Frontline Festival: January 2016

Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. This month’s festival is all about Vision and Strategy.  Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors! Next month, we turn our focus to Building Productive Workplace Relationships. Submissions due February 12th– new participants always welcome, please us this form.

Laura Barnard of PMO Strategies takes a realistic look at change management and change resistance with ideas for doing change WITH people instead of TO them. Follow Laura.

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited asks, “Are you an overwhelmed professional?” This is the year to change that. Follow Beth.

According to Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership Strategic success takes more than smarts and a clear vision. Guts and discipline count, too.  Follow Wally.

Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.
~ Jonathan Swift

Liza Heidelberger of MyLeaderSphere reminds us, that like two sides of the same coin, vision and strategy are essential to moving an organization forward.  Here are some ways you can identify if you focus more on vision or strategy and what you can do to keep both in balance.   Follow Liza.

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement  says that when the vision is merely a pretty collection of words that doesn’t drive decisions and behavior it is pointless. When it does drive behavior it is powerful: sadly that is rarely the case. Follow John.

In the post, You are enough, Lisa Kohn from Thoughtful Leaders Blog reminds us that vision and strategy are only effective when we come from a position of strength, and why we should therefore give up trying to prove anything to anyone, and more importantly, to even yourself. Follow Lisa. 

Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different.
~ Michael Porter

Jon Mertz of Thin Difference  asks: “Are you ready to engage the necessary isms of your life work?”  Consistent focus on getting the right balance between them will create a more meaningful life work opus. Follow Jon.

According to Michelle Pallas of MichellePallas.com,  having a vision and setting goals enables realization of our dreams. Crystallize that vision and let people know where you are going so, if they choose, they can help you. Follow Michelle.

Alli Polin of Break the Frame  suggests that a shared vision is critical for success but without the trust and energy of the team behind that vision even the best strategy falls apart. Follow Alli.

Where there is no vision, there is no hope.
~ George Washington Carver

Skip Prichard of Leadership Insights  posits that the same strategy, the same goals, the same execution may result in different outcomes. Why? The view. When leaders create the right view, everything changesFollow Skip.

LaRae Quy of Mental Toughness Center! shares that body language plays an important role in leadership success. Many entrepreneurs and business owners focus on verbal skills, but they fail to realize there are two conversations going on when they meet another person. The first conversation is the one where words are used to convey information; while the second one broadcasts thoughts, attitudes, and emotions through the body. If we are unaware of the non-verbal messages we are sending, the second conversation could undermine the first one. Follow LaRae.

Jesse Lyn Stoner of Seapoint Center for Collaborative Leadership shares that the traditional strategic plan is obsolete in this fast-paced VUCA world, but planning is indispensable. Here are five guidelines to create a *dynamic* strategic plan that will prepare you to make quick decisions when opportunities and challenges suddenly arise. Follow Jesse Lyn.

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.
~ Winston Churchill

Dr. Artika Tyner of the Planting People. Growing Justice Institute exhorts that now is the time to redefine leadership. Leadership in the 21st Century must move beyond position or title to everyday people making a difference in the world. Follow Artika.

Julie Winkle Giulioni of DesignArounds reminds us that vision without strategy is just a nice idea; and strategy without vision might be a lot of unproductive activity. Together, however, they are a dynamic duo that can drive unbeatable organizational results. Follow Julie.

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The Insiders Guide to Communicating the Big Picture

Is your team struggling with poor results, apathy, and feelings of being overwhelmed?  Stop and consider if they really understand the big picture.

Can they grasp real meaning in their work beyond the growing daily to do list. As we continue our series on the biggest mistakes team leaders make, we focus on the perils of under communicating the big picture.

Symptoms that Your Team Doesn’t Get the Big Picture

Kelly’s Story:

Kelly’s team is really busy. They’ve been working hard and getting by, but results are stagnant. She’s tried everything: more recognition, contests, she even came in dressed as a superhero to try to get the team riled up. Each of these stunts worked for a day or so, but then the results returned to their normal mediocre state and the stress levels creeped right back up.

Frustrated, Kelly went old school and writing warnings for those at the bottom of the stack rank. That got a few people’s attention, but now morale is in the tank.

She asked Frank, one of her most dedicated team members, how he was feeling:

I’m getting pretty stressed out too. It just seems that we’ve got this really long list of things to do and the work just keeps coming. I feel like I’m on a treadmill and am just running toward nowhere.

When Kelly asked if he understood, why they had been asked to work so hard this summer, he just shrugged his shoulders. Chances are, Kelly could make a big difference by doing a better job of communicating the big picture.

  • Mediocre results
  • High Absenteeism
  • Apathy
  • Insatiable thirst for recognition
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed

Why Team Leaders Forget to Connect the Dots

Communicating the big picture is a skill that’s often lost in early leadership development programs. After all, big picture thinking is for execs, right? No. Everyone needs to get where they fit in. Many team leaders under-communicate the big picture for the following reasons.

