Leaders Share about Resilience

Leaders Share about Resiliency and Change: A Frontline Festival

At this moment of unprecedented change and strain, with double-digit unemployment and everyone on a fast-pivot to do the best they can, with what they have, from where they are, resiliency has become a vital, universal conversation.

So this month we’ve invited our Frontline Festival contributors to share their thoughts about resiliency and change. Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors.

Planting Seeds: Sage Wisdom From Eileen McDargh

This month, we welcomed Eileen McDargh, author of Resiliency GPS, to Asking for a Friend where she answers the question, How do I show up resilient as a leader? 

We loved Eileen’s perspective on “planting seeds.” We just don’t know if all the seeds we are planting will work. It’s the planting that’s important.

And as Eileen shared, it’s important to address resiliency in yourself AND in your business/team.  Thank you to the following leaders who help us unpack this further.

Building Resiliency in Yourself

Tanveer Naseer of Tanveer Naseer Leadership provides What Growing an Orchid Taught Me about How to Successfully Change and Adapt. Discover an often overlooked element that’s critical to our ability to successfully change and adapt in response to changing conditions and demands. Follow Tanveer. 

And you won’t want to miss Karin and Tanveer’s special Asking For a Friend conversation on building connection during this challenging time.

Jessica Thiefels of The Organic Content Marketer gives us The 31-Day Mindset Reset Challenge to Start Living with Intention. Tapping in your resilience is all about mindset. This free, 31-day challenge (with a free printable calendar to track the days!) will help anyone begin to make that shift, one day at a time—one simple shift at a time. Follow Jessica

Michelle Cubas, CPCC, ACC, of Positive Potentials shares Resilience is Founded Upon Emotional Intelligence. Resilience is observable. It is an energy and ability to rebound and adapt one’s circumstances after failure, damage, or injury—adapting to life’s twists and turns. Follow Michelle.

 

Beth BeutlerBeth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited offers 7 Questions for Your Home Workspace. The location of our daily work has changed to “home” for many. This free PDF worksheet helps you give some thought to your current work environment and consider changes that will help you be more motivated, resilient, and productive in a different workspace. Follow Beth.

Lisa Kohn from Chatsworth Consulting Group presents Thoughtful Leaders Discover and Lead from their Core Strengths where she shares that it’s crucial that we realize how we contribute and how strong and resilient we are – because knowing and owning this allows us to be our best and to lead from our best – and helps us live and lead through these challenging times. Follow Lisa.

S. Chris Edmonds of Driving Results through Culture gives us this Culture Leadership Charge: Instead of Crisis Planning, Do This. These five steps we can all take to help us shift perspective, turn the corner emotionally and intellectually, and build stronger systems that can endure.  Follow Chris.

Building Resiliency in Your Business and Team

Nate Regier of Next Element Consulting gives us Nine Self-Permissions to Stay Sane During Crisis. “We are in this together” seems to be the anthem of Covid-19. But what does it really mean? Here are nine self-permissions to help you fully experience the gift of compassion during crisis and beyond. Follow Nate.

 

Eileen McDargh of The Resiliency Group provides Small Gestures Help People Smile—a Resiliency Boost. During these dark days, every smile or tender gesture you can inspire is more meaningful than ever. Many of us work hard to be strong and committed to surviving but sometimes we forget that we need to help others build their resiliency skills. I hope the inspiring stories will help you find a way to light up someone’s day. Follow Eileen.

Paul LaRue of The UPwards Leader shares,  Don’t Abandon Your Core Values During a Crisis. During a crisis, people assume a flight or fight reaction. How leaders respond will show their true adherence to the core values of their organization. Follow Paul.

 

Rachel Blakely-GrayRachel Blakely-Gray of Patriot Software, LLC writes Building Business Resilience in the Age of Coronavirus and Beyond. Learn what business resilience is and why it matters, particularly during COVID-19. By creating business plans, thinking outside the box, and hiring resilient employees, you can work toward building resiliency. Follow Rachel.

 

David GrossmanDavid Grossman of The Grossman Group shares 8 Strategies to Lead and Engage Employees Through COVID-19. There are concrete actions all leaders can take to make this time of uncertainty and change a defining moment for their business; one that helps bring employees together in the best possible ways. With that in mind, we’ve pulled together 8 strategies that work for leaders to lead and engage employees during COVID-19 (along with 2 free guides to help.) Follow David.

Shelley RowShelley Row of Shelley Row Associates offers Now’s Not the Time to Cut Professional Development! Here’s How to Make the Case. Times like these prompt changes in budgets and professional development is often the first line item cut. That’s a really bad idea. Here are ways to effectively make the case to keep those funds in your budget and continue training your people amidst uncertainty. Follow Shelley.

Jon Verbeck of Verbeck Associates CFO Services provides The 13-Week Cash Flow Forecast and reminds us that one thing that does NOT change in a crisis is the need to have a solid handle on our financial picture. The cash flow forecast tool is one of the most important things you’ll need to stay on top of this critical information and keep your business resilient. Follow Jon.

 

Laura Schroeder of  Working Girl shares: With so many teams working at home, keeping people engaged and connected is a top priority but it’s also a challenge. Online conferencing and collaboration tools are helping us keep the lights on, but rising evidence suggests ubiquitous online interactions have a concerning psychological downside.  Looking into the not so distant future, how can organizations create a more resilient and human-centric workplace?  Follow Laura.

Won’t You Join Us?

Are you a leadership writer? We’d love to have you join us with your articles, videos, podcast episodes, or simply your best thinking on the topic (even if you don’t have additional content to link.) Our topic for June is courage. Click here to submit your thoughts and content!

How to help your team manage change

How to Help Your Team Manage Change

Connection is key to help your team manage change.

