Three Connections That Energize Every Great Leader

Three Connections That Energize Every Great Leader

Let’s face it, leadership is hard.

You give it everything you have, but sometimes, it feels like it’s just not enough. When that happened though, here’s what you have to tell yourself…

You’re not alone.

Or, I should say…you don’t have to be.

When I was in San Francisco to deliver a keynote, I visited the famous California Redwoods. Standing beside the tallest living things on the planet was astounding.

Some them are thousands of years old. I saw the tallest tree – tall as a 36 story building with a trunk that would take ten or twelve people to encircle. Wow!

When I returned to my hotel that night, I went online to learn more about these trees. Specifically, I wanted to know about their roots. The roots I had seen were shallow and short.

What I found surprised me.

I expected the redwoods to have deep root systems, but they don’t. Their roots only go down five or six feet…but they extend outward 100 feet. In fact, the roots of nearby trees entangle, connect, and even fuse with one another. Together, the trees anchor one another through thousands of years of storms, wind, and floods.

Think about that for a moment – the tallest living things on earth don’t get tall by themselves.

They do it together.

As a leader, your trajectory and success – especially when things get tough – depend on your connections. There are three connections I’ve found that energize every great leader.

Connection #1: Your Team

Of course, you are there to serve your team.

But a funny thing happens when you do this. You will find your team also serves you. You don’t have to problem-solve on your own. You can rely on them.

Where you need to grow, they’ll challenge you. When your team trusts you, they’ll do amazing work with you. When you lead well, your team makes you stronger.

You can bring the tough questions to them and they’ll problem solve with you. They’ll hold you accountable. Karin and I have both had team members confront us when we weren’t leading up to our own standards.

Connection #2: A Community of Peers

Leadership is challenging work. It’s not easy and it doesn’t always feel good. It can be difficult, but extremely rewarding to find a good group of colleagues who will encourage you and help you problem solve. If you’re looking for this kind of leadership community, consider our International Leadership Cohort of people just like you who are committed achieving breakthrough results – without losing their soul.

In addition to mutual encouragement and problem solving, you also benefit from time spent with people outside the “bubble” of your organization. You’ll see your own situations with fresh eyes and better perspective.

Connection #3: A Mentor or Coach

Who is helping you get better?
Many leaders have a series of mentors and coaches over their lifetime…but it’s your responsibility to find them.

Recently, I saw an aspiring leader sit back on a social media forum and post something like, “Hey, I really wish you’d mentor me!” It was a generic comment that felt needy and as if he were a victim, powerless to help himself.

Most mentors won’t respond to that sort of energy. You want to find people who are farther down the road, who are doing what you want to do or have the kind of influence you want to have, and then approach them with a specific and actionable request.

You might say, “I’ve noticed you are very effective at cross-departmental relationships and problem solving. I’ve been challenged in this area and have some specific questions I think you could help with. Would you be willing to mentor me in this? You’ll find that I take your suggestions seriously and put them into practice as soon as possible.”

Accept their answer. If they say yes and have a particular way they want to work, go with it, and follow through. If they say no, honor that too. The chemistry must be there for mentoring relationships to work.

There are also times you’ll want to rely on a coach. Coaches can provide targeted, objective feedback and skill-training to shorten your learning curve and help you make rapid progress with your leadership challenges.

Your Turn

Remember, just like redwoods, great leaders get to be great based on the strength of their connections to their team, to a community of colleagues, and with mentors and coaches.

Where do you need to connect?

Leave us a comment and share how you stay connected to your team, a community of leaders, and mentors & coaches who help you grow.

Frontline Festival: Leaders Share About Employee Engagement and Customer Service

Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. This month’s festival is about employee engagement in relation to customer service. Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors! Next month’s Frontline Festival is about gratitude.  Submit your relevant blog posts here!