  • You Don’t Fully Understand It – Face it, sometimes the big picture is murky. It could be that change is happening so fast that it’s hard to keep up. Or, there’s a lot of secret stuff happening behind closed doors, and what’s hitting the front line really doesn’t make sense. If what you’re being asked to ask your team to do feels stupid, it’s important to ask the right questions to ensure it makes sense to you. If you’re frustrated and confused, your team will see it. Get the clarity you need first. If that’s tricky ask for advice, or talkpoints, or an opportunity to role-play how to best communicate a message to your team. If it still doesn’t make sense, respectfully articulate your concerns. You may have a perspective that has yet to be considered.
  • You’re Relying On Someone Else To Do It – You know your team has heard the message at least 4 times. Go for 5. Even if they’ve heard the webcast, participated in the town hall, read then company newsletter, and had a visit from the senior team, they need to hear it from you. Teams need people they trust to translate the big picture. They need time to ask questions and to voice their concerns. Just because the smiled happily when your bosses boss shared the news, does not mean they’re gun ho and ready to go.
  • You’re Just Too Busy – When you’re drowning, it hardly seems like a good time to step back and contemplate the big picture. But you may be surprised how much time you can save from such a little investment. Once upon a time I was leading a sales team that was just not executing in one particular arena. They just didn’t seem motivated to try. It didn’t make any sense to me, because the comp plan clearly paid big bucks in this arena. I was venting to my finance guy, “don’t they understand that just doing this one thing right could go a long way in paying off their car?” He asked one simple question, “Karin, are you sure they know how they’re getting paid?” You guessed it, despite all the training on the comp plan, the team meetings, and the fact that they got a detailed statement each month, the majority of the team could not explain to me how they got paid. We took the time out to go through everyone’s statement one-on-one. Bingo.

3 Ways To Communicate the Big Picture with Ease

So you want to get better in this arena? Try these three steps:
  1. Magnify The Meaning – Talk to your team about the impact their work has on the greater good: the customer, the world, and others they serve. Engage in dialogue and ask them to identify what makes them most proud about the work that they do.
  2. Clarify Priorities – It’s vital that the tasks you’re asking the team to perform does not feel like a to-do list of unrelated tasks. Bundle the work into meaningful chunks that link back to the bigger picture. If you can’t combine the tasks into meaningful clusters, you may have too many priorities. Figure out what matters most and nail those. Know that if something needs to drop what that will be. If you have to fail at something be sure you’re the one that chooses what that will be
  3. Simplify the Message – If you can’t explain your team’s mission in one sentence you don’t fully understand it. If you’re really struggling, ask a few strong team members to give it a shot. Everyone on your team should be able to respond to your team’s mission in a very similar way.

All the other work you do as a team leader will be undermined if your team doesn’t have a strong unifying sense or where they’re headed. Ask your team today. Can they articulate your team’s mission in one sentence?

Note:

Under-communicating the Big Picture surfaced as an important theme in response to my post The Biggest Mistakes Team Leaders Make. If you missed that post, take a quick look so you can join the fun.

We’re working on a crowd-sourced e-book that will be free to all LGL subscribers. The Insiders Guide To Communicating the Big Picture is the starting point for chapter two.

Please share your success stories and lessons learned for possible inclusion.

We hope you will join the fun. It’s not to late to contribute your thoughts to the Insiders Guide To Micromanagement.

Interviewing? 4 Ways to Set Yourself Apart

It takes more than qualifications to get the job. Don’t count on your track record. In a close race, best prepared wins.

Two candidates were interviewing for a District Sales Manager position. Both had great backgrounds and qualifications. Both nailed the Behavior Based Interview, and we moved on to talk about their planned approach.

Joe (not his real name) came with his generic 90 day strategy. It was as if he had read Michael Watkin’s Book, The First 90 Days,* and copied the generic advice into his plan. His key actions looked like that of so many other candidates. Part of Joe’s plan was to visit every store in his territory in the first 30 days. Yawn.

*p.s I love Watkin’s book. It’s a great read when applied well.

Before her interview, Jane (not her real name), took 2 days off and visited all the stores in the new territory (across a 200 mile radius) in plain clothes. She came prepared with a list of observations, priorities, a platform for improvement, and a robust plan to begin tackling the issues in the first 30 days. She nailed the interview.

Jane’s now knocking that job out of the park.

A Deeper Approach to Interviewing

When interviewing, don’t bring generic plans. Do your homework. Go learn something deeper to discuss.

