5 Signs Diaper Drama Is Destroying Your Culture

Diaper Genies are a FABULOUS invention– for parents and nurseries. They hide the stink of a poopie diaper and exponentially increase the interval necessary to empty the trash. The stink stays conveniently wrapped tightly in plastic so no one can smell it. The stink is unavoidable and the Diaper Genie provides a welcome reprieve.

But sadly, in so many companies around the world, I see a similar effect. Employees take the stinky issues, and disguise them so cleverly with spin, sandwiched feedback and carefully crafted Power Points, that no one can smell the real problem.

The Diaper Drama Includes…

  • Spinning the truth
  • Watering down feedback
  • Omitting information that may trigger alarm
  • Manipulating data

Signs You May Have a Diaper Drama Culture (and what to do about it)

The minute I pull out the Diaper Genie in one of my keynotes, the heads start to nod. Ahh, yes. We do that here. So if this sounds familiar, you’re not alone.

Here are few signs, you may have a diaper genie culture.

  1. Meetings are readouts, not discussions.
    If meetings are more of a one-way information dump, it’s likely you’re not having the tough conversations that would up your game. Ask questions. “What else do I need to know?” “What are you most worried about? What’s making you nervous?” “What could possibly go wrong…. and how can I help?” See also our thinking on how to “own the ugly.”
  2. You spend more time crafting the communication than having the conversation.
    I once worked for a boss where we would have at least 27 rehearsals before any executive presentation. We were all coached on exactly which topics to avoid at all costs– lest we draw attention to our challenge areas. If you’re more worried about font size than fixing problems, you’re likely in a diaper genie culture. Even if you’re working in such a culture, stop that crap on your own team. Encourage your team to focus on substance over form at least in their readouts to you.
  3. Bad news is a powder keg.
    If you’ve got bosses running around that react poorly to bad news, check closely for diaper genies. They’re probably filled to the brim. It doesn’t take long to train your people to lay low and avoid the tough conversations. If you want a diaper-genie free culture, encourage bad news and respond with supportive solutions, not anxiety-laced freak outs.
  4. It’s “Groundhog Day” all over again.
    Like in the movie Groundhog Day, if you’re constantly “fixing” issues only to have them pop up again, you may be in a diaper genie culture. Be sure you’re asking the strategic questions to get to the heart of the problem. Are there performance/job fit issues that need to be addressed? Are there processes that need to be changed? Rip through the plastic and smell what stinks so you can address it.
  5. Don’t ask, don’t tell, is the norm.
    I’ve worked with companies where the employees tell me the unspoken rule… “Never ever bring up the the truth in a focus group.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard about employees being coached (and in some cases even “bribed” with extra treats to paint a rosy picture on an employee survey or in a focus group.) Nothing crushes morale faster than feeling you don’t have a voice. This is one of the worst examples of gaming the score.

More About The Diaper Genie Syndrome (an excerpt from one of our Winning Well workshops)

If you’re living in a diaper drama culture, you may not be able to fix the scene over night, but you can focus on your team and cutting through facade and exposing the stink at least in your sphere of influence. When the results start to soar, spread the word. One secret to success: eliminating the diaper genie effect.

A Fresh, Fast, and Fun Way to Focus Your Team

If you’re like most managers, you’re neck deep in performance agreements, stretch goals, and the dance between managing your boss’s expectations and warning your team not to sandbag. How you spend January can make the difference between a breakthrough and mediocre 2017.

Too many managers take the goals handed to them, wring their hands for a day or so, and then pull the team together to figure out how the heck they’re going to accomplish all THAT and still “Do their day job.” That approach will get the job done, but it’s unlikely to unleash breakthrough innovation or a head-turning year.

A Fresh, Fast, and Fun Way to Focus Your Team (or Yourself)

One of the most important questions you can ask your team (or yourself) is “What will it take to make 2017 the very best year of your career?” In my exec role at Verizon, this was always one of my favorite questions. It’s amazing how few people start their year thinking that way.

We now build that question into the strategic planning work we do with teams. Here’s one easy DIY exercise you can do to help focus your team (or yourself).

The End of Year Letter

Ask each member of your team to write you a letter, as if it were January 2018.  This can be done in email, or the old fashioned way. Just be sure you save it, so you can review at midyear and again this time next year.

It’s helpful to give them a few prompts. Here are some to get you started.

Dear __________ (insert your name here, if they report to you; if you are doing this for yourself use your bosses’ name).

