Difficult Conversation

Managers, the Goal for Difficult Workplace Conversations is not Personal Comfort…

It’s action and commitment

 

Manager Skills Boot Camp II: Improve your Difficult Conversation skills and more!

 

“An object at rest remains at rest until acted upon by an outside force.”Newton’s First Law

 

Grant is a steady performer; an overall solid team player. Ellen, his supervisor, has given Grant feedback several times that his work lacks attention to detail and the quality is often marginal. Grant’s behavior has not changed, so it’s time to have a difficult conversation that gently provokes him at his edge.

Ellen’s untiring feedback attempts to get Grant to improve have failed. Ellen needs to amplify her expectations and become the outside force. Intensifying one’s tone while being prepared for the consequences naturally stokes levels of stress and anxiety, both for Ellen and Grant.

A critical challenge for Ellen is to appreciate that tension is a resource to gently increase and manage, not avoid. Why? Tension and struggle are the universal energy sources for human growth, change, and transformation. The chick embryo must work and struggle to break free of the eggshell to become a healthy chick.

Grant must experience constant, gentle pressure to understand it’s in his best interest to change. Tension, when harnessed appropriately, creates awareness. Ellen must develop a *safe learning container to leverage the tension in pursuit of Grant’s development. It’s a classic manager’s paradox.

*If managers have not created trusted working relationships with their direct reports, these conversations are often emotionally difficult with messy outcomes.

 

“The challenge for leaders is to disturb or disrupt the movement at the edge to provoke the desired outcome.” -Per Bak, author of How Nature Works

 

Two Outcomes of Turning Comfortable into Uncomfortable

#1 Ideal Outcome: Grant takes 100% responsibility for his sub-par performance and sincerely makes a commitment to change. Most managers report a mere 10-20% success rate with this highly desired outcome. When this level of spirited partnership is achieved, managers call that a great day at work!

On the other hand, being overly attached to this outcome is often driven by the manager’s need for comfort and control. In order for the outcome to be ideal, this need should be relinquished.

#2 Acceptable Outcome: Ellen is leveraging her personal relationship with Grant to persuade him that it’s in his best interest to change. She’s selling, he’s not buying. Now she must pivot from expecting an ideal outcome to an acceptable outcome.

Grant commits to taking concrete and specific actions, including changing his behavior, and understands the consequences if he does not do so. This uncomfortable condition is known as agree to disagree. Ellen must be okay with the fact that he doesn’t share her belief. Her goal is to demand expectations that serve the company, not for her or Grant’s comfort levels.

 

So What Now?

Monitor, Measure and Provide Feedback

Ellen’s previous feedback attempts were based on hoping Grant would change. The Situational Leadership Model instructs Ellen to apply a much more direct style until Grant has made observable behavior changes. Being more direct is not Ellen’s default leadership style, but that’s not important. Ellen’s primary objective is to help develop Grant’s full potential. This is Servant Leadership at its core – the sincere desire to help others be their best. This leadership style says easy, does uncomfortable.

 

Sometimes Acceptable is…Acceptable

Few management situations are more frustrating then having a difficult conversation, especially when the employee digs in and says, “I disagree with your assessment.” Managers must develop the emotional fortitude to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Tension is not a condition to be avoided, but instead, constructively managed towards an acceptable, not perfect, outcome.

 

Keep it simple. Keep it focused. Definitely keep it inspiring! –Steve

 

Manager Skills Boot Camp II: Improve your Difficult Conversation skills and more!

 

Managing a Tone-Deaf Boss Can Feel Like Riding a Cow…

The cow doesn’t want to be ridden and the ride is rough

 

Watch the complimentary webinar: Difficult Workplace Conversations

 

Growing up next to a farm with a tribe of reckless boys, I had lots of painful and failed attempts at riding cows. If you’ve ever tried this, you’d know that it feels pretty similar to “managing up” a tone-deaf boss.

 

Like cows, tone-deaf bosses:

  • Don’t enjoy be ridden (e.g. “managed up”).
  • Ensure the ride is very uncomfortable and possibly risky for you
  • Purposefully attempt to rub you off the fence
  • Will throw you off (Falling off a cow is like falling out of favor with your boss: Bruising and dangerous for your career)

Inversely, in-tune bosses are on high alert for shifting workplace discord and proactively engage team members in sincere two-way dialogue. These bosses are engaged, hands-on, approachable, and biased toward democratic action.