Creating Great Customer Experiences

Nate Regier of Next Element Consulting shares that openness is critical to excellent customer service because customers want to know you care before they can engage in problem-solving. When employees engage emotionally with customers, they recognize that emotional problems are at the route of customer service complaints. I love his 3 part model for connecting with empathy. Follow Nate

According to Chip Bell of Chip Bell Group Attitude is the foundation of innovative service and that takes leaders who stay on the hunt for spirit leeches and “burn” them out with the heat of their passionate commitment to the customer! Real leeches suck blood; spirit leeches suck spirit. Remember: customers abhor indifferent service more than bad service! Bad service could be the result of a faulty system, a process with a glitch, or a leadership vacuum. But, indifferent service always signals a complete lack of caring!  He also provides a post to encourage remarkable serviceFollow Chip.

According to Chris Edmonds of Driving Results through Culture, great customer service is delivered only by trusted, talented, engaged employees. In this short post and three-minute video, Chris’ insights from a remarkable family vacation leads to three keys to building incredible customer loyalty.  Follow Chris.

Paula Kiger of Big Green Pen shares a personal story related to Disney’s commitment to customer service. When she had a family member helping to make the magic, her appreciation changed and grew deeper.  Follow Paula.

Shelley Row of Shelley Row Associates shares some customer service lessons from helicopter pilotsFollow Shelley

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited reminds us that sometimes, attention to just being responsive is a key way for your employees to serve customers and clients well. Follow Beth.

Building Service into the Fabric of Your Culture

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement advises that it is very difficult to create a system with customer focus by all staff without several basic supports in place. Respect for people needs to be practiced, not just mentioned. Staff have to be given authority to act in the interest of customers.  Follow John.

Jesse Stoner of Seapoint Center for Collaborative Leadership reminds us that customers can always tell whether a company is values-driven. You don’t need an expert to tell you. She provides five ways to look to your own customer service experience to tell what’s really going on. Follow Jesse.

David Grossman of The Grossman Group  advises leaders to communicate their company brand on the inside to engage employees, which in turn creates happy customers and a more successful business. Follow David.

Employee Engagement and Customer Service

Amanda Cameron of Patriot Software, LLC  shares that how your employees feel about your company has a huge impact on customer service. Business leaders who promote employee engagement should see both work culture and customer satisfaction improve.  Follow Amanda.

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership provides a post showing that when engagement grows, so does retention, productivity, and customer service.  Follow Wally.

According to Chery Gegelman of Simply Understanding uncommon employee engagement and superior customer service doesn’t just happen. It begins with us, learning to create environments that support and direct the behavior of our co-workers, and yes, even our bosses.  Follow Chery.

How about you? How do you work to enhance the customer experience where you work?

How to Nail Your Next Interview–Honing Your Story

Even if you’re the right candidate for the right job, if you don’t have your story together, the job’s going to the other guy.

In fact, I’ve sat through too many panel interviews over the years with my heart breaking because I knew the RIGHT guy was telling the WRONG story…or the RIGHT story in the wrong way.

And the “committee” chose the bozo instead.

It’s not just what you’ve done, but how you tell it that matters in a behavior-based interview. With a little preparation, you can avoid the common mistakes that prevent you from bringing all your Winning Well wisdom to the scene.

Common Mistakes in a Behavior Based Interview

In a Behavioral Based Interview, candidates are asked to describe a situation, share what happened, and communicate the results. In other words, to share a story.

Behavior-based questions work well because they require candidates to draw on real experiences and communicate stories in an articulate way.

They can also backfire when great candidates bomb the interview because of lack of preparation.

Avoid These Interviewing Mistakes

  • Picking the wrong story. (Usually, the first one that comes to mind.)
  • Selecting a story with a bad ending (backing yourself into a corner, and wishing you told another story.)
  • Getting carried away in your story-telling, sharing too many details and going in circles.
  • Leaving out the detail, leaving too much to the imagination.
  • Forgetting to share the point of your story.
  • Sharing a story in which you did not have a central role (or in other words, sharing someone else’s success.)
  • Over-using the word “I” when you are describing an effort you led (remember to include the team.)
  • Continuing to use the same story with a different twist, leaving your interviewer to conclude you’ve only got one example of success.

How to Prepare for Success

  • Make a list of the competencies or skills most required for the job.
  • Go back through your work experiences, and find the best examples (stories) that showcase your skills in these areas. If you’re a spreadsheet guy or gal, go for it.
  • Develop a plan for which stories you plan to share.
  • Build out your stories to include brief context, specific actions, and results.
  • Practice telling them to a mentor or friend.

