are trying to sell will help close the deal.

The same is true of leadership responsibility. A confused mind says NO. If you confuse the people around you, the overall performance will be greatly reduced or even eliminated.

An employee’s willingness to perform is centered on their ability to clearly understand expectations and directions.

Clarity may be your best secret weapon to achieve better team performance.

It’s a Complicated World

There’s no denying the increased complexity in business these days. Whether you blame the exponential growth of technology or just the deeper understanding of things around us, it’s much harder to operate a business today than it once was.

Confused minds say NO

However, operating a highly specialized or technical business should not distract you from trying to make things simple for your team to comprehend.

Military people learned the KISS principle; Keep It Simple Stupid. When giving orders, it is the leader’s duty to make the instructions as simple to comprehend as possible. In combat, confused minds get people killed.

In business, the smartest guy in the room shouldn’t be rubbing that in, especially if they are the boss. Rather, if you think you truly are the smartest guy at the table, then you should be able to figure out ways to make directions and instructions easier to understand.

What To Do

Sometimes in figuring out what to do to make things more clear for your team, it is valuable to talk about what NOT to do. Here are a few big ideas to follow.

First, don’t be vague about directives. Masking your meaning immediately leads to confusion. The odds of your people going off in the wrong direction are far greater when you are unclear about your own expectations.

Think of 360 degrees on a compass (in a circle). The direction you need people to take is likely on one of a few degrees on that compass. If you are vague, your team has a minimum of 350+ other directions to go.

If you’re not exactly sure about the direction you want to take, invest the time and energy in getting your own clarity first.

Next, watch your communication style. In times of high stress and urgent deadlines, lookout for accelerating your own reactions to things going on around you. Create more measured responses.

Don’t react, respond instead. There is a big difference.

Lastly, remember the acronym FAST to increase your leadership effectiveness.

International leadership guru Gordon Tredgold coined the term FAST for his book by the same name and his teaching on effective leadership.

FAST is an acronym that encompasses all the best attributes for finding success. Whether your dreams are personal or professional, FAST can help.

FOCUS. You must be able to focus your vision and view of the goal you are trying to achieve. Too many business leaders are fuzzy on the exact expectation they have.

If you’re not clear on where you’re going most any road will get you there.

ACCOUNTABILITY. You must be accountable to the team, the cause and the process to get you to your goal.

Look at the organizational setup. Does everyone know what they are supposed to be doing, do they know what is expected of them, and do they have the right skills, tools, and training to be successful.

SIMPLICITY. You must find the simplest ways to make things happen.

It has been said complexity is the enemy of execution. Trying to reach the desired destination with too many complex and conflicting pieces of information or procedure can only interrupt the desired results.

TRANSPARENCY. Transparency allows the leader to be genuine and clear for the benefit of everyone around them.

Look at the progress tracking. How easy is it to check that progress is being made and was outcome-based rather than just recording effort spent? Is the information accurate and fact-based, or just based on gut feel? How often is it shared with the teams? Do they know how they are doing, or are they just running blind?

Eliminate Confusion

Eliminating confusion can bring greater results. Remember, the confused mind says “NO” every time.

Question: When was the last time you experienced being confused by what the boss said? Were YOU the boss creating confusion?

Saying Thanks to Old Mentors for Their Inspiration

This week families across the USA gather to celebrate Thanksgiving. It means many different things to different people. As one of my clients shared when I asked about his plans, “lots of food, too much to drink, and too much football.” (Sounds like my kind of gathering, but I digress).

The spirit of this holiday is to pause and reflect. More importantly, it’s a time to offer thanks for the many blessings in life, whether material, emotional, or spiritual.

Thanking Leaders from the Past

I was reminded this past week there is another kind of thanks we seldom share. A good friend and fellow coach whom I’ve known for decades was telling me how she recently wrote a blog citing mentors and leaders she has known. The central theme was a note of gratitude to those former bosses for being great leaders; senior managers who inspired and motivated their following.

