7 Reasons to Be A Little More Grateful At Work (Reflections and an Exercise)

With all the stress and pressure, sometimes it feels really hard to cultivate a feeling of gratitude at work.  You might feel stuck. Or passed over. Or taken advantage of. Or just wanting someone to say “thank you” for all you’re doing–for goodness sakes.

Or _____________________ (it’s okay, let it out first). Life it tricky. Gratitude is never simple. The situation could always be better.

But this week, I encourage you to consider this question. What are you truly grateful for at work?

7 Reasons I’m Grateful at Work 

First, let me start here (because sometimes people think this looks easy). Starting up a business is tricky, with ups and downs. I’ve got my fair share of the fill-in-the-blank concerns.

But I choose gratitude. Here are a few of mine.

I encourage you to play along and share your top 7 (or even one or two).

  1. Partnership
    Hands down the magic of 2016 for which I’m most grateful is my expanded partnership with my co-author, David Dye.  Finding the right partner makes all the difference. If you don’t yet have a friend like this in your life, I encourage you to find someone who will challenge you, encourage you, tell you that you are wonderful, and help you work on your flaws. My biggest gratitude of 2016 is for this real deal partnership in work and in life.
  2. Mistakes
    A few times, I’ve rolled the dice big and lost. I trusted the wrong people, bet on the wrong collaboration. And yet, I’m still grateful for playing full out. More bets have gone right than wrong. And now I’m entering the next phase a little more well informed.
  3. Our Team
    This year we couldn’t have scaled the way we did without our amazing team. What I love best is how they work together, even when we’re off speaking or consulting… they’re holding down the fort and passionately working to advance the Winning Well mission. Beth, Vickie, Megan, Amy, Paul, Chris W, Chris H, Doug, Sean et al, and of course, Sebastian and countless others who’ve helped along the way. We are grateful for you.
  4. Collaboration
    We have an army of kindred spirits whom we believe in and who believe in the work we do. I am deeply grateful for the leaders around the world we’ve had a pleasure to work with in their businesses or ours–speakers, consultants, journalists, bloggers, podcasters, family and friends who are doing all taking action to blend the bottom line with the human spirit.
  5. Stretching
    First, I’m so grateful for the many folks who’ve worked to convince their bosses that Winning Well was right for their organizations. They bet on the ROI and it proved out. I’m also so grateful for the stretching you have caused me to do. “Can you do this?” “How can you challenge us in this way?” I continue to grow because of all of you.
  6. Progress
    When David and I were writing Winning Well, this was our theme song. Inch by inch… row by row… it’s a constant reminder for both us (or at least one of us, reminding the other of us when we hit a setback). When we can be truly grateful for the milestones and the progress and enjoy the journey, it makes all the difference.
  7. Learning
    Every time we do a program I have two emotions… How did we serve? And what could I do better? This year has been a tremendous journey of learning and improving. Which stories had the biggest impact? Which tools? Where should I have challenged more? I’m grateful for every single client with us along this journey.

Our recent Frontline Festival gave contributors a chance to give thanks. 

Thanks

Frontline Festival: Questions of Thanksgiving and Gratitude

Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. This month’s festival is all about giving thanks at work. We asked contributors to share three areas they are most grateful for at work. But before we go there… how about you? What are you most thankful for at work? 

As we approach Thanksgiving in the United States, during a time of unrest for much of America, I invite you to take a deep breath and reflect. What are you most grateful for at work? And if your answer is a who, why not take a moment to tell them?

  • Who has inspired you to be more than you ever thought possible?
  • What challenges have you faced that transformed you in ways you never dreamed of?
  • What have you been able to contribute that’s made an impact you’re proud of?
  • What opportunities have you been given to stretch and grow?
  • Who pushed you past your comfort zone?
  • Who are your key collaborators and what do you most appreciate about their approach?

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 preparing your team for the new year.   Submit your blog posts and answers related to this question: What are you doing to prepare your team for 2017? here!

Now on to our festival of thankfulness:

I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.
~ Henry David Thoreau

Dr. Artika Tyner of the Planting People. Growing Justice Institute believes gratitude will determine your organization’s altitude. She is thankful for receiving the blessing of the vision for Planting People Growing Justice, their team of visionary leaders, and the thousands of community members who are advancing the shared vision of #LeadershipforSocialJustice. Follow Artika.  