But wait–don’t wait until you need a job. Start now.

Some of the best interviewers (and leaders I know) keep journals of their best stories along the way to use when they need them–in interviews, mentoring, heck, who knows, maybe even a keynote someday. Capture the details while the story is fresh so it will be easier to recall when the time is right.

5 Top Leadership Articles for the week of October 9, 2017

5 Top Leadership Articles for the Week of October 9, 2017

Each week I read leadership articles from various online resources and share them across social media. Here are the five leadership articles readers found most valuable last week. Click on the title of the article to read the full text. I have added my comment about each article and would like to hear what you think, too.

If You Can’t See It, How Can You Make It Better? By Seth Godin

It doesn’t pay to say to the CFO: These numbers on the P&L aren’t true.

And arguing with Walmart or Target about your market share stats doesn’t work either.

You can’t make things better if you can’t agree on the data.

Real breakthroughs are sometimes accompanied by new data, by new metrics, by new ways of measurement. But unless we agree in advance on what’s happening, it’s difficult to accomplish much.

My Comment: This morning I spent several hours with a company that appears to be making good progress toward their goals. They’ve clearly defined what success looks like. They’ve made several important changes to help everyone achieve the desired results. But when I asked them about their progress, they said things like “I think so…it really looks like it…it feels like we’re making great progress.”

“That’s what you think or feel. How do you know?” I asked.

What does success look like for your team or organization? How will you know when you’re achieving it? You can’t lead without the answers to these questions.

You Can Lead a Horse to Water…But Can You Make an Employee Engaged? By Jonathan Villaire

There’s an old proverb used by many to describe the leader/follower dynamic with respect to employee engagement: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” This is a way of saying ultimately people will only do what they choose, even if you show them the way. In other words, just as a horse has to choose to drink, an employee must choose to be engaged.

Well, yes and no. Getting the horse to drink is the desired outcome, but what happens up to and during that point will influence his willingness to do so.

My Comment: In conversations with owners, executives, and senior managers, we often have to explain that employee engagement isn’t something you do. Engagement is a result. It’s the result of good leadership, great culture, purpose, growth, encouragement, and efficacy. Stop trying to engage people and create the environment that produces engagement.

These Are the Secrets from “Best Places to Work” Any Company Can Use by Gwen Moran at Fast Company

Perhaps few things can make your workplace feel more inadequate than those annual “Best Places to Work” lists. They list posh benefits, campuses with dry cleaning services, and training programs that give employees leadership experience. How is a smaller company with a smaller budget supposed to compete?

The good news is that there are ways to take cues from what those companies are doing, scale them, then adapt and adopt them for your company…

My Comment: I think it’s safe to say that no employee ever engaged with their work or gave extra effort because of a dry-cleaning service. These sorts of perks, which are often unique to a specific company or environment, are the icing on a very good cake. Don’t focus on the icing. First, focus on baking an excellent cake. Then you can add the perks that are meaningful and available within your business. Moran shares essential elements from these best places to work that you can certainly ensure happen in your organization and team. For example, the first item on the list is something every leader can do, whether you lead a Fortune 50 business or a three-person team: help them grow.

9 Ways to Work with Difficult People (Infographic) by Emily Conklin at Entrepreneur

Co-worker tensions account for about 80 percent of workplace difficulties, but fortunately, there are many simple tactics to make life at the office easier.

Psychologists have found that a threat to a person’s self-esteem can quite literally feel like a threat to survival, so it’s important to encourage open and positive dialogue with colleagues to get your point across rather than igniting a flame.

Plus, staying in control of your emotions won’t only improve your mood at the workplace, but help you advance your career.

My Comment: This is an excellent list to address a common problem. I had to learn many of these tactics through trial and error and they work. People will usually treat you the way you allow them to. If you’re struggling with difficult personalities at work, check out this infographic and give yourself time (and grace) to practice.

What To Do When High Performers Take On New Challenges by Dan Rockwell

One of your best team members took on a new challenge. Performance plummeted. Now what?

