Leadership Candy Hearts: A Valentines Day Teambuilder

Leadership grows with conversation. It’s Valentines day– How about spreading the conversation with a few candy hearts?

I still get nostalgic for the doily decorated lunch bag full of cardboard valentines in elementary school, coupled with that sickening feeling from eating too many candy hearts. Perhaps you’ve upgraded your Valentines Day to more sophisticated endeavors. Or perhaps you secretly snatch a few candy hearts from your kids.

How about a little retro-fun, making your own virtual leadership candy hearts?

 

Candy Hearts: A Reflective Exercise or Team Builder

You can play this game as a reflective exercise or click on the link and spread the love around (it’s fun and free).

Take a minute what message do you most need to hear today? If you gave some candy hearts to yourself. What would they say? What candy hearts would you drop on the desks of your team? What candy hearts would you give to your boss?

What Should YOUR Candy Heart Say To YOU?

In 8 characters or less, what message would you send yourself today?

ITS OK? NOW?

Take a moment to fill in the blank _____(would love for you to share in the comments)

What Does Your Team Need to Hear?

How can you show your team a little love today? Through hearts or in some other way?

What would you say to them?

YES? 4 GIVE? TRY?

Take a moment to reflect and fill in the blank _____(would love for you to share in the comments)

Who Can You Thank?

Who is your leadership pit crew?

How do they inspire your leadership?

How can you thank them?

HELP? AMEN? NEED U?

Take a moment to fill in the blank __ (and share who helps you lead as you do? How? Why not comment and spread the love by passing this post along to them?)

Want to create your own conversation hearts, you can make real ones. Or try this free virtual technique to make sharable ones like I did above.

Happy Valentines Day. May your day be filled with positive messages and growth.

5 Ways to Support Your Boss (Without Kissing Up)

I don’t know your boss.

She may be great. He may be a pain in the neck. He may be supportive. She may be a real witch.

I’ve been that boss. I’ve had all those bosses. All leaders have “bosses” of one sort or another. Sometimes you are the boss of you. Most of the times, someone else also enters the boss scene. Regardless of what breed of boss you have today.

My guess is your boss also…

  • wants you to succeed
  • is dealing with pressures you don’t fully understand
  • sometimes feels overwhelmed
  • is trying to please a boss too
  • is working to balance work and family
  • is doing the best s/he can
  • could use your help
  • ?

There’s the age-old advice “always make your boss look good.” I find it also useful to make them feel good– reduce the stress by making their job a bit easier.

5 Ways To Support Your Boss

  1. Sweat the small stuff. Do what you say you will, without reminding. Get ahead of deadlines. Administrative stuff is a drag, you boss has better things to do than to chase down your paper work.
  2. Communicate frequently in bulleted summaries— leaders often suffer from information overload. They are often called upon to summarize complex issues on the fly, that’s not when they want to go digging through emails. Resist the urge to cc and forward emails without a summary attached.
  3. Uncover issues & address them — your boss knows there are problems, shielding her from them will only make her nervous. Lift up the issues you are finding, along with the solutions to address them. She will sleep better knowing you are paying attention and are all over it.
  4. Thank him for his help. Be honest and specific. Done well and privately this is not brown-nosing– it’s feedback that can help him help you. A side benefit he will grow as a leader.
  5. Document your accomplishments. This is not bragging, it’s useful. Well timed, detailed summaries helps to support the performance management process.

Getting to the Root Cause of Attendance Problems

“Our supervisors just need to get more disciplined about administering the attendance policy.”

“We are just being too lenient with FMLA”

“There’s no way he’s really sick again.”

Attendance issues can be frustrating. In fact, the traditional methods of trying to “fix” such problems, often aggravate them.

Going Deeper

There was a point in my career where I became known as the “attendance expert” The truth is there was absolutely nothing complex about it. I just asked questions.
A department would have an attendance problem, and I’d get on a plane or train and live with them for a while. I’d talk to everyone, observe, look at processes, and gain an understanding of what it was like to work there every day.

