culture matters: DTR and your new hires first 12 months

Culture Matters: DTR and Your New Hire’s First Year

Think back to your first twelve months at your company. I imagine you spent a lot of time thinking about the culture and how you fit in. Your new hires are doing that too. There’s a lot to consider before they can truly commit. How can you make a difference?

Culture and DTR

A young manager approached us after our keynote in Chicago.

Do you have a minute? I’m not sure exactly what I want to say… but this is what I’m processing about culture after hearing you and your stories.

I’ve been with my company a year… and I know what I value and what matters most, and I THINK I can make an impact on the culture. BUT I look around and I seem to be the only one who rolls the way you’re talking about– focusing on results AND relationships. Fostering true collaboration. Speaking the truth…

It would be a lot easier to move to another, more progressive, company with a better culture like_________ (she inserted a few possibilities here) where the values are more aligned. I mean I COULD work to change the culture HERE… I like these guys, okay… but CAN I CHANGE THE CULTURE AT LEAST FOR MY TEAM? AT WHAT COST?

I mean when you think about it, it’s a lot like a dating relationship. The whole time you were talking I kept thinking. Exactly WHY am I staying? What can I GIVE? What will I RECEIVE?  Is this the RIGHT company for me?

I heard all you were saying about building a Winning Well culture, and trust and real conversations… and I just thought, ‘Yikes. I really have a decision to make here. I have to DTR with my company (translation: for those of you who’ve been out of the dating scene a while DTR= define the relationship)’.

You guys get it right? You are in love. You are in love with each other and you’re in love with what you want to do in the world too.

It’s not REALLY THAT DIFFERENT? I mean, is it? ALIGNMENT MATTERS.

At about the year mark, you really need to decide… am I going to commit to this company? To be all in? Or should I start looking around a bit more, before I decide?

And then it got really real.

Because after a while once you’ve invested 10 or plus years with a company it’s just too late to change.

I mean the relationship might not be that great, but…. you’ve got all these sunk years in…  so people stay, but the commitment is sketchy. I see that all around me. People staying at my company because it’s the easy choice, but their passion is gone. I don’t want to end up like that.

Culture Matters: Questions Your New Hires Might Be Asking Themselves in Their First Year

Here are few questions your new hires might be asking themselves in their first year.

  • What matters most around here?
  • Do those things matter to me?
  • Are these my people?
  • Do people care about me?
  • Are people like me succeeding here?
  • Are my skills and contributions valued?
  • Are my leaders as committed to me as I am to them?
  • Do I matter?
  • Can I make an impact?
  • What will this place look like in 10 years?

How would your new hires answer these questions? How would you?

See Also. Make Your New Hire’s Day: 7 Ways to Improve the New Hire Experience

Photo Credit Daniel Horacio Agostini

get things done leading when life isn't fair

Get Things Done – Leading When Life Isn’t Fair

Get Things Done by Changing Your Question

Sara leaned back, crossed her arms, and sighed.

“It’s not right! My VP expects me to hit these numbers, but customers want updates, and research is focused on new products and won’t give me the time of day. How can I get things done with all this?”

She shook her head. “I guess I’ll go down to R&D and tell them they’ve got to change their attitude or the company’s going to end up in the toilet. This just sucks!”

When Life Isn’t Fair

Can you identify with Sara?

You’re working hard, you take your work seriously, and then you’re confronted with obstacles. Problems. Challenges.

They’re not your fault.

You didn’t ask for them, but there they are, staring you in the face, keeping you from moving forward. You can’t get things done.

Every leader is faced with unfair, difficult circumstances at some point. That’s just life.

Many people will spend years or even their entire life stuck in the quicksand of ‘not-fair-despair.’

But it’s also the moment where leaders are born.

Stuck

Sara was stuck because she hadn’t asked herself the most important question that every great leader asks of both themselves and their team.

She was stuck because her focus was on her problems: other people’s expectations and attitudes.

She was stuck because she chose to see herself as a victim.

If you’re there now, it’s okay. It means your human.

Just don’t stay there.

“Why me?” and it’s cousin “What’s wrong with those people?” are horrible leadership questions. They suck the energy out of you because they give away your power.

