Thursday, August 16, 2018

Leadership at the Symphony

Guest post from Barbara Mitchell:
I’ve always loved the performing arts—symphony, ballet, theatre, live music concerts…doesn’t matter what but seeing a live performance is powerful! While enjoying a live performance, it became obvious to me that, in addition to hearing great music or watching talented dancers, I was also seeing examples of good leadership.

Members of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts are sometimes invited to attend a rehearsal of the National Symphony Orchestra.  It’s quite an experience to sit in the beautiful Concert Hall and watch the musicians come in wearing very casual clothes as opposed to their formal evening attire, chatting with each other while tuning up their instruments.  But when the conductor arrives, it is all business.
The first time I attended a rehearsal, I expected that the orchestra would play a few bars and the conductor would stop and give them feedback but that’s not what happened. the way it was. The conductor led the orchestra almost all the way through the piece without stopping. When he finally paused them and began providing feedback it was clear that the musicians were listening intently—he had their total focus. He pointed out specific bars where he wanted certain instruments to play louder, softer, faster, or slower—all from his memory of what he had just heard. He hadn’t taken a note while they were playing—he was totally focused on what he was hearing. What an amazing gift to be able to listen to so many sounds and hear each one individually as well as in total!

When the conductor (leader) pointed out the very specific changes he wanted to hear, his orchestra (team) listened closely. He complimented musicians who had done something special and then they replayed specific portions of the symphony. When he raised his baton, they were ready to play at the exact right bar of the music because he gave them clear directions.
What an example of leadership and followership in action. The conductor as a leader demonstrated he was listening to his team. He showed that he understood he couldn’t make music without them—he could wave his baton around all day, but if they weren’t sitting in front of him, focused on his direction, he would be totally ineffective.

Today’s business leaders could should learn to listen more closely to their employees, praise them when appropriate, point out needed changes, and acknowledge how important each one is to the success of the organization—in other words, set clear expectations, provide frequent feedback and development opportunities, praise when appropriate, listen to the team, hold people accountable, and let them know where their work fits in the overall objectives of the organization.  That’s leadership!
At the end of the first piece, they took a short break while chairs were rearranged on the stage. Some musicians came back while others who weren’t needed for the next piece did not return. I see another lesson here about how leaders need to know the strengths of their employees in order to put the most effective teams in place—teams that take advantage of the strengths of the participants. This piece featured a world-famous violinist.  I wondered if the conductor would lead differently in the presence of a star but it sounded as if she and the conductor  were almost operating as one as she played her solo with the conductor bringing the orchestra in to provide background and harmony.

Business leaders can learn from a symphony conductor and others in the performing arts. Leaders must be great listeners who know the strengths of those they manage. Strong leaders know how to put the best team together to maximize the organization’s success. Leadership and harmony lead to great things—not just in music but in the marketplace.
The Manager’s Answer Book is an easy-to-use guide written in a question-and-answer format that focuses on many aspects of managing, broken down into the following categories:

- Getting started—moving from peer to manager, setting goals, managing projects, resources and much more.

- Developing your management skills—communicating, delegating, motivating, and facilitating.

- Building your management team: hiring, firing, and everything in-between.

- Creating your personal brand—building credibility for yourself, your team, and your department.

- Managing up, down, and around—working with people and functions in your organization.

- Avoiding potential land mines—conflict, change, and risk.

- Recognizing legal pitfalls—navigating the haze of laws and regulations.

Barbara Mitchell is an author, speaker, and business consultant. She is the coauthor of The Manager’s Answer Book, The Big Book of HR, The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook, The Conflict Resolution Phrase Book and The Essential HR Handbook. After a long career with Marriott International, she is now Managing Director of The Mitchell Group and works with a variety of clients to help them hire, develop, engage, and retain the best talent available. She resides in the Washington, DC area.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Multiplying the Effective Intelligence of Your Organization

Guest post from Robert (Dusty) Staub: 

“Perhaps the only sustainable competitive advantage is increasing your ability to learn faster
than your competition.”
 - Arie de Geus, former head of Strategic Planning, Shell Oil Company

Are you getting the best results from the people–the embedded collective intelligence–in your organization? Do you feel that there is something missing in overall performance, or your team and/or enterprise could achieve even more? Most senior leaders with whom I have worked would answer, “We can achieve more and be better if only we could work smarter and more effectively together.” The name of the game today is figuring out how to multiply the Effective Intelligence (E.I.) of your organization. Here is where you can gain a great competitive edge that is sustainable and also leads to more innovative and effective ways of getting things done.

Research and experience demonstrate that the only difference between so-so organizations and high performing ones is the quality of the teamwork and the collaborative networks that exist within an organization. This makes sense if you understand brain physiology. It is not the absolute number of neurons that determines intelligence; it is the number of dendritic connections between neurons that determines overall processing power and intelligence. The greater the number of connections, the higher the level of collaborative networking, which equals greater intellectual capacity to problem-solve and create solutions. The term I have coined to describe this capacity for teams and organizations is “Effective Intelligence.” What great leadership does is to use presence (demeanor an modeling), practices and processes to multiply E.I., thereby increasing the performance and capabilities of a team, a department or an entire organization.