Safety is your #1 goal while riding a cow. The same goes for managing up: The psychological and political perils are many and often hidden.

 

Cow-riding tips and parallels to managing a tone-deaf boss:

Rule #1 – Try to minimize surprising the cow. Cows, like bosses, possess a survivalist brain that easily spooks into fight or flight.

  • Boss Rule: Schedule regular 1:1’s with your boss. I recommend at least 20-30 minutes every week. Provide a clear agenda in advance that is solution-oriented, sensitive to tight budgets, and demonstrates your clarity around key priorities.

Rule #2 – Never attempt to change a cow. A cow has gotten to where it’s at by being a successful cow; bosses too. Nothing yields rigid thinking and outsized egos more than historical success.

  • Boss Rule: Show that your riding attempts will be a win-win. Point directly to the green pastures on the horizon. Your boss needs assurances that your obvious persuasion attempts consider her best interests.

Rule #3 – Cows are stubborn negotiators.  An armful of freshly cut hay usually provides leverage.

  • Boss Rule: Most bosses can be swayed by strategic solutions that support her objectives and the organization’s priorities. Complaining without a clear business plan promotes resistance to your ideas. Just like cows, bosses will simply ignore you, stare you down, or become agitated by your anemic advances.

 

A tone-deaf boss is a major source of frustration for many dedicated employees. There is no ‘grass is greener over the fence’ strategy, but take it from an experienced cow rider: There are trusted rules for what and what not to do.

 

Keep it simple. Keep it focused. Definitely keep it inspiring! –Steve

 

Watch the complimentary webinar: Difficult Workplace Conversations

 

5 Key Performance Dimensions to Mitigate Manager Frenzy

FREE webinar: Identifying and Promoting the Right People

 

“Management by drive, like management by ‘bellows and meat ax,’ is a sure sign of confusion. It is an admission of incompetence. It is a sign that management does not know how to plan.” -Peter Drucker

 

Many managers are heads down, hard chargers all day long. Their relentless pace can exhaust their team and often causes widespread confusion. As the leadership proverb goes: Do not confuse frenetic activity with progress. There can be an addictive rush in being the hero manager; the feeling of being important and needed (who else could do this job as good as me?). Letting go of the need to control is imperative to organizational health.

 

These 5 Key Performance Dimensions (cascading in importance) offer a steady leadership path out of the frenzy

KPD 1 – Over-communicate the WHY vision. Clarity is the antidote to uncertainty, a common root cause of workplace anxiety. Managers who master communication foster meaning and purpose, a key dimension for attracting and retaining top talent.

KPD 2 – Be tough on performance expectations, gentle on people. The only employees who like wishy-washy managers are slackers. High performers are repelled by cultures where everyone wins a trophy. Be kind and caring, but let people fire themselves.

KPD 3 – Coach and develop. Make people better each day. These 2 tools support, stretch, and ensure accountability: 1) Regular 1:1’s, and 2) Delegating. Building the organization’s leadership pipeline ought to be every manager’s legacy.

KPD 4 – Build a safe and collaborative culture. Fostering psychological safety is a prerequisite for team performance, according to Amy Edmonson, author of Teaming. Great teams will always outperform a culture of individual stars in the long run.

KPD 5 – Recognize achievement and have fun. Workplace stress continues to be a top complaint for most employees. Chronic stress, as we know, is literally a killer. Create regular rituals of renewal that will benefit the company in the long run.

 

“Discern the vital few from the trivial many.” -Greg McKeown

 

Think of implementing the above 5 dimensions as utilizing the 80/20 rule. Allocating your time to a few vital areas (20%) assures the busy manager that her focus yields outsized (80%) results. Executing these high-leverage activities helps managers regain a sense of healthy control while providing team members increased clarity and direction – a win-win!

 

Keep it simple, keep it focused, and definitely keep it inspiring.–Steve

 

FREE webinar: Identifying and Promoting the Right People

~Facilitate High-impact 1:1’s in 2018~

3 Performance Outputs and 4 Guidelines

 

Download the 4-Step Coaching Process and Skills Plan

 

Note: This is a two-part blog post meeting series. This post strongly advocates and will focus on the power of 1:1’s. The next post will give attention to the architecture for team meetings; both standing and ad hoc.

