Leadership Training ROI Karin Hurt and David Dye

5 Powerful Ways to Ensure Leadership Training Sticks

“Don’t bother me with this crap. I don’t believe in leadership training. It’s a complete waste of time. It’s nothing against you as the new Training Director. I get that I have to work with you in some way. If you MUST talk training, please work through Joe (one of my directors), he’s the most touchy-feely of my direct reports, I’m sure he’ll be nice to you.”

Yikes. Those were the words I heard from Beth, one of the Presidents I was asked to support, in my new role as training director at Verizon.

The truth is, I appreciated her candor. She’s not alone. A lot of senior leaders are skeptical of training ROI.

“You want me to take my people out of the field, where they could be serving customers and bringing in new business for theory and games? No thank you.”

And I get it. No one wants that kind of training. I’ve certainly been to my fair share of flavor-of-the-month training, and have my own bookshelf of binders full of good ideas, not implemented.

I’ve also attended great training that helped me change the game.

I imagine you have too. What makes the difference?

5 Ways to Make Leadership Training Stick and Increase ROI

Training is only valuable when it leads to sustained behavior change and improved business results.

Great leadership training is a process, not an event.

Great leadership training is closely aligned with strategic business initiatives.

Great leadership training inspires managers with new ideas and tangible ways to improve the business.

Great leadership training creates long-term change in individual behavior and business results.

I’m grateful for Beth’s challenge in the first few weeks of a job that what was to become a formative role, both in my Verizon career and now, running my own leadership development company.

I was sure that Beth couldn’t hate training that truly made her people and results stronger. She just hated bad training. Who doesn’t? (P.S. Beth later promoted me into my most significant operations role at Verizon where I reported directly to her).

Here are 5 ways to ensure a stronger ROI and to make training stick:

  1. Design the training around business outcomes.
    Don’t start training until you have a strong vision of what will be different as a result. What behaviors are you looking to change? How will that impact your MIT (Most Important Thing– strategic goals)? Don’t stop at “We need stronger team leaders.” Go deeper. Get specific. Work with a training partner who understands your business and who can build a program to achieve exactly what you need.
  2. Build programs that include the participant’s manager.
    Training doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Be sure you have real buy-in from the level above. You don’t just want conceptual support. Managers need insights and specifics about what is being trained and how they can best support it. We love to do an executive briefing session before our programs so leaders understand the ROI, are prepared with strategic questions, and have a clear path to support their teams’ learning and application.
  3. Include teams in implementation.
    It’s scary for people to have their managers go off to training and then come back and feel like an experiment as the manager implements four new ideas without any explanation. You’ve probably lived through a manager who brought back a new idea, used it for a week, then forgot about it. That’s frustrating for the team and the manager loses credibility. Be sure your managers know how to talk with their teams about what they are doing differently and why. The best leadership training has an ROI that cascades beyond the manager being trained.
  4. Deliver training in digestible learning over time.
    You can’t learn to lead in one half-day workshop. Even if you have a limited budget, find creative ways to build programs that combine learning with practice, reflection, and feedback. We love to leverage new technology that incorporates simple micro-learning push-technology to learners’ phones via text message between sessions to inspire and reinforce real-world application.
  5. Welcome new ideas, insights, and help them take the next step
    Great leadership training is bound to get your managers fired up with new ideas. Listen to their insights and find ways say “Yes” to what might happen next. When they come back with ideas to improve the business, listen. If it’s something you’ve tried before, invite them to the next step. Rather than “We tried that, it doesn’t work” you might try: “In the past when we’ve tried that, we ran into an issue with X. I’d love for you to think about how we might overcome that and implement your idea.”

Your Turn

How do you ensure your leadership training create real behavior change and lasting results?

my peers are lazy: how do I stay motivated?

My Peers Are Lazy: How Do I Stay Motivated?

So often we talk with clients or teams who are frustrated because their peers are lazy. Perhaps you’ve been there. What advice would you give to someone dealing with a slacker co-worker? 

Dear Karin and David,

How do I stay motivated when my peers are lazy? I’m working twice as hard as them and I’m sick of picking up the slack. My boss doesn’t seem to notice.

Signed,

Tired and Frustrated #AskingForAFriend

If Your Peers are Lazy: A Few Dos and Dont’s

Dear Tired and Frustrated,

We’ve both been there, and you have a right to be frustrated. Keep in mind that these peers are temporary, but your track record is forever. Don’t let the #$#%@#%@# slackers tank your hard work. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to consider.

