Executive Visits: 4 Strategic Approaches for Influence and Impact

Executive Visits: 4 Strategic Approaches for Influence and Impact

You know executive visits are important. And let’s face it, they come more naturally to some of us than others. Executive visits can backfire, or they can be brilliant. They can be casual or deliberate.  Sometimes just wandering around is exactly what you and your team need. You just show up and listen, smell and feel.

AND I would argue that the leaders I see best leveraging executive visits as a key component of their communication plan design their visits as deliberately as they do the rest of their strategy.

They consider carefully–why am I showing up? What do I want my team to think, feel and do as a result of my being there?

And they show up to answer that question.

4 Ways to Focus Your Executive Visits For More Influence and Impact

Before we start,  I’m going to assume you’ve mastered the essential elements of MBWA (management by wandering around) versus OCHTC (“Oh crap, here they come.” If you missed that popular post, start here. 

Beyond that, here are four approaches to strategic executive visits that can help reinforce and build a Winning Well culture.

Clarity

The Purpose: Sharing Vision; Reinforcing MIT Goals and Behaviors; Leading By Example

The Approach: On a visit like this, you’ve got one or two strategic priorities you want to be sure everyone understands.  There are lots of ways to do this. Do your homework and find out about your local role models of desired behaviors — spend time with them and celebrating them. Strategic storytelling works great for a visit like this. Share your personal (or customer) stories connecting what you’re asking people to do to why. 

One of my favorite clarity approaches to executive visits in my Verizon store executive role was to just spend time on the floor of the store, talking to customers and modeling the behaviors I was insistent on reinforcing. It’s hard to argue that a behavior doesn’t work when they see your leader modeling the way.

Capacity

The Purpose: Learning–Do your employees have the training, tools, and resources they need to succeed?

The Approach: Lots of listening. Lots of questions.

  • What do you need to really improve the customer experience?
  • Is the new system making your job easier or harder? Why?
  • What additional training do you need?
  • What do you wish I knew about _______?

Commitment

The Purpose: Building trusting relationships and increasing accountability.

The Approach: Reinforcing expectations and key behaviors. Paying attention to what’s really happening and the customer experience.

In Winning Well, we share an example an executive who, despite a culture of “Gotcha” in field visits went out on a commitment tour each year.

Bill is a retail store director who lived in a trust but verify culture. What this meant was that he and every executive above him were expected to constantly show up in stores to experience what was happening as customers would.

Is there a bird’s next over the the front entrance risking bird poop on the customer’s head? Are customers being served in a timely way? Did the store look inviting, with all light bulbs on and everything dusted and ready to go? Were the employees up to speed on the latest products and services?

There was no question. Knowing an executive could stop in at any moment kept everyone on their toes. The stores were undoubtedly cleaner and the customer service was better as a result.

Of course, these visits were always stressful. The general sentiment was “no such thing as a good visit”–the best you could hope for was “not a bad one.”

Which is why Bill came up with an idea to change the experience.

Every summer, instead of the usual pop-in store visits, Bill rented a van, wrapped it in the company logo and fun graphic and hit the road visiting all his stores.

The schedule was announced ahead of time, and there was one big rule: Employees would receive only positive feedback, celebration and fun.

If something was wrong, Bill would quietly call the manager’s attention to it. If it was a small thing like an unplugged sign, he would just plug it in and fix it himself while no one was looking.

These tours had a clear goal: To notice what was right. He did his homework and cane prepared with all kinds of recognition, along with a token of appreciation for every employee.

His operations manager came along and took tons of pictures of every visit. Every evening they created an upbeat collage that included the names of everyone recognized and why. The “postcard” was emailed to the entire region every evening.

The other store directors jokingly referered to the month as Bill’s “love tour,” but Bill was confident enough to withstand the razzing.

The truth is, the employees loved the love.

Results skyrocketed during that time. The employees wanted to be on top of their game when the tour stopped by their store, and, as you can imagine, there was not a birds nest in sight. Everything was dusted and ready to go, and the employees knew all about the latest products and services.

