skip level meetings

The Best Secret To Managing Up

Have you ever been in a scene like this? Your team is working hard. Results are solid. But nobody seems to notice. Or worse, any skip level visits turn out so poorly, you begin to dread the very thought of a well-intentioned executive stopping by to talk with your team.

An important part of Winning Well is helping your team showcase their results.

Here’s my favorite approach.

This video is part of my Results That Last program. To take a peek inside the first few sessions (for free), click here.  I also have live versions of my Results that Last Program. Please contact me for more information about the best approach for your company.

The Amazing Side Effect of Make-It-Right Customer Service

I thought I was getting ahead of the blizzard, After all, the snow wasn’t supposed to start until Friday morning. But apparently I wasn’t the only one thinking Thursday morning was a good time to slip out to our local Trader Joes. Every register was open and the every line stretched all the way to the back of the store. I had to give them credit–they had clearly planned for the onslaught and called in reinforcements.

Knowing that customers weren’t happy, the manager was getting on the microphone being a merry as possible.

“Hey everybody, oh my gosh, did you hear it’s going to snow?”

 A few minutes later she was back on the mic.

“Okay raise your hand if you are number 7 in your line.”

We all worked together to count. Nice distraction.

“Wow! Just wow! Today is your special day! Everyone of you in the number 7 spot gets a candy bar.”

She approached the #7s behind me, “Can you share?” The skinny 70 somethings behind me looked at her longingly and she caved, “Okay here’s two.”

She was clearly trying, and empowered.

After about 45 minutes, I was next in line. The woman in front of me tried to pay with her smartphone and it completely crashed the computer register in my lane which I had already observed was lane 8, #justincasetherewasanothercontest. At this point I was hungry.

They had to call headquarters IT. After 10 minutes of trouble shooting, I turned to the candy-bar-crunching 70-something- number-7s behind me.

“Okay, they were doing great, but now this is a fiasco.  I’m a leadership and organizational effectiveness consultant, here’s what I think they need to do next… I’m so ready to go give them some free consulting. Do you think that would be rude?”

They were all ears on my plan, so we began chatting about how I could offer to help in the spirit of being useful vs. obnoxious.

As it turned out no intervention was necessary. The jolly manager once again grabbed the mic.

“Okay, so this happened…. we have a lane down, so here’s what we’re going to do. If you’re in lane 8 raise your hand.”

We were all ears in lane 8, and eagerly raised our hands in surrender. Everyone else just rolled their eyes.

“First of all, if you are in lane 8, Steve here is going to come by and ask you what your favorite Trader Joe’s item is. He’s going to go get it for you and you will get that for free.”

But here’s where the rest of you come in. Some of these folks in lucky lane 8 have been waiting for nearly an hour just like you. So, you don’t have to do this, but if you would be willing to let them step in front of you, raise both of your hands (yup, that’s how many feet of snow we’re getting), and you too will get your favorite Trader Joe’s item for free. Raised hands all around, and the people began chatting and moving in an orderly fashion.

Her plan trumped mine by a landslide.

The lady next to me kindly let me step in front. We both got our steaks for free.

As my new cashier was ringing me up, she was all smiles.

“How great is this?” She questioned. “Can you imagine ANY OTHER grocery store that would respond this way?

We both knew the answer.

“This is why I work here.”

Frontline Festival: January 2016

Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. This month’s festival is all about Vision and Strategy.  Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors! Next month, we turn our focus to Building Productive Workplace Relationships. Submissions due February 12th– new participants always welcome, please us this form.

Laura Barnard of PMO Strategies takes a realistic look at change management and change resistance with ideas for doing change WITH people instead of TO them. Follow Laura.

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited asks, “Are you an overwhelmed professional?” This is the year to change that. Follow Beth.

According to Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership Strategic success takes more than smarts and a clear vision. Guts and discipline count, too.  Follow Wally.

Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.
~ Jonathan Swift

Liza Heidelberger of MyLeaderSphere reminds us, that like two sides of the same coin, vision and strategy are essential to moving an organization forward.  Here are some ways you can identify if you focus more on vision or strategy and what you can do to keep both in balance.   Follow Liza.

