5 Top Leadership Articles Week of 12-11-2017

5 Top Leadership Articles for the Week of December 11, 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.

When Leadership Demotivates Employees by Mary Kelly, PhD. US Navy Ret.

I was part of an organization that loved conducting employee surveys. As an economist and leadership author, I love data that yields results. However, surveys need to be properly conducted, or the intention can backfire.

The leaders dutifully distributed survey after survey about work conditions, corporate culture, and ways to improve the workplace.

The problem was that the senior leadership didn’t share the information collected, nor what they planned to do with it. It was simply busy work for the sake of appearing to do something that looked like leadership, but clearly was not.

As employees realized that they were spending time on surveys that didn’t matter, their attitudes shifted. Employees felt that their time, their inputs, and their jobs didn’t matter. Worse, it was rumored that the survey was actually intended to pinpoint unhappy employees to get rid of them.

My Comment: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen scenarios like this play out with employee morale taking a nose dive, leaders frustrated, and at a huge waste of time, money, and energy.

If you’re going to gather information of any kind, whether through a survey or just asking for feedback, it is critical that you plan and commit to responding before you get the information. Don’t ask questions you’re not prepared to address. Asking a question and then ignoring the answers makes you look craven or manipulative. In contrast, when you Channel Challengers and productively respond to feedback, your credibility soars.

How Leaders and Their Teams Can Stop Executive Hubris by Jonathan Mackey and Sharon Toye

If an organization has just one or two people whose power has gone to their head, it can demoralize subordinates, cause valuable talent to flee, disempower teams, and lead to foolhardy strategies. Whether you are a board member, a CEO, a senior executive, a high-potential employee on the rise, or an HR leader concerned about culture, you need to understand how such hubris works so you can head off its destructive effects on careers and on your company.

My Comment: This is an excellent article to help you address excessive confidence in both executives and to prevent it from happening to you. As the authors point out, this hubris is often acquired over time as leaders encounter fewer peers and people who will tell them the truth. You can counter these influences with intentional strategies to leverage doubt in decision-making, Own the UGLY, and Channel Challengers.

10 Questions to Ask Your Employees Every Quarter by Michael McKinney

Most leaders (the less than great ones) can become afraid of learning their employees’ true feelings towards the company and its overall structure. In turn, they shy away from even initiating such conversations and asking the important questions.

Strong leaders, on the other hand, happily ask these questions with an eye on making things better for their team. When everyone is heard and acknowledged, only then can a leader make the right decisions and give each employee what he or she needs. If you don’t ask, who will?

My Comment: WOW – there is definitely a theme this week – three articles in a row focused on getting feedback from your employees. McKinney’s questions will help you assess your team’s health and how the individual employee is doing. In order to make questions like these to work, you’ll need to have built relationships with your people (so it feels like a conversation, not an interrogation). In addition, be sure not to react or punish people for the feedback they share.

Are You a Micromanager or a Macromanager? By Julie Giulioni

Micromanager. It’s one of the least flattering labels one can be tagged with in business today. It connotes an unproductive level of involvement in the work and work products, excessive need for control, nit-pickiness, attention to unnecessary details and a generally unpleasant overall workplace experience. Nobody wants to be a called a micromanager.

Question: But, what’s the alternative?

Answer: Become a macromanager!

My Comment: There are some great suggestions in this one to help you get out of the weeds, stop micromanaging, and focus on what matters most. One of the things I appreciate here is Julie’s acknowledgement that many managers micromanage because it’s all that they know. They know how to do the work. They know the individual contributor role very well. It’s uncomfortable to learn a new set of skills and to view the world differently – from the view of a macromanager. One additional way to avoid micromanaging is to focus on how you delegate. Focus on the outcome. Don’t delegate the “how”; delegate the “what”, be clear about the finish line, and schedule a mutual appointment to receive the project back from your team member.

The 8 Best Interview Questions You Could Ever Ask by Jim Haudan

I’ve interviewed a lot of people in my career for all kinds of positions and from many backgrounds. Most people have favorite interview questions to ask and some believe certain questions can quickly reveal what they need to know about a candidate’s cultural and positional fit.

The leaders with the greatest success in hiring the right talent often like to point to the exact questions that made it clear that a candidate would or wouldn’t work. I’ve made it a hobby to consider the questions that really made me think and to experiment with the ones that make it hard for interviewees to prep for, as those are the ones that reveal the most.

