Fast Results: Accomplish More In Less Time

You’ve been asked to do the impossible. The clock’s ticking and there’s pressure to perform. Competing priorities complicate the scene. Pushing harder exacerbates stress. Stress leads to inaction. Time to move fast.

The FAST Model

F-Focus

To move results quickly, focus is key. Resist the urge to fix everything. Identify and communicate the biggest priorities and break the work into manageable tasks. Focus on what each team member needs for success.

Communication: Align on 2-3 key leadership messages to share in every context.  Communicate them to the point of obnoxious… then communicate more. Check for understanding. Communicate again. Test it, “what do you think I most want to talk about today? If they don’t shout out your priorities, you’re not clear.

Activity: Make big work small. It’s tempting to build action plans with lots of activity to show you are trying. Less is more. Too much action overwhelms and confuses. Identify 2-3 actions that will make the biggest impact and hit them hard. Reinforce with focused and consistent leadership messaging.

Outliers: Use data to get surgical in your approach. Know the outliers and give them focused recognition and support. Avoid broad-brush interventions. Focus just-in-time actions on those who need them. See Also: How to Break the 80/20 Rule

A-Acknowledge

Slow down early and listen to concerns. Stop to acknowledge progress.

Competing Priorities: New initiatives are almost always piled onto existing workload. Acknowledge conflicting goals and competing priorities. Listen carefully to concerns. Prioritize. Give permission to stop. Some balls must drop. Decide which ones.

Progress: When you’re moving fast, don’t forget to pause at progress. Acknowledge small wins. Celebrate new behaviors. Recognize breakthrough thinking (see also In Defense of Wow)

S-Stretch

Fast-paced change provides great growth opportunities. Stretch yourself and others.

People: Fast paced change provides stretch opportunities. Provide special projects and stretch assignments. Turn strong players into teachers. Ask everyone what they must do next to achieve.

Boundaries, Assumptions and Rules: Stretch people to try new behaviors. Stretch boundaries, assumptions, and rules. Spend time asking the question, “what have we never tried before…?” Engage unlikely thinkers from outside the team.

T-Think

Go slow enough to think about what you’re doing and who you’re involving.

Stop stupidity: Every fast-moving project contains elements of stupid (e.g. time wasting tasks, old processes and reports that no longer align with new vision). Empower everyone to say stop as needed. See Also: Give the Guy a Brake and Seth Godin’s Basting the Turkey)

Assess and Fine-tune: Carefully measure progress and fine-tune as needed. Watch for unintended consequences. Be ready to change course as needed.

Stakeholder: When moving fast it’s easy to exclude. Think about peripheral players that must understand your plan. Slowing down to include the right players early, leads to smoother acceleration.

Real leadershipThis is the third of three in my series on Results. The first branch of the REAL model. Tomorrow, will return to a regular post. Next week, we’ll pick up with the E branch of the model. “Energy.” If you’re not already subscribed, enter your email, so you don’t miss it. As always, thanks to all who are joining the conversation through their comments.

The Problem With Short-Cuts

I was her old boss, but it was more than that. She emailed, “I was offered a new job, I can’t decide.” I knew we needed to talk. I tried calling a few times that day. We’re both busy. Finally, I left an enthusiastic short-cut message with answers.

I shared my best “heartfelt, short-cut” response: 5 reasons she SHOULD take this job. Stretch. Professional Growth. Exposure and some stuff more personal. I ended with mutterings about taking this risk and to call me.

Big mistake.

No Short-Cuts without Questions

She called me. Thankfully before she followed any of that short-cut advice. Given the context, it was wrong.

Life is always more complicated than it appears.

People. Personalities. Dynamics. Stuff (for those so inclined, please feel free to substitute a stronger S word).

I listened. More. A few questions and then more listening.

The job clearly looked good on paper, but the personal stakes were high. At some point stakes matter more. As does timing.

“I hear your heart. You don’t want this job. Delete my voicemail,” I shared, trying to be as enthusiastic in my retraction as I was in the initial advice.

We both breathed a sigh of relief.