 

“A meeting is nothing less than the medium through which managerial work is performed.” -Andy Grove, High Output Management

 

Workplace meetings have a bad rap. Why shouldn’t they? Busy managers often run meetings on default or fire fighting mode.

Many team members perceive meetings as a “waste of time.” However, high business output can be accomplished by combining the structure of 1:1’s with intention. This creates a powerful communication medium.

The common sentiment – “1:1’s are unnecessary, I work along-side my people all day and they know I have an open door policy” is a common and noble management behavior. However, a crucial dimension is missing: The failure to prioritize the development, engagement and working relationship with each team member.

Here’s an analogy: One can work side by side with their spouse every day raising kids…but if you fail to regularly connect with your spouse, what’s the quality of that relationship?

In work lingo it’s called, “high task, low relationship.” Lots of important stuff gets done but the quality of the relationship quietly, and often dangerously, erodes.

 

“You don’t build a business. You build people who in turn build the business.” –Zig Ziglar

 

1:1’s drive three vital performance outputs

  1. Builds the working partnership with the manager and her direct reports
  2. Grows the unique capabilities of each team member so they operate at their peak performance, which in turn
  3. Helps ensure the organization achieves its performance targets

Four guidelines for facilitating 1:1’s in 2018

Guideline 1 – Schedule regularly. Shoot for every two to four weeks. Avoid more frequent meetings because individuals might feel micro-managed. The exception is the chronic under-performer, where a direct style of management is required. Don’t wait more than a month or the coaching relationship will lose momentum and engagement.

Guideline 2 – Mostly stay on individual’s agenda, not yours. This is about optics. The effective manager-coach prioritizes the team member’s growth, concerns, and ideas. Focus on developing the necessary capabilities that will support their success in achieving business metrics, not the other way around.

Guideline 3 – Ask great questions and be highly collaborative. Nothing builds trust faster than asking useful, sincere questions and listening deeply to team member’s career aspirations, motivational drivers, concerns, and ideas for continuous improvement.

Guideline 4 – Have a strong bias for action and accountability. Every 1:1 should be book-ended by commitments and action plans. The high output manager-coach always asks, “Who is doing what, by when, and how will we measure progress and success?”

Keep it simple, keep it focused, and definitely keep it inspiring.–Steve

Investing in Your People is Investing in Your Business

5 Tips for Establishing Your Talent Pipeline

 

Download the New Manager Promotion Playbook for FREE!

 

If you’re a small business owner or manager the chances are that you don’t have a clear management talent pipeline. You probably hire and promote solely based on how hard-working and good at their job a team member is. Big mistake! But don’t just take my word for it, Harvard Business Review demonstrates how being an expert in only one area is one of the biggest reasons that managers fail. Managers have to be talented in all areas to be successful in the long-term.

 

Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” –Jim Collins, Author of Good to Great

 

To accomplish this hefty task, your organization must have a talent pipeline. HBR recommends the following 5 Tips for establishing your talent pipeline:

  1. Focus on Development: Invest in management training, use events in the workplace as learning opportunities and don’t fall into the trap of pure succession planning.
  2. Identify Linchpin Positions: Focus your efforts on positions that are vital to the health of your organization. If a manager quits today, would your business still be able to run effectively? Always be ready with a list of qualified individuals to fill vital roles and consistently train them for those roles.
  3. Make it Transparent: Let your team know how your talent pipeline works, what they should expect, what they need to do to successfully navigate the pipeline, and what training programs are available to them. Also, don’t be reluctant to receive feedback from your team; especially if your pipeline is newly established.
  4. Measure Progress Regularly: Monitor your talent pipeline. How many positions are being filled internally? The more qualified internal promotions, the better your pipeline.
  5. Keep it Flexible: Don’t be afraid to change your talent pipeline. Periodically update your procedures based on feedback, observation, and the latest management research.

 

Develop talent for tomorrow, rather than just hire for yesterday.” –Pearl Zhu, Author of IT Innovation: Reinvent for the Digital Age

 

The 5 Tips from HBR outline the general areas to begin developing your talent pipeline but your organization is dynamic. Constant devotion to improvement is the hallmark of a successful business. Read and download the free asset below, and contact me for more specific skills, real-world examples, and tailored content devoted to making your talent pipeline work best for you.