Hearing my friend share this poignant idea, I was convicted that I have not done enough to say thanks to those who have guided me. I’ve been blessed with some amazing people who have come into my life at various stages, investing time and energy to share their views and experience. The collective wisdom has helped me make better choices along the way. It has shaped my values and principles.

As I think through my list, the reality is that many, not all, of those I count as great inspirations, have passed away. Their legacy remains with me, but I no longer have the chance to say thank you to all of them personally.

I’m going to list the names but won’t go into detail about their impact. Simply stated, I thank you, one and all for spending the time you spent to help a young man. So in no particular order:

  • Jack Whitaker
  • George Jared
  • Tim Balter
  • MSG Jimmy Howard
  • Col. Hal Gaines
  • J. Wayne Stark
  • Col. Gaither Bray
  • LTC Jap Champion
  • Everett Gambrell
  • Dr. John Bisagno
  • Gene Elliott
  • Harriet Wasserstrum
  • Lane Sloan
  • Mary Kole
  • Dick Hendee
  • Mel Maltz
  • Dr. John Lockhart

Thank you for being who you are and doing what you do. You didn’t have to do it, but you did/do.

Who In Your Life?

Take a moment and think about those in your life who made the commitment to mentor. If you can contact them, do so. Spend a minute to give back.

Use the lessons they gave to continue your leadership growth toward the ability to make a difference. They did. Why shouldn’t you? It’s your turn to be a stepping stone for someone.

 

 

The Unsung Role of Leadership

managing up the organization

It is time to dedicate some blog space to a segment of my audience that gets little direct attention. I am talking about the females who serve in leadership roles. I always write with an open mind about the topics I share, and I seldom differentiate between male or female. I still believe “leadership is leadership”, regardless of gender.

advice

Yet with all we’ve tried to implement in the modern workforce to enlighten ourselves, engage work teams, and inform new generations, I still see age-old trends emerging from time to time. In male-dominated organizations, the female role gets compromised.

I’m going to go out on a limb and address several of the most egregious ones I know.

First a Background Story

If you’ve followed my blog or heard me speak, you know I am the only son of a hard-working single Mom. So my familiarity with these topics started at the dinner table when I was a young boy. I watched as my own mother, who was a talented and capable business manager, come home most nights tired and weary from fighting battles; not just the usual battles, but the extra battles of defending her right to be in the room at work.

She had a hard plight. She worked for a home builder in an incredibly macho-man industry. As I got older I watched her go toe to toe on a job site with foremen twice her size. She worked closely with the architects so she knew what had to be done with a new build. Yet the foremen would often try to cut corners and expedite things, leaving out key design features she was trying to introduce into a stale market. Interestingly, Mom usually won.

She didn’t win by using her female charm which could have been easy at 5’5″ with a 16-inch waist and legs to die for (yes, I know I am talking about my Mom). Rather she chose to employ solid fact and logic with a great deal of technical detail that left most of those old grizzled hired hands’ heads spinning. She also knew how to effectively use the “help me help you” technique before that was a thing.

Her scuffles on the job sites became legendary among the various project leads the company hired. In no time she had her own reputation for being tough but fair on making her demands come to life out in the field.

So please don’t tell me I cannot appreciate what women in the workforce are dealing with. I’ve heard a lot over the years. If you think “Me Too” is a new concept, try dialing back the clock to the 50’s and 60’s.

Now Onward

Here are the issues I run into from time to time. I list them in no particular order.

Dealing with Female Executives

First, there is “We don’t know what to do with ‘them’.” Yes, I’ve actually heard that from a group of male executives. My answer is “Really?” The obvious solution is to forget gender and deal with the matter in the same way you would deal with a male counterpart. Any mindset closely related to this is so incredibly naive and archaic. A senior manager who utters such nonsense is really not much of a leader.

I’m encouraged when I enter fairly high-intensity work sites and the female bosses get to act and behave in concert with their male peers. They can give and take with the best of them.

