Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Leave No Doubt Leaders

Guest Post from Paul Cummings:

Leave No Doubt Leaders focus on people, not power, as they build and develop their teams. In this period of rapid and disruptive change to the makeup of the employment base, leaders must focus on empathy and trust as a means of building genuine “equity”. Leaders who empower others consider empathy an essential competency to develop high-performance teams. In fact, great leaders leave no doubt about the value of their family, friends, colleagues and customers. They invest in relationships and strive to build high levels of relationship equity through their actions.
A true leader will recognize that they must build their teams through the development of strong relationships, rather than asserting or trying to demand “power” or “title”. The old method of the “My way or the highway” style of management simply doesn't work in business today. As baby boomers retire and more and more millennials begin their careers, the necessity of building relationship equity has grown exponentially. The newer, younger work force thrives on more of a relationship-based leadership style and approach. 

This new generation values a sense of community and a work environment where they feel valued and cared for by their leaders. In order to create maximum productivity today, a leader must demonstrate a high level of care towards all of his or her team members. Do your people know beyond a shadow of doubt that you genuinely value and trust their input, contributions, and capacity to impact your organization? 
Do you view the development of trust and relationship equity as mission critical items of your personal leadership philosophy? Are you committed to investing the time required to truly get to know your people on a deeper level? When you know your people and what they value, you have placed yourself in a perfect position to be able to inspire and lead. The key is you must also be vulnerable enough to allow them to get to know you in return. 

My past interactions and experiences with leaders from around the globe have led me to formulate the belief that most leaders don't truly know their people.
Here were my five questions for leaders:

1. Do you know your team member’s most important individual dreams?
2. Do you know your team member’s top three personal goals?

3. Do you know what one individual has been the most positive center of influence in your team member’s life?

4. Do you know your team member’s viewpoint of his or her greatest strength?

5. Do you know your team member’s personal core values?
Knowing the answers to these questions is critical in helping you build relationship equity and trust, which will also help you maximize your leadership ability with your team members. In order to build real relationship equity, you must display morally courageous leadership principles. It takes courage to establish trust and allow your people to move forward without doubt and fear. The morally courageous leader knows that his or her team members will make mistakes as they strive to perform. When you leave no doubt that you will be there to support and encourage them, even through their mistakes, it sets them free to succeed. 

A leader must invest the time required to truly know his or her team members. A truism of life is that people will work harder to reach their own goals and dreams than they will for anything else. When you care enough to find out what matters most to your team members, only then can you inspire their greatest efforts and motivate them to achieve higher levels of performance.
About the Author: Paul Cummings’ latest book is called It All Matters. Paul Cummings has been educating business professionals for over thirty-five years and has developed revolutionary techniques in sales, customer service, and leadership development. Enthusiastic. Driven. Intense.  Filled with the desire to not only teach but to also make a lasting difference, Paul is well-known for teaching his students and clients with unrivaled zeal and unmatched passion as he enthusiastically lives out his business motto, changing lives through dynamic instruction. A thirteen-time winner of the Telly Award and five-time winner of the Communicator Award, Paul’s ultimate desire is to tangibly and exponentially improve both personal and professional performance. Paul’s personal mission is to always leave it better than he found it because he truly understands and firmly believes that It All Matters. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Leadership Lesson from Your Dog. Be Doggedly Determined

Guest post by Krissi Barr:

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. That, of course, is #FakeNews. I know because my 12 year-old dog Yoda just learned how to pull a coffee cake off the kitchen counter and make the entire thing disappear in under 10 minutes. 

The real question is whether a dog can teach new tricks to people. If by “people” we mean “business leaders” then the answer is a resounding “woof yes!”

Dogs are natural leadership geniuses. This stems from their innate knowledge of four critical concepts—The Fido Factors—that all great leaders share: they are faithful, inspirational, determined and observant.

Of these, determination is clearly one of the most critical to business success. And to finagling a pan of breakfast pastry off the kitchen counter.

Good leaders persevere until they get what they want. Great leaders never quit until their entire team crosses the finish line. In first place.

Life litters our path between the parking lot and our office desk with obstacles. Our favorite employee quits, a key customer switches to a competitor or raw material costs skyrocket due to a conflict 6000 miles away.

Stuff happens. And when it does it can knock us down. But the most resilient among us bounce back and keep going. Most importantly they lift up their entire team and plow ahead.

We are often measured by the success we achieve in life. But what matters most—what really sticks with others—is how we respond to adversity. Because those who crank up their determination when others throw in their chips are almost always the ones who win in the long run.

Like a big dog with long legs who really wants some coffee cake that’s just out of reach on the counter, leaders never give up. Ever. If something is worth going for it’s worth going all the way for.

