Unsung Heroes of Our Organizations

20180507_130218-02Companies recognize their C-Suite, VP, Director, Manager and even Supervisor titles with enthusiasm, and… compensation structures aligned to those tributes.  But the unsung heroes of many organizations are the individual contributors that have chosen not to climb a ladder that leans against the people-leader titles.  Instead, many of these critical employees have accumulated vast amounts of understanding, experience, expertise and instinct about how to encourage, influence, execute and measure success in the organization or market where they have put down roots.  People at all levels of the business siphon data, ideas, confirmations and learning from these ‘go-to’ professionals everyday – and yet they often remain below sight-level and are rarely rewarded or recognized for their career of company stewardship.

Thank Them:

Today, find a couple of people that fit this general description and tell them what you’ve seen them do that makes a difference to the business, to the productivity of people around them or to you.  If you haven’t observed closely enough to sincerely describe the details, then find their boss or someone who has, and do some research.  If no one in your company is close enough to observe the specifics of their contributions, that’s a shame and possibly a danger.

Develop Them:

We often neglect to offer foundational learning opportunities to this segment of our professional population.  Providing development in these areas can pay off substantially in their performance: Self-Awareness, Influence, Learning Agility and Effective Communication.  These professionals seem to especially appreciate mentoring relationships and personalized learning customized to their unique and immediate needs.

Know Them:

It may not benefit you to blindly promote your individual contributors to a job that eats up all their time on managing people instead of on producing the results they love to produce.  Far too many individual contributors abandon the companies where they felt most effective within months of being promoted to people-leaders.  Know what motivates your best players; understand what they need, so you can re-recruit them when they get discouraged.  If they feel a people-leader position is their next step, a wise effort would be to let them live in those shoes in a ‘temporary’ capacity for several months to confirm their aptitude for it.

So, sing the praises of these people whose resumes are filled with a kaleidoscope of projects, positions, and partnerships that demonstrate their productivity-based accomplishments and reflect their systemic perspectives of how one silo impacts another inside their organization.  And, yes, they often do consider it ‘their’ organization; they feel a bit of ownership because they know they make a difference.  We can help with effective ways to show you value these unsung heroes.  If you lose them, the betrayal they feel will rarely allow them to return.

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

The Magic of Transferable Skills

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Transferable skills – those you carry with you and enhance from job to job – look the same as any skill when seen in a list….  But employers and applicants can unleash the power of these skills by seeking and sharing clear evidence of how they have been used effectively.

  • Instead of looking for specific titles or job-responsibilities on applicant resumes, wise managers look for core skills that can be reapplied to amazingly transform a new-hire into a high performing employee.
  • Experienced interviewers are never spellbound by those lists of skills; they use the magic of behavioral questioning to peek behind the curtain.
  • Learning effort is mysteriously enhanced when development plans include skills that are used in the employee’s current work and will also be key in their next, targeted job.
  • Savvy leaders engage employees in developing skills that strengthen current performance and can be transformed into career stepping stones.
  • Job seekers charm recruiters by offering clear descriptions of how transferable skills were used to convert basic tasks & expectations into results & revenue.
  • Training that conjures the vision of career application looks nothing like skill-building required to meet job expectations.

Examples of UNLEASHING THE POWER

Transferable Skill: Performance Coaching
Enhanced Description: Consistently use applicable coaching methods to ensure employees perform skills accurately and overcome challenges that deter skill-effectiveness needed to meet highest performance expectations.  [Expand on real-life examples and description of methods.]

Transferable Skill: Project Management
Enhanced Description: Lead projects using standard tracking and project practices that ensure critical escalations and completions while inspiring effective communication and buy-in between stakeholders, hand-off partners and end-users.  [Expand on professional terminology and tools and how you have overcome project-obstacles by gaining buy-in.]

Transferable Skill: Work well with difficult people
Enhanced Description: Increased my results by building the trust and confidence of people who are not my direct reports and of those who were, at first, hesitant to accept my responsibility or competence.  [Expand on tactics used to change doubt to support.]

