THANKS!

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You’ve seen managers who consistently thank their team members for making them look good with “we love you” feedback; oddly their team’s performance is often mediocre.  It takes little effort to see through that messaging and identify those leaders who use gratitude as a bribe to profit from momentary cooperation.  Praise is a fantastic energizer.  For leaders, that energy can explode or implode careers.

Don’t let the poor behavior of others keep you from effectively using gratitude to generate energized results within your team.  You can easily avoid the pitfalls of those who sabotage their own careers with self-promoting platitudes.

DON’T BUILD WALLS

Don’t excessively thank them…

  • for favors they offer that exalt you as an individual
  • for competitive behavior that demotivates their colleagues or the company’s customers

DO BUILD BRIDGES

Thank and praise them excessively…

  • for exhibiting emotional intelligence that clarifies and unifies
  • for demonstrating behaviors that strengthen efficiencies fueled by trust
  • for delivering effective performance toward targeted results

Leaders often gravitate to one extreme or the other.  We tend to either want everyone to love us or to want everyone to follow our direction.  If you realize you are stuck in one of those extreme paths, it’s time to find some balance.  Incorporating effective gratitude into your leadership toolkit is an easy first step.  Contact us!  And find a map to that equilibrium!  It could be one small step for you, but one giant leap for your career!

Find more of what you need by opening our BOX of BLOGS from 2017

What’s More Important?

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“Having it all” has become a kind of blind obsession that has seeped into the fabric of today’s business practices in multiple ways.

A daily danger is the expectation adopted by many employees that they should immediately prioritize every request, implication or assignment that comes their way.  As a manager, you know we should make judgement calls or ask for guidance on which items are more important, but thousands of well-meaning employees are under the blind assumption that you, their leader, want to ‘have it all.’  The result is overwhelmed, disengaged employees wasting time because they can’t even envision the path to their own success. You probably did not set that expectation,

…but you can change it:

  • Set clear expectations about what prioritized actions will drive the team’s targeted results.
  • Measure and reward data that shows the urgent and important actions are prioritized.
  • Confirm that your team understands how they should be using their resources.
  • Stay alert to who is pressuring your staff with the unimportant, and equip your people to negotiate their support effectively.

This kumbaya concept of “having it all” can have a more debilitating impact to team success.  Today the concept of Diversity seems securely settled on company pillars [of salt].  But too often, if anyone dares to behave differently because their personal choice differs from the majority, they must be prepared to defend their position to everyone from the breakroom pundits to an HR investigator.  So apparently, they certainly do not deserve to “have it all.”
As a leader, you cautiously examine those differences to ensure they don’t negatively impact the owner’s ability to perform.  But once that is established, you had better be supporting their desire to prioritize what they feel is important.

  • Equip the employee with ideas that will unify others around business results.
  • Sincerely confirm the two of you share the same interpretation of successful performance.
  • Coach on verbiage and behaviors that confirm their priority won’t threaten other’s priorities.
  • Engage company resources to ensure understandings of both employee and business needs.

If you don’t become their advocate, you risk:

  • Engagement of that employee plummets.
  • Trust in you falters as anyone who shares their priority or value questions your intent.
  • Productivity of those with opposite priorities drops as they begin to plan culture-skirmishes.

Share the quiz:

  1. The best employees can get it all done! FALSE: The best employees find out what’s most urgent and important to the business, and they get THAT done.
  2. Everyone should expect their team members to make similar personal choices if they want to work together successfully. FALSE: Humans will continue to struggle with personal differences, but the answer is not uniformity. Unfortunately, solutions like common ground, unity, and respect of diversities can only be led; they can never be legislated.

If you need a safe conversation about troublesome challenges like these, we invite you to call.

 

Find more of what you need by opening our BOX of BLOGS from 2017

If We Do Not Hang Together…

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Benjamin Franklin stated the obvious: “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”  Of course, business change is rarely as dire as revolution, but the fear they face is often about that real to your team.  Giving them opportunity to offer structured input and solutions can fuel courage and determination just as Franklin’s words did years ago.

Moving fast to implement change is core to keeping productivity levels from plummeting.  Evaluating team understanding, direction and performance regularly and with transparency are key drivers toward that objective.  Pulling the team together in a way that meets the need to ‘hang together’ and make productive adjustments while corralling energy-draining emotions is not an easy task.  Here are some concepts used by consulting professionals.

