Children's Advice For President Obama

What advice do you have for President Obama?

We’ve been asking kids for their advice for Obama since the election results came in.

We asked them to consider…

  • What would you say to the President to help him with his next term?
  • If you were President what would you change?
  • In one word, what is the most important leadership quality for the President?

13 year old producer, Jared Herr, (pictured bottom right with Steven Spielberg) assembled their advice for President Obama into a short video.

 Please click on the following path.  Lets Grow Leaders Film.

I know I have readers of all political persuasions and social views. Some of these views are controversial. Thank goodness– diversity of thought helps us all grow as leaders. Some of you may have voted for President Obama. Others likely did not. Others of you are not in the United States. You will want to watch anyway, these kids are cute.

Many of the views represented here will be aligned with your core values. Others may not.

Either way, I encourage your to watch the video with your children, and record their comments in the comments section (feel free to include your advice as well).

Talking with our children about leadership and values is one of the best ways to help them grow as leaders.

Please also pass this post along to your social media friends, so we can collect as much advice as possible. All views welcome.

***
Jared Herr is 13 years old and in 7th grade. When he’s not producing films, he likes to play basketball, swim, and act. He uses his leadership to raise funds for Alex’s Lemonade stand, a charity that helps to find a cure for pediatric cancer. He and his friend have raised over $25,000 dollars for cancer research.

 

Why Isn’t This Incentive Program Working?

Incentive programs continue to be one of the most debated topics in management. Sometimes incentive programs work well. Sometimes they do not. Leadership can make a difference.

Have you ever experienced any of these scenarios?

  • You’ve implemented a new incentive program and results go down?
  • You roll-out a new contest and no one seems to care?
  • You announce a lucrative SPIFF program with substantial financial upside, and very few participate?

The Incentive Debate

Incentive programs can do wonders for driving short-term results. In my post on Confidence Bursts, I talked about how small rewards can create focus and an extra push to try new behaviors.

And yet, most leaders also understand the age-old challenge reinforced by Dan Pink in his TED talk: The Puzzle of Motivation (that received 4.6M views).

Contingent motivators often don’t work or can actually do harm, particularly for creative tasks.

In his book, Management Rewired: Why Feedback Doesn’t Work and Other Surprising Lesson’s From Brain Science, Charles Jacobs explains that when we do work that is inherently interesting our brain releases dopamine, giving us a drug-like high. Our brain needs engagement to get the happy chemicals. Money without engagement doesn’t have the same result.

What has been most interesting to me over the years is watching several work groups implement the exact incentive program to employees doing identical work with dramatically different results.  It’s not a matter of the incentive program being inherently flawed, but the context in which it is implemented.

Incentives are part of a larger change cocktail.

So, What’s a Leader To Do?

For many of you the question may not be, “Should we create an incentive program?,” but rather “How much of my leadership energy should I put behind this program I have available?” The opportunity is there to use incentives as a tool as part of your leadership. Is it worth it?

  • You see the benefit to your company.
  • You understand the potential impact on results.
  • You realize the financial opportunity for your team.
  • And yet, will it work?

In my experience incentives works best when the leader…

  • creates a clear link to the team’s vision and goals
  • helps the employees learn the necessary skills to succeed
  • talks about it constantly
  • gets silly with it
  • makes the program easy to understand
  • turns the program into a game or contest
  • helps team members visualize the math
  • creates friendly competition
  • tracks results in a visible way
  • ???

These programs almost always fail when the leader…

  • doesn’t believe it will work
  • “rolls it out” as a separate program
  • doesn’t teach the necessary skills
  • has too many other contests or incentives going on
  • finds it too complicated or too hard to administer
  • ???

Why Isn't This Incentive Program Working?

Incentive programs continue to be one of the most debated topics in management. Sometimes incentive programs work well. Sometimes they do not. Leadership can make a difference.

Have you ever experienced any of these scenarios?

  • You’ve implemented a new incentive program and results go down?
  • You roll-out a new contest and no one seems to care?
  • You announce a lucrative SPIFF program with substantial financial upside, and very few participate?

The Incentive Debate

Incentive programs can do wonders for driving short-term results. In my post on Confidence Bursts, I talked about how small rewards can create focus and an extra push to try new behaviors.

And yet, most leaders also understand the age-old challenge reinforced by Dan Pink in his TED talk: The Puzzle of Motivation (that received 4.6M views).

Contingent motivators often don’t work or can actually do harm, particularly for creative tasks.