Begin With An Open Mind

It’s hard to argue with Stephen Covey’s 2nd habit “begin with the end in mind.” Wise wisdom. But. Heads down, full steam ahead comes with risks.

Chartered courses without open minds lead to missed opportunity.

Sir Captain Don’s Story

Last week I met Sir Captain Don Stewart on our vacation to Bonaire, in the Dutch Caribbean.

Captain Don.

  • Was named one of the world’s greatest explorers by Life Magazine
  • Was recognized with National Geographic Society’s highest award
  • Was knighted
  • Led conservation movements and policy creation, including the elimination of spear fishing in Bonaire
  • Led the transformation of the Bonaire economy by creating a viable tourism industry
  • Made 25 expeditions to the Antarctic, and was recognized when a National geographic feature “the Walsh spur” was named after his contributions
  • Was appointed by Presidents Carter and Reagan to the U.S. National Advisory Committee on Oceans and Atmosphere
  • Was aboard the bathyscaphe Trieste when it made a record maximum descent into the Mariana Trench on January 23, 1960, the deepest point of the world’s oceans

BUT before all that Don.

  • Didn’t make it as a hollywood actor
  • Had his screenplay rejected
  • Survived cancer
  • Was broke
  • Patented a method that made it possible to fit screens into sliding glass doors
  • Developed a highly successful screening company
  • Floated the Mississippi on a raft
  • Taught himself to sail
  • Was a spear fisher
  • Collected exotic fish and sold them for aquariums
  • Sunk his sailboat

Captain Don began with an open mind. One thing led to another. His passion emerged. He shared that he was encouraged by a hollywood friend to, “live his script.”

Begin with an Open Mind

open mindDon’t get stopped by…

  • Good but not great
  • False starts
  • Success
  • Failures
  • Setbacks
7 Ways to Inspire Courage

7 Ways To Inspire Courage

You know they can do it. They’re scared. Their lack of courage is a downward spiral. Fear stops trying. Lack of trying creates doubt. Doubt affirms negative self-perceptions. It breaks my heart to watch highly qualified, talented people let scared stop them.

And yet, it’s hard for those born with a few extra confidence genes to build courage in others. Skills that come naturally are hardest to teach.

Courage Drowns at 60 Feet

Apparently, I needed a dose of scared.

During the last day of Scuba certification, 60 feet under the crystal blue oceans of Bonaire, I stopped breathing. Oh, air was flowing. But the pristine water suddenly turned dark, and crushed my lungs. Panicked, I signaled to Sven, our Scuba instructor. “UP!” He looked confused. Now I signaled more aggressively, “I NEED TO GO UP, NOW.”

He checked my equipment, looked at me curiously and gently signed “No.” Now more frantic, I started to kick powerfully and swim up. He grabbed my BCD, deflated his, and held me down. Surfacing too soon would create medical problems. He calmly signaled that we would go up, together, and slowly. My family watched curiously. Why was mom, a former lifeguard, competitive swimmer and triathlete freaking out?

7 Ways to Build Courage

Sven knew how he reacted to my panic mattered. He also knew that he couldn’t certify someone who could potentially lose it diving in a remote area of the Island. How he reacted below and above the surface made all the difference.

 Sven’s Approach to Courage

courage

  1. Stay calm
    Confidence inspires courage. Sven didn’t react to my reaction. He never looked worried.
  2. Establish partnership
    “I’ve got you.” “We’re going to do this together.” “I’m not going to let you drown.”
  3. Ask questions
    When we got safely to shore he asked lots of questions to understand the scene. “When had I started to feel uncomfortable?” What did it feel like? Were there signs of Nitrogen Narcosis?. Surely such an absurd reaction had an explanation.
  4. Reinforce competence
    Sven reassured in his Dutch accent that I was fully competent. “Karin, you’ve mastered all the skills and demonstrated them well.” “ You know all the standby skills.” You know what to do in any emergency.”
  5. Naming the fear
    “The biggest risk now is that you become afraid of your reaction to your fear. You weren’t afraid of going deep before, so there’s no reason you should again, unless you tell yourself you’re going to be afraid.
  6. Straight talk
    “I know you can do this, and want to certify you. If you panic again, I can’t.” There are consequences to low self-confidence. We can’t risk putting people in certain positions, for their safety and others.
  7. Encouragement
    “You’ve got this. Let’s try again.”