Shelley Row of Shelley Row Associates is thankful for the opportunity to get to know and learn from a wide variety of people. Because she work with many different groups and she interviews them in advance, she learns about their industry and she learns leadership and management tips.  It’s a great way to stay fresh and interested in others. Follow Shelley

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited is thankful for a successful first full year completely on her own in business, the freedom and flexibility owning a business offers, and the consistent opportunity it affords to learn and grow as a leader and person. Follow Beth.

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership is thankful for the amazing men and women who are his clients and who make it possible for him to make a living doing something he loves to do. Follow Wally.

Michelle Cubas, CPCC, ACC, of Positive Potentials, LLC says that “In a world of chaos, gratitude is my go-to place for comfort.” Follow Michelle.

David Dye of Trailblaze is thankful to work with amazing people to make the world a better place; to see people become their best version of themselves; to be around people – friends, colleagues, partners, encouragers. Follow David.

Chris Edmonds of Driving Results through Culture lists: business owners and leaders who engage in creating purposeful, positive, productive work cultures; my “business band,” the players of EXCEPTIONAL EXPERTISE & GRACE that help keep my brand crisp, clear, and relevant every day; my family and friends who laugh at my jokes, hug back, and push me to be better every day. Follow Chris.

David Grossman of The Grossman Group states that “2016 has been a year of growth and learning.”  He’s grateful for his clients who express a willingness to grow and go places they never thought possible; his amazing team who put their hearts, heads, and guts into their work every day and Thanksgiving tradition: the Annual Celebration of Grandma Elsie, Her Famous #PumpkinChiffonPie & Other Recipes Follow David.

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.
~ Oprah Winfrey

Chip Bell of the Chip Bell Group is grateful for:  1. Passion–a wonderful gift from the Almighty 2. Weaving Influence for making me look important  3. Granddaughters for reminding me what is important  Follow Chip.

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement  is thankful to be able to work remotely and make a living doing what he enjoys and believes provides value to his clients. Follow John.

Paula Kiger of Big Green Pen shares that having been forced by life events to be home with an elderly and infirm relative, she is thankful that our current professional world provides opportunities to work flexibly. She’s grateful that technology helps us do our work more quickly, with less error, and finally for the people who make the work worth doing! Follow Paula.

Lisa Kohn from Thoughtful Leaders Blog expresses her thanks for 1) Witnessing clients growing and evolving (and having fun along the way); 2) Learning from clients and colleagues and 3) getting to do what I love and absolutely believe in. Follow Lisa.

If you are really thankful, what do you do? You share.
~ W. Clement Stone

Eileen McDargh of The Energizer shares “The first wealth is health. Love trumps hate. Meaningful work exudes gratitude.” Follow Eileen

The 7 Deadly Sins of Skip Level Meetings

Skip level meetings always seem like a good idea at the time.  A little MBWA (management by walking around) never hurt anyone. Or did it?

Done well, skip level meetings are a remarkable tool in your Winning Well toolkit. Skip level meetings help you connect “what to why,” reinforce the MIT (most important thing), help you build genuine relationships, give you a chance to ask strategic questions to learn what’s really going on, and most importantly, to build genuine relationships.

Maybe that’s why after over 700 blog posts, the most read is 5 Secrets To Great Skip Level Meetings. In fact, there are some days that this post from 2014 has more hits than whatever new is going on. And how we manage the skip level communication, is always top of mind with my consulting clients. 

Why the intrigue?

Because done poorly MBWA becomes OCHTC (Oh Crap, Here They Come). If your skip level meetings are backfiring, or if you have a boss who could get better at this and you want to help them out, be sure to avoid these 7 traps.

