meeting

Three Simple Secrets to Running a Remarkable Meeting

“This is so stupid–they asked for my opinion and then ignored it. I don’t know why I even bother! From now on, I’m going to just shut my mouth and do my work.”

“Arghhh. We keep rehashing the same conversations. Why can’t we make a simple @#%*&% decision?”

“I don’t know why we even try! We make a decision and by the time we get back together, no one has done anything we agreed to.”

Sound familiar?

I’ve heard these words so frequently, in focus groups, in one-on-ones, and even behind closed doors with seasoned managers. If you’ve been working in organizations for any period of time, you may have said them too.

Everyone hates bad meetings. And bad meetings are everywhere.

If you want to be a great manager, build a reputation of running great meetings, and watch for an immediate improvement in who shows up and what they contribute.

Three Simple Secrets to Running a Remarkable Meeting

  1. Communicate a clear objective for the meeting.
    Be clear up front.  Determine if this a “Where are we going?” discussion, or a “How will we get there?” conversation.  If you’re not clear, you don’t have a fighting chance of an organized dialog. Yes. You can have both conversations in the same meeting, but not at the same time. Put it on the agenda. Reinforce it in your opening remarks. Heck, put it in the meeting invite: “By the end of this meeting, we will have decided __________.”People want to know that something will be accomplished with their time. Make that “something” perfectly clear.  One of our Winning Well clients has started including this message in their Outlook invites

    This meeting’s goal is to reach a decision on xxxx, and to begin to define how we will achieve this, we need your best thinking on _______.

  2. Be clear on how decisions will be made.
    Nothing is more frustrating to people than asking for their opinion and ignoring it. Be clear up front as to how the decision will be made.“I need to make this decision, but I would love your input”

    or “We’re going to decide by consensus”

    or “After 30 minutes of discussion, we’re going to take a vote.”Of course, the most important part of this approach is to make a plan and stick to it. If you say the decision will be by consensus, and then hate where the conversation is going and just make the call yourself, you would have been better off making the decision in the shower and communicating it well.

  3. Establish accountability for every decision.
    For every next step stop and ask “Who will do what, by when and how will we know?””Joe’s got this” is not sufficient.” “Joe will talk to Sue and make a decision about X by Friday and send us an email with what they came up with,” works better.

Very few managers run meetings well. Can you imagine the possibilities if you were known as the go-to for holding a great meeting?

How to Get Noticed as a Leader– Before You've Led a Team

Last week “John” shared his “No Diaper Genie!” frustration in the middle of our high-potential leadership development program.

Yeah, I get that I’m here… and the company is investing in me and all that. But my boss keeps saying, “You’re not ready to be promoted, you’ve never led a team. I can’t recommend you for that particular promotion now, give it time”

but the truth is, my job is 18 times more complex than any front-line supervisor. I’m neck-deep in a complex organizational structure doing really strategic work and making an impact. How do I get noticed?”

Flashback to about 20 years ago, when I looked at my boss, Mary Ann, and said almost EXACTLY those same words. I had a masters degree and most of a Ph.D., I was gung ho working really long hours, thinking strategically, and contributing in any way that I could.

And she said the words I found remarkably frustrating and stupid at the time…

Karin, “What’s for you won’t miss you. We’ve got a lot of old-fashioned ways of thinking and being around here… but you’re bigger than all that. Stay the course. Show up as the leader you think the guys three levels up should be.”

And so I did. And as it turns out, Mary Ann was right. It didn’t miss me.

Five Ways to Get Noticed As a Leader Before You’ve Led a Team

Be so good it’s hard to notice. Here are five ways to make a leadership impact before you have a team.