  1. DO keep rocking your role.
    Stay focused on your MITs (most important things) to serve your customers and the business. Stay creative. Chances are your boss is picking up a lot more than you know. Performance management conversations happen behind closed doors. I wish we could tell you how many performance issues we’ve dealt with that we longed to share with the high-performers we knew were frustrated, but couldn’t. Be sure you keep building your brand with a strong track record of results and collaborative relationships.
  2. DON’T gossip or whine about the scene.
    Whatever you do, don’t let their bad behaviors turn you into a jerk. Take the high road, and count on karma. 
  3. DO ask your boss how you can help.
    Resist the temptation to start with the words,  “I know we’ve got a lazy team…,” if it’s true, she already knows. Use this as an opportunity to become go-to support. With a team of slackers, she can use all the help she can get and will be grateful for your support (and a grateful boss can never hurt).
  4. DON’T become a victim. 
    You don’t have to do their work. Stay focused on your deliverables and nail them. If your co-worker consistently drops the ball, let him experience a few of the consequences. Do your best to foster a culture of accountability.
  5. DO build a network of support.
    Seek out folks with similar ambition and work ethic to support and challenge you. Find a mentor. Seek out peers on other teams. Take on a leadership role in a professional association.  Genuine connections are lighter fluid on the fire of motivation. Find people who get you and you admire and find ways to spend more time together.
  6. DO speak the truth.
    (Or as we often say: “Ditch the Diaper Genie“) When a team member breaks a promise or doesn’t deliver on their commitment to you, it’s often useful to have a healthy conversation about it. Start by observing the behavior. e.g. “I noticed that the report you said you’d get me isn’t in my email.” Note the consequences: “We can’t take care of the customer without that information.” Then invite them into the conversation: “What’s happening there? When can you have it to me?” Sometimes just the act of personalizing work and connecting what you need to why you need it can help slackers pick up their pace.

Who wants to play? What advice would you give Tired and Frustrated?

 

Have a leadership or management question? Send it here and we’ll do our best to share our perspective.

 

secrets to an actionable talent review

7 Big Rules For a Successful Talent Review

Their faces turned a little green when they realized I was in earshot. “I’ll talk up your candidate if you talk up mine,” and “Let’s be sure to downplay their developmental opportunities so they end up in the right box (referring to the performance potential grid),” AND worst of all, “He’s not perfect, but who is, and we’ve been friends a long time, and he’s paid his dues,” is not what the HR Director (the role I was playing at the time) wants to hear before a talent review.

“Guys… (and yup, they were all guys)… You get why this is completely counter-productive right?”

We fixed that scene.

But the truth is, we all know these kinds of conversations are happening right outside the door of many talent review sessions, just beyond HR’s earshot.

That’s why when a client asks me to help with their talent review process, we always agree to these rules up front. Otherwise, it’s just a pretty grid that many hope will be ignored. That doesn’t advance the talent strategy of the organization and just leads to frustration.

Seven Big Rules For a Successful Talent Review

  1. Think forward. What skills does our future require?
    This is particularly tricky for leaders doing a talent review for the first time. Human nature says “Pick me (or someone who looks and thinks like me).” But if you’re really focused on a future succession plan, a long step back to consider the skills needed for the future is vital. Take a few minutes (having an objective third party can help) to really define the KSAs needed for your most strategic positions (and BTW, some of your most strategic positions may be highly skilled folks at the front line.)
  2. We speak the truth.
    Yes, talent reviews are important for identifying successors, but the EVEN MORE important part is finding the gaps and working on ways to grow the team to address them. If “John” is AWESOME, but still needs work in critical thinking, for &%@#$(@3% sake tell us that, so we can help John and get him the training and experience he needs for success.
  3. We care about the business, and the human beings we are talking about.
    We’re not trying to derail careers, we are looking to be helpful. Take a deep look at what the business and the people within it need. Let’s build a plan to leverage strengths and support development. Ask: EXACTLY how will we help people grow people into these roles?
  4. Every resource is a corporate resource.
    When we identify someone as high-performance/high potential, we’re all committed to developing them and looking out for the best opportunities for them and for the business. We’re committed to letting go of “mine” and “yours” and working together to seek out lateral assignments (that may feel like cutting off our right arm) and promotions.
  5. The list we create will guide our staffing decisions.
    This is perhaps the most vital. Building a map that no one has any intention of following is a big waste of times. If your team is not aligned on the decisions made in the session, take a pause and revisit the outcomes.
  6. How do we support and grow the hi-po individual contributors?
    They’re at the front-line, you need them, they may even be leading a small team, but they’re not your next CTO. How do you re-recruit these A-players and help them build a successful career, here?
  7. BONUS:  Take some time and talk about the other big rules you care about and want to agree to.
    Linger here as needed. Go to go fast, to have a successful talent review.