7 Deadly Sins of Skip Level Meetings

  1. Not Doing Your Homework
    Sure you’re their bosses boss. They should be glad you’re there, right? Hmmm…Want to ensure you make an impact? Learn what’s up with the people in the room. Get their names. Know what’s driving them crazy. Be able to speak articulately about a few of their biggest accomplishments.
  2. Showing Up Needy
    Yes, I get it. You’re sandwiching this skip level in-between really important calls with C-level execs, vital customers, your boss… Go minimalist here. What do you need? A closed-door in-between your skip-level meetings? Ask for that. Otherwise show up as low-maintenance as you can (and ensure your assistant gets this too.)
  3. Sticking To Your Agenda
    The real magic of skip-level meetings is never planned. Even if your team gave you a carefully crafted list of conversation starters, stay real and open to where the conversation may lead. 
  4. Talking Too Much
    Resist the urge. You will learn way more by listening. 
  5. Asking the Wrong Questions
    So often I see leaders ask leading questions that ensure they get told what they want to hear. You already know what you think. Have the courage to ask the questions that might surface answers that frustrate you. It’s better to know what people are really thinking. 
  6. Failing to Recognize Contributions
    Your people want to know that you know what they’re up to. Be sure you do and tell them.
  7. Neglecting to Follow Through
    If you promise to look into something, be sure you do. If you promise to get something fixed right away, do it. And just as importantly, be sure you close the loop and let them know. Making commitments without follow-through does more harm than not showing up at all.

Great leaders spend lots of time talking to the people closest to the customer. It’s worth the extra effort to dig deep and do it right.

5 Conversations Your Millennial Employees Are Longing To Have

Morgan (a family friend who also happens to be a millennial) was practically screaming in frustration as we began our mentoring session, “Arghhh, Karin, I’m just so frustrated. They want me to do all this crap… none of it seems important, and it’s getting in the way of my real work.”

It would have been tempting to just take Morgan’s word for it– that the “crap” she was being asked to do made no sense.

After all, I suppose I should be on Morgan’s “side,” but as I dug below the “crap,” I could see a logical explanation for almost everything she was being asked to do.

K- “Has your boss explained why these things are important?”

M- “Nope.”

K- “Do you think your boss has your best interest at heart?”

M-“Sometimes.”

K-“Well let me try to explain why I think they’re asking for all this.”

She let out a palpable sigh as I went through the possible explanations. (Keep in mind that I have no idea if these were the real reasons… but just connecting her dots with my experience.)

Imagine how much better that would have been coming from her boss.

I stand by my view that millennials are just human beings doing the best they can, like the rest of us. The more I work with this generation, however, I realize that it’s not that they their needs are that different, it’s that they are more vocal when things don’t make sense.

Thank goodness.

Asking more “whys” can be powerful, positive disruptive force
in our organizations, communities and world.

And of course, the flip side of this conversation is that there often is a very good “why” worth listening to. We need to all get better at explaining and listening, even if we don’t like what we hear.

Five Conversations Your Millennial Employees Are Longing To have

If you’re running into frustration with your millennials questioning everything and not “getting with the program,” consider tackling one of these five conversations.

  1. How can I show up authentically (be true to myself) and still be effective? (Help me navigate the politics.)
  2. Why do we have to do it this way? (Explain the why behind all these policies and processes that seem to be wasting my time)
  3. Why does my work matter? (Help me find the greater meaning in the work I do.)
  4. When you say “I’m not ready” for a promotion, can you be more specific? (And how do I get ready beyond just putting in my time?)
  5. I’ve got some ideas for how we can do this better. (Please listen to me and take me seriously).

The best way to bridge the generational gap is open dialogue. Let’s have more.

Who Leads Next? What Every Employer Needs to Know To Develop Your Millennial Employees

As David Dye and I prepare for our Winning Well Asia Tour this Spring, we continue our dialogue on with Michael Teoh, author of the Potential Matrix and founder of Thriving Talents. To hear more, you can listen to this recorded webinar in which we discuss:

  1. How to Build a Culture that Develops Leaders before they have Titled Responsibility
  2. Ways to Talk with your Younger Talent to keep them Engaged and bought into the Development Process
  3. Key Mistakes to Avoid – Don’t Push Your Leaders Out The Door!
  4. A Process to Identify and Draw Out the Best from Your Emerging Leaders

 

The Morning After: 6 Sure-Fire Ways to Ensure Your Training Sticks

“John” glanced excitedly at the conference room walls filled with easel sheets, plans and ideas. And then sighed deeply as he shuffled though his deep pile of notes and action items.