When you have a clear picture of where you want to go but your team won’t come along as quickly as you want, it can feel like you’re trying to pull a car out of the mud—it’s stuck and everyone’s spinning their wheels. Pull too hard or too fast and you risk a disaster like this:

how to help your team manage change

The internet is full of towing failures like this one. There are a couple of common mistakes that plague well-meaning people trying to tow a friend’s car out of trouble—and these same mistakes can prevent you from helping your team manage change.

Help Your Team Manage Change by Avoiding These 3 Mistakes

Mistake #1: Poor Connection

A good tow depends on a solid connection between the two vehicles. For example, don’t hook your tow cable to the bumper of either vehicle. This is a weak connection. In many of those towing fails, they didn’t attach their cable to the car’s frame, and when they pulled, they tore the car apart.

Just as you want to connect a tow cable to a car’s frame, as a leader, your influence depends on the strength of your connection to your people. Share the meaning and purpose of the work. Know what your people value, and connect those values to their daily tasks.

The most meaningful connections you make are with shared values and clear reasons why activities must happen. Without these connections, you’ve probably asked your team to do something that makes no sense to them (with little chance of success).

You also strengthen your connection to your people when you include their wisdom and perspective in decision-making. Ask what they think the team is capable of, why they do what they do, and how they would improve the results they produce.

Mistake #2: Rapid Direction Change

When you tow, you don’t want to pull the car sideways or you could rip off a tire or an entire axle. Instead, start by pulling the vehicle in the direction it was going or else directly opposite that direction. This minimizes stress on the car and gets the wheels rolling.

Similarly, with your team, you have to know their current capacity, training, and priorities. If you ask something of them they don’t know how to do, or that their current workload can’t accommodate, or something that conflicts with their current priorities, you’ll end up frustrated.

We’ve worked with many User managers who respond to this scenario by pulling harder (they yell, belittle their people, and get upset). This is the equivalent of pulling at the wrong angle and tearing the axle off the car. At best, your people lose respect for you. At worse, they rebel, quit, or sabotage success.

When you need to get your team going a different direction, start by examining the capacity, training, and priorities. What can you remove from their plate? What training can you get for them? How can you help re-prioritize and get them rolling in the new direction? Even a day or two spent in making these adjustments can help your team manage change and transform faster.

Mistake #3: Moving too Fast

When you tow a vehicle, you don’t want to slam on the accelerator. When the road is muddy and you accelerate too quickly, your tires will spin and dig into the mud. When the road is dry and you accelerate too fast, you’ll damage one vehicle or else snap the tow cable.

As a manager, you have a clear picture of where you’re going and what needs to happen to get there. It’s obvious to you. But what’s obvious to you won’t be obvious to your people without significant communication—particularly in times of crisis and change.

We’ve worked with countless frustrated managers who told their team about a change in procedure once, six months ago and are now angry that their team isn’t implementing the change. To pull gently and build momentum, you’ve got to frequently communicate what’s happening, why it’s happening, and the specific tasks each person is responsible for, and then check for understanding. At the end of the discussions, ask team members to share what they understand the expectations to be.

Slow down just a little, and help your people build momentum in the new direction.

Your Turn

The towing metaphor has its limits. In fact, the better connection you build with your team, the more you help them to self-manage and prioritize what matters most, the more rapidly your team can manage change and respond to sudden shifts.

We’ve been so impressed by the leadership and rapid changes we’ve seen many teams make in response to this crisis and we’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment and share What is your #1 way to help your team manage change quickly and respond to rapidly shifting circumstances?

4 Ways to Stop Frustrating Misunderstandings

4 Ways to Stop Frustrating Misunderstandings

Frustrating misunderstandings aren’t inevitable.

I was sitting in the car outside our house, waiting for our son to join me on a trip to the grocery store.

After waiting for a while, I called his cell phone. “Are you coming?”

“Where are you?” he asked.

“In the car, waiting for you,” I said. “Where are YOU?”

“I’m at the desk,” he replied. “I thought we’re working on our creative writing project?”

We’d both been in the same conversation, but somehow, each of us had come away with two very different understandings of what was happening.

I thought we were going shopping. Our son thought we were working on a creative writing project.

How could we have interpreted the same words so differently?

What Causes Those Frustrating Misunderstandings

Communication is a funny thing. You’re never as clear as you think you are because several problems get in the way.

Your words make sense to you, but those words can mean something entirely different to another person. You each bring a lifetime of experiences and interpretations to every conversation. Those filters color our understanding – and cause a host of frustrating misunderstandings.

For example, take something as simple as “Let’s take out the trash.” Depending on your team’s experience and interpretation, they could hear:

  • I will take out the trash.
  • You will take out the trash.
  • We’re both going to take out the trash.
  • We’re showing that we’re all in this together.
  • We’re doing work that’s beneath us.
  • No work is beneath anyone.
  • We can’t afford a cleaning service.
  • We’re scrappy and efficient.
  • You don’t value the important work I could be doing instead of taking out the trash.
  • We’ll take the trash to the front door.
  • We’ll take the trash to the dumpster.

And that’s assuming they heard your words correctly. You can imagine how comedies would have someone hear “Let’s check out that rash.”

It turns out that when I said, “Let’s go shop” what our son heard was, “Let’s chop.” Which he interpreted to mean “chop-chop” as in, “Let’s get to it.” Since creative writing had been on his mind, he filtered the encouragement to action through the lens of what had his attention.

In organizations and teams, these kinds of misunderstandings aren’t so funny. They cause endless frustration, headaches, lost productivity, and aggravation.

Close the Loop

Effective leaders work hard to remove the chance of misunderstanding. You do this by the example you set, by understanding who you’re talking to, connecting what to why, and checking for understanding.

