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?

5 Secrets of Utility Player

6 Secrets of a Utility Player: How to Hire For Indispensable

It’s easy to hire for rock stars—the folks with the exact niche skills you need in the marketplace. But don’t underestimate the value of a true utility player for long-term success.

How (and Why) to Find, Hire (and Promote) a Utility Player

My boss came back from the succession planning discussion with the executive team. “Oh, it’s all good, you’re a utility player.” As a young Gen Xer, I didn’t love the sound of that. Utility player sounds so, well, utilitarian (practical, functional, serviceable). I was young in my career, I wanted to be seen as an up-and-coming rock star, not an easily tradeable unsung hero.

Six months later there was a massive reorganization and a layoff. My hands shook as my boss handed me the new org chart. Our entire department was missing. And then he smiled. “I have two words for you: utility player. You’re fine. Here’s what’s next (a promotion).”

I get it now. Utility players provide you with the flexibility to embrace change fast without a ruckus. It’s why Inc. recommends that startups hire the utility player first.  

Makes sense. I’ve had several new start-up clients call for help because their original team of founders/specialists just didn’t have the skills to lead as they scaled.

6 Indispensable Utility Player Competencies

Of course, you’ve got to hire specialists for certain roles. But when hiring leaders, don’t underestimate the flexibility you’ll get from a few of these key skills.

  1. They love the Game (and by the game, I mean your business.)
    They understand and are energized by the big picture vision. They’re gung-ho and ready to go with the twists and turns. They don’t play games to get ahead. They stay focused on the bigger mission.
  2. They Build Strong, Trusting  Relationships (up, down and sideways)
    Rock stars sometimes alienate their boss and peers and REALLY tick off their direct reports.  Utility players know that other human beings are their lifeline to success. They’re inclusive. They invest in a wide network of go-to relationships up, down and sideways.
  3. They are Curious, Eager Learners
    They don’t know it all, but they sure try to learn as much as they can. They embrace new situations with curiosity and confident humility as they work to understand what’s really happening and how they can help.
  4. They Work Hard
    They dig in harder and longer than most. They care about quality and doing it right.
  5. They’re Resilient
    Although they’re attached and really care about their current mission, when the direction shifts they can cope with that too (okay, they might go into the bathroom and scream first- give them a minute and they’ll come around.)
  6. They Tell the Truth
    They’re willing to have the tough conversations that make the business and the people better. They ditch the Diaper Genie™ and own the U.G.L.Y. in a way that builds trust and maintains relationships.

Your turn. What have you found to be the most indispensable competencies of utility players?

You may also enjoy our recent post: Interviewing: How to Hire For Winning Well Competencies (interview questions to help you hire the best)

how to mbwa without getting in the way

How to MBWA Without Getting in the Way

My phone rang, “Karin, she’s here …”

“Crud, just what we needed today! Bad MBWA. Aghhh. You know the drill, warn the others. I’ll let John (my boss) know.”

John picked up the phone, “Okay, is your team ready? Remember there’s no such thing as a good executive visit with her, let’s just keep it from being a bad one. We don’t need the team distracted, we’ve got important work to do. We don’t need any more fire drills.”

“We should really let her know that her visits are backfiring,” I said, trying to solve this problem once and for all. I was a big fan of “no diaper genie,” even back then, “No way,” John warned. “She won’t hear you, and you’ll just get on her bad side.”

And so we did our best to protect the team, tell her what she wanted to hear and prayed that she got back on the private jet to headquarters as quickly as possible.

I’m sure her intentions were good—get out in the field, stay close to the people serving our customers, inspect what you expect, be visible… but her reactionary nature and sarcastic communication style left a destructive wake of frustration, low morale, and petty clean up that distracted the team from their MITs (Most Important Things).

When MBWA (management by walking around),  becomes OCHTC “Oh crap here they come” you’re better off staying in the office.

Seven Ways to Add Value During Your MBWA Skip Level Visits

Once I became an executive, I understood why these MBWA visits can be so hard. In any large team, there’s a 100% probability that someone is doing or saying something stupid at any minute, and tripping over that is enough to distract you from the real reason you’re there. Heading into your visits with a solid game plan will ensure your visits leave a positive impact on results and relationships.

  1. Be clear on your most important message.
    I’ve seen so many executives leave their teams with 37 action items after their visit. The team then runs around fixing things and checking them off to report back, but don’t really learn or refocus their efforts for long-term change. It’s far more impactful to pick a few key priorities and focus your messaging. Connect what you’re asking them to do and why. Plan your key messages in advance and ensure they are the focal point of your visit.
  2. Ask your middle managers how you can be most helpful.
    Your managers are working hard to keep their teams focused. Ask them how you can help reinforce their priorities. Be as helpful as possible to reinforce their influence and credibility. If they’re not focused on what you care about, WAY better to deal with that directly than to react at the front line.

  3. Talk behaviors, not numbers.
    As executives, we spend lots of time looking at numbers and trends. We get impatient for results to improve. A common practice is to leave the team with a numerical challenge, “Improve by 10% by the time I come back,” which can be inspiring … but works much better when you focus on the one or two behaviors that will help them get there, and help them find a way to measure that.
  4. Celebrate what’s working.
    You get more of what you celebrate and encourage. Look for what’s working and point it out. Thank them. Make a big deal of the good behaviors (not just the outcomes) so that everyone around notices you noticing.
  5. Ask great questions.
    If you want to know what’s really going on ask open-ended questions and really listen to the answers. What’s frustrating our customers? What is the most difficult part of your day? How is this new system making your job easier? How is it making it more difficult? Why is this metric so hard to move?
  6. Catalyze the sharing of practices.
    If you’re out and about, chances are you are seeing people in other offices or locations with some great best practices. Leverage this for some cross-pollination. “You know who’s doing this well, Laura in Poughkeepsie. You should give her a call. Tell her I sent you.”
  7. Follow up.
    Find one or two ways to be helpful and follow-up. “Here’s the additional funding you need.” “I talked to IT about that fix you were needing and they’ll have it done by next week.”