Is your enterprise actually engaging and making the full use of the collective intelligence embedded in the human system (people, team work, relationships) in your organization? Is your organization realizing its potential and performing at its best? Are you multiplying the E.I. of your organization by how you are leading and encouraging the engagement of individuals, teams and departments? Perhaps you share the opinion one CEO gave me recently, “There is truly room for improvement; I just know, good as we are now, that we can do better than we have been doing to date.”

If you see room for improvement, then how can you increase the E.I. of your team, your department and your organization? The answers will sound simple yet applying the insights to multiply effective intelligence will take all three forms of critical leadership capacity: guts, heart and head. It will require that you focus your attention and processes on the following dynamic development as outlined by Wayne Gerber and Staub in Dynamic Focus: Creating Significance and Breaking the Spells of Limitation. Please consider the question at the end of each of the eight process steps below.

Increasing the Effective Intelligence (E.I.) of Your Team and Organization:

1. Expanding perspectives. This means seeing beyond the obvious and challenging conventional thinking. The status quo and old ways of thinking are the enemy of higher order processing, innovation and increased performance. “Good enough” is the death of being even better, let alone great. What are you doing in your leadership and in your workplace to help expand the thinking and to promote a wider strategic picture or way of looking at the business and how work gets done?

2. Clarifying and focusing attention on your core Purpose, your WHY. Astute leaders know that when the people in an enterprise know WHY it exists–in other words, the purpose and mission it serves beyond the usual answer of “making money”–that they perform better and expend more discretionary effort. They are more engaged. (See
Simon Sinek’s Start with Why TED Talk.) Do the people in your organization know the fundamental WHY of the business? Do you use that to rally them and challenge them to help everyone step up to more active learning, interactions, collaboration and teamwork?

3. Consciously creating psychological safety in your organization. Google
research on the core factor fostering high performance teamwork finds that a sense of “psychological safety” is key. \ This means people feel “safe” offering different opinions, ideas, suggestions and, as outlined in the research and findings in Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, engaging in “vigorous intellectual debate.” If people feel they will be punished, belittled or put down, if they do not feel it is safe to speak up, they won’t and you are then minimizing the E.I. instead of increasing it. How well are you creating a sense of psychological safety for your employees, teams and those around you? Do you have healthy, positive, vigorous intellectual debate around best practices, new ideas and better ways of moving the enterprise forward?

4. Leveraging strengths, focusing on what there is to celebrate. Research in the fields of psychology and sociology have revealed that human systems (from individuals to groups) get stronger by focusing on, leveraging and building upon strengths rather than by fixating on what is wrong. Yet many executives still manage by “exception,” ignoring what is right and working well and spending supervisory time on problems and issues. Are you focusing on strengths, on what is right and working well? What strengths in your people, teams and organization have you been celebrating? How have you been building on or leveraging the top 2 or 3 of these strengths?

5. Failing forward. This means giving reward and recognition for a specific category of mistakes instead of punishing for or treating all mistakes as the same, as if they are all “bad.” Mary Kay Ash of Mary Kay Cosmetics and Soichiro Honda, founder of Honda Motor Company, both subscribed to and taught “failing forward” as a way to promote innovation and growth within their organizations. Most executives and employees do the exact opposite. By treating all mistakes the same and seeing them as “wrong,” the E.I. of an enterprise is diminished instead of increased. Do you know which kinds of mistakes should be rewarded, or do you treat them all the same? Are you using the practice of “failing forward” in your organization?

6. Using Power Questions. Power questions enhance learning and improve performance. A great question is often more valuable than a good answer. The greatest danger you have as an executive is to be blindsided by issues or to miss key opportunities in your organization. One of the ways to minimize this is to make a practice of asking “power questions” – namely, Pareto- based questions that focus on quickly getting to the core or root cause of an issue or opportunity. For example a poor question is asking, “Is there anything here we need to improve?” A better question is “What do we need to improve?” A power question is, “What is the one thing we could do differently here that would make the biggest positive difference?” Asking power questions and teaching those around you to ask them will be a key part of increasing the E.I. of your enterprise. How are you and those in your organization doing with regard to asking power questions of each other, of customers, of key suppliers?

7. Knowing the difference between Symptoms and Root Causes. When you and those in your organization know how to recognize symptoms and use them to focus on root causes, you are helping to multiply the E.I. in your enterprise. For example the following should all be considered symptoms: poor teamwork, low employee engagement, quality issues, unhealthy conflict, customer complaints, lower market share and declining sales numbers. Do you know what the root causes of those kinds of symptoms are? For example, the symptom of low employee engagement has as a root cause a failure in management practices and leadership behaviors. The research shows that people quit supervisors as opposed to quitting companies. How a supervisor treats, talks to, engages, coaches, corrects, supports and otherwise makes an employee feel about the supervisor’s valuation of him or her is a huge determinant of how engaged and motivated that employee is. How effectively do you and your management focus on addressing root causes versus chasing symptoms?