  1. Master the art of the tough conversation.
    Be the guy that can give tough feedback to peers, project team members and even your boss in a way that makes them feel valued and grateful. People will then seek you out as a trusted advisor). Here’s a tool that can help INSPIRE feedback model for project managers For some additional inspiration, you can see part of my Managing the Art of the Tough Conversation keynote here.
  2. Rock your role.
    Yes, yes, you’ve heard this from me before (see related advice here).  But I can’t tell you how many people come to me each week frustrated that they’re not at the next level, and when I ask about their current performance they shrug that off because “they’re bored and ready for more.”  Not a chance. I would never promote you if you’re not showing up consistently as a high-performer, and neither should your boss.
  3. Be sure every meeting you attend is better because you were there.
    You can pull that off in a variety of ways: help keep the team on track by separating “Where are we going?” conversations “How will we get there?” discussions; help to clarify and summarize action items, “Who will do what by when and how will we know?” Invite softer spoken team members to offer their contributions.  See more ideas for running effective meetings here.
  4. Keep your boss informed of your strategic contribution.
    When done well, it’s not bragging. It’s useful– and when you’re adding more value, so are they. Here’s a free huddle planner to help you have more productive one-on-ones with your boss.
  5. Practice Two-level thinking.
    When faced with a difficult business problem or when you’re asked to do something that feels challenging think, “Why is this important to my boss’ boss?” If you can’t come up with a good answer, ask your immediate manager to help you think it through. Everyone wants to have team members who “get it” and want to make a more strategic impact on the business.

If you want to stand out as a leader, don’t wait until you have a formal title. Leading without authority is the best way to stand out “as a natural” and get noticed for what you bring to the scene.

brand awareness

Frontline Festival: Leaders Share about Building Brand Awareness

Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. This month’s festival is about building brand awareness. 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 team building. What’s your favorite team building experience? What are your best practices for building teams?  Submit your relevant blog posts here!

Our Reflections on the Festival Contributions and Insights on Building an Army of Brand Ambassadors

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement  talks about how building brand recognition with your team starts with inspiring passion in your message and teaching employees about what your business stands for.  Aligning Marketing Vision and Management  

David Grossman of The Grossman Group explains that when done well, internal branding is a powerful and proven strategy to drive engagement and the behaviors leaders want inside organizations, especially as it relates to a company’s ability to deliver on its brand promise. Top 10 Tips for Successful Internal Branding Efforts  Follow David.

Brand is just a perception, and perception will match reality over time. Sometimes it will be ahead, other times it will be behind. But brand is simply a collective impression some have about a product. – Elon Musk

Michelle Cubas, CPCC, ACC, of Positive Potentials, LLC discusses team buy-in on brand awareness which takes many forms. Find ways to support your efforts.  Ways to Build Team Brand Awareness   Follow Michelle.

Amanda Cameron of Patriot Software, LLC   says that building brand recognition with your team starts with inspiring passion in your message and teaching employees about what your business stands for. Building Brand Recognition With Your Team   Follow Amanda.

Shelley Row of ShelleyRow.com warns us that the tone of our emails can negatively affect our brand. Flaming Emails: Don’t Be THAT Person.    Follow Shelley.

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited  looks at why something as simple as our email signature can help our brand.  Five Ways to Make Your Email Signatures Work!   Follow Beth.

The keys to brand success are self-definition, transparency, authenticity and accountability. – Simon Mainwaring

A Few of My Thoughts on Brand Awareness

So many companies have strict social media policies for employees. I’m always struck by the impact social media can have in progressive companies who embrace these powerful tools and encourage their employees to blog and tweet about the brand. Encouraging employees to have a voice and not just be a “bot.”

I love this Inc. article, How to Find the Right Employees to Be Your Brand Ambassadors, where Eric Markowitz shares how to recruit and encourage employees to promote your brand on social media.

My most popular piece on the topic was published in Brand Quarterly   7 Ways to Turn Your Employees into Brand Ambassadors.

In this Fast Company article, 10 Excuses That Silently Damage Managers Careers, David Dye and I tackle some of the language that can easily derail your personal brand.

In The Amazing Side Effect of Making-it-Right Customer Service, we explore the benefits of customer service that builds brands and creates a best-in-class customer experience.

I’m often asked to speak on how to turn your employees into brand ambassadors. I really enjoyed my work with senior HR leaders at the HR Asia Summit C-Suite Symposium forum this spring on the topic, where we discussed the importance of building empathetic connections between employees and your companies purpose– and connecting what you’re asking employees to do, with why you’re asking them to do it at every level of the business.

 

5 Surprising Reasons Your Ideas Aren't Being Heard

Have you ever felt this way? You’ve got great ideas. You care deeply. AND you’re frustrated. Why is no one picking up what you’re putting down? Don’t give up. Take a careful look at your idea in the context of your other behaviors and interaction with the team.

Five Surprising Reasons Your Ideas Aren’t Being Heard

1. You’re Under-Invested

If you want your idea to gain traction–start with talking about what you’re doing to help.