Your Example

It’s leadership 101—lead by example. But it’s more than a trust-building boost to your credibility. Your example clarifies your words and helps everyone understand exactly what you mean.

Understand Who You’re Talking To

Get to know your people and you can tailor your communication to reach mutual understanding quickly. For example, if you have a detail-minded person who takes things literally, understanding that will help you avoid theoretical language. They need to know what, specifically, needs to happen.

People are different. How can you give everyone the best chance of understanding and action?

Connect What to Why

In the absence of information, many people fill in their own stories—and they’re usually not pleasant. Nowhere does this happen more than in filling in the “why” behind what’s been asked.

Eg: Why are we taking out the trash? It must be – we’re broke, the boss doesn’t like our work, they don’t know what we do, they don’t know who I am, it’s a punishment.

Eliminate misunderstanding by clarifying the why behind what you ask.

Check for Understanding

There are two ways to check for understanding:  actions and emotions.

Check for Understanding #1:

The action-focused check for understanding ensures a mutually shared understanding of the activity. It looks like this:

“Let’s do a quick check for understanding—what are we doing after lunch?”  “Yes—we’re all taking out the trash.”  “And why are we taking it out?”  “No, it’s not because we’ve done anything wrong—it’s because we’ve got another group in here after us and it’s going to smell awful if we leave it in the trash—and that’s what we’d want them to do for us.”

Check for Understanding #2:

The emotion-focused check for understanding gives your team a chance to process what’s happening and surfaces any issues that might arise. It looks like this:

Leader: “Great meeting. I’m super excited about this strategy. Before we end, I’d like to ask, how is everyone feeling?”

Team member 1: “Well, I’m excited about it too, but I’m also worried about how we will do this considering our other priorities?”

Team member 2: “I’m feeling overwhelmed. These are wonderful ideas and I really want to do them, but I don’t know where to begin.”

Once you know these issues exist, you can help your team move through them, adjust expectations, or remove roadblocks.

Your Turn

In remote work settings, closing the loop and ensuring shared understanding is even more important when we don’t have the visual cues and reinforcement we’re used. As you implement long-term crisis-related health and safety plans, these four steps will help avoid frustrating misunderstandings and keep everyone healthy and safe.

We’d love to hear from you: What are some of your best techniques to ensure you and your team communicate clearly with one another?

This isn't helpful advice

This Isn’t Helpful Advice

I want to give you an insightful bit of leadership or management wisdom that will help you navigate the world right now.

But my inbox is overflowing with advice. Most of it is trite. Advice that just isn’t helpful right now.

I don’t want to give you more of that.

So, here’s what I’ve got right now. It may be helpful. Maybe not. But I wanted you to know that I’m thinking about you.

We planted a garden two weeks ago. A bird pulled up a seedling. Squirrels dug up some seeds (we replanted). And late frost claimed a couple more victims. The brussels sprouts stood tall.

Today, the sugar peas sprouted. Life renews.

And a relative’s child has what appears to be COVID-toe. It’s affecting his toes in a bad way. His mom has very high-risk conditions. Despite federal protestations to the contrary, they cannot get testing and so he and his father have moved into another house.

For how long?

We do not know.

The redbuds, last of the blooming trees here in Maryland, are fading after a spectacular spring show juxtaposed against the uncertainty, anxiety, and grief of life turned upside down.

As the blossoms fade, the trees are leafing out, and life renews.

Yesterday we started another long-term leadership development program that was intended to be in-person, and now moved to live-online delivery. And everyone was awesome.

The participants are leaders, working from home, trying to support their teams–all of whom are also working from home for the first time.

I was grateful for these leaders and their sense of humor, their playful razzing of one another, and their desire to be the best leader they can be.

I was grateful for the team of people who make our work possible, quietly attending to products, design, technology, graphics and so much more. Thank you, Shelley and Beth and Amy and Brooke and Phil. I don’t say it often enough.

I am grateful for the wife, partner, co-author and friend I have in Karin. I know you know that she’s awesome, but really, you don’t know just how awesome.

And everyone is different.

Many of the people I’ve talked with recently are stir crazy and tired of being cooped up with the same people all the time. Like me, they miss their friends, family, and the small, but who-knew-how-important everyday interactions we have with other human beings.

Other people tell me that they’ve adapted marvelously well to isolation.

I can’t say that I’m one of them. Every video chat (a small miracle and immense blessing that connects me with people around the world and is a force behind so much of the commerce that continues) also drains me and reminds me of what isn’t.

And then there are my sister and sister-in-law who work in health care and don’t have the privilege to do what is driving so many of us crazy. And yet they both show up with amazing generosity for the world beyond their work and families.

Halfway across the country, last week another loved-one “ugly cried” herself to sleep.

We face a great deal of uncertainty. We still don’t understand this disease. We don’t know exactly how we’re going to move forward.

There are opportunities as so much changes. There are opportunities to address the dysfunctions in the way we do things. To fix the brokenness that makes it far more likely that some will die than others. To mobilize and do what it takes to create a better future.

We don’t know exactly how we’re going to move forward.

But we will.

And we’ll do it with you. With your leadership. Your belief in the people you serve. Your influence to bring people together and build something better.

I saw a firefly two days ago.

It was daytime, but it made me smile to know that soon they’ll be lighting up the night.

How to be a Better Leader as Your Responsibilities Scale

How to Be a Better Leader as Your Responsibilities Scale

Transitions in scope and scale are tricky. If you continue to approach your work exactly the same as you did at the last level, you will surely fail. On the other hand, if you abandon all your best characteristics and approaches that won’t work either.  As you work to be a better leader as your responsibilities scale, you want to stay true to your values, leverage your strengths, and be deliberate in finding new ways to serve your larger team.