ESSENTIAL MOTIVATORS: SUCCESS & OPPORTUNITY

During times of tension you are always pulled toward urgent issues that smell like smoke.  Distractions can keep people from standing tall and seeing over the cubical to acknowledge progress or to remove barriers in the targeted path.  These two energy-generating realities are too often ignored during all the fire-fighting.  STOP and make time for these essential motivators.

  • Keep their successes in front of them as often as possible – a little confetti always brings energy to the moment!
  • Make opportunities to identify and remove obstacles that inhibit forward movement; the stress-reduction can give an immediate productivity boost.

WHAT ARE OUR CORE SUCCESSES?

Make celebrations of success easy enough to do often, but only recognize actions driving real progress.  Celebrating not only boosts morale, it motivates the habits and actions you want repeated.  Don’t celebrate anything that wasted time or effort – those are too precious during change!  Teach your people what “successful” looks like, and allow them to help identify it: showing peer gratitude, appreciating worthy sacrifices and effort, sharing the booty [especially credit] when possible.  Limit the use of tangible rewards; money’s often tight, so use creativity: email words of gratitude for smart initiative, use public thanks appropriately, document accomplishments in review or resume-ready formats, give the microphone to those who can present recognition professionally, use small displayable symbols that bring recognition and encouragement to individuals who have made a difference in meeting short-term goals.

WHAT ARE OUR CRITICAL OPPORTUNITIES?

  • Be prepared to face tough facts with as much transparency as possible when asking, “What’s standing in our way?” Be ready to adjust team expectations as hidden realities are exposed.
  • Don’t forget to empower the team by asking, “What’s standing in our way that you can control?”
  • Make sharing input easy for the team; offer anonymity when necessary.  Build and extend trust to gain their input – don’t just assume or blindly believe they have shared the realities you need to know.
  • Don’t shoot the messengers; don’t react by trying to prove there is no problem: both are rookie moves.
  • As a leader, as you commit to help remove barriers, PROMISE CAREFULLY!
  • The greatest career advantage during change is growing transferable skills and lessons!
    • Help employees format their ideas for other professional audiences that need their input.
    • If they are not showing professional savvy as they share solutions, be transparent about their career growth needs.

These critical team initiatives are very complex.  You may be expert when business is usual, but during significant change, leading others definitely becomes UNusual.  Be wise enough to ask for support.  Change management has evolved into a core leadership competency, but it is a layered and complicated skill.  Our experience supporting leaders and guiding teams through organizational change puts us in a place to meet you at whatever level you need.

 

Find more of what you need by opening our BOX of BLOGS from 2017

 

Why Value Other’s Values?

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If you have the title of supervisor or manager, you’ve probably had the common experience at least once in your life of sitting with your head in your hands and wondering how to make people do what they are supposed to do.  That’s when reality sets in; you realize how little actual control you have over their actions.  The magic sauce of empowering employees to perform their best was spread thick for a bit, and yes, you must strive to provide the opportunities, resources, and support they need to feel empowered to perform, but that sauce is only magic for the few who already want to do their best.  If you are one of the fortunate few who is able to truly inspire people, go for it.  But, outside of setting them up for practical success with clear processes, expectations, accountabilities, etc., the best most of us can do to ensure productivity is to influence our employees.

INFLUENCE

Take hope: influence can be a powerful thing!  You mix your own magic ingredients: you coach skills, communicate team direction, collaborate for effective execution, offer training and development to strengthen those who choose to engage, etc.  You grow yourself, making efforts to build confidence in your own competence and character, to influence others to produce their best work.  But, occasionally, you still end up, with your head in your hands, wondering how to influence that employee with potential – who is not engaged.

ASK WHAT’S IMPORTANT

One, pretty simple ingredient in your sauce should be to simply ask – and listen to – what’s important to that individual.  Good managers know their team members’ career directions, and they learn to align the benefits of good performance with positive steps toward that career goal.  That is a critical part of the magic influence that can spark excitement and individual initiative.  But effective employees also live beyond their work, so asking what they value in their ‘real’ life can give you incredible insight into how to encouragingly influence their success.

