Wednesday, February 25, 2015

How Managers can Become Awesome Coaches


Can a manager learn to be an effective coach? Yes! But they have to be willing to let go of some assumptions and pick up some new skills.
Read my latest post over at About.com to find out how.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

You Don’t Need a Position or a Title to be a Great Leader


You don't need a formal position or a title to be a leader. Read Scott Edinger’s guest post over at About.com to find out what it takes to be a "hidden leader".

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Don't Expect Your Employees to be Mind Readers!

All employees want to know “what’s expected of me”, and any manager should be able to answer this question.

Explaining performance expectations is important to employees, it improves productivity, and it doesn’t cost a dime.
So then why are so many employees still being kept in the dark when it comes to figuring out what’s important to their managers? Why won’t managers do it?

Read my latest post over at About.com Management and Leadership to learn a simple yet effective way to develop employee performance expectations so they don’t have to be mind readers.

Monday, February 16, 2015

11 Essential Employee Questions That Every Manager Should Know How to Answer

There are 11 basic, fundamental, essential employee questions that every manager should be able to instantly answer.

Go to About.com Management and Leadership to find out what they are.

See if you can, and if not, maybe it’s time to find out for yourself!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

8 Ways to Decisively End Indecision

Guest post by Scott Mautz:
In this increasingly more with less business world, we can’t afford to let our employees be more or less checked out.  And yet an astonishing 70% are just that, disengaged at work, according to Gallup polls.  It’s almost impossible not to disengage when toiling in the paralysis of indecision.  It’s hard to imagine anything more meaning and motivation draining, more bereft of a sense of significance, or anything simply more frustrating.
 
Deciding not to decide has a price. A big one.
 
It can create doubt, uncertainty, lack of focus, and even resentment.  Multiple options can linger, sapping an organization’s energy and killing a sense of completion.  Timelines stretch while costs skyrocket.
 
But none of us are indecisive on purpose.  We’re not evil.  Indecision can be borne from a pragmatic desire for more data, which when overdone can cross over into perfectionism.  Some of us are unwilling to compromise until we see an option that contains no trade-offs. The failure of a deciding body to feel a sense of accountability can grind things to a halt.  Fear of making a wrong decision can come into play as well.  We can lose sight of what the objective behind a decision is in the first place, confusing ourselves in the process and overcomplicating the choice to be made.   Some of us lack confidence to make a firm decision.
 
Whatever the cause, the corrosive effect is inescapable.  As leaders, we can do better.  Here’s how to put an end to indecision, with authority.
 
1. Meter your emotions
Sometimes our emotions can get in the way of making a decision, causing us to gloss over facts right in front of us or creating a desperate search for information to support the decision we really want to make.  Countering indecision may require accepting inevitabilities much sooner while refusing to let emotions cloud the realities at hand.
 
2. Step back and evaluate the true impact of a wrong decision
Fear of making an incorrect decision can paralyze the well-meaning manager.  At such times, step back and ask “What is the worst thing that could happen in the long run if this decision turns out to be wrong?”  Such a question may unveil that the consequences aren’t that dire after all, and may well net much more decisiveness. Getting comfortable with the possibility of being wrong can actually help the right decisions happen faster.
 
3. Consider the risks/costs of not doing something
Asking the question, “What are the risks/costs of not making a decision?” may create awareness of the pitfalls that would otherwise be glossed over.  It may become obvious that budgets will run over, competitors will gain precious time for counter plans, or that resources will have to be further stretched and kept from working on some other priority.
 
4. Act with self-assurance
Acting with self-confidence and a “you have to break some eggs to make an omelet” mindset is one of the greatest enablers for making a decision.  Self-doubt or worrying about what others expect you to decide can cripple a decision in progress.  Self-confidence helps bolster the internal fortitude to make the tough calls, as well as the external reception of the decision once made.  Ever watch someone arrive at a decision, but they do so in a manner riddled with visible self-doubt?  These are the decisions most unlikely to stick.
 
5. Rediscover the plot
Sometimes simply stepping back and getting some distance from a problem and refreshing yourself on the importance or objective of a decision to be made can be tremendously helpful.  What seemed like a huge call to be made might reorient itself and shrink vastly in size.  Revisiting the objective behind  the decision to be made may provide a useful reorientation and illuminate a very clear choice amongst a set of options.  And granting some time, space, and distance can help the fog of being too close to clear, making way for a re-energized and decisive point of view to emerge.
 