“Here’s what I’ve already done to get us started.”

“Here are five ways I can help.”

“Here are some additional resources I can contribute.”

2. You’ve got a Track Record of Great Ideas–For Everyone Else

You’re all ideas–no action. No one wants to listen to the guy creating a lot of extra work for THEM to implement. Build a strong reputation of contributing to other people’s ideas first.

3. You’re Apologizing For Your Idea

Sounds crazy, right? And yet it happens all the time. “This is probably a dumb idea…” “I’m sorry but…”

4. You’re Too Gung Ho

What? Did Karin Hurt the “gung ho” queen just say that? Why, yes I did. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by being overly emotional or so passionate people wonder what you put in your oatmeal that morning.

5. You’ve Under-Invested in Peer Relationships

Boy did I have to learn this one the hard way. In my early career, I had a few ideas that I know were just brilliant die on the vine. How do I know they were good? A few years later when I’d built strong trusting relationships sideways, I tried something almost identical again, and people were lining up to help. If you want folks to come along, work hard to get along. Invest in prioritizing your peers and the next time you look around there will be more people by your side ready to listen.

Of course, the side benefit here is that if the whole gang’s all in, your boss will be much more eager to listen.

Your ideas matter–positioning them takes practice, but it’s worth it.

How Do I Find a Great Mentor?

I can’t tell you how many times someone has asked me to be their mentor, and when I asked what they were looking to accomplish–I was met with a blank stare. I guess they were just looking for me to start espousing wisdom to help get their career to the next level.

But mentoring doesn’t work that way.

To find a great mentor, start by being a rock star mentee.

Four Ways to Be a Better Mentee

Just like everything else in your career, the more you put in, the more you get out. Show up with a plan to launch an enriching relationship.

  1. Know What You’re Looking to Accomplish
    Determine specifically what you’re looking to achieve from your work together. Is there something about your mentor’s background or skill set that you want to learn? Perhaps they’re particularly good at navigating the political landscape, or great during times of stress. Or maybe you’re looking for better insights into how you’re being perceived in the organization or support in expanding your network with a few key introductions. As with all relationships, you’ll be more successful if you both are clear on your expectations for your work together. Have an open conversation about expectations upfront to determine if you’re aligned.
  2. Be Truly Open to Feedback
    If you’re going to ask for feedback and advice, be sure you’re listening. You don’t have to agree or act on it, but be sure to be open and say thank you. Nothing will turn off your new mentor more than a defensive argument about why their perception isn’t accurate.
  3. Offer to Help
    The best mentoring relationships are reciprocal– both human beings grow in the process. Ask what you can do to be helpful to them– even if it’s rolling up your sleeves and pitching in on a project they’re doing.
  4. Bring Conversation Starters
    The first few mentoring sessions can be a bit awkward if you don’t know your mentor very well. It can be good to come with a few “starter” questions.
  • What are you most excited about in terms of the future of our organization? Why? How can I best prepare to add the most value?
  • What are the things that excite and energize you about your work here? What are the things that drain or frustrate you? What have you done to reduce this frustration?
  • What are some of your outside interests? Are you able to leverage any of those skills here?
  • What are the skills and behaviors you think are required to be successful in my role? What advice do you have for accelerating my learning curve on those?
  • What skills and behaviors have helped you be successful here?
  • What do you know now that you wish you learned sooner?

The best mentoring relationships are grounded in deep-trust– and that takes time. Be patient and invest the time it takes to truly get to know and support one another.

See also:

Your Mentor May Not Be Helping Your Career

9 Ways to Strengthen Your Personal Brand

Speed Mentoring: Jump Starting Deeper Conversations

Looking Dow the Mountain

How to Motivate Yourself When You’re Exhausted

You’ve been working long hours, fighting the political and logistical battles to do what’s right for the business–and just as you think everything’s on track, the landscape changes… a merger, a reorganization, reduced funding… and you feel like you’re starting all over again.

Most of the time when people come to me feeling burned out and exhausted–or even feel like they’re “losing their soul” (it’s not that they no longer care)–it’s that they care so deeply and the lack of progress has made them weary.

Have you ever felt this way? Both gung ho AND exhausted?

When the going gets tougher, it’s easy to stare at the mountain of problems and work left to do and wonder if it’s worth the climb.

