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.

“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

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

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.

 

how to be a better leader in the new year

New Year, New Influence: An Easy Way to Show Up Stronger

“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, 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 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. 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 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?

 

Let's Grow Leaders Most Popular Posts of 2017

Most Popular Leadership Advice of 2017: Top 10 Posts

It’s always so much fun and interesting to see which of the year’s posts and topics resonate most with our Let’s Grow Leaders community. Here’s what you liked and shared the most as measured by page views.

We want to write on topics that will be most helpful for you! If you have a topic you’d like us to address in the New Year, please drop us a note at info@letsgrowleaders.com or leave a comment and will see what we can do to work it into our editorial calendar.

Bonus: Top Let’s Grow Leaders Most Popular Posts of All Time

Of the 927 posts published to date on Let’s Grow Leaders, there are two that continue to draw in substantial traffic every day, and ranked in the top three for this year.

5 Secrets to Great Skip Level Meetings (April 2014)
Done well, skip level meetings can inspire, engage, motivate and inform the skipper, skipee, and even the skipped. On the other hand, poorly run skip level meetings inadvertently bring on diaper genie feedback and diminish trust. Read more

leadership in kidsChildren’s Books on Leadership: Questions to Inspire Young Thinking (November 2012)

Which children’s books are the most helpful in teaching leadership to kids? I posed this question in my online leadership communities, as well as to parents, and a children’s librarian. The suggestions came pouring in. So many of us have fond memories of reading as a child and of reading with our own children. Thank you to all who shared your stories of the stories you love and the meanings they hold. Read more 

Let’s Grow Leaders Top 10 Posts of 2017

10. What the Best Leaders Know About Disengaged Employees (March)employee engagement
In this post, I share one of my signature keynote stories and the importance of “strapping on your skates” and making a genuine connection with the human beings you’re leading.

9. How To Get Noticed as a Leader–Before You’ve Led a Team (August)
Practical ways to demonstrate your leadership, before you take on a formal role. How to Get Noticed as a Leader– Before You’ve Led a Team

leading for results8. 3 Behaviors That Will Convince Your Boss You’re a Rock Star (July)
In this post, we cover a few of the behaviors we work on in our R.E.A.L. professionalism training.  3 Behaviors That Will Convince Your Boss Think You’re a Rock Star

7. 4 Powerful Ways to Get Helpful Feedback From Your Peers (October)
Here we work with our “Channel Challengers” concept that we address in many of our programs– with specific ways to solicit helpful feedback in a way that you can hear it.  4 Powerful Ways to Get Helpful Feedback From Your Peers

6. One Awful (But Common Leadership Practice and What to Do Instead One awful but common leadership practice and what to do instead(November)
David explains the downsides of the common leadership practice “Don’t bring me a problem without a solution” and offers concrete ways to help your team think more critically One Awful (But Common) Leadership Practice and What to Do Instead

5. How to Motivate Your Team When You’re Exhausted (July)
Here we share our technique of “looking down the mountain” and gaining confidence and motivation from past successes. How to Motivate Yourself When You’re Exhausted

4. 3 Simple Secrets to Running a Remarkable Meeting  (August) 
In this post, we share three of our Winning Well meeting management techniques that we frequently work on in our Winning Well programs.  3 Simple Secrets to Running a Remarkable Meeting

3. One Reason Your Employees are Rolling Their Eyes (March)
It’s sad when managers work to recognize employees, and all they do is roll their eyes. Learn how to avoid some of the most common recognition mistakes.One Reason Your Employees are Rolling Their Eyes

2.Stop This Terrible Habit You Don’t Even Know You Have (January)
Here I confess one of my biggest personal leadership challenges and why it can be so destructive.  Stop This Terrible Habit You Don’t Even Know You Have

Let’s Grow Leaders #1 Post of 2017

Mind the MIT Let's Grow Leaders1. 8 Techniques to Help Your Middle Managers Cultivate Their Sweet Spot in Your Organization

On paper, your middle managers are in your organization’s sweet spot. They’re the conduits between your strategic vision and the teams who implement that vision. In reality, however, your middle managers are in a tough place. They’re under increasing pressure–from above to improve results and from below to cultivate deeper relationships with their teams.