These planned visits caused everyone to go through their checklists and remember what a great experience looked like.  this was so much more effecitve than a “gotcha ” pop-in visit.

Yes, Bill still had to show up unannounced at other time. Winning Well requires holding people accountable. But the love tour helped remind employees of what they were capable of doing and built commitment.

Curiosity

Another vital type of executive visit, which seems to be quite hard for some executives, is a curiosity tour. It can be tricky.

The Purpose: To set aside what you think you know and truly listen to employees and customers.

The Approach: Show up humbly and ask strategic open-ended questions. Talk to as many folks as you can in as many roles as possible. Talk to customers. Resist the urge to talk too much or to “sell” why their struggle isn’t real. Listen. Take notes. And really consider.

Every single time I’ve gone out on a curiosity tour, I learned something useful. When I work with clients I take this approach too. You wouldn’t believe how many times an executive will ask me, “How in the world did you figure out that was an issue?” and the answer is almost always the same.

I asked.

You can too.

No matter what kind of executive visit your planning, if you can show up with true confident humility with a balanced focus on results and relationships, you will make a positive impact.

Related Thoughts

Town Hall Meetings: 6 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Leadership Message

My Fast Company Article on Listening: 7 Ways to Build a Culture of Listening

5 Secrets to Great Skip Level Meetings

 

5 Behaviors That Will Turn Your HR Team Into Your Biggest Fan

5 Vital Behaviors That Will Impress Your HR Team (with Video)

What does your HR team say about you? Does it matter?

As we engage in our long-term leadership development programs, we inevitably spend time talking to the HR team about who’s in the program, why, and how we can best help. For better or worse, we hear what they’re thinking about you. Their hopes and dreams for what you can become, and of course, their concerns.

It’s been fascinating to experience the consistency of HR thinking across industries and geographies. Whether they are in Singapore, San Juan, or Kentucky, it’s the same behaviors that drive the HR VP nuts.

And of course, their impression can influence your career. Most senior leaders have one trusted member of their HR team on speed dial–not because they HAVE to, but because they WANT to. In my time at Verizon, I’ve been on both sides of that call.

There’s no better ditch the Diaper Genie™ conversation than what happens with an exec and their trusted HR strategic partner on a talent issue.

Here are 5 Behaviors That Will Impress Your HR Team

If you’re looking to get to the next level, or even to survive tomorrow, it’s helpful to have your HR team in your corner, cheering you on. In addition to being a rock star in your day job, Here are five behaviors that can help enhance their impression of you as a high-potential employee worth extra investment and support.

  1. Be Coachable (#1 By a landslide)
    Be open to feedback, from up down and sideways. Really listen to what you hear. And show how you are integrating the feedback into real behaviors to improve. HR hears “Yup I got it” all the time, and then watch employees slip back into old behaviors. Show them you’re hearing the feedback by acting on it.
  2. Tell the Truth
    Nothing frustrates a good HR person more than half-truths. If you want them to be straight with you, be straight with them.
  3. Treat others with Deep Respect (Including Your HR team)
    This seems so obvious…and yet, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched a “high-potential” manager talk down to their HR team as if their role was somehow less important than a field assignment.
  4. Work Hard
    “He’s smart but lazy.” “She’s great at managing up, but doesn’t actually get much done.” “Yeah, you know that Gamer you talk about in Winning Well? That’s John.” Not the recommendation any of us are going for.
  5. Be Open to Try New Things
    Your HR team is looking to build a strong bench of talent for the long-term good of the company. They need utility players who they can count on to turn-around just about any sticky situation. HR loves the employees who are willing to take on a new challenge or make an unexpected lateral move.

Your HR team can be an invaluable resource to help you navigate your career and to get the feedback you need to grow and develop. It’s work the effort to invest in these important relationships and to ask for, and act on their feedback.

See also 5 Secrets of a Utility Player

Communicating With Executives When Your World's on Fire

Communicating With Executives When Your World’s on Fire

When your world’s on fire, and you’re working around the clock to survive, it feels like the last thing you have time for is formal updates. And of course, the bigger the fire, the more the senior team needs to know what’s going on. What’s the secret to communicating with executives efficiently so you can stay focused on critical operations?