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement  says that when the vision is merely a pretty collection of words that doesn’t drive decisions and behavior it is pointless. When it does drive behavior it is powerful: sadly that is rarely the case. Follow John.

In the post, You are enough, Lisa Kohn from Thoughtful Leaders Blog reminds us that vision and strategy are only effective when we come from a position of strength, and why we should therefore give up trying to prove anything to anyone, and more importantly, to even yourself. Follow Lisa. 

Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different.
~ Michael Porter

Jon Mertz of Thin Difference  asks: “Are you ready to engage the necessary isms of your life work?”  Consistent focus on getting the right balance between them will create a more meaningful life work opus. Follow Jon.

According to Michelle Pallas of MichellePallas.com,  having a vision and setting goals enables realization of our dreams. Crystallize that vision and let people know where you are going so, if they choose, they can help you. Follow Michelle.

Alli Polin of Break the Frame  suggests that a shared vision is critical for success but without the trust and energy of the team behind that vision even the best strategy falls apart. Follow Alli.

Where there is no vision, there is no hope.
~ George Washington Carver

Skip Prichard of Leadership Insights  posits that the same strategy, the same goals, the same execution may result in different outcomes. Why? The view. When leaders create the right view, everything changesFollow Skip.

LaRae Quy of Mental Toughness Center! shares that body language plays an important role in leadership success. Many entrepreneurs and business owners focus on verbal skills, but they fail to realize there are two conversations going on when they meet another person. The first conversation is the one where words are used to convey information; while the second one broadcasts thoughts, attitudes, and emotions through the body. If we are unaware of the non-verbal messages we are sending, the second conversation could undermine the first one. Follow LaRae.

Jesse Lyn Stoner of Seapoint Center for Collaborative Leadership shares that the traditional strategic plan is obsolete in this fast-paced VUCA world, but planning is indispensable. Here are five guidelines to create a *dynamic* strategic plan that will prepare you to make quick decisions when opportunities and challenges suddenly arise. Follow Jesse Lyn.

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.
~ Winston Churchill

Dr. Artika Tyner of the Planting People. Growing Justice Institute exhorts that now is the time to redefine leadership. Leadership in the 21st Century must move beyond position or title to everyday people making a difference in the world. Follow Artika.

Julie Winkle Giulioni of DesignArounds reminds us that vision without strategy is just a nice idea; and strategy without vision might be a lot of unproductive activity. Together, however, they are a dynamic duo that can drive unbeatable organizational results. Follow Julie.

6 Competencies Your Sales Team Must Master

My husband looked at me in bewilderment as I explained why I couldn’t buy that “perfectly good” house in the neighborhood with the great schools, close to his work, UMD where I teach, BWI airport, our church, and our gym.

“I love the house. It’s a great community. But I just can’t trust that builder. If they hire someone LIKE HER as their sales manager, I question who’s running the place. How can they allow her to act so cocky? How can we be sure their project managers or contractors will be any less self-centered? I’m sorry, I know you like it, but can we just keep looking a little more?”

We settled on a similar house a mile down the road. They probably thought it was the fireplace options. Nope. It was “Sarah.”

6 Competencies Your Sales Team Must Master

Great selling never feels like it. That’s why so many companies are moving away from traditional sales roles and teaching their teams to be “consultants,” “strategic partners,” and “solutions architects.” Of course a rose by any other name… Here are six key competencies fundamental to your sales team’s success.

1. Knowing When To Walk Away

Kenny Rodgers was right, at least on this note.  Your team will do more harm selling the wrong fit. Train your team to understand the value proposition behind: “I’m not sure this is the best solution for you right now, may I recommend…(insert competitors name here).” Trust me, I do this all the time in my own business. It’s painful. But this approach builds loyalty and referrals. Never sell anyone anything that isn’t just right.

Your customers must know that your team has best interests at heart. They have to be sure you care more about their mission and the greater good, than your numbers.