The Benefits of Looking Down the Mountain

This summer we’ve convinced  Sebastian (age 11) to join us in hiking his first Colorado 14er.  We began training last week to help him acclimate to exertion at elevations with 35% less oxygen.

On Saturday, we were nearing 12,000 feet on his first serious training hike and I look over and Seb is gasping for air and visibly frustrated. David’s arms were around him so I smiled and waited for the (oh so familiar) words I knew were coming next.

He turned Seb around and pointed him down the mountain. “Seb, do you see that lake way down there? Do you remember when we passed that and were looking for moose?” Seb’s eyes got wide. “Look how far you’ve come.”

And then David turns him to face up the mountain… “Okay, now look up at what’s left. You’ve got this!”

I can’t tell you how many times that line has worked on me. I promise it’s worth a try.

If you’re feeling exhausted and discouraged by the mountain ahead I encourage you to gather your team and reflect on what’s better now than 6 months ago?

  • How has the customer experience improved?
  • What processes are more streamlined?
  • How is your team stronger (leadership, hiring, skills?)
  • What do you know now that you didn’t know then?
  • How are you showing up as a better human being?
  • What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Yes, yes, look up, and plan. But never underestimate the power of a good pause to look down the mountain.

Three Behaviors That Will Convince Your Boss You’re a Rock Star

Yesterday “Doug,” a participant in one of our Winning Well workshops, asked, “Karin, if I were to walk into your office right now with the goal of convincing you I’m a rock star, what behaviors would get your attention?”

I’m always intrigued by what comes out of the other end of my microphone during spontaneous Q & A— the raw advice bubbling straight from my heart without the benefit of the backspace key.

So, here’s my answer to Doug, and for you if you’re looking to make a bigger impact.

How to Convince Your Boss You’re a Rock Star

 Of course, the table stakes are integrity—a reputation of doing what you say. I’m going to assume you’re there. On top of that my big three are…

  1. Are You Gung-Ho?
    Of course, I’d never tell an interview candidate “You’re just not gung ho,” but I can spot an all-in, positive spirit within the first few minutes of an interaction with another human being. “Gung ho” can take many forms: the quiet introvert who comes prepared with a spreadsheet of our biggest organizational challenges and his thoughts for fixing them; the passionate extrovert sharing stories of customer turn-around efforts she’s led; or the eager employee bringing new ideas for a special project.“Gung ho” means you’re as excited about this work as I am—and you’re ready to give this job everything you’ve got to be successful.
  2. Do You Offer Solutions?
    Let me be clear, “gung ho” is necessary but not sufficient to hit the Karin Hurt rock-star radar. There’s always a long line of people “gung ho” with ideas of what I could do to make things better. I want to know what you’re eager to do and how you’re planning to do it. True rock stars bring solutions—not just problems. They view constraints as creative challenges, not road blocks. They’re willing to try new approaches and are resilient and determined to overcome setbacks.
  3. Do You Have the Respect of Your Peers?
    Even if you’re gung-ho and full of creative solutions—if you’re driving your peers batty, something is amiss. And no—it’s not because you’re that much better than everybody else (and if you even hint that you believe that—I’m not buying your “I’m a rock star” sales pitch.) It’s impossible to Win Well in the long run without trust, collaboration, and sharing of best practices. I’d take a team of B+ performers who know how to truly collaborate over a few smart lone rangers every time.

If you’re looking to convince your boss you’re a rock star, show up with confidence in your skills and the willingness to go the extra mile to make an impact, along with the humility to know what’s broken and how you can help. Be committed to achieving breakthrough results through collaborative relationships.

That’s Winning Well.

Before You Forget, Stop and Do This Immediately

Have you ever met a truly humble person– someone who’s entire life is a sacrificial commitment to a cause they deeply believe in? As I spoke with Sister Louise in Thailand about her 50-year commitment to helping women and children out of extreme poverty and danger, I was blown away by her selfless mission.

Although she’s Catholic, her focus is not about a conversion of her 95% Buddhist community–it’s about “saving (with a little “s”) lost sheep.”

She just wants to give as many women and children as possible a shot at an empowered life.

And she and her teams are transforming lives. She’s Winning more Well than I could ever hope to.

I’m pretty sure that’s why I’m so haunted by the story she shared when I asked her what was the most challenging part of her work.

She didn’t miss a beat. And her answer surprised me.