Communicating With Executives: Lessons Learned

It was 2012 and  I was leading the outsourced call center channel at Verizon Wireless when we found ourselves in the middle of a literal firestorm.

The Waldo Canyon Fires were raging through Colorado Springs and were wreaking havoc on the Garden of the God’s adjacent to the call center which had 1100 human beings taking Verizon calls. Just across town, we had another call center which, with just a quick shift of the wind, would also be in the path of the fire. Most of the homes in the area had been evacuated and the firefighters had turned our call center parking lot into a base camp for fighting the fire.

First and foremost we had employee safety concerns. Was everyone accounted for? How could we best support those in distress? Who needed help? How would we communicate?

The next concern, of course,  was the massive operational impact of 20% of our team not able to get to work, and the growing wait times, frustrated customers, and the downward customer experience that comes from the cocktail of angry waiting customers and overloaded humans doing the best they can.

What’s our capacity at other centers? How fast could we cross-train the specialty functions that were handled from those centers? Could we bus employees to the nearest centers? How much overtime could we squeeze out, and for how long? What if the centers were destroyed? Could IT pull off a temporary center or a work at home strategy? How would we keep customer data safe in a scene like that? How should we modify our HR policies during this time? The list was long…and complicated.

We were doing the best we could, my team had been working around the clock. Everyone was completely exhausted.

The C-suite needed an update.

So I scrambled. I quickly pulled together all the details. I summarized our HR and cross-training strategies in an email. Sent another update on the IT concerns. Then another email with the real estate contingency plans.

My phone rang. It was the senior leader headed into the meeting for a C-level briefing.

“Karin, I’ve just searched my email for the name Karin Hurt. Oh, lots of emails here. Now guess what I’m doing now? Highlighting them all and hitting delete…yup now they’re all gone.”

She continued.

“I get that your world is literally on fire and what you and your team are doing is very important. I trust that you’ve got it handled. But I can’t handle all this info. I’ve got five other major issues to read out on and I’ve only got 20 minutes.

Send me a new email with five bullet points. Tell us how you’ve got this under control and what else you need.

5 Questions to Answer When Communicating With Executives in Times of Crises

I was crushed. We were working hard! I wanted the C-level team to understand the brilliance of our plan and to see how hard the team was working. But at a strategic level, what they needed most was to know: What happened?  So what? What’s next?

If you find yourself in the midst of a firestorm, here are 5 questions that can help you form your executive briefing.

  1. What happened?
    Consider this a newspaper headline. What happened and what’s the current and potential human and business impact?
  2. What have you done?
    Summarize key actions, timelines, and impact.
  3. What’s next?
    Outline next steps and timelines
  4. What’s in jeopardy?
    Ditch the Diaper Genie™ and be real with what’s at stake and what could go wrong, as well as the downstream impact on other projects and business priorities.
  5. What do you need?
    Where do you need help? What additional resources or support do you need?

Of course, you need to be prepared with all the details and to engage in deep discussion of why you chose your path and other options you considered. But a strong executive summary will save everyone time, get you the support you need, and and let you get back to what matters most– fighting the fire.

Your turn. What are your best practices for communicating with executives in times of crises?

Photo Credit: Creative Commons DIVDSHUB

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

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.)

sales team performance: how to level up the game

Sales Team Performance: How to Up the Game

What are the one or two behaviors, if you did them consistently, would dramatically improve your sales team performance?

“Build deeper, trusting relationships.” Table stakes.

“Add real strategic value.” Amen.

“Invest deeply in truly understanding my business.” Please!

“Become an extended go-to member of my team.” Yes, yes!!!

“Become part of a deeper solution and be shoot-yourself-in-the-foot honest about when you’re not the right fit.” Of course.

“Get creative.” One of my favs.

“Care more about me and my business than your profits.” Yup

“Don’t spam me.” %#Q##^T@#  Yes!

“Prioritize me and my calls.” Always.