The good news is that you can transform your energy, instantly reclaim your power, and get unstuck in just a few seconds.

Three Worlds That Will Transform Your Leadership and Help You Get Things Done

It only takes one question.

It’s a question every great leader asks and its only three words long.

“How Can I…?”

Those seven letters may not look like much, but they are the foundation of leadership.

With those three words:

  • You return your focus to your own power and ability to act.
  • You tap into the energy of your prefrontal cortex (the part of your brain that problem-solves and plans.)
  • You vastly increase the odds of finding a solution (because you’re looking for them!)
  • And you take responsibility and ownership for the one thing you can control – yourself.

Restore Your Power

When Sara asked “How can I…?” she finished the question with her goals.

Eg: “How can I work with R&D to find a solution to the customer updates and meet my numbers?” Or, “How can I work with my VP to meet or modify my sales goals? “

With that one “How can I?” in mind, Sara generated a list of potential solutions that didn’t involve forcing someone else to do something.

This question works for teams too.

When I served as an elected councilman I watched our mayor at the time, Joe Rice, transform a room full of stymied constituents, staff, and representatives with one question:

“We can find 1000 reasons why this won’t work. Let’s try a different question, ‘How can we do it?’”

In a matter of seconds, everyone’s thinking changed.

This powerful question is at the heart of leadership. Leaders take ownership for themselves, others, and the world around them. You cannot lead without first taking responsibility.

What About…

1) When you ask “How can I…?” you might honestly respond with “I don’t know.” That’s okay. Use this follow up question from our coaching model: “What might I do if I did know?”

Now watch what happens. It’s amazing how you can generate ideas when you give yourself permission.

Sometimes you’ll realize that you don’t have the information you need in order to craft solutions. Then the question becomes, “How can I get the information?”

2) Responsibility doesn’t mean co-dependency. You are responsible TO your team, not FOR your team. To your organization, not for your organization. To your spouse, not for your spouse.

Your Turn

What problem are you and your team facing that you’re not sure how to solve? How can you pull together and figure it out? (See what I did there?)

Leave us a comment and share your thoughts or your favorite way to move out of victim-thinking and back to responsibility and leadership.

Project Management: Best Practices and Tools

Frontline Festival: Best Practices in Project Management and Project Planning

Welcome to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival on project management and planning. We’ve been doing a lot of work with project managers and their teams in our corporate work as well as speaking at a number of Project Management Institute conferences and events. We’re always looking for new best practices and insights to support people doing this vital work. So, we asked thought leaders from around the world to share their very best post on this topic.

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 meetings that get results and that people want to attend.  New contributors are always welcome. Submit your relevant blog posts here!

PMI EMEA Conference: Becoming a More Strategic Project Manager

Project Managers practice elevating their gaze and Winning Well at the 2018 EMEA Global Congress in Berlin

Components of Project Management and Planning

Rachel Gray of Patriot Software, LLC gives Four Tips for Devising and Effective Small Business Project Management Plan.  Project management encourages small businesses to reach their goals on time and within budget. Create easy-to-follow project management plans to outline the necessary steps for reaching these goals.  Follow Rachael.

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement gives us Good Project Management Practices.  Good project management practices require that you deliver a working solution quickly, prioritize and limit work in progress.  Follow John.

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited offers 10 Tips for Planning a Low-Stress Event.   Events are a project in themselves. Beth shares observations from a well-planned event she had the privilege to attend. Follow Beth.

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership presents Project Planning Lessons from Home Renovation.  You can learn a lot about project management when you decide to do some home renovation! Follow Wally.

True success has more components than one sentence or idea can contain. – Zig Ziglar

Gaining Commitment: Project Management and Planning

Paula Kiger with Lead Change gives us Disaster and Contingency Planning Lessons from the ICU. Are you a leader tasked with planning for routine operations along with the response when routines are disrupted in ways big or small? Then you need to remember that success, in Swanepoel’s words, “Isn’t just the next move – it’s what you do three, four, even 10 steps after that really counts.” Follow Paula.