Transferable Skill: Customer Service
Enhanced Description:
Respectfully manage customer emotion and transition consistently to up-selling that meets identified customer needs while balancing requested marketing priorities.  [Expand with an example of when all three needs were met.]

Transferable Skill: Proof Reading
Enhanced Description:
Edit copy that is consistently approved as clear and understandable, with correct grammar, spelling and punctuation, and audience-relevant.  [Expand on your methods.]

Transform transferable skills into your own career magic.  If you need help finding engaging and creative ways to include skill-building in development plans, we can help!

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

Become Your Own Dream Manager

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That wise counsel from the Gospels of “loving your neighbor as yourself” is not so impossible when you try to replicate the way you dream someone would manage you.  It’s easy to see what we don’t like about our leaders; it is a bit more difficult to envision what they should be – or rather, what you should be.  Gallup has recently shared that “about one in 10 people possess a strong natural ability to manage when they are put into their management roles,” so that leaves most of us some room for improvement.  At least 4 of the 7 natural abilities Gallup identifies are driven by knowing your team.  Try considering what would satisfy you if you worked in their skin.

Can you answer these four questions
… about each person you manage?

  • What is their energy level like this month, and what is impacting it?
  • How are they building confidence in their strengths and closing development gaps to enhance their career in the direction they have targeted?
  • Do they know themselves well enough to identify how they impact their own work-satisfaction?
  • What legitimate roadblocks do they feel are keeping them from contributing their best work?

Would you be more engaged if your manager incorporated your answers to these questions into your performance conversations?

If you are not part of that perfect 10% of managers, what is keeping you from knowing your employees well enough to answer questions like these?  Ask yourself: is it skills you need to practice, your behavior that limits relationships, habits that are difficult to prioritize, or are you drawn off-course by the drama of poor performers?  Do not take your eye off your winners; research these answers with them first!

Rapport-building takes time and creativity.  How in the world do you fit these opportunities into all the other responsibilities you juggle?  If you need ideas and solutions to begin or enhance your effort to be the manager of your dreams, we offer reasonable time and budget solutions and have worked one-on-one with scores of leaders.  Let us hear from you!

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

Is Your Resume Current?

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For decades resumes were updated only in preparation for a job-search.  Now competitive players have learned to keep their resumes current as a record of accomplishments and ready for opportunities.  When people gain the confidence that comes from presenting themselves well, they usually explore all their options with more clarity – including what they bring to and gain from their current circumstance.  Exploring resume-realities as a team initiative has significant benefits, but insecure leaders may see it as a risk of losing good people.

Benefits

  • Employees gain a better understanding of each other’s experiences; framing this benefit as a team-building expectation to enrich team communication, collaboration and peer-coaching can enhance your results.
  • Employees realize you are not threatened by their career goals. You are better equipped to coach transferable skills they need now and to motivate further development of skills for their specific future.  They are not going to walk away quickly from an opportunity like that!
  • Employees often begin to see their work as accomplishments to strengthen their resume instead of tasks for a paycheck. This can make a huge difference in ownership, engagement – and performance.

Implementation

  • Propose this initiative as an opportunity to strengthen their professional foundation and their confidence in making recurring adjustments to their resumes.
  • Break the initiative into segments and facilitate them monthly, over several staff meetings, or throughout a planned offsite…. Limit the time for each activity so no one develops a political platform or pontificates.
  • Activity objectives should give opportunities to share positive nuggets about individual experiences or goals to be considered in resume plans.  Examples:
    • “What job would you most like to submit your resume for in 2 to 4 years?” could help them identify skills or experiences to start strengthening.
    • Discussion of how to frame transferable skills or work ethic in a resume could follow answers to, “How did your very first job contribute to the way you work today?”
  • Engage a talent-recruiting colleague to share current resume priorities and faux pas. Be sure they speak directly to the level of resume complexity used by your team; e.g., recruiter should not include executive-level examples for your front-line team.
  • Engage respected, mature managers to speak to what they assume about a person from reading their resume. Ensure qualities that create perception – like tone, format, accomplishment, accuracy, etc. – are discussed and prioritized.  Ask if there are resume features that disqualify their applicants.