SOLICIT VALUES, WISELY

Be brave enough to ask, but wise enough to limit your discussion – especially your judgment – when you ask what people value.  Surprisingly, few people have thought deeply about their critical values: giving them heads-up-time to consider your question can be important.  There are also structured ways, like value cards, that can help individuals isolate those priorities.  These three areas of consideration may be all the structure you need in seeking what is most important in their lives:

  • Aspects about yourself that you value and strive to exercise or experience consistently or as a priority.
  • People you value and find so important to your life that you are driven to sustain or create specific outcomes for their benefit.
  • A set of principles you value to such a degree, that you choose to align to your priorities and behaviors with them.

Remember, you are not their confessor or counselor; you’re are not seeking the details of what drives their values or validating why they value these things!  Your management purpose is to align your influence of their performance with the things that are important to them.  If you need some support in navigating this opportunity to engage your own influencing skills, give us a call.  An hour may be all you need to finesse this valuable ingredient and manage your team’s success.

What’s Time Management, Anyway?

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Managing time seems like an oxymoron because no one has figured out a way to stop or speed it.  Managing tasks and events is a skill that each professional on your team probably struggles with in today’s work structure.  The questionable habit of over-filling job descriptions with responsibilities has resulted in impossible targets.  Cultures that create expectations to postpone vacation, prioritize work and to be ‘always on the clock’ are common.

You continue to have employees who do not meet deadlines or who shortcut time-required quality under pressure to check a box.  Hoping they will find their personal magic-bullet to overcome these challenges, you keep ‘time management’ on their development plans and suggest trainings and tricks to help them control their productivity.

Resurrecting an old language within your group may help.  Identifying activity by the quadrants of urgency & importance is not a new concept, and currently Covey probably has built the most extensive content around it.  But using this language as a way to identify priority for your team may be a better way to create successful understanding, expectation and accountability for effectively using time.

Urgent & Important

Priorities that should be considered urgent as well as important in your work-world may be obvious to you, but often they are not as obvious to your employees.  Discussions around the situations that fall into this category can make an amazing difference as individuals remove from this quadrant items they had assumed should be there.

Urgent but Not Important

Failing to talk, as a group, about this waste of time you witness in your team is just irresponsible.  If you see people continue to respond to unimportant items with urgency, they obviously do not understand the priorities of their job.  Strengthening their judgment and clarifying expectations in this area is a core responsibility of a manager.  And you will be doing yourself a favor if you do it with group discussions to ensure no one is driving their own agendas in this area under the table.

Not Important & Not Urgent

Making this ‘quadrant priority’ a common language allows you to easily question or coach individuals who make mistakes in prioritizing, who have time-wasting habits, or those who are stealing time from others.  This is often where most time-drain happens.  People need breaks and fun to function as an effective group.  When there is no plan to meet these needs, individuals still take time for them.  With group discussion, you have more control over incorporating them in ways that are not harmful to productivity.

Important but Not Urgent

For many, this is the most difficult quadrant to use effectively.  It is different in each culture, and it may not even look the same for the individuals in your team.  Often, for your most valued employees, the time they spend here is critical to business success.  Creating a team language with discussions about how this quadrant drives team objectives can literally drive increases in productivity and results.

Managing what one does with time is indeed an individual effort, but creating priority should not be done in a silo.  Let’s connect if you want to talk about ideas on facilitating these discussions or about making this time-tested concept a results-producing reality in your team!

Communication: The Lifelong Conservatory

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The individual inspiration required to create effective human interaction within our relationships is reflected in the frequent description, the art of communication.  Marital communication is a bit like seasoned dance partners moving gracefully in response to their partner’s movements – after years of enduring and avoiding the pain of stepping on toes.  Parent-child communication seems to develop from loving sovereign and subject to teacher-student to every type of evolved effort to survive or sever or strengthen their mutually desired relationship.

So the lifelong journey required to maintain effective communication might more accurately be called a conservatory, where artistic discovery is personalized by each learner, instead of an institution where standardized content is delivered to the masses.  Our customized curriculum, gathered randomly or with purpose, polishes our efforts to explain, inspire, entertain, or influence.

Where do we start when creating a strategy for this continued education?  From thousands of resources, you will choose help in meeting the diverse needs of your professional relationships, audiences and situations.  Here are some considerations as you matriculate your continued education.

Discussion Basics

Look for tools and practice opportunities that help you strengthen effective 2-way communication; dialog in many arenas has deteriorated into competition.  Seek tactics that help you learn to keep others engaged, that lower walls raised during conversation, and that bridge language or culture differences.  Learn to solicit input with curiosity, direct questions and collaborative efforts graciously, and recap for clarification humbly… while maintaining a safe and honest environment.