Sam and Jenny

Take Sam. Sam was beaming with excitement as he told me about his promotion. He was in the throes of a transition from supervisor to manager. He’ll now lead leaders.

“But it’s scary,” he confided. “I know I have to handle this whole thing differently. I was very close to my team. We talked about everything and shared common interests. Now I must distance myself, not share too much, not get too close.”

Sam continued with the list of all her other behaviors that MUST change. I heard none of what must stay the same as his scope increased. He was at risk of losing the very best qualities I respected in him as a leader—particularly his ability to build deep trust and connection that led to loyalty and deep collaboration. People wanted to work for Sam, so he attracted an “A” team.

And then there’s Jenny who had been promoted for her long track record of strategic thinking and strong execution. Her new role was enormous and there was much to learn. We met to discuss her performance agreement and goals, and I asked, “So what’s your strategy for taking this team’s performance to the next level?” Silence. “What are you doing to build your team?” Crickets.

She’d been doing a great job learning and keeping things moving as they had before. But she wasn’t yet leveraging her best gifts, the ability to identify a transformational vision and rally the team around it. She was trying to lead like the leader before her.

How to Be a Better Leader as Scope and Scale Increases

If you’ve just been promoted, here are few ideas to keep in mind to ground your leadership and influence.

1. Inventory your strengths and opportunities.

Carefully consider the strengths that helped others see you as the candidate for this increase in scope and scale. You might even ask those who helped you get this role, “What is it about my leadership that made you think I was a good fit for this position?” Then consider how those strengths might work well in this bigger role and make a deliberate plan to leverage those strengths in your leadership.

Also, consider which aspects of the job come less naturally for you and make a plan to get the help you need until you can get up to speed. It’s likely that one of your new direct reports is a rock star in this arena. Have the humility to ask for help.

2. Translate the landscape.

You are in a wonderful position of having a more strategic seat at the table while having fresh memories about what it feels like to not have all that information. Pieces of the puzzle are coming together for you in a new way. Capture that feeling and share it with your team. Explain the strategy as you would have wanted it explained to you yesterday.

You can also use your new vantage point to help your boss and peers understand how the latest processes and policies are playing out in the field. Combine your old knowledge and new insights into an enlightened and integrated perspective.

3. Be visible, approachable AND get out of the way.

As a leader with a broader scope and scale, of course, you want to be visible for your larger team and you want to be approachable. But don’t get in the way. Nothing will annoy your new team more than having your door so wide open that employees skip right over their direct manager and come right to you,

Respect your team and their authority. Of course, there are important times for skip level meetings and interventions, but it’s important to respect your direct reports and the work they are trying to do with their team. Help them lead their teams more effectively by working through, not around them.

4. Listen, learn, and be strategic.

Go on a curiosity tour and learn all you can, but don’t react. You’ll be tempted to jump in and fix stuff because you have the answers, and perhaps can do it better than anyone else. That’s not your job anymore. Delegate the immediate fixing, and then take it up a notch. Look for patterns. Consider the strategic implications and root causes. Build cross-functional teams to tackle the challenges to make a greater impact.

5. Build better leaders.

Your most important work as a leader of leaders is helping them grow. The tragic truth is that many leaders spend less time developing their leaders as they increase in scope. Nothing will drive results faster than strong leadership at every level.

6. Respond versus react.

As your scope and scale increases, so does the gravity, quantity, and urgency of your challenges. Great leaders pause, listen, gather facts, and respond. Sure, that response must often be quick, but frantic reaction slows down helpful behavior. Learn to keep your cool early in the game.

7. Become a Roadblock Buster.

Spend time making things easier for your team. Find out where they’re stuck, and offer to remove roadblocks. With that said, here are two words of caution. First, don’t jump in without asking. Too much help will make your team feel like you don’t trust them. Second, be sure to take a moment to teach your team while you’re busting down those barriers.

Oh, and be sure YOU’RE not the roadblock. Respond quickly with needed approvals and work to diminish unnecessary time wasters and bureaucracy.

8. Invest in your development.

Many leaders spend less time on their own development the further up they go. Don’t fall into that trap. As your scope and scale increases, so does your responsibility to lead well. Get a coach. Have a collection of mentors. Read constantly.

Your turn.

What’s your best advice for becoming a better leader as your job gets bigger?

See Also:

5 Secrets to Great Skip Level Meetings

Executive Visits: 4 Great Approaches For Influence and Impact

How to Be the Leader Employees Want to See Walk Through the Door

 

welcome to the hope business

Welcome (back) to the Hope Business

Unprecedented. Upside down. Turmoil.

Those are just a few of the more popular words used to describe the profound change we’ve all experienced. But as much as they capture, they leave out.

They leave out the reality for health care leaders who ask their teams to stand beside them, putting their lives at risk while they work with inadequate resources and decide who will die and who has a chance to live.

They can’t describe the feelings of our friends who have lost people to this disease.

Those words don’t address the sadness of leaders who have had to furlough or lay off their teams—or who have lost their own job. (And please don’t use the word “non-essential” to describe these folks whose work we very much need.)

Nor do they describe the overwhelm of leaders who have to figure how to manage suddenly invisible teams, bolster morale, and give everyone the support they need – all while juggling spouses and kids who need the WiFi.

So yes, unprecedented and upside down, but so much more.

The Business at Hand

Two years ago, I wrote about the business every leader undertakes when they agree to lead. I’ve been thinking about those words quite a bit over the past few weeks. Here is an excerpt:

If I could give a one-page orientation manual to every person who takes a management or leadership position, it would say:

You may have taken this job for the money (it’s not going to be enough),

for the power (you don’t actually have power – it’s an illusion),

or for the prestige (no job will make you feel good about yourself).

