How to Help Your Team Get Results FAST

You need to move results– quickly. It’s tempting to try everything you can to make things better.  But the all too common “throw everything at the problem and see what helps” approach may make things worse in the long run. Your team will be frantically trying to execute on too many cylinders, and even if results start to improve, you won’t know why.

When you need a quick turnaround, I recommend following this Winning Well F.A.S.T. model.

F-Focus

To move results quickly, focus is key. Resist the urge to fix everything. Identify and communicate the biggest priorities and break the work into manageable tasks. Focus on what each team member needs for success.

  • Communication: Align on 2-3 key leadership messages to share in every context.  Communicate them to the point of obnoxious… then communicate more. Check for understanding. Communicate again. Test it, “What do you think I most want to talk about today?” If they don’t shout out your priorities, you’re not clear.
  • Activity: Make big work small. It’s tempting to build action plans with lots of activity to show you are trying. Less is more. Too much action overwhelms and confuses. Identify 2-3 actions that will make the biggest impact and hit them hard. Reinforce with focused and consistent leadership messaging.
  • Outliers: Use data to get surgical in your approach. Know the outliers and give them focused recognition and support. Avoid broad-brush interventions. Focus just-in-time actions on those who need them. See Also: How to Break the 80/20 Rule

A-Acknowledge

When results aren’t moving, your team probably knows why. It’s tempting to start with answers–it’s far more useful to ask great questions and truly listen.

  • Slow down early and listen to concerns. Stop to acknowledge progress.
  • Competing Priorities: New initiatives are almost always piled onto existing workload. Acknowledge conflicting goals and competing priorities. Listen carefully to concerns. Prioritize. Give permission to stop. Some balls must drop. Decide which ones.
  • Progress: When you’re moving fast, don’t forget to pause at progress. Acknowledge small wins. Celebrate new behaviors. Recognize breakthrough thinking (see also In Defense of Wow)

S-Stretch

Fast-paced change provides great growth opportunities. Stretch yourself and others.

  • People: Fast paced change provides stretch opportunities. Provide special projects and stretch assignments. Turn strong players into teachers. Ask everyone what they must do next to achieve.
  • Boundaries, Assumptions and Rules: Stretch people to try new behaviors. Stretch boundaries, assumptions, and rules. Spend time asking the question, “What have we never tried before…?” Engage unlikely thinkers from outside the team.

T-Think

Go slow enough to think about what you’re doing and who you’re involving.

  • Stop stupidity: Every fast-moving project contains elements of stupid (e.g. time wasting tasks, old processes and reports that no longer align with new vision). Empower everyone to say stop as needed. See Also: Seth Godin’s Basting the Turkey)
  • Assess and Fine-tune: Carefully measure progress and fine-tune as needed. Watch for unintended consequences. Be ready to change course as needed.
  • Stakeholder: When moving fast it’s easy to exclude. Think about peripheral players that must understand your plan. Slowing down to include the right players early, leads to smoother acceleration.

When in doubt, go slow to go fast. A few deep breaths before launching will provide vital oxygen for the sprint ahead.

A Thanksgiving Challenge

I cried as I read his note.

I’ve been wrestling with how to share this with you ever since. I thought about writing about it generically but that fell flat. I couldn’t write it in a way that kept the impact. So here’s my pre-apology. This is not a “look what I did, follow my lead” post.

It’s a “Look what HE did, and OMG do we need more of that in this world!” post.

If even half of the LGL readers would just thank one person who didn’t expect it, we’d have a powerful force field of positive reinforcement for the behaviors that matter most.

A Thanksgiving Story

It had been 7 years since this store visit. I was his bosses’ boss driving seven hours to visit his store for a first meeting after he joined my team through a merger.

Neither of us work at Verizon now. There was no follow-up note asking for something. It was a genuine note of sincere gratitude.

