Oyster and Pearl

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

 

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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

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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

 

7 Master Mindsets of Effective Manager-Coaches

 

“In a fixed mindset the cardinal rule is: Look smart at all costs. In a growth mindset the cardinal rule is: Learn, learn, learn.” -Carol Dweck, Mindset

 

Somewhere in the early 90’s us leader-managers were informed that we need to start “coaching” our people. If you were like me you thought, “I do coach my people, I tell them what to do all day. My office is an open door, if they need me they know where to find me.”  Secretly, I was hoping coaching in the workplace was another management fad du jour that would go the way of quality circles – another “check-the-box” management obligation. Happily, I was wrong.

Coaching and developing in the workplace is not a nice-to-have, it’s now an expected leadership competency for managers (Gallup). Organizations who are successful at creating coaching cultures, versus the “rank and yank” (Deloitte) practices of famed Jack Welch, position themselves to attract and retain top industry talent. Fresh product and service innovations come from talented people and enlightened leadership, not just clever strategies.

In future blog posts I will share key structures and processes that provide the organizational support and measurements for a sound coaching culture. Hint: HR must be viewed and required to show up as a strong, aligned business partner.

 

7 Master Mindsets of Effective Manager-Coaches

  1. Coaching is a key talent management pillar. Top industry talent is attracted to organizations and leaders who provide skills training, rich development opportunities, and clear career pathways. Effective workplace coaching increases employee engagement and retention. Coaching says – “I care about you as an individual and want to provide you interesting work assignments that stretch and grow you.”
  1. Trust doesn’t exist without agreements and agreements don’t exist without trust. This mindset builds upon #1 by co-creating work pacts that are the pillars of strong ownership cultures. The manager-coach says, “I promise to offer you a rich work environment where your skills and passions can make a difference in the world. Do you promise to do what’s best for the enterprise and our customers?” No skin-in-the-game, no ownership. 
  1. Build trusted partnerships, not boss-subordinate relationships. Today’s multi-generation workforce, with their range of motivational drivers, requires managers to deeply know their people. Effective coaches view their coaching 1:1’s as their single most important driver of business. Why? Because “getting results in a way that inspires trust” is the definition of leadership (Franklin Covey, Speed of Trust). Skilled coaches help people link their values, goals, and aspirations with the organization’s; then operationalize these insights into customized development plans that serve both the individual’s aspirations and the company’s required performance outputs. Leadership guru Ken Blanchard calls these potent dialogues- partnering for performance conversations.
  1. Think like a coach, not a consultant. Many managers struggle with leaving their Mr. or Mrs. “fix-it hat” at the door. Problem solving is a core management capability, but a coaching liability. Your well-intended solutions rob your people of the effort required to solve their own problems. Great coaches, regardless of their discipline, understand the science behind “no pain, no brain” (Fast Company). Effective manager-coaches understand that building their people’s capacities to solve problems on their own is smart business insurance against future uncertainties.
  1. Great questions are the answer. Great questions achieve two important outcomes: 1) As mentioned in #4, questions require your people to to think, to struggle, and to gain awareness of how their current mental maps or beliefs are insufficient to solve their current challenges, and, 2) They help unearth current reality, helping ensure that agreed upon actions will have the maximum desired impact. In the book Execution, author Ram Charan declares, “execution is a systematic way of exposing reality and acting on it.” Leadership curiosity invites the input of multiple perspectives required to co-create sound strategy.
  1. Assume positive intent (API). People naturally desire to apply their passions and skills at work and to make a difference in this world. If you have people that don’t, you have problems to fix today. Customers aren’t kind to management indecision. API manifests itself in the leadership skill – Seek first to understand, then be understood (Franklin Covey, Seven Habits of Highly Successful People). Highly engaged manager-coaches have their finger on their people’s pulses to sense drifts in energy, attitude, and focus. Caveat – many people have never had a great manager-coach so be prepared for your people to charge you with “micromanaging.” Don’t get rattled. Be patient and explain the difference between micromanaging and effective managing. Follow the change management adage- “If leader’s don’t fill in the narrative, employees will do it for them.” Tell your people the story of how collaborative work partnerships are the path to personal and business success.
  1. Send strong signals of collaboration. Tightly linked to #2, manager-coaches seek to leverage and realize the power of collaborative relationships. At the leading innovation company, IDEO, leaders are deliberate in creating a strong “helping culture” that leads to extraordinary results. IDEO leaders understand that collaborative cultures are intentionally built, leveraging both informal and formal processes and roles. The effective manager-coach does not leave collaboration efforts to chance!

 

“Every action and feeling is preceded by a thought.” -James Allen

 

Manager-coaches who are consistent in applying the 7 Master Mindsets report the following workplace effects:

  • Higher levels of trust and professional respect
  • Increased clarity around strategy, tactics, and expectations
  • Stronger alignment among teams and across functions
  • Increased levels of accountability and productivity
  • Higher levels of employee engagement and retention
  • Less political noise and conflict
  • Fewer fires to fight
  • More time for long-term planning and innovation

 

Actions follow thoughts. Check out the resources page for additional information about how to effectively enact these mindsets in everyday work procedures.

 

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