When times get tough, real leaders redouble their effort. And they find a way to motivate those around them to do the same.

Like an extra gear on a sports car, leaders kick it up. It isn’t a matter of physical strength. It’s all about mental toughness. Like a dog backed into a corner, it’s fight or flight. And leaders unleash the full measure of their fight in order to secure victory for the home team.

Edison invented over a thousand non-working lightbulbs before he finally got it right. Most people would have given up after five or 50 failures, and certainly after 500. But that never say never attitude is what changed his life—and the world—forever.

You will face adversity. It could be a difficult customer who says they will never switch from their current provider. Maybe that’s true. Or maybe they haven’t experienced the supersized onslaught of your determination to show them how your solution is better.

Yoda said “Do or do not. There is no try.” That’s Yoda from Star Wars, not Yoda the dog who likes coffee cake. Either way it is true. Redouble your determination and do. Then watch your leadership quotient zoom.

Krissi Barr is CEO of Barr Corporate Success, consultants specializing in strategic planning, executive coaching, and behavioral assessments, and the co-author of The Fido Factor: How to Get a Leg Up at Work.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Are you a Leader or a Lemming?

Guest post from Sandy Coletta:

I know what you are thinking - a lemming is a follower and by its very definition, a leader isn’t a follower. It is absolutely true that within a given group, the leader is setting the direction and guiding those who follow. But what happens when you assemble a group of leaders? Perhaps it starts within your organization, then within your industry? How many “leaders” are present at your college reunion, your country club, or your annual conference? At some point in your career journey, have you started to focus more on status as a leader than the job at hand?

Regardless of our station in life, there are always others who share similar roles.  All of us have a peer group and within that group a select few are viewed as the role models and the others aspire to reach that level of peak performance.  Said more simply, some are leaders and the majority are followers.  So even the Chief, President, Provost, Chair or other applicable senior title within your organizational structure are leaders while at the same time mimicking the practices established by those they aspire to be.    These individuals, Lemming Leaders, are less focused on adapting best practices to their specific setting and more concerned with being at the “industry standard”.

Signs of a Lemming Leader:

Use of jargon:
Do you use the terms restructuring, high reliability, six sigma, just culture, strategic sourcing, population health, or employee engagement in your organization? How about reengineering, total quality management, performance management, learning organization, value analysis, managed care, or employee satisfaction?

The trappings:
Look in your driveway.  Does your car reflect your “status”? List your favorite restaurants. Do you bump into employees when you are there or other executives?

Your friends:
When is the last time you spoke to a friend from high school? Who would you call in an emergency if your family was unavailable? Are your social activities limited to work and business colleagues?

Your bookshelf:
Are they all leadership books?

The other employees:
Do they know you? I mean, do they really know you?

So, if you are a Lemming, join the club! It is human nature to look towards others who are successful in a similar position and try to emulate them. The problem rests however in how this pre-occupation with being acknowledged as a “leader” by your peers is perceived by your employees. This job you are in isn’t about enhancing your standing relative to others, but is about enhancing your organizations’ performance in the market, which can only be achieved through the combined efforts of your entire team.

To break away from the lemmings, give these techniques a try:

1. Use plain language to describe what you are trying to accomplish. If you are trying to make your operation more efficient, then say so. “To continue to have our product priced competitively so we can increase sales, we need to reduce our costs. To do that, we are going to identify any work effort that doesn’t make our product better and eliminate it.”    Sounds a lot clearer than saying “we are going to embark on a six sigma project to improve efficiency,” doesn’t it?

2. Encourage the customization of best practices in your organization. Learning from others is appropriate, copying is not!

3. You should be able to enjoy your life and the economic rewards that you have earned. Just be sure that what you want is the driving force, not what looks best. My most recent peer review included a comment that I needed to get a better car. I drive a Fiat 500. I worked hard to earn a salary that allowed me the discretion to buy what I love, not just what I can afford. I love my Fiat, whether it fits my role in the company or not!

4. This one is IMPORTANT: When the time comes for your career to end, and it will one way or the other, your friends and family are the ones who will still be there. If you have those kinds of people in your life, treasure them. If not, find some who don’t know and don’t care what you do for a living.

5. Remember back in your undergraduate liberal arts classes when you had to read the classics? That was when you learned to think for yourself. Keep reading the leadership books if you must, but branch out a bit. Read a novel. Study history. Write a poem. Think beyond what other leaders have discovered, discover on your own.

6. Be open with your staff; share who you are and what you care about. Be fair, not frightening.

As my career progressed and I got drawn into a “lemming leadership” identify, my mother would quite bluntly point out that the higher one climbs, the harder the fall. She reminded me that I am privileged to have a great job, but it does not define who I am.