I often ask people from different walks of life about their “go to” interview questions and why are they so important. Here’s what I’ve collected:

My Comment: I’m a fan of behavior-based interviewing. If you only have 20 minutes with a candidate, start there. This is an interesting list of interview questions for the times when you want to go deeper. Most of them provoke thinking and may give you insights into a candidate. They may be most useful when you’re looking at a deeper partnership with someone. Some of these questions, however, I’d have to see in practice before I would recommend them. In particular, #3 is absolutely not mutually exclusive and I’m curious what is behind this one.

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.

6 Ways to Get the Information You Need to Make the Best Decision

6 Ways to Get the Information You Need to Make the Best Decisions

Mark stared at the floor, his jaw clenched in frustration.

I was sitting with a leader who had just crashed and burned. He’d made a decision that had cost him his reputation and maybe his job.

He looked up at me and with a quiet whisper, Mark asked, “Why didn’t anyone tell me?”

The sad part was that it didn’t have to happen this way. People in his organization knew it wasn’t a good call…

But he never heard their feedback.

He was known for an explosive temper, for belittling and shaming people who saw things differently than he did, and he only ever asked people to validate what he thought.

In short, he never knew how to Channel Challengers.

Many people in positions of power often sabotage themselves and create environments where no one will tell them the truth – often difficult truths about themselves.

If you want to achieve breakthrough results, however, you’ve got to make the best decisions possible. To do that you need to have as much relevant information as possible.

6 Ways to Get the Information You Need to Make the Best Decision

Here are six ways to Channel Challengers and ensure you have the truth and get the feedback you need:

  1. Ask for the Truth

Regularly encourage dialog in your team. Ask people to teach you one thing you didn’t know. Become a person known for caring what’s really going on. Does what you hear match what you see?

  1. Say Thank You

When someone shares a hard truth, especially about you, thank the person for having the courage, taking the time, and caring enough to share it with you.

  1. Respond

If you ask for input, take time to respond. Even if the ideas aren’t actionable, when you acknowledge that the ideas were heard and considered, you increase the likelihood of hearing more in the future.

  1. Never Ever Shoot the Messenger

If someone has the heart and courage to bring you a difficult truth, even if you vehemently disagree, bite your lip. If you attack them, they won’t bring you another concern.

  1. Find Your Truth-Tellers

There are people who understand their team, environment, or processes and are willing to voice their observations. Find these people, keep in regular communication, and let them know you value their observations.

  1. Look In the Mirror

If you suspect you are not hearing the truth from those around you, it is time to look in the mirror and examine how you are interacting with others. I would bet you are not doing one or more of the first four items on this list.

If you are struggling to see it, ask others for input, find a mentor, or consider a leadership coach.

Your Turn

It may take time, but if you consistently Channel Challengers by asking for the truth, showing gratitude for input, and responding to it, you will earn trust, gain credibility, and have the information you need to make the best decisions.

Leave us a comment and share: How do you ensure you hear the truth from your team and colleagues?

How to host a great end of year meeting

End-of-Year Meetings: How to Make Yours Remarkable

In one way or another, your team has had an incredible year. Fill in the blank: It was incredibly ________(successful, challenging, stressful). Maybe it was all you hoped and planned for. Maybe you got thrown a whopper of a curve ball. Or maybe you can’t wait for the calendar to turn over and start again. Your team’s feeling it too. Don’t throw the opportunity out with the holiday wrappings. Carve out time to talk about it.

It’s tempting to have a “no one talks about work” luncheon, do the secret Santa thing and have a few giggles. Or, to jump right into 2018 planning, “after all the past is behind us.” The best meetings build both results and relationships, and an end-of-year meeting done remarkably well sets the stage for thoughtful reflection and a more energized start to the new year.

How to Have a Remarkable End-of-Year Meeting

Make a CAREful plan and have your best meeting ever.

C- Celebrate 

Celebrate both results and the human beings who achieved them.  Be sure your team knows the Most Important Things (MIT) they accomplished in terms of both results and building relationships. For example, it’s not just the 28% increase in efficiency, it’s also that they improved the contentious relationship with IT that made the collaboration possible.

If you’re doing formal recognition, resist the urge to just pick the top three by the numbers of a stack rank. Consider HOW the results were achieved. There’s nothing more demoralizing to a team than seeing their boss recognize some bozo who gamed and back-stabbed his way to the top. If there’s any chance your team will be texting one another “WTF” when an award is given, supplement your criteria to include behaviors that matter.