I never got to tell you this or express my genuine thanks for something you did when I started my Store Manager journey when I was with Verizon. I got the store ready, changed every light bulb and dusted every fixture. You came in and had genuine enthusiasm, only to meet me at the time in a time of hurt. My grandfather was close to dying that day you visited. I remember standing in the showroom floor and Ryan informing you of what was going on personally with me and not only your look of sadness–actually you had tears in your eyes–and you looked at me and said “Why are you here?  Go home, go where you are supposed to be right now.” I never told anyone about that car ride home and how much I cried, not only tears of sadness but tears of thanks. So with that said, although the strongest most courageous man in my life passed away that day, you gave me happiness that day. Thank you is putting it lightly.

I had no idea.

My tears as I read his note where for the courage and effort he took, and for the lack of courage and effort I’ve made over the years to go back and say, “Thank you. What you did in that moment made an impact.”

So my Thanksgiving Challenge to each of us, is to pick one person in our career for whom we are truly grateful… perhaps for a simple moment of human kindness… or perhaps for just a bit more and TELL THEM.

If that feels too far out of the blue, blame me;-)

I’m going to write to Ray. I’m pretty sure that he has no idea of the impact he made on this growing leader.

#resultsthatlast

3 Roadblocks You Must Remove For Your Team (before they go insane)

Even if it all feels warm and wonderful, your team needs you to remove roadblocks. If they’re frustrated with stupidity in the organization, they’re frustrated with you. Sure, they appreciate the check-ins about their kid’s soccer victories. And they want you to prepare them for the next promotion. But, if you’re not out there with them doing some basic blocking and tackling, I’d venture to guess, they’re frustrated. Be a backer, and remove these three common roadblocks.

Three Roadblocks Your Team is Longing For You to Remove

Roadblock #1:

You’re clear about what you want, but your colleague in the other department is sending an equally strong message to his team leading them in another direction.  Your team wants to achieve your vision, and feels your urgency, but they can’t resolve the conflict without involving you–and the other team feels the same way. The conflict is getting more intense because no one feels empowered to reach a compromise. Both teams worry that any level of “giving in” will tick off their boss.

  • The Roadblock: Lack of Leadership Alignment
  • To Get Results That Last: Meet with your peer (and include a few key team members as appropriate) and align on a path forward. Hold metaphorical hands and send a clear messages to both of your teams about what needs to be accomplished and how they must work together. Anything else will waste precious time and energy, and make them question your leadership tenacity.

Roadblock #2

You know what your boss is asking for doesn’t make sense for customers, employees, or shareholders.

  • The Roadblock: Your Boss’ Idea is Going to Hurt the Business
  • To Get Results That Last: When you let this go, you’re hurting the business, and seriously damaging the relationship with your boss you’re looking to protect. Trust me, your boss would much rather you take him off-line, in a private conversation and explain your concerns (listen carefully, she may have more information and an alternative perspective), than have you make a stupid decision.

Roadblock #3

Your team feels like they’re operating in the dark. They do the best they can to guess what the stakeholders want, but when they present their strategy, it gets shot full of holes and creates frantic rework.

  • The Roadblock: Unclear Expectations
  • To Get Results That Last: Identify the key stakeholders and discuss their vision and expectations before your team gets to work. If gathering them all in the same room (or phone call) isn’t wise or practical, do it one-on-one. If expectations aren’t aligned it’s better to work that out before the work begins. (See #1.)

When you remove roadblocks, the team feels like you’re on their side. Work gets done faster and with higher quality and less stress.

Frontline Festival: Leaders Share about the Power of Gratitude

Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. Our November Festival is all about gratitude. Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors!

karin hurt and david dye talk winning wellNext month, in celebration of the launch of the new Star Wars: the Force Awakens movie we’re going to give you two options. You’re welcome to submit your “best of” post of 2015. Or, if you want to try something a bit more edgy, try writing a Star Wars Inspired Post. Please submit your links here.

A Parade of Gratitude

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited shares how to write a thank you note they will thank YOU for. Follow Beth.

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership reminds us that gratitude is good for you, but an attitude of gratitude is not enough. You get maximum benefits if you spread it around. Follow Wally.

Michelle Cubas, CPCC, ACC, of Positive Potentials, LLC reminds us that gratitude is a state of mind and encourages us to celebrate the energy of gratitude. So, how can we actively invoke gratitude? Follow Michelle.