 

Keep it simple, keep it focused, and definitely keep it inspiring.

–Steve

 

Download the New Manager Promotion Playbook for FREE!

Oyster and Pearl

Agitate, don’t Stir: 3 Management Practices For Creating Pearls and Motivation

 

Visit Our Homepage for Current Manager Skills Workshops

 

Having a team member apparently content to retire on the job is not an uncommon situation for many managers. The employee may simply not be aware that moss is growing on their back or a country named Greece has fallen on bad times. Their mental maps may need upgrading by management who knows how to motivate.

Drifting into comfortable patterns of behavior is natural for individuals, teams, and organizations; however, competitive innovation and complacency cannot co-exist. Innovation requires creative tension and conflict. Complacency, by nature, develops immunity to outside tensions.

Managers who successfully create purposeful urgency have an acute understanding of basic physics.

 

“Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often.” 

                                                            -Mae West

 

The Law of Inertia, or, How to Motivate

Newton’s first law of motion basically states that there’s a natural tendency of objects (your people) to just keep on doing what they’ve been doing, unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. YOU, the manager, are the unbalancing force!

Effective managers, of course, never use force or coercion to persuade others; they leverage their hard-earned trusting relationships to influencing others into new ways of operating.

Still, it’s very common for a manager to inherit a low-performing team where there’s not time to build trust, prior to setting necessary new, bold directions. My experience is that engaging new team members in candid, transparent, and respectful dialogue actually builds trust fastest. Why?

Most under-performing teams didn’t arrive in this handicapped state by market forces. Their performance crept downward, led by unfit management. Teams crave clear and courageous leadership. Your ability to create purposeful urgency and clear direction offers hope. Trust always follows on the heels of leader credibility.

 

3 Management Practices for Creating Pearls 

1. Agitate, Don’t Stir. Agitating your people is intentionally disrupting their current view of reality. In the best sense, agitating your people is engaging them in honest dialogue about the business consequences of not changing. Agitation is not causing careless duress by contriving burning platforms for change. Agitation is declaring a future that doesn’t currently exist; it’s the vision thing. You are the irritation that initiates the pearl-forming process.

There’s a time to ask and there’s a time to tell. This practice leverages the latter skill. Vision requires leadership clarity. Ideally, the vision setting process has been highly collaborative, involving front-line staff. But at the end of the day a decision made is a course set.

Awareness is an antecedent of change. The effective manager makes a compelling business case for why embracing the status quo is dangerous. She creates cognitive dissonance; appreciating that discomfort is the solution, not the problem. Actively playing the role of a grain of sand which forms the pearl requires management resiliency and courage.

2. Embed Emotions and Engage. People learn best with stories and visuals. Data rarely changes behaviors. If “wearing hard hats” is the new mandatory future, then show your people a video of like workers wearing hard hats at a respected industry leader known for their safety records and high employee morale.

Have your people listen to the stories of employees who journeyed the change path successfully. Engage your people in a rigorous dialogue about the implications. Be transparent. Respond authentically to their concerns.

Most (sane) people do not expect their opinion to carry the day, however, people do expect to be heard openly and with empathy. That is, if you want their buy-in. Leaders know there is tectonic difference between compliance and commitment.

3. Apply Constant, Gentle, Pressure. This is the leadership and management philosophy of famed restaurateur Danny Meyer (Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business).

Effective managers and leaders apply steady pressure on the standards-of-excellence gas pedal, not on people’s necks. Meyer equates these three leadership dimensions to the legs of a stool – an absence or weakness in any one guarantees operational mediocrity.

 

 “Go Slow, to Go Smooth, to Go Fast”

 

Remember, people do not fear change. They fear change that is too big and too fast. Applying these practices, thoughtfully, ensures that your people do not rest on their laurels. After all, the customer doesn’t care how good you were yesterday.

 

Keep it simple. Keep it focused. Definitely keep it inspiring.  -Steve

 

Rat with Cheese

Treat Your People Like Really Smart Rats and 3 Other Manager Tips

Do you wonder why a few of your handpicked team members can’t seem to escape the gravitational pull of sub-par performance? Do you unconsciously use human attribution theory to explain and judge your people’s lackluster performance or failings?

