The Fastest Way To Better Results

It happens on teams, it happens in training classes, it happens on dates. A rush to achieve without connection will backfire. It’s tempting to rush in, get started and get stuff done. Sure the out-of-the gate progress feels great at beginning, but if you don’t take time to create genuine connections and build relationships, somewhere down the line you’re going to derail.

Shelly’s Story

Shelly (not her real name) was completely frustrated with her team’s call center results. She’d brought in extra training, introduced a clever incentive program, stack ranked and managed the outliers, implemented every best practice she could find, and even invited her boss in for a quick motivational talk.

Nothing worked.The team’s results still sucked.

“What can you tell me about the folks on your team?” I asked. Her response was filled with “attitude problems,” “absence issues,” and a smattering of stats.

I tried again, “what can you tell me about the human beings on your team? Are they married? Do they have kids? What do they do for fun? What do they enjoy most on the weekends? What did they do last weekend?”

I got a bit of a blank stare, and then “With results like these, I don’t have time to ask about all that. Plus, this is business, it’s not personal.”

“Which team leader is knocking it out of the park?” I asked. “Joe” (also not his real name). “Please go talk to Joe again. But this time, don’t ask him about best practices, ask him how he connects with his team.”

She came back with a laundry list: meeting each employee at the door as they came in; spending the first 2 hours of his day doing nothing but sitting side by side with his call center reps; starting each one-on-one talking about something personal; birthday cards; following up on “no big deal” stuff like how their kid did in the soccer game last week. She tried it. Yup, you guessed the outcome.

Business is always personal.

If you could use a starting point for connecting your team, you’re welcome to use this free worksheet (connectionsworksheet) I wouldn’t suggest pulling it out in front of your team members, but it can serve as a great trigger to remind you what to ask about and to jog your memory to inspire more meaningful connections.  If you give it a try, please drop me a line and let me know how it goes.

Help Your Team Become More In 2014

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
~ John Quincy Adams

My eyes are crossing and my neck is twitchy after 27 conference calls to finalize our 2014 Performance Agreements. We’ve debated what defines a “balanced scorecard” and negotiated performance objectives down to the decimal point. As is par for the course in big companies, standardization is vital to ensure we’re fair and consistent. But nailing the perfect performance formula alone won’t inspire game-changing ideas or grow deeper leadership.
If you’re mired in similar new year, performance activities, be sure you take time to engage deeper conversations. Encourage your team to become more.

Questions to Help Your Team BECOME More

Start by disussing specific behaviors to ensure your team will nail their KPIs. I’ve watched far too many leaders miss this step. Then go deeper. B.E.C.O.M.E. more.

Discuss…
B- Boldness: Scary dreams, deeper challenges, courageous moves and daring decisions

  • What could you accomplish this year if you had unlimited resources? What’s a different means to similar ends?
  • Where (and with whom) are you playing it safe? At what cost?
  • What dreams are you saving for later?

E- Energy: Passion ignitors and life-force zappers

  • When, where, and with whom do you feel most alive?
  • Which aspects of your work exhaust you?
  • What will you do to renew your energy this year?

C- Callings: What or who is calling for more

  • What work would you pursue, even if you weren’t paid?
  • Who most inspires your professional life? How can you attract more people with those qualities?
  • Which of your gifts lie dormant in your current role?

O-Openness: Possibilities, awareness, and receiving the unknown

  • What possibilities are you ignoring?
  • How and where will you find creative inspiration?
  • How will you invite input and feedback?

M-More: Seeing bigger, broader, and giving more

  • How will 2014 be categorically different from last year?
  • What do you most want to be known?
  • Who will you serve?

E-Execution: What actions matter most (and least). Envision breakthrough success.

  • What would make this year the best in your career?
  • Who else can you invite to join your leadership pit crew?
  • What could get in the way of your success?

Invite each member of your team to choose 2 or 3 questions that would best serve them this year. Discuss the questions in your one-on-ones. Encourage the team to pick a few questions to discuss as a team. Set the stage for a breakthrough year of becoming.

