How To Melt A Grinch's Heart

This time of year we may call them “the grinch,” but you know the type. “Disgruntled,” “negative,” the ones of you label in the “quit and stay” category.

I’ve been to many a meeting and several change workshops where the sentiment goes something like this.

“It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small”
~Dr. Seuss

“Don’t waste your energy on that segment.”

“They will suck you dry, just move on”

“You can’t change them anyway.”

“Give your attention and energy to the rest of the team.”

Perhaps.

Sometimes that is true. I have “wasted” lots of “energy” on such “grinches” over the years.

On the other hand, I also know it’s possible to melt a “grinch’s heart.” The rewards are remarkable. WIth your heart-melting powers you may change a life, enhance the business, and feel the deep satisfaction that comes from doing your best as a leader.

Isn’t it worth a try?

Melting the Outer Grinch

We all have our grinch-turnaround stories. These classic Christmas stories come from real life.

Here’s my view, please share yours…

  • Don’t label them as a “grinch” or any such word to yourself, to them, or to others
  • Take the time to get to know them as a person (there’s likely more to this picture that may require some empathy)
  • Listen to their concerns (chances are there’s some really important points underneath all that ice)
  • Share a bit about what worries you and your concerns
  • Find out what they love to do and tap into those gifts
  • Recognize the small wins
  • Ask them to help someone else
  • What would you add (please share in your comments)
“And what happened then…
Well in Who-ville they say
That the Grinch’s small heart
Grew three sizes that day!
And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight;
He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light…”

 

4 Ways To Ensure Your Successor’s Success

The same mentor that jokingly told me, “always follow an idiot” also smiled and said, “and always leave an idiot as your successor.”

I’ve seen it go both ways. It’s painful to watch your team’s hard work unravel.

For the last week, we’ve been talking about Building Results that Last Beyond Your Tenure, including, Building a Strong VisionEstablishing the Right Behaviors  and Encouraging Interdependency.

An important piece of this puzzle, is leaving a remarkable successor.

4 Ways to Ensure Your Successor’s Success

This process starts early. Once you are ready to leave, it’s too late to search. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

Build a Deep Bench

Surround yourself with rock stars. Go find them in other areas of the business and recruit them to your team. Invest substantial time each week working on leadership development. Mentor, teach, have them subscribe to Let’s Grow Leaders 😉 The biggest mistake I see here is that leaders focus on developing one protegé. Timing might not work out. If you are doing it right, others will come knocking looking to recruit her before you are ready. Work on building an entire farm team.

Lead with Transparency

The last thing you want your successor to say is, “I had no idea your job was like this.” Share what you can with your team. Help them understand the deeper challenges you face and how you approach them. Expose them to some of the politics and how you navigate.

Consider What’s Needed Most

My favorite Monte Python saying is, “and now for something completely different.” It is likely that what your team needs most after you leave is not more of you. They’ve had that. When choosing a successor consider what the team really needs most. What has changed in the business environment? What kind of leader would most challenge the team at this stage of their development?

Get Out of the Way

Yes, you must transfer knowledge. Do everything you can to leave your successor anything they may need in an organized and easy to follow-way. Keep lists, contacts, and how toos.. in case they want to use them. And then, get out-of-the-way. Offer to always be available, but stop checking in. Whatever you do, don’t hang around offering commentary to your old team. The new leader needs to make her mark in her way. She doesn’t need to worry about what you are thinking or saying.

4 Ways To Ensure Your Successor's Success

The same mentor that jokingly told me, “always follow an idiot” also smiled and said, “and always leave an idiot as your successor.”

I’ve seen it go both ways. It’s painful to watch your team’s hard work unravel.

For the last week, we’ve been talking about Building Results that Last Beyond Your Tenure, including, Building a Strong VisionEstablishing the Right Behaviors  and Encouraging Interdependency.

An important piece of this puzzle, is leaving a remarkable successor.