“Karin, I guarantee you, I’ll be a better leader tomorrow morning as a result of your Winning Well bootcamp. And I’m almost certain I’ll still be a better leader the following week, and maybe even the week after that.

It’s week three that worries me. How can I be sure to maintain the ROI and that I keep applying these Winning Well techniques when real life hits the fan?” 

John’s question is real. If you’re like most managers, you’ve left more than one training program with good intentions, only to fall back into old behaviors. So how do you make the training stick? 

6 Sure-Fire Ways to Ensure Your Training Sticks

  1. Focus on one behavior change at a time.
    When you learn game-changing leadership techniques, it’s tempting to try everything all at once. After all, if these techniques produce results, you owe it to your team to use them. Right? Perhaps. But not all at the same time. Pick one specific behavior or approach you know will make the impact and integrate it into your leadership approach. Practice it consistently. Tweak it. Make it your own. Ask for feedback. Once you feel confident and competent in that behavior, the timing might be right to add in another technique. Too much change all at once will overwhelm both you and your team.
  2. Find an accountability partner.
    Change is hard, and it can be lonely. It’s much easier to give up when no one’s looking. Find someone you trust who understands what you’ve just learned (someone else in your training class is a great choice). Share the behavior you’re working on and make a commitment to check in with one another once a week to see how things are going and discuss challenges and brainstorm next steps.
  3. Invite your team on the journey.
    Tell your team what you’ve learned and what you’ve chosen to work on and why. Invite them to notice when it’s working and offer suggestions as to what you can do better. Your team already knows you’re not perfect, and they’ll be delighted to know you’re working on becoming a more effective manager.
  4. Teach what you’ve learned.
    One of the best ways to become a rock star at a skill is to teach it. Consider sharing some of the tools you’ve learned and teach them to others.
  5. Ask for feedback.
    Make it a point to ask for feedback on the impact your new approach is having on the people you’re leading. Ask open-ended questions about what you can do to improve.
  6. ww-winning-well-sidebar-impact-live-dec2016-370x370taglineWhen you screw up, apologize and try again.
    New habits don’t come easy. If you slip back into old behaviors, apologize and try again. Your team knows you’re not perfect. They just want to know you’re trying. 

    Training is important, but what matters most is what you do when you get back to your team. With just a bit of focus, you can ensure the strongest ROI for you and your team.

Give yourself (and your team) the gift of a fast start to the new year. Join our Winning Well event in MD this December. Click on the image to the left for more information.

 

5 Proven Ways To Make Your One-On-One Meetings More Impactful

“Nicole” called me looking for help on employee engagement. “Karin, I’m looking at our employee engagement survey and 80% of the respondents said they haven’t had a one-on-one meeting with their boss in the last year. How is that possible? And what do we do now?”

Sadly, it’s not the first time I’ve run into such a situation. If you’re not having one-on-one meetings regularly (ideally once a week) with your direct reports, just start. Show up and listen. Ask where they need help. Recognize effort and accomplishment. Say thank you. Connect.

Don’t over-think, just start.

On the other hand if you’re doing one-on-one meetings, and they feel like a waste of time on either side, read on to discover a few tips to make them more impactful.

I learned the value of a great one-on-one meeting from my boss, Mel, when I took over a new division at Verizon Wireless. She had her assistant schedule a “pull-up,” on my calendar,  so I thought we were in for a casual chat. She jumped  in eagerly and inquired, “So, what’s on your list?”

My list? I didn’t have a list, and asked her for hers to get a sense of the “pull-up” scene. 

Mel’s list was scratched in various colored ink and pencil … clearly she’d been keeping it all week. Apparently, she’d saved interrupting me on IM, phone calls and email by keeping a list of important, but less urgent topics and highlighting the decisions that required dialogue.  I could have leaned over the desk and kissed her. 

From that moment on, I replicated the process with my direct report team, saving all of us from needless interruptions and ensuring we had quality-time for focused conversation.