One Easy Way to Level Up Your Sales Team Performance

One of the most exciting parts of speaking and consulting internationally is experiencing universal truths first hand. In every context, every company, every country, every team, the common denominator to successful growth and change is results AND relationships. It’s about making connections and isolating the behaviors for success.

Here’s one glimpse into what I learned from leading a 2200 person rock star sales team at Verizon.

 

I would love to hear your stories! How do you help your sales team to Win Well? 

critical thinking: 5 ways to increase your team's capacity to think

Critical Thinking: 5 Ways to Build Your Team’s Capacity to Think

“Karin, TRUST me. I would LOVE to delegate more of these decisions and loosen up the reigns, but then I go out into the field and find all this crap. I just don’t think we have the critical thinking skills we need for success.”

Have you ever said those words?

Yeah, me too.

Can you imagine the freedom in knowing that your team will use the same (or better) “common sense” as you when the going gets tough?

I love this simple definition of critical thinking.

Critical thinking is not a matter of accumulating information. A person with a good memory and who knows a lot of facts is not necessarily good at critical thinking. A critical thinker is able to deduce consequences from what he knows, and he knows how to make use of information to solve problems, and to seek relevant sources of information to inform himself.

So how do you build THAT?

5 Ways to Build Your Team’s Capacity to Think

Critical thinking is not a gene. Yes, it comes more naturally to some, but it is teachable (much of the time). Here are a few ways to get started.

1.  STOP being the hero.

It’s hard. Who doesn’t love being superman? Particularly when you know EXACTLY what to do. It’s even harder if your boss is a superman too and you’re their go-to guy.

There’s a certain rush from jumping in and doing what must be done at exactly the right time. And it can’t hurt, right? The worst you’re going to get after your superman intervention is a THANK YOU and a developmental discussion six months from now, saying you need to build a bench.

But here’s what we hear offline. “She’s great. But she’s a do-er. I’d put her in my lifeboat any time. But her team is weak.”

Great leaders don’t have weak teams.

Great leaders take the time to slow down just enough even during times of crises, to bring others along and help them rise to the occasion.

Great leaders aren’t heroes, they’re hero farmers. 

2. Connect What to Why (more often than you think is practical or necessary.)

Yes, you can overload your team with TMI (too much information), but the truth is I’ve NEVER heard a manager complain that their boss overexplained “why.”  It’s impossible to have great critical thinking if you’re not connected to the big picture (including key challenges).  If you want your team to exercise better judgment, give them a fighting chance with a bit more transparency.

3. Expose them to Messy Discussions.

It’s tempting to think we must have it all figured out before wasting our team’s time. But if you’re really working to build leadership capacity, it’s also important to sometimes bring your folks in BEFORE you have a clue. Let them see you wrestle in the muck and talk out loud. “We could do this … but there’s that and that to consider … and also the other thing.”

4. Hold “Bring a Friend” Staff Meetings.

An easy way to do #3 is through “Bring a Friend” staff meetings. Once in a while, invite your direct reports to bring one of their high-potential employees along to your staff meeting. Of course, avoid anything super sensitive, but be as transparent as possible. Every time I’ve done this, we’ve had employees leaving the meeting saying, “I had no idea how complicated this is,” and “Wow, that sure gave me a different perspective.”

5. Ask Strategic Questions (and encourage them to go research the answers.)

  • Why have your results improved so substantially?
  • What was different in August (or whenever you saw a change in pattern)?
  • What evidence do you have that this strategy is working?
  • How does this compare to your competition?
  • What’s changed since implementing this program?
  • How do you know it’s working?
  • What are the employees saying about the change, how do you know?
  • How do you know this is sustainable?
  • What would a pilot teach us?

Your turn. What are your best practices for building critical thinking capacity?

mistakes to avoid in your town hall meetingSee Also: 6 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Town Hall Meetings 

How to Help Your HR Team Be More Strategic

How to Have Tough Conversations at Work

How to Have Tough Conversations at Work: An Interview

As we travel the world keynote speaking and working with leaders across a variety of organizations and contexts, we find one of the biggest challenges across cultures is how to have productive, difficult conversations. I was delighted to grab a few minutes for this interview with Moustafa from Passion Sundays to talk about specific ways to have these tough conversations in a way that improves both results and relationships.