My Comment: This is a great look at an issue that is frequently ignored. I’ve even watched executives punish high-performers who took on a new challenge and, predictably, didn’t perform as well while they learned how to master their new reality.

The thing is, you’ve got to challenge your high performers if you want them to stick around. In our Winning Well confidence-competence model, someone who is confident in their abilities and highly competent at what they do is ready to grow. But that necessarily means that they will move around the model to a place of lower competence…and maybe lower confidence too. Rockwell gives you excellent strategies to support your high performer in their new challenge.

Your Turn

What thoughts do these articles bring to mind? Do you see something differently than the author? Did you have a favorite leadership article this week? Leave us a comment and let’s hear from you.

10 questions managers should ask when their teams won't listen

10 Questions Managers Should Ask When Their Team Won’t Listen

One of the most challenging management experiences you’ll encounter is when it feels like your team won’t listen.

  • You share your vision of the future, what the team’s capable of achieving…and are met with shrugs and silent stares.
  • You share a new process to improve results…and everyone keeps on doing what they’ve always done.
  • You make recommendations grounded in real data…and they are ignored.

Leadership Opportunities

These times when it feels like your team won’t listen are great opportunities to build your influence. You might be tempted to turn to fear, power, and a raised voice to get things done, but I invite you to pause and look at what’s happening before you do.

When you learn from these moments your effectiveness will soar, but if you allow yourself to get so frustrated that you turn to fear or power to get things done, you lose credibility and trust.

Here are 10 questions to ask when you feel like your team won’t listen:

1) What do you want?

Whenever you have leadership challenges, the first thing to examine is your own desire.

There’s a big difference between wanting what’s best for the team and wanting what’s best for you. So what is it you really want?

If the answer is compliance “When I say jump, they better ask ‘how high?’ on the way up” – then you’re never going to have a team that truly listens. They will do things out of fear when they must and ignore you when they can.

However, if what you want for the team to achieve great results together…then keep reading.

2) Are you speaking their language?

Do the actual words you use mean the same thing to your team that they mean to you? Are you sharing numbers and facts when stories and demonstrations are needed, or do your stories need more data and explanation?

3) Have you listened?

When you don’t hear what people tell you, they naturally think you don’t care, they lose heart, and they’ll stop caring.

Not sure if your team is being heard? Ask a few team members to share with you: “Is there anything you’ve been trying to tell me that I’m just not hearing?”

Be quiet and listen. Thank them for sharing…and respond in time, even if it’s to explain constraints or why you’re taking a different direction. You don’t have to agree, but you do need to hear.

4) Are you credible?

If your people can say, “You don’t know what you’re talking about” and they have evidence to back up their conclusion, well, expect to be ignored.

You build your credibility. You can’t demand it. Can people trust you? Can they rely on you? Take a moment and seriously consider the answer to these questions. If you were on your own team, would you trust you, based only on what you see and experience?

5) Do you know what matters to your people?

If the values you’re promoting conflict with your team’s values, you’ll have trouble being heard. I worked with a CEO who was disappointed that her employees were leaving work when they were scheduled to leave. She wanted people who valued going the extra distance to get things done. Her employees loved their work, but they also valued their family and friends and considered it nearly immoral to sacrifice family relationships for work.

6) Are you ordering people or inviting them?

Look at both the literal words you’re using as well as the attitude behind them.

Do your words and attitude communicate dignity and equal worth? Or do your words and attitude suggest that you’re better than everyone else and they should just do what they’re told?

7) Have you explained why?

Your team’s lack of response may be because they don’t understand the consequences. Why is this important? How does it make a difference to other people? To the bottom line? Even military briefings include the reasons and objectives behind the orders.

8) Did you check for understanding?

When you share a task and ask “Are there any questions?” you will likely be met with silence.

Don’t assume that silence means they get it. Silence could mean confusion, embarrassment, or that they think they understand.

Rather, ask your team something like: “Let’s make sure we’re on the same page. What are the three things we’re doing coming out of this meeting? Why does this matter? When will these be finished? Make sure they received what you thought you communicated.

9) Have you said it often enough?

I have coached many frustrated leaders who complain that their team is insubordinate or unresponsive.