A-Acknowledge

Acknowledge the disappointments. Acknowledge what you could have done better. Acknowledge the effort that may not have paid off the way you would have hoped. Acknowledge the effort that did.  When we ask our audiences  “What’s one thing you feel underappreciated for?” at work, the number one answer is always, “The time I spend developing my people.” Acknowledge that too.

R-Renew

Do something to refresh and renew. One year one of my sales managers took his team bird watching in the local park, before digging into their strategic review. Another year I hired a caricature artist to come do a composite sketch of the team. Another time, we had white elephant exchange, but instead of wacky presents, each member of the team brought their favorite business book– people were stealing from one another right and left, and the side effect was a lot of strategic reading and dialogue happening that year. Most years at Verizon, I brought my team to my home for a planning session followed by a dinner celebration. Find some way to refresh and have some fun along with the reflection and planning.

E-Engage

Engage the team. Ask each team member to reflect on their own contributions in terms of results and relationships this year, as well as disappointments.

If you’re holding a small meeting with just your direct reports give them time to share. If you’re hosting a larger event, there are lots of fun ways to engage and capture reflections, from sticky notes and grouping themes; to “best of”/”worst of” reflections on index cards collected at the beginning and sorted into themes; to simple polling texting apps, with results projected immediately on the screen.

Find a way to get your team’s best view of the year into the conversation.

2018 Fast Start

Operational Excellence RalliesGet your team off to a fast-start in 2018. Learn more about our Let’s Grow Leaders Operational Excellence Rallies. Let’s us help you and your team have a remarkable fast start to the new year.  We’d love to talk more about how we can custom-design a one or two-day strategic working session with high ROI.

 

how to lead a succssful project

Six Reasons Even the Best Project Managers Fail

The project is mission critical, and complicated with lots of moving parts across departments. You’ve assigned your rock star, PMI certified project manager to shepherd the process and the project is way behind schedule. She’s frustrated, you’re one missed deadline away from frantic, and your boss wants to know what she can do to help. What next?

Six Reasons Even the Best-Run Projects Derail

When great project managers fail, which they sadly sometimes do, the root cause is almost never a breakdown in a technical expertise. More pressure on the PM won’t solve these issues; neither will more frequent readouts or points of escalation. When your great PMs fail, take a step back and check for these surefire project derailers.

1. Lack of Executive Alignment

Of course, every exec in the room was “all in” when their boss said, “Fix this now, we need all hands on deck.” But what exactly does that mean?

What exactly are we fixing now and how?

What does success look like?

Which departments are going to do what by when and how will we know? If this is not clear at the executive level, you’ll never foster true collaboration a level or three below.

How does this issue rank in priority to the other top 3 issues everyone is already working on night and day?

When your PM goes out looking for support and resources, where does this rank? Are you sure all are aligned?

2. It’s Not the MIT (Most Important Thing). 

Closely correlated to number 1, your project team members are attending your meetings, agreeing to next steps, and then going back to their “real” priorities and day jobs. If your project is not what’s top of mind for their boss, it’s unlikely any tasks will be on the top of their to-do list.

3. The Team’s Full of B-Players

I’m guilty as charged. Perhaps you are too. Have you ever been asked to commit resources to a project that you feel is a distraction from your MIT? All “headcount” is not the same. If your project is failing, you may have more than one leader giving you less than their A team.

4. They’re Too Stressed to Put People Before Projects

The pressure’s on and the team jumped right in, no wasted time. Teams take a minute to gain trust and to build collaboration. If the team is failing, a quick time out to focus on the people issues might be just the trick. Go slow to go fast.

5. No One Wants to Hear the Tough Stuff

If #3 doesn’t apply, you have the A-team, everyone’s aligned on MITs and expectations, but you’re telling the team to stop complaining and make it happen– you might be missing the most valuable insights for true project success. Be sure you and your team are taking time to channel challengers.

6. PMs Don’t Feel Empowered to Have the Tough Conversations

No project succeeds without clear expectations and accountability. But so many of the PMs we work with share how hard this is without the support they need to lead through influence.  Here’s our INSPIRE methodology applied to Project Managers.

I.N.S.P.I.R.E. Model for Project Managers

Your turn. When great project managers struggle, or when important projects derail, where do you look first?

