Information Underload: What Are You Missing?

The higher you grow in the organization, the more you work in sound bites. Process fast to look smart. Draw conclusions where others see only questions. Conclude with conviction. Make decisions and move the process along. Ask your team to “net it out.” You don’t need all that detailed information. Or do you?

The devil still basks in details.

“It’s entirely possible that you can process and file more information than anyone who has come before you. And quite likely that this filing is preventing you from growing and changing and confronting the fear that’s holding you back.”
~Seth Godin, “I Get It

Beware of Information Underload

Resist the urge to look smart. Stop filling in the blanks with lack of understanding. Don’t micromanage. Do get smarter.

Don’t assume

  • you know the type (she’s not “high-potential”)
  • the market won’t react well (it didn’t last time)
  • customers will hate it (they don’t like change)
  • this project won’t work (because a similar endeavor failed)
  • the union will resist (because they always do)
  • senior management won’t go for it (because it seems too risky)

It’s Not What You Know, But How You Know

Asking well encourages truth. Asking well empowers.

Empowerment doesn’t mean working in the dark.

Your team has

  • details
  • opinions
  • concerns
  • weird data they can’t explain
  • conclusions
  • possibilities
  • wacky next steps

They’ve likely been coached to “not go there.” “There” is exactly where you need to go. Make it safe to hear what you must. Build an environment where you hear what would otherwise be left on the editing room floor.

Some Ways

  • Show up everywhere (kindly)
  • Ask questions that don’t feel like tests
  • Smile and laugh as needed
  • Express your genuine thirst
  • Do something with what you hear (without getting anyone in trouble)
  • Recognize the great work you see
  • Invite yourself in advance to working meetings and then listen

Empowerment happens in the daylight Shine bright lights, and be deliberate in your reactions. Question, encourage, invite, excite, grow, develop.

Only then, will you have enough information.

Unintended Consequences: Fix This, Break That?

Results lag in a key area. You energize the team to fix it. Results improve. Fantastic. Now other results are plummeting. Beware of unintended consequences.

  • Improve customer service, reduce efficiency
  • Improve efficiency, damage morale
  • Improve morale, increase costs

Results don’t improve in vacuums. Unintended consequences lurk around every corner.

4 Ways to Avoid Unintended Consequences

1. Brainstorm Downstream Impacts

Before implementing, stop and think. What could this fix, break?

  • How will customers react?
  • How will this distract the team?
  • What short-cuts will this inspire?
  • What will this do to our brand?
  • ?

2. Start Small
Consider a pilot. Implement with a small team and measure the impacts.

3. Isolate the Variables
When a problem’s big enough it’s tempting to try everything, all at the same time. Your action plans look robust.
At least you can’t be accused of “not trying.” More is not always more. More enhances the distraction. Over-exertion distracts. Multiple project plans confuse. Pick your best one or two efforts.

4. Coach to the Big Picture
Coach to outcomes, not activity. Teach and develop behaviors that will impact all results not just one.

7 Unusual Ways to Motivate Your Sales Team

The first time I suggested we lower quotas to drive performance, my boss thought I was crazy. Until we did. Results sky rocketed. Why?

7 Ways To Motivate

  1. Lower Quotas – Out of reach quotas demoralize. Let them taste success. Most good comp plans include multipliers. When solid reps get a multiplied paycheck they understand possibility.
  2. Sell it For Them – “If my out-of-touch boss can do this, it can’t be that hard.” In my case, “if this HR chick now running our sales organization can do this, it must REALLY be easy.” Not my typical “wind beneath the wings” advice. Ensure you understand the obstacles first hand, and lead from there.
  3. Go Bird Watching – This week I stopped by the office of one of the most successful, results-driven sales leaders I know. His assistant told me he’d taken his entire team on a “bird watching” lunch. Perspective clears the creative thought process. Motivate with a surprise break and time to strategize.
  4. Stop Talking Money – “To motivate a sales person bring money.” True. But that’s not the only thing. Determine what else matters. Career growth? Prestige? Relationships? Have deeper conversations.
  5. Shave your head – I’ll admit, this is not my personal go-to, but I’ve seen it do wonders to motivate both sales and customer service teams across several companies. For some reason, teams can’t wait to see their boss’ bald head. You get bonus motivation if the team does the shaving.
  6. Make It A Team Sport – “Sales people are out to be #1.” Some sales folks also love being part of a winning team. It may mean more than the paycheck. Don’t underestimate the value of old-fashioned team rivalry. Cultivated well, they will help one another grow.
  7. What would you add?