5 Proven Ways To Make Your One-On-Ones Meetings More Impactful

  1. Build a Two-Way Agenda 
    Mel taught me the power of a two-way, one-on-one agenda. Come with an agenda and ask your direct report to do the same. Develop a cadence of keeping a list throughout the week.  As both a leader and follower, after I learned the fine art of a great one-on-one, I would keep a growing list for each direct report (and my boss)  each week of the important/less urgent things we needed to discuss. This saved us a lot of interruptions and emails along the way. 
  2. Reinforce the MIT (Most Important Thing) and link to the Bigger MIT
    In Winning Well, we talk about identifying the MIT or Most Important Thing you can do each day, each week, and each quarter to make the biggest strategic impact. Meaningful one-on-one sessions link clearly back to that. If you’re finding yourselves stuck in continuous conversation that has nothing to do with what matters most, that’s an important indicator that it’s time for a prioritization conversation. 
  3. Notice Something Great
    The most impactful recognition is often what you notice along the way — it’s the small behaviors and efforts that you reinforce that lead to breakthrough outcomes. If you’re preparing for a one-on-one and can’t think of a single thing going right, here’s the lay-up question, “What are you most proud of this week?” 
  4. Ask Great Questions
    Terrific one-on-ones are a conversation. Come prepared with a few great questions and build from there. 
    -What was the MIT (most important thing you accomplished last week– and why was this so impactful?)
    -What’s your MIT for this week?
    -Where are you stuck?
    -Who else can we engage to help?
    -What do you need from me?
  5. Say Thank You
    Mean it. Be specific. 

It’s seriously hard to have a bad one-on-one if you’re coming from a balanced perspective of strengthening results and relationships. The hardest part is carving out the time and preserving it for your team. 

Does Your Customer Feel Like a Commodity?

Once your product becomes a commodity, you’re hosed. Even your once loyal customers start looking around for where they can get your offering cheaper, faster, or with less hassle. Most companies get this and take deliberate steps to differentiate their products.

Sadly, as companies work to scale, one of the biggest mistakes I see is that they begin to de-personalize the customer experience in the name of efficiency. 

The Biggest Reasons Your Customer Feels Like a Commodity

No customer wants to feel like a commodity. If you’re not sure if you wandering into dangerous territory, watch for these symptoms of commodity-feeling behaviors.

You’re Force Feeding Processes for Your Convenience

Have you ever said, “We just have to train our customers to do it this way. They’ll get used to it?”

If how you’re “training” them is really in their best interest, they might see the value in changing the way you work together. But if your new process is clearly all about your own efficiency or to make things easier internally, customers will wonder why they’re the ones who have to do things your way.

I see this all the time when start-ups work to scale. They begin informing their loyal customers who’ve been with them from the start the new rules of the game. It’s quite possible they took a chance on you from the beginning, because you were creative, flexible, and involved them in the process. If they start to smell bureaucracy and overhead, they’re likely to start looking around to regain that “I’m special” feeling.

I’ve left several of the suppliers I used early in building my business for this very reason, and I know I’m not alone.

You’re Reading From a Script

If you can’t trust your employees to have a real conversation, then you’re hiring the wrong people or not training them well. Nothing says “You’re just not that important to us” more than a script.

They Know More About Your Product or Policies than the Person Who Answers Your Phone

By the time a customer picks up the phone, they’re looking for an expert. Be sure the person they reach is both confident and competent.

You Under-Appreciate Their Tenure

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard employees quibbling over five bucks with a customer who has spent thousands over their tenure because some “policy” told them to.

You Make an Exception, But Offer a Lecture

I was at the hairdresser the other day when a woman came in to buy some shampoo with an expired gift certificate. The owner cited that their policy was quite clear to the person who had bought it. When the customer asked if there was anything that could be done, she cited the policy twice more and then gave in. After the owner honored it, she then gave the customer a lecture about expiration dates and how it’s really just better to give people Visa gift cards.

That customer bolted for the door as soon as she had her shampoo in hand. The owner lost twice. She was out the cost of the bottle of shampoo, and she had a detractor poised to tell the world about how she was made to feel.

No customer wants to feel like a commodity. Be sure you keep people feeling special as your business grows. 

Winning Well Bootcamp

Fun at work

Frontline Festival: Leaders Share about Having Fun

Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. This month’s festival is all about having fun.  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 giving thanks.  Submit your ideas here!