Results and relationships can be complementary; in developing relationships, managers can improve their teams’ results. But in practice, too many managers fall into an either/or mindset. They either drive hard for results and railroad their people, or they focus on team building and miss the numbers. Either way, they wind up feeling isolated, frustrated and overwhelmed. They find themselves working longer hours, caught in a vicious cycle between “being nice” to their teams to prop up morale and running everyone into the ground to win at all costs.

(Read more) 8 Techniques to Help Your Middle Managers Cultivate Their Sweet Spot in Your Organization

We were also delighted to be featured in the Training Industry’s top 10 articles of 2017

how to be a great follower

How to Build a Team of Inspired Followers

Early in my career, I had a GREAT boss, Gary, who had hand-selected and developed a team of rock star leaders. It’s arguably the best corporate team I’ve ever worked on. I’m not sure how he pulled this off, but nearly every member of the team was a  Box 9 succession planning candidate. He was all about developing our leadership and visioning skills, and spent many hours with us debriefing our strategies and making plans.

At one point he told us our team was “an experiment.” He claimed he “was in cahoots with HR” (you’ve got to add his deep Southern accent when you say this for full effect) to build an “All-Star Team” and then challenge them to truly collaborate and see what was possible.

Gary tragically passed away years ago, so I can’t verify whether the “experiment” was real. But whatever he did worked. It was not without turmoil, but at the end of the day, we developed a deep respect for one another, blew away results, most of us ended up in senior-level roles in a few years.

AND THEN: He Challenged Us to Be Followers

I’ll never forget the day the union went on strike. Gary pulled his cahoot experiment team into a conference room and warned us:

Here’s the deal. Each of you are going to spend the foreseeable future doing union jobs, climbing poles, driving forklifts, answering phones. Sometimes these situations can become dangerous–the union is not happy. There are a lot of smart people who have been working for months on how we should respond to this. We can’t explain it all.  So for now, I don’t want you to be leaders. Until this strike is over,  we don’t need your vision, we need you to step up and be the very best followers you can be.

You can learn a lot about leadership when you concentrate on improving your following skills.

My friend, a retired Baltimore City Battalion chief goes to a similar place whenever we talk about growing leaders.

Karin, yes, we need great leaders. But when the building is on fire or the drug raid is underway, you don’t need 12 great leaders. You need one solid leader and 11 highly skilled followers executing the plan.

Five Critical Follower Behaviors to Train, Develop and Encourage

Following is an undervalued competency. We seldom train or recruit for it. 

And yet, there is huge ROI in training key following and collaboration skills.

If you’re an individual contributor looking to rock your role, or you’re a manager working to get your A team to A+, work to build and reinforce these five critical behaviors.

  1. Holding Tough Conversations: Oh, it’s hard to have a tough conversation when you’re the boss, but exponentially harder when you have no power. Equip your team with the same skills you develop in your managers for giving and receiving effective feedback. I.N.S.P.I.R.E. great communication up, down and sideways.
  2. Thinking Critically: The last thing you want your followers doing is following your stupid mistakes. Train your team how to evaluate nuanced circumstances, ask the right questions, and make the right call.
  3. Managing Time:  Your team is a whirlwind of urgent requests from you, from your customers, and a bunch of crap you may not even fully understand. Help them identify the MIT (Most Important Thing) priorities and behaviors and build a system for managing their day.
  4. Connecting What to Why: We teach this to leaders all the time. But it works even better when you can get the whole team thinking this way. Why are we asking our customers to do this? Why am I performing this task this way? Why are we doing this thing no wants to do? Building a deeper connection between what your team is doing it to the deeper why.
  5. Building Trusted Peer Relationships: In a stack-ranked world, with limited resources creating trusted peer relationships is a fine art. Your team needs tools and practice–and support from you to reach out and build relationships even with the most frustrating folks in other departments.