8. Identifying and Utilizing Essential Behaviors as Core Leadership Practices. To address critical operational as well as human systems issues, make the best use of the seven practices outlined above. You will need to identify which essential behaviors you want to train for, expect, model and reinforce in all levels of your enterprise. Do you have a set of 4 to 6 essential behaviors that you know are clearly outlined, coached for and reinforced from front line supervisors up to the CEO? If you are like the vast majority of organizations and leadership teams, the answer to that will be a resounding no. If you want to really increase the effective intelligence of your enterprise then you will need to have an agreed upon core set of leadership practices, or essential behaviors, that are being used consistently throughout all levels. Do you know which essential behaviors will give you the biggest return on your investment of time, energy and supervisory development? Examples of essential behaviors include: active listening, using power questions, knowing how to design and engage in courageous conversations and making use of systemic-accountability. What are you doing to ensure there is consistent, effective modeling of powerful leadership behaviors? Are you living and modeling those behaviors with your teams and employees?

If you take the eight suggestions above to heart, and if you are working on engaging all of them, you will multiply the effective intelligence of your organization and can expect improved productivity, greater innovation, superior employee engagement, high performing teams, less waste, better quality, more loyal customers, better talent retention and higher profitability. The only barriers are either not following through or a lack of experienced guidance. Are you willing to build a learning-based, higher performing enterprise by multiplying the effective intelligence of your human system? What are you waiting for?

Robert “Dusty” Staub is an international speaker, best-selling author, and the CEO of
Staub Leadership International, a business consulting company that trains executives and teams in creating high-performance outcomes. Staub is the best-selling author of The Heart of Leadership, The 7 Acts of Courage, and Courage in the Valley of Death. In his experienced speaking career, Staub has motivated audiences with his insightful and heartfelt keynote presentations on leadership, excellence, change management, conflict resolution, organizational and team communication, and the relationship between intent, behavior, and results.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Power of Leaders That Do What They Say

Guest post from Bethany Andell:

“To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Recently a CEO friend of mine said that the three key ingredients to building a great culture are:

1) belief in the mission,
2) clarity of the vision and
3) having fun while living the values.

There is a growing movement in the business world that proves all of these points to be true. I have seen in my own business, and also in my clients’, that clarity of vision and passion for purpose are instrumental in long term success. However, having a clear purpose and vision alone are often not enough – his third ingredient, “living the values,” is critical in a company’s ability to bring its purpose to life. Even further, the key to that statement is the word “living.” 

To walk the talk as a leader should be an easy concept – just do what you say. Instead, what is probably more accurate is the phrase “easier said than done.” When companies list their values on a poster in the breakroom or on their website or even state them in a town hall they somehow expect everyone to adopt and abide by those values. But then you turn around and the same leadership team that posted the values is behaving in a completely contradictory manner – and you wonder why we don’t trust leadership.

Disturbingly, the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed 63 percent of its survey respondents said CEOs are somewhat or not at all credible. Well… how many of you have heard a CEO say that his people are the company’s most important asset, but all decisions seem to benefit the investor over the employee? How many times have you heard that a company’s value is safety or quality, but an employee gets in trouble for calling out an issue? How many of you have heard a leadership team say they are accessible, but there’s a security code required to enter the executive suite?

In general, I would argue that most business leaders are good people with good intentions that unfortunately make some bad moves. It is hard to always walk the talk and it is hard to be called to the mat when you don’t. It is hard to always be looked to and looked at. I am a leader of a company and I admit from my own experience that it is hard and that I have failed at times. But hard is not and never will be an excuse – our ability to live out our purpose and values every day is what we, in a position of leadership, are looked to for. If you are a leader you are the example setter; you are the role model; you are the chief influencer. It is an absolute requirement to be the steward of your organization’s purpose and live out the values you claim.

I take heed of the Conscious Capitalism Conscious Leadership tenet: “Conscious Leaders focus on ‘we,’ rather than ‘me.’ They inspire, foster transformation and bring out the best in those around them.” There really is no better way to inspire your team than to be an example of your company values. It is in the actions of a leader that we see his true purpose and passion come to life.

Whole Foods states their purpose “is to nourish people and the planet.” In late 2014 co-founder and CEO John Mackey, notably the man most associated with organic foods, created the Responsibly Grown rating system so that his customers would have greater transparency about their food. But he also wanted to expose factors in production that were not being addressed in the standard organic certification. From soil health to farmworker welfare, the system takes into account issues that need to be addressed by growers. Through this program they buy first from producers that address these issues. It was not an easy decision and Mackey received push back from farmers. But he stood by the decision and found a way to nourish people and planet, aligning his actions with the company purpose.

But what of leaders who have failed their organizations? Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, stated in 1977, “What we’re trying to do is remove the barrier of having to learn to use a computer.” His mission to remove a barrier between people and technology proved successful, but his actions as a leader created a barrier between himself and his people.