Know who you are and be yourself first and lead from there. When it comes time to hand off the job to the next rising star, you will still have your feet on the ground to break the fall.

The Owl Approach to Storytelling: Lead with Your Life, the first book from Sandy Coletta, is available now. Originally published in early 2017, The Owl Approach combines a how-to guide for leadership storytelling with examples of actual stories shared with Coletta's staff at Kent Hospital in Warwick, RI during her tenure as President. The book offers insight into when to use personal stories, where to "discover" those stories and why the moral matters. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

3 Ways to Build Trust and Gain Followership

Guest post from Tarra Mitchell:

If we want our teams to follow us willingly, they first need to trust us. To gain trust, we have to learn to connect with people in a meaningful way. People want to be seen and heard. They want to know that we will be there for them if they need us.
Meaningful connection is not necessarily a natural talent that comes easily. Connecting with others requires that we get to know individual team members as people, not simply employees.
Here are three ways to build trust:
1)    Good Listening
Good listening involves offering our full attention to the people speaking. Learning to do this is a practice that is even more important—and more challenging—in our distracted, digital age.  We cannot offer our full attention to others when we are checking our emails, responding to texts, or reading our notebooks.
The key difference between good listening—the kind that builds trust—and distracted listening is that good listening requires us to look the person in the eye. When we listen well, we look the person speaking in the eye and do our very best not to turn our gaze away.
A second aspect of good listening is the continued practice of turning your mind back to the person speaking, even as the mind tries over and over again to think about yet another item on your to-do list. Focusing on the color of the speaker’s eyes is a good trigger to help move your concentration toward the person speaking and away from whatever is distracting you at the moment.
If it feels almost impossible to keep your mind on the person speaking, you won’t be able to build trust. If you know you have a frenzied mind, plan a different time to talk with the person—or learn how to center yourself. If you can learn how to center your mind before meetings, it will go a long way toward ensuring that you are in a better mental state to listen well and build trust. There are many methods to do this, such as mindfulness or breathing practices.
Finally, to really listen well, you need to actually listen. This means you are not offering solutions or interrupting, but listening to what the other person has to say without trying to form your own response yet. Giving the individual the time to speak while you are listening attentively will help them to feel valued and build trust.
2)    Allow the Team to Co-create Guidelines
Where possible, allow the team to co-create the ways they work together and how the work gets done. Most people do not want to be told what to do and appreciate being part of the decision-making process. Having a team create certain guidelines, procedures, and communication protocols is one way to foster a cohesive team and build trust. There’s an automatic level of buy-in and support when the marching orders are co-created.
When contemplating communication protocols, consider the meaning of the principle of integrity or truthfulness. Trust is built when communications are open and honest and there are no hidden agendas. Work toward being as open as possible with your team. Embed openness into your communication guidelines.
Allow for questioning and healthy discourse. This creates clarity for ourselves and for our teams. A healthy level of discourse just might result in a better way, so be flexible to adjusting guidelines as well.
3)    Fostering Safe and Supportive Work Environments
People want to feel safe, secure, and supported, in life and at work. Foster an environment that builds trust by practicing being vulnerable, which is a deep human quality that supports relationship building. Our team needs to see our own human side, including our imperfections. When we share our frustrations, our fears, and our failures, we in turn send a signal to our team that we are willing to be open, so they can feel safe being open, too. This is a great way to create a safe environment.
When we foster a strong team connection, we build trust across the team. By communicating in ways that are uniting and not dividing, we fortify the team. Demonstrate how every function has meaningful importance to the productivity of the team and success of the organization. Make the team aware of what the others on the team do and the challenges they encounter. Be generous with compliments on work well done and share accolades openly. Encourage team members to support one another in this way as well.

Trust and followership are built on simple practices that we can do to connect more deeply with our teams. Implement these practices and watch team satisfaction improve and your days become a little easier.
Tarra Mitchell, author of The Yoga of Leadership (Fall 2017), is integrating her distinctive background in business and yoga to show how personal wellbeing is connected to success. Her keen ability to connect with people led to an investment career directing billion-dollar fundraising events and developing relationships around the world. @TarraMMitchell

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Why Make Managers A Strategic Priority?

Guest post from Larry Sternberg and Kim Turnage:

What would your organization be like if every employee had a great manager? What would happen to productivity, quality, morale and customer satisfaction? In every organization, managers are a key leverage point to drive higher performance and better business results. Managers maintain service and quality standards and ensure adherence to company policies and regulatory requirements. They also drive engagement and retention of employees.