Your turn. What are the most important “rules” for a successful talent review?

Frontline Festival: Leaders Share about Strategy and Alignment

Welcome to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival on Strategy and Alignment. We asked thought leaders from around the world to share their very best post on strategy.

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 inspiring innovation and creativity. New contributors always welcome. Submit your relevant blog posts here!

Including Your Team and Customers in Strategic Planning Efforts

According to Jesse Stoner of Seapoint Center for Collaborative Leadership, one of the biggest mistakes leaders make is thinking they are supposed to have all the answers, especially when it comes to vision and strategy. There is a natural desire to look like you are smart and know what you’re doing,, but sometimes the smartest thing you can do is to involve your team. Here are eight guidelines to help you do it right.  Follow Jesse.

improve customer servicePaul LaRue of The UPwards Leader notices that many companies limit the amount of feedback they receive from customers and/or employees. Sometimes it’s an oversight; many times it’s deliberate to truncate open constructive discussion. Follow Paul

Ensuring Organizational Capacity to Execute Your Strategy

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement reminds us that it is important to plan well and to align the organization to successfully turn a strategy into action. Too little focus is given to building the capability of the organization to execute on the strategy. Lofty ideas without capability are not of much use, but the ability to execute strategy throughout the organization is powerful. Follow John.

Skip Prichard of Leadership Insights shares that no matter what process is used for strategy development, a strategic talent assessment is needed before “dropping the flag” on execution. There can be no achievement, nor alignment, without the right people in place.  Follow Skip.

According to Julie Winkle Giulioni of DesignArounds,  strategic alignment is a driving force for successful organizations. One thing exceptional leaders do is use ongoing performance dialogue to ensure that everyone is rowing in the same direction. Julie shares ways to supplement (or replace) the traditional performance appraisal process to keep your team aligned and executing your strategy well. Follow Julie

Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.
-Norman Schwarzkopf

Susan Mazza of Random Acts of Leadership shares that learning to work smarter, not just harder is a surefire way to accelerate and even amplify your success. However, there is a big difference between believing you can avoid hard work if you work smarter and knowing that working smarter will help ensure your hard work will pay off.  Follow Susan.

Ken Downer of Rapid Start Leadership gives us a bizarre social experiment reminiscent of Lord of the Flies, which sheds light on what it takes for leaders to unite a group of people and get them all pulling together. Follow Ken

Rachel Gray of Patriot Software, LLC  notes that in 2018, you might be looking for new strategies to drive customers to your small business. Creating a powerful and unique website that aligns with your business brand is a great strategy to increase customer traffic and, in turn, sales. Follow Rachel.

Simplify

The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”  —Michael Porter

Mind the MIT Let's Grow LeadersWally Bock of Three Star Leadership reminds us that if you want people in your organization to align their actions with your strategy, keep your strategy simple. Boil it down to a slogan if you can. Follow Wally.

Michelle Cubas, CPCC, ACC, of Positive Potentials, LLC has noticed that people tend to see strategy in terms of goals and action items while the strategy is the map with the overall vision. To bring clarity she shares a dynamic concept that visualizes the strategic planning process.  Follow Michelle.

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited  reveals a simple three word “strategy” that has guided her career for years.  Follow Beth.

Strategic Planning and Stepping Up to More

Wendy Dailey of My Dailey Journey relays that as she finds herself focusing more on networking & helping others, she thinks that a key to success is local groups. This post talks about stepping up to be a part of the bigger picture and engaging volunteers to build stronger professional organizations.   Follow Wendy.

Jon Mertz of Thin Difference reflects that some may view the past year with a sense of excitement while others view it as turmoil. In either view, finding our citizenship soul is critical. Follow Jon.