Perhaps the problem is not with your people but with your own belief systems, and possibly, your training and coaching skills. Your skill sets regarding human potential and motivation may need an upgrade.

High performing manager-coaches are keenly aware that their expectations of their people often become self-fulfilling. When others fall short of achievable performance results the emotionally intelligent manager first looks in the mirror to reflect on potential flaws in their thinking and competencies.

 

These Rats Are Really Smart!

A lab experiment was conducted to measure experimenter expectancy on rats’ maze running abilities. Two groups of unsuspecting students (the rat handlers) were informed that one group of rats were bred to be “maze bright” and the other group “maze dull,” when in fact the entire group were standard lab rats divided randomly.

The rats labeled “bright,” well, made the podium. The expectation of the rat handlers influenced the rats’ performance. Nuts, right? Apparently the “bright” rats were handled differently and thought to themselves “I’m smart, people like me, and I’m going to crush this maze course today.”

 

Management Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

Effective manager-coaches embrace the Pygmalion Effect (HBR article) – believing that most employees’ performance will rise or fall to their leader’s level of expectations. Believe it. In medicine, this phenomenon of human expectancy and results is accepted as the placebo effect.

However, do not confuse genuine belief in people’s innate abilities with Pollyanna thinking. The effective manager deals in reality on the ground, not naivety, or unfiltered positive bias.

Believing that people are capable of producing great results puts the manager squarely on the hook for three heavy-lifting goals:

  1. Recruiting and Retaining Top Talent. Effective manager-coaches do stay up at night appropriately worrying that they have the right team on the bus, knowing that their organizations are only as strong as their weakest employee. As undeniably brilliant as Steve Jobs was, his real mastery was in selecting really smart and capable people (it’s reported that Steve personally conducted over 5,000 interviews). Impetuous in his early years, Steve evolved into a great manager.
  2. Embodying High Performance Expectations for Producing Excellent Products and Services. Great managers are tough on principles and standards but gentle on their people. People have an innate desire to be successful, however, many have never been called upon to be great. Wholeheartedly believing in the potential of others is the greatest service a manager can perform.
  3. Becoming a Master Teacher and Coach. The loss of an individual’s hidden talent was named the 8th Deadly Waste in Toyota’s Lean Manufacturing system. Being skilled at selecting top talent only brings the manager and his or her team part way up the performance mountain. “Sweeney’s Miracle,” drives home the mandatory requirement that managers believe in the ability to train and motivate others to high achievement. Simple belief in people’s potential, minus capable training and teaching, falls into the categories of hopes and dreams.

 

Manage Around High Standards, Never Personality or Tenure

Davie was a rising star in my restaurant. He possessed natural talent, had a positive attitude, and was a rare 15-year-old workhorse. He was rapidly promoted; along with commensurate pay increases to the very demanding sauté cook position by the time he was 17 years old.

Unfortunately, Davie’s maturity didn’t keep pace with his talent. He became cocky, undisciplined in following strict menu standards, and less open to feedback. Under my radar, he quietly built a power base with the younger kitchen crew who, not surprisingly, adapted his cavalier attitude.

After giving Davie several sincere course-correcting opportunities he chose the lone ranger path – not an option in our team-oriented kitchen culture. A Top Gun will always test your principles, values, and management fortitude. Davie was an exceptional kid and, like most of us, was full of insecurities. My unshakable belief in his abilities to take on more responsibilities never wavered, even when he made mistakes, and he made plenty. His achievements might not have fully manifested had I simply expected greatness out of him. However, my resolute belief combined with his steady progress in our Kitchen Professional training program, Davie’s capabilities blossomed.

 

Belief + High Expectations + Training = Sustained Performance

 

Start speaking and caring for your people as if they were really smart rats, while establishing and enforcing clear performance expectations. Commit to becoming an effective and inspiring manager-coach. Your people will start winning the maze course called work and you’ll establish yourself as a credible leader worth following.

 

As always, check out the resources page for more great information about how you can improve your manager-coaching skills today!

 

Keep it simple. Keep it focused. Definitely keep it inspiring.  -Steve

Cookies

3 Coaching Sweet Spots to Master

Workplace coaching, at its core, is a manager and employee partnership committed to improving organizational and individual performance. The critical coaching dialogues resulting from this partnership must deliver two primary outcomes:

  1. Employee growth and development
  2. Company results

These outcomes rely heavily on the quality of a manager’s input.