Maybe you took this job because you care about the people you serve and results you can achieve together. If so, you’re off to a great start.

When your team has hope, you have a chance.

Welcome to leadership—welcome to the hope business.

Why Try?

Leadership is the belief that if we work together, we can have a better tomorrow.

That’s hope. But if you’re like most leaders, no one’s ever told you that you’re in the hope business.

But every day, you ask your team to try, to think, to solve problems. Why? Why should they try?

The only answer is hope.

Because when we work together, we can make things better – better for our customer, better for one another, better for our families.

Welcome Back to the Hope Business

Hope is more important than ever. But hope doesn’t mean you have all the answers.

Hope is having the audacity to take the next step, to do the next thing.

Hope is getting scrappy and fighting for your employees and your customers because you know there’s a tomorrow, even if you can’t quite see it yet.

And sometimes hope is listening to their fears or tears. And sitting with them, believing with them, until they can take their next step and do the next thing.

Welcome back to the hope business.

What is your next step?

You’ve got this.


You might want to read:

How to Take Charge of Your Remote Meetings

How to Lead a Team That Suddenly Has to Work From Home

How to Lead In The Midst Of Urgent, Rapid Change And Strain

How to Capture What You’re Learning From This Crisis Now

Why Your Team Needs Your Confidence Right Now

How to Build a Better Live Online Leadership Development Program

 

build better direct report relationships

An Easy Way to Improve Your Relationships With Your Direct Reports

Even if you have an open door, and are constantly asking your direct reports how you can improve, chances are your employees are holding back.

Particularly if you’re generally a great boss, they figure “Why complain? It could be so much worse.”

Most employees we talk with have ideas for how their boss could be more supportive. And yet, when we ask them if they’ve had that conversation with their manager, most of the time the answer is “no.”

In fact, when Karin was teaching a leadership course in a top MBA program, she asked her students if they had ideas on how to improve the effectiveness of their relationship with their manager. As you can imagine, every hand in the room shot up with a lot of knowing chuckles.

And then when she asked how many of her students had shared at least one of those insights with their managers, only one student raised her hand.

If these fast-track (not shy) millennials, serious about their success, were holding back, it’s probably a good indicator that others are too.

And, if you’re like most managers we talk with, it goes the other way as well. You know your relationship with your direct reports could be better. Perhaps you’re not getting the support you need in a particular area. Or communication is breaking down in some way. Maybe you need more ideas or for them to challenge your thinking.

But it’s hard to carve out the time to have that conversation, so you settle for “good enough.”

An Easy Way to Open Up the Communication With Your Direct Reports

We use this tool with managers in some of our long-term leadership development programs to open up two-way communication between leaders and their direct reports. We thought it might be helpful for you too. If you give it a try, we’d love to hear how it goes. Drop us a line at info@letsgrowleaders.com.

Why the Tool Works

The tool is designed to reinforce the reciprocal nature of the manager-employee relationship.

It’s not just about what the manager is doing well or could do better, or what the direct report is doing well or could improve.

Both the manager and the employee rate the effectiveness of the relationship on the same dimensions.

The tool is designed to encourage both parties to take responsibility for co-creating the relationship and the results they produce.

How to Use The Tool

  1. Explain why you think this is an important exercise. It’s important that your direct reports feel safe and know that you are genuinely open to the dialogue. If the basic trust is not yet there, work on that first. This is an advanced communication tool that requires a foundation of trust.
  2. Ask your direct reports to complete the quick assessment with as much candor as possible before you meet.
  3. Complete the assessment yourself, based on your relationship with each direct report. (Note, it should be different for each person.)
  4. Schedule a one-on-one meeting with each of your direct reports to discuss and celebrate where your relationship is working well, and identify areas for improvement.
  5. Align on one or two specific actions you both agree to do to improve your relationship.
  6. Schedule the finish. Set up a time in the future (a month or so out is probably best) that you will meet to discuss progress.

You can download the pdf of this tool here.

improve your relationship with your direct reports

 

 

Why your team needs your confidence right now

Why Your Team Needs Your Confidence Right Now

Your confidence is fuel for problem-solving and creativity.

In the past two weeks, we’ve been in several meetings and conversations with leaders responding to rapidly changing coronavirus scenarios. Regardless of the industry, as leaders shared responses and next steps, many of their teams reacted in the same way:

  • But how do we … ?
  • We’ve never had to do this before. Can we really … ?
  • We’ve never done anything like this. What am I supposed to do now?

These moments of rapid change and unprecedented response naturally cause anxiety, doubt, and grief. The old way of doing things is gone—even if only for a month or two. What now? Can we handle this?

In these moments, your team needs your leadership more than ever. Address these moments of rapid change with calm clarity and then focus on answering the doubt.

When it Feels Impossible

In a state correctional facility, Christine faced a challenging problem.

With no prior supervisory experience, as one of a small handful of female staff in a mostly male prison, and with a highly diverse and contentious inmate population, she had been placed in charge of creating a clothing factory. As if those weren’t enough barriers, prior attempts to open a similar factory in other state facilities had failed.

One year later, Christine’s factory was out-producing the prototype operation, had an impeccable safety record, and could run itself without supervision.

I was able to talk with Christine, asking what made such a rapid transition, and seemingly impossible results, possible. Here’s what she said:

It began with my belief in the people. When they came to me, they wanted to tell me about what they had done on the outside—why they were in prison. I cut them off, told them I didn’t really care about who they were last year. ‘This is who we will be in this factory and this is what we’re going to do.’ Most of them didn’t believe it at first, but pretty quickly they responded to someone believing in them.

She described how male inmates would initially object to sewing because they thought it wasn’t something men did.

Christine would walk over to the industrial sewing machines, quietly operate it, produce a garment, return to the men and say, “You’re telling me women can run this industrial machine but you can’t? I don’t believe that. I believe you can.”