Finding The Perfect Gifts For Your Team: A Development Exercise

Jack gets very excited this time of year. He stumbles on a perfect gift that he knows EVERYONE on his list must have. It’s clever, and he finds it useful. Convinced his friends and family can no longer live without it, he buys a dozen or so.

Watching the excitement in his eyes, I know it’s not laziness. He’s convinced. The sad part comes when the reaction is not as he hoped. He begins “selling” to inspire excitement. As leaders it’s tempting to take such an approach to employee development. We offer the development that comes naturally.

“People with great gifts are easy to find, but symmetrical and balanced ones never.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Development is most meaningful when we leverage our unique gifts with the areas the employee is looking to develop. We won’t be able to fulfill their entire developmental wishlist. That’s okay. Great leaders are developmental matchmakers.

Just the Right Gifts – An Exercise

An easy exercise helps match your gifts with your employee’s needs:

gifts

  • Step 1 – Consider your best leadership gifts. What are you in the best position to give this team member? Write them in the left hand column.
  • Step 2 – What’s on your team member’s developmental wish list? What do they want (or need) to work on most?
  • Step 3 – Identify where your strengths and their needs best align.

Interpreting The Results

  • Green a direct match you can coach (e.g. you’re great at speaking, they want to be a better speaker).
  • Yellow a nice synergy to partner> (e.g. your a good listener, they want to be a better speaker). Share how you use effective listening in speech preparation, delivery, and in Q&A)
  • Red, areas to look for additional support. They’ve got a need that you’re not in the best position to support. Work together to brainstorm and identify co-workers, mentors, or coaches who can help.

Call for Submissions: December Frontline Festival, is all about Gifts (widely interpreted).

Submissions due December 13th, post goes live December 20th.

People with great gifts are easy to find, but symmetrical and balanced ones never.

Graphic by Joy & Tom Guthrie, Vizwerx

Leadership Development Made Easy

Leadership development used to be easier. Early in my career, my team was small, and I was in HR leading other HR folks. We all spoke the same language, and everyone believed in leadership development.

Then a move out of HR to a team 50 times the size in a union environment. More tricky, but all in a few large call centers. I could physically model the leadership I was looking to grow.

Next to a sales role, with a team of 2000 spread out in 100 locations within a 9 hour radius. Still close enough to show up to support as needed, and to easily pull groups together for leadership development sessions.

Today I lead a team in 22 locations across 3 time zones supporting 7 companies. We need to develop leadership capabilities on our internal team and influence 10,000 leaders and followers. I have fantastic leaders at each level contributing to this mission. Leadership development is up to all of us. I could just delegate, but this is vital. How do I also personally touch as many leaders as possible?

The easiest way to build leadership in a large, remote team is to let them inside.

Easy Leadership Development

Many leaders overlook this vital approach. Teach leadership not only by modeling on the outside, but sharing the feelings, thoughts and struggles happening on the inside. With a large, remote team, this requires even more trust and time. It’s worth it. I choose to.

  1. Leverage social media – Sure I write for you. I’m also highly sensitive to my team. If there’s a message someone (usually someones) needs to hear, it’s in the blog. I can’t tell you how many notes I get from folks saying, “that one was about me, wasn’t it?” It usually isn’t, but if the shoe fits. Sure, I could write using company tools, but then they’d miss the interaction of LGL community. Plus, by separating this as my personal blog, I preserve the right to be edgy. And I can contribute more broadly to you, them, and the rest of the world.
  2. Speak deeply into the microphone – When my team is together, I leverage time to let them in my head. Sure we talk strategy and plans, but we go much deeper. I encourage challenging questions, and they know I will shoot straight. I start. They share too. We talk about:

       •  What scares us and why
       •  Weaknesses we’re working to develop
       •  Challenges we face
       •  What makes us angry
       •  Mistakes, regrets and failures
       •  Hopes and dreams

  3. Real-time learning – We stop action to dissect teachable moments. I debrief my executive interactions and what I’m learning. I call them right back after conference calls to discuss their approach. We hold “virtual teambuilders” on topics we’re wrestling with. I’ll pose a simple question, such as “leaders stop learning when _____” And everyone responds to all via email. Amazing level-less leadership connection.