After he was ousted as CEO he claimed that it took being a failure as a leader to open his eyes to what was needed at his company. In a presentation in 1997, after he came back to Apple as CEO, he stated, “Even a great brand needs investment in caring if it’s going to retain its relevance and vitality. And the Apple brand has clearly suffered from neglect in this area in the last few years. And we need to bring it back.”

At the time Jobs realized he needed to get back to his company’s core value, that people with passion can change the world for the better. He had become so focused on producing things that he forgot the heart of what mattered, and that was people.

When you lead by example you create a vision of what is possible for others. If you do it consistently you create a culture where anything is possible. But if your actions aren’t congruent with your values you risk the integrity and credibility of your whole organization. In all things tie back to your core values. No matter what you are doing in any given moment there is always an opportunity to tie it back to your values, and by doing so you will find that walking your talk is not as hard as it sounds.

As President of Savage Brands, Bethany Andell is on a mission to revolutionize corporate America by unleashing the inherent good in all companies. In her book, Get Your Head Out of Your Bottom Line: And Build Your Brand on Purpose, Andell, along with co-author Jackie Dryden, Chief Purpose Architect at Savage Brands, help executives at business-to-business companies shift their focus from solely improving the bottom line to instead prioritize the company’s long-term health, culture and non-monetary impact on the world. Bethany is also the host of The BusinessMaker’s radio program, “Brandonomics”. The show features CEOs and business owners sharing direct insights on their purpose-driven organizations and strategies.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Indy 500 Races Can Be Won or Lost in the Pit. How’s Your Pit Crew Doing?

Guest Post from Glenna Crooks, PhD:

If you are a leader today you face a faster pace of change and far greater complexity than at any time in human history. As if the technical challenges, required skillsets and necessary mindsets were not enough to master, there’s more. It is likely your organization is multigenerational, multiracial, multilingual, ethnically-diverse and gender-fluid. It may cross time zones. If it is multinational, you comply with differing laws and regulations and adhere to differing cultural norms.
Add to that, your world gets more hyper-connected with each passing day.  Any, even minor, mistake you – or others on your teams – make, can create instant, major blow-back. How could it not?  After all, you face 24/7/365, always-on media, government regulators, Wall Street analysts, company shareholders, community stakeholders, critics, customers and employees, each with different – and sometimes conflicting – demands.

My work as a global strategist organizing chaos and solving problems in health care puts me in touch with extraordinary people navigating these choppy waters. I have the “up close” view that comes from long days of working, long nights of dining and long weeks of studying together in development courses. What a privilege!  I admire them all and am pleased to say none succumbed to the pressures by cutting corners or losing sight of their mission to help and to heal.
In 2005, however, I noticed a troublesome trend. Increasingly, the pressures were taking a toll.  I’d become a trusted, confidential counsel which is why, over time, more and more of them felt comfortable to share worries they’d not disclosed to others, even to spouses, coaches and counselors, and certainly not to Boards, other senior executives or employees. They were overwhelmed. They feared they were not up to facing the future successfully.  Even more, they feared their companies were destined for failure, their employees would lose jobs and the patients they served would suffer.

I don’t go looking for problems; they find me. That’s what happened here. These concerns sent me in search of solutions, and I found many. Some had worked in my own life: better fitness, Covey’s Seven Habits, active vacations and better stress management, to name a few. It seemed, however, that regardless of how necessary those approaches were, they were not sufficient. What else did they need?
In 2007, I found the answer in an unlikely place – the fashion magazine W – and from an unlikely source: Robert Downey, Jr. In an interview, he’s quoted as saying he needed a “pit crew” of people to help him live his life. He wasn’t a Model T; he was a Ferrari, so it took a pit crew to keep him on the road. 

If you are like the leaders I know, you have a good pit crew at work: good assistants, talented staff, great consultants and policies and procedures to help it all run smoothly. What became apparent in a decade of research, however, is that (except in very rare cases) virtually all leaders lacked similar support for life outside of work. That not only left them with little downtime to recover from the demands of the job, it disrupted work days with avoidable non-work commitments, obligations, events and crises. Though this had not (yet) taken a toll on their performance, it had taken a toll on them and their relationships.  
· In that case, what should a leader do? What my favorite superhero called “pit crews”, I call “networks.” I urge you to learn about yours. Explore who’s in them. Learn if an important person might be missing.  Determine whether they’re supporting you well enough and if not – especially if it’s someone you pay for services – consider making changes.