Chip Bell of the Chip Bell Group finds fun in his surroundings such as a happy office with great music, quirky artifacts, awesome pictures, a gazillion books, and a cat that sleeps on the copier nearby.  The panoramic view of the lake 75 feet away also helps! Follow Chip

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited treats herself each week by making sure her weekend starts no later than 1:00pm on Fridays (her commitment to a regular bowling league also helps). She offers this fun puzzle game for teams who work at an office together.  Follow Beth.

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership observes that when people say that work is “fun” they usually don’t mean it’s a party or a game. They’re talking about grown-up fun. Follow Wally.

Even though you are growing up, you should never stop having fun.
~ Nina Dobrev

Michelle Cubas, CPCC, ACC, of Positive Potentials, LLC  advises that in today’s stressful work environment, fun must be baked into our workflow to offer comic relief. Leaders must encourage humor and positive expression to slice through the thick veil of cynicism and stress. Follow Michelle.

David Dye of Trailblaze advises we start by finding the fun in the everyday. Build from there – as a team leader, I scheduled regular (and sometimes surprise) opportunities for people to let their hair down and have fun. We would go bowling, I would personally cook everyone a holiday breakfast, or I’d put together fun team-focused city-wide scavenger hunts. (Note: do these things when people are being paid – it usually doesn’t work to ask them to leave their family to have ‘fun’).  Follow David.

Chris Edmonds of Driving Results through Culture shares, “As a solopreneur, I can easily find myself writing, consulting with clients, etc. eight hours a day (or ten)! I’ve learned to schedule time for exercise (walking at 8400 feet is a treat – even in 2′ of snow), trap shooting down the hill in Denver (my daughter still beats me), regular lunches with my #DenverTweeps colleagues, and learning new music for upcoming Brian Raine band gigs @BrianRaineBand). Diversity of experiences is a must! Follow Chris.

Life is too important to be taken seriously.
~ Oscar Wilde

Lisa Kohn from Thoughtful Leaders Blog reminds us that in order to help your team, or family or anyone, have fun, you have to make fun a priority. You have to look for reasons to smile and to laugh, to maybe have a few toys or games hanging around for moments of levity, and to schedule “light time” and breaks especially in times of the most intensity and stress. Follow Lisa.

Paul LaRue of The UPwards Leader, says that being able to cook and serve his teams has been a huge blessing to them and to him. Nothing says thank you more than taking the time to make a breakfast or lunch out of a busy schedule for the team. They truly appreciate it and it always puts a smile on his face too!  Follow Paul.

Eileen McDargh of The Energizer muses, To rise and leave a desk. To walk outside and down to the bluff overlooking the beach. To play with a dog. To feed the birds. Nature nurtures. Follow Eileen

Shelley Row of Shelley Row Associates gives thought to what to do when our brain wilts. Learning to recognize the signs and counteract with refreshing space for yourself (and your team) is important.  Follow Shelley

 
Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.
~ Dr. Seuss

Next month’s question: What are three things you are thankful for when it comes to your business? Submit your ideas here!

Quote source: Brainyquote

 

 

7 Things Your High-Performing Employees Long To Hear You Say

These are all real statements I’ve heard in the last few weeks:

“Oh we don’t worry about observing our high-performing call center reps. We just focus on the ones who are struggling.”

“John doesn’t really need a training and development plan like everyone else, he’s got his job nailed.”

“Well, he’s a bit a rough around the edges, but we don’t say anything. He’s so good at his job, we’re afraid to tick him off.”

“Oh Sally’s good. She loves what she does. Thank God for her. She just likes to be left alone to do her thing.”

I get it. Your high-performing employees never seem like the MIT. (Most Important Thing). They’ve got it. You can count on them. They don’t appear to want your help. They don’t complain. You’ve got other fish to fry.

But the truth is, when I meet with such high-performers and ask what they need, here’s what they tell me they long for from their boss.