    Oddly enough, I’ve received more feedback about personal and leadership growth from this large, remote team, than in any other role in my career. We’ve also experienced the important side effect of A players and other “crazies” lining up to join the team.

    Why? We let one another into our heads.

  4. Real leadershipLearning is the 4th Branch of the REAL model. Don’t miss future discussions, enter your email to subscribe.

5 Ways to Surface Team Conflict and Live to Tell About It

We all know deep in our hearts that teams need conflict.

Conflict is “healthy.”

Leaders and teams have been talking about Tuckman’s forming, storming, norming, performing model since the mid 1960s.

Teams were storming long before that.

We get it intellectually.

We’ve even seen the value of addressing conflict play out practically.

But conflict is uncomfortable.

Sometimes addressing conflict does more harm than good.

Stirring the Pot

I am a pot stirrer.

If you have ever worked on a team of mine, you know I am constantly encouraging you to “air and discuss your concerns” with one another.

I will listen (for a minute) and then immediately send you back to the person with whom you need to engage.

People love that or hate that– that too, can create conflict.

When the pot gets stirred, and the going gets tough, that’s when the calls usually come in from all parties. My stance remains the same.

“I don’t need to hear the play-by play. Everyone gets an extra smile from my heart for working it through. I’m glad you are talking. Have as many secret meetings” as you need. I won’t take sides.”

The biggest worry seems to be, “what if I get exposed?” The truth is, there are at least two sides to every story. I know that. If your boss has any sense, she knows that. If YOU are the boss, same rules apply.

Once the storming is over, I love to ask “what did you learn about how to do conflict better?”

The truth is I ask myself this same question every day.

Sometimes I screw it up.

Conflict is never handled.

Conflict Survival Tips

Here’s what folks have told me they have learned (from addressing conflict in real situations). I hope this helps.

  1. Don’t wait too long.
    Your issues become less relevant and feel more stupid to the recipient as time passes.
  2. Own it.
    No one wants to hear “everyone is saying” comments
  3. Carefully consider the input of others
    Don’t let your response feel like retaliation
  4. Watch your facial expressions when giving and receiving feedback
    Everyone is watching those more than your words
  5. Be prepared to give specific examples
    Even if you are absolutely right, it’s difficult to digest and even more difficult to take action without the details.
  6. ??? My list goes on but, I’ll stop here and let you play. what would you add?

The Scary Secret to Great Meetings

The first time it happened, I was devastated.

After all the hard work on building relationships.

All that investment in the team.

All that transparency.

All that work to create a level-less organization.

Why had my direct report team started holding “secret” meetings without me?

Why was that necessary?

What was I doing wrong?

Was this an indication that I had become the proverbial “boss” an image I had tried so hard to avoid?

It’s About Us

I shared my concerns with a member of the team.

Karin, this is not about you. This is about us. We need this. Relax.

I still don’t know exactly what happened in those “secret” meetings. Perhaps they talked about the work. Perhaps they settled some of their own conflict. Perhaps they complained about me. I am not sure it matters.

What I do know is those meetings transformed our organization.

Each leader began stepping up in new ways. They helped one another solve problems. They worked on each other’s projects. They mentored one another’s employees. They brought well-vetted options and solutions to our staff meetings.

My questions became more strategic. So did their answers.

Results kept climbing.

When you strive to be a servant leader, it can be tough to feel your team doesn’t need “serving.” You want to roll up your sleeves and support them. Sometimes the best support you can offer is to step away and give them the space to create, argue, and perform.

Now I welcome and encourage secret meetings.

Could your team use a “secret meeting?”