Whether you lead a multinational company, a human-service nonprofit, a team of three engineers trying to solve a stubborn problem, are a parent, or a community volunteer, in your role as a leader you give and receive truly significant gifts nearly every day of the year. David Dye of Trailblaze  provides motivation, encouragement, and inspiration in this list of forty-five leadership gifts you can both give and receive. Follow David.

Henna Inam of Transformational Leadership says that gratitude is a leadership practice. Here are three benefits of gratitude in the workplace and five ways to practice so it becomes a mind-set that creates resilience, engagement, and productivity. Follow Henna.

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. – John F. Kennedy

Barbara Kimmel of Trust Across America asks, “Do you want people to trust you?” A bit of gratitude never hurts!  Follow Barbara.

Terri Klass of Terri Klass Consulting advises that to inspire others and cultivate an environment of collaboration with both their teams and customers, honoring these four L’s of Leadership can be so impactful. One of the L’s is Love, demonstrating the power of showing appreciation and gratitude. When leaders show empathy and respect for each team member’s perspective, they are embodying the L of Love. Follow Terri. 

Robyn McLeod of Thoughtful Leaders Blog   presents “Making Thanksgiving a Leadership Skill” where she shares six meaningful tips for making Thanksgiving a year-round leadership practice and reaping greater benefits. Follow Robyn.

Michelle Pallas of MichellePallas.com says, “A smile changes everything. A thank you makes the connection. Your behavior changes the world. Lead On!” Follow Michelle.

According to LaRae Quy of Mental Toughness Center shares that mental toughness is how you manage your thoughts, behavior, and emotions in ways that will set you up for success and includes the powerful element of gratitude. Whether you’re investigating the activities of a foreign spy, trying to navigate the politics of your work environment, or starting a new business—mental toughness requires keeping in shape to meet the challenges you will be facing.  Follow LaRae.

Willy Steiner from Executive Coaching Concepts explains why gratitude is not just a way to be appreciative, but it’s good for us physically and emotionally as well. He also reflects on some simple techniques for taking advantage of these benefits on a regular basis, making being thankful a habit. Follow Willy.

John Stoker of Dialogue WORKS asks how we can put THANKS in our Thanksgiving, giving tips on how to be more thankful and help others in the process. Follow John.

Dr. Artika Tyner of the Planting People. Growing Justice Institute shares that gratitude is about expressing appreciation. Service provides an opportunity to express gratitude by giving back and making a difference. Follow Artika.

In Gratitude

This month, I’m deeply grateful for all of you in our LGL community, and for my amazing clients and team. It’s wonderful to work with kindred spirits, passionate about not only winning, but winning well– without crushing hearts and spirits in the process.

Thank you to Beth Beutler, my wonderful strategic assistant and a role model of confident humility. Megan Constantino, Becky Robinson and the team at Weaving Influence for their strategic and passionate approach to spreading my message around the world. My talented creative team at Red Jacket West, who say YES! to all my wild ideas and execute elegantly as we work to make real leadership development more accessible to those with smaller budgets. My Winning Well co-author and daily inspiration, David Dye, , and the wonderful team at the AMACOM who have made our book stronger while supporting us along the way. My wonderful family, and so many more on the extended LGL team.  Namaste and thank you.

5 Reasons Your Team Doesn't Buy Your Game Plan

Trust me, I’ve seen that look.

The #areyouinsane? look.

The #whatplanetareyoufrom? grimace.

The #thischickisclearlyfromHR lament.

The #anddoesnthaveaclue freak out.

A few months later, they were all in. Not because of some clever incentive program. Not because of beautiful spin. Almost entirely because they could taste the win.

If you’re struggling to gain traction on a new idea or program, you may be dealing with one of these five sources of resistance.

1. They’ve seen this movie before.

If you have to start with “This time is really different,” for goodness sake, take three steps back and be sure that is true. You can only say that once with real credibility.