2. Asking Great Questions

Your team can’t make great recommendations if they don’t get the scene. Train them to ask strategic, open-ended questions and truly listen to the response.

3. Showing Up With Confident Humility

Your customers want to know you have a great solution to their problem. Start with a great product that your team can be proud of. Then work hard to get your team past their own agendas, listening well to offer real solutions that meet the need. If it’s ever more about the sales guy than the customer, you’re sunk. You can’t fake confident humility.

4. Building Genuine Connection

People don’t do business with businesses, they do business with human beings. Encourage your team to slow down and learn about the people they’re working with. Then stay connected by remaining interested. “How did your daughter do in that game?” “How was your trip?” “Is your wife feeling any better?”

5. Staying Patient

Yes, I know that most B2B sales take at least seven touch-points before the decision maker takes action. Of course your best sales people stay hungry. But no one wants to be rushed into a decision. Customers appreciate being given the space to make the right decision.

6. Giving Generously

Almost every day I get asked, “If you keep giving away all this free content why would any one ever hire you?” Sure there are companies that will take your free ______ (trial, consulting, white paper) and run. But those aren’t the clients you want to work with in the long run. Teach your sales team to give generously and add value above all else. It might take some time, but your company will be top of mind when they’re (and others they know) are ready.

In an era where almost anything can be bought with one click, if your customer wants to talk to a human, be sure they’re a good one.

Why Have We Stopped Talking About Diversity At Work?

I’ll never forget attending a leadership development program at a fancy hotel in the early 1990s. The main topic was diversity. John, my well-dressed, articulate, black peer, came back from the coffee break with tears in his eyes, saying he was standing outside getting some fresh air, when some guy handed him his keys thinking he was the valet.

He looked right at me, and said, “Karin there is no way on God’s earth this will ever happen to you.”

It’s 20 years later. I’ve gotten a lot of fresh air just outside of hotel lobbies.

It hasn’t.

We clearly needed that diversity program. John’s experience was raw and real. Talking about unconscious bias wasn’t comfortable, but I know it shaped my perspective as a leader and as a human being.

Perhaps you remember the “diversity” era.

If I were running LGL in the 1990s, I’m quite sure “diversity” would be all over my website.

I just did a search. “Diversity” is nowhere to be found.

Is diversity handled?

Sure, we have the occasional debate about where our transgender colleague should go to the bathroom, but diversity has stopped being top on our list of people issues.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

Of course, it’s better.  Thank goodness. Many companies turned those strategies into polices. Blatant discrimination is less rampant. Ratios continue to improve. It’s better, no doubt.

At the same time, in Baltimore where I live, the city imploded this year with racial riots over injustice. That can’t be happening on the outside of our businesses without impacting our insides. These issues are touching humans inside all of our organizations.

No one forgets their concern about how black lives matter just because they’re driving to work… and yet sometimes this conversation gets stifled when folks pull into your parking lot.

Am I advocating for a return to the Diversity strategy rhetoric? No. Do I want you to hire me to help you build your diversity strategy? No.

Do I think we need to continue to have real dialogue about diversity, inclusion, and the mess we’re still in as a Nation? Yes. At work? Yes. Even if it’s uncomfortable? Yes, yes. Uncomfortable leads to progress.

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

I encourage each one of us to consider how we can best re-open the conversation.

“All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

So here we are. It’s up to us. How will we continue the conversation?

The Biggest Reason Employees Stop Caring

When I was in my sales and customer service executive roles, whenever I needed a pick-me-up, I would go talk to the new hire classes.

They’re fired up, full of ambition, and ready to serve.

“Raise your hand if you’re looking to be promoted into management.”

Every hand in the room goes up.

Sadly, in many companies something happens along the way.

Talk to the same group a year in, and the sentiment is not quite the same. Just why does that happen?

Please comment and I will capture your thoughts on a future post– what are the main reasons employees stop caring?

Here’s an excerpt from my Results That Last Program.

