Tuesday, August 4, 2015

9 Meeting Facilitation Skills for Managers

Many managers think they know how to “run” a meeting. They set the agenda, do all of the talking, and make all of the decisions. While this may feel easy and efficient for managers, it’s often a waste of people’s time and does not tap into the creative potential of the team.

What they really need to do is to learn and practice some new skills: meeting facilitation skills.

Read my latest post over at About,com Management and Leadership for 9 skills required to facilitate a meeting, all of which can be learned and improved with practice.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Three Little Words

This post was recently published in SmartBlog on Leadership:

What are the most important three words for any relationship between a manager and employee?
No, it’s not “I love you”. Now that would be inappropriate, although not everyone would agree with that opinion. Love their jobs – yes. Love their managers or employees? Eew!.

No, the most important three little words are: “I trust you”.
Trust is the foundation that a positive manager-employee relationship is built on. The absence of trust leads to micromanagement, fear, risk-aversion, backstabbing, destructive rumors, a lack of innovation, mistakes, and a lack of engagement.

What does trust look like? It’s all in the eye of the beholder, but here’s a starter list from both the manager’s and employee’s perspective:
When an employee says “I trust you” to their manager, it means:

1. When I share good news and accomplishments with you, you will let your boss and others know.
2. You won’t claim credit for my accomplishments.

3. When I admit a weakness, you will work with me to improve myself, not hold it against me on my performance review.
4. I can come to you when I make a mistake. You’ll treat it as a learning opportunity, but also hold me accountable when needed.

5. You’ll look me in the eye and give me honest, fair, direct feedback when I need it. You won’t sugarcoat it. I’ll know where I stand with you and won’t be blindsided during my performance review.
6. You won’t ignore performance issues – my own, as well as the rest of my co-workers. If I see a co-worker slacking off, I’ll assume you are dealing with it. If I have to bring it to your attention, I know you’ll look into it and deal with it fairly.

7. You won’t “shoot the messenger” if I bring a problem to your attention.
8. You’ll do what you say you’re going to do. I won’t have to remind you more than once.

9. You’ll look out for my best interests. Yes, I know you have a business to run and have to make tough decisions, but you will do whatever you can to make sure I’m treated fairly and with respect.
10. You’ll tell the truth and not hold back critical information.

11. I can discuss my career aspirations with you and you won’t hold it against me.
When a manager says “I trust you” to their employee, it means:

1. When I ask you to do something, I know you’ll do it. I won’t have to follow-up, inspect, ask again, etc…
2. You’ll tell me when you think I’m wrong or about to make a stupid mistake.

3. You won’t throw me under the bus in front of my boss, or behind my back.
4. If you have a problem with me, you’ll come to me first to discuss it.

5. When I ask you to do something and you say you can’t, I’ll know you have good reasons.
6. When we discuss your career aspirations, you’ll be open and honest with me so that I can support you. I shouldn’t be blindsided when you give me your notice.

7. You won’t cover up mistakes. If you screw up, you’ll admit it, take ownership, and focus on solving the problem.
8. You’ll give me a heads up regarding any urgent issues or problems so that I’m appropriately informed and not surprised when I hear about it from others.

9. If your workload slows down, you’ll let me know, or offer to help your teammates with theirs.
10. When I ask you how long something will take, you’ll give me a realistic and honest estimate. No padding.

11. When you complement me, I’ll know it’s sincere. No sucking up.

What would you add to the list? What does “I trust you” mean to you?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

What Neuroscience Tells Leaders to Pay Attention to

Guest post from Amy Brann:

The best leaders wear many hats including a Coaching one at times. A leader can help
people to grow and develop. Neuroscience may say the leader, in their Coaching role, helps facilitate self-directed neuroplasticity. We’ll explore what this means shortly. There are some similarities between a leader’s overall role and a leader in a Coaching role. There is strength in a leader being able to step into many roles while retaining their overall title of a leader.
What does neuroscience add to leaders and Coaches? Neuroscience offers us another lens through which to view things. Most of the time it doesn’t replace psychological insights or observations of people’s behaviour. It adds another perspective. With this addition we can gain further clarity.
Don’t force people, invite them
I believe, and suggest that neuroscience research supports this proposition, that the nature of a great leader is that it inspires following. It doesn’t grab a person by the scruff of the neck and drag them along. It is inviting, enticing, even alluring. Coaches don’t direct people. They facilitate self-direction. The coachee or the follower chooses what they want and where they want to go.
Connect people
People need connection. Social isolation is painful and bad for our physical and mental health. One of the roles of the leader and the Coach is to be aware of this and make it easier for people to connect to others. Different people obviously need different styles and amounts of ‘people time’ but what we’re talking about here is making it easy for people to feel included and connected.
Play fair
Most people when asked would agree that fairness is a desirable trait for a leader.
Most people wouldn’t know that the anterior cingulate cortex, the ACC is involved when we feel we are being treated unfairly. In a lab people have responded powerfully when they think something is unfair, even rejecting money – which in the workplace could speak volumes. People are likely to be less productive if they think unfairness is present.
Trust and be trustworthy
Creating opportunities for people to release oxytocin by trusting and being trustworthy could strengthen the bonds within your organization. Lots of leaders say trust and honesty are important but there are often gaps or subtle signals that raise alarm bells for individuals. Congruency is important.
Make change as easy as possible
It is possible for people to change we see it frequently. People learn new things, this involves at some level, changes in the brain. A range of experiments shows structural changes occurring in the brain – a process we call neuroplasticity – the plastic nature of the brain. We started by suggesting that there are similarities between a Coach facilitating self-directed neuroplasticity and the work of a leader. What do you think? Is part of a leader’s role to make growth and development as easy as possible? If so then understanding how the brain, which drives everything, really works can be very useful indeed.

Amy Brann studied medicine at University College London. Through her business, Synaptic Potential, she works with many companies to help them better understand their teams, clients and organizations as a whole. Brann is the author of Neuroscience for Coaches: How to Use the Latest Insights for the Benefit of Your Clients (2014, Kogan Page), and she is the creator of the online community, "Neuroscience in Business" and has been the Lead Coach for Europe for one of the largest NLP Training Companies in the world."

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Goodbye Handbook, Hello Facebook: Onboarding in the Age of Millennials

Onboarding today looks nothing like onboarding of ten or twenty years ago. Acclimating new millennial employees to company culture requires creative thinking and modern tactics. 

Read Beth Miller’s new guest post over at About.com Management and Leadership to find out how.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Understanding the Mystery That Is Generation Y

Whether we like it or not, there is always a regular infusion of youth into the workforce. It is essential to understand the psyche of youngsters before making heroes out of them or, at the other extreme, deriding them as being immature. 

Read Carolin Rekar Munro’s guest post over at About.com Management and Leadership for practical insights into the millennial workforce called generation Y. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

4 Moves Smart Leaders Make to Get Better Team Results

Guest post by Victor Prince:

Teams at work are like portfolios of people with different skills and performance patterns. Like smart investment managers, smart people managers figure out how to shift their investment of time and energy from some parts of their portfolio so they can invest more in other parts where there is more potential for improvement. Here are four moves that smart leaders do to get the highest overall return from their team.
1.   Stop Micromanaging your Exemplars – You know who the Exemplars on your team are. They are the star performers who produce great results without needing much help from you. Many leaders, however, spend more time than they need to direct or check the work of their Exemplars. Not only is that a waste of the leader’s time, but it can be frustrating to the Exemplars. Leaders often over-manage Exemplars because it is easier than managing other people on their team who need more supervision but are harder to work with. Some leaders may also spend too much time with their Exemplars because they think that by doing so, they might get more credit for the great results the Exemplars generate. Weak leaders may even worry that their Exemplars are more respected than they are, making them want to exert their formal authority more. Whatever the case, smart leaders will dial back their micromanagement of their Exemplars to free up some of their own time to invest elsewhere.  

2.   Start Managing your Passengers – Passengers are the folks on your team who show up to work but you have a hard time finding any results other than paystubs from them. They don’t annoy you or get in the way of other people on the team, but they are dragging your team down. Your team morale suffers because, even if you don’t notice Passengers’ lack of real results, their colleagues do and resent you for letting them get away with not pulling their weight. Some leaders shy away from managing their Passengers because it is uncomfortable. The “you need to start pulling your weight” is a difficult conversation that weak leaders avoid. The thing Passengers are best at is not causing trouble, so a weak leader finds it easy to just ignore the problems. But if a leader does start holding a Passenger accountable for the same results as their peers, good things will happen. The Passenger will start producing or make it easier for the leader to make way for someone who will. And their peers may step up their results as well as the team morale improves when they see their leader making much needed, albeit uncomfortable, moves for the overall good of the team.  

3.   Stop Enabling your High Cost Producers – Like your Exemplars, the High Cost Producers on your team produce good results, but they incur high costs along the way. They may cause a lot of problems and ill will with others as they steamroll their way to results. Or they may need a lot of hand-holding from you to get their job done. Either way, you are enabling them by fixing their problems and doing their thinking for them. If a steamroller hurts a relationship, you are probably using your own political capital to sooth unnecessarily hurt feelings. If you are helping make decisions that one of your team members should be making, you are now taking accountability for the results of those decisions. Making your High Cost Producers accountable for cleaning up their own messes and making their own decisions is the best way you can force them to develop the skills they need to be independent. It also frees up time for you to help others on your team who need the help more.