4 Ways to Ensure Your Successor’s Success

This process starts early. Once you are ready to leave, it’s too late to search. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

Build a Deep Bench

Surround yourself with rock stars. Go find them in other areas of the business and recruit them to your team. Invest substantial time each week working on leadership development. Mentor, teach, have them subscribe to Let’s Grow Leaders 😉 The biggest mistake I see here is that leaders focus on developing one protegé. Timing might not work out. If you are doing it right, others will come knocking looking to recruit her before you are ready. Work on building an entire farm team.

Lead with Transparency

The last thing you want your successor to say is, “I had no idea your job was like this.” Share what you can with your team. Help them understand the deeper challenges you face and how you approach them. Expose them to some of the politics and how you navigate.

Consider What’s Needed Most

My favorite Monte Python saying is, “and now for something completely different.” It is likely that what your team needs most after you leave is not more of you. They’ve had that. When choosing a successor consider what the team really needs most. What has changed in the business environment? What kind of leader would most challenge the team at this stage of their development?

Get Out of the Way

Yes, you must transfer knowledge. Do everything you can to leave your successor anything they may need in an organized and easy to follow-way. Keep lists, contacts, and how toos.. in case they want to use them. And then, get out-of-the-way. Offer to always be available, but stop checking in. Whatever you do, don’t hang around offering commentary to your old team. The new leader needs to make her mark in her way. She doesn’t need to worry about what you are thinking or saying.

The Scary Secret to Great Meetings

The first time it happened, I was devastated.

After all the hard work on building relationships.

All that investment in the team.

All that transparency.

All that work to create a level-less organization.

Why had my direct report team started holding “secret” meetings without me?

Why was that necessary?

What was I doing wrong?

Was this an indication that I had become the proverbial “boss” an image I had tried so hard to avoid?

It’s About Us

I shared my concerns with a member of the team.

Karin, this is not about you. This is about us. We need this. Relax.

I still don’t know exactly what happened in those “secret” meetings. Perhaps they talked about the work. Perhaps they settled some of their own conflict. Perhaps they complained about me. I am not sure it matters.

What I do know is those meetings transformed our organization.

Each leader began stepping up in new ways. They helped one another solve problems. They worked on each other’s projects. They mentored one another’s employees. They brought well-vetted options and solutions to our staff meetings.

My questions became more strategic. So did their answers.

Results kept climbing.

When you strive to be a servant leader, it can be tough to feel your team doesn’t need “serving.” You want to roll up your sleeves and support them. Sometimes the best support you can offer is to step away and give them the space to create, argue, and perform.

Now I welcome and encourage secret meetings.

Could your team use a “secret meeting?”

Thermostat or Thermometer? Helping Kids Feel the Leadership Climate

Today I present our final post in this year’s Leadership Padawan Saturday series, Growing Leadership in Kids. On Monday, I return to our normal leadership fare.

Today I offer a guest post from Eric Dingler, a great example of a Thermostat leader.

Eric has been the Director and lead communicator for an expanding Christian summer camp and year-round conference center for over 10 years. He lives on the camp in Ohio with his wife Marissa and their two children, Rilee and Ryan. You can follow Eric at www.twitter.com/EricDingler or on his blog launching January 4th 2013 at www.ericdingler.com

Over 16 years of teaching leadership to kids, here are four truths I’ve discovered. With these truths, we can teach our kids leadership skills for life.

1. More is caught than is taught.

This is why being intentional to model leadership to your kids is so important. Take them to work if you can. If you can’t do that, lead in your local church or civic club and let them experience you in action there. Lead at home well. Lead yourself well. For a list of other very practical steps read this previous post in this series. Leadership For Kids: A Great Way to Teach Your Kids About Leadership

2. What you care enough to ask about is what you care enough to ask about.

Imagine you tell your kids that getting good grades is important– then never ask them how they are doing except when grades comes out. Add to that you never ask if you can help them improve their grades by helping with homework. Maybe them getting good grades isn’t really that important to you. At least, that’s what your kids will think. If you never ask about their leadership, how will they know it’s important? At the end of this post I’ll share a question I’ll ask my kids daily at the dinner table as soon as they are old enough to understand it.