So then I ask “When was the last time you shared this task or explained what was supposed to happen?”

Some of the answers I’ve heard include:

  • “At that off-site year before last…”
  • “We were in the hallway six months ago…”
  • “At the company meeting last January…”

If you’ve communicated something once, you haven’t communicated.

As hard as it may be for your ego to accept, your team members have other lives. They have constant challenges confronting them every day.

It’s unrealistic to believe that something you said one time, last year, is on everyone’s mind. If it’s important, be the drummer. Keep the beat and consistently communicate the MITs (Most Important Things.)

10) Have you said it in different ways?

People receive information differently. I’m a reader first, audio second, and video third. But many other people get much more from video or other visuals.

As you reinforce the MITs, use different communication techniques.

We recommend 6×3 communication. The idea is to repeat critical information at least six times through three or more channels. For example, you might use a staff meeting, a video, and one-on-one meetings for your three different channels.

Your Turn

When it feels like your team won’t listen, it is easy to get frustrated and give in to the temptation to yell louder. But effective leaders know that when it seems no one’s listening, there are likely other issues that need to be resolved.

If you feel like your team won’t listen, ask yourself these ten questions…and listen to your answers.

Leave us a comment and share: How do you ensure you’ve been heard when communicating with your team?

 

Five Ways Managers Screw Up MBWA

No matter what level leader you are, if you want to really make an impact on your team, get out of your office. Walk around. Connect with the human beings you’re supporting, and their customers. Listen to them. Act on what you hear. Explain the “why” behind “what” you’re asking them to do. Ask deeper questions and listen even harder. Thank them for their input. Recognize their efforts.

Do even half of this every single week and your influence and results are bound to improve.

And yet, if you get out of your office, and stir things up, without a sincere “How can I best help?” and “What must I learn?” approach, you’re likely to make things worse for your employees, your business, and your customers.

If you overreact, under-support, or act like you’re above the day-to-day BS that’s driving them crazy, you’ll jeopardize your credibility and influence, not to mention the results you’re looking to achieve.

Five Ways Managers Screw Up MBWA (Management By Walking Around)

Be careful that MBWA doesn’t become OCHTC (Oh Crap, Here They Come)

1. Over-reacting to a Single Incident

One employee in one office is screwing up your new program, or can’t explain your new product, and you conclude that “no one gets it,” and frantically start gathering all your National leaders together to fix this “Big Problem,” which might actually be just one dude with his head in the sand.  And you know what everyone else is thinking, including your National leaders who are scrambling to fix the “Big Problem?”

“Seriously, if s/he wants to work on something BIG, let’s me show him the real fish we have to fry.” But of course, they don’t say that.

That would be defensive, and they’re not stupid. So they diaper drama  the conversation and do exactly what they’re told. And save the real conversation for another time.

If you’re lucky.

2. The “Gotcha” Game

With the wrong tone and an imbalanced lens, all those “helpful pointers” feel more like “gotcha.” It’s great to point out what can be done better, along with stories and sharing of best practices, but be sure you’re also looking for the good news. I’ve seen many execs come through sweating all the small stuff that was “wrong” and completely overlooking the huge accomplishments of the team. Sure, they MAY remember to throw away the pizza box in the break room next time, but they’ll certainly remember that you didn’t even mention their significant sales wins. In some cultures the word on the street is that you “Can’t ever have a good executive visit, the best you can do is not have a bad visit.” Trust me, if that’s the case, you’ll get better long-term results by staying in your office.

3. The Drive-By

You come in long enough to make an appearance, but don’t spend time making any real connection. Such drive-bys feel like you’re checking off a to-do. Equally destructive is showing up, and heading to a nearby office to close the door and take calls. Wandering around takes time.

4. The High-Maintenance Prep

In anticipation, the team runs around making everything just right. Even if you think you’re low maintenance, watch what your local team is doing to prepare. It sends a terrible message to the frontline when local management starts scurrying to “clean up the place” or order special food in advance of your visit. A clean work environment is important for the employees every day, not for the execs. I once had a Director apologize to me that he had not “had the rugs replaced in advance of my visit.” They were filthy and needed replacing, but not for me.