4.   Start Addressing your Detractors – You know who the Detractors are on your team, and everyone else does too. They are the people who are not pulling their own weight and are also pulling everyone else down because of the problems they cause. You end up spending a lot of your time cleaning up their messes or doing their jobs. They may just lack the skills they need to get their job done but are not willing to ask for help for fear of showing weakness. Maybe their job changed but they didn’t get the additional training they needed. Or they maybe they just lack the motivation to do their job. Whatever it is, you owe it to them, and to the rest of your team, to quit just throwing band aids on their problems and address them directly. The Detractors need to know the status quo is not sustainable, they need to get out of the rut they are in, and that you will do all you can to help them. You will stop spending your time covering up their problems and spend the time it takes to help them build the skills they need to keep their job.
To help you figure out where these opportunities are on your team, you can take this online assessment to diagnose your own team situation. To learn more about the framework behind this methodology, you can read Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide their Teams to Exceptional Results by Victor Prince and Mike Figliuolo.

Victor Prince: As the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Victor Prince helped build a new federal agency and led a division of hundreds of people. As a consultant with Bain & Company, he helped clients across the United States and Europe develop successful business strategies. Today, Victor is a consultant and speaker who teaches strategy and leadership skills to clients around the world. Victor is co-author of Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide their Teams to Exceptional Results, (Career Press, July 2015) which is now available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and other retailers.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

How to Start a Manager Swap Program

One of the best ways to develop a broad and deep set of leadership competencies is to move around in a variety of challenging and diverse jobs. The most successful leaders, especially general managers, tend to hone their skills by working in different functions, geographies, and product lines.
Read my latest post over at About.com to learn how to set up a “Manager Exchange Program” in your organization as a way to facilitate management development moves.

Monday, July 20, 2015

10 Ways to Make a Good Impression with Your New Boss

When your boss leaves, it’s important to get off to a good start with your new boss.

Read my latest post over at About.com for 10 ways to make sure you and your boss start off on the right foot, and 5 ways to ensure you’ll be looking for a new job soon.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Six Things Great Leadership Teams Do

Guest post from regular contributor S. Chris Edmonds:

When I consult with executives on crafting a high performance, values-aligned culture, one of the first things I do is to examine the effectiveness of their leadership team.
Whatever that team is called - an executive team, a leadership team, a management team, etc. - that core team must model, reinforce, coach, and drive their desired culture. They must act with one mind, one heart, and one voice to create an engaging, productive work environment.

Most leadership teams I observe are not teams at all. Most are groups whose members focus on their functional team’s needs, not the organization’s needs! Members of the leadership group battle their peers daily for limited funds, resources, and people, day in and day out.
That’s no way to create a high performing, values-aligned organization.

Over my 25 years of coaching executives and leadership teams, I’ve found six consistent things that effective, inspiring leadership teams do. They include:
1. Purpose

Do leadership team members move beyond their functional duties and embrace leadership team membership as a separate and equally important role? Do they act as committed, responsive members of the executive team to present a united voice on how the organization operates, not just how it performs? Do they willingly engage with their team peers in strategic discussions and plan how to inspire aligned behavior across the company’s leaders and associates?

2. Engagement
Do they set aside their functional activities so they are fully present for their leadership team conversations? Do they inform their staff that they are not to be interrupted during the team meetings with functional activities and issues? Do they set aside their smartphones, tablets, laptops, and spreadsheets and focus fully on the discussion “in the moment”?

3. Validation
Do they validate peers’ ideas, efforts, and accomplishments frequently? Do they pay attention to the nuances of the discussions - and dig deeper when a potential issue is raised? Do they ask everyone to participate so quieter members are given the floor to provide their comments, insights, or questions?

4. Shared Leadership
Who facilitates the team's discussions? Who drives for decisions to be made? If all members are comfortable doing that, it’s a clear indication of trust, respect, and validation.

5. Consensus
Do discussions end with members proactively summarizing options, making recommendations, and end with a clear, mutual, firm decision or action being made? If consensus is not being reached, do all members engage in the discussion to reach consensus quickly?

6. Aligned Action
Is there clear agreement by everyone on what the decision is and what that decision will require of team members? Do members volunteer to take responsibility? Do members challenge each other to greater targets and challenge each other when a member doesn’t do what they said they would do?

When leadership teams demonstrate these approaches consistently, the team is able to gather relevant data, decide confidently, communicate effectively, and hold each other accountable for team responsibilities.
Only when a leadership team acts with one mind, one heart, and one voice will they effectively inspire their organization to top performance, cooperative interaction, and inspired service.