5 Top Leadership Articles 11-27-2017

5 Top Leadership Articles for the Week of November 27, 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.

The 5 Things Mediocre Managers Forget (But Inspirational Leaders Never Do) by Chad Perry

Most of my career has been in leadership roles — and I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I mean, a lot of mistakes. More than I can count.

I’ve learned about leadership the hard way. I’ve learned the most about leading by doing it the wrong way.

I can still remember when I first hit the management track. My very first thought? “Finally, I don’t have to be ‘on’ all day!”

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

So with that in mind, here are some things I once forgot, and I’m sure others have too at some point in their careers.

My Comment: This is one of those rare articles that has made two appearances in the Top 5 – and with good reason. I once read a fable that said the “curse of our humanity is that we forget.” Those words stuck with me and they will certainly resonate as you read Perry’s article. I’ve watched so many fantastic team members enter management roles and forget the very things Perry mentions. I know I’ve done it too. How can you prevent yourself from forgetting: What it’s like to follow? That you can be wrong? And more…

The Importance of Surrounding Yourself with the Right People by Lewis Howes

“Surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you, even when you don’t see it in yourself.” Edmund Lee

I’ve got another epic custom track from Fearless Motivation for you today. This one is on a topic that I really believe in.

We are so influenced by the people we surround ourselves with. It’s nearly impossible to rise to your own personal greatness if you aren’t surrounding yourself with people who are doing the same.

My Comment: Look back at motivational speakers through the centuries and you will find a common thread: surround yourself with people who are doing what you want to do and who are like the person you want to become. This isn’t empty hype. Your brain takes shortcuts to keep you safe and healthy with the minimum amount of effort. One of the big shortcuts it takes is to look at the people around you. What are they doing? If you do that too, you’re likely to be okay. Peer pressure is a real phenomenon that you can use to propel yourself.

13 Amazing Travel Gift Ideas for Entrepreneurs Who Never Stop by Rose Leadem at Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs aren’t known for their fondness for sitting around. We’re always on the go! And while traveling around the country, or world, can be fun and exciting, it’s also exhausting and sometimes even a little stressful. Getting enough sleep, staying healthy, being organized — these are only a small number of the obstacles of constant travel. Luckily, there are tons of products available today to make traveling smooth and stress-free. Here are a few of our faves for you nomadic types.

My Comment: First, I was surprised at how popular this article was. I guess many of you have entrepreneurs in your life and the holidays are approaching. Karin and I totally fit the description of “on-the-go entrepreneur” – I spoke in seven countries last year and had several ten-day stretches that included eight airplanes. That said, #6 is cool and #7 is intriguing.

5 Tips for Measuring Employee Engagement by Saige Driver at Business News Daily

Every employer has heard the words “employee engagement,” but do most executives truly understand what it means? More importantly, do they know how to measure it?

Employee engagement is important because involved employees are typically more productive, have more energy and are more creative.

“Engaged employees are passionate about what they do,” said David Almeda, chief people officer at Kronos Incorporated. “Highly engaged employees build better products and take better care of customers because they want to, not because they are told to.”

My Comment: I invite you to approach this article with caution. Measuring employee engagement is useful, but can also be very destructive. The worst thing you can do is survey your people and then either ignore what they said or, as I’ve seen happen, punish them for their answers. Another poor practice I’ve seen: executives don’t realize the extent of Gamer manager behaviors and managers bribe or pressure their people to answer differently than they might.

If you want inspired, energized employees who give discretionary effort, be prepared to do the work. The survey is just a measurement to let you know where you’re starting. Before measuring, commit to the work of fixing your broken systems, of developing your leaders, and addressing cultural issues that undermine trust and collaboration.

Lessons I Learned from Adversity by Shubha Apte

With the hectic pace of today’s world, we easily get caught up in the busyness of life.

We are forever stressed, overwhelmed, and running errands, attending to work, rushing to office, stuck in traffic jams. Our mind is swirling with thoughts, and we have no control over it. We do not even think to press the pause button and listen to the body whispers.

The bones creak, joints are screaming for attention, but we don’t care. There is a lot of work to get done and many mountains to climb. The to-do list never ends and goals remain goals forever.

My Comment: Apte has some important reminders for us in this piece. Your leadership is a marathon, not a sprint. Take care of yourself so you’re able to go the full distance. Reflect and know what matters most. Filter the noise. Always pertinent.

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.