We did. The next dive led to certification. Certification led to a wonderful week of diving all over the Island, including remote areas. No fear, just fun.

3 Lessons Of The Expectant Leader

“Expectations” is one of my favorite topics. Today, please enjoy the lessons of expectant leaders, from leader and guest blogger Dave Bratcher.

Ever wonder why performance is not at the level you expected?

We often look through the rear view mirror to analyze our performance. Just as the mirror suggests, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” They are closer because the one who is responsible for setting them is the same person looking into the mirror.

Have you ever been perplexed as to why some team members are not performing at the level you expect? What about your own level of performance? Do you know what your boss or clients expect from you?

3 Lessons of the Expectant Leader

  1. People will rise to your level of expectationThere is something magical about people performing to the level of your expectation. As a former School Board member, this is seen in classrooms around the globe on a daily basis. When test scores are low, it is often the desire of school administration to lower standards in an attempt to close the gap between performance and expectations. This has been proven to be the absolute wrong approach to take. Raising expectations will raise performance. This is also true within a family, as Karin recently reflected about her Dad
  2. Expectations must be communicated early and often – I am reminded of an assignment in college in which I spent hours completing the project, only to find out the grading metrics were not in line with what I produced. The expectations were not disclosed at the beginning; rather they were only used to judge performance. Have you ever thought, “How am I doing?” At some point in our careers we have all wondered this. Guess what? Your team members are normal and they may be asking themselves the same questions. In Dave Ramsey’s book, Entreleadership, he talks about the importance of developing a Key Results Area document for each position on your team. It is a short document, including 4-5 bullet points, describing the expectations for any given position. This document is then used to monitor and assess performance throughout the year. Our team should ALWAYS know where they stand, and it’s our responsibility to tell them.
  3. Inspect what you expect – I don’t like clichés, but this phrase is memorable. Just because it is easy to remember doesn’t mean it is easy to implement. I am talking to myself on this one. This has been the area that I struggle with the most. What I have to do is put a reminder in my calendar, marked “Follow Up” as a way to make sure the inspection follows the expectation.

About Dave Bratcher

dave bratcher Dave Bratcher (@davebratcher on Twitter) is the founder of DaveBratcher.com devoted to leadership development. Subscribe for updates at www.DaveBratcher.com and receive Dave’s FREE ebook, A Picture Book Manifesto on Leadership.  He is a John Maxwell certified speaker, trainer, and coach. Dave is also a writer and currently serves as the Vice President of Financial Services for his community foundation. He and his wife, of 8 years, have two children, ages 5 and 2.

5 Ways To Unblock Leadership Energy

I felt my energy drain as I drove toward the call center. The center’s results were stagnant– it was time to dig deeper. I was there to help, but also to deliver some tough messages. Necessary, not fun.

“Joe,” one of the managers, ran enthusiastically across the parking lot. Joe’s energy ignited mine. The day was looking up. As we walked toward the center together, Joe high-fived and encouraged each arriving rep. They responded in kind. More positive vibes.

We entered the building and the rest of the managers sat quietly at the conference room table nervously awaiting my (and now Joe’s) arrival. The difference in energy–palpable.

Joe’s results blew away the rest of the struggling center. While the other managers shared action plans, Joe excitedly articulated his leadership vision and robust examples of personal connection, challenges and growth.

When I met with the executive team offline I questioned, “How do we get more Joes?” They squirmed, “We can’t expect everyone to have that level of energy.”

Energetic Leaders are Born, Made, and Destroyed

Energy is union, with yourself, the vision, and the team. Energy isn’t extraversion. Don’t waste your time looking for “Joes.” Unblock the stuck energy on your team. It’s not that hard. Release their inner “Joe.”

Empowering low energy destroys potential.