In his book, Management Rewired: Why Feedback Doesn’t Work and Other Surprising Lesson’s From Brain Science, Charles Jacobs explains that when we do work that is inherently interesting our brain releases dopamine, giving us a drug-like high. Our brain needs engagement to get the happy chemicals. Money without engagement doesn’t have the same result.

What has been most interesting to me over the years is watching several work groups implement the exact incentive program to employees doing identical work with dramatically different results.  It’s not a matter of the incentive program being inherently flawed, but the context in which it is implemented.

Incentives are part of a larger change cocktail.

So, What’s a Leader To Do?

For many of you the question may not be, “Should we create an incentive program?,” but rather “How much of my leadership energy should I put behind this program I have available?” The opportunity is there to use incentives as a tool as part of your leadership. Is it worth it?

  • You see the benefit to your company.
  • You understand the potential impact on results.
  • You realize the financial opportunity for your team.
  • And yet, will it work?

In my experience incentives works best when the leader…

  • creates a clear link to the team’s vision and goals
  • helps the employees learn the necessary skills to succeed
  • talks about it constantly
  • gets silly with it
  • makes the program easy to understand
  • turns the program into a game or contest
  • helps team members visualize the math
  • creates friendly competition
  • tracks results in a visible way
  • ???

These programs almost always fail when the leader…

  • doesn’t believe it will work
  • “rolls it out” as a separate program
  • doesn’t teach the necessary skills
  • has too many other contests or incentives going on
  • finds it too complicated or too hard to administer
  • ???

How To Build A Community of Collaboration

What is a community?

Can you have one at work?

Should you?

If you want more of a community feel, how do you create it?

Whose job is it?

Senior management? Frontline leaders? The employees? HR?

Do programs produce community or do people?

Today, I raise more questions than answers.

Community Can Happen

Some of the teams and organizations I have been part of have become a community. Some have not.

You know it when you are in it. I was recently reminded of the great community we had built in an organization I worked in years ago. On Saturday, I walked into a funeral home to support Maria, a woman who worked for me many years ago whose mother had passed. I was surprised to see the parade of familiar faces coming in the door, most of whom hadn’t worked with Maria for years. Many of them were retired. The community had spread the word, and they were back to help Maria deal with the loss of her mom. The conversation was important and rich. We hadn’t missed a beat. That’s community.

I watch my husband grow in his firefighter community. They all come in well before their shifts so the person they are relieving can leave early. It’s unspoken. They are always wiling to trade shifts to help one another manage work and family. There is always someone cooking for the group, and everyone contributes to keeping things clean. Watching this gives me a whole new perspective on the word, “union.” If someone isn’t contributing to the community, it’s noticed, but isn’t a large topic of conversation. There is a feeling it will all work out in the end. As far I can tell, the behavior has little to do with someone in management leading the charge.

And so, I’ve been asking everyone I see:

Have you ever worked on a team that had genuine community? What did it look like?

Here’s what I’ve collected so far, what would you add?

  • We trust that everyone’s doing the best they can
  • No one keeps score
  • We have each other’s backs
  • No blindsides
  • We share best practices
  • We don’t let one another fail
  • I can feel safe asking for help
  • We talk well about one another to our boss and others
  • We surface disagreements and fight when needed don’t take conflicts personally
  • I know their families (or at least about them)
  • We celebrate
  • We eat (and drink) together
  • We do volunteer work together
  • ???

Your Mentor May Not Be Helping Your Career

Mentors are an essential component of any development strategy. In “Won’t You Be My Mentor,” we discussed how to find a mentor. In “Don’t Get a Mentor,” we explored the importance of developing a cadre of mentors. And, in “Nemesis Mentors, I challenged you to find a mentor who makes you crazy.

Great mentors prepare you for the next level by challenging, teaching, sharing stories, and offering perceptions. However, many people assume that their mentor is also their sponsor. This is not necessarily the case.

Mentors prepare. Sponsors promote.

Your mentor can help prepare you for the next level. Your sponsor puts their name on your career and advocates for you.

A sponsor may…

  • suggest your name for new opportunities
  • defend your decisions
  • speak up the loudest during succession planning discussions
  • invest their own political capital in your success

I first realized the serious two-way responsibility of having a sponsor several years ago. A senior leader was being asked about me as a candidate for a potential job. She called me,

“Here’s the deal. I told them you were a rock star. The thing is you have to nail this job. My name is now on this as much as yours. Don’t screw it up.”

I take my sponsor relationships very seriously, whether I am being sponsored or sponsoring someone else.