Type-A’s

Next, there is the conundrum of a Type-A, hard-driving male boss being called a ‘tough but effective leader’ while the same Type-A, hard-driving woman executive is just a B#*&H. Again, how sophomoric and low on the emotional intelligence scale. The mindset needs to be adjusted to view these same traits as equals. Yes, I know some female executives who are terrible bosses but painting all of them with one wide brush is very inappropriate. There is an equal if not greater percentage of male bosses who simply suck at what they do.

The PayScale

Yes, it’s a worn out cry from the field, but sadly still true in many situations. The gender gap on the pay scale has closed in recent years with most publicly traded companies settling up, but small, privately owned businesses still suffer the curse here.

On this point, I double checked my position with several female executive coaches I know who specialize in working with other female leaders. The unequal pay conundrum is still very much alive and well.

Work-Life Balance

The working Mom’s were the first to attempt to open the discussion about work-life balance. Why? Not because it was a nice cozy idea, but because it was a necessity. Juggling the load for being Mom and worker just didn’t always even out. Dropping kids at school and picking them up took its toll. And yes, there are some great “Mr. Moms” who have chosen to shoulder the kid management duties of the house to free the wife up for career pursuit, but the tug is still there.

Why shouldn’t we figure out a better balance of workload versus personal need? Seldom is everything a priority at work. I know companies who build a culture around jam-packed calendars and endless meetings but is that really necessary? If you run one of those companies, you can make adjustments and productivity might actually increase.

Mentorship

Creating succession plans is not limited to the bigger, publicly traded companies. Even entrepreneurial shops need good continuity planning. Allowing younger females equal opportunity for fast track and high potential program access should be a priority. Yet, for most of the reasons I’ve already covered above, there is a disparity that remains.

Providing effective mentorship and coaching for up and coming workers, regardless of gender, should be a priority.

THERE IT’S DONE

This is my list. If you know more examples, please share in the comments. This is a dialogue that should not be left unattended.

coaching call

 

A Leader’s Vision Needs Buy-In

While there are many attributes that define good leadership, we usually think of a leader’s ability to share a vision as the real indicator of that leader’s reputation. Vision is often thought of as being synonymous with leadership. Having a vision for where the team is going is what being a leader is about, right?

a Leader's vision needs buy-in

You don’t have to be the owner or CEO to commit to a vision for growth and success. You can lead from within an organization by being able to inspire others to get on track for driving toward a vision; a vision set by others above you.

However, there is a breakdown that can occur when a person in authority tries to execute on a vision. I’ve seen managers, very senior managers, who know the vision. They helped write it. Yet their ability to lead others to achieve that vision fails. Why?

Once a vision is crafted and carefully written, you have to get buy-in from those who must execute the vision. Your team has to embrace the merits of the vision. They need to understand why and ‘what’s in it for me?’ Those are fair questions for employees to be asking.

Obtaining buy-in is where a Manager may fail as a Leader

Buy-in is hard to achieve because people don’t buy into ideas, they buy into people. The person sharing the idea must be credible, relatable, and someone with whom others can identify.

Your people need to buy-in to you before they buy-in to your vision. Being just another talking head in a management seat will not go very far.

[easyazon_link keywords=”John Maxwell” locale=”US” tag=”thredoth-20″]John Maxwell[/easyazon_link] writes about the principle of the buy-in in his book “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”John Maxwell” link=”” color=”#d98310″ class=”” size=”18″]People don’t follow worthy causes, they follow worthy leaders who promote causes they can believe in.[/perfectpullquote]

Having an understanding of that will change your whole approach to leadership. When your team begins to process the content of the message you may be sharing, they first filter it through you.

Ask Yourself This Question

What is the current level of buy-in for the people you lead? If your team is small, make a list. Rate each team member’s buy-in on a scale of 1 to 10. A 1 means they wouldn’t follow anything you say. A 10 means they’d follow you anywhere. If your overall ranking is low, you have a lot of work to do before the team decides to find another leader.

coaching call

What to Do?