2. They don’t trust you.

Ouch. This one’s a harder nut to crack, and it just might be true. Don’t continue to “sell” this until you work on the bigger issue. Check yourself first, are your motives in their best interest? Do you trust them enough to share real information (if you don’t trust them, they won’t trust you)? Are you taking time to really listen to their concerns? To you care about them as human beings? Do you you consistently do you what you say you will?

3. They don’t trust the last guy.

This one just sucks. You’re out there with the right motives, connecting and doing the right thing, but they’ve been burned before. Don’t trash the last guy, but just keep showing up consistently to and doing the right thing again and again. Yes, yes, talk about the plan, but also tell stories that reveal who you are as a leader to build deeper connection.

4. They don’t understand why this matters.

Remember you’ve had lots of time to think about this and it makes perfect sense to you. Back up a few steps and remember some of your earlier concerns. Take time to really consider how this must look from their perspective. Develop a tight communciation strategy to consistently explain why this matters so much, be sure to include right brain (stories and emotions) and left brain appeals (facts, figures and evidence).

5. They don’t think it will work.

Ahh, well if you’re a regular reader, you know the best way to fix this is by breaking it down, and building confidence and competence in bursts.

Pushing harder just invites push-back. Dig deeper to understand why and gently pull them in your direction.

Are You a Closeted Servant Leader?

Are you afraid to talk about leadership development at work? Would you like to invest more in developing your people, but worry that your boss will pooh pooh the idea?

You’re not alone.

This week, I had the honor of co-hosting the Online Servant Leadership Summit with Becky Robinson. We had some great guests including Ken Blanchard, author of the new One Minute Manager and Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes. You can watch the recordings and pick up some awesome free resources here. A common question coming in from the audience was “Is it possible to be a servant leader if the culture doesn’t support it?”

The answer from all participants was a resounding “Yes!”

Now as a moderator, it would have been uncouth for me to jump up and down and scream,  “YES, YES, YES!!! In fact, the more the culture is lacking these behaviors, the more vital it is that you put your own fears and vulnerabilities aside and serve well. You’re not serving anyone if your first thought is to protect yourself, fit in, and let fear and intimidation roll right past you on the way to your team!”

But the phone call I received yesterday, made me realize I needed to scream this message from some rafter, and thank goodness, we have one right here 😉

A high-ranking official of an important non-profit doing great work reached out to me via LinkedIn– after participating in the Summit.

We laughed about the Summit attracting people who already believe in leading through service, and that the folks who most need to hear the message would likely not sign-up. His next words shocked me. “You’ve got to understand the culture. My boss has no idea I participate in such things, we just don’t talk about leadership development around here. I do what I need to do–but in secret.” Wow.

I thought back to the conversation I had earlier in the week with a manager who so wants to bring in my online course for her team, but is afraid to raise the topic with her boss–because it will look like she’s not focused on more important matters. Huh? If you know your team’s results will improve as they develop, have THAT conversation.

A vital part of being a servant leader is advocating for what your team needs.  Scared leaders can’t serve well.

You Can Serve Well Without Using the S Word

If the S word scares your boss, for goodness sake, don’t use it. Just serve. Serve your team. Serve your boss. Serve your peers. Serve your customers. Get results. You’ll attract real servants like a magnet and the upwards results spiral will continue.

I’ve worked for some really tough cookies over the years. I would never have set up a meeting to talk about building a servant leadership culture. I just did it, the results followed, and they gave me bigger teams to turn around. I spent 30% of my time developing leaders, who then got promoted and led the way they knew got results (no S word articulated, just lived).

One of the senior execs I worked for actually told me privately over coffee, “The difference between you and me is that you’ll stand up for your principles even if it rubs people the wrong way. Man, do I respect that.”

I don’t think most C-levels care if you want to be a servant leader, as long as you out perform expectations with a side effect of strong employee engagement. If the culture’s not right to call it serving— don’t worry about semantics. Just live it. Teach it. Help your team grow.

P.S. If you need help convincing your boss to invest in leadership development, call me 443-750-1249. I’ll help you.