The problems were complex

It wasn’t just that

  • she had “daycare” issues she had discovered her daycare provider was on crack cocaine
  • he was a FMLA abuser, he was “this close” to getting his degree, and the new mandatory shift was making him miss the last few weeks of class
  • It wasn’t that she “didn’t care”, it was that the new computer system was totally intimidating

Attendance issues run deep, and the questions are important. By digging deeper, we were always able to cut the attendance issues in half

You don’t need magic You just need you and some open-minded questions
How can you dig deeper?
How can you slow down and learn more?

Perhaps they won’t (don’t want to) come to work.
or

Perhaps they can’t (something else is getting in the way)
or

Perhaps it’s some combination of the two.

I like to use a 4 quadrant matrix to structure the thinking. On one axis, run the continuum of why employees “can” and “can’t” come to work. On the other, the other explore why they “want” or “don’t want” to come to work.

This tool can be used at a team level (thinking about both issues and individuals) or in very large organizations.

Getting to Root Cause of Attendance Issues

A few possible questions. I am sure you can also fill in the blanks.

Can/Want (Encourage Me)

  • What are the common characteristics of those employees skipping to work on this team?
  • What best practices could be shared?
  • ?

Can/Don’t Want (Engage Me)

  • How are the frontline leaders interacting with their teams?
  • Who is being recognized for what?
  • ?

Can’t/Want (Help Me)

  • Do employees need support with finding safe child/elder care or other work-life issues?
  • How could scheduling be made more flexible or consistent?
  • What behaviors is your attendance policy inadvertently driving?
  • ?

Can’t/Don’t Want (Help Me Leave)

  • What are you doing to manage performance?
  • What could make your attendance policy more effective?
  • Who is in the wrong job, and how can you help them find the right one?
  • Do you have employees abusing FMLA?
  • ?

How To Reset Your Team’s Expectations

In Friday’s post, How To Transform Mid-Team, we talked about you how prepare your team for your evolving leadership style. But what if you also have new expectations for your team? Not only are you evolving, but you need them to as well. That’s even more difficult.

Perhaps you will be…

  • asking them to make more decisions
  • holding the team accountable
  • stopping the sidebars in meetings
  • surfacing the conflict
  • ?

Resetting Expectations is a Process

The most important part is communication and consistency. Go slow enough to preserve the trust. Following these steps will help.

  1. Explain why you are changing expectations how did you reach this conclusion?
  2. Share your new expectations for you own behavior–what is changing?
  3. Be specific-what exactly are you asking them to do differently?
  4. Be consistent be careful to stay true to the new standards
  5. Ease into it– be clear on expectations, soft on people give them time to grow into it
  6. Ask for feedback– listen and be willing to adjust the approach
  7. ?

This won’t happen overnight, and it will be messy. Keep the conversation open and learn along the way.

How do you work to reset expectations with your team?

How To Reset Your Team's Expectations

In Friday’s post, How To Transform Mid-Team, we talked about you how prepare your team for your evolving leadership style. But what if you also have new expectations for your team? Not only are you evolving, but you need them to as well. That’s even more difficult.

Perhaps you will be…

  • asking them to make more decisions
  • holding the team accountable
  • stopping the sidebars in meetings
  • surfacing the conflict
  • ?

Resetting Expectations is a Process

The most important part is communication and consistency. Go slow enough to preserve the trust. Following these steps will help.

  1. Explain why you are changing expectations how did you reach this conclusion?
  2. Share your new expectations for you own behavior–what is changing?
  3. Be specific-what exactly are you asking them to do differently?
  4. Be consistent be careful to stay true to the new standards
  5. Ease into it– be clear on expectations, soft on people give them time to grow into it
  6. Ask for feedback– listen and be willing to adjust the approach
  7. ?