Research shared in the HBR article, The Relationship You Need To Get Right, reinforces the importance of handling both sides of a sponsoring relationship with care.

“We conducted three national surveys of nearly 4,000 professionals in large corporations, held focus groups with more than 60 vice presidents and senior vice presidents, and interviewed nearly 20 Fortune 500 executives. The best sponsors, we found, go beyond mentoring. They offer not just guidance but also advocacy, not just vision but also the tactical means of realizing it. They place bets on outstanding junior colleagues and call in favors for them. The most successful protégés, for their part, recognize that sponsorship must be earned with performance and loyalty—not just once but continually.”

Herminia Kirby shares more about the difference in her HBR interview Women are Over Mentored But Under Sponsored.

“When we use the term sponsoring, we focus in on that one specific function of mentoring, which may or may not be a part of a relationship. And sponsoring really is a very targeted thing. It has to do with fighting to get somebody a promotion, mentioning their name in an appointments meeting, and making sure that the person that you’re sponsoring gets the next assignment, and gets visible and developmental assignments.”

How to Find a Sponsor

Having several solid mentoring relationships will help you on your road to finding a sponsor. While mentors at every level of the business are valuable, it helps to have one or two people at a senior level looking out for your best interest. You can help attract sponsors by…

  • Building a strong track-record of results
  • Working to deepen your mentoring relationships based on mutual support
  • Seeking out special assignments and volunteer for more
  • Seeking out opportunities to present at the senior levels
  • Mentoring and sponsoring others
  • Having an updated elevator speech

If you think your mentor may have turned into a sponsor, ask. It’s important to know where you stand. Either way, the feedback will be valuable.

7 Ways to Ensure Your New Hire Has a Great First Day

Jack and Jill are both new hires who started their new jobs today. Both of them are nervous. Both of them had other offers. Both are looking for validation that they made the right choice. They both still have lots of logistics questions that they were too embarrassed to ask during the interview process. Both want to make good first impressions.

Jack’s boss enthusiastically greets him at the door. His computer is already set up, and the phone is working. Jack receives a schedule of what’s going to happen that day. He is assigned a peer mentor, who immediately take him on a tour. The next stop is HR where he can ask all of his benefits-related questions. Later in the day, he meets with his boss to align on a few goals for the week.

Jill’s boss keeps her waiting in the lobby. The first words she hears are an apology, “things are just crazy around here.” She is then introduced to the IT guy who “can help get you get set up.” While she waits for the IT guy to come back, she begins introducing herself to those around her. She’s wants to jump in and make a good impression, but is not quite sure where to start. She’s not even sure how to find the restroom.

The First Day Matters

Perhaps you’ve been Jack or Jill. Or, perhaps you’ve been one of those bosses. We never want our new hires to feel like Jill. And yet sometimes they do.

How the new hire experiences the first day can leave a strong impression. They may wonder,”Am I a priority?”

7 New Hire “Must Haves”

It may seem basic, but over the years I’ve found it useful to create checklists to ensure everyone receives a good new hire experience. Of course, what goes on the list will vary, but here’s a good place to start.

  1. A Functional Workspace
    It’s important to ensure everything is set up BEFORE your new hire gets there. Connected equipment, phones, temporary passwords, user guides, pens, paper consider anything that your new hire may need to get started well. Having tools that work will go a long way in reducing stress.
  2. A Tour
    It’s important for your new hire to be able to navigate. How do they find their way around? Where do the key players sit? Where are the restrooms and the coffee?
  3. Overview of the Bigger Picture
    It’s important that your new employee feels connected early to the greater vision and goals. Perhaps it’s a welcome letter, or meeting with a senior leader. This can be done in a variety of ways, and the first day is only the beginning.
  4. A Benefits Meeting
    Your new hire will likely have open questions about paychecks, benefits, vacation, code of conduct, and other norms. Many companies have formal programs to go through all of this. Some do not. Either way ensures there is an opportunity for your new hire to ask questions in a safe environment.
  5. A Peer Mentor
    Pick someone “nice” who is “into it.” I have seen this backfire. With that said, this is a great developmental assignment
  6. Someone to Have Lunch With
    It could be the peer mentor, you, or someone else. Even if lunches aren’t part of your culture, today is special. Make sure it feels that way.
  7. A Few Early Goals
    This works at every level of the business. Be clear about expectations for the first week. What do you want your new hire to accomplish?
  8. What would you add???