How well does your leadership team model these factors? Add your thoughts in the comments section below.

S. Chris Edmonds is a sought-after speaker, author, and executive consultant. He’s the 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 Amazon best sellers The Culture Engine and Leading At A Higher Level with Ken Blanchard. His blog posts, podcasts, assessments, research, and videos can be found at http://drivingresultsthroughculture.com.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Using the Billboard Effect to Develop and Obtain Employee Buy In on the Leader’s Vision

Guest post from Jeff Wolf:

Warren Bennis, acclaimed scholar, author and advisor to corporation presidents said "Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality." Well expressed, but it's easier said than done. What's needed are practical steps to develop a communicable vision coupled with practical steps to achieve employee buy in.

Notice that I emphasized the word practical, because unless the leader's vision is easy to understand, believable and clearly stated, even the most imaginative vision will become just another page in the employee manual gathering dust.

Let's first define "billboard effect" and how it translates into developing a workable vision that achieves employee buy-in. A billboard is the visual image of the leader's vision. In few but meaningful words it paints a picture of what the company and its people stand for and what it wants to achieve. It is future oriented and describes where the company expects to be tomorrow and from there onward.

Next, let's examine steps in developing the vision, then steps in getting the organization's people to buy into that vision.

Developing the Vision

§  Highly effective leaders have big ideas. Small ideas are okay, but they're not transformative. Big ideas help companies and employees face the challenges of tomorrow. This is no better expressed than Robert Kennedy quoting George Bernard Shaw: "Some men see things as they are and say, 'Why?' I dream of things that never were, and say, 'Why not?' " Companies with leaders who have the imagination and drive to adopt big ideas are the Apples, Googles and Ubers of tomorrow. Those big ideas are nurtured by leaders who make astute observations of their companies and their industries, and then reflect and decide what visions need to be in place to handle tomorrow's problems and opportunities.

§  Reflection is the stimulus that leads to big ideas, but leaders know that clear and careful expression of their visions must be committed to writing. The process of writing clarifies visions such that they can be robustly expressed in words that command the organization's attention.

§   With the visions now distinctly articulated, leaders can construct and post billboards throughout the organization and express their visions during talks with members of the organization. These billboards, reduced to clear maxims, concisely reflect those visions. For example, "Our company will take whatever measures needed to assure that product quality satisfies our customers, or we will return their money without question." That is both clear and unambiguous. And it sets the stage for transformation of the organization to achieve that vision.

§  Leaders should be prepared to tweak, modify, and even change vision statements when those visions aren't producing expected results. When it comes to vision nothing is set in stone. The mark of a highly effective leader is the willingness to forgo ego and do what is right for the organization. The best of leaders prepare alternate plans.

Buying Into the Vision

§  I would argue that the very first prerequisite for employee buy in is to simply listen to what employees think and say about their jobs and the company's direction. Keeping an open ear is crucial. And don't get distracted by their complaints. Remember that engaged employees, those who really care about the company, expose many of the organization's problems and lost opportunities through complaints. This is a great chance for leaders to make positive changes based on worthwhile employee suggestions.

§   I would become suspicious if employees don't gripe. That means their voices are being throttled, and that is the absolute worst situation of all.

§  Employees need positive reinforcement. They won't buy into a faulty vision, one that is not productive. That implies going beyond the stage of encouraging them to speak freely. It means measuring how successful the company's vision is working. Take the quality example mentioned before. How are employees (or managers for that matter) going to know how successful their efforts are without measureable feedback? That means providing them with yardsticks of performance. It entails, in this example, weekly or monthly reports on rejects, scrap, customer complaints and customer returns, with as much data as possible reflecting individual employee performance.

§  Additionally, to combat what I call "vision tedium," employees need to know how effective the company has been pursuing its vision long-term. Quarterly and annual postings will tell the tale along with periodic meetings with employee groups.

§  Leaders should put in place a follow-up procedure (possibly an annual review) because employee buy in of vision is not a one-time event. Constant follow-up is required to assure that employees remain engaged, informed and responsive to emerging problems. One of the difficulties of either a mature or growing organization is that leaders stop emphasizing company priorities and changes in priorities. They may delegate vision just as they delegate tasks, but the two are not equal. Vision remains both the prerogative and responsibility of organization leaders.

Jeff Wolf is the author of Seven Disciplines of a Leader and founder and president of Wolf Management Consultants, LLC, a premier global consulting firm that specializes in helping people, teams and organizations achieve maximum effectiveness. Wolf also blogs at Jeff Wolf on Leadership.