Perfect Vision is Over-Rated

You had a perfect vision. Great plans. Strong execution strategy. You worked very hard. You recruited the best talent. Game on.

Oh crap. You didn’t anticipate the change in weather. The new competitor. The newcomers with new ideas. You dig into your plan harder, someone calls you pushy. Your feelings are hurt. You keep pushing. They don’t understand how hard you’ve worked. It’s too late to change now.

Don’t lose vision in pursuit of the plan.

Blurry, But Perfect Vision

When everything appears to be “going wrong” step back. It may be going more “right” than you think.

1. Consider

  • Are the obstacles preventing my perfect vision, or changing the way we get there?
  • Is this change really bad, or just different?
  • Will changing the plan create more supporters?
  • Who’s still with me?
  • Why am I married to this specific plan?
  • Am I leading with confident humility, or just confidence?

2. Engage

  • Talk with the team, do they still believe in the vision?
  • Discuss the changes in circumstances
  • Generate ideas
  • Involve them in choices
  • Collaborate on solutions

3. Respond

  • Build the new plan
  • Garnish excitement from the obstacles
  • Overcome
  • Celebrate wins

Unleashing Breakthrough Results

Many of the approaches we take to solving problems, do just that. Solve problems. That works, until the next problem comes along. To build long-term results, requires more. Unleashing your team’s potential leads to breakthrough results.

I’ve been intrigued by the unleashing approach described in the new white paper, Unleashing the Future of Work.

This highly collaborative methodology empowers teams to dig deeper for answers– working together to find synergistic solutions.

“The cornerstone of Unleashing™ is emphasizing the journey as an essential change and learning process rather than simply devising and implementing a solution. For it is through this journey that individuals learn and develop their ability to think strategically, collaborate and take action. This approach aims to engage and stimulate people as they go along, creating self-efficacy, empowerment and commitment in the individuals and teams. Its focus is both on the organisation as a whole and on the individuals.”

Unleashing Framework

The research-based unleashing approach, is closely aligned with the philosophical approach we’ve been discussing in our LGL community. For example:

  • “Purpose as basis for strategy” vs. “Shareholder value as basis for strategy” (and driving shareholder value in the process)
  • “Shared strategic direction” vs. “Strategic planning”
  • “Adaptive strategy execution” vs. “Strategy implementation”
  • “Learning through action” vs. “Classroom training”
  • “Process innovation” vs. “Process optimization”
  • “Mentoring, self-directed career development” vs. “Metrics-based performance management”

I asked white paper co-author, Therese Kinal, about the inspiration for their research:

“My co-founders Robert Thong, Corrina Kane and I realized that traditional approaches to Management weren’t working anymore and our industry was doing as much harm as it was good. In many organisations innovation was dead and employees had little or no understanding of their company’s strategy and they certainly didn’t feel personal ownership and excitement about making it happen. Companies had tried to solve this through structural changes, sending their people on leadership development training or hiring innovation firms to do it for them. Consultants were forcing through simplistic solutions to complex problems.”

If you’re looking for creative ways to unleash the powerful potential of your team, it’s worth a read. Share your comments and insights with the LGL community.

Hustle Factor: He Who Hustles Gets the Ball

Do you hustle enough, or are you counting on traditional rules to win? Each memorial weekend we camp with 100 of our closest friends from church. The multi-generation soccer game following the pot luck dinner has become a bit of a tradition. At times there are as many as 50 people on the field ranging from ages 4 to “I’d rather not say,” playing with mostly unspoken rules the most important of which is, “nobody squash the little kids.”

