Hero Manager

How to Transition from Hero Syndrome to Distributed Leadership

With 4 Leadership Skills for Managers Making the Transition

Carl, a very seasoned and capable production manager recently shared, “I’m going to retire early because I can’t take the stress anymore.” Business volume and complexity had overrun Carl’s traditional top-down management approach. When I pressed Carl for why he feels like he must make all the decisions his answer was revealing, “I’ve always been the go-to guy and senior management expects me to solve every problem.”

Carl suffers, in part, from hero syndrome, the strong need to be right, to be Mr. fix-it, to be chief firefighter. Additionally, a traditional control management structure reinforces team members to be order-takers, not co-owners of accountability and outcomes.

“All failure is failure to adapt, all success is successful adaptation.”

–Max McKeown

Distributed leadership, as opposed to a control management style, is partially defined as, “Leadership activity as a whole is stretched, or distributed, across many people.”

Accountability for results, quality, and decision-making gets distributed to team members. Through its 14 Lean Management Principles, Toyota embodies distributed leadership by empowering teams to solve problems, accept accountability, and make localized decisions.

4 Skills for Building a Distributed Leadership Structure

  1. Build Shared Cognition. This is a vision + mission statement on steroids. Team members must clearly understand, internalize, and commit to a renewed way of working. Leadership communicates the Why and What but not the How. Team members will learn to accept greater accountability for decision making, with formal leadership serving as guidance. CRM (crew resource management) offers a blueprint for transitioning from a command structure to a distributed leadership matrix.
  2. Clarify Expectations. This includes new team structure – roles, responsibilities and agreed upon approach to achieving results. Example: Beginning Monday morning we will have daily huddle-ups. The first 10 minutes will be business status updates, the second 10 minutes we will surface issues or challenges and create action plans with individual accountability distributed among team members.
  3. Continuous Improvement. Conduct on-going After-Action-Reviews or PDCA (lean manufacturing) cycles. The guiding adage – never confuse ceaseless activity with progress – instructs leaders and her teams to engage in regular reflection and learning loops. The opposite is a culture that hides its problems, rejects fresh ideas, and slowly stagnates.
  4. Psychological Safety. Trust does not exist without agreements and agreements do not exist without trust. The backbone of a distributed leadership structure is strong, positive, and committed relationships. Gifted leaders pay equal attention to relationships as they do tasks.

“A successful company is one that can learn effectively.”

–Ariel de Geus

Managers who suffer from hero syndrome will also quickly suffer from burnout. A single person can’t possibly put out all fires. That’s why firefighters come in teams. By following a distributed leadership structure, the hero-manager can help shape a hero-team, which lessens the burden on any one individual.

Keep it Simple. Keep it Focused. Definitely Keep it Inspiring! -Steve

As always, check out my other blog posts for even more great manager-coaching tips!

Active Listening

Active Listening: One of the Most Important Manager Skills

With 4 Great Tips on How to Improve Active Listening Skills

Listening is the simplest “soft” skill that a manager can have, but it may have the most impact. Workplace communication is the key to understanding your people and your organization. Often, the difference between success and failure will be determined by if your employees feel comfortable talking to you and if you listen to what they say. To ensure that your employees communicate, be an active listener.

“The human brain discloses information in layers, therefore our questions should match this biology.”

The Science of Selling by David Hoffeld

4 Tips to Improve Your Active Listening Skills

  1. Ask Questions. Questions are a fantastic way to show people that you’re listening. When you ask a question, people see you as engaged in the conversation. Ask “what” and “how” questions to expand the conversation and get at the root of the topic. But be careful to never ask a question that the person has already addressed. And, try to avoid “why” questions unless absolutely necessary. People get defensive when they are asked to justify something.
  2. Maintain Eye Contact and Positive Posture. Eye contact is essential to show that