2017 was the very best year of my career.

From there, pick some sentence starters as prompts for them to complete.

We totally changed the game by ____________.

The most important thing we accomplished was ___________.

Everyone is looking to us to understand how we ___________

I (we) got so much better at ______________.

Our customers are delighted because_______________.

I really improved my working relationships with __________ by___________.

Feel free to make up your own. You don’t need to pick many. The point is to ask your team members to reflect individually about what an extraordinary year would look like and then to identify specific behaviors and actions to help them get there.

I encourage you to proactively write a similar letter to your boss, and to ask them to pull it out mid year. It’s amazing how motivating this can be.

Let Us Help You Jump Start Your Team in 2017

In our strategic Winning Well workshops and off-sites we always include exercises to get past the “Ugh, how can we get all this done?” mindset to identifying what matters most, isolating key priorities and behaviors.

Goals

Frontline Festival: Leaders Share Goal Setting Strategies for their Teams (and Themselves)

Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. This month’s festival is all about goal setting (especially with your team) for the new year. Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors! Next month’s Frontline Festival is all about creating connection. The question for the month is:  What have you done to create connection with your team? Submit your teamwork related blog posts and answers to that question here!

Jon Verbeck of JonVerbeck.com suggests that you set five shorter term quarterly goals with the correct specific numeric targets. Ensure the goals are aligned with the overall purpose and strategy of your organization.  Discuss the goals and objectives frequently as a group and be relentless in the pursuit of accomplishing them. Follow Jon.

Shelley Row of Shelley Row Associates gives a simple plan for following through on your important goalsFollow Shelley

Willy Steiner of Executive Coaching Concepts  shares five key steps to setting key goals along with some examples and motivational ideas. Follow William.

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited is focusing on habits for herself and her team, rather than lofty goals. Regular weekly routines and consistent communication with team members move the needle for all of their connected businesses. Follow Beth.

According to Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership, here’s why you need a system to make sure your goals drive your behavior.  Follow Wally.

David Dye of Trailblaze shares a twist with Nine Ways to Motivate Employees when You Don’t Set the Goals. Follow David.

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude. – Thomas Jefferson

Chris Edmonds of Driving Results through Culture encourages teams to spend time not only on goals, but even more importantly on writing values into an organizational constitution as a strong foundation for an effective and productive culture. Follow Chris.

Julie Winkle Giulioni of DesignArounds shares that BUY-IN represents more than an emotional connection to a goal.  It also reminds leaders of the five critical components of goal setting that must be incorporated into planning, conversations, and actions to help teams deliver optimal results. Follow Julie

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement  shares, “In general I believe goals are counter-productive.  To the extent they are useful they guide decision-making about what is valued and what type of improvements to aim for (incremental improvement or try to find a very different way of doing things).  As Mike Tveite says:  “I achieved my goal but not my aim.”  That happens a lot–we honestly translate aims to goals. And then we do stupid things in the name of the goal get it the way of the aim. We forget the aim sometimes and put the goal in its place.” Follow John.

Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek. – Mario Andretti

According to Susan Mazza of Random Acts of Leadership, to do lists can easily transform from a useful tool to stay focused and productive to an ever-present reminder of all that you are not getting done. Here are two tips to help you and your team replace the tyranny of “too much to do” with the immense satisfaction of doing the things that matter most. Follow Susan.

According to Robyn McLeod of Thoughtful Leaders Blog, there are many best practices to setting meaningful team goals, and especially at this time of year, suggestions on how to do that proliferate. An essential first step is to focus first on “being” not “doing”; grounding ourselves; being present to what is; and moving forward with intention and purpose. Follow Robyn.

Jon Mertz of Thin Difference asks: Are you acting on the change you wish to see in yourself, your workplace, and your community? To achieve real change, no wall can exist between intention and action. It’s the interaction between these two that enables new habits to stick. Follow Jon.

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. – Les Brown

Skip Prichard of Leadership Insights says that one of the most important aspects of setting goals is understanding individual and group motivation. The why behind the goal is often more important than the goal itself. Follow Skip.

 

The discipline you learn and character you build from setting and achieving a goal can be more valuable than the achievement of the goal itself. – Bo Bennett

John Thurlbeck of Wear Consulting shares a method for making SMARTER goals, a successful and proven model he has used in leading teams over the years. Follow John. 