What Your High Performing Employees Long to Hear You Say

  1. Wow! Thank you.
    “Wow” is a highly under-used word in corporate America. It’s okay to be impressed. No one’s going to slack off because you were wowed.  A big “Wow” followed by a genuine and heartfelt “Thank You” from someone a high-performer respects will trump almost any token of appreciation you can offer.
  2. I know what you’re doing isn’t easy. I’d love to hear more.
    No matter how easy they make it look, it’s not. Your high-performing employees are dealing with all kinds of crap that they’re not bothering you with (and may even think you don’t understand). They would love to tell you some stories. And the stories are worth hearing. Pull up a chair and listen.
  3. Can you show me how you did that?
    Think about the last time you figured something out that you were wildly proud of. What did you long for most? For me, I know it’s someone to share it with. Ask for details and if you’re amazed, show that. Side benefit: this is a remarkable way to uncover best practices. Some of the biggest turnarounds I’ve been a part of began by asking a few high-performers what they were up to.
  4. What could we be doing to better serve our customers?
    They know. If you truly care about the customer experience ask this question, listen and do what you can to take action on the response. 
  5. What’s getting in your way?
    Just because they’re low maintenance, doesn’t mean they don’t have a list. Every time I’ve asked this question I’ve been surprised about some of the easy asks. No, you can’t fix everything. But if you can fix a few small things getting in the way of your highest performers, can you imagine the ROI?
  6. What do you want to do next?
    High-performers want to know you care about them as much (or more than) the work. Make that clear.
  7. I want to help you do even better.
    Challenge them. Help them grow. Even when they think they’re done… ask deeper questions. True high-performers almost always want to achieve more. Inspire them to get past the tired.

Not every high-performer is looking to be promoted. And that’s fine. You need rock stars in every role. But every high-performer is human and longs for appreciation, connection, and wants to be heard. It’s so easy to direct our attention to the folks who need our help the most. Be sure to pay attention to your top 20% as well.

The Performance Potential Matrix Demystified: 5 Behaviors Keeping You Out of Box 9

You know your boss is headed into the talent review meeting. You’ve updated your resume, had the heart-to-heart, and said your prayers. And then… the response, “It went fine… just keep up the good work… oh, and be patient.”

If that’s ever happened to you, it’s probably because of a “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” type oath amongst the execs having the conversation. And rightfully so, the most important part of any talent review conversation is candor. And no exec wants to tick off a hi-po by being the naysayer–even when it’s true. Because, you never know who you will work for next. 

But as the holder of the marker, leading hundreds of succession planning conversations inside Verizon  and with many clients since then… I’ll tell you right now, yes– candor is key– and so is feedback.

I will also share that every single time someone in my organization asked where they fell on the grid I told them, and why. Not who said what, of course. But the only fighting chance someone has to get better is to know how they’re being perceived. Candor is rare. And valuable.

5 Behaviors Keeping You Out of Box 9

When I lead these discussions, I don’t accept “There’s just something about her style.” Or “He’s just not that strategic.” Such generalities are BS. And so we drill further. When we get to the real issue, there are 5 issues that come up again and again. So if you’re not where you want to be on the grid, or you’ve been sitting in a square… “ready now” but getting passed over again and again, consider if you fall into any of these behavioral traps.

  1. Your Performance is Sketchy
    The performance part of the talent review is pretty clear-cut. If you’re not knocking it out of the park, no matter how brilliant or talented you are… results matter. If you’ve taken over a bad scene that’s not your fault, even better… fix it.That will be great fodder for the next performance-potential discussion.
  2. You’re Always Talking About Your Career
    If you have 37 mentors, and are seeking advice from everyone with a title who will listen… chill out. In my keynotes, I call that woman “Carol Career Path,” who’s more focused on the job she wants, than the job she has. “Carol” always gets laughter and many “I know this woman (or man)” nods. Carol is everywhere. Don’t be Carol.
  3. You’re the Loudest One in the Room
    Either literally or metaphorically. Either way it drives folks crazy. Meetings take twice as long when you’re in town. If you find that you’re doing most of the talking, instead of wondering why everyone else is so quiet, try changing half of your sentences to questions, and then be quiet. Really listen. High-potential leaders get others talking. 
  4. You’re Overly Competitive
    This one’s tricky, particularly in a stack-ranked world. And, I’m quite sure it kept me out of box 9 early in my career. It took me a minute to understand that peers are your lifeline. Yes, your team’s performance matters. Yes, yes, you’re more likely to get into box 9 if you’re sitting at the top of the stack rank. But keep the bigger picture in mind. The company needs EVERYONE knocking it out of the park. High potential leaders look around and see who else they can help get the results they neeed.
  5. You’re Rude
    Yes, rude. It comes up in nearly every discussion. Some rock star thinks they’re above the need to treat people with dignity and respect. To say “good morning” and “please” and “thank you.” If there’s any chance you’re treating your boss with more manners than you are your assistant, you may need some more work in this arena.

ww-winning-well-sidebar-impact-live-dec2016-370x370taglineYou’re working too hard and care too much to sabotage your career with these behaviors. If you’re not where you want to be in your career, I encourage you to ask those you trust for candid feedback about what might be getting in the way. 