We’re always looking for new contributors to the Frontline Festival. If you’re a blogger, we welcome you to share your insights.

how to build a best in class new hire orientation

Make Your New Hire’s Day: 7 Ways to Improve the New HIre Experience

Your new hire is driving home from her very first day. What’s she feeling? What’s she going to tell her kids about mommy’s new job? When she wakes up at 3 am anticipating Day 2, what’s on her mind?

The statistics are astounding. There’s no question that the first day, and the 89 days that follow, have a huge impact on retention, engagement, and productivity. You can’t undo that first impression. Here are seven ways to make your new-hire orientation more memorable and meaningful.

7 Easy and Innovative Ways to Make Your New Hire’s Day

I’m going to assume you’ve got the basics down–who needs to sign what, security and confidentiality, and the shortest way the bathroom. Consider weaving a few of these ideas into your new hire’s first day.

1- Make it a Celebration

It doesn’t take much to create a little ruckus. A few balloons, a cupcake or a little bling can go a long way. Even a big poster board on their cube with a “We’re so glad you’re here” signed by the team sets a tone of celebration. If all that feels too crazy for your culture, how about a sincere card with a few sentences about why you chose them?  The important part is to make it sincere and personal. The first day in a new job is a big deal to them. Show them that they are important to you, too.

2- Connect Through Stories

Tell some stories about what it’s really like to work here. Be strategic in your messaging to reinforce key values–you want to inspire, but even more importantly you want to connect.  Sharing “How I learned this the hard way” stories or “Whatever you do don’t make this crazy mistake” funny stories are a great way to make a human connection.

3-Create a Family Welcome Kit

Take them to lunch and find out a bit more about them and the other important people in their lives. Then before they leave at the end of the day, pull together a gift bag with some branded bling for their significant others, and a nice card from you: Logo lollipops for the kids, a branded coffee mug for their spouse, or even a branded Frisbee to play catch with their friends. Of course, this requires a bit of pre-planning to build your stash, but once you have it, it’s easy to pull together some personalized fun that shows you’re paying attention and care about the people in their lives beyond work.

4- Let Them Do Something Productive

So many companies spend the first day giving new hires a fire hose of information–it can be a lot to retain. Try mixing up the orientation with a bit of real work that lets them add value immediately and get a taste of the role. It will build confidence and help punctuate the learning with some doing.

5- Visualize the MIT (Most Important Thing)

Find fun ways to visualize and reinforce your MIT priorities. If their job is to expand in global markets, give them a dollar store globe squishy ball.  If recruiting and retaining talent is #1, give them a magnet. Visuals are a fun conversation starter about what’s most important and why.

6-Make it Really Easy to Ask Questions

When I would go talk to the new hire classes at Verizon, I learned if I just asked for questions, I got all the politically correct ones. But if I passed out index cards and encouraged people to ask me anything on their minds, that’s when the real conversation started. If you’re just hiring one person at a time, assign them one of the most approachable peers as a buddy and encourage them to ask anything they want. They may be embarrassed to ask you or HR. Do everything you can to shorten their learning curve and reduce anxiety.

7. Help Them Build a Plan

Make it easy for your new hire to make connections and learn the business. Identify a few key people (not just in your department) that can help accelerate their learning curve and make some introductions and set some follow-up appointments for the first few weeks.

You may also want to introduce them to the Let’s Grow Leader’s EOY Planning Letter (FREE TOOL) — and instructions. They won’t know enough the first day to complete it, but it’s a great assignment to tee-up on day one and getting them to visual an amazing year. Have them write this letter to you as if

Of course, a copy of Winning Well also makes a nice welcome gift for a new manager 😉

Your turn. Would love to hear your creative ideas for ensuring your new hire has an amazing first day.

 

What to do when your boss cant focus

What to Do When Your Boss Can’t Focus?

Have you ever had a boss who couldn’t focus? What advice would you have for Scattered?

Dear Karin & David,

What do you do with a boss who makes it impossible to focus? We agree on a direction and three days later he has seventeen new ideas, dumps them on us, and the managers are expected to somehow get their teams organized and performing. We can’t ever finish one project before starting three more. Of course, I’m asking for a friend.

                                                                                                Please help!

                                                                                                -Scattered

Dear Scattered,

We hear you.

It can be incredibly frustrating when it feels like you can’t focus. We have worked for, consulted with many, (and even been) leaders whose frequent new ideas leave their people gasping for breath and confused as to where to focus.