This won’t happen overnight, and it will be messy. Keep the conversation open and learn along the way.

How do you work to reset expectations with your team?

How to Transform Mid-Team

The best time to transform to a radically new leadership style is when you start fresh with a new team. But that’s not always practical or feasible.

You’ve been reading blogs, books, and maybe attended a course or got some 360 feedback, but your team doesn’t know all of that. If you transform your style now, what will they think? If you suddenly start asking questions instead of tellingrecognizing their wins, or take a sudden interest in their personal life, will they trust you?

If the transformation is dramatic, your teams may be shocked at best and at least skeptical. They may even distrust your motives.

Working on becoming a better leader is always worth it.

So, how can you ensure your team will take you seriously? Can you transform with credibility?

4 Ways To Transform in Trust 

  1. Explain why
    Tell them you are working on your leadership. Be a role model for taking development seriously. Explain why you are making this change.
  2. Be specific
    Tell them specifically what you are working to change, and what they should expect to see.
  3. Share your feelings
    Share a bit about what excites and scares you.
  4. Ask for help
    Ask for feedback about how you are doing along the way. If there is a specific behavior you are working on, ask them to help you recognize that. Consider developing a signal or other safe and easy way for them to let you know.
  5. Have you ever transformed your leadership midstream? How did you make the transition go smoothly?

    What if you need the team to change too (come back on Monday as the discussion continues).

When Your Inner Voice Grabs the Mic

As leaders self-talk is important. We must listen to our inner voice. But what if our inner voice gets scared and wants to grab the mic?

What if our inner voice wants too much affirmation?

What if our inner voice needs excessive feedback?

Can an extraverted inner voice get in the way?

Loud Inner Voices

  • Why do some people tell us to stop listening to them before they even start talking?
  • Why do we add last-minute self-deprecating remarks into our carefully rehearsed speeches?
  • How do we get people to listen to what we most need them to hear?
  • How do we sound humble, but confident?

It happens in interviews, presentations, sales calls, athletic events, cattle drives... People pre-apologize for what they are about to say. They tell us not to listen.

  • “In my feeble little mind”
  • “I’m certainly not the expert here”
  • “I’m just saying, well it’s kind of like this sort-of”
  • “…?”

Why Do We Undermine our own credibility at the very time we need it most?

Perhaps we’re…

  • Nervous
  • Under pressure
  • Unsure of ourselves
  • Unrehearsed
  • Trying to appear humble?
  • Trying to be funny?
  • Unaware of the impact?
  • ?

Tips For Shaking the “Don’t Listen to Me” Habit

  • Become an expert about your subject (feeling truly confident is your best safeguard)
  • Plan out your message (write it down)
  • Look for opportunities to speak (lots of practice will build confidence)
  • Ask for feedback (not from everyone, that also can sound insecure)
  • Ask others how they perceived what you said (what direct and indirect messages did they receive)
  • Record or video tape your talk (most cell phones have audio recording these days)
  • Focus on the behaviors you can use to drive respect (plan your desired behaviors)
  • Take a public speaking class (tell your instructor your specific objectives)
  • Hire a coach (they can help you practice or help you discover the root cause)

Advice on Advice

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Ever given?
What advice do you wish you had ignored?
What guidance do you wish you could retract?

“Advice is like snow; the softer it falls the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it seeks into the mind.”>
~Samuel Taylor Coleridge

I recently met Raul Valdes-Perez, an advice “expert,” author of the new book, Advice is For Winners. He looks at advice from every angle, with tangible tools of when, where, why and how to look for (and give advice). I asked him for some additional insights for our LGL community.

Advice: The Interview

Q: Of the 28 reasons you list for why people don’t seek advice, which 2 or 3 do you think are the most common?