“The greatest shortage in our society is an instinct to produce. To create solutions and hustle them out the door. To touch the humanity inside and connect to the humans in the marketplace.”

This year, my friend K.P. shouted out a new rule early in the game. “When the ball goes out-of-bounds, whichever team hustles fastest to retrieve it gets to throw it in.” Fantastic. A hustle rule: Hustle gains advantage

This drove the seasoned soccer players bonkers particularly the analytical, athletic teens (and a few of their Dads). “That’s not fair ” “But that would mean..” Enough grown-ups (most of whom had taught these kids in Sunday School) responded with enthusiasm, so the rule prevailed. Not particularly democratic, but I was on the side of “let’s use our position power to create this experiment.” Game on.

What Happens With Hustle

With hustle, underdogs willing to work, gain the advantage. In this case the under 6 crowd now had a definitive skill set to contribute. Boundless energy and an ability to slip under the old fence quickly.

  • The game changes. Effort counts a lot. When effort counts, people make more effort. Go figure.
  • The game’s more fun when hustle matters, adrenaline goes up.
  • No referee. No playback needed. Not, “who kicked it out.” Whoever’s got the ball has the advantage. Let’s keep playing.

In a super-connected world, hustle matters more than ever. Tradition will try to reinforce protocol, but in the end hustle rules. The best idea can be out run by the great idea with serious effort.

Leaders must hustle. The rules are changing. Get up early. Build a bigger network. Share that new idea. Stay up late. Engage others. Work harder. Watch less TV. Work even harder. Invest in your contribution. Gain the advantage. Hustle more

Orchestra Without a Conductor

This was a farewell. The last concert of the year for the high-school orchestra. The seniors wore roses and beamed with personality.

The conductor held up his baton, and the music began. Powerful. Brilliant. Exciting. A send-off to the next phase of their lives.

Then he looked at the orchestra and grinned. He stepped off the podium stage right, folded his arms, and watched from the sidelines. 5 measures later, he looked at the audience. Smiled with confidence, and walked off the stage. He never came back.
The orchestra continued. Powerful. Brilliant. More exciting. I sat mesmerized by the leadership moment. They didn’t miss a beat. They were performing– without their leader. Or were they?

He left confident that…

  • the vision was understood
  • they had a game plan
  • they were accomplished players
  • who had practiced
  • and would listen to one another

His confidence said…

  • I believe in you
  • You’re ready for the next phase
  • It was never about me
  • Go be brilliant

No conductor. Powerful leader.

How To Fire Someone… With Compassion

You really like this guy. You’ve grown close over the years. You care about him. You might even know his family. Perhaps he’s even a strong performer who did something stupid. Now you have to fire him. How do you that?

Firing someone is the hardest thing to do as a leader. Layoffs are awful too, but at least there’s a softish landing and some conciliation that it’s not their fault.

This post is not about whether you “should” be firing this person. I’m assuming you’ve vetted that given appropriate second chances, and now are stuck with “how.”

HR will tell you to keep the “conversation” short and direct. To tell, pack, and escort to bring a witness. Don’t apologize. I’ve even done terminations where we had extra security planted around the corner in case “things got crazy.”

If you need some help with the basics, good advice includes: The 10 Worst Things To Say to An Employee When You Fire Them and The Best Ways to Fire Someone. All points, necessary, but not necessarily sufficient.

Fire Me, But Remember This

Follow the above advice. And if your heart calls for more, keep in mind.

1. It’s not about you.

Helpful words

Firing is so challenging for both the one doing the firing and the one being fired. It brings a great amount of emotional vulnerability into an environment which doesn’t usually make a lot of space for it. But the one who is firing must be careful to share only a small amount of their distress. If the one firing attempts to be compassionate by displaying feelings: sharing sorrow, expressing how uncomfortable the process is, or revealing too much of any kind of emotion, it robs the one being fired from his or her own experience. It makes the event about the them. It invites the one being fired to take care of the one firing, which is distorted and provocative.
So it is important to remember when firing with compassion, at bottom, it is not personal and it is not about you. You can be warm and considerate, but beware of being emotional or dramatic in an attempt to show that you are compassionate. You can care about the person while keeping the correct distance to allow them to have their experience, without asking them to worry about yours.