The Biggest Recruiting Mistake

The recruiting process for my first job was intense. The sales pitch began with shiny brochures and a promise that once I “graduated” from this “elite” and “intense” management training program, I could move to any aspect of the company. “It was a great start for HR, training, or frontline leadership.” From there the recruiting and interviewing continued; interviews, simulations, case studies, presentations, personality tests, cocktails with senior leaders.

I accepted the offer and graduated at the “top” of the class.

Then I was told I had no options, but I should be delighted that the finance track they had laid out for me was a prestigious one.

I left the company. Our mutual investment wasted.

Beyond the Benefits

When recruiting top talent, you must sell the benefits. It’s a competitive environment and employees want so much more than money. Convince them why you are the best.

Most recruiting efforts do that well.

Before you make the offer, get real.

Over the years, depending on the job I have said things such as,

  • “I am in intense boss with high-expectations”
  • “There are times when the pressure will feel crazy”
  • “You will start work on Black Friday at 3 am”
  • “You will spend much of your life in airports”
  • “You will likely have to move again.”
  • “…”

Get others involved

  • Let the candidate talk to seasoned employees.
  • Let her shadow and hang around
  • Encourage him to ask tough questions
  • Tell them all the downsides

I have talked one or two candidates out of the job. Thank goodness for all that saved time

Mostly, the “real deal” recruiting talk seems to have an opposite effect. The right candidates appreciate the candor and are invigorated by the challenge.

3 Easy and Practical Team Building Activities

It’s been a rather heavy week on Let’s Grow Leaders, talking about Courage, Fear, Transparency, and Chaos. So I am going to end the week on a lighter note. I had my team in town this week, working on business strategy and plans. We also made time the day before for a few practical and easy team building activities.

These activities are not original, but they worked quite well, with little prep, and without an external facilitator. If you are looking for a good way to kick-off the year, you might find value in giving them a try.

Making it Personal

We held the team building session at my house, followed by a home cooked dinner. I am a huge believer in having my team to my home, a tradition I have done for over a decade. There is value in wearing jeans, eating together, seeing the natural habitat, and meeting my family.

I now have a National team, so including significant others in the dinner is not practical. However in years past, I have included spouses and friends in the evening activities. A few years ago, my son ended up on the shoulders of team member riding a unicycle on my deck, so you have to be prepared for surprises. 

Vision Board and One Word Double Header

I combined the “one word” exercise that so many are doing this year with a vision board exercise (see, What the Heck’s a Vision Board and How it can Change Your Life). All you need is some old magazines, poster board, and glue and a bit of creativity.

I asked each of us to identify one word that we would focus on for the entire year (across all aspects of our lives), which served as the center of the boards. We then spent the afternoon sifting through stacks of magazines, cutting out words and pictures, sharing hopes and dreams, recognizing common interests and plans, and finding humorous suggestions for one another.

My word for this year is “inspire.” What’s yours?

I’ll pause here.

Book Exchange

In lieu of holiday gifts we elected to draw names, and we each purchased a book for one member of our team. The reasons for selection made for interesting conversation, some were strategic and business focused, other’s were more personal. I chose to give How To Work for an Idiot to one of my direct reports 😉

“What I Get From This Team” Matrix

We also did an exercise designed to talk about how we were doing as a team. I can’t remember where I learned it, so I apologize for not knowing the original source.

We used a 4 quadrant matrix, and asked one another 4 questions in the context of the team. and also in the context of my leadership.

  • What I get that I want.
  • What I get that I don’t want.
  • What I want that I don’t get.
  • What I don’t get that I don’t want

That simple structure led to rich conversation. It also led us to share some of our struggles and leadership philosophy
What Are Your Team Building Favorites?

Chaos Curtailed: How To Shield Your Team

I am a big believer in transparency. Transparency builds trust and creates a trusting and respectful work environment.

Share vision. Share rationale. Share decision-making processes. Don’t share chaos.

Trust me. I’ve learned this one the hard way. Sharing too much may make you feel better, but the stress multiplies as it rolls down hill. Resist the urge and learn to become a buffer.

“Sadly most organizations seemed to have embraced chaos and called it a good thing for an organization. One example is the rising number of job descriptions that include “tolerance for ambiguity’ as a necessary skill. Let me be clear: chaos is never a good thing for an organization. While the world is fluid, and increasingly so, this is no excuse for ambiguity and chaos in organizations. Rather than asking your workforce to accept and develop a skill set around coping with chaos, you should be doing everything you can to reduce the chaos to begin with.”