Michelle Cubas, CPCC, ACC, of Positive Potentials, LLC  shares how to simplify your strategic planning with a basic project management tool—a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). Let it be your compass for the coming year. Follow Michelle.

 

We’ve been making the rounds speaking a great deal on setting clear goals and expectations and accelerating your performance. Here’s a postcard from a recent keynote.

 

Stop This Terrible Habit You Don't Even Know You Have

How do I know you have it? Because I have it too. Most high-performers do.

It’s a sneaky little bugger, because on the surface it really feels like you’re doing the right thing. And on most levels you are. It’s a Winning Well core competency taken to extremes.

But if you go too far, the stress will crush your spirit and undermine your confidence. It’s one more way great managers lose their soul.

In an effort to know your vulnerabilities, to admit mistakes, to always look for ways to improve… it’s so easy to beat yourself up.

  • “What a stupid decision! I can’t believe I didn’t think through all the potential consequences.”
  • “Oh, I didn’t see that coming. I should have been better prepared.”
  • “If I’d only thought about the contingencies early on I could have saved my team a lot of angst and re-work.”
  • “I should have counted to 10 before I sent that email.”

If you’re thinking any of the above or something equally frustrating, I get it. You’re probably right. You made a mistake. You learned something. And you’ll do better next time.

Yes. Own the ugly. Apologize. Get creative and make it right. And then, move on.

Don’t hold a grudge.

Treat yourself with the same level of compassion
you would offer your team, your boss, or the people you love.

I’m writing this as much for me as for you.

When people ask me what’s the hardest part of running my own company, my answer is always the same. “I’m the hardest boss I’ve ever worked for.” And that’s saying something because I worked for some doozies.

Be the leader you want your boss to be… for yourself as well as everyone else. That includes a good dose of compassion every now and then.

4 Secrets to a Successful Performance Improvement Conversation

You sit down for an earnest performance improvement conversation. Things improve for a minute. And the next day (or the day after), she’s back to her “hot mess” behavior.

Sound familiar?

Maybe it’s her. Some people are hard to reach.

But before you write her off as “unfixable,” take a hard look at your approach.

Center Your Performance Improvement Conversation Around These Four Components

Successful performance improvement conversations should include discussion around the following components:

Clarity: “I know what to do.”

Almost every time I work with supervisors on improving their coaching, they are sure they have communicated what to do. And, of course, they’ve been crystal clear on many levels. What is often missing is isolating the very specific behaviors that must change for the employee to be successful. What exactly do you want your employee to do? How will they (and you) know that’s happening. Isolate and breakdown the behaviors you most need for success. Note: “A positive attitude,” “More customer focus” and “Being more strategic” don’t count. Be specific.

Conflicts: “This is where I’m stuck”

Listen here. Closely. It’s easy to discount the “reasons” they can’t improve:  competing priorities; overload; mixed messages; customer angst. This is the part of the conversation that will give you insights to not only what’s getting in the way for her, but also what is driving your high-performers nuts and frustrating your customers.

Confidence: “I can do this.”

Okay, here comes the hard part. If you don’t think she can get there from here, she will see that a mile away. First do a gut check. Are you giving her the benefit of the doubt? Do you believe this is possible? (If not, cross your t’s and dot your i’s on your performance documentation.) But if you are coming from a place of “Yes you can,” be clear on why. Show her examples of how she’s done this before. Break down the goals into bite size behaviors. Start small and be impressed.

Conviction: “I’m committed to doing it.”

If here in lies the challenge, start by asking questions. Why does she choose to work here? What makes here feel great at the end of the day? Connect what you’re asking of her to why it matters.

Holding successful performance improvement conversations takes practice. Consistent focus on these four areas will help you get to the root cause of the issue more quickly. Don’t be afraid to ask her, “What else can I do to be most helpful?” And then, really listen to the what she has to say.

leading for results

3 Ways to Rock Your Role in the New Year

Carol was visibly shaken on the other end of the phone.

Karin, you know that new job I got, well I lost it. I mean, it’s not really my fault, the contract they had anticipated didn’t come through. I get it. But what bothers me more than anything is what my boss said a few days after I got the news. He said, “You never showed up in any meeting as well as you did in the interview. That was disappointing.” So I wonder if I could have saved my job, if I had showed up differently.

The thing is, I didn’t prepare for any of those other meetings like I did for the interview. For the interview, I thought through every possible question and rehearsed my answers. I made sure I got a good night sleep the night before. I was careful to showcase my expertise. What makes me so mad (at myself) is that I’m 50 years old and am just now learning this. The need to prepare and always be your on your game is so obvious.