How to Have Tough Conversations Without Ruining Anything

An Interview from Singapore with Moustafa Hamwi

Do you excessively sugarcoat work-related issues? Postponing giving unpleasant news will only make matters worse for company’s future.

Things don’t always go smoothly in an organization. Karin Hurt is a leadership expert who talks about ‘owning the ugly’ and discussing the issues before they escalate.

She says people should encourage dialog at all levels of the business. The team members should analyze the problematic areas and what they might be underestimating.

Karin developed the ‘INSPIRE’ method of communication to help organizations and leaders – Initiating, Noticing, Supporting, Probing, Inviting, Reviewing and Enforcing.

When individuals follow these steps in a conversation, they can discuss the pressing matters promptly and come up with solutions together without destroying connections or the workplace.

Karin emphasizes that everyone should talk about the things happening in the organization. She points out the importance of having ‘real conversations productively in a way that focuses on results while also maintaining the relationships.’

Do you want to stop being afraid to give feedback? Get confident and remember to share it with your friends and spread the passion.

You can also watch David’s Interview with Moustafa on finding your path toward Winning Well.

Project Management: How to Hold the Best Accountability Conversations

Project Management: How to Hold the Best Accountability Conversations

Project management isn’t for the faint of heart. You’re pressured from above to produce results and from below to cultivate relationships with your project teams. And in between, you’ve got scope creep, stakeholder politics, and vaguely supported contingency plans. You can become an expert at managing these and other core project management challenges. But to do so, there is one skill you’ll need to master.

FOR EVERY $1 BILLION INVESTED in the

United States, $122 million is wasted due to poor project performance.

–Project Management Institute 

The Biggest Project Management Challenge


Projects may fail for many reasons. But projects that have failed all have one thing in common: accountability has been replaced by finger-pointing.

You can learn to support people to take responsibility for their roles in a project’s outcome. Through short, strategic accountability conversations, you can teach people to do what they’ve agreed to do, ask for help when they need it, and dig in to contribute at their highest possible levels.

When you have accountability conversations consistently, your projects will meet schedule, budget, and quality goals more often.

An appropriate feedback conversation is a short, specific talk that (1) draws attention to the issue; (2) facilitates mutual discussion; and (3) inspires and confirms commitment to new behavior.

 The I.N.S.P.I.R.E. Model For Project Management Accountability Conversations

To begin and guide such a conversation, you can use the I.N.S.P.I.R.E. Accountability Tool from our best-selling book Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul:

Effective Communication Karin Hurt and David DyeI- INITIATE

Initiate the conversation in a respectful manner. Traditional feedback models often start with the person giving the feedback asking for permission. For example, you might ask a colleague, “Can we talk about what happened with this deliverable?” Feedback is best received when you’ve been welcomed to provide it.

Sometimes, though, the conversation isn’t optional. You may need to be more direct. Even in those instances, you can still establish respect. For example, you might say, “I need to talk with you today. Is this a convenient time or would you prefer this afternoon?” Initiate accountability conversations as close to the moment of concern as possible. Don’t wait three days to address an unkept agreement or heated conversation. Take care of the issue at the first opportunity.

N- NOTICE

Share your concern or observation.

  • “I’ve noticed that you agreed to a deliverable beyond this project’s____.”
  • “I’ve noticed that your conversations with IT have gotten more ____.”
  • “I’ve noticed that you haven’t weighed in on the contingency plan I ____.”

S- SPECIFIC SUPPORT

Provide specific, supporting evidence you can see.

  • “We agreed that all additional requests from the client would be discussed before being agreed to. That discussion did not____ .”
  • “In your last two conversations with IT, you were shouting by the end of the____ .”
  • “I asked for your feedback or approval within two weeks, but I haven’t received a response from____. ”

P- PROBE

After you present the situation, the other person needs a chance to talk. Ask a question in a neutral, curious tone to allow her to share

any relevant information. Generally, “What happened?” is adequate and allows the person to share information or to own the situation.