“The most common by far is that people just don’t think of it, because they’re not in the habit. Other reasons are that they don’t know whom to ask, or they don’t recognize that actual knowledge is helpful. My overall message is that when facing a problem or issue, ask yourself if you have the knowledge and experience to deal with it, and if not, who does and can help.”>

Q: You share lots of great quotes on advice, which best represents you view (or which is your favorite?) 

“For its wit, brevity, and substance, my favorite is: “Those who have no children bring them up well.”

Q: What’s the best advice you ever received? 

“For me, advice must take account of your circumstances, goals, and constraints; otherwise it’s not advice, but principles, methods, or examples. My most memorable advice concerned how best to go about raising investment capital while I was Vivisimo’s CEO, some seven years after its founding. I met with three local CEOs, explained our situation, and followed one of their recommendations, with the confidence that I wasn’t overlooking something.”

Q: What inspired you to write this book?

“When I co-founded Vivisimo with two other computer scientists, none of us knew anything about business. As the senior member of the three, as CEO of a company without outside investors, and as the only one authorized to work (initially!), I had to make lots of decisions. Besides reading a lot about all aspects of business, I regularly got targeted advice after explaining our situation to others. It then occurred to me that lots of people make wrong decisions, avoidably, for lack of getting advice, both in life and work.”

Q: Of course, my standard question.”What makes you “skip to work?”

“I love to make something out of nothing, and to make a positive impact on people’s lives. Getting advice seemed like a simple topic, but it’s been possible to uncover many dimensions whose mastery will make anyone a better decision maker.”

Frontline Finance Fundamentals: How To Talk With Your Team about Money

Do you bore your team with finance slides full of terms they may not understand? Does your frontline team know how your business makes money? Do they understand enough about the basic financials of your business to make the right decisions? If they have incentive-based pay, do they really understand how it works? Do you understand the behaviors that plan is really driving?

Keeping Finance Simple

When we were growing up we had a “math couch” in our home. Many nights my siblings and I would take our turns sitting with my dad and his graph paper, sharpened pencils, and kleenex (there were often tears involved). He made everything from Algebra I to Differential Equations feel like common sense. He spoke English. He drew pictures.

Every time I watch someone try to explain the financials of a business to large groups of employees in meetings or kickoffs, I picture that couch. Most employees aren’t inspired by an alphabet soup of financial terms. It’s hard to relate to a call to action to improve IBITDA, and yet I am surprised at how many presentations do just that. I’ve also seen it go the other way, where a leader assumes the teams don’t care about (or can’t understand) the financials, so avoid the topic all together.

4 Good Finance Questions

Start with the finance fundamentals. Are your frontline leaders prepared to answer these 4 questions? If not, how could you best prepare them? If you are a frontline leader do you know the answers? If not, where would you go to find them? Give it a shot. Try answering these finance questions for your organization in a “math couch” sort of way.

Is the company financially sound?

It’s still a scary time. If your situation is strong, explain why. If it’s not, share what you can, and your strategies for dealing with it.

How does our company make money?

Don’t assume they know. Is the business evolving? When’s the last time someone explained the big picture approach?

Why are we making decisions that seem weird?

Every time I read the results of employee surveys I am always struck by how “weird” some very logical decisions can seem at the front line. To the extent you can, provide a linkage to the bigger picture. If you can’t explain your “weird” decisions in a palatable way maybe that’s an indicator too.

How do I impact the bottom line?

Doing a bit of math can be helpful here. “For every x you sell” “Every wasted x costs x.” I’ve even used toy money and made it a game. If your team works on any kind of incentive-based pay, ensure they REALLY understand how it works. Don’t take anything for granted.

An Attitude of Ordeal or Adventure?

Today I begin a month-long speaking tour at kickoff events around the country, 5 events this week. As I pack my bag for this 6500 mile trip, I’m feeling excited, optimistic, energized and nervous.