Your Confidence in Your Team

I love Christine’s message: “This is who we will be in this factory and this is what we’re going to do.”

Faced with major change and hurdles, your team needs your confidence.

This is the essence of leadership: believing that together we can do more and have a better tomorrow. That’s what it means to be a CBO – a Chief Belief Officer.

Your team needs a CBO right now. Your team needs to hear you say, “You can.”

  • I know this is tough and I know we will find a way through it.
  • I trust this team and believe we can find new answers.
  • Together, we’re going to stay safe and figure out how to deal with these changes.

I know you can.

Your Turn

Leave us a comment and tell us: How a leader in your life is or was a C.B.O. for you? How do you communicate your confidence in your team when times are tough?

You might also like to read:

How to Lead in the Midst of Urgent, Rapid Change and Strain

Leading When Life is Out of Control (podcast)

How to Lead When Your Team is Exhausted

7 Ways to Lead Well During Times of Uncertainty and Change


online training

how to lead rapid change

How To Lead In The Midst Of Urgent, Rapid Change And Strain

Lead through rapid change with calm clarity.

When he started work that week, “Aaron” didn’t know that he’d be asked to guide his team through a Coronavirus response, but within just a few days the situation was urgent. Major clients were making changes quickly. Like many leaders throughout the world, Aaron found himself having to lead through rapid change.

We happened to be in his office that morning as Aaron brought together his leadership team to communicate the next steps. We watched as he gracefully led his team through the day’s urgent situation. The entire office worked with clarity, focus, and resolve. The same principles Aaron used to lead through rapid change will work for you.

As you and your team respond to the rapidly evolving realities of this problem (or the next one):

1. Over-communicate clear, precise actions.

Aaron’s first message was very clear: “We need to call every client, ask them this question … and give them this information.”

Keep it simple. Check for understanding and be ready to repeat what matters most—frequently. When your people are worried and stressed themselves, communication is more challenging. Even with this seemingly straightforward request, there were several questions.

Aaron patiently and confidently reiterated the task: “A phone call to every client. Voice to voice communication is our MIT (Most Important Thing) here. If we can’t do that, we’ll use email for a backup. But #1, #2, and #3 is a phone call. Ask them this … tell them this …”

Focus on clear, concise communication that leaves no doubt about who will do what and by when.

2. Acknowledge emotion.

Ignoring emotions doesn’t make them go away. In fact, it makes them stronger. When you have to lead through rapid change and stressful circumstances, acknowledge how everyone feels.

Aaron looked at his team and said, “I know this is scary and there are a lot of things we don’t know. We have a plan for today. If anyone needs to talk with me individually, I’m here.”

If you’re not sure, you can also take a moment to ask how everyone is feeling. Acknowledge their emotions e.g. “It’s normal to feel nervous or upset in times like this.”

3. Focus on what you do know and what you can do.

Clarity is the antidote to uncertainty.

You don’t have to know everything. Focus on what you do know, on the next steps, on what needs to happen next, and the process going forward. You may not know what will happen or what decisions will be, but you can be 100% clear about what you know and what you will do next.

4. Communicate your confidence.

One of our favorite parts of this meeting was when Aaron told his team, “I know there’s a lot going on and this is on top of all the other things we’ve normally got to take care of—and I know you’re up to it. If you need help, I’m here.”

Your belief in your people becomes their confidence in themselves.

Next, Aaron shared an analogy that he’d learned from a mentor:

As a leader, you’re like a flight attendant during turbulence. When the plane shakes in the air, everyone looks at that flight attendant. If they’re joking or reading on their phone, everyone relaxes. If they’re upset, everyone panics. Your job today is to be that calm flight attendant for your team.

In talking with Aaron, he had his own concerns, but he modeled this “be the flight attendant” approach beautifully. Your team will take their cue from you.

5. Address concerns.

Aaron then took questions from his team. Some involved the work, some focused on personal concerns, and internal company procedures and response. Where he had information, he shared it. Where plans were being developed, he was clear about the process and that how he would inform everyone when the time came. When concerns were more personal, he met with those team members individually.

When you have to lead through rapid change or stressful circumstances, you often don’t know what you’ll show up to—but as a leader you always choose how you’ll show up. Your team needs you to be clear, calm, focused, and connected.

You don’t know what you’ll show up to, but you choose how you’ll show up.

Your Best Way to Lead Through Rapid Change

We’d love to hear from you: leave us a comment and share your best practice for leading through urgent, rapid change. 


You might also like:

Leading When Life is Out of Control (podcast)

How to Lead When Your Team is Exhausted

7 Ways to Lead Well During Times of Uncertainty and Change


how to lead a team that suddently has to work from home

How to Lead a Team That Suddenly Has to Work From Home

This week we’ve received so many calls like this from managers faced with implementing new work from home policies.

“I get the safety issues, I really do. But my team is used to being together in the same office. We collaborate all day long. That’s what makes us so successful. I’m concerned that this work from home policy is going to tank engagement, stifle communication and reduce productivity. What can I do?”

“I love sitting out on the floor with my team. That’s how I know what’s going on. How can I stay connected if everyone is working from home?”

“The timing couldn’t be worse. We’re in the middle of a huge project. How can I ensure my team stays focused when they’re working from home and distracted by fear?”

5 Ways to Keep Your Team Productive and Engaged While They Work From Home

These are all very real and legitimate concerns. Not everyone is cut out to work from home.

And it’s tricky to lead a remote team, particularly if you never have before.

So how do you keep your team focused and engaged when working from home is the only option?

1. Require video for your meetings and one-on-ones.

Your team may resist. Be clear from the beginning this is not optional. Being able to look one another in the eye leads to better listening (body language matters) and prevents multi-tasking.