Here are some ways you can earn credibility and increase your leadership.

  • Develop better working relationships
  • Be honest and authentic as you earn their trust
  • Hold yourself to high standards, setting a good example
  • Give them the tools to do a better job
  • Help them achieve personal goals at work
  • Develop others as leaders; mentoring them along the way

Make your strategy unique to each person. As Maxwell says “If you make it your primary goal to add value to all of them, your credibility factor will rise rapidly.”

Question: How are you doing with earning buy-in from your team?

Decisions: The Juice Isn’t Worth the Squeeze

The squeeze

Making things happen takes effort. Leaders know that sometimes all the best effort gets wasted on outcomes that fall short of expectations. You face leadership decisions throughout your day. How do you make the effort worthwhile?

The squeeze about decisionsConsistently making the best of your own effort and that of your team is what separates one leader from another.

You know the types of decisions:

  • Organizational change
  • Moving your facilities/offices
  • Launching a new product or service
  • Simply growing the business
  • Expanding your vision

What ways can you drive better outcome and avoid the squeeze?

Planning

Much is written about data-driven decisions. In big business gathering the data is both more achievable (deeper pockets to spend on big data) and harder to do (broader range of variables). Yet you don’t need the high end, rocket science-like data to drive your planning. You do need valid information.

For smaller companies and entrepreneurial endeavors, you need simple trend line information like:

  • Recent sales, perhaps seasonal data
  • Expenses, what are you spending?
  • Payroll information
  • Materials/supply usage
  • Buyer profiles, who’s buying your product or service?

The process of planning for your next big decision can uncover blind spots, things you haven’t yet thought about. Once the unknown is revealed, you may decide the “juice isn’t worth the squeeze”. That is, you will not realize the return you expected for the effort and resources you may be planning to spend.

Culture

The culture of your team drives everything. The team effort derived from a healthy work culture can often produce amazing results. Culture can overcome limited resources.

Peter Drucker is often quoted as saying “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Sources say he never meant that literally, but it does indicate a bias toward the power of a high trust team effort. A powerful and empowering culture within your team is a more reliable path to success.

Culture isn’t inherently about workspaces and perks, like comfy chairs and ping pong tables. It’s about the habits people have formed, how they make decisions, how they respond to challenges, pressure, and discomfort, and what they believe is good or bad for success. Culture is based on what’s been incentivized, rewarded, reinforced, and possibly even punished in their workplace.

Process

What process has your company or team developed to be able to execute on decisions made?

Ready, Fire, Aim! Is not a process. It’s a train wreck. ~Doug Thorpe

The process you devise for achieving success accomplishes several things, all at once.

First, it allows you to score some wins. Finding the right blend of people, technology, and a procedure is a process. When a particular combination of those elements is producing good results, you have a winning process.

Scoring wins for your team builds momentum. Strong, viable businesses have their unique momentum. But you must have some wins to be able to build momentum. Overnight success is seldom that. Rather it comes from sustained hard work and dedication to winning ways.

Keep finding ways to improve the process. The business world is not static, it’s dynamic. That is, it keeps changing. So, too, must you.

The Bottom Line

While you certainly have learned a lot about making better decisions, we’ve only just scratched the surface when it comes to executive decision making. And that’s why I’d like to conclude by pointing out a few resources to help you get the most out of the decisions you make:

Check them out – you’ll be glad you did!

Question: What are some ways you avoid making decisions that “aren’t worth the squeeze?” Leave a comment.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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Using Halftime Thinking for Greater Significance

Bob Buford

Busy professionals seldom think about the total impact of their lives until they get to an age where the end is near. When your own mortality becomes a reality, you begin to think in terms of changes you want to make to move from success to significance.

Younger adults don’t think about this much. After all, in your 20s and 30s you feel invincible, right? I know I did.