“Cock your hat. Angles are attitudes.”
~Frank Sinatra

I believe in large team “kickoffs” to inspire, energize and align. We pull together all 500-1000 people in each location to share vision, strategy, and goals. Each one is a bit different. There’s always strategy and slides but each team takes a unique spin to recognition, costumes, dancing and songs. it can get pretty interesting.

Serious silliness inspires and motivates.

But there’s always the downside (see Face Time or Face Time). Time away from family, complex childcare, airport food. Each week we have choices with our attitude. We can view our life as an adventure or an ordeal.

The Attitude of Adventure

This week is an adventure because…

  • It’s a great platform to inspire leadership at all levels
  • We will touch many hearts and minds
  • We get to talk about strategy and how folks fit in
  • My team and partners are working hard
  • Silliness at work is fun
  • Creativity begets creativity
  • We will learn much, and each kickoff will improve
  • Every kickoff will be different
  • Recognition matters
  • ? TBD

The Attitude of Ordeal

It’s an ordeal because…

  • A gazillion hours on airplanes
  • Everything stuffed into a carry-on for tight connections
  • Missing parent’s day at school
  • Getting 5 am childcare, when my husband has overnight firefighter shifts
  • Airport food
  • Finding time to sleep or exercise
  • I’m worried about my mom
  • My “day job” carries on there will be much work to do on airplanes, evenings, and weekends
  • ? TBD

The truth is every day has elements of adventure and ordeal.

Attitude matters.

I’ll post updates of the adventure on the Let’s Grow Leaders Facebook Page

A Groundhogs Day Blessing or Curse?

My parents have a wonderful Groundhogs Day tradition. That’s when they celebrate their love with snuggly stuff and romantic gestures. Somehow, early on, they preempted Valentines Day, and it stuck. Hey, it was the 60s, who needs Hallmark when you have a groundhog? This rodent continues to inspire.

As for me, somehow each Groundhogs Day, I wake up with the curse of contemplation not of love and romance but of which areas of my life I have become more like Phil Madden (played by Bill Murray, in the 1993 classic, Groundhog Day.)

Phil is cursed to live the same day over and over (if you don’t know the movie click here and for goodness sake, rent it) until he finally recognizes the patterns, looks deeply into his own behaviors, and changes his approach.

A curse can become a blessing.

How many times have your heard someone say, “this feels like Groundhogs day?”

We all get stuck. We get stuck in patterns, in behaviors, in outdated beliefs about ourselves and others, in jobs.

A Few Groundhogs Day Examples

I ran into a once young guy (no longer so young) who worked for me years ago.

“What are you doing these days?,” I asked eager to hear about what he had become and what he was learning.
“Oh, I’m still doing exactly the same thing.”
I was shocked and saddened.

This was a bright kid, full of energy, ideas, a great team player. Why had he gotten stuck in that job? Why hadn’t anyone continued asking/encouraging (okay pushing) him to accomplish his potential? Who else was left behind in this same organization?

And then. I talked to an old friend. She shared,

“I finally figured out that I keep repeating the same patterns, both in dating and in looking for jobs. I have this perfect list of what I think I want. I go after him or the job full tilt. I attract the guy, I get the job, and then I realize it’s not really what I want. I break up with the guy . I begin looking for a new job. I’ve got to find a way to interrupt that pattern.”

Another friend’s Christmas card read “nothing much new has happened for me this year, but I guess that’s the way it is at this age (see It’s Never Too Late to Grow Great)”

Breaking Your Groundhogs Day Patterns

So today.

I wish upon you my Groundhogs Day Curse.

I hope you wake up tomorrow looking at your own shadows.

Where would you interrupt?

Is it time to smash the alarm clock?

  • What patterns do you keep repeating?
  • What routines do you wish you could change?
  • Where is your team stuck?
  • What processes and rituals no longer serve your vision?
  • What if you interrupted the patterns?

The first step to getting unstuck is recognizing the patterns.

Of course, if you chose February 2 as your day of romance that sounds good too.

A worthy tradition.