There Was This One Time

There was a woman who had come to us for help many times. We worked with her on skills like hairdressing and sewing, but she struggled. She would give up, quit, and then come back.

Several times we just gave her money to get her out of a jam. We didn’t give up.

And then one day after being gone for quite a while, she came back to us and she proudly showed me a stack of money she had earned.

Relieved, I said “Oh you must be so grateful for this blessing.”

And then she screamed at me, “THANKFUL? BLESSING?  I DID THIS ALL BY MYSELF!!!!”

Sister Louise looked at me with tears in her eyes, “Can you imagine? How could she not see all the people who had worked so hard to help her? To be grateful to those who didn’t give up?”

Sister Louise had no expectations that this sheep would believe in God, but held out hope for a little gratitude for the work of his “hands and feet” in the form of her volunteers.

And there she stood, arguably the most humble human I’ve ever met– dumbfounded by the lack of a simple expression of gratitude.

Everyone needs to hear that they are making a difference.

Who Do You Need to Thank?

When we’re working really hard, it’s so easy to delude ourselves into thinking we did it all by ourselves.

I hear it all the time “I EARNED this promotion.” “I WORKED MY BUTT off to get here.”

I’ll admit. I’ve said those words.

But the truth is, none of us got here on our own– no matter how hard we worked.

There are managers and teachers and parents and peers who all helped in some way. There’s even the boss you hated, that finally convinced you that you weren’t as strong as you thought you were…and you worked harder to prove her wrong.

Who helped you today? Last week? Last quarter?

Who had an INSPIRE conversation that made an impact? Who helped become more confident? Who consistently takes the time to sweat the small stuff so you don’t have to?

What if you stopped right now and said thank you?

How to Build a More Customer-Centered, Empathetic Workforce

When you call customer service you want to know 2 things:  (1) Does the person who picked up your call care about you and your issue? and (2) Are they capable of fixing it?

You don’t have to be a customer service expert to know within 20 seconds whether the guy on the other end of the phone cares and is eager to help.

When we work with customer service departments, empathy is always identified as a top MIT (Most Important Thing). And yet it’s also one of the hardest set of behaviors to train.

A Best Practice For Training Empathy (Care About Real Lives)

I recently did a follow-up visit to a client who had invested in one of our Winning Well Operations Excellence Rallies. They had identified “Does the Customer Know How Much We Care?” as a top MIT, and set about isolating the behaviors and building a focus on empathy into their training, performance management, and recognition systems.

They built a confidence burst approach to encourage empathy. One day the representatives came in to find signs of a missing baby all over the office: a crocheted bootie, a pacifier, and some randomly scattered signs, “Has anyone seen baby Carl?” “What happened to baby Carl?” The representatives were intrigued. The entire center was talking about the baby Carl mystery during lunch breaks and between calls.

The managers had fun with this for a few days and then did what they call “the reveal.” They transferred the calls to another center for a few minutes and brought in “Baby Carl,” a carefully swaddled doll. “Remember how much you were worried about baby Carl? That’s how concerned we need to be about every customer’s issue. Every customer has real life concerns like small babies to take care of or sick friends and family.

Baby Carl represents our mission to show our customers how much we care. Every call should start with CARL–Care About Real Lives.”

As weeks went on, and a representative exhibited extraordinary empathy on a call– when they showed how much they CARLed (now a verb), they were awarded the Baby Carl recognition, had their picture take with Carl who stayed on their desk until someone was able to “steal” him back with a similarly empathetic call.

Every time someone won the Baby Carl award, the management team communicated exactly HOW the representative had shown empathy. Each selfie snapped with Baby Carl reinforced the behaviors they were looking to emulate. Representatives gained more confidence and competence as they showed up more consistently as someone who Cares About Real Lives.

One thing great leaders do is make the invisible, visible. Want your employees to show more empathy? Find ways to consistently make empathy visible, and celebrate the impact.

Frontline Festival: Leaders Give Pointers on Handling Conflict

Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. This month’s festival is about handling conflict in your team. 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 building brand awareness. What approaches are you and your team using to build your organization’s brand? Submit your relevant blog posts here!

Robyn McLeod of Thoughtful Leaders Blog  presents how to handle in-fighting on your team by sharing four tips that help leaders break through communication barriers and eliminate in-fighting within their teams.  How to Handle In-fighting on Your Team  Follow Robyn.