Considerations

  • You don’t need to give time to write resumes at work; this is their career, and they should use their time; don’t make their completed resume required homework – that may be illegal!
  • Craft activities that are specific and narrow, so no one is tempted to strive for stardom by exaggerating realities or taking extra time. (Specific: “How did one of your resume accomplishments benefit the business you worked for?” Narrow:  “Jot down you answer… Now quickly read yours aloud if you’d like to share.”
  • Engage a qualified person to give feedback on individual resumes if an employee asks for it.

Customizing activities and coaching leaders to facilitate them is what we love!  If you need ideas for effective team events or initiatives with specific outcomes, connect with us!

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

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.

Competitors or Comrades?

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Gaining aligned commitments from competing groups or teams is rarely a simple endeavor, but without that effort, the resulting drain on energy and profits can be debilitating to your organization.  These teams evolve naturally and necessarily in many business structures: … when one team delivers critical support for the strategic or day-to-day efforts of another team, … when one must hand off their results for another team to complete, … when one team creates something another must approve or evaluate.

The propensity to be siloed in their work is a big reason these groups become competitive.  The silos can form when each is trying to deliver their best possible result, but in their effort, they neglect the systemic impacts on others.  Differences in their work-structures cause blindness to the others’ needs.  One group may be tied to phones, while the group that should be their partner works out of vehicles; one may be housed in a corporate location while the other group is made up of tiny, isolated offices.

Often these critical groups are not aligned clearly on their most core objectives, and, because of this, they have no footing to work through their naturally resulting conflicts.  If you choose to make the effort to turn these walls into bridges, there is specific work that can add to your success.

Go Looking for Landmines and Elephants

This honest investigation should be done by leaders who are committed to building this alignment bridge.  Landmines are easily identified by the fires you put out regularly.  Elephant hunting, however, takes more courage, because people have created paths to avoid these huge, hidden issues that are blocking the path to effective relationships and processes between the groups.  You will need to peek behind the curtain to distinguish between the levers that the teams can adjust on their own and those that will require cooperative collaboration to correct.

Prioritize the Controllables

Leaders also need to identify the core organization objectives that are common to both teams and use them as the foundation for their bridge.  From there you can prioritize 1) the controllable issues your individual teams should adjust 2) the uncontrollable boulders you must escalate for excavation by executives, HR or others, and 3) the controllable challenges that your teams need to tackle together.

Facilitate Their Buy-In

You next effort may be to bring the teams together to gain buy-in required for this bridge construction, so they can all claim success in reaching the larger goal they now have in common.  The facilitation of this buy-in must be well-planned, well-manned and well-executed.  Critical in planning is clear understanding of the unique motivators of the individual teams; you must influence both groups.  Manpower is needed for two key aspects: 1) to ensure every function of each team is represented in the room as process-adjustments are proposed and validated and 2) to ensure authorities in the room can approve steps toward creating performance expectations that everyone can be held accountable for.  This facilitation can only be well-executed if the activities are crafted so they reduce emotional history and prioritize clinical tactics that drive toward solutions. This execution often requires a facilitator not seen as biased toward either group.

Celebrate Partnership that Matters

As team members manifest their empowerment to bridge differences and adjust processes and actions to effectively meet their now common goals, celebrate large and microscopic changes that build relationships: respectful questioning, assuming good intent, following up, information sharing, responsive listening, confirming understanding, etc.

You probably have the skills for the construction of the bridge, but if you need help with the strategy and tactics, we have experience in designing and supporting team initiatives foundational to significant changes in performance and results.  Let’s get together!