Join Us For a Live Winning Well Event

If you’re looking for to get your team off to a fast start to 2017, I’m pleased to announce our public Winning Well Impact Live event. Click on the image to the left to learn more.

You may also enjoy this article we wrote in Fast Company: 10 Common Excuses that Silently Damage Managers’ Careers

 

Teachable Moments: Learning to Win Well the Hard Way

When I told “John” what I did for a living, he chuckled. “Oh, I learned how to be a good leader the hard way.” 

Don’t we all. 

It’s often our most klutsy moves that teach us how to Win Well.

John’s Story

Here is “John’s” story. I hope you’ll share yours with our LGL community in the comments below.

I was the VP of well-known hotel chain. We’d been preparing for a month for Bob, our COO’s,  annual visit to our region.  This was our moment to shine. 

I’d staffed that day with our top-notch managers who were all on point to be sure every guest was getting white glove treatment. I’d personally done the rounds to ensure we were prepared. I checked everything from the lightbulbs to the kitchen inventory.  I even had the staff practicing their elevator pitches for any skip level meetings, to ensure they could discuss their results in just the right way.

 I’d left nothing to chance. Or so I thought.

The day of the visit, he asked to walk around unescorted. I wasn’t worried, my staff was ready to show him all our best practices.

You can imagine how shocked I was when he pulled out his Moleskin on the way back to the airport with a long list of problems he’d uncovered. The brakes were squeaking in one of the shuttle vans.  One hotel was consistently running out of shampoo. One manager was having terrible trouble recruiting maid staff. The list went on and on.

Embarrassed, I looked at Bob and asked how he’d possibly uncovered so many issues in such a short period of time.

Bob said matter of factly, “I just asked every employee I met if there was anything they needed to create a better customer experience.  And they told me. Simple as that.”

“When’s the last time YOU asked?”

That was a critical turning point in my leadership journey. 

I’d been so busy working to tell people what needed to be done, I’d completely overlooked the obvious point. They were the ones with the answers. I needed to ask, not tell.

I’ve found that’s the answer to almost every real management challenge. Ask more questions. Listen. And respond. 

How to Win Well, When Winning Feels Impossible

Last week I was doing a Winning Well workshop with the United Nations, when one of the participants, “Pete,” looked at me sincerely and said, “I hear you, and all these tools sound good, and I’m going to use them.  But what do you when Winning is impossible?”

I waited for more. 

“Our mission is world peace.”

Okay, Pete has a point. 

And I’m writing this from an airplane on my way to speak to 900 healthcare workers who’s mission is to create “26 million exceptional patient experiences a year. “That’s a tall order.

If I was facing a terrifying diagnosis, or I was watching my sister die, or my baby was born four months early, it would take a hell of a lot to convince me I was having an “exceptional” patient experience.

How to Win Well When Winning Feels Impossible

“Impossible” missions can crush the soul. You dig the wells, build a school, buy back the guns, and stabilize the village, only to find the next day a revolution causes you to evacuate. 

Or despite an army of dedicated doctors and nurses all executing flawlessly together, the baby still dies.

I’m sure you have your stories too.

How do you get back up the next day and try again?

My advice to Pete and anyone else doing work that really matters is simply this.

Focus on the “well,” and the “wins” will follow.  The Win with a capital W might be impossible, but the lower case wins add up and change the world.

Be confident your work makes a difference and stand up for what matters.

Stay humble, knowing that the mission is bigger than you and your frustrations.

Identify, reinforce and celebrate the specific behaviors that lead to breakthrough results.  Discouraging times often call for a confidence burst. 

Invest in the relationships with your team. Reach out to others who can help. Recognize the impact you’re making at a human level.

If you’re working on achieving the impossible, thank you. 

Focus on the well and the wins will follow.