6. Don’t vacillate in a vacuum, step back & seek advice
Indecision can arise from the constant rehashing of the same set of data, input, or experiences.  Therefore, indecision can be conquered with exposure to new perspective from other stakeholders or from someone not as close to the decision.  Having someone else to play devil’s advocate, counter your biases, and bring different experiences to the table can help break the stalemate.
 
7. Set time bound parameters for making the call
When left to our own device, it is only natural for us to take as much time as we can to decide something. Establishing tension in the form of time limitations can help stimulate decision making.  Concrete, time bound parameters (with some teeth to them) can force the perfectionist or those who want it all to compromise and let go a bit.
 
8. Sharp discussions net sharp decisions
We’ve all been in meetings where a decision is supposed to be made but in fact you are left with no sense of tangible forward progress.  The discussion seems circular, someone hijacks the meeting and launches into an unfocused or politically motivated soliloquy, or everyone and anyone jumps in with points that aren’t even fully on topic.  Free-for-alls like this distract the decider and throw the decision making process off course.  The deciding manager needs to be prepared to run a disciplined and pointed meeting that drives towards a decision by asking the right questions, controlling the discussion flow, reigning in where necessary, and expanding discussion where appropriate to get all the information, options, and points of view out on the table.
 
 
Scott Mautz is author of Make It Matter: How Managers Can Motivate by Creating Meaning (March 4th, 2015), an award winning keynote speaker,  and a 20+ year veteran of Procter & Gamble, having run several thriving, multi-billion dollar divisions along the way.  Connect with Scott at www.makeitmatterbook.com. 
 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A Guide to Management and Leadership Assessment Centers


What is a management or leadership assessment center? Do they really work? Who does them? How much do they cost? Are there less expensive alternatives? Read more over at About.com Management and Leadership to find out.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Burning Questions About Leadership


What exactly is a leader? How do you define leadership? What are the qualities of a leader? Is leadership the same as management? Read more over at About.com Management and Leadership to find out.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

I See Clearly Now


Guest post by S. Chris Edmonds:

I got new reading glasses this week. I can see!

It’s been four years since I got my last pair. During that time my old readers have been scratched up, sat upon, bent, and generally mistreated during real life around here (and on the road).

I’d gotten used to those glasses. They worked pretty well at my computer desk but weren’t so good with my iPad - my arms just weren’t long enough.

I finally broke down and got an eye exam this month. The right prescription works wonders! The clarity of the written word and images, up close and 20” away, is astounding.

Why did I wait so long?

I think I waited because I was so comfortable with my viewpoint. My vision was “good.” I tolerated poor sight up close because I thought that was OK.

The reality was I was missing the details. I was misreading what was in front of me too often. If I couldn’t quite read it clearly, I made assumptions about what it said.

I think us leaders do that all the time.

We get comfortable with our viewpoint. Our understanding of our team environment is “OK.” We tolerate missing the details and making assumptions because that approach has worked “OK” for us for years.

Yet our great bosses didn’t get comfortable with their viewpoint. They used a variety of activities to stay connected to what was really happening with their team. They observed meetings and interactions with colleagues. They watched interactions with customers. They held numerous two-minute check in discussions with players at all levels.

These connection and observation activities enabled our great bosses to get reliable, valid, accurate information about how the team was operating and how the team was performing, every day.

They sought out perspectives of many different players, even customers and suppliers, to gain as clear and as accurate a picture of what was happening day to day.

Our great bosses rarely assumed anything. They got up from their desk, engaged people, and learned what was “real” from those dozens - maybe hundreds - of conversations over time.

They knew which team members were putting in the time and effort to move the organization forward and to serve customers effectively. They knew which team members were not.

Our great bosses engaged us frequently to learn where our pain points were - and they acted to reduce or remove those frustrations if they could.

They invited our ideas about improving the workflow, increasing efficiency, and eliminating dumb practices. They acted on those ideas of ours that made sense.

We could see our great bosses’ efforts to ensure they were seeing things “as they were” as opposed to how they assumed things were operating. Their efforts to understand our reality boosted our engagement, our service to others, and our performance.

Don’t get too comfortable with your viewpoint. Get away from your office and engage. Learn pain points and remove them where you can.

And, get an eye exam every year. I can see clearly now!

S. Chris Edmonds is the founder and CEO of
The Purposeful Culture Group. After a 15-year career leading and managing teams, Chris began his consulting company in 1990. Since 1995, Chris has also served as a senior consultant with The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is the author or co-author of seven books, including Leading At A Higher Level with Ken Blanchard. Learn how to craft workplace inspiration with an organizational constitution in Chris’ latest book, The Culture Engine. His blog, podcasts, assessments, research, and videos can be found at http://drivingresultsthroughculture.com. Join Chris in Denver for his Culture Leadership Roundtable starting in March ’15.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Workplace Professionalism


Most employees don’t want to work with what feels like an office full of chimpanzees.