In 1995, a very successful businessman named Bob Buford wrote “[easyazon_link keywords=”Halftime” locale=”US” tag=”thredoth-20″]Halftime[/easyazon_link]”, a best-selling book that came out of his desire to find fulfillment in the second half of life. The second book in 1997, “Game Plan” continued the sports metaphor, but presented practical ways to go through the process to make a change. His writing in this two-book series was a life changer for me.

The attention from these best-selling books led to the founding of the Halftime Institute.

Bob suggested that our lives can be viewed as a football game. In the middle, there is a halftime, where the teams retreat to their locker rooms. Depending upon the results of the first half of the game, they make adjustments to their plans for the second half. If you are winning, what can you do to keep the lead and finish the game as a victor? If you are behind, i.e. not getting the results you hoped for, what can you change to have a more significant second half?

Buford’s thinking was that we all go through our careers striving for success; climb the ladder, get the next raise, get the promotion, do the next big deal, and so on. Yet at some point, there is a time when we realize there is much more. The ‘much more’ is not about a bigger bank account, but rather about making a difference in the world around you.

Buford proposes taking a halftime break. Be introspective. Take note of your current circumstances. From that vantage point, you can make decisions about the things that have genuine value. You can reset your life priorities.

Right now you may be saying “Well, that would be nice but I have bills to pay, payrolls to meet.” Yes, you do. But to what end? What is it all about? Are you creating a legacy for the time you spend here or are you just turning the wheel?

Profile

Buford, born September 16, 1939, in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, achieved considerable financial success as CEO of Buford Television, Inc., a business started by his mother. It had begun with a single ABC affiliate in Tyler, Texas. It grew it into a network of cable systems across the country. In 1999 Buford helped sell the family business interest in order to create philanthropic initiatives designed to serve churches. He often joked that he hoped the last check he wrote just before he died would bounce—because he had given away the last of his millions.

Buford’s awakening to this halftime thought came as the result of a tragic family accident. His son drowned during a rafting trip. The grief and ensuing recovery spawned his search for purpose and significance after losing his son.

In 1984 Buford—at age 45—and Fred Smith, Jr. started Leadership Network, along with Gayle Carpenter, as a way of trying to help the newly emerging wave of pastors who were breaking worship attendance barriers of 1,000 and sometimes 2,000 or more.

During his business years, Buford had spent countless hours talking with and seeking guidance from Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, and he now tapped into Drucker’s guidance for how best to frame Leadership Network. He later remarked that Leadership Network would not be the same—in fact, might not exist at all—were it not for Peter Drucker. (Buford later developed that 23-year mentoring relationship into a book, Drucker and Me.)

I share this back-story on Bob Buford for two reasons.

First, Bob Buford passed away recently at age 78. He had made a very valuable shift from his business success to use his God-given skills and experiences to influence millions of others through his life work. His inspiration to teach people how to make the shift, moving from success to significance, changed so many lives. It certainly changed mine.

More importantly, I share this to encourage you to begin your halftime. Your current age is not a factor. The purpose you sense in your life is. If your purpose is unclear or forgotten in the day to day battle for achieving success, stop. Take an inventory. Do a self-assessment.

You can write a new game plan. I help clients do this. Making a new plan for your journey in this world can be a life changer. You don’t need to have amassed great wealth to do that.

Another story

Once there was a lady attending my career transition organization. To that point, her career had been working as a hotel housekeeper. While she took pride in her work, she knew there was something missing. Through a series of meetings and coaching sessions given by my group, she devised a whole new vision map for herself. She stopped coming to our meetings. I was concerned she had lost hope.

About six months later, I received a copy of the vision board she had crafted from our workshops. Everything on the board was marked complete. She informed me she was the happy owner of a restaurant in her hometown, offering country-style food to the locals along with a charity kitchen on Sundays for the homeless in her town. The change to significance had begun. You can make the change too.

Here are Bob’s Top 10 Values. Enjoy.