This human connection is even more vital now that we’re all afraid to shake hands and see every human we interact with as a potential threat to disinfect.

2. Formalize informal communication.

When you’re in an office it’s natural to connect first before jumping into work. “How was your weekend?” When everyone is working remotely, it’s tempting to skip the small talk. Be deliberate about finding ways to communicate at a human level.

Last week, we sat in on a remote team meeting where they started with a virtual chorus of happy birthday. Not the best rendition we’ve ever heard. But, it was a brilliant minute well spent as everyone laughed before jumping into the stressful topic of coronavirus contingency planning.

Here’s a list of meaningful icebreaker conversation starters to keep your team connecting.

3. Over-communicate your most important priorities.

Your team is likely stressed and distracted about their health and the health of the vulnerable people they love, tanking stock prices, and what’s going to happen next. On top of all that, now they have a new routine at work. In times of uncertainty and change, you’ve got to overcommunicate more than you think is necessary.

Mix it up with as many techniques as possible For example, you can start the day with a quick team huddle  (over video of course).  Then follow-up with a recap email. Up your frequency of one-on-one check-ins. And be sure you’re deliberately asking your team for their best thinking for ways to work effectively in this new environment Or look for more creative ways to reinforce key messages such as starting an internal podcast.

4. Encourage people to work together (without you.)

When everyone is remote, it’s easy to become the hub for all communication. Which of course is a huge time suck for you and a missed opportunity for them. Assign people to work on projects together (over video). Encourage brainstorming and best practice sharing (over video). Consider assigning collaborative homework in advance of your team meeting or huddles.

5. Learn the art of great remote meetings.

Take time to establish new norms for your remote meetings. How will you ensure everyone participates? What’s the rule on multi-tasking? See How to Take Charge of Your Remote Meetings,  for a quick primer you can share with your team.

Just like any other change, a shift to a work-at-home policy will take some adjusting for you and your team. Be sure you’re checking in with your team to see what’s working and what more they need from you and from one another.

See Also:

7 Ways To Help Your Team Deal with Ambiguity 

Seth Godin: Stuck at Home

7 mistakes that frustrate your coworkers

7 Big Mistakes that Frustrate Coworkers and Damage Your Brand

Have you ever ticked off your coworkers and didn’t know why?

You didn’t mean to. You’re working hard, moving fast, and advocating for your team. And one day you overhear two coworkers complaining about you in the hallway. Or you catch a peer typing “WTF” under the table in a staff meeting.

Avoid Damaging Your Reputation With Coworkers By Avoiding These 7 Mistakes

Here are seven big mistakes we’ve seen many well-intentioned, hard-working managers (sadly including ourselves) make while working diligently to improve the business—inadvertently ticking off their peers in the process.

1. Over-advocating for Your Team

The Problem:

Of course, advocating for, and defending your team, is generally a good characteristic. People want to know their boss has their backs.

But be careful to keep a realistic and balanced perspective.

Sometimes the best person for that coveted special assignment isn’t YOUR box nine candidate, but THEIR’S.

Sometimes it’s YOUR TEAM that screwed things up NOT THEIRS. And yes, sometimes the bigger bonus needs to go to the guy on the other team who knocked it out of the park—even though your team has been working hard too.

Start Here: 

Yes, advocate for your team. But also take a step back and stay objective.

2. Hoarding Talent

The Problem:

When you’ve spent significant time developing your team, it can be difficult to let them go to another team or department—even if it’s in their best interest, or for the greater good of the organization. After all, who wants to be the farm team for the rest of the company?

Start Here:

Take the long-view. As you become known as a leader who both develops AND supports people’s career growth, you’ll become a magnet for high-potential talent drawn to that kind of support.

3. Unbridled Tenacity

The Problem: 

When you know you’re “right” it can be tough to figure out how to also be effective. When you disagree in front of an audience, particularly if that audience is your boss, even if you’re right, your peers may feel like you’ve thrown them under the bus.

Start Here:

Be willing to lose a battle or two. Stakeholder potentially contentious issues off-line. When conflict arises, pick up the phone instead of shooting off a frustrated email. Resist the urge to work out conflicts in front of others. Resolving coworker conflict is not a spectator sport.

4. Not Spending Enough Time Together

The Problem:

It’s easy to under-invest in coworker relationships. Leaders tend to focus on their team and boss first and hope the peer relationships will evolve naturally. Just like any human interaction, coworker relationships take time and energy to grow properly.

In addition, peer relationships are naturally tricky since you’re often competing in a stack rack, for resources or for senior leader attention.

Start Here:

Make a deliberate investment in the relationship. Take time to understand your coworker’s goals and objectives. Ask them what worries them and how you can help. Break bread. Learn about who they are outside of work. Invest in their success.

5. Not Asking For Help

The Problem:

When you know your coworkers are slammed, you don’t want to ask for help. But if others are reaching out and supporting one another, not asking for help can be perceived as arrogance.

Start Here: 

Take time to understand your coworkers’ strengths and areas of expertise. Ask for their advice or support from time-to-time. Of course, be sure to offer your support in return.

6. Not Acknowledging Their Contribution

The Problem: 

Okay, suppose they did help you. And now you’re getting praise for your great work. But forget to mention their support. And now they’re ticked.

Start Here:

Be gracious in your public gratitude and go out of your way to make a big deal out of the support you’ve received from others— particularly in front of the people that matter most to your peers.

7. Withholding Best Practices

The Problem:

Often high-performers will share if asked but are too busy (or competitive) to do so proactively. Or they don’t share because they don’t want to look braggy. Meanwhile, people are wasting time spinning their wheels because they’re unaware that a coworker has already figured out a better way.