· What networks you should explore? There are six networks that support you outside of work: family, health and vitality, education and enrichment, spiritual, social and community, and home and personal affairs. And, there’s one additional; it is important because it impacts you, often without you realizing it. This is a network I call “ghosts”: the influential people from your past who shaped your life.
· Why is this important? It is true for everyone, but especially for leaders: when it comes to your career, the strengths and the weaknesses of every other network show up in force. Unreliable child care, doctors who keep you waiting, or a contractor that walks out on a remodeling job, for example, drain your energy and rob you of the peace of mind you need to lead well.
·Then, what’s next? With new insights about your own life, realize that each of your employees – and customers – are facing similar non-work support challenges. Many may not yet have the skills you’ve developed during your leadership journey. What might that mean for how you manage? For the training you provide? For company benefits? For new products and services for your market? For customer service? Please keep me posted. I’d love to hear about it.
Glenna Crooks, PhD was a Reagan Appointee, a Merck&Co Global Vice President and Founder of Strategic Health Policy International, Inc. With Bruce LaMont, she recently c-founded CogentSageQI, an innovative performance optimization platform built on a unique data ecosystem aligned to key performance indicators and the bottom line. She is the author of The NetworkSage: Realize Your Network Superpower.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

10 Traits of Great Leaders in This New World of Work

Guest post from Glenn Elliott and Debra Corey:

The world of work has and continues to change. Our workforce, which now consists of five generations working side by side, expects and demands different things from its organization, its job, and most certainly its leaders. 

We conducted a study to better understand these new expectations of leaders, asking 350 millennials the question: What do you want and expect from your leaders? We asked the respondents to name and prioritize the leadership traits that they most respected and valued. 

The results show that what employees are looking for in a leader has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. These are the 10 traits that employees expect -- and I strongly believe that companies need -- from their leaders:

1. Own and live the company values. Leaders need to be role models for their company’s values. They should take every opportunity to communicate and apply the values constantly, incorporating them to guide and help make better decisions.

2. Communicate openly and early. Leaders need to be open, honest and transparent with their employees. They should communicate news and information early, not shielding them from bad news.

“Be as open with your people as you can, as early as you can. Employees are much more likely to go to bat for something they understand.” --Helen Craik, Reward Gateway Co-founder

3. Inspire people to reach higher. Leaders need to create an environment where employees are able to do their jobs well, and a culture where they want to do their jobs well, inspiring them to be the best they can be each and every day.

4. Own their mistakes. Leaders are no longer expected to be perfect. They are expected to be human and positive role models, which includes owning mistakes when they happen. Leaders should also think of mistakes as learning or teaching moments, using them as opportunities and not obstacles.

5. Recognize big wins, small wins and hard work. Leaders build a culture of employee recognition by modeling continuous recognition and where saying thanks is an everyday occurrence.

6. Trust people. Leaders should always default to trust and accept that most people are good and trustworthy. They must lead in a way that’s respectful and honors other’s good intentions, and not presume that their employees’ have malicious intentions.

7. Make the right decision, not the popular decision. Leaders need to prioritize doing what’s right over what’s popular. They should be accountable to their people and act as servants, being prepared to be unpopular when necessary, and striving to do what’s right for the business, the customer and their people as a whole. 

8. Add value to their teams, helping them to succeed. Leaders who deliver visible value to their teams, helping them bring their creativity, ideas and judgment to work, overcome the challenges of the new world of work and of more complex jobs.

9. Have the courage to be genuine and visible. Leaders need to bring their whole selves to work, having the courage to be authentic and to show vulnerability.

10. Take care of people. Leaders need to lead with compassion and kindness, showing their employees that they truly care about them and have their best interests in mind.

Great leaders understand and embody all of these qualities, and don’t just pay them lip service. They understand that in this new world of work they need to eliminate the barriers that separate them from their people, using every tool they have at their disposal to cut through the hierarchy and bring themselves closer to their people. By doing this, they will significantly improve upward feedback and employee engagement. And, they’ll earn the loyalty of not only millennials, but every generation they have the privilege to lead.

Glenn Elliott is founder and Debra Corey is group reward director of Reward Gateway, a world leader in integrated employee engagement technology with more than 1,800 clients worldwide. Elliott and Corey's new book, Build it: The Rebel Playbook for World-Class Employee Engagement (Wiley, Feb. 27, 2018) highlights practical improvements that organizations can make to build a highly engaged company culture.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

A Proactive Approach to Tough Feedback

One of the hardest things a manager has to do is sit down with an employee and discuss a serious behavior or performance issue, especially when if it’s going to be an unpleasant surprise to the employee.

Tough feedback is just that . . . tough! And while we may not ever get to a point where we look forward to sharing difficult information, there are ways to make these conversations less difficult.

One of the biggest reasons tough feedback is so tough is that we realize what we are about to share will shock, disappoint, or even anger the employee. However, usually it’s not necessarily the information that causes the shock, disappointment or anger, it’s the fact that the employee never saw it coming. The difficult news seems to come out of the blue and completely contradict the employee’s perception of the circumstances.

A common myth of management is that people can’t handle bad news. WRONG! People can’t handle news that contradicts their frame of reference. If you want to make tough feedback less tough, focus on how to eliminate the shock and disbelief factor. Here’s how:

1. Clearly define and set the employee’s and your expectations up-front.

People don’t go from star performers to poor performers overnight and they definitely shouldn’t become aware of this fact for the first time at their annual review. Expectations should be clear and agreed upon up-front. Employees should know exactly what you expect from them, what they can expect from you, and what needs to be done to make improvements.