1. Build on the islands of health and strength.

2. Work only with the receptive and only on what’s trying to happen.

3. Go big or go home. Focus; don’t do dribs and drabs.

4. Who is our customer? What does the customer consider value? What is our business?

5. Giving is not a result— changed lives are.

6. The fruit of our work grows up on other people’s trees.

7. The entrepreneurial-style leader is where the leverage begins.

8. The essential ingredient for success is a steady stream of innovation.

9. Leaders –  It’s your job to release and direct energy, not to supply it.

10. Structure follows strategy, and strategy begins with clear desired outcomes.

Tips for Living Through Change

managing change

It just seems we can never get away from change. It’s an ever-present topic that leaders and business owners struggle to manage and survive. What is so darn hard about managing change?

managing change

Lately, I have been surrounded by various types of change. It seems every one of my clients, my volunteer efforts, and even portions of my personal life are facing major change events. Situations range from major organizational change being implemented by a Fortune 100 company to executive moves/retirement, staff shakeup at a nonprofit, and the upcoming birthday of a five-year-old grandson. Change is everywhere.

It’s not a surprise that I carefully observe each of these situations with guarded optimism coupled with caution and anticipation. Why? Because I’ve been around the block enough times to see people’s reactions coming a mile away, yet it cannot be stopped.

We face change at work, at home, and in the community around us. Couples watching kids grow and leave the nest face daily change moments. That sweet cuddly toddler becomes a terrible two or thirteen. Then it’s off to college or work. Relationships get tested, sometimes broken.

As we begin to think about finding our special someone we face changes in meeting new people and trying to establish the right relationship. Too often people ignore big red flags in choosing their relationships. Why? Because change is too painful after a certain amount of time is invested. I love that thought. Invested in a bad relationship. Really? I digress.

Why don’t people handle change very well? It’s an age-old problem that scholars and technicians have tried to solve. I’ve read articles from brain surgeons who have theories about synapse firing in the brain and chemical changes brought on by change (fight or flight syndrome anyone?).

More important to me is the key question: what should a leader do in the winds of change?

The Job Description

Leaders by definition execute on things. That’s why we’re called executives. The CEO is the chief executive officer; the head guy for making change happen. Our role and job description churns change. Yet we have to be sensitive to the impact of change. There is a clear and present problem with effectuating change while controlling the chaos that ensues.

The dynamic doesn’t change. Regardless of how big the organization or the charter it may be formed under, the people on the team either thrive or dive with change. Leaders can and should make the difference.

Far too often I see the chief executive or at least the senior officer get sucked into the energy being spun up by the pushback from the team. Either they overreact or they become paralyzed. I’ve seen both of these scenarios in the situations I mentioned above.

It’s All About the Fear

From my experience, the biggest noise in the face of change is all about fear. Most people fear the unknown. The new guy or the new structure or the new policy or the new program sets fear in high gear. Very few of us get excited about change.

Moving away from the known to the unknown is the biggest problem I see.

For the new manager who is thrust into a role where change has been ordained from above, as in the case of corporate reorganization, people don’t blame the corporation, they blame the boss.

In mergers, the “winning” side usually takes the lead in making things settle in, but that comes at the angst of those who came over from the “acquired” firm. Yes sometimes the buyer is sensitive to these aspects and places leaders from the opposite side into key roles, but the shakeup is just that, a shakeup. Trust is crumbled and must be rebuilt.

Every person who takes on a new role faces the same thing. The team wants to know who you are, what you think, and how you operate. If the predecessor was highly regarded by the staff, the new guys get points off just for not being the old guy. The trust has to be rebuilt.

Better is Not Always Better

I’ve seen situations where an outgoing person gets replaced by someone who is supposed to upgrade the role. Those changes impact the way things were. Even when the former person was considered a marginal performer in a role, the new guy has to overcome an unfair bias. It doesn’t matter how talented or gifted the new person may be, the crew expects nothing to change.

If things do start to change, feelings get hurt. It’s that fear thing again.

When your status quo is not quo anymore (bad grammar, but solid thought), you start to imagine things that may never become problems. Change causes that kind of irrational logic.

What’s a Leader to Do?