How to Build a High-Performing Team- despite a stack-ranked performance management system

Bell curves bring out the worst in your best. Rewarding individual performance drives individual behavior. Yet most performance management systems do just that.

Of course unless you’re running HR, you’re can’t change the system, but you can build great teams within it.

In this video I share 6 ways to encourage true teamwork and collaboration.

Lead past the curve to greatness.

 

If you’re looking to take your team to the next level, I’d love to give you a demo or my online course, Results that Last, just send me an email at karin.hurt@letsgrowleaders.com

8 Secrets to Creating a Collaborative Culture

I’ve never met someone who would admit to preferring drama over collaboration. And yet, most cultures have too much drama, too little collaboration. What’s up with that?

This weekend we stayed in a beach house in Nags Head with my sister, and 28 of her closest friends (most of whom we had never met) to run the Outer Banks Southern Fried racing weekend. The kids ran the 5K and the grown-ups ran the 1/2 marathon.

We’ve been here since Thursday night, as of this writing (Sunday at 7:57 pm), there’s been zero drama and no fistacuffs (did I mention there are 14 boys between the ages of 10-16?)

The leadership anthropologist in me is fascinated by this dynamic. So here’s what I’ve observed from this incubator of positive collaboration.

8 Secrets to Creating a Collaborative Culture

connector (1)Got collaboration issues? Try nurturing a few of these elements.

  1. Respect–For The “Other Team’s” Goals and Objectives
    Every family came with a gaggle of  objectives. Some wanted a breath to connect. Some ready to run their personal best. Some were marathoning virgins, just trying to finish. We all put it out there in one way or another, and we all cheered on.
  2.  Norms–Big Rules are Discussed, Respected and Upheld
    Some were easy, “No kid goes to the beach without a grown-up.” But who goes to the PG13 movie is a heck of a lot trickier when the village is involved.
  3. Patience– No Child (or Grown-Up) Left Behind
    Herding 29 took longer. We had to breathe.
  4. Humor–We’re Laughing With You, Not At You (okay, okay, maybe a few times at you, but it’s all in good fun)
    I promised not to say more, to protect the innocent.
  5. Branding–The Power of Being Part of Something Biggershirts
    We branded our team with a great orange tee-shirt. We were easy to spot. The best part was when we got pulled in with the locals to staff the 5K finish–apparently they needed some friendlies, and that was our brand. Apparently our kids weren’t at all surprised to see us at the end of the race handing out medals and bananas. #thatsawin
  6. Rituals-Creating and Respecting
    We had a 16th birthday, a Baptismal anniversary, some firsts, and some other commotion. Some good, some tricky, all shared.
  7. Skills–Knowing What You’re Good at and Bringing All Your Gifts to the Party
    The cooks cooked, the cleaners cleaned, the creatives made a party, the singers got the birthday celebration on key. My husband cooked. #miracle. No one asked about their role, they just stepped up.
  8. Boundaries–Letting Go of Your Have to-Haves, and Hanging On To Your Must Dos
    Every team had a room. If your door was shut, the communal game was off, except for my sister (during my after-run nap) when she was on the wrong floor, thinking it was her room.

Collaboration takes energy and effort. Let go to grow fast.

P.S. The Connector Role is part of my 7 Roles Every Manager Must Master Model. Want to learn more? Contact me at karin.hurt@letsgrowleaders.com to set up a demo of my new online course.

4 Reasons Your Feedback is Being Ignored

The number one frustration I hear from team leaders is that their feedback falls on deaf ears. The employee seems to get it–for a minute, and then they go right back to their old habits.

So they give the same feedback again, this time “louder” either literally, or through progressive discipline, or sadly sometimes threats or biting sarcasm.

Sure, there are some folks out there “you just can’t fix,” but frequently that’s not the real issue.

4 Reasobuilderns Your Feedback is Being Ignored

When I turn the tables and ask the employees why the behavior continues, here’s what they tell me.