3. What gets repeated gets remembered.

Have one conversation with your kids about not smoking, then let their friends and society hit them with the message to smoke over and over again; you’ll get a kid who smokes. Talk about being a leader once or just once in a while and you’ll probably not get a leader. Talk often about leadership and leadership principles if you want your kids to remember them.

4. It’s hard to beat a good visual aid to reinforce a lesson.

For leadership, I use the image of a thermostat versus a thermometer. A thermostat reads the temperature of the environment and then makes adjustments to reach the desired goal temperature. A thermometer just reads the temperature and reacts to show others what the temperature is. A leader is a thermostat. They read the environment and makes adjustments to reach the desired goals.

As soon as my kids are old enough (my daughter is 27 months old and my son is only 3 months old right now) I plan to intentionally ask them regularly, “So, were you a thermometer or a thermostat at school today?” Then, engage with them in the conversation.

This question isn’t just for kids.
What about you? Were you a thermostat or a thermometer today?
What other visuals could you compare for the lesson of leadership?

Building Behaviors that Inspire Sustained Results

If you are just tuning in this week, we are in the midst of a series on Building Results That Last Beyond Your Tenure.

An important component to achieve your vision and accomplish your goals, is identifying the right behaviors at every level.

Just as with creating the vision, you have choices.

You can identify the key behaviors and build performance management systems and rewards to reinforce them. That may work, if your entire performance management system is carefully aligned.

What I find works even better is involving each level of the organization in the process.

How to Identify Key Behaviors: An Exercise

I have been using variations of this exercise in different roles and contexts for many years– sometimes on the outside as a facilitator, sometimes on the inside as leader. It’s easy, and mostly involves an open mind and enough time to really engage.

Set the stage:

Start with your vision and goals. Ensure everyone understands the big picture and how they fit in. You have choices on how to do this. If you missed the post on How To Develop a Team Vision, you may want to take a moment and start there.

Brainstorm Key Behaviors:

Next, brainstorm what specific behaviors each role on the team would need to exhibit to make that vision a reality. What behaviors must the leader exhibit? How about the sales reps? How about the HR team? How about…

For example:

What would the team leader most need to do each day to achieve the vision?

Be more visible?

That’s a start, but too vague.

How about if she spent 3 hours on the floor each day.

Better.

What would she be doing on the floor?

Keep drilling down until you find specific measurable behaviors that will work.

This can be done for every role on the team.

Drilling Down:

Next, consider formalizing this exercise at every level of the organization.

Start with your direct reports, and take it down as many levels as you have.

Ask.

In order for us to accomplish our vision, what behaviors do you need from me?

Then narrow it down to specific behaviors and write them down.

Next, what behaviors must they exhibit? Again, narrow it down and record.

Ask them to repeat this exercise with their teams to discuss the specific behaviors for their roles.

And then a level down.

Take all those behaviors and publish them into a matrix. Everyone then knows what behaviors are expected at every level to accomplish the vision. You can then work to hold one another accountable for those behaviors.

It’s a lot harder to ignore the leadership behaviors you committed to when everyone has a matrix of expectations they can pull out at any time.

The Problem with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Joe (not his real name) began the team meeting by covering the team’s scorecard and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

“Great work on your sales KPIs, we’re in the top-tier across the board. We are so close to beating Sharon’s district. If everyone just sold one more today, I think we can do it!
Also, we seem to be struggling in the customer service KPIs. We have a downward trend and there are 4 districts ahead of us. I need more focus there across the board. Janet, you are doing the best so whatever you’re doing keep it up. Everyone else, I need you to try a bit harder. Awesome. Thanks everyone, now let’s go make it a great day. Remember, fantastic customer service!”