There are several key things I recommend. I think they speak for themselves.

  • Face the music. Realize change does cause unrest. Deal with it.
  • Don’t give in, but let the people have their voice. Talk through the concerns.
  • Work hard on building trust. Lead don’t push.
  • Avoid taking sides early. Be objective. Get both sides of the story before making any declaration.
  • Manage up when you have to. The executive who mandated the change might not realize what they have launched.
  • Keep communication lines open. Demand free flow of discussion about the changes. Don’t let opinions fester and brew.
  • Shine the brightest light you can on what surfaces as the biggest problem.
  • Invest in a high-quality brandy for after work (OK I’m getting silly now, you get the picture)

Change is GOING TO HAPPEN

No one lives in a vacuum. There will be change. Leaders must do more to embrace the recognition of this absolutely guaranteed aspect of moving a business, a relationship, or a team forward. The way we deal with change becomes a big yardstick for how effective we might be as leaders.

PS – I’ve got more thoughts about living through change coming later this week. Stay around.

[reminder]What are some of the ways you manage change where you are?[/reminder]

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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Leaders: Which Way Do You Shift?

Shifting

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 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.

When was the last time you had to shift? Was it the right kind of shift?

Managers: Can You Handle Your Golden Eggs?

Managers and business owners need to spend some time looking at things from other’s viewpoint. If you hire a team of people to work for you, how are you treating them? Are there some golden eggs you might be taking for granted? Is your leadership effective with these golden eggs?

Protect Your Golden Eggs

When I speak to business crowds about leadership, I inevitably get questions about managing “up” the organization. The question is something like this:

I love our CEO but my immediate boss is a jerk. What should I do?

While I have written several articles about that question, I want to spend this time focused at those bosses who are the subject of the question. There are lots of reasons for such behavior by middle managers, but here’s my coaching tip… STOP IT!

There is a senior HR executive I knew who once advocated at this large, Fortune 100 company, that HR should support the managers, not the employees. The conventional wisdom is that, besides compliance issues, HR is about protecting and engaging employees. My HR friend said “protect from what?” Well, the answer is bad managers. So, the logic follows. Support, train, and improve the manager cadre within the company and you reduce or eliminate all of the employee issues.

Regardless of the size of your company, ‘people issues’ will always be the one biggest problem. Sadly, owners and managers frequently fall prey to swinging wide brushes when it comes to the staff for which you have responsibility. If you do have one, less than great employee, you tend to get slanted by that bad apple and start treating the whole crew with the same contempt. Your frustrations with one person should never influence your view of the whole team.

Perhaps even more importantly, you should never take your best performers for granted. Just because they are the ones you know you can rely upon, all the time, every time, you have to be sure they feel the love. You have to find ways to engage them, give recognition, and sustain their buy-in to you and the company.

I’ve known far too many superstars who have lost hope for feeling valued at their company. The best performers are usually the hottest commodities in the market place.So they leave with the losing manager wondering why?

Here are some things for Leadership to think about:

Your people are real – Every employee comes to work operating somewhere inside Maslow’s Hierarchy of human needs. Not every employee starts the day in the same mental state or emotional condition. Pressures at home or in the family can influence their demeanor. Extended struggles outside of work have impact on performance. Yes, personal problems should never be personnel issues, but they are. These factors can change daily. This is why being a manger or leader can be so hard.

As a manager, you have to be sensitive to where your employees are. I don’t mean physical location, although that can be factor (think soldiers sitting in a sand dune). Rather, the issue is whether they are ready to focus and contribute at their highest level. If you sense any deviation from a person’s normal mindset and attitude, check into what may be the cause.

You had no preparation –  If you got promoted into the manager’s role without any prior experience or preparation to perform the duties, be honest about the gaps you have. Influencing others and having some level of authority is no time to fake it until you make it. Lives are at stake. Yes, you might have authority based on the position you have, but that only goes so far.

You need to get serious about growth and development of the areas where you are deficient. Find a mentor or coach to show you the way, answer questions, and build your confidence. Leverage your strengths, but agree to work on the weaknesses in your ability to lead others.