This year, what will you do to build followership competence on your team?

How to host a great end of year meeting

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

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

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

How to Have a Remarkable End-of-Year Meeting

Make a CAREful plan and have your best meeting ever.

C- Celebrate 

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

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

A-Acknowledge

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

R-Renew

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

E-Engage

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

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

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

2018 Fast Start

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

 

how to lead a succssful project

Six Reasons Even the Best Project Managers Fail

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

Six Reasons Even the Best-Run Projects Derail

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

1. Lack of Executive Alignment

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

What exactly are we fixing now and how?

What does success look like?

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

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

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

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

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

3. The Team’s Full of B-Players

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

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

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

5. No One Wants to Hear the Tough Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

How to make 2018 your best year ever.

5 Ways to Differentiate Your Performance in the New Year

“But I exceeded all my objectives. Why am I not rating ‘leading?’ ”

It’s a frustrating conversation no matter which side of the desk you’re on. The truth is, in most companies, meeting or exceeding your objectives is not enough to stand out. In a stack-ranked world, you’ve got to make a bigger strategic impact.

5 Ways to Differentiate Your Performance in the New Year

Whether you’re looking for ways to take your own performance to the next level, or to help a frustrated team member stand out, here are a few proven strategies to make  2018 your best year ever.

1. Know what matters most.

Have you ever noticed it’s not necessarily the times in your career that you worked the longest or hardest that got the most positive attention? Sure sometimes there’s a correlation, but chances are it’s more a matter of finding that sweet spot where your skills and talents matched a strategic business need and pointing all your energy in that direction. You’ve got at least 37 priorities on your plate, you can’t exceed expectations on all of them. Talk to your manager,  know what matters most, and be sure you nail that.

Ask:

“What’s the most important thing I (or my team) needs to accomplish to really impact the business this year?”

Or, I know everything on this scorecard is important, but if I had to fail at something, which of these metrics matters the least, and what do you want me to really blow out of the water?

Or even, “Imagine we’re sitting here this time next year, and you’re blown away by my (my team’s) performance… what would I (we) have accomplished?”

2. Fix something broken.

What’s not working that’s driving everyone crazy? What process could be made more efficient? What can you do to improve the customer experience (not just once) but systematically? How can you make work more efficient not just for you, but for your peers as well? Find something broken and fix it.

3. Build a clear cadence of communication.

Be the guy that makes everyone’s lives easier through a clear cadence of communication up, down and sideways. Treat everyone’s time as a precious resource. Hold meetings that people actually want to attend. Come buttoned up to one-on-ones with your manager, with a clear agenda (this tool will help).

4. Strengthen strategic peer relationships.

Great work never happens in a vacuum. Invest time in building strategic peer relationships where you truly understand, and help one another to achieve, your interdependent objectives. Nothing frustrates senior managers more than dysfunctional turf wars that distract people from doing the right thing for the business and for your customers. Your competition is not the department down the hall, it’s mediocrity.

5. Invest in your own development.

I once had a mentor who said, “Some people have 10 years of experience and other folks have 1 year of experience 10 times.”  Even if you’re not changing roles, be sure you’re constantly learning and growing. Have a clear development plan that stretches you and helps you contribute more to the business each year.

If you want to truly differentiate your contribution–go beyond what’s necessary for today, and work to make a broader impact for your customers, for the business, and for those around you.

Your turn. What’s your best advice for building a year of truly differentiated performance?

See Also our Fast Company Article: 10 Common Excuses that Silently Damage Manager’s Careers

Gratitude and Appreciation: A November Frontline Festival

Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. This month’s festival is about thankfulness. 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 your best of 2017.  Submit your best blog post of the year here!