2. Give feedback throughout the year.

Don’t just stockpile your feedback for the formal review. Again, no one likes surprises, especially bad ones, so don’t keep people in the dark. If an employee has been reminded about a specific behavior issue eight times throughout the year and has failed to make an improvement, the feedback and lower rating will be less shocking (and less difficult to deliver) during the annual review.

3.  Focus on the task and the expectations around the task – not the person.

Give clear examples of actions that don’t meet your expectations. The feedback should focus on the task, behaviors and expectations, with specific examples.
Here’s two examples:

- Too personal and general: “You are too controlling and need to calm down.”

- Specific, behavioral, and relevant to the job: “In today’s meeting, when you interrupted Dan, Jane and John to share your ideas, you made it difficult to gather full team input. Please let others complete their thoughts before you share yours.”

4. Make a plan with dates to discuss and update expectations – and document it.

Tough issues should be documented and managed throughout the year. Keep checking in with the employee to re-state and clarify both your expectations and his or hers. Keep an accurate understanding at all times about how you both feel the person is doing relative to the performance issues. This understanding can only happen if you schedule planned meetings throughout the year to review and discuss.

Whether spoken or unspoken, expectations have a powerful impact on our thoughts, feelings, and actions. They play a key role in driving our attitudes. Research shows that employees who have clearly defined, well communicated expectations find more satisfaction and success in their work than people whose expectations remain vague and unspoken.

Believe it or not, the more you give feedback about uncomfortable issues, the less uncomfortable the sessions become. The sessions only become tough if you’ve been avoiding the issue.

Take a proactive, not a reactive, approach and you will help strengthen your relationships with your employees and head off many of those dreaded “sweaty palmed, sick stomach” discussions.
Feedback sessions are tough when an employee is caught off guard. Taking a proactive approach to tough feedback eliminates the shock and surprise.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

When Work Has Meaning, The Culture Changes

Guest post from S. Chris Edmonds:
In order to value team members, or help them find meaning in their work - that is, contribution to the greater good, to their community or even society - you don’t need to start a formal organizational initiative. Helping employees find significance simply takes time, energy, and engagement.
Intention and attention from leaders can have a beneficial impact on employees feelings of contribution, value, and worth, which can boost productivity and service.
This was seen in a study called the Hawthorne Effect, which was run  by Elton Mayo at Western Electric’s Hawthorne Works factory, outside of Chicago, IL, in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. The purpose of the study was to analyze the effects of workplace conditions on individual productivity.
Mayo and his team focused on two groups – a control group which operated in an unchanging work environment, and a test group which endured the changes to their working conditions, including lighting, such as working hours, rest breaks, food offered during breaks, etc. Workers were involved in what changes were going to happen (how long and how frequently their breaks were, for example). Productivity was carefully monitored following each change. Workers were then asked if the change was beneficial, how it might be refined to test the change again, etc.
Mayo’s research found that, compared to the control group, nearly every change resulted in increased individual productivity. Even after all changes reverted to the original conditions, productivity increased.
The initial findings from this important study led to recommendations that leaders engage with members of the workforce. After all, it wasn’t the lighting or breaks that boosted performance, it was the engagement of the workers by the researchers.
The test team bonded together like no other team in that factory, because they felt their ideas were valued. They were working together to help work conditions be more beneficial for their peers across the factory – that gave their efforts meaning beyond the day-to-day production activities they faced.
This is the most significant finding from the Hawthorne Works research: Making team members and teams feel valued as well as helping them find meaning and purpose beyond their own tactical skill application boosts employee well-being and productivity.
What do you pay attention to in your work environment? Do you actively engage with players regularly to learn what’s going well and what’s not, or do they rarely see you? Or are you somewhere in between those extremes?
Leaders, it’s your job to engage. Embrace it and enjoy it!
S. Chris Edmonds is a sought-after speaker, author, and executive consultant. After a 15-year career leading successful teams, Chris founded his consulting company, The Purposeful Culture Group, in 1990. Chris has also served as a senior consultant with The Ken Blanchard Companies since 1995. He is the author or co-author of seven books, including Amazon best sellers The Culture Engine and Leading at a Higher Level with Ken Blanchard. Learn from his blog posts, podcasts, assessments, research, and videos at Get free resources plus weekly updates from Chris by subscribing here

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Leading a Board of Directors