Start Here:

Suggest ways to make it easy and natural for your team to regularly share best practices (here are some ideas on how to do that).

Sometimes when you’re moving fast and working hard, it’s easy to slip off of one of these slippery slopes and damage a peer relationship. It’s never to late invest more deeply for greater influence and impact.

Your turn.

What else would you add? What do you see as the biggest mistakes derailing coworker relationships?

make useless performance feedback helpful

How to Make No-good, Useless Performance Feedback Helpful

Don’t let useless performance feedback sap motivation.

My phone buzzed with a text message from Amena, a young manager. “Just had annual eval – most useless performance feedback ever.”

I’d coached this woman—a hardworking, strategic thinker who passionately cared about the company and its customers. Another text quickly followed the first: “My eval was ‘good’ on everything except where I was ‘very good’ at getting along with people.”

Which was rapidly followed by this:

useless performance feedback text

Have you experienced her frustration? Too often, meaningless platitudes followed by a vague assertion that something you’ve never heard about should have been better are the norm.

Because many managers lack the courage or know-how to give meaningful feedback and help their people grow, they default to no-good, useless performance feedback that isn’t just a waste of time—it’s painful and destructive.

But like you, most leaders don’t intend to give poor feedback or hurt people, so what goes wrong?

Characteristics of Useless Performance Feedback

Three characteristics make performance feedback so destructive. If you can identify and avoid these three problems, you’re on your way to helping your people achieve great results and becoming a leader they can rely on and trust.

Problem #1: One-sided Feedback

People need to hear what they’re doing well. They also need to know where they aren’t getting the job done. Many managers err on one side or the other.

Some managers hang in the land of “great work, love what you’re doing” and never address real performance concerns or tell their people how they can grow. This frustrates people who want to do a good job. Your top performers want to excel, and if you don’t help them, they’ll find a leader who will.

Other managers live in the world of “I’ll encourage you when it’s perfect—and there’s no such thing as perfect.” This one-sided barrage of critical feedback and improvement plans demoralizes people. If nothing they do will ever be good enough, why bother?

Solution: Balance your Ratios

People need encouragement and they need to hear what’s not working. You get more of what you encourage and celebrate, less of what you criticize and ignore. So, address both.

Consistently encourage what’s working. When someone isn’t performing well, talk about it. However, unless your team member has specifically asked for feedback, avoid the dreaded “sandwich method” where you shove something negative between two niceties.

That feels manipulative—or they might focus on your positive comments and ignore what you were really trying to say.

Problem #2: Vague Feedback

Another critical feedback mistake is to speak in vague generalities. Examples include the feedback Amena received that she hadn’t “been very productive in the last three months” as well as statements like:

  • “You’re doing great.”
  • “You rocked it back there.”
  • “You need to step up.”
  • “You’ve got a great/poor attitude.”

Notice that both encouraging and critical feedback can be vague and general. There are a couple of problems with vague feedback. First, the person doesn’t know what they did well (or poorly) so it’s unlikely to reinforce or change behavior.

Second, when you address a general characteristic, like someone’s attitude, you’ve put yourself in an impossible situation. You can’t actually know what their attitude is. Their attitude is an internal set of feelings and thoughts. You’re not seeing an attitude; you’re seeing behaviors that you interpret as a great or poor attitude.

Speaking in vague generalities often results in frustration, misunderstandings, and doesn’t encourage performance.

Solution: Address Specific Behaviors

When you encourage someone, be specific about what they did and why it mattered. Eg: “I really appreciate the extra time you spent solving that client’s problem this morning. I know they’re difficult. You showed so much patience. They called me this afternoon to let me know how much they appreciate the firm and will be renewing their account.”

When you need to share feedback about something that isn’t going well, you can use the INSPIRE Method to plan for and hold the conversation. The N step in INSPIRE stands for “Noticing” a specific behavior.

Be specific. Eg: “I noticed that you came into the meeting fifteen minutes after it started.” Or “I noticed that when your colleagues brought up ideas in this morning’s meeting, you interrupted them with negative comments.”

Where a vague generality leads to defensiveness, a specific observation is the start of a conversation.

Problem #3: Delayed Feedback

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the feedback Amena received is that she didn’t hear about it for months.

Without looking at your calendar, you probably don’t remember what you did three weeks ago, much less three months. When you wait weeks or months to reflect on someone’s performance, you have no chance of changing behavior.

Moreover, as Amena shouted in her text, if it was wrong back then, why didn’t you say something? It’s a fair question. Formal performance evaluations should never contain any surprises.

Solution: Do it Now

Encourage and redirect your people as close as possible to the event you’re reacting to. The more time that goes by, the less meaningful your feedback.

One barrier to quick feedback is unclear or vague expectations. One of the most common problems leaders bring us are team members who aren’t performing to their expectations. We always ask two questions:

1) If we asked the person what success looks like, would they have the same answer you do?

If not, that’s the first conversation to have. Reset expectations and go from there.

(Often, the leader will ask us, “Do I really need to do that? Shouldn’t they just know?” The answer is yes, you do; and no, they won’t. Be clear and eliminate any possibility of misunderstanding.)

2) Have you told them that there’s a problem?

Too often, the answer to this question is version of “No, not really.” It’s magical thinking to believe that someone will spontaneously decide that their behavior isn’t working when all the evidence they have says that everything is fine. Have an INSPIRE conversation that gets results and builds the relationship.

Your Turn

You can transform useless performance feedback into helpful, energizing, and productive conversations when you consistently encourage, correct when needed, address specific behaviors, and share feedback quickly.

We’d love to hear from you, what’s your number one way to prevent no-good, useless performance feedback and have productive conversations that help everyone grow?

See Also: Avoid These Infuriating Phrases When Giving End-Of-Year Feedback