Flip the model –  It is a very common practice in business to “hire fast and fire slow”. We make snap decisions about bringing people onto the team, yet we agonize over letting them go. This has a double down effect. If you make a bad hiring decision, why exaggerate it by waiting too long to let the person go?

Instead you should establish a longer, more methodical hiring protocol; give personality and proficiency tests, require multiple interviews, phone screen, and use behavioral based interview techniques. Make the process more thorough. I know an orthodontist who says he was once hiring his receptionist. He thought he had found the ideal candidate, but somewhere along the way to her first day at work she said “I don’t like kids.” WHOA! Someone who doesn’t like kids working in the front office of an orthodontist? Bad choice.

Once the hiring process is more detailed, your success should increase. However, when the person proves to be a bad fit, then let them go quickly. Do not make your golden eggs suffer the distraction of a poor performer on the team.

Check your recognition –  Be sure you have something in place for recognizing the true golden eggs in your midst. Let those who perform the most know it. It doesn’t have to be a huge public program, but be sure each person knows you value their contribution to team success.

Make it a point to let the high achievers have a say in what is happening. Give their voice value and significance. You might still have to go another direction, but giving them time to buy-in is easier when they believe they have a voice.

[reminder]How are you protecting your golden eggs?[/reminder]

 

 

 

Leadership: Play Silly Games, Win Silly Prizes

Once you are given management responsibility, you have to focus on the core principles of the unit. You have to learn the people and the mission. Your effectiveness as a manager hinges on being able to lead the team.

Competition

If your style of leadership is, in any way about playing games with those you lead, you will lose before you start.

Play silly games, win silly prizes. –  Anonymous

I once worked for a boss who refused to rate any employee better than what he had been rated. He wasn’t a very good manager, so his annual performance ratings were pretty weak. There were three of us, direct reports to this clown. After two review cycles of being handed poor results too, we banded together and vowed to take him down. How?

It wasn’t that hard. In meetings with more senior managers, we quietly but effectively deferred questions by saying things like “here’s my answer, blah, blah, blah, but Jim, what do you think?” He never had good answers. He would stumble and fumble, but our expertise was heard by those above us. There was no doubt he was being shown for the ineffective manager he truly was.

His gamy way of treating us at review time got blown up. What do I mean by being gamy? There are several ways this very unproductive leadership style comes across:

Type 1

You constantly ask for answers but never use the information. Making your team respond to countless questions then never showing any sign of using the answers for any good is just plain gaming. Why would you do that? Just to pester the crew? That’s silly. It’s a huge waste of intellectual and emotional capital.

Type 2

Asking questions when you already know the answer. I had an employee once who tried to game me. After walking away from a meeting this employee stopped me and asked me a question. It was somewhat technical in nature. I was glad to explain the answer and show him how to calculate a solution. He said “I already knew that. I just wanted to see if the ‘big dog’ knew how too.” My response? “How do you think I got to be the big dog?”

By the way, he got fired a few weeks later for pulling a similar stunt with a client who knew our CEO.

Type 3

Being a gamesman at work is manipulation. Being the one who pours on the guilt or the ridicule is a bad position to be in. We’ve all known someone who is manipulative. They tweak the story just enough to infer that doing anything contrary to their point of view would be disloyal on your part.

These gamesmen find ways to shift the spotlight away from their faults and place the blazing light on you. Dealing with them is a roller coaster ride.

You get what you deserve

When a team is impacted by a manager with a gaming mindset, it soon will retaliate. Frustration and hostility will bubble up. The manager will be set up to fail. Refer back to my story.

Need a coach

If there is any chance your attempt at being gamy is due to your own insecurity, come clean and get serious. The team doesn’t deserve it.

Gamesmanship loses the war. As a leader who perpetuates games at work, you lose all credibility. Please STOP!

[reminder]In what ways have you seen bosses who play games at work?[/reminder]