  1. The Feedback Flood Factor
    “I’m trying to do better, I really am. But it’s all just too much. Every time we meet, he’s giving me something else to work on. No matter what I do, I can’t seem to get it right, so I’ve learned to just block him out and do the best I can.” If you want real change, isolate one behavior at a time.
  2. The “Do as I Say, Not as I Do” Factor
    “My boss keeps telling me my customer courtesy credits are too high– that I’m costing the business too much money. So I really worked on that for a while. But then, I found my customers started to ask to speak to my supervisor. And guess, what? She always gave them the credit! She looks like the hero, and the credit she gives them goes against my numbers and I still end up on progressive action.” If you want your employees to hear your feedback, be sure you’re following your own standards. If there are reasons you make exceptions, be sure you clearly differentiate and explain the thought process, so they can follow consistent parameters.
  3. The “I Don’t Know How” Factor
    “My manager says I need to be more strategic. That sounds awesome. I’m all for that. But what does that mean? How do I do that?” Be sure your feedback is specific and actionable. Explain what success looks like in terms of specific behaviors.
  4. The “I Disagree” Factor
    “My supervisor keeps asking me to do this, but I just don’t think it’s right. It’s going to have a negative impact on MY customers. I’ve tried to explain my concerns, but she just keeps citing policy, and that this decision is ‘above my pay grade.’ ” Sure, we all have to implement policies we may not agree with, the important factor here is to really listen to the concerns and explain why. Just shutting down the conversation MAY lead to compliance, but not always. And it certainly won’t lead to commitment.

Most employees want to do a good job. If your feedback is being ignored, dig deeper to get to root cause.

How to Improve Your Balanced Scorecard: An LGL Video

As Builder week continues on Let’s Grow Leaders, I’m mixing it up a bit and sharing some insights on Improving Your Balanced Scorecard. This video is part of my online multi-media series. Click here to learn more and download some free resources as well.

Also, I’m going to be mixing in more video from time to time. I’d love for you to subscribe to my YouTube channel.

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3 Ways To Challenge Your Team Toward Higher Performance

“But we’re already doing so much better than last year, when is enough, enough?” “Don’t you see how overwhelmed we are already?” “That’s not a stretch goal, that’s a delusion.” If you’re like most managers, at some point you’ve heard this kind of pushback from your team. Challenging your team to do more (often with less) is one of the biggest challenges of a manager. I’m a big believer in isolating the variables, and making the big goals feel small. Here are three easy techniques I’ve seen used well across multiple contexts.

3 Ways to Improve Your Team’s Performance

1. Do the Math

The other day I was listening to the SVP tee-up my keynote to his frontline team. His math was brilliant. If they could move the needle .1% on a key performance metric, they would save 2 million dollars! If they actually achieved the goal on the scorecard it would completely change their margins and enable them to reinvest in some of the additional programs the employees really wanted. It’s pretty hard to argue that it’s impossible to improve .1%. That afternoon, we worked so that every manager left with specific commitment to improve (which we collected in an online forum.) When they all execute they’ll blow that metric away.

I did a similar math exercise when I was in my sales exec role. Instead of saying I wanted to move our team from 1% small and medium business sales to 10% which sounded like a ridiculous leap, I simply said I needed each sales rep to close one small deal (of at least 5 lines). I knew it would actually only take 80% of the team to hit that easy target, and that some were already over-achieving. Five lines sounded quite doable and in a few months we were there, and kept improving each month after that.

2. Pairing Contests

Pair off your team into performance-enhancing dyads (although they work like steroids on your results, they’re perfectly legal.) The idea is to pick someone who is high-performing in the skill you’re trying to cultivate and one who is struggling. Then you give them a joint target to hit. Any diads that makes the joint goal win a prize. Since the teams are only competing against their collective target, not one another, encourage the diads to share best practices with one another as well. Everyone wins. Results improve quickly.

3. Weekly Wins Recap

This may sound old school, but when executed well it does wonders to keep people focused on the right behaviors and warms up lines of communication.  Each Friday ask each member of your team to send you a quick email focused on these areas: what they feel best about what they accomplished this week (a great opportunity for you to do some informal recognition); a performance area they’re focusing on next week and what they plan to do to improve; and any help they need from you.

Builders make stretch goals feel easy by breaking it down.