It’s never too late to up your game.

3 Ways to Rock Your Role in the New Year

“I worked hard. Anyone who works as hard as I did can achieve the same results.”
– Johann Sebastian Bach

Whenever anyone asks me the secret to my career success, my answer is simple. I work very, very hard. Yes, I’ve had great mentors, built great teams, gotten a few breaks… but honestly at the end of the day, the common denominator in any success I can think of has been– effort.

Carol’s not alone. It’s hard to bring your A game 100% of the time. But there are people who are giving that a shot. Want 2017 to be your best year ever? Rock your role.

  1. Perform at Concert Level Every Day
    When I was in high school our  band director drilled into us the cliché, “Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.” Hokey but true. If you want to be seen as an A player, perform at your very best even when you think it doesn’t matter. People will notice, and you’ll get better each day you show up stronger.
  2. Find the Hook
    The hook is the part of the song you find yourself humming 17 years later when you walk down the street. In Winning Well terms, this is the MIT (Most Important Thing). If you want a truly stand-out year pick the right success to be known for, and nail it. Start by talking to your boss. Ask, “What could I accomplish this year that would add real strategic value?” “What contribution could I make that would turn a few heads?” And then work with your team to establish a strategic plan for execution. Focus on the behaviors you would need to perform every day to build toward that success.
  3. Learn From the Virtuosos
    If you want to rock your role, you can’t just keep doing what you’ve always done. You need to hone your craft. Read what the experts are saying about the future in your field. Find a mentor or two who has skills you admire. Invest in a leadership development program for you and your team.

It’s never to late to sing a stronger song. What will you do to rock your role in 2017?

Get Your Team Off To a Great Start

Contact me for a free Rock Your Role leadership consultation to discuss how you can make 2017 your best year ever. You can see learn more about my approach by watching my new 2017 speaking reel. 

 

7 Surefire Ways to Gain More Credibility in the New Year

It’s the time of year where many of us are talking about what we want to lose–a few pounds, some bad habits, a toxic relationship. Today, I’m inviting you to consider what you have to gain– investing in a few key actions to improve your credibility and enhance your reputation.

7 Surefire Ways to Gain More Credibility in 2017

Focus on these behaviors, early and often to give your credibility a boost in the new year.

1. Admit a mistake.
No. not just a small one. I’m going to assume you do that every day. Is there a decision you regret? A strategic move that took the team down a rabbit hole? Or perhaps you let your personal stress bleed into your work, and were harsher in that meeting than necessary.

The truth is when you screw up, your team already knows. You’ll gain instantly credibility points by admitting it.

2. Stop doing something stupid.

I’ve yet to work with a company where folks couldn’t list the “stupid” things they are still doing for stupid reasons. Want credibility as a leader? Pick one of those things and figure out how to stop doing it. Your team will want to kiss you, and you’ll free up more time for them to work on their MITs (Most Important Things).

3. Take a stand.

I bet if I asked you to describe the leaders you most admire, or your favorite boss, we’d only be a few sentences in before you told me a story about them standing up for something that mattered.  Be that person. You know that thing you’re not saying because you’re too afraid? If it really matters, figure out a way to say it well.

4. Forgive a grudge.

I know. This is a hard one. But you know who you’ll gain the most credibility with if you can pull this off? Yourself. There’s huge value in knowing you’re the one that can take the high road and give someone a second chance.

5. Open a door.

The most credible leaders are ones who help people when they have nothing to gain. Building a reputation as a door-opener is a great way to catalyze credibility, not to mention karma.

6. Have a real conversation with your boss.

I was exchanging stories with an old boss the other day about times where we had found ourselves being the only ones having the tough conversations with our bosses. That audacity has served us both well over the years, and has helped me build the muscles I need to now be a successful consultant. There’s huge power and influence in being viewed as the person who will speak the ugly truth in a way people in power can hear it. Gain credibility by being the one who will own the ugly and work to make it better.

And guess what? If you do it well, your boss will start proactively coming to you asking for advice.

7. Rock your role.

Of course you can’t beat the credibility that comes from being ridiculously great at what you do. Show up every day with your A game. Give 10% more than is necessary to every task. Be constantly learning.

Credibility is built through small and consistent actions over time. Imagine the power of paying some extra deliberate attention to a few of these vital behaviors as you turbo-charge your career for the new year.