 

Want Trust? Be Authentic

Employee engagement can be predicted, in part, by the degree of authentic expression put forth by the manager-coach. The manager-coach who risks nothing receives nothing. An employee’s B.S. detector will quickly sense any insincerity in a manager’s professed beliefs or perceived intentions. Effective coaches never confuse an employee’s compliance with commitment. Commitment is the coveted sweet spot of successful coaching.

Fundamentally, a manager/coach must have a base of strong coaching competencies. However, building trusting relationships requires the manager to be vulnerable and put emotional “skin in the game. Patrick Lencioni, author of the book, Five Dysfunctions of a Team, calls this leadership action “vulnerability-based trust.”

 

Effective coaching skills, by themselves, yield minimal long-term performance traction if the relationship has a trust deficit.

 

Three Coaching Sweet Spots

 A manager-coach’s ability to mediate, not solve, the tensions of apparent opposites is one predictor of organizational success. By mastering the coaching sweet spots shared below, you’ll build your mental dexterity and develop a deep capacity to lead, develop, and inspire your teams toward greatness.

 

Sweet Spot #1 – Develop Partnerships that Define Purpose, Build Trust, and Yield Results

Enlightened managers recognize that today’s workforce wants to work in an environment where the “purpose of work” is embedded in a collaborative and supportive culture. This fundamental, ongoing tension is a core performance conversation. Regardless of how your organization is structured (self-managed or top-down; Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) or Zappos-styled holacracy), both business results and people matter.

Coaching sweet spot #1 encourages you to connect the motivational drivers of each employee with the company’s overall reason for existence. Creating such a connection will foster a higher level of engagement, alignment, and a pursuit of excellence within your team.

All enduring relationships are built on mutual trust. Enlightened managers understand that to receive trust, they must first be vulnerable enough to extend trust. Authentic coaches trust their people and will risk sharing their golden circle, a.k.a. their big “Why.” They invite their teams to join them in cultivating community, and creating a future of meaning and possibility. By working together, teams can build healthy professional partnerships that value tasks and relationships equally.

Within any partnership, both sides must resist being swayed by false dichotomies. Company results become critical because they animate purpose, provide measurements of success, and provide opportunities for recognition. Extraordinary results are achieved through effective relationships, not because of management authority.

 

Sweet Spot #2Embrace Employee Autonomy and Accountability

Today’s workforce cares little about org charts and formal titles. Instead, people care about belonging to a dynamic culture that allows them to freely apply their passion, creativity, and intelligence. In business, this freedom comes with a price known as “accountability.” Ultimately, there is no free lunch…not even at Apple.

From the moment of hire, an effective manager-coach begins to extend buckets of trust to employees by establishing lanes of authority, and setting appropriate boundaries and expectations. In leadership jargon this is called empowerment and it can cause managers a lot of anxiety.

For a manager, employee empowerment can feel like a loss of control. In keeping with coaching sweet spot #2, Daniel Pink, author Drive, encourages you to embrace and manage this tension rather than fighting it. Contrary to traditional management styles of the past, allowing employees to have autonomy over their work actually increases accountability.

The self-managed business structure of Morning Star shows us the organizational, cultural, and economic benefits of expecting employees to assume full autonomy over their work.

 

Sweet Spot #3 – Be Firm, Confident, Flexible, and Adaptive

Management guru Peter Drucker consistently reminded management about the importance of an execution mindset by declaring, “The ultimate test of management is business performance. Achievement, rather than knowledge, remains, of necessity, both proof and aim.

Clarity, a desired leadership capability, should never be confused with command-and-control rigidity. Coaching Sweet Spot #3 encourages you to express bold conviction around your company’s values, standards of excellence, and performance outcomes. This stance models the leadership truism, “You don’t lead people…people choose to follow you,” and reminds us that success demands that we step into and own full partnerships with our people.

Vineet Nayar, visionary CEO of HCL Technologies, had one priority, which became the title of his book, Employees First, Customers Second. Mr. Nayar made it clear that customer value is generated every time an employee and customer interact; therefore, the focus of management is to “enthuse and encourage employees so they can create a different shared value.”