The good news is that these leaders can bring many strengths to their jobs and together you can be very effective.

Let’s start by appreciating what your boss is bringing to the relationship. It sounds like your boss is an innovator. These people see the world as a series of opportunities.

They’re energized by possibilities and can create new and exciting ways of doing things. They often think about the big picture, start initiatives noone’s ever thought of, and are the antidote to lethargic “business as usual.” All sorts of ideas excite them and their enthusiasm can be contagious and motivating.

Remember these assets as you consider the challenges: they get distracted, their excitement can be exhausting, and it’s easy for projects to get lost as they pile up.

Next, let’s look at how you can help yourself and your boss to maintain focus.

First, have a conversation to establish the MITs for the year and for the immediate quarter. What is the Most Important Thing you and your team will achieve? We recommend you initiate this conversation so it doesn’t seem like a reaction or negation of your boss’s latest idea.

Next, communicate weekly with your boss about how you are making progress toward the agreed-upon MITs. (We recommend using the MIT Huddle Planner to facilitate these conversations.) This serves two purposes: First, it lets your boss know what you’re doing. Second, it subtly reminds your boss what you both agreed were the Most Important Things you would do.

4 Ways to Help Your Boss Focus

Third, when your boss brings their latest new idea:

  1. Take time to listen. Make the effort to understand why it excites them and why they think it’s a good idea.
  2. Validate their reason for suggesting it by reflecting what you hear. e.g.: “That sounds like a great way to get in front of more customers.” Note that this isn’t a commitment to do it. You’re entering into the conversation by ensuring you’ve understood the reason for their suggestion.
  3. Ask how it aligns with other priorities. e.g.: “I know you’ve asked us to prioritize the new product development and customer retention this quarter. Is this an alternative to those priorities? Would you like resources reassigned this quarter or is this for the future? Which of these initiatives is the Most Important Thing?”When you ask these clarifying questions, your boss will often think about just how much of a priority the new idea should be. Sometimes they’ll say something like “It’s a fun idea, but let’s maintain our current focus for now.” Other times, however, they’ll have a good reason that the new idea ought to be pursued. It may achieve more than an existing initiative or meet a more urgent issue your boss has to respond to.
  4. Check for Understanding. e.g.: “Okay, let me make sure I’ve got it: we’re going to stick with new product development and customer retention as our MITs this quarter. We’ll reconvene in six weeks to look at this idea with an eye to scheduling it for next quarter. Do I have that right?”

After this conversation, continue your weekly communications about the progress you’ve made on your MITs. This cadence of communication and conversation will help everyone think through priorities and shift them with clarity and purpose.

We’ve coached many managers on both sides of these conversations. In our experience, the idea-generating managers may initially be a little frustrated, but they come to value the questions.

In the words of Matt, a CFO who was frustrating his team with weekly new ideas:

“I hated it when my direct reports would ask me ‘How does this idea fit in with our other priorities?’ but after a few times, it helped me to really think it through and keep us focused on what mattered most.”

Let us know how you and ‘your friend’ use these conversations.

Your Question?

We love to hear from you. Send us your real leadership challenges (or ask for a friend!) and we’ll give you real answers.

See Also Forbes: 17 Tips For Dealing With a Disorganized Boss

why your team won't collaborate and what to do about it

Why Your Team Won’t Collaborate (and What To Do About It)

“I’m sick of this crap! My team won’t collaborate – why can’t they just figure this out?”

Scott was CEO of an engineering firm that produced communications hardware and software for industries around the globe.

He had worked hard with his board and senior leadership team to settle on their strategic M.I.T. for the next 18 months. They needed to launch a new product to remain competitive in a market they had once led.

He held a company meeting where he made the goal painfully clear to everyone in the room. “We need to get this new product to market by this deadline, or we’re out of business in five years.”

Within six weeks he was exasperated. His people were at war with one another. Several senior VPs were about to quit and the do-or-die deadline was looking like a dream.

We see this frequently: leaders lay out a clear M.I.T. (for more on the Most Important Thing), they check for understanding, and they turn their people loose to get after it.

Before too long, customer service and sales are at each other’s throats. Engineering and marketing are having shouting matches in the halls while finance and human resources won’t talk at all.

When their team won’t collaborate we’ve watched executives get frustrated and shout, “Why can’t you guys figure this out? Just work together and solve the problem!”