2. They did something wrong, they’re not something wrong.
Ensure them that this mistake does not define them. Give them a chance to talk if they need a minute.

3. They have a future and could use some hope.
I always plant a seed about an optimistic future, even if I’m furious with what they’ve done. Help them to fail forward.

4. You can say goodbye.
I’ve never regretted taking a moment to connect and say goodbye. If you were close, it’s okay to say something personal if it feels right.

Compassionate leaders stay compassionate. Stay firm, don’t back pedal, but it’s okay to connect and say “goodbye” and “you can survive this.”

Why Smart People Do Stupid Work

Despite my best efforts to encourage employees to think, question, and recommend change, on any given day, I know there are people on my team doing tasks they know are stupid.

Stupid work includes…

  • reinforcing policies without thinking
  • making decisions that lose customers
  • generating reports no one uses
  • focusing on trivial matters when the sky is falling around them
  • _______ I’ll stop here to let you fill in the blank.
  •  If you find that cathartic here’s a few more blanks___________, ___________.

Bottom line, If it feels stupid it probably is.

Forest Gump said “stupid is as stupid does.” But I know the truth. Stupid is as stupid leads.

Why Do People Do Stupid Work?

  • fear
  • politics
  • uncertainty
  • overload
  • indecision
  • it’s not their job
  • they don’t want to step on anyone’s toes
  • it’s always been done that way
  • they think I want it done that way
  • their boss thinks I want it done that way
  • their boss’s boss’s boss, thinks my boss wants it done that way.

And so the stupidity continues.

Lead for S.M.A.R.T.

Encourage your team to think beyond their silos, understand the big picture, and question the status quo. Help them to make S.M.A.R.T. choices.

Speak up

If something feels stupid, it probably is. Say something.

get More information

Ask questions. Understand the context. Reach across silos.

accept Accountability

Own the problem. Work to find a solution.

Reprioritize

Determine what’s important. Do that first.

and Try another approach.

Consider alternatives, ask for ideas, try something new.

May 2013 Leadership Development Carnival

What an amazing line-up contributions for the May Leadership Development Carnival. A heartfelt thanks to all the thought leaders who contributed to this diverse collection. I would like to also personally thank the LD Carnival founder, Dan McCarthy, for an opportunity to host this edition. This is particularly exciting for me since Dan was the first blogger I had a “real” conversation with when I started as a novice blogger in June. He offered great insights and began connecting me with others. As I put together the carnival, it was wonderful to see the submissions pouring in from so many fantastic people I have met and grown with since then.

Being a Better Boss

Dan McCarthy of Great Leadership shares his post, 6 Types of Bosses. Dan answers the question we all wonder from time to time, ” “If all of this leadership development stuff is supposed to be so great, then why are there so many bad bosses?”

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership shares The Disease of Me. The Disease of Me can destroy relationships and careers. It’s easy to catch.

Collaboration

Jon Mertz shares his post, In Collaboration We Trust from his blog Thin Difference. Collaboration succeeds when trust is active and trust is embedded in interactions, mission, connections, and progress forward.

Empowerment

Dana Theus brings us, 3 Ways Men Can Help Women In The Workplace on her InPower Consulting blog. If you’re a man leading people in your company, chances are that you feel somewhat stymied in how to address one of the biggest talent management problems all companies face: how to keep bright, talented women from leaving the company before they make it into the leadership ranks.

Change expert Bill Matthies discusses the connection between employee personal problems and the failure of their companies to achieve their goals on his Coyote Insight Blog. His reminds us, “To achieve company goals, help your employees achieve theirs,

Jim Taggart of Changing Winds shares his post, No Soup for You! Tales of Amazing Customer Service. This post is about customer service and how some organizations create a self-empowering workplace for their employees to provide extra-ordinary service.

Tanveer Naseer of Tanveer Naseer Leadership  asks Do You Give Your Power Away At Work? and then offers practical solutions to help ensure your voice is heard.