Managers influence at least 75 percent of the reasons people give for voluntary job turnover, and they account for 70 percent of variance in employee engagement. The impact managers have on turnover and engagement go straight to the organization’s bottom line. Turnover costs range from 48 to 61 percent of an employee’s annual salary, and disengaged employees cost organizations $3,400 for every $10,000 in salary.

It’s difficult to overstate the impact a great manager can have on organizational performance. However, organizations often under invest in their selection and training. In fact, in many organizations, the best front line employee (e.g. best nurse, best waiter, best carpenter) is promoted as the next manager. Furthermore, in many cases, the new manager receives zero training. One day the person is an hourly employee, and the next day they’re managing their former coworkers. Sound familiar?

Improving the process for identifying and training new managers presents a low-risk, high return, strategic opportunity to improve organizational performance. Here are specific steps you can take to make managers a strategic business priority. 

First, change your selection criteria.
Optimizing the impact of managers starts with changing your selection criteria. Performing with excellence as a manager requires very different talents than performing in an hourly employee role. Therefore, excellent individual performance is not a good basis for promoting someone to a management role. Instead, look for an employee who naturally exhibits these behaviors and attitudes.

1.  Takes Initiative. This particular combination of behavior and attitude is fundamental to everything else and should be a ticket to admission for promotion to manager. Who sees ways to help, to improve things, to add value -- and takes action?

2.  Improves Morale. This should also be required. Who has a strong positive attitude and positively impacts the attitudes of others? Things feel better in the department when this person is working. He or she encourages others to maintain positivity and optimism in the face of adversity.

 3.  Helps Other Employees. Who notices when another team member could use some help and just spontaneously moves in to help them?  This person might reach out proactively to help you as well.

4.  Teaches Other Employees. Who naturally shares knowledge, expertise and new learning to help other people do their jobs better – and really enjoys that kind of teaching?

5.  Generates Ideas For Improvement.  Who always sees ways to make things function more effectively -- and then speaks up? This might be annoying sometimes, but it’s a sign of management talent.

6.  Demonstrates Leadership. Who sees that something needs to be done, asks others to pitch in and gets results? This goes beyond simply taking initiative. The key is in asking others and getting them to pitch in. Again, it’s natural.

While not an exhaustive list, it’s a great start to finding people with the natural talent to be managers. And it’s much better than just choosing the top performer in the current role. In fact, your best management candidate might NOT be the best performer in the department. The person with the highest potential to be a great supervisor or manager might be just average as a waiter or sales associate. If you see these attitudes and behaviors, if you see an employee who does these kinds of things without being asked … that’s the person you should consider for promotion to manager.

Next, provide appropriate training.
The next step in making sure every employee has a great manager is to create a training program. Once you have identified future managers, put them into a training program. You and your colleagues should make a list of the skills and knowledge needed to be a great manager in your organization. Possible items might include:
  • Union contracts
  • Wage and hour law
  • Scheduling work
  • Inventory
  • Company and departmental policies
  • Coaching and counseling
  • Ordering supplies
  • Train the trainer
Whatever is on your list, new managers will operate with a much higher level of confidence when you train them beforehand, rather than just saying, “Congratulations, here’s your desk.” By the way, how much easier would your life be if every employee had a great manager?

Final step: Hold managers accountable.
Most companies are keenly aware of the importance of employee engagement. Many conduct periodic engagement surveys, form teams to address issues identified by those surveys and implement improvement strategies recommended by those teams. That is a costly, time-consuming process. And despite those kinds of efforts, engagement survey scores do not seem to improve materially year over year.

There is a better way to improve your engagement scores. Focus on your managers.

If you analyze data on engagement and voluntary turnover, you are likely see the Pareto Principle in action – 80% of your low engagement or high turnover is attributable to 20% of your managers.

The solution is to remove the poor managers and replace them with great managers. This solution is not easy or pleasant. It might require you to alter performance evaluation criteria to hold managers accountable for engagement scores and voluntary turnover. It might require you to replace some managers with seniority. The alternative is to ignore the reality that certain poor managers are causing most of the disengagement and voluntary turnover. Replacing them with great managers will improve all your metrics, and improve them rapidly.

Focusing on managers presents a low-risk, high return, strategic opportunity to improve organizational performance. You can do this by adopting better selection criteria and by providing better training. Parting company with poor managers and replacing them with highly talented managers will bring rapid improvement in engagement and turnover, translating to better financial results.

Larry Sternberg
is the co-author to Kim Turnage of the new book MANAGING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE: How To Engage, Retain & Develop Talent For Maximum Performance. Sternberg is a senior executive at management consulting firm Talent Plus. For more information please visit www.ManageToMakeADifference.com.