Jesse Stoner of Seapoint Center for Collaborative Leadership says that a list of values that are simply a list of single words that are not clearly defined can lead to confusion and team conflict, as this true story demonstrates. 5 Tips to Ensure Your Values Unify Your Team, Not Divide    Follow Jesse.

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership   says if you’re the boss, you have to confront team members about poor performance. When you do it promptly and well, everyone is better off.  Confrontation and Splinters   Follow Wally.

For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate.  Margaret Heffernan

David Grossman of The Grossman Group  explains that conflict is a paradox that every leader faces:  Create teams that work well together but embrace conflict. Embracing Conflict: It’s Part of Every Leader’s Job  Follow David.

Chris Edmonds of Driving Results through Culture  says when team members are of “one mind, one heart, and one voice,” there are fewer conflicts, better decision making, and more aligned performance.  Does Your Team Have “One Mind, One Heart, One Voice”?   Follow Chris.

From Chery Gegelman of Simply Understanding: In all conflicts – the only person you will ever control is you…but learning to hold others accountable with compassion will grow your influence and your results.  Got Sugar?  Learning to Speak Truth with Grace   Follow Chery.

Amanda Cameron of Patriot Software, LLC knows that being the boss isn’t easy. Business leaders need to know how to handle conflict in the workplace to keep operations running smoothly. How to Handle Conflict at Work for Small Business   Follow Amanda.

Conflict is drama, and how people deal with conflict shows you the kind of people they are. Stephen Moyer

Shelley Row of Shelley Row Associates explores how to handle conflict well by pointing out that your team needs to have healthy conversations. She provides some tips for turning competitive talks into collaborative discussions. For Better Decisions: Convert Competitive Talking into Collaborative Talking  Follow Shelley

Nathan Regier of Next Element Consulting – Next From Nate  shares his viewpoint that when we mediate, manage, or reduce the conflict, we necessarily reduce the energy available for productive problem-solving. When we respect the tension and use that energy to create instead of destroy, the results can be transformative.  My Manifesto For Change: Conflict Isn’t The Problem  Follow Nathan.

Jon Mertz of Thin Difference  shares his perspective about how business can be a power for good amid the the conflict that pervades our nation’s political discourse. It’s time for CEOs to become activists for positive change and help handle the conflict infecting our American team.   The Leadership Power Shift Underway (A Political and Business Undercurrent)  Follow Jon.

Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict.  William Ellery Channing

From Paula Kiger of Weaving Influence: In this post, Paula shares the story of a father who sends his children to learn teamwork via a “challenge course.” The situation deteriorates when there is conflict over who will lead and who will follow.  Gambling on Leadership  Follow Paula.

Chip Bell of Chip Bell.com  challenges us to get a child to hear your positions and make recommendations.  There is nothing more sobering than hearing an eight-year old comment on your positions and practices.  Their innate humility and innocence can be a boon to seeing through the minutia and sometimes silly things that trigger conflicts.    Follow Chip.

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited  knows that to handle conflict well, you sometimes owe someone an apology. She shares about a well-done apology she was given. How to Give an Effective Apology   Follow Beth.

 

 

How to Help a Task Master Focus on People

“I’m just not a people person.”

“I hate this touchy-feely crap.”

“See that!  I’m a ‘C’ on the DiSC assessment this just doesn’t come naturally to me. Now let me get back to work!”

Of course, all this may be true, for you, or for a manager that you’re working to develop. It’s also true, that if you want results that last, you can’t ignore the human side of teams.

Three Ways to Help a Task Master Focus on People

So how do you help a task master focus on people? The short answer, turn the “people thing” into a task.

If this makes your stomach turn, hang on. We’re working on a means to an end here. People matter. And we need more managers who feel confident in their ability to connect. So if it takes a spreadsheet to hone the skill…

People can be scary for task masters. But working their way down a to-do list feels a heck of a lot more manageable. Once the connections start to happen, and results improve, the focus on people naturally evolves into something more organic.

 1. Make a spreadsheet

If you’re working with a manager who loves pivot tables but has trouble remembering simple “thank yous,” ask them to make a spreadsheet of the members of their team. In column A have them list their team member’s names. In column B list strengths they are looking to encourage. In column C behaviors they are looking to develop. And in column D how the person likes to be recognized.