Collaboration Tools

Clear, clinical, direct communication has a significant role in execution of work within and between our now global organizations.  Learn to use tools that ensure scores of individuals instantly know who needs to do what and when, that ensure clarity of responsibility level and expectations, that ensure changes are documented and available immediately around the world.  But also, be sure every human that must receive that communication knows how to use those tools!

New Methods

Be curious about new methods, systems and tools that are being used by professionals in other fields of expertise.  As technology changes and global interaction grows and languages and generations bridge, people change the way they work together.  There is no excuse for using stagnant ideas and methods that make group interaction more difficult than it needs to be.

Refreshed Applications

Some communication tactics will always be the best choice: a hug, a hand-written sentiment, sincere praise, a story….  But even these, we must evaluate in reference to the receiver.  Ensure you know how to adjust them for the situation and confirm they are appreciated and accepted with understanding.

Your opportunities to sharpen effective communication will never end.  Keep searching, keep stretching, keep saying it, keep showing it.  And if you need a sounding board to test your new skills or ideas, give us a call!

Four Conversations of Supervising

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Pinball management is foundational to supervising people.  As soon as you open your car door in the parking lot, you might as well brace yourself for the little metal ball to hit you in the rear and propel your day dramatically from one direction to the next, until, with no energy left, you free-fall into your chair for a quick breath… before your metal ball drops back into the pocket, and you hear the plunger-spring being pulled back again.

To survive in this type of environment, you need to be prepared to react to each bump, bell, and whistle.  Supervisors at the top of their game know how to facilitate four specific types of employee conversations, and they raise their score by intentionally applying them daily in a variety of situations.  When you build a good template for these four leadership conversations, you can adjust them slightly to fit scores of situations.

Setting Expectations:

Supervisors lead expectation-setting conversations all day long.  A few of these are one-directional, but most of them should be two-way, so the employee offers input on the expectations.  You may recognize this communication as on-boarding new employees, feedback on observed activity, goal-setting, project or task assignments, direction changes, and especially the conversation creating an employee’s plan for their improved performance.  The core objective for each of these is to clarify expectations and to set the trajectory for employee success.

Confirming Performance:

These conversations confirm that you and your employee are on the same page concerning their current skill and performance status.  It is a coming-together to evaluate their progress compared to the previously set expectations.  The core of this conversation is used often in regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings to review standard performance stats or realities; it is also used as follow-up to check progress on improvement or project plans.  It is essentially the same in yearly performance reviews, since there should be no surprises for either party in that conversation.

Encouraging Career:

Discussing employee career plans in a way that encourages their skill and behavior development is great, but you must also ensure they realize they own these professional targets, and they are responsible for driving the learning.  Though, if there is opportunity for any current application of their new knowledge or skills, you may find budget to help them.  These conversations are sometimes formal, mandated meetings, but the following casual exchanges can be even more powerful in spurring employee initiative and enriched contributions:

  • Follow-up questions to stimulate the value of a recently-completed learning activity
  • Introductions to informal mentor relationships with other leaders or peers
  • Sharing of a current experience, learning, or exposure opportunity you see as aligned to their career goals.

Verifying Engagement:

Vital conversations that confirm an employee’s satisfaction status or current confidence in their contributions are often seen as frivolous or optional.  These chats can encourage your employee to offer discretionary effort, and you gain insight into issues that limit contributions to the bottom line.  These are often casually formatted conversations that may feel like simple curiosities to employees.  They can also be effective as structured requests for opinions or perspectives openly aimed at learning both facts and feelings from your people.

It is sometimes tempting to try for double points in the pinball game of leadership by combining these conversations.  It is wise to try and keep them separate.  For example, when you sit down to set expectations for an improvement plan, your employee should already have ‘recovered’ from the performance conversation where you discovered what’s causing their current issues.  As you closed the earlier discussion confirming their poor status, you probably scheduled the conversation to create a plan together – a plan that sets expectations for their success.  Even if the conversations are only separated by an hour, this allows you to create a more hopeful direction.

If you feel like you live in a pinball machine and you’re the little metal ball, please call and see how we can partner to help you be better equipped for the bumps and bruises that can result!