1. An Understanding of the Business

Talk to people. Arrange advanced visits if you can. Determine who is best-in-class. Understand the current priorities. Use real data to share specifics for your strategy. Come with informed questions. How far you can go with this will depend on whether you are interviewing internally or externally. However, you may be surprised how much data you can find in either circumstance. You can gain much from a solid google search.

2. A Platform

Just like a political candidate, be prepared to share your vision for this role. What is the one big thing you will accomplish? Share why you are passionate about your vision. Articulate the unique aspects of your leadership.

3. Your Angle

Describe your key skills and abilities and how they will benefit this organization. Make connections between unrelated roles. Describe how your diverse experience has built transferable skills perfect for this position.

4. Your Track Record

Come prepared with specific results and deliberate stories that highlight your leadership. Don’t just share your stack rankings(a common approach), share how you achieved them.

How To Build Results That Last Beyond Your Tenure

 

I’ve heard all of the following phrases and many more like them uttered over the years.

“I can’t take a vacation, every time I do the whole place falls apart.”

“I had that organization running so well, and then she took over what a mess”

“Well, she was the lynch pin that held that whole place together, now that she’s moved on I am not optimistic”

“I came back from maternity leave early, I just couldn’t stand the thought of cleaning up the mess”

“She built all those relationships, we can’t replace that”

Not only have I heard these phrases, I am embarrassed to say that I have said some of them.

Sometimes they are true.

Sometimes they are not.

Either way, it’s not leadership.

An important sign of real leadership is what happens after the leader moves on.

  • Is there a clear vision?
  • Does the team have a clear brand and shared values?
  • Do the next steps seem perfectly clear?
  • Does each member know how they can best contribute?
  • Can the team rely on one another to get things done?

And yet, some leaders seem to take secret pride when things fall apart in their absence. They exude a quiet form of giddy when their team can’t function without them.

Short-term results are important. But how do you build a team that can sustain results long after you have moved to the next assignment?

If you are a “indispensable” leader, something is really wrong. You are not adding value long-term.

What can you do now, to ensure your impact will last?

Is Your Team Built to Last?

Jim Collins has fantastic research about how great companies do this in his books, Good to Great and Built To Last. Important research, great reads.

But if you are like most of my readers, you are not the COO of a Fortune 50 company. You are you. You have done your best to build a great team. You care deeply about the results you have built. You care even more deeply about your team. How do you ensure all this sustains?

Over the coming days, I begin a series on Building Results That Last Beyond Your Tenure. In each post, I will share my insights, along with more questions for our Let’s Grow Leaders Community.

I look forward to our conversation on how to…

  • Establish a Strong Vision
  • Develop Key Behaviors
  • Create Interdependent Success
  • Leave a Remarkable Successor

Take a few minutes. Reflect on your stories and get ready to share. Not ready to share stories? Bring on the questions. Together we will explore the excitement, challenge and nuances of building results that last beyond tenure.

 

How To Differentiate Your Strategy Through Competence and Talent

Why would a customer choose you over a competitor? Many companies have trouble articulating that answer, says Steve Van Remortel, author of the new book Stop Selling Vanilla Ice Cream: The Scoop on Differentiating Your Company Through Strategy and Talent. After helping hundreds of companies build successful strategies, Steve asserts:

“There is no difficulty any viable enterprise cannot overcome confront by improving its strategy and optimizing its talent.”

In talking with Steve last week, his passion for strategy was palpable:

“The number one reason companies don’t have a strong strategic plan is that they don’t exactly know how to do it. This book eliminates that obstacle.”

What struck me most about the approach was the team-based planning. He provides a step-by-step process for building a talent team from across the organization. Although the executives are at the helm, much of the creative work is left to the team. Team members engage in an in-depth internal a
nalysis to identify their differentiable core competence and tangible value.
I asked if executives were ever struggled with the letting go involved in these scenarios. He shared:

“The leaders most attracted to this process, understand the bottom line value a collaborative process can bring in optimizing their strategy and talent.”

The book contains many tools and resources for companies to use, and more that can be downloaded for free on his website. I asked if he felt companies could implement the process on their own, just by following the steps in the book, or if they needed him or another consultant. He reinforced that he wrote the book to “bite size pieces” that teams could work through methodologically.

“If they need me to implement the process, I haven’t accomplished what I set out to do.”

This book is about leaving a legacy. Improving the economy one strategic scoop at a time.

Van Remortel’s 5 Fundamentals of Strategy and Talent

1.  Differentiation: Delivering a clear competitive advantage

2. Tangible Value: Proving your worth

3 Talent Management: Optimizing talent through a clear and deliberate approach

4. Tactical/Departmental Plans: Integrating key actions within and arose departments

5. Plan Execution: Implement an execution program to ensure a culture of discipline

Are you selling vanilla ice-cream? What truly differentiates your strategy and talent? Stop Selling Vanilla Ice Cream can help.