Guest post by Randy Komisar and Jantoon Reigersman:
OK, you are now a confident leader.  Comfortably demonstrating the skill, character and emotional IQ required for successfully leading your team.  Keenly aware that while your title makes you manager, only your team makes you leader. Your people are challenged, delivering, growing and fulfilled.  But, what about your board?
Leading a board is so very different from leading your organization.  For one thing, your directors are peers, or even better, mentors, and often your bosses.  They have different needs, desires and ambitions.  Your status with them is less about title and more about performance and confidence.  It’s a tough audience.  What do you do?
First understand what makes a good board.  Boards are deliberative bodies, not confederations of individual.  You need them to operate as a great team, not functionaries.
Operational boards are more valuable than governance boards.  Governance is for governments, not dynamic enterprises. You are looking for people who can help you solve problems and anticipate issues.  To help you develop. People who can train their experience on you and your business.  But if you treat them like your judges and confessors, they will become your judges and confessors. Instead, put them to work – for you.
Small boards are better than big boards.  You want a collegial team around you that is motivated to participate and contribute, not content to sit back and listen to your canned presentations.  Big boards regress to the mean.  You don’t want average, you want exceptional.
And diverse boards are best.  Too many business leaders build boards that resemble themselves.  They may be easier to manage, but a lot less effective. Harvard Business School Professor, Paul Gompers found that among venture capitalists that shared work history the company results decreased by 17%, 19% if they shared an alma mater, and 20% if they shared ethnic backgrounds. If you have taken venture capital you probably have a few of these on your board.
Adding diverse directors can be challenging for a leader because of the ensuing creative friction.  While differing genders, race, ethnicity, national origins, socio-economics, age, etc. can provide you with a more well-rounded perspective, it also means actively leading respectful debates.  You want constructive disagreement.  In fact, too many unanimous decisions may mean your board is disempowered, unengaged or simply not stepping up.
Because outside investment usually comes with board participation, you may not have the diversity you need.  Use your independent board selections to add diversity. Choose directors who bring valuable experience, unique perspectives and team skills.  If you choose only “Indian Chiefs, you may well find the egos are more trouble than they are worth.
And enlist some assistance.  Lead investors, the investors who price a round and set the terms, can help manage the syndicate of shareholders.  Partner with them to make sure your stakeholders are informed and aligned. 
Also, you should appoint a lead director.  On many boards the CEO is also the Chairperson.  But you are missing an opportunity to add strength to your leadership.  A lead director can make your job much easier because they can run point on sensitive issues, poll the board for concerns, help build consensus, and give you much needed feedback and guidance.  The lead director chairs the closed session at the end of the board meetings where the directors can talk amongst themselves and share their impressions of you.  The lead director is the best translator of this information to keep you and the board on the same page.
Expose your team to your board so they can build rapport.  It’s a motivator for your team, a chance for them to hear directly from the board and for the board to evaluate them, and a call to action for addressing the key issues.  Your board should spend meaningful time with your team outside of the boardroom so they develop an appreciation of the tough tradeoffs you are making. 
Board meetings should not be dog and pony presentations.  If you have built the right board, they will want to dig in on meaty issues, not sleep through the recital of the slides. Don’t use precious board time to rehash reports and financial performance that can be shared in advance.  Provide key performance indicators regarding your critical initiatives beforehand so you can focus on the deviations that matter. 
Most of all, reserve substantial time for group discussions about the most important matters facing your business.  The things that keep you up at night. Encourage them to challenge you and each other so that you get the full benefit of your brain trust. Then make the best-informed decision you can, regardless of unanimity.
Never oversell your point of view; encourage debate.  Remember, your directors sell and are sold to every day, they will spot a hard sell a mile away. You may lose precious credibility as a consequence.
To focus board talent on important issues, organize your board into committees, like audit and compensation, strategy and compliance.  This permits you to lead qualified subgroups deeper into critical issues.  It is best if the committees report out to the entire board rather than making decisions themselves so that you can keep the entire board in lock stop.
Remember, you are the leader not just of your team but of your board as well.  The skills required are slightly different, but your character and integrity remain critical.
Don’t undermine yourself with a poorly functioning board. A good board can challenge you to greatness, but a bad board can kill a good business.
In our book, Straight Talk for Startups, 100 Insider Rules for Beating the Odds, we present the best practices not just for building and managing boards but also for addressing the fundamentals, choosing investors, fund raising, and achieving liquidity. As Tony Fadell, founder/CEO of Nest and the co-inventor of the iPod and iPhone says, “Straight Talk is filled with real, raw and fact-based ‘rules of the road’ that you need to know when diving into our ultra-competitive startup world.  A must-read and a re-read!” Enjoy.
Copyright © 2018 Randy Komisar, All rights reserved.
About the Authors:

Randy Komisar is the co-author of Straight Talk for Startups (HarperBusiness; June 2018). He is a venture capitalist with decades of experience with startups.
Jantoon Reigersman is the co-author of Straight Talk for Startups (HarperBusiness; June 2018). He’s a seasoned financial operator with extensive experience in startups and growth companies. He serves as Chief Financial Officer of publicly traded Leaf Group (NYSE: LFGR), a diversified consumer internet company.
For more information, please visit

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

A 5-Step Training Plan to Think like a Navy SEAL

Guest post from Mark Divine:

The world is more complex and faster than ever. As a retired Navy SEAL and founder of several multimillion-dollar companies, business seems increasingly like a “VUCA” battlefield in Afghanistan or Syria—it’s Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. 

Special Operators have thrived in these environments because of how they think. Fortunately for you, these skills can be trained. However, you need to know your starting point to customize your training. Here is a five-pronged plan for you:

1. Physical

Get fit. Being fit impacts everything else positively in your life: relationships, health, confidence, brain power, and more. So ask yourself: Do I follow a solid functional training regimen? Am I 100% conscious of what I eat and drink throughout the day? And am I free of injury and illness?