Maybe you’re a frontline leader and you’ve worked hard to establish a clear, shared team vision and the M.I.T. initiative for this quarter, but your team ends up squabbling.

Why Your Team Won’t Collaborate

When your people can’t unify in pursuit of a common, clearly established goal, the problem is usually that you’ve only established 50% clarity.

You’ve clarified results, but you haven’t clarified relationships – and that is frequently why your team won’t collaborate.

In Scott’s case (and this is VERY common) he had made the new product a priority, but was still evaluating individual departments based on other criteria.

For instance, customer service was evaluated on their ability to retain customers, but at the same time, engineering was all but ignoring response-to-existing-customer requests in favor of getting the new product to market. So customer service naturally saw stubborn engineering as a threat to their bonuses and even employment.

Customer service continually requested that sales lend some of their people to try to save existing accounts. Sales people were being assessed on quotas that were unrelated to the new product’s launch.

In short, everyone was doing what made the most sense for their individual success and was frustrated that their colleagues wouldn’t cooperate.

Scott had defined an overarching goal, but had left the organizational systems and processes untouched.

Those systems and processes were built to achieve different goals.

When his people came to him and asked whether the engineering prioritization of new product over customer retention was okay, he got frustrated. “Why can’t they just figure it out?”

The answer: Because he’d given them conflicting goals.

What To Do About It When Your Team Won’t Collaborate

Real teams succeed or fail together. They have a clear goal and they all have a clear role to play in achieving it.

Effective leaders establish clarity of results and relationships.

Clarity of results is often easier to define:

  • What’s the M.I.T. we must accomplish this year?
  • What are our three most important strategic M.I.T. initiatives?
  • What are the M.I.T. behaviors we need at the executive, manager, and frontline levels?

Clarity of relationships, however, requires you to address some additional questions:

  • How are roles and handoffs defined and communicated?
  • How do department or individual team member priorities align with M.I.T. initiatives?
  • What are the most important values, systems, and processes guiding everyone’s behavior?

In Scott’s case, this meant we had to ask and answer some tough questions:

  • Would customer retention goals be lowered or continue at prior levels?
  • Either way, how could these be achieved in ways that aligned with the timely new product launch?
  • How much attention should engineering give to resolving existing customer issues?
  • How would performance bonuses be changed to align with the stated M.I.T. of the new product launch?

Your Turn

If you’ve established a clear M.I.T. but people are siloed, caught in endless arguments, and the team won’t collaborate, take a hard look at the relational clarity and how you can get everyone aligned with the new goal – not just in theory, but in reality.

Leave us a comment and share your thoughts: How do you ensure that everyone on your team understands their role in achieving a shared goal?

5 ways leaders can focus when everything is important

5 Ways Leaders Can Focus When Everything Is Important

How do leaders stay focused when everything feels so important?

“Mark, What’s your M.I.T.?”

Mark pushed back from his desk. “That’s a great question. I’ve so much flying at me…” He sighed. “I don’t have a clue.”

Mark’s calendar might look familiar: wall-to-wall meetings, often with two or three appointments competing for the same window of time.

Management means an unending stream of information, problems to solve, decisions to make, fires to put out, constant interruptions from email, texts, phone calls, messaging apps, and that’s not to mention the projects you want to work on to build a better future.

It can seem like you’ll never get ahead.

The first step to address this overwhelm is to accept the reality that you cannot do everything. I often refer to this as “Infinite need, finite me.” You can’t succeed by doing everything – only by doing what matters most.

Once you’ve made peace with the reality of infinite need, finite me, it’s time to get crystal clear about your M.I.T. or Most Important Thing. In your work, what are the one to three most important strategic objectives you and your team can achieve?

Your ability to Mind the M.I.T. is critical to your success, but what if you don’t know what’s most important?

It’s not always as straightforward as we might hope. In fact, we’ve seen many frontline leaders and middle-level managers in organizations we work with struggle to identify their M.I.T.s.

Five Ways Leaders Can Focus When Everything Is Important

Here are five ways to figure out what’s most important and where you and your team can have the most impact:

1. Ask Your Boss.

When you feel swamped with competing priorities and initiatives, start by asking your supervisor: “What is the most important thing my team can accomplish this year?”

We’ve often sat with befuddled leaders and invited their manager to the conversation. We’ll ask the manager to identify the MITs and they rattle off the top one, two, or three priorities for the next year. They may not have communicated them well, but they knew what they were.