5 Energy Pressure Points

Your leaders have innate energy yearning for release. Get them unstuck. Their energy will cascade, and pretty soon you’ll have an entire organization high on Qi (9 out of 10 studies show well running Qi beats energy drinks without that awful crash ;-).

  1. Missing Connection – Connection fuels fire. Teach the power of connecting, with you, peers, and their team. Model the way. 360 feedback and coaching helps. So can a good talk. Explore insecurities and fear preventing valuable connections.
  2. Faking it – Pretending exhausts. Leaders pretend to look the part, fit in, mask insecurities, hide secrets. Help your leaders uncover and use their mutant powers by using unique skills that stretch them beyond their current job.
  3. Blurry Vision – Fuzzy vision confuses. When leaders lack energy, it’s often that they don’t understand (or buy-into) the vision. It’s hard to act jazzed, when you don’t get it. Go slow. Help them understand the bigger picture. Encourage closed-door dissent and questions. “Ah ha” moments radiate energy. Then help craft and practice messages.
  4. No Options – Choices ignite. Challenge your team with exciting possibilities. Leaders lose energy when they’re stuck. Stuck in their career, in a role, in a project. Help them discover options and new challenges.
  5. Stress – Stress sabotages . When leaders are stressed from competing priorities or home concerns they lose the necessary energy to lead well. Help them balance their goals and energetic pursuits.

5 Ways To Stop Excuses And Inspire Results

Big goals. Frustrating roadblocks. Concerns grow into excuses. Venting fuels negativity.
Weak leaders excuse excuses.
Strong leaders reframe thinking.
Growing leaders inspire possibility.

A Few of My Favorites

  • “We would sell more, if the product line were different”
  • “Our attrition would be better, if our competitor wasn’t paying more”
  • “My quality results would be higher, if I wasn’t assigned to the late shift”
  • “The employees would be more engaged, if this wasn’t a union environment”
  • “Our stock would be doing better, if the economy were better”
  • ___________?

Take a minute to fill in your favorite excuses to your most significant business problems. The issues are real. Inspire beyond the excuses.

Inspire Beyond Excuses

  1. Acknowledge reality – Don’t defend or sugar coat. Share work underway by others. Brainstorm creative solutions, but then move on. Clearly articulate what is beyond the team’s scope. If it’s gravity acknowledge that too.
  2. “Sell the bananas on the truck.” – When my sales team complained that they needed a different product mix, I had one response, “sell the bananas on the truck.” If you have bananas, find the people who need bananas, and meet their needs. Drive to where the banana eaters live. Stop wishing you had mangos. Align on what’s within their control. Brainstorm a list. You can impact most of what matters. Encourage past frustration.
  3. Reinforce – vision and purpose. Empower contribution to the bigger picture. “When you win despite X7@#$%#$%, what will that mean to your team?.. our customers? the company? your career?”
  4. Recognize – those succeeding despite the obstacles. Someone always has their head down winning. Celebrate success. It’s hard to make excuses when others around you are knocking it out of the park under the same conditions. In my “bananas on the truck” role I created a “century club, for anyone that got to 100. That seemed crazy at the time, when 7 was a big win. We celebrated every Century Club member with passion (not a lot of $, just excitement and personal attention). Soon 100 felt easy.
  5. Show them the Data – Complaining magnifies concerns. Data grounds issues in reality. “The competition is causing our attrition” can be countered with, “2 of 40 have left to work for a competitor how could we have saved the other 38?”

*“Sell the bananas on the truck” I took this pic in Costa Rica… this guy was literally selling the banana on his truck. Inspiring.

Work Environment Matters

It was a ridiculously hot July day. As a Retail Store Director, I was out on “store visits” with one of our top executives. Such excursions always feel like you’re on the hot seat, even on a cool day. My bosses boss was looking for evidence of strong execution, a positive work environment, and delighted customers. We went in the back door. He asked, “Karin, do you think it’s going to snow today?”