If that sounds like a team huddle you’ve ever been in, you know why I have a love/hate relationship with KPIs. Joe’s team may understand the KPIs, but they don’t have a clue what they are supposed to do when they leave that meeting.

What should they DO to sell one more?

How DO they improve the customer experience?

KPIs Are Indicators, Not Action

Scorecards and KPIs provide wonderful directional indicators. Good trends point to actions worth replicating. Bad trends shine a spotlight on what must change. A hard look at the data can help you to identify best practices. Comparative scorecards will also help you identify outliers who need more support.

KPIs are important.

One of the biggest mistakes I see team leaders make is talking about the KPIs instead of the behaviors needed to achieve them.

KPIs are a terrible topic of conversation.

People don’t change scorecards, they change behaviors.

A focus on KPIs versus behaviors can lead to useless, if not stupid actions.

Almost any behavior applied with enough focus will create a short-term lift in results.

Micromanagement can get you there for a hot minute. Fear and intimidation will work for a while. Heavy incentives and hoopla will create a short-term lift. Ice cream and pizza can’t hurt either.

Upward trends in KPIs without an underlying change in behaviors, can lead to a false sense of security.

When the fear goes away or the sugar wears off, the results go back down.

The Behaviors That Matter

The only way to build sustained results is to improve the underlying behaviors. Don’t ask a sales rep to be more courteous. Ask her to open the door for the customer, use the customer’s name, and walk around the counter with the bag. Talking about the frequency of those behaviors will do more good than talking about her customer service survey percentages.

So what are the right behaviors? Why not ask the team?

What tools and techniques have you used to ensure the conversation focuses on behaviors?
How have you avoided the distraction of numbers and KPIs?

How To Build a Strong Team Vision

Whenever I take over a channel or team, one of the first questions I ask is “what is the vision?” Most of the time, this is tough to answer. There is usually strong alignment and attachment to the greater organization’s vision and values, which is vital.

However, what I find frequently missing is a sense of team vision. What is this team really about?

Sure there are goals. There may even be big important goals (see How to Pick the Right Big Goal). To build results that last, people want a connection to something bigger. The more localized you can make the vision, the more likely that it will stick.

In her post, “A Big Goal is Not the Same as a Vision, “Jesse Lynn Stoner shares:

“One way to distinguish between a vision and a goal is to ask, “What’s next?” A vision provides clear ongoing direction—it is clear what you should do next. As you take each step, the next one becomes clear. A vision continues to act as a beacon, guiding you in setting new goals once current ones have been achieved.”

To Build a Vision: Start With Questions

Creating a great team vision starts by asking questions:

  • What is the company vision? How does our team make a difference toward that end?
  • What will we be known for?
  • What feels impossible?
  • What do our customers most need from us?
  • ??? your turn what would you add?

This exercise works well too.

Imagine it is 5 years from now. Our team is being recognized for making a game changing contribution.

  • What is the most important work we are doing?
  • What are our customers saying about us?
  • What does it feel like to work on this team?
  • What is senior management saying about us?
  • ??? your turn what would you add?

The answers to these questions, help to surface what your team could be about. From there, it’s a narrowing process. The dialogue and debate are an important part of the process. Don’t rush it.

Dan McCarthy provides a fantastic step by step guide to building a vision in his post, How to Create a Shared Vision Statement. I have used similar methodologies over the years.

Of course, the danger with such exercises that is that they remain just that. I can’t tell you how many conference rooms, offices and cubes I have walked into and seen a beautifully laminated vision statement, that no one can articulate. Even worse, when I ask about it, it is doing absolutely nothing to inspire planning, behaviors or decision-making.

Vision statements that sit on shelves do more harm than good, and can can diminish your credibility as a leader. If you chose to tackle this exercise, be sure you are fully committed.

I will talk more about how to link behaviors to vision in tomorrow’s post.

How To Build Results That Last Beyond Your Tenure

 

I’ve heard all of the following phrases and many more like them uttered over the years.

“I can’t take a vacation, every time I do the whole place falls apart.”