2. Think Two-Levels Above.

If your boss isn’t clear about the MITs, trying thinking up a level. What keeps your boss’s boss awake at night? What are the goals they’ve got to achieve? How does what your team does contribute to these outcomes? You might even try initiating a skip-level meeting in order to align your team with strategic goals. If your boss is amenable, invite them to join you.

3. Ask What Matters Most to Your Customers.

If you can’t get clarity from your managers, the next place to look is at the value you add for your customers. Whether you provide a product or service and whether you do that for external or internal customers, they don’t care about your scorecard. What do they care about? What are the one or two things your customers most need from you? Focus on doing that exceptionally well.

4. Ask What Matters Most to You and Your Team.

If you’re still struggling for clarity, imagine a day six months or a year into the future where you and your team are congratulating one another for having done your very best. What did you achieve? What made you most proud? How do you know you did your very best?

5. Look for the Leverage.

Often, there is one action you can take or one result you can produce that will have a profound effect on everything else. What is that one point of leverage that, if you did it successfully, would change the game for you, your team, and your organization?

Your Turn

When everything’s important, you blunt your impact. When you take time to figure out your one, two, or three strategic M.I.T.s, then relentlessly focus on them every day you’ll energize your team and results can soar.

Today, Mark has his three M.I.T.s written on a whiteboard in his office. He reviews them every day and discusses them with everyone he talks to. The team focuses on the specific behaviors that will help them achieve their M.I.T.s.

Leave us a comment and let us know: When everything feels important, how do you choose what is actually the Most Important Thing?

Got Influence? An Easy Way to Show Up Stronger

Got Influence? An Easy Way to Show Up Stronger

Are you looking to improve your influence? So was Brad.

“Brad” was a solid manager with stagnated results. He was great at constructive feedback and holding his team accountable, but recognition did not come naturally to him.  “Why should I say thank you to someone for just doing their job?”  He was frustrated with his team’s apathetic approach, and his inability to influence it, which only made him less inclined to celebrate the good stuff. As you can imagine his team began to feel like they “couldn’t do anything right,” which led to a downward spiral of more apathy and frustration.

We asked him to just add one new influence behavior to his daily routine–notice people on his team doing something right and tell them.

Everything else could stay the same. He committed to conducting five informal recognition moments a day, which meant that he had to go out of his way to find the good things that were happening, say something about them, and to measure them.

He put five rubber bands in his left pocket, and each time he observed (and affirmed) a positive behavior, he could move one rubber band to the right pocket. The goal was to finish with all the rubber bands in the right pocket by the end of the day.

That one simple change made a huge impact on his influence and results. His team began to do more of the behaviors he was encouraging, and he had less negative behaviors to criticize, reversing the spiral.

One simple change. Executed and measured well, made the difference.

How To Develop One New Leadership Influence Habit in the New Year

You can live on old habits for a while, but the future depends on investing in finding and building some new ones with (and for) your customers. Or your family. Or yourself. The most powerful insight is that you can do it with intent. You can decide that you want some new habits, and then go get them. -Seth Godin

 

If you’re like many leaders we work with, you’ve got a long list of good intentions–habits and behaviors that you know could make you a stronger leader if you did them consistently. But it’s hard. Old habits are hard to break, and you’re busy. It’s easier to just keep leading the old way.

At what cost?

What would happen if you picked JUST ONE of those behaviors and made it a habit?

Perhaps for you, it’s…

  • Calling five detractor customers each day to understand what went wrong
  • Reading to your child 20 minutes each day
  • Blocking one hour each day of white space on your calendar to think and plan strategically
  • A proactive, organized approach to updating your boss each week
  • A 15-minute walk at lunchtime
  • Holding a meaningful 10-minute huddle with your team each day
  • Meeting with each direct report for 30 minutes each week

The Approach

  • Pick one behavior you know that if you performed it consistently would help your team.
  • Set a specific goal. Determine EXACTLY what will you do and how will you measure it.
  • Measure the times you do the behavior each day.
  • Repeat each day for one month.
  • Assess the impact–after one month look at the impact on both results and relationships.

Don’t worry about tackling your whole list of ways to be a better leader… just pick one new behavior and work on it consistently, every day, until it becomes a habit.

YOUR TURN: What could you do with five rubber bands in your pocket?