5. The Talking Tour

MBWA is about listening and learning. Sure it’s great to reinforce priorities, but be sure you’re really taking the time to listen to ideas and concerns and to ask what you can do to be most helpful. Listen well, take great notes, follow-up with the person who shared their idea.

A MBWA  (Management By Walking Around) Secret Weapon

When I was a call center Director, I worked for a Senior VP who was strong, tough and introverted. Wandering around did not come naturally for her. But, she was a good leader who deeply understood the value and made it a point to spend quality time in the centers. So the morning before her visit, we went to each rep’s desk and color coded their cubes with helium balloons all representing something they had accomplished:  yellow was perfect attendance, red meant they had attained a degree or certification that year, white symbolized they were exceeding goals, etc. We even threw in a few personal ones, like having a baby. That way as she wandered around she had instant conversation starters. Her congratulatory remarks flowed easily into how they were accomplishing their work and where they needed the most help. Plus, the visit felt like an uplifting celebration of the team, not of making things just right for her.

MBWA is powerful and important. Done well, it makes all the difference in the world. Take the time to do it right.

improve customer service

Three Ways to Stop Your NPS Program From Destroying Your Customer Experience

I love NPS programs (Net Promoter Score)--when they’re designed and executed well. When I was at Verizon,  The Ultimate Question was required reading for every manager on my team.

And today, most of my clients use NPS in one way or another and we work to ensure that their internal metrics are helpful indicators of the view from the outside.

But when implemented poorly, I’ve seen NPS programs tick off valued customers who otherwise were having a reasonable customer experience.

If you haven’t kicked the tires on your NPS program for a while, be sure you’re focused on the three vital areas.

Three Ways to Stop Your NPS Program From Destroying Your Culture

  1. Incent your employees to play the game, not game the score. Last week I was eating at a diner at BWI airport. I couldn’t help but overhear as the overly cheesy waiter with the bad jokes and the mixed up drink orders serving the couple at the table next to me offered to “Take 5 bucks off their bill right now” if they would take the online survey  and “Rate me a 5 out of 5 for the exceptional experience I have provided you. Oh, and be sure to mention my name.”  When employees are incented by the score, they’ll care more about the rating than the experience. Even if those customers took the five bucks, their score is clearly not an indicator of their experience that day. No one walks away a promoter after being bribed.
  2. If they tell you it’s broken, do what you can to fix it. A few hours after the diner incident, my client called with an emergency change in plans and asked to put push our meetings back a day. I called the hotel chain where I have stayed close to 400 nights and asked if I could modify my reservation. I was informed that they would be happy to move the reservation up (still staying two days) but that I would still be responsible for paying for the night I had to cancel. I was frustrated, but the policy was on their side. I wasn’t going to make a fuss. Until… I went to the hotel (which was practically empty) and one thing after another went wrong… only decaf coffee in the room, shampoo not refilled, dirty everywhere, unfriendly staff. So when I logged in to their Wifi that night and they asked me to take a survey. I did and rated them a 3 with all the reasons. Within 10 seconds another window came up asking me for my room number so they could make it right. Then the next window that popped up was inviting me to leave a Trip Advisor review!  (Which I didn’t, out of long term loyalty to this company). It’s a week later and no one has contacted me to “make it right” as promised.They would have been better off not setting that expectation, and certainly not inviting detractors to leave a Trip Advisor review!

    And…
  3. Take the long view on detractors. Of course “making it right” is a good start, but doesn’t do much good if you don’t fix the root cause of the issues. I’ll never forget my first week on the job as a call center director. My team leaders were all stressed out, with more work to do than they could possibly get done. When I did an analysis of how they were spending their time, I found they were spending hours a day calling back customer detractors (people who had rated us less than 5 on the NPS). Most of these detractors had issues that could be categorized in one of three categories. There were NO plans in place to identify and discuss themes at a center level and to address the root cause. Yes, yes, call your detractors and do what you can to make it right. But don’t forget to use the data strategically to fix the process and policy issues driving your customers crazy.

Customers don’t care about your internal customer scorecard. Be sure every employee on your team knows what matters most. Focus on the game, don’t game the score.