Julie Winkle Giulioni of DesignArounds writes about Deconstructing Delegation. Project planning, management and execution rarely happen in an isolated vacuum. You need to draw others in, engage their hearts and minds, and eventually pass off tasks that must be done. Effective project managers are also effective delegators. This article offers a framework for getting the most from your delegation efforts. Follow Julie.

Jesse Stoner of Seapoint Center for Collaborative Leadership  shares Create a Team Charter to Go Faster and Smarter.  The six elements of a team charter clarify the important agreements about the goals and how the team will work together to accomplish them. Taking the time to get clear agreements might slow things down in the beginning, but will help you later go faster in the right direction with smarter decisions. Follow Jesse.

Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort. – Paul J. Meyer

Challenges in Project Management and Planning

Skip Prichard of Leadership Insights  presents Three Common Mistakes of Strategic Planning.  Avoid these to save time and chart the best course for the future. Follow Skip.

In our work with project managers, one of the biggest challenges is having the courage and skills to have the tough conversations. Here’s a short video about how project managers can apply our Winning Well, I.N.S.P.I.R.E. model to their work.

Robyn McLeod of Thoughtful Leaders Blog provides, Are You Over-committing? How to Wow Them AND Take Control of Your Workload.  In it, she shares that by using the strategic approach of under-promising and over-delivering, you can make commitments that you can reasonably achieve without overloading your team and pushing to the limits. Follow Robyn.

Tony Mastri of Marion Marketing  gives us Four Must-haves in Your Marketing Plan for Small Business. Planning and managing your small business’s marketing can’t be too hard, can it? You might find that shortly after you get your feet wet, you’re in over your head. Learn which pieces of a marketing plan for small business are non-negotiable so you don’t drown in the details.  Follow Tony.

The biggest challenge is to stay focused. It’s to have the discipline when there are so many competing things. – Alexa Hirschfeld

We would love to hear your thoughts and best practices for becoming a more effective project manager. We encourage you to leave your ideas in the comments section, or links to your favorite resources.

Massive Failures - What Great Leaders Do Next

Massive Failures? What Great Leaders Do Next

What do you do when you’ve screwed up and everyone knows it? Your failures weren’t just mistakes in judgment…you let yourself down. You didn’t keep your commitment. You hurt people you are supposed to help. Your team looks at you with disappointment.

Now what?

We recently spent a week in Germany sharing Winning Well practices with project managers from throughout Europe and the Middle East.

One of the most striking aspects of our travel in Berlin was the way in which Germany has chosen to confront its own history.

In the center of Berlin you will find monuments to the millions of victims of the Nazi regime. Holocaust education is mandatory for every student. Sections of the Berlin wall remain along with memorials to those who were killed trying to cross that border.

The ways in which Germany has acknowledged and taken responsibility are solemn and humbling examples of how to address your own failures so you can rebuild your influence and credibility.

big mistakes what great leaders do Holocaust Memorial photo

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin, Germany

 

  1. Don’t Hide
    Germany has chosen not to run from its past. It is literally out in the open for everyone to see. When you screw up, break a promise, or hurt someone, don’t pretend it didn’t happen. Acknowledge it. Own it.
  1. Apologize
    German leaders up to this day have apologized with statements of shame and repentance. Many leaders struggle to apologize for fear that it will make them look weak or ruin their credibility. The opposite is true. It takes strength to apologize and a straightforward apology builds your credibility. It signals that your team can trust you and it models how they should behave when they let one another down.
  1. Learn and Make It Right Going Forward
    When you’ve hurt someone or broken your word, do what you can to rectify the situation. These actions and commitments don’t erase what was done and, depending on the severity of your behavior, you may not regain the trust of those you hurt, but they do give you a chance to rebuild your credibility, influence, and relationships. Following large reparation payments and support for survivors, Germany has committed itself to human rights and living up to ideals of human dignity, diversity, and respect.

Progress Not Perfection

It’s not perfect.

Germany continues to struggle with anti-Semitism and the challenge of welcoming refugee immigrants while integrating new arrivals into a culture that strives to live up to its ideals of diversity and respect.

Your team doesn’t expect you to be a perfect person. They’re not perfect and when they see you screw up, own your failures, and move forward, you make it more likely that they’ll trust you and be able to do the same.

Final Thoughts

We recognize that for some readers this may be a challenging article. We do not mean to make light of the pain you have experienced nor would we suggest that you should readily trust someone only because they have apologized.

For others, we recognize the challenge that comes with discussing what has become the embodiment of evil in our age. We do not intend to make light of these events nor make false equivalencies between a leader’s broken promise and the systematic extermination of human beings. Even so, the principles that apply here apply to us all.

Lead well – the world needs you.

how do I convince my manager I'm professional

How Do I Convince My Manager I’m a Professional?

“Why does my manager care if I go directly to his boss with an idea? Good ideas are good ideas, right?”

“Customers don’t need all that formality. They’re chill. Why can’t I just show up and give them an update?”

“When the CEO ran into me in the hallway and asked “What’s going on?” I told him. Now my manager is “coaching” me to be more strategic in what I choose to share.

“I can’t help it if I get fired up, it means I care!”

“WTF I’m killing myself here, and now my boss tells me I’m not ready for the next level until I have better ‘executive presence.’ ”

Great results are more than half the battle. But professionalism matters too. Every day, I hear from high-performers frustrated that their results do not seem to be enough for their boss.  The tragedy is, it’s likely small stuff that’s distracting you both from what matters most.

Six Ways to Convince Your Manager You’re a Professional

Here are six easy(ish) ways to show up more professionally.

1. Get a Grip on Your Emotions

You’re fired up. You’re angry. You can’t believe Joe missed the deadline, or Cindy talked to a customer that way… again.  YES! That means you care. YES! that means you know what must be done.  But even if you see executives flying off the handle, it doesn’t mean you should too. Keep the passion, lose the drama.  Take a step back to breathe and consider the most effective words and tone before communicating.

2. Focus on What Matters Most

When you try to do everything, it’s hard to do the most important things well. If you want to be taken more seriously, pick a few strategic priorities that will make the biggest impact and build a strong plan to execute elegantly on those things first. Be sure that you spend time every day working on those priorities.

3. Build Some White Space Into Your Calendar

When you over-book your calendar, you’re more likely to find yourself racing late into meetings, disheveled and under-prepared. Try leaving yourself a few minutes between appointments so you have time to gather your thoughts, connect with key stakeholders before the meeting starts, and consider how you can bring the most value to the table. A little white space will also help you resist the urge to multi-task with your phone under the table while “no one is looking.” (BTW–someone is always looking.)

4. Streamline Your Communication

Before speaking, consider your audience. When the CEO “casually” asks, “How’s it going?” be ready to tell her something substantial. When your boss asks for an update, don’t come in spewing all the details; bring a bulleted list of what you’ve done and what you need. Our free MIT huddle planner works well for this. Consider who you’re speaking to and how your communication can serve them well.

5. Develop Upwards Empathy

Before you write your boss off as a witch, consider the pressure she’s under and how you can help. Professionalism requires perspective.

6.  Stop Talking Trash

You don’t have to convince me, I’m sure you’ve got some peers that would be better off being “promoted to customer.” AND, nobody likes a whiner. Take the high road at work when it comes to talking ABOUT folks. It’s not as fun, but much more classy.

Your turn. What’s your best advice for managers looking to show up more professionally?

See also: our Fast Company Article– 10 Common Excuses That Silently Damage Manager’s Careers.

Leadership Retreat Idea: Speed Mentoring to Build Trust and Connection

Leadership Retreat Idea: Speed Mentoring To Build Trust and Connection

Are you looking for a meaningful activity to build trust and connection at your next leadership retreat? Do you have high-potential employees who need greater exposure? This easy-to-facilitate exercise can go a long way in jump-starting connection and conversation.

An Easy Leadership Retreat Idea: Speed Mentoring

The larger and more spread out my team became in my executive roles at Verizon, the more I valued the time to get my managers off-site for a quick leadership retreat—even if it was just a day at the Holiday Inn down the street. A leadership retreat provides a great opportunity to align on your team vision, and to have the UGLY conversations that matter so much, but are hard to have in the midst of the day-to-day fray.

Although the exercises I linked to above were staples in my leadership retreat bag of tricks, the one I’m sharing with you today is arguably one of my favorites for deepening relationships.

This was a variation on my “bring-a-friend” staff meetings, where each of my direct reports would bring a “friend,” ( a high-potential employee) from their team to join our staff meeting, to give them exposure to the strategic thinking and decision making processes that happened at the executive level.

In this case, we brought our next tier of succession planning candidates in to join my executive team and me for the afternoon of our retreat to hold “speed mentoring sessions.”

The Design

We set up small tables around the room, and each of the leaders manned a station and the mentees flowed through spending 10 minutes at each station. The mentees controlled the conversations, and each took on a different flavor.

Although none of us had any experience with “speed dating” we were intrigued by the concept of short, focused interactions to look for areas of common interest.

Each participant was asked to come prepared with any ideas and questions they had for the leaders on the team. The “mentees-for-the-day” were in complete control of the conversations and could use the time however they wished.

The Questions

I was intrigued at how deep the conversations went in just 10 minutes. Each mentee took a different approach. Nearly all conversations sparked a dialogue that continued way past the leadership retreat.

Here a few they came up with:

  • “What’s my ‘brand’ with you?”
  • Why wouldn’t you promote me?
  • What’s the biggest mistake you ever made?
  • What makes you fail?
  • What are you working on developmentally?
  • Did you ever take a job that was a bad fit? What did you do?
  • What characteristics are you looking for in a leader?
  • How do you think I am doing?
  • Just what makes you so passionate about leadership development?

The Feedback

The feedback we received was amazing. I was worried that the time was too short, or that the feedback from so many people in a short time frame would be overwhelming. Participants agreed that it was “intense” but would do it again with exactly t same design.

  • “It was helpful to see the patterns and consistency in the feedback.”
  • “I could tell everyone was being really candid and had my best interest at heart.”
  • “I liked that we could control the questions and decide where we wanted to take the conversation with each person.”
  • “It was great to see so many different perspectives on the same question.”

The conversations continued later that day, on a break or walking to dinner. Can you mentor in 10 minutes? Of course not. Can you spark a connection worth exploring further? You sure can.

I’d love to hear your best practices for your leadership retreats and leadership training. Drop me a line at karin.hurt@letsgrowleaders.com or comment here.

You can also check out our FREE book group facilitator’s guide to our book Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results– Without Losing Your Soul.  (Lots of our clients use Winning Well as pre-reading for their leadership retreat.)

Solve Problems - 9 Questions to Help Your Team

9 Questions to Help Your Team Solve Problems On Their Own

“David, I just don’t have time. My team constantly needs my help, but I need them to do more and solve problems on their own. There’s so much to do that some days I just want to give up!”

Lynn was a midlevel manager in a mid-sized healthcare company. She’d sought out coaching because the demands of her job were nearly unbearable. Between the needs of her team members and her supervisor’s expectations, she’d been working 60-hour weeks, her health was suffering, and she’d reached the end of her rope.

Have you ever felt like Lynn? If you feel overwhelmed, you’re not alone.

If you ever struggle with feeling like you’re doing your team’s thinking for them and don’t have time to do your own work, these are signals that your team needs help to think and solve problems more effectively.

Hero or Harassed?

Most managers respond to these signals one of two ways: they get upset or they dive in to “help” by offering solutions. Unfortunately, neither response gets you what you want: more time for your work and more responsibility from your team.

On the one hand, if you get upset and chastise your team for bothering you, they will stop bothering you. They’ll also resent you and begin dragging their feet rather than solve problems that need attention. But hey, they’re not bothering you anymore, right?

On the other hand, if you play the hero and jump in with answers, the immediate problems get solved and work continues. But next time an issue comes up, your team still can’t solve problems on their own and, worse, you’ve now taught them that if things get difficult, you’ll just figure it out for them. Yes, you’re the hero, but say goodbye to your own productivity!

The good news is that there’s a better way.

9 Questions to Help Your Team Solve Problems On Their Own

When a team member comes to you for help (assuming they’ve been trained and this is a problem they should be able to solve on their own), rather than jumping in with the answer, you have an opportunity to develop their critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

The following nine questions will help you to free up your own time and increase your team’s ability to think and problem solve on their own.

  1. What is your goal?

Start here to check for understanding and ensure that the team member has a good grasp on their task and is focused on the right goal.

  1. What have you tried?

This question ensures you don’t spend time covering ground they’ve already explored. It also requires your team member to make some effort before requesting help.

  1. What happened?

Finish gathering facts by asking them to talk about the consequences of the solutions they’ve already tried. Sometimes just the act of talking about it will help them figure out a new solution.

  1. What did you learn from this?

With this question, you ask them to reflect on their experience. Often, the act of examining what happened and what learning they can draw from it will spark a new approach.

  1. What else do you need?

This is a check to see if there is additional training or equipment they need. Sometimes your team member will say something like: “You know, if I knew how to use pivot tables, I think I could do this.” Great – connect them to a spreadsheet guru for a quick lesson and get them moving.

  1. What else can you do?

Now it’s time to have them generate some new options. When you ask this question, one of two answers usually happens. Your team member might say, “I don’t know” or they might offer some options, eg: “Well, I was thinking I could try option A or I could try option B.”

If they say, “I don’t know,” we’ll come back to that with question #9. Let’s assume for now that they offer some options.

  1. What do you think will happen if you try option A? What about option B?

You’re asking your team member to explore the potential consequences of their proposed solution. This gives you insight into their thinking and helps them think through what makes their choices viable or desirable.

If they are missing a critical piece of information, you can supply it here without telling them what to do. Eg: “One additional factor you will want to know is that the customer considers that a vital feature.”

  1. What will you do?

This is the critical step that you’ve been leading up to. As you helped them review the facts, reflect on what they learned, explore alternatives, and the consequences of each choice, the goal is for your team member to choose their solution.

When they choose it, they own it. If they choose something that seems to be a clearly inferior option, you can ask them to help you understand why they think that’s their best option. If they don’t understand some of the other issues affecting the decision, you can also add those to the mix.

  1. Super-Bonus Question

You might be wondering what to do if the person replies to one of your questions with, “I don’t know.”

No problem!

“I don’t know” can mean many things. Rarely does it mean the person has zero thoughts about the issue.

More often, “I don’t know” translates to:

    • “I’m uncertain.”
    • “I don’t want to commit before I know where you stand.”
    • “I haven’t thought about it yet.”
    • “Will you please just tell me what to do?”
    • “I’m scared about getting it wrong.”

Your job as a leader is to continue the dialogue – to ease the person through their anxiety and train their brain to engage. This is where the super-bonus question comes in.

With one question you can re-engage them in the conversation and move through “I don’t know” to productivity.

When someone says, “I don’t know,” your super-bonus question is: “What might you do if you did know?”

It’s like magic.

The person who was stymied two seconds ago will start to share ideas, brainstorm solutions, and move on as if they were never stuck. It’s amazing and hard to believe until you try it.

The super-bonus question works because it addresses the source of the person’s “I don’t know.” If they were anxious or fearful, it takes the pressure off with tentative language: “If you did know…” Now your team member doesn’t have to be certain or look for your approval and they’re free to share whatever they might have been thinking.

If he or she hadn’t thought about the issue or didn’t want to think about it, you’ve lowered the perceived amount of energy they have to spend. You’re not asking for a thesis on the subject, just a conversational “What might you do?”

Our brains can do amazing work when we remove the emotional blocks. When you do this for your team, you train their brain to engage, to push through their ordinary blocks, and increase their performance. Ultimately, they will be able to have these conversations with themselves and will only need to bring the very serious issues to you.

You’ll know you’re succeeding when a team member tells you: “I had a problem. I was going to come and talk it over with you, but then I thought, you’re just going to ask me all these questions. So I asked myself all the questions instead and I figured it out.”

Celebrate those moments and encourage them to start asking those questions of the people around them. You’ve just increased your team’s capacity for problem-solving, freed up time to focus on your work, and…you’ve built a leader!

Your Turn

Remember, when a team member can’t solve problems, good questions are your best solution. We’d love to hear from you: Leave us a comment with your questions about this business coaching process or share your best practice for helping team members improve their critical thinking and problem-solving.