“I had that organization running so well, and then she took over what a mess”

“Well, she was the lynch pin that held that whole place together, now that she’s moved on I am not optimistic”

“I came back from maternity leave early, I just couldn’t stand the thought of cleaning up the mess”

“She built all those relationships, we can’t replace that”

Not only have I heard these phrases, I am embarrassed to say that I have said some of them.

Sometimes they are true.

Sometimes they are not.

Either way, it’s not leadership.

An important sign of real leadership is what happens after the leader moves on.

  • Is there a clear vision?
  • Does the team have a clear brand and shared values?
  • Do the next steps seem perfectly clear?
  • Does each member know how they can best contribute?
  • Can the team rely on one another to get things done?

And yet, some leaders seem to take secret pride when things fall apart in their absence. They exude a quiet form of giddy when their team can’t function without them.

Short-term results are important. But how do you build a team that can sustain results long after you have moved to the next assignment?

If you are a “indispensable” leader, something is really wrong. You are not adding value long-term.

What can you do now, to ensure your impact will last?

Is Your Team Built to Last?

Jim Collins has fantastic research about how great companies do this in his books, Good to Great and Built To Last. Important research, great reads.

But if you are like most of my readers, you are not the COO of a Fortune 50 company. You are you. You have done your best to build a great team. You care deeply about the results you have built. You care even more deeply about your team. How do you ensure all this sustains?

Over the coming days, I begin a series on Building Results That Last Beyond Your Tenure. In each post, I will share my insights, along with more questions for our Let’s Grow Leaders Community.

I look forward to our conversation on how to…

  • Establish a Strong Vision
  • Develop Key Behaviors
  • Create Interdependent Success
  • Leave a Remarkable Successor

Take a few minutes. Reflect on your stories and get ready to share. Not ready to share stories? Bring on the questions. Together we will explore the excitement, challenge and nuances of building results that last beyond tenure.

 

Connected, Creative, and Courageous: How Kids are Changing the World

If you are new to Let’s Grow Leaders, on Saturdays I have been doing a connected series on Developing Leadership in Kids. On Monday, I continue with grown-up leadership fare. Today’s post is multi-generational in nature and should be of interest to leaders of all ages.

“Social media is about building a platform for leaders who used to be ignored.”

Don’t get me wrong, the grown-ups at TEDxWomen had a lot of important ideas to share. What we all found miraculous, however, were the young, connected women and girls changing the world through social media. Emily May founded the Hollaback Association to combatting street harassment by empowering women to leverage their cellphones and other technology.

Anita Sarkeesian is deconstructing the stereotypes associated with women in popular culture. She took on the gaming world with a fundraising campaign to fight against the depictions of women. She became the target of a wide-spread bullying campaign, and suffered multiple outrageous threats. She stood up to the connected bullies.

The subjects these young women are fighting against are so sensitive that they might not be suitable for some of my younger padawan readers, so I am purposely leaving out the direct links to their talks.

Julia and Izze: Connected For Good

Julia Bluhm and Izze Cabbe have a story appropriate for all Padawan viewing this Saturday morning. I hope you will share it with your tweens and teenagers. Julia and Izze are feminist activists. As part of a SPARK Movement action, they used the power of social media to share a successful petition asking 17 magazine to stop photoshopping the faces and bodies of women.

Click on their names to view the talk. You can easily advance though the introductory stuff and start it a 6:14.

Izzy shares…

“So a lot of kids are sitting at home with things they want to change but are not changing them because they think they can’t because they are only a teenager.”

They both then give insights as to how youth can get involved to make a difference.

Of course, if you just want a “the worlds going to be all right in hands like these” kind of feeling this Saturday morning, watch Brittany Wenger’s talk.

Brittany began studying neural networks when she was in the seventh grade. And this year, she won the grand prize in the 2012 Google Science Fair for her project, “Global Neural Network Cloud Service for Breast Cancer.” The resulting Cloud4Cancer service aggregates data from biopsies done with the fine-needle aspiration process, instead of the traditional and more painful surgical option.