If you mainly answered “no” or “maybe” (meaning “I don’t know”), you’d greatly benefit from a good functional training program (using your whole body) for 30 minutes to one hour, three or four times a week: for example,
SEALFIT, CrossFit, martial arts, or yoga. 

If time is a challenge (and it is for all of us), then I encourage you to take moments during your day to do up to three “spot drills” such as 50 squats as fast as possible, 100 burpees, or
10 sun salutations, These drills will burn calories, get the blood flowing and lead to functional fitness over time.

2. Mental 

Get mentally strong. It makes things easier, and you’ll be harder to defeat. So ask yourself: Do I regularly train my mental strength? Do I calmly respond to stressful situations? Can I make quick, good decisions? Do I routinely persevere when faced with a big challenge?
If you mainly answered “no” or “maybe to most of the questions, then I recommend you start practicing the “Big Four” skills for mental toughness.

Practice controlled breathing every morning when you wake up. Next, mentally rehearse a challenging event before attempting it. Calmly see yourself dominating every task, with a smile on your face. Third, as you go about your day, interrupt negative internal dialogue with “power statements” such as “Easy day, I’ve got this,” or “Well, it could always be worse.” SEALs learn to resist the urge to gripe when things are tough, or go wrong. This is a good skill to learn. The fourth skill is to chunk overwhelming tasks into micro goals. For instance, at the start of the infamous Navy SEAL Hell Week (six days of non-stop training with only four hours sleep), I chunked my focus to making it until sunrise each night, then as things got harder, just the next meal, then even the next step.

3. Emotional 
Get emotionally balanced. It brings you more energy and improves your relationships. So ask yourself: Am I aware of my emotions? Do I express them in healthy, productive ways? Can I recognize what triggers negative states? Do I have strategies to transmute negative emotions into positive energy?

If you answered “no” or “maybe” to most, then it’s time to develop emotionally. One powerful method I teach is a practice called authentic communication. With difficult conversations, maintain focused awareness on what your partner says and relaxed awareness on your own thoughts and feelings. This type of active mindfulness takes patience. As you engage in conversation, only speak if what you have to say is truthful, adds value to the conversation, and comes with respect for the other party.

4. Intuitional

If you’re solid on the first three, expand your leadership skills by tapping into the deep intelligence of your intuition. So ask yourself: Do you pay attention to your gut? Do you know things without knowing how or why? Can you sense danger or opportunities before they present themselves? Do you even acknowledge that intuitive insight is real?

If you answered “no” or “maybe,” then it’s time to start trusting your gut to lead in today’s VUCA world where intuition is a core skill. You can start to still your mind and body to hear the inner voice with my “Still Water Runs Deep” visualization: After a few minutes of deep, diaphragmatic breathing, imagine laying in a pristine, still pond. Allow yourself to sink to the bottom, where you feel protected from the chaos of the world. Empty your mind as you stay focused on the image of the clear water above you, sunlight filtering down warming your body. Do this for at least five minutes, and you will connect to a deep inner peace, tapping your natural intuition. 

5. Kokoro 

Kokoro means “merging heart and mind into your actions.” I believe this could be the single most important skill a leader needs to develop today. This ancient warrior concept asks us to develop a deep understanding of our purpose in life and to live it full out. So ask yourself: Do I know my purpose, and am I directing my energy toward it? Can I see the “big picture” of my life through all the chaos, distractions and challenges that arise? Do I feel present and peaceful? 

If you mainly answered “no” or “maybe,” it’s time to cultivate a meditation practice. In your morning routine, find a quiet space to sit and clear your mind. I like to start with
box breathing, then say a mantra such as, “Day by day, I’m getting better and better,” and finally just drop into silence. Always have a journal handy to jot down arising insights or questions to clear your mind of them. Once you’re deeply centered, you can visualize completing a critical challenge, or conduct self-inquiry by asking compelling questions such as: Why am I here? Who am I really? What’s the one thing I need to do today to move me towards fulfilling my purpose better? 

In summary: Leading and succeeding at an elite level in today’s VUCA environment requires you to take total responsibility for your physical, mental, emotional, intuitive and “heart-mind” strength. The good news is that you can train all these aspects of yourself. But you have to do the work daily, or you won’t move the dial at all. If you feel can’t because you don’t have the time, then I say “embrace the suck.” Just go to bed earlier, take shorter showers, quit watching TV, remove unnecessary obligations or delegate anything not aligned with your unique offer and purpose. Soon these five domains will all improve, and you’ll become an admired leader with the focus to achieve your biggest dreams.

Mark Divine is a retired U.S. Navy SEAL Commander, founder of
Unbeatable Mind and
SEALFIT, and NYT bestselling author of The Way of The SEAL, updated and expanded for a new look at leadership and personal excellence in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. Divine has taken his 20 years of experience as a Navy SEAL officer, flavored it with 25 years of martial arts and 15 years of yoga training, and pulled the lessons learned from founding six successful multimillion-dollar companies for unique, highly effective training that anyone can use to become an elite operator in business and life.