In reading HCL’s inspiring corporate story, I quickly came to appreciate how its robust ownership culture drives customer value. The clarity of Mr. Nayar’s vision puts a noble burden on his management team to serve their front-line employees. Such sturdy professional partnerships demand that managers remain flexible, open, and adaptive.

 

Leaders with a long view of the future are guided by the adage, “People first, strategy second.” Master these 3 Coaching Sweet Spots to develop an effective talent management strategy and grow tomorrow’s leaders.

 

Additional Resources:

 

Keep it simple. Keep it focused. Definitely keep it inspiring! –Steve

 

Team Agreement

Building & Leading Teams

 

“If you want the benefits of teamwork, you have to give the team the work.”

–J. Hackman, Leading Teams

 

Effective managers understand that building strong, capable teams is the bedrock of high performing cultures. Make this a priority development area. If you are a seasoned leader, you know that this skill set “says easy, does hard” but the rewards are well worth your investment!

Calling a group of individuals (sales reps, kitchen staff, marketing group) a “team” doesn’t make it so. “Rah, rah” team platitudes, while sincere, will never make believers out of employees. To be less delicate – your people are smart and have strong bullshit detectors. They know how it is around here.

Here’s a loose operational definition for a team that you can use to measure your leadership skills against, as well as, gauging the group’s developmental progress:

 

“A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, set of performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.”

-Katzenbach & Smith, The Wisdom of Teams

 

Coaching Tip #1: Teams are not a panacea. Be a strategic team leader – does the desired business outcome require building a team (think IPod or Prius)? Poorly designed team initiatives drain people’s mojo at the same rate as crappy meetings.

Let’s sequentially breakdown the required manager skill sets against this definition:

  • Complimentary Skills – Smart managers/coaches know that throwing a group of rock stars, athletes or cooks together rarely guarantees a Grammy album, Olympic gold, or a Michelin star.
  • Leadership principle – Cultures get created, with or without, clear and unwavering leadership. Be strategic and disciplined in selecting your people; it’s the single most important decision leaders make.
  • Committed to a Purpose – Purpose provides the fuel, the passion, the energy, and the spirit to achieve remarkable — not okay — results. If I were to randomly survey your employees and ask them what their “job” is, what would they tell me? Would the bus girl say “to clean and re-set tables?” Or, would she say “to deliver an unforgettable hospitality experience.” Two different beliefs lead to widely different customer experiences.
  • Leadership Principle You need to be visibly passionate and strive to over-communicate using all available communication channels.
  • Performance Goals – What do you measure individual and team performance and progress against? Is everyone on the same page? Are expectations crystal clear? Do you provide regular, candid feedback and coaching based on concrete goals?
  • Leadership Principle – What gets measured gets managed, and what gets managed gets done. Be a talent magnet by gaining a reputation as a high-performing leader who brings out the best in others. Trust me, there are worse reputations to have.
  • Approach – These are the clearly understood processes for “how” the work gets done. This includes standards, behaviors, policies, team meetings, communication methods, and feedback loops.
  • Leadership Principle – A true team understands that friction is natural and desired. It’s proof of their commitment to winning. The leader understands that clear processes help manage conflict in ways that produce positive outcomes.
  • Mutually Accountable – Your performance metric here couldn’t be clearer.
  • Leadership Principle – A group of individuals are a true team when they police each other on their agreements and actions. Managers who find themselves solving their team’s problems and putting out all the fires have failed in their leadership responsibility. Being the hero-manager is seductive, but it’s a failing path to success.

 

Coaching Tip # 2: Teaming, by Amy Edmondson, or teamwork on the fly (HBR article), is a framework to help teams who must come together quickly to accomplish a project or goal. Think of a pick up basketball team versus an intact team who trains together all season.  

Effective managers understand that a potent team will always outperform a collection of stars. The output of an energized, aligned and committed team is always greater than the sum of its parts. Top industry talent is attracted to leaders who have a reputation of building, leading, and coaching high performing teams. Be that talent magnet. Be that leader!

 

Pop Quiz – Of all the qualities in the working definition of a team, which single element is the most important according to the authors? In other words, what missing element will most likely result in a fractured team and sub-par performance? (See answer below)

 

Keep it simple. Keep it focused. Definitely keep it inspiring!  -Steve

 

(Answer) – COMMITMENT