WHY GRATITUDE IS IMPORTANT

Skip Prichard of Leadership Insights  shares three steps to boost your thanksgiving quotient and 17 different benefits for a spirit of gratitude. Gratitude is one of the best ways to increase your success in the coming year. Follow Skip.

Tanveer Naseer of Tanveer Naseer Leadership gives us a look at how expressing gratitude can help leaders bring out the best in those they lead and drive their organizations to succeed. Follow Tanveer.

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING GRATEFUL FOR PEOPLE

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” A.A. Milne

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement is thankful for the insight provided by his father on how to provide value through your work.  He says, “It seems to me we often neglect to appreciate how important it is for people to take pride in their work.  He gave me an early appreciation that while there are many factors influencing our decisions as we proceed through our careers, it is critical to do work that you are proud of.” Follow John.

Rachel Blakely of Patriot Software reminds us that during the holiday season and beyond, it’s important to step back and think about what you’re grateful for in your business. This year, let your customers know you’re thankful for them with these five tipsFollow Rachel.

Shelley Row of Shelley Row Associates recounts when a plane full of passengers erupted in appreciative applause.  Follow Shelley

Paula Kiger of Big Green Pen mentions thanks for the teachers in our lives, including people who “taught” us outside the classroom. They appreciate hearing our expressions of gratitude, even if quite a bit of time has elapsed. This is a note she wrote to a teacher decades after a meaningful incident. Follow Paula.

Chery Gegelman of Simply Understanding shares five reasons thankfulness is more than child’s playFollow Chery.

APPROACHES FOR BEING MORE GRATEFUL

“This a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.” Maya Angelou

According to Sean Glaze of Great Results Teambuilding, a constant focus on what is missing, what needs to get better, where the flaws are, can turn aspirations into frustrations. As a coach,  manager, principal, or leader in any arena, rather than seeing the hole, we should step back more often to appreciate the doughnut. We should find things to be grateful for. In just five minutes over seven days, you can completely change your focus and impact. Follow Sean.

According to Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership, Gratitude is good for you, but an “attitude of gratitude is not enough. You get maximum benefits if you spread it around.  Follow Wally.

In the post, Making Thanksgiving a Leadership Skill, Robyn McLeod of Thoughtful Leaders Blog shares that we can reap greater benefits by making “giving thanks” a year-round leadership practice.  Follow Robyn.

Paul LaRue of The UPwards Leader shares that we can appreciate leadership in many forms, but true leadership of positive influence on others is what it’s really all about. Follow Paul

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” William Arthur Ward

David Grossman of The Grossman Group shares his Thanksgiving tradition: Grandma Elsie’s Chiffon Pie– and celebrates her generous spirit every holiday season. Follow David.

Chip Bell of Chip Bell Group is grateful for PASSION!! Without it, life would become plain vanilla, greatness would become mediocrity, and commitment would become complacency. In the words of English novelist E.M. Forster, “One person with passion is better than forty people merely interested.” Follow Chip.

According to Michelle Cubas, CPCC, ACC, of Positive Potentials, LLC,  gratitude is a state of mind when you allow it to be. Gratitude is not a natural state. Consider two toddlers in the same room with a fistful of goodies. Often, they will want what the other one has too! This description derives from a selfish desire for survival that is hard-wired into us. We must make a choice for a different state of mind.  Follow Michelle.

The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.” William James

Ken Downer of Rapid Start Leadership shares: An attitude of gratitude can provide lots of benefits, like increased happiness, improved health, and even a better night’s sleep. Here are eight things you can do today to make life better, both for you, and those around you, by focusing on what you have, instead of what you don’t. Follow Ken

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited suggests that a good mindset about giving/receiving revolves around forgetting what you give and remembering what you receive.  Follow Beth.

WHAT TO DO WHEN IT’S HARD

Jesse Stoner of Seapoint Center for Collaborative Leadership reminds us that the holiday season can be difficult for many people, but it’s still possible to feel joy and gratitude in stressful times… which is good for your physical and mental health. She gives us three steps to access gratitude when you’re feeling stressed. Follow Jesse.