P.S. If you want to take a quick look inside my Results That Last Program, here’s an easy link to preview the first 2 modules. Please reach out to me if you would like a full demo.

A Deeper Dive into Developing Your People

When I ask managers where they regret not spending enough time, unequivocally, the number one answer is “Not spending enough time developing my people.” There never seems to be enough time, or resources, or support from above, or fill in your favorite blank here _______. And yet when I ask managers to identify one thing they KNOW would improve their results, you guessed it… the same answer, “If only I had more time to develop my people.”

Perhaps you’ve felt that way. Trust your instinct.

I will never forget the year that I shifted my approach to spending 30% of my time developing people–within three months results had taken a hockey stick turn for the better and engagement was way up.

Sure, it’s scary.

Yes, it takes serious effort.

But no matter how competent you are, you are one person.

No matter how hard you work, developing a team of A players will blow anything you can do on your own.

Spending 10% of your time developing your people is standard. For three months, try investing 30% and see what happens…

A Metaphor From the Deep

As I was doing a lot of underwater photography while scuba diving in Bonaire over the Christmas holidays, my mind kept moving to what a wonderful metaphor underwater photography is for employee development. So here’s a bit of deep-dive reflection for you as you begin your 2016 developmental planning process.

Be Still and Observe

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Sometimes the biggest developmental needs are the least obvious. Invest the time to observe behaviors across a variety of contexts and situations. Where do they feel most confident? What scares them? How are others responding to their style? Where do they need to be challenged? In which areas do they need some additional training?

Anticipate the Future

It’s impossible to get a decent picture of a swimming fish by pointing the camera where the fish is, you’ve got to anticipate where they’re heading. It’s the same with employee development. Great employee developers envision what their employees are capable of becoming and help people see themselves as more than they ever thought possible. Then they build the development plan with that lens in mind.sting ray

Be Patient

lion fishThe hardest part of underwater photography for me is patience. My inclination is to chase the fish, which of course scares them. Sometimes it’s important to move a little slower, to build confidence and incremental improvement.

There’s no greater gift you can give your team then challenging them to become more than they ever thought possible. Go deep.

 

How to Help Your Children Grow as Leaders

Leadership development is not just for grown-ups. If you’ve been with me for a while you know how passionate I am about this. Most of us take a deliberate approach to developing other skills in our kids early on: we teach them to swim, to ride a bike, to read, and read music, as early as we can. Leadership development should be no different. The earlier we can ingrain these skills, the more natural they will feel.

I was recently interviewed for this awesome article by Mryna Beth Haskell: Are You Raising a Leader? She does a great job of pulling together several nice perspectives. I’ve included an excerpt here, and hope you will read on.

Are You Raising a Leader?

Some children seem to effortlessly fall into the role of leader, no matter what the environment. However, there are those children who are late bloomers. These are the ones who blend in early on, but blossom with maturity and become presidents of their high school class or captains of a varsity team.

What does this tell us about the development of leadership qualities in our youth? Why do some young people take charge of school projects and playground activities with ease, while others are happy to take the proverbial back seat? Are leaders born or nurtured?


NURTURE OR NATURE?

“Talent for leadership is a combination of nurture and nature. Leadership requires the building of a strong central core,” says Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., a nationally recognized family and child development expert, author, and educator.

Karin Hurt, CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, LLC (letsgrowleaders.com), adjunct professor at the University of Maryland and prominent keynote speaker, explains, “Important leadership skills can be nurtured in all children. Of course, some personalities will be more drawn to leadership roles, but the truth is that every one of us will face situations in our lives where strong leadership skills are necessary to accomplish something we believe in.”

If nurture is a substantial influence, how can parents encourage their children to embrace those qualities that successful leaders possess? Continue reading 

Also, if you’re new here, and interested in the subject, you may also like to take a look at Alli Polin’s and my FREE eBook, A Parent’s Guide to Leadership.