The Power of Letting Go

Lolly Daskal of Lead From Within shares: When we are faced with problems the first thing we want to do is identify it, define it, examine it, analyze it and seek solutions. What if we could try something new?” Read on Don’t Solve Your Problems.

Julie Winkle Giulioni also talks about letting go in her Lead Change Group post, Letting Go with Grace. Excessive attachments in today’s warp-speed world shape not only who we become – but what our organizations become. Could ‘holding on’ be holding us back?

Tim Milburn of timmilburn.com shares his post. How To Wait When The Waiting Is Hard. We all have to wait for things. Here are some ideas to make the most of those times when the waiting is difficult.

Execution

Jesse Lyn Stoner of Seapoint Center shares her insights on The Space Between Supervising Closely and Delegating Most of us know what it looks like when you are Supervising Closely or Delegating. But the space between is large and undefined and very important. It’s the space where growth occurs and relationships are forged. This post explains what leadership looks like in that space.

Susan Mazza shares her post, It Sounds Great In Theory from her blog Random Acts of Leadership. Just because something “sounds great in theory” doesn’t mean we can immediately implement it. This post explains how to lessen the gap between theory and action.
Mary Jo Asmus of Aspire talks about change in her blog in her post Seeing resistance? Look inside yourself. Resistance to change is normal. When leaders notice it, the tendency might be to push harder. Mary Jo suggests an alternative.

Randy Conley shares two key factors of high performance that are completely under your control. If you’re a leader, you’ll want to see how these two factors relate to the people you manage. Two Things Your Boss Should Never Have to Talk to You About from his blog, Leading With Trust

Performance Management

HR Bartender, Sharlyn Lauby, provides a step-by-step guide to coaching an employee in her post, HOW TO: Have a Performance Conversation with an Employee

Joel Garfinkle shares Have to Let Someone Go? Follow These Tips to Make it as Painless as Possible in his Career Advancement Blog.

Career

Mary Ila Ward of The Point, Sound Advice for Career and Leadership Development shares her post, Know your Value. Part of a series of posts on personal leadership, this post discusses the importance of leaders in knowing and establishing their value in the workplace.

Learning

Julie Winkle Giulioni of juliewinklegiulioni.com writes about Unpacking Learning. Leaders dedicate considerable effort to engineer training and development opportunities their employees. The problem is that completing the experience leaves the work half done. The real benefit comes when we help others unpack the learning from the experiences they have.

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog writes about The Art of Discovery. It’s a video with George Box explaining the importance of directed experimentation with informed observers to improve performance.

David Burkus of LDRLB shares Why Learning from failure Works Better When Others Fail. There are definitely positive lessons to be learned from failure, but new research suggests that the failure of others might be a better source of learning than our own short-comings or mis-steps.

Neal Burgis, Ph.D. talks about Leaders Over Using Their Strengths in his Practical Solutions Blog. Anyone who has ever driven a car knows blind spots are potentially lethal. This holds true in leading business organizations as well as on the road. Are you aware of your strengths and how to use them to your advantage without overusing them? Do you recognize your strengths & how you use them?

Change

Steve Roesler of All Things Workplace  shares his post Earn Your “Change Chips” Early. When it comes time to ask your people to make a significant change, have you earned enough “chips” to be heard and trusted?

Miki Saxon of MAPping Company Success http://mappingcompanysuccess.com shares her post Ducks in a Row: 7 Steps to Change. When you want to create change, whether of culture, process or something else, there are seven steps you need to follow whether you are CEO or a first line supervisor.

Culture

Chris Young of the Human Capital Strategy Blog asks Are You Creating an Avoidance Culture? Perhaps you have worked for a boss who was difficult to approach – a person you actually came to avoid. Chris offers ways to avoid a culture of avoidance.

Linda Fisher Thornton shares 15 Ways to Encourage Moral Growth in Leadership in her blog, Leading in Context. She has compiled a list of 15 things that we can do in our organizations to encourage ethical awareness and moral growth. These elements can be applied as part of ongoing leadership development in any organization.