“Huh?” Had the heat gone to his head? And then I looked down at the big tub of rock salt prominently placed next to the door. People had clearly been walking by it for months. I knew the rest of the visit was going to go downhill. Sloppy backrooms signal inattention in other areas. It was a terrible visit. 

The Broken windows theory works in business too. When leaders tolerate sloppy backrooms, disorganized inventory, or gum on the sidewalks, it’s easier to grow to lazy in other areas. I now have a job that lets me in the “backrooms” of other companies. The theory plays out. Call centers with outdated signage or dirty rugs have worse results than those with creative recognition boards and clean break areas. Effort begets effort. A cared for work environment encourages deeper commitment. Human beings care when they are cared about.

Creating a Better Physical Work Environment

  1. Involve the team in the design
    Provide the parameters and then ask for input. I’ve been amazed at the productivity gains by just involving the teams in a few simple work environment changes. Many choices don’t involve additional costs, and the payoff in satisfaction is well worth the time. Input can happen at a company, department or team level. Involvement provides a positive sense of control.
  2. Explain the linkage
    Explain why work environment matters. Share the vision of a clean and attractive place to work. In one company I work with, the center director came in and painted all the training rooms himself. An important symbolic gesture, well-received.
  3. Establish and reinforce clear standards
    Define standards. For example, no food left in the fridge more than a day. All posters and signs up-to-date. No pizza boxes left on tables etc. This sounds silly, but even highly paid professionals get sloppy and annoy their peers.
  4. Leave room for fun.
    Zappos is famous for their creative work environment (see pics), but many other companies are doing as well. Themes work well. Lighten it up and change it up. Creativity creates energy and fun.

How important is the physical work environment in your world?

How Stress is Hurting Your Career

You know stress is bad for your health. But what about your career? When results are rough the “obvious” answer is to work longer and harder. It’s sad to watch a passionate, hard-working leader shoot themselves in the foot with a stressful reaction. Don’t let stress destroy hard work or sabotage your progress.

Stress Sabotage Stories

(all names changed)

  • Sally worked late every night for weeks getting the numbers just right. She was exhausted. She knew the scenarios inside and out as she presented to the senior team. When an executive questioned the methodology, she began to cry. She knew the answer, but was too worked up to explain it. After all that work, they remember the tears more than the results.
  • Joe is a seasoned sales manager who’s passionate about his vision and driven to win. The competitor was gaining ground, and he was not happy. He frantically called for more meetings and action plans. He demanded improvement loudly. Stress rolled downhill. The team spent more time explaining the problem than selling.Results got worse.
  • Carol’s child was sick and the diagnosis was unclear. She was afraid to tell her boss or to take time off during this critical time in the business. She became distracted and dropped a few balls. Not knowing the whole story, her boss concluded she didn’t care.
  • Frank was “too committed to take vacation.” He worked long days and stayed connected every weekend. He stopped exercising and started drinking too much coffee. His cranky demeanor led his team to avoid telling him bad news He didn’t learn that the project was in jeopardy until it was too late to fix it.
  • Brenda is the ultimate multi-tasker. She gets a lot done, but she always seems frantic. Despite her strong track record of results, she’s not getting promoted due to concerns of “executive presence.”

The Cleveland Clinic provides a good summary of the signs and symptoms of stress. Hardly the conditions for elegant leadership.

Physical Cognitive Emotional Behavioral
Headaches Difficulty concentrating Anger Increased alcohol use
Backaches Forgetfullness Anxiety Cigarette smoking
Chest tightness Worrying Depression Increased caffeine use
Fatigue Thoughts of death Poor self-esteem Drug use
Stomach cramps Poor attention to detail Moodiness Violence
Difficulty breathing Perfectionist tendencies Suspiciousness Overeating
Diarrhea Indecisiveness Guilt Weight gain or loss
Loss of sexual interest Feeling helpless Weeping Relationship conflict
Insomnia Catastrophizing (blowing things out of prorportion) Loss of motivation Decreased activity

It’s easy to think the way out of a stressful situation is to push harder, deeper, and work longer. Taking the foot off your gas may get you further.

What would you add?

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 Weird and Wacky 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?