Your team does not want to…

  • see the stress on your face
  • know about the indecision in the meeting you just left
  • understand the stupid hoops you just jumped through
  • have their schedule jerked around because yours is a moving target
  • have deadlines that creep closer as you get more nervous
  • hear about the pressure you have from those above
  • know about your political or career struggles
  • ???

They do want to…

  • understand the big picture
  • know where they fit in
  • understand what they need to do
  • know which decisions are final
  • understand what is up for discussion
  • know what could still change
  • ???

They are looking for you to…

  • do what you said you would
  • stay the course on your big plans
  • be there to support
  • explain the reasons behind any changes
  • follow through on your commitments
  • ???

It takes courage to buffer the chaos. Teach resilience, but shield as much as you can. They will watch and learn and grow from the experience of watching you do it well.

 

To Tell The Truth: The Problem with “Positioning”

Framing.

Positioning.

WIFM (them).

Spin.

If you are a leader, you have sat in one of these meetings. How do we explain this to them... in a way they can hear, understand, and feel good about?

How you position a change matters. A lot.

And yet,

If you find yourself in meeting after meeting, working to wordsmith the change to better “position” what is happening, I encourage you to ask one question.

“What if we told them the truth?”

  • … overtime is too high, we must increase productivity
  • … the stock price is stagnant, we will all benefit from better financials
  • …we need to ensure everyone is contributing
  • … this new automation will be more efficient
  • ???

Grown-ups want the truth. Not spin. The truth is most people will respect you far more for telling them the truth than any elegant positioning you can concoct.

When people feel respected, they will respond.

When people feel respected they will join.

 When people feel respected they will try.

On the other hand.

Unfiltered truth shared in an uncaring way creates unproductive havoc.

What If You Start With the Truth?

And then consider…

  • What are the best and worst parts of this change?
  • Who will this impact in what ways?
  • What questions will be most relevant to whom?
  • What additional information should I have available?
  • What other questions will they ask?
  • ???

I have never regretted erring on the side of the truth even when it was scary. Even if the awkward truth creates short-term anxiety, communicated well, the credibility you establish is worth the risk.
 

To Tell The Truth: The Problem with "Positioning"

Framing.

Positioning.

WIFM (them).

Spin.

If you are a leader, you have sat in one of these meetings. How do we explain this to them... in a way they can hear, understand, and feel good about?

How you position a change matters. A lot.

And yet,

If you find yourself in meeting after meeting, working to wordsmith the change to better “position” what is happening, I encourage you to ask one question.

“What if we told them the truth?”

  • … overtime is too high, we must increase productivity
  • … the stock price is stagnant, we will all benefit from better financials
  • …we need to ensure everyone is contributing
  • … this new automation will be more efficient
  • ???

Grown-ups want the truth. Not spin. The truth is most people will respect you far more for telling them the truth than any elegant positioning you can concoct.

When people feel respected, they will respond.

When people feel respected they will join.

 When people feel respected they will try.

On the other hand.

Unfiltered truth shared in an uncaring way creates unproductive havoc.

What If You Start With the Truth?

And then consider…

  • What are the best and worst parts of this change?
  • Who will this impact in what ways?
  • What questions will be most relevant to whom?
  • What additional information should I have available?
  • What other questions will they ask?
  • ???

I have never regretted erring on the side of the truth even when it was scary. Even if the awkward truth creates short-term anxiety, communicated well, the credibility you establish is worth the risk.
 

10 Ways Fear Slows Us Down

Back in November, Dan Rockwell wrote 4 words that have stuck with me.

“Fearful leaders need certainty.”

Try walking around with that in your heart for a month or two and observe.

Watch leaders you admire.

Observe leaders you don’t.

Consider how you respond to situations.

“Courage is fear that has said it’s prayers.”
~Karl Barth

Fear can inform.

or

Fear can paralyze.

10 Ways Fear Slows Us Down

Fear is natural. It is meant to slow us down, or speed us up.

Fear shows up in…

  1. Slow decision-making
  2. Revisiting decisions that you’ve already made
  3. Asking for permission, when you know what is right
  4. Waiting to hear what everyone else says before you have an opinion
  5. Pilots that go on forever
  6. Over-stakeholdering
  7. Setting easily achievable goals
  8. Holding on to the “way we’ve always done things”
  9. Needing more data
  10. The desire to convene a task force or committee at every turn
  11. ???.

Every item on this list may need to be done from time to time in moderation. And yet,

If these behaviors are showing up in your world, stop and consider. What is really slowing you down?

The need for certainty can stop progress.

The need for certainty will diminish your power.