Eileen McDargh of The Energizer asks, “Do you ever have a moment when the world feels upside down and you are stressed or sick?” Eileen shares how the little things in life can give us pleasure even when we’re under the weather!  Follow Eileen.

Chris Edmonds of Driving Results through Culture reminds us that while civility and respect is not demonstrated daily in many of our homes, neighborhoods, or workplaces, now is the time to begin being thankful and kind in every interaction. The choice is ours.  Follow Chris.

How about you? What are you most thankful for? How do you keep a grateful approach?

How to Help Your HR Team Be More Strategic

When I started my first HR job at 26, my boss handed me a stack of books and two pieces of advice. (1) Always read what the client is reading and (2) learn to “talk trucks” (meaning, “learn the business, kid.”) Straight out of grad school and fired up about all I thought I knew, the reading part was perfect for me. I think she was worried I’d be telling the guys three levels up what to read (and think), and far better to meet them where they were with a little humility.

And the second piece of advice, “talking trucks,” learning the business so well that I could add real value and perspective to the conversation, was PRICELESS.

I spent as much time learning the business as I did doing HR. Back then I thought when someone said,  “You’re the least HR-y HR person I know” that was a compliment. My approach didn’t always sit well with some of the old-school HR execs, who would remind me to “Remember who’s side I was on.” My team and I stayed the course, and always strove to be business people first, who happen to have expertise in HR.

A decade later when I pivoted from HR exec to a variety of field executive assignments in customer service and sales, I was shocked at how few HR managers supporting my team truly understood the business. They’d come in talking about constraints and rules and time to hire stats that all sounded like a big “why we can’t” do the things that, with a bit of HR creativity, we surely could.

Four Ways to Help Your HR Team Be More Strategic

Today we work with a wide range of clients from fast-growing start-ups to those with large corporations with employees scattered around the globe. A clear common denominator of those executing well, growing deliberately in size and margin, and building engaging cultures,  is they have a strong, STRATEGIC HR team, who get it, and because they do, they have a seat at the table. They influence from the inside.

If your HR team isn’t there quite yet, here are a few good places to start

  1. Align HR process measures to business outcomes.
    When I took over in my first executive HR role, one of the first things we did was change our scorecard to align with business outcomes. Of course, we kept some vital HR favorites (e.g  attrition in the first 90 days; time to fill positions; diversity distribution) but we added in revenue and customer experience targets as well. My team went nuts at first. “We can’t control NPS, why should our bonus depend on it?” Welcome to every manager you’re supporting’s world. They can’t control it all either. Great teams share common goals, and as HR professionals we need to be part of the team, not outside. How you train new hires impacts the customer experience and sales. The employee engagement support does too. If our programs, policies, and procedures don’t ultimately have a business impact, we’re focused on the wrong things.
  2. Share sensitive information.
    If you can’t trust your HR team with sensitive information, why in the world would you entrust them to manage your companies’ most important asset– your people? If you don’t have an HR team you can trust, fix that. If you do, err on the side of letting them in. The number one reason people can’t think strategically is that they lack information and context. Share what you can. Have them sign internal NDAs if that helps. But the longer you wait on sharing your (fill in the blank here) merger intentions, location closings, reductions in force, new product launches, etc. the less time they have to be proactive and help you plan a solid execution strategy. HR practitioners all over the world complain of being brought in too late in the game to make a difference. They’re left punting–doing the best they can with the situation they’ve been handed and frustrated with what they know they could have done if they only had a few more months to plan and execute.
  3. Rotate them through a field assignment.
    Do you have a high-potential HR manager you’re grooming for a larger role? I know it feels like cutting off your right arm now, but an 18-month assignment in a field role could make all the difference. If they come back to HR, great, they’ll understand the business pressures so much more. If they chose to stay in the field, they’ll be applying all their HR knowledge to building great cultures and leading effective teams. Either way, you win.