8 Ways to Refresh Your Career in the New Year

If you’re like me, at this point, the holiday hoopla already feels like a distant memory; you’re invigorated by the possibilities for the year ahead; and perhaps just a bit overwhelmed by the the stretch-goals in front of you. You’re neck-deep in planning and goal setting. If you’re a people manager, you’re likely meeting with your team to establish performance agreements and developmental plans. Excellent. Don’t forget about you.

8 Ways to Refresh Your Career in the New Year

The new year is the perfect time to step back and take some tangible actions to invest in your career. Here are 8 ways to get you started.

  1. Identify one fear to overcome.
    We’ve all got them–the one area of our life that would improve if only we weren’t too scared. How would your career (and life) improve if this were the year you got past it? Start by writing it down. This year I’ll have the courage to _______. Then tell someone about your plan. The best way to build real confidence is to succeed at something that scares you.
  2. Take an honest inventory of what’s working and where you’re stuck.
    What were the three behaviors that most helped your career and your professional brand in 2015? Which three behaviors got in the way? What, specifically, can you do to continue more of the beneficial behaviors and reduce (or eliminate) the non-productive or career damaging ones?
  3. Update your LinkedIn profile.
    Yes, you should. I’m working with a company now that recently announced an 8000 person reduction. Many of those folks now scrambling to build the next phase of their career have admitted that they hadn’t really worried about their LinkedIn profile before. Here are some hints to get you started.
  4. Identify your big win.
    You have lots of goals and objectives to achieve this year, I get that. But it’s worth identifying the one area where you’re going to absolutely turn heads. What will you achieve this year that will be worth a champagne toast and others swarming to you to learn your secrets?  What can you and your team achieve that will really change the game? If you manage people, this is a great conversation to have in one of your first meetings of the year.
  5. Clear out the clutter.
    A Gartner survey found that an average employee can spend up to $4800 just looking for stuff. Now before any of my awesome administrative assistants who’ve supported me over the years start leaving pithy comments, let me admit I’m terrible at this. So, instead of telling you how…. here’s a nice resource on the topic.
  6. Build a networking plan.
    Make a list of people you would like to know better, and identify one way you can help them or make their job easier. I’m also a big believer in “just because” networking. Imagine the possibilities if you took a deliberate approach to getting to know a bit more about the folks you encounter as you go through your day (on the plane, at the gym, in that class you’re taking). There’s awesome power in the strength of weak ties.
  7. Make your reading list.
    A study from the University of Sussex found that reading as little as six minutes a day can reduce your stress levels by 68%.  Most CEOs I know read (including me) read at least four books a month.  Of course I recommend Winning Well for April (learn why here). Inc also has an interesting list of books recommended by high-profile CEOs.
  8. Get feedback
    Whether you use a simple DIY approach to 360 development or invest a little more in a formal process like the one included in my online course, Results that Last, the best way to improve is to truly understand the perceptions of others. 360s can help you identify small behavior changes that can go a long way in building trust and improving communications.

You have the power to make 2016 remarkable.

What's Going to Happen to You in 2016

If only you had a crystal ball. The planning, the decisions, the choices would be so much easier. But you don’t. And those decisions and tradeoffs aren’t easy. Should you stay? Should you go? Is that project realistic? What if they reorganize… again? Are you getting the whole story?

What You Do Know About 2016

There’s much you can’t possible predict. But I’m confident…

  • A co-worker will really tick you off.
  • An unlikely subject will surprise you with their generosity.
  • Work you do will be vastly under-appreciated.
  • You’ll learn something new.
  • You’ll regret what you said.
  • He’ll take more credit than he should.
  • It will be one of those weeks.
  • The balance will get way off kilter.
  • You will know you did the best you could.
  • You will screw it up.
  • The news will suck.
  • You will fix it.

Knowing natural ups and downs are going to happen, and they are happening to everyone, will help you save vital energy for what matters most.

There’s much freedom that knowing the minor frustrations are not so much a matter of “if” but “when.” That way when they do show up, instead of reacting poorly you can say “Oh there you are… I’ve been expecting you” and keep perspective on your bigger mission.

I was inspired to write this post when my blogging hero, Seth Godin, shared his more universal Surefire Predictions.