  • “What happened with that agreement?”
  • “What happened on those calls?”
  • “What happened that you haven’t responded?”

Occasionally there will be an understandable reason for the poor performance. For example, the person may be struggling with family issues. If this is the case, ask what support they need to regroup and get back on track.

I- INVITE SOLUTIONS

Once the other person has had a chance to share his thoughts, invite him to solve the issue. Start with a review of the expectations, then ask for his thoughts on how to resolve the problem. If he can’t come up with an effective solution, you can provide specific suggestions on how the situation could be handled.

  • “The success of this project hinges on our ability to deliver on schedule and within budget. We can’t do that if we get overextended. I suggest you revisit your agreement with the client and explain that we can only add this deliverable if we receive additional resources to do so—making it crystal clear that we are committed to this project providing the highest quality outcome for them.”
  • “I recommend that you ask yourself what your colleague in IT is actually trying to communicate to you. Consider if you may be overly defensive in how you’re responding. How might your conversations be different if you extended the benefit of the doubt?”
  • “It’s critical that we develop a plan to mitigate this project’s risks. Your perspective is important to that process. I need you to weigh_____. ”

Sometimes you may discover that people simply need more training about how to manage their emotions, energy, and time effectively.

R- REVIEW

Ask one or two open-ended questions to check for understanding and one closed-ended question to secure commitment.

  • “What concerns do you have about this approach?”
  • “How would your results be better if you did that every time?”
  • “Can I count on your commitment?”

Ask the contributor to review her specific commitment: “To ensure I’ve communicated effectively, can you please recap what you will do?”

E- ENFORCE

Enforce the behavior and why it’s important while reinforcing your confidence that the person can do this.

  • “I’ll look forward to hearing about how the client wants to move forward to resource this new____.”
  • “I’ll check back with you on your next three calls and listen for you extending the benefit of the doubt to your colleague. This project needs your relationship with IT to be healthy and productive.”
  • “I’ll look forward to seeing your feedback to the contingency plan I suggested within the next three____. ”

You might conclude with:

  • “I appreciate your taking the time to make this____. ”
  • “I have every confidence that you can do____.”
  • “Thank you for your time and____. ”

According to a recent study in the Harvard Business Review, 92% percent of people agree that if delivered appropriately, negative feedback is effective at PMI EMEA Congress 2018 Karin Hurt and David Dyeimproving performance. When behavior doesn’t change, it’s often because the feedback is too vague, or the conversation goes so long that the other person forgets what he needs to do. Work to I.N.S.P.I.R.E. specific behavior change and deepen accountability through managing the art of tough conversations.

Are you headed to the Project Management Institute’s EMEA Congress in Berlin? So are we. We’d love to have you join us in our session.

For more information on our keynote programs  and Project Management PDU training, contact us at info@letsgrowleaders.com

 

5 ways to drive results through fear and intimidation

5 Ways to Drive Results Through Fear and Intimidation

You’re on the fast track. You don’t need sustained results, you need quick wins. Results matter. You’ve got a review coming up. With a few simple tactics, you can get your organization performing in no time. You’ll be promoted and someone else can deal with the fallout. Just follow these tips for leading with fear and intimidation.

5 Ways to Drive Results Through Fear and Intimidation

1. Prey on their Insecurity

Employees are inherently lazy. They can work harder, they just need the proper motivation. Threaten their jobs (this is easier in a bad economy). Announce a downsizing, but don’t give any details. That will keep them on their toes.

2. Create Competition

It’s all about the stack rank. Don’t reward behaviors, reward results. When employees help others, take them aside and explain the consequences (see #1).

3. Expand Hours

It’s only common sense. The more they work, the more they will get done. Cancel vacations. Create weekend projects. Sunday mornings are a great time for emergency conference calls.

4. Raise Your Voice

Fear creates adrenaline. It’s better than Red Bull. Raise your voice. This works best when you single out an employee in front of their peers. Yell at one, get everyone moving. You must time it carefully. Keep your calm demeanor when managing up. This will help dispel any potential concerns about your style.