    A pivotal point in my career was when a senior leader I had been supporting as an HR business partner, looked at me and said, “Karin, you’re young in your career (I was then) and if you don’t go get some field experience soon, the very best you can be here is a VP of HR. I think you can do more. If you want to go back into HR after the field assignment, cool, you’ll be that much stronger.” Three months later I found myself leading a bunch of B2B call centers for which I had no experience. Now I was not telling people how to lead, I was leading from the deep end and learning the business through a fire hose. Then I rotated back into HR for a turnaround effort of the training organization, and then back to the field to lead a 2200 person retail sales team (a role for which every ounce of HR training came in helpful.) If you want your HR team to truly understand the business, let them lead it.
  4. Foster a “how can we” attitude
    I still run into companies that view their HR teams as police or a hurdle to get through. Work with your HR team to listen carefully to new ideas and strategies and start with a “How can we?” attitude to identify creative ideas to be part of the solution. 

Your turn. How do you help your HR team to be more strategic?

I enjoyed speaking at the SHRM Volunteer Leaders Summit in Washington, DC. We are happy to be a recertification provider. Please drop me a note at karin.hurt@letsgrowleaders.com to learn more!

 

what to why

Why To Explain Why, Again.

Last week, we were wrapping up our final session of a six-month strategic management intensive with a group of engineering managers by helping them to synthesize what they’d learned. In addition to a number of more mainstream techniques, we asked them to craft strategic stories to pass along their key messages to the next generation of managers coming behind them.

They picked a leadership priority or approach they wanted to reinforce, and then found a real story from their personal or work life to make the message more impactful and sticky.

As you can imagine, this is not the sort of exercise that is necessarily embraced with a gung-ho attitude by engineering types. Even with a formula, this process was a stretch (that’s why we saved it to the last session so we couldn’t get fired 😉

They nailed it.

“Steve” picked the Winning Well principle of connecting “What to Why” to ground his story.

“When I was 17, I worked at Ace Hardware. It was my job to keep track of the inventory in the back and sometimes I ran the register. My boss had made it perfectly clear of what you would call a “MIT (most important thing).” If a customer asked for something they couldn’t find, our only response should be “I’ll be happy to go in the back and check for you.”

But on this particular day, I KNEW the tool the customer had asked for was not in the back because I had just noticed the issue when I was working in the back. When the customer asked me to go in the back and double check, I informed him that I was absolutely sure we were out and there was no reason to check.

My boss overheard me and when the customer left, he let me have it, and told me in no uncertain terms that if I ever told a customer we were out of something without going into the back to check, I would be fired.

I thought this was ridiculous, but I complied, AND thought my boss was a jerk. I didn’t understand why we would have such a stupid policy—what a waste of time.

Fast forward a decade to a few months ago. I was neck deep in renovating my house and I ran out of something I really needed to get the job done. My fiancé and I were really tired of all the mess and I just needed to get this done.  I ran over to Ace and asked the kid at the counter for some help finding what I needed. “Oh no man, we’re out,” the kid shrugged, and moved on.

And then, I found myself looking at this kid in disbelief and saying “Come-on, can’t you at least go look in the back?”

And then it hit me.

That’s WHY my boss had that “stupid” policy. To make frustrated customers like me feel just a little bit better—that someone cares enough to go one more step.

It’s tricky. We always make sense to us, and the “why” behind our intentions always seems so obvious–to us. If your  “why” really matters, why leave the understanding to chance?

Reinforce your “why” every chance you get.

Tips For Sharing Why

  1. Check Your Gut. Be sure you know why what you’re asking them to do what you’re asking them to do, and that it still matters.
  2. Reinforce. Share stories, dig for data, illuminate examples.
  3. Check For Understanding. Ask strategic questions to help your team see what you see, or just ask them what they heard.
  4. Repeat anything that’s important is worth communicating five times, five different ways.

Your turn. What are your favorite ways to connect what to why?