What does it mean to demonstrate workplace professionalism? What does unprofessional workplace behavior look like?

While it may be hard to define in a simple sentence, we know it when we see it. And we sure as heck know it when its missing, and you can even lose your job for not having it.

In addition to competence, here are 10 more characteristics that define workplace professionalism.

What can a manager do to create and maintain a professional workplace environment? Plenty!

Read more to find out how.
 
I hope your favorite team won the Super Bowl, you won your squares, enjoyed the commercials, or just had a good time watching with friends or family!
 
 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

How to Plan a Great Off-site Meeting


This post recently appeared on Smartblog on Leadership:

To start off the New Year, a lot of leaders will take their teams “off-site” for a day or more. An off-site meeting can be a great way to develop strategy, get creative, develop a team, learn, and re-invigorate a team. Of course, they can also be like a sentence in purgatory if not planned and run well.

There is plenty of advice on how to run effective meetings, but not enough on planning. A well planned meeting can prevent a lot of the problems associated with bad meetings. Given that off-sites typically involve more time and people than regular team meetings, more thought needs to be put into preparation.

Here’s a few planning tips that will ensure your upcoming offsite is a fun, productive and rewarding experience, and doesn’t turn into and all day meeting from Hell.

1. Ask: “What is the overall purpose of the meeting?” Is it to develop a 3 year strategy? Improve teamwork? Solve a big hairy problem? Sometimes it’s a combination of a few things, but try to keep it to just a few. A great off-site agenda should not look like an extended staff meeting. This is an opportunity to take the time needed to strategize, brainstorm, debate, reflect, and learn.


2. Ask: “What are the desired outcomes?” Desired outcomes are a tangible set of deliverables that describe what a successful meeting would look like at the conclusion. Examples: “A list of 3-5 three year goals”, “A shared vision”, “a shared understanding of each other’s concerns”. Desired outcomes give you a target to shoot for and a way to evaluate the success of the meeting. It also helps drive the creation of the agenda – a way to screen out the clutter that everyone always seems to want to bolt on.

3. Do a “stakeholder assessment”. Who are all the key stakeholders for this meeting and what would a “win” look like for them. Stakeholders may be attending the meeting or they may not. For example, the manager of the meeting leader is a key stakeholder. You won’t be able to please all stakeholders but it helps to least be aware of their needs.

4. Consider the context. What’s going on in the environment that may influence the participant’s behavior, mindset, or participation? For example, is there a pending downsizing? A new team member? A restructuring?

5. Establish the dates. In today’s busy, fast paced environment, the days of multi-day off-sites are over. 1 Day is ideal, two is OK, and anything more than 2 can turn into a death march.

6. Select an overall “theme” for the meeting. The theme will emerge based on the purpose, desired outcomes, and context. Examples of themes are innovation, change, diversity, or playing to win. Having a central theme allows you to creatively tie all of the meeting elements together: agenda, venue, activities, gift, etc…

7. Find the right venue. Work with your corporate meeting planners or do your own search. Most resorts and hotels cater to corporate meetings and can help you select the best room, meals, and activities. You’ll probably work with a conference planner. Make sure you specify AV needs, room set-up, meals and breaks, and any other details. It’s the little details that can make or break an off-site that are often delegated and ignored.

8. Design the high level agenda. This is a creative process, where you begin to come up with ways to accomplish the desired outcomes. There could be teambuilding activities, strategy or problem solving sessions, training, and/or presentations.

The pieces should begin to fit together like a puzzle. I often write the key agenda pieces on post-its, and move them around until they begin to form a nice flow.

9. Develop the detailed agenda. For each major agenda segment, determine the what, who, how, when, and how long. Be realistic! Better to allow for a little slack time vs. trying to cram too much in.

10. Select “extracurricular” activities. Two day off sites often include a dinner and/or fun activity. This down time is a great way to informally build the team and keep the energy high. Pick activities that support your meeting purpose and theme.

11. Select a parting gift – some kind of special memento that supports the theme and creates a lasting anchor for the experience.

12. Fine-tune the agenda. Work with a partner to trouble-shoot potential snafus and make any inevitable last minute adjustments.

Once the meeting starts, be prepared to make more adjustments. Things never go as planned, but if you follow these steps, you’ll improve your chances of having a great leadership team off-site. Good luck!