Building the spreadsheet is an intervention in itself as it forces the manager to think about (or in some cases go figure out) what each person needs. Then have them track each time they actually do the recognition. Here’s an example of a planner we built to help one of our engineering clients.  Winning Well Encouragement Planner.

We’ve also seen managers build spreadsheets to keep track of personal details of their team member’s lives (e.g. their kid’s names, what they do for fun). There’s no reason not to build processes for things that don’t come naturally to you.

2. Build connecting into your routines

We were working with one manager whose team thought he was unapproachable and unfriendly. We challenged him with a task. Every time he went to the bathroom, we encouraged him to use the one on the other side of the office. Then as he walked back to his desk, his job was to engage with people on a personal level on the way back. That seemed doable. After all, we weren’t asking him to be friendly all the time, just on those short walks. Taking a friendly walk became a task.

Of course, the side effect was that as he began showing up friendlier some of the time (while he was completing his focus on people task), he was breaking down barriers which made him more approachable at other times. People shared more information and asked for what they needed to be more effective.

3. Track your conversations

When I was in my sales exec role at Verizon I had 14 direct reports scattered over a 9-hour radius. Even though I’m a people person, with that many direct reports I found that I naturally talked to some of my guys more than others. I finally started keeping at tick sheet of touch points I had throughout the week. Some called me. Some I contacted.  But if I got to Thursday and there was the manager I hadn’t yet connected with (which I knew by my tracking system) I’d give them a call to just say “hi” while I was driving. Some of those informal, “just checking in” conversations turned into the most valuable brainstorming, #NoPressure.

If you or a manager you care about is finding it hard to find the time or energy to connect, try turning the effort into what you do best– a task and create engagement from that place.

How to Have More Joy at Work

The other evening, I was sitting at the kitchen table putting the finishing touches on next week’s keynote for the American Health Quality Association. They’d invited me to talk about “finding joy in your work,” a subject that’s at the core our entire Winning Well philosophy, but that I’m not usually invited to address head on. I kept feeling I was about 90% there when my son, Sebastian, walked in and plopped a crinkled sheet of notebook paper down my keyboard.

“Mom, here’s my story for the 5th-grade graduation speech contest. What do you think?”

I read the words he’d painstakingly written, full of the usual “I’d like to thank my parents and teachers.” I’m not sure if it was the look on my face or the fact that he knew it wasn’t his best work, that revealed my concern.

“It’s not that good, I know,” Seb winced.

Now here comes one of those awkward parenting moments. Perhaps you’ve been there. I know he can do better. I mean, this kid is a storyteller. In fact, he explains some of our concepts better than us.   But I also don’t want to be one of THOSE moms creating too much pressure, particularly around speaking.

But Seb and I have a deal. We tell one another the truth.

“Sebastian you are an amazing storyteller. This speech doesn’t just tap into that. You’ve got an important message to share– I imagine if you spend a little more time, you can find it. If you want to go with this speech you can, but if you want to take it to another level I think you’re not that far off.  Let me know if you want my help.”

And then, Sebastian curled up into a fetal position and said “I’m not changing it. It’s fine.”

Finding the Joy

The next morning at 6 am, Seb crawled into my bed and says, “Mom go get your computer, we’ve got to workshop this.”  Yikes, “Workshop?” I guess he’s been hanging around too many professional speakers. But that’s what we did. We talked about what the audience needed most. We mined for stories. We debated deep or broad– (all relative for the three minutes he had to fill.)

“Okay. I’ll think about it some more at indoor recess. It’s raining.”

When I picked him up for school, he hadn’t even shut the car door before he shared the advice three of his favorite teachers had given when he asked for input. Good stuff. Then we went to the back porch to finish the “workshop.”‘ And Bam. He had it. His speech was FANTASTIC. This child who the evening before had been ready to give up, was literally running around our home dancing to the “Happy” station on Pandora.

Joy.

Joy in his work.

Bam. The missing element from my speech.

Yup. Joy is contagious.

I thought about the times I’ve had the most joy in my work. And when I’ve seen the most joy in others. There’s a lot of joy that can come from working really hard at something you care about, and honing your skills to build your capacity to accomplish it. Sure there’s joy in the outcome, but there’s also joy in perseverance and growth. Joy comes from working really hard until you get it right.

Joy comes from rocking your role.

When we’re feeling joyless, it’s easy to give up. But just past that, joy is lurking.