Organizational culture guru S. Chris Edmonds outlines three “what” questions that can help you get traction on desired culture changes on his Blog Driving Results Through Culture. See Get Traction on Your Desired Culture

Lisa Kohn of The Thoughtful Leaders Blog presents Conflict is Good-5 Ways to Make It Even Better! She presents a few simple, but not so easy, steps to take that can help make conflict more effective and productive.

Erin Schreyer of ErinSchreyer.com shares Three Crucial Ingredients for Leadership Success. Regardless of your position, title or experience, you need these ingredients to excel.

That concludes the Leadership Development Carnival For May. The June Leadership Development Carnival will be hosted by Dan McCarthy on June 3rd.

Customers or Employees: Which Comes First?

Chicken Nuggets or Egg McMuffins? Customers or employees? Which comes first? Does it matter?

I was intrigued by an Wall Street Journal article revealing McDonald’s efforts to fix customer service. Much conversation about customers. Little about employees. I felt compelled to respond, in an article I published Friday on Lead Change Group, Dear McDonald’s It’s Not About the Burgers (or even the yogurt).

A Letter to McDonald’s

Dear McDonald’s,

I know you’re frustrated that your internal presentation on fixing customer service was leaked to the press. That stinks. You can recover. At least we know you are trying to fix it. We’d all like a bit more happy with our meals.

5 suggestions (read more on by clicking here)

I tweeted the article to McDonald’s and was impressed with their response.

@letsgrowleaders Thanks. Input from our customers is a gift. We’re trying to improve and grow every day. ^JH

That’s promising.

Customers or Employees?

And so I’ve been asking this question in my circles.
“Employees come first! Companies need a GREAT product to attract and maintain customers, so what better product than great employees!!!”

“Customers come first. Always. Forever. Developing a team and investing in employees is all part of that “selfless service” spirit.”

“Happy people create happy people, experiences, and outcomes.”

“Customers are first because if we take care of them, we will see the benefits, and in turn create happy employees”

“As an employee I should be focused on our customers. As a supervisor, my focus in on the employee. My outward focus should trickle down the line.”

“First start with a dynamic, well-trained, well compensated empowered and respected work force.”

“If we all focused on meeting and exceeding each other’s needs as people first, the same will pass on to our customers.”

“People first” is all that matters.”

“View our employees as customers.”

I choose employees. Engaged, confident happy employees create magical customer experiences. Ignore the employees, your customers will leave.

What advice would you give McDonald’s (or other companies facing similar challenges?

4 Reasons Execution Breaks Down: and How to Fix It

When execution is broken, so is leadership. Teams that don’t execute are starving. They crave vision and direction. Carrots don’t improve vision.

Execution breaks down when there’s..

  • fuzzy vision
  • lack of buy-in
  • hidden agendas
  • competing priorities
  • confusion
  • chaos
  • apathy
  • broken teamwork
  • ?

Don’t blame, punish, or make excuses. Lead better.

4 Reasons Execution Breaks Down (and what to do about it)

  1. Lack of Commitment
    Excitement doesn’t necessarily mean commitment. Encourage early dissent. Ask, “what’s wrong with this plan?” or “How’s everyone feeling.” Check with folks offline. Ignored objections will visit later in uglier clothes.
  2. Unspoken Agendas
    You’re the boss, so they go along. But, they have their own ideas, stakeholders and personal concerns. Surface competing commitments. Help the team prioritize. Talk one-on-one.
  3. Fuzzy Direction
    You think the plan is clear– it’s not. Ask the team to articulate their specific next steps and timeline. I’m often amazed at the breakdowns. Best to catch them early.
  4. Moving Too Fast
    I’ve got scar tissue on this one.Early in my career my boss pulled me aside.
“Karin, you’ve got good ideas and big energy. Your brain moves quickly. You get remarkably excited. You rally the team and start running. BUT. you get running so far ahead that you forget to look back and see if we’re with you. Slow down, look back, folks are gasping for air on the side of the road and can’t see you. Make sure we’re with you.”

If you’re a runner, learn to wait at the water stops. Check for understanding.

Commitment, agendas, direction, velocity.