We have a generation with many promising connected, creative and courageous youth. I encourage you to share their stories as inspiration for both youth and adults. We all have the power to use social media to change the world.

How To Tell Your Boss The Truth

I learned this one the hard way.

My first year out of grad school, I was invited to a symposium on self-directed work teams. In academia, I was well versed. I had little practical experience. The morning began with a senior executive sponsor setting the vision. After he spoke, I immediately raised my hand and challenged one of his major assumptions. I shared my “truth.” There was a palpable gasp from the crowd. He was embarrassed, as was I.

It doesn’t matter if my “truth” was true. I am not sure if I ever recovered with that executive.

I believe in telling the truth. I need to hear it. My boss needs to hear it. You boss needs to hear it.

Frame your truth in a way that can be heard.

Truth Packaged Well

Your boss is likely working on her leadership as much or more than you are working on yours. No matter how confident someone appears on the outside, they are dealing with insecurities, complex personal and family dynamics, and personal triggers just like the rest of us.

When done well, your boss will hear the feedback, and be grateful that you cared enough to take the time.

A few tips:

  • Stay centered in your own intentions is this about you or about them, or the chemistry between?
  • Ask– are they open to some feedback?
  • Schedule some time, or look for an opportunity free from distractions
  • Provide the feedback in private
  • Come from a spirit of caring and helping
  • Ask questions, try to understand her point of view
  • Be prepared with specific examples
  • Own the feedback, this is from you, you are not representing the rest of the group
  • What would you add ?

Diaper Genie Feedback

Today’s post is a direct response to a subscriber’s question:

I took my first real leadership position when my oldest son was still in diapers. Every time I used our diaper genie, I thought, this is just how feedback and bad news works. Each level takes the poop and seals it in a bag before it gets sent to the next level up. Then, that level sanitizes it some more with another layer of protection. By the time it gets to the top, it smells pretty benign.

“I would love to hear your thoughts on eliciting candid feedback from your team and stakeholders? How do you get your team to take the risk of saying what needs to be said to those in power? How do you go about it? What suggestions do you have to do this effectively?”

Diaper genies work great for babies, but are a dangerous leadership tool.

So how do you get your employees to tell you the truth?

How do you ask for feedback in a way that feels safe?

5 Ways To Get More Feedback

Create an Environment of Trust

When I put this question out on my Let’s Grow Leaders Facebook page for insights, Eric Dingler shared:

You have to start with the end in mind. I think the best way is to have a culture of trust to start with. If you have a reputation of being a jerk and closed off to input, no trick will work. Once you have a culture of trust. You can simply ask for feedback. If you don’t feel like you are getting feedback, you’ve probably failed to establish a safe environment.

For more on creating a trusting environment see, A Matter of Trust: Why I Trust You, Why I Don’t.

Model it

I often see managers say to their employees, “I am wide open to feedback,” but then discourage their employees from being open with others above them. Or worse, they model their fear of repercussions. Employees will always listen to what you do more than what you say. If you are open in giving honest feedback to your boss, your team will be more likely to give you truthful feedback as well.

Ask

There are many ways to ask for feedback on both a formal and informal basis. I use one-on-ones to do this on a regular basis, so the feedback is casual and frequent. I also ask for feedback more formally during mid-year and end-of-year reviews. Employee surveys can also be good. Read more about feedback in Feedback: Getting Great Insights From People Who Matter.

Respond Elegantly

Start with “thank you.” Always. Watch how you react, not just with your words, but with your face, eyes, and body language. Listen attentively and react calmly, even if you disagree with the feedback. Work to understand the perceptions, even if you know there is more to the story.

Close the Loop

When given the gift of formal and informal feedback, be sure to close the loop. Recap what you heard. If you are going to take action, share that. Circle back and ask for feedback on your progress. Closure helps to build the trust, and encourages future feedback.