Your Turn

What would you add?  What are your best practices for more meaningful MBWA?

ceremonies, celebration and the power of beginning well

Ceremonies, Celebration, and How to Create Meaningful Beginnings

Imagine the Olympics without the opening ceremonies.

What if the games just started. No torch. No sexy flag carriers, no dancers. No music. No costumes.  No human interest stories. No ceremonial coming together of divided political interests.

Just, “Up first, curling.”

Ceremonies and rituals invite us to stop and consider the magic of the moment. Ceremonies signal us to pay attention to what’s coming next. They remind us that we’re up to something exciting. AND that we’re in this together.

The ROI of Investing in Workplace Ceremonies and Celebration

If you’ve heard my Build an Army of Brand Ambassador’s keynote, you know that my favorite turnaround story as a Verizon executive was leading the dramatic transformation of our outsourced call centers. We were able to transform the channel from mediocre quality to almost all the centers (and their ten thousand employees) performing at parity (or better) in quality than internal centers.

It was a three-year journey of cultural transformation of results and relationships. My hand-selected team of enthusiastic change makers partnered with several amazing leaders at these partner companies to build and execute the plan. All sides worked relentlessly to change the mindset from that of a vendor to trusted strategic partner.  (See more here)

I suppose we could have just jumped in and started working on the new contracts, training, quality programs, and workforce planning that was the stew of our success, but I’m convinced it would have been a heavier lift if we had not paused for a bit of ceremony.kickoff celebrations

First, we changed the name of our organization from the “vendor management organization” to the “strategic partnership channel.” We banned “the V word” from any communication in either company, and I would even politely correct those in the C-suite who accidentally use the V word in our reviews. We staged a team contest to create a new logo and branded all of our correspondence with the new strategic partner channel (SPC) theme.

We brought the senior leadership teams from these (technically competing) companies together for a retreat and collectively built the vision of this new strategic partnership relationship. But we all knew, even if we were acting differently at the executive level, even with new investment and new approaches, it was going to take a lot of consistent communication and serious behavior change for life to feel different for the human beings taking the calls every day.

So we turned off the phones. And the strategic partner execs and I got on lots and lots of airplanes.

Okay, we didn’t turn off the phones all at once. But over a month and a half period, we held 26 kickoffs across the country to launch the new vision. Every kickoff was different and was a clear partnership between Verizon Wireless and the Strategic Partnership company.

In Tucson, the team built a stage in the parking lot and rented chairs for 1000 reps to join the party, with balloons and noisemakers and lots of sports-team fun. In Boise they formed a remarkably high-quality rock band, singing new strategic words to “Red Solo Cup” — you can watch a video of that ruckus here); in every center, there were skits and noisemakers and recognition and prizes all reinforcing the why behind what we were asking them to do. We were crystal clear on our MIT priorities. And of course, the strategic partner execs shared the microphone with me as true partners, describing the vision and our commitment to supporting the teams with the tools they needed.

Our celebration signaled that something different and exciting was happening.

I know every penny of lost time off the phones; every hour we spent in cross-country flight, and every tee-shirt added up and would have to be made up in improved results. The ROI proved in, and we were given funding again to hold them the following year.

Those ceremonies punctuated the beginning of a new era. We demonstrated that we were going to do something that had never been done before by doing something that had never been done before.

Of course, not all change efforts warrant a parade, wigs, and noisemakers. But if you’re really looking to change the game, consider—What could you do to turn off the phones, pause, celebrate and reinforce your new dramatic beginning?

Your turn. Have you ever a powerful workplace ceremony?

See Also: 

Fast Company Three Rules For Creating Workplace Rituals to Improve Company Culture

Leadership Training ROI Karin Hurt and David Dye

5 Powerful Ways to Ensure Leadership Training Sticks

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

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

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

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

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

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

I imagine you have too. What makes the difference?

5 Ways to Make Leadership Training Stick and Increase ROI

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

Great leadership training is a process, not an event.

Great leadership training is closely aligned with strategic business initiatives.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Turn

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

secrets to an actionable talent review

7 Big Rules For a Successful Talent Review

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

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

We fixed that scene.

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

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

Seven Big Rules For a Successful Talent Review

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

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

Frontline Festival: Leaders Share about Strategy and Alignment

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

Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors!

Next month’s Frontline Festival is all about inspiring innovation and creativity. New contributors always welcome. Submit your relevant blog posts here!

Including Your Team and Customers in Strategic Planning Efforts

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

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

Ensuring Organizational Capacity to Execute Your Strategy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simplify

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

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

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

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

Strategic Planning and Stepping Up to More

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

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

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

how to build a best in class new hire orientation

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

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

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

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

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

1- Make it a Celebration

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

2- Connect Through Stories

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

3-Create a Family Welcome Kit

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

4- Let Them Do Something Productive

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

5- Visualize the MIT (Most Important Thing)

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

6-Make it Really Easy to Ask Questions

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

7. Help Them Build a Plan

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

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

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

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

 

Got Influence? An Easy Way to Show Up Stronger

Got Influence? An Easy Way to Show Up Stronger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

At what cost?

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

Perhaps for you, it’s…

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

The Approach

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

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

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