5. Hold Daily Check-Ins

Empowerment is the invention of academicians and sappy bloggers. For fast results, micromanage. Hold daily check-ins with each employee. Never be satisfied. I find it best to practice exacerbated facial expressions on my way to work (a little cosmetic mirror works just fine). If you can’t master the facials, try deep sighs.

Happy April Fools Day from Let’s Grow Leaders. If any of this sounded familiar, attractive (and especially if it ticked you off, please subscribe by entering your email address. We have a growing community of interactive leaders sharing their leadership ideas. Or better yet, take a look at our book, Winning Well. 

Footnote: Concerned that my International followers would think me insane, I learned that many countries celebrate similar practical joking days in the Spring, April Fools Day Traditions Around the World.

imposter sydrome: 8 Ways to Overcome Self-Doubt

Imposter Syndrome: 4 Ways to Defeat Self-Doubt

Do you ever feel like you’re just a bit under-qualified for your current role? Are you constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop? Do you lie awake at night, thinking of ways to cover up your weaknesses so no one will notice? If so, you’re not alone. The Imposter Syndrome is real — and most of us get there more than we’d like to admit.

I know I do.

I felt the sting of imposter syndrome just as my speaking career was gaining traction. A speaking bureau called to book a keynote.

“They want you to talk about trust and communication.”

“Perfect. Who’s the audience.”

“The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy.”

My mind whirled into a frenetic imposter syndrome spiral.

“Oh, crap. I wonder if they know I’ve been divorced? What credibility do I have on trust and communication? Do I tell the bureau? Do I tell the client? This will never work. I’m just like the people THEY’RE trying to help. Who am I to teach them?”

I called my best friend, who did exactly what best friends are supposed to do in such circumstances. She laughed. “Are you kidding me? This is EXACTLY why you’re qualified to speak to them. Go tell them your story.”

And I did. And we went on a remarkable journey together.

Sometimes what scares us the most about ourselves, the parts that we wish we could hide away so no one could see, are actually an ironic source of strength and human connection.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Impostor syndrome describes that feeling of strong self-doubt that you’re a fake, that your success is due more to luck or your ability to fool people than it is due to your work, and it often comes along with the fear of being found out.

If you let it, impostor syndrome will tie you in knots, ruin your confidence, and undermine your ability to lead your people and achieve your goals—not to mention screw up your life in many other ways.

The brutal truth is that you can’t be the leader you need to be when you’re tied up in knots like that. You’ll try to overcompensate, or you’ll stay silent when you should speak. Either one will kill your credibility and end your influence. There are several tools you can use to overcome this self-sabotage. Here are just a few:

Honor Your Past and Your Present

A mentor shared “It’s a good thing to remember where you come from, but it’s a foolish thing to think you’re still there.”

His point is that your experiences in childhood and earlier life can serve you, help you make good decisions, give you an appreciation for people from all walks of life, and keep you from being judgmental. It would be foolish to leave that treasure behind. But, it would be equally foolhardy not to acknowledge today’s circumstances. That’s intellectually dishonest and dishonors the people who have put their trust in you today.

Remember that, “You’re always too something for someone.”

These wise words come from 1999 world champion of public speaking and motivational speaker Craig Valentine. “You’re always too something for someone” gets at the absurdity of it all because once you start looking for inadequacy, you’ll always find a reason you don’t belong.

Laugh at Your Doubts

When my friend first started to laugh, I was hurt. How could she laugh at my pain and confusion? But I soon realized the irony of the situation was classically funny. And in truth lies humor, and in humor, connection. It’s hard to judge yourself when you’re laughing at the ruins.

Leverage Your People

One of the most effective tools for dealing with impostor syndrome is simply to focus on the team you serve. They don’t really care where you came from, how you got here, whether you have a big house, small car, good hair, bad hair, or anything else. What they do care about is how you can help them succeed today. It’s nearly impossible to trip over your own insecurities when you focus on serving others.

You are not an imposter. You are you. And we need you. What would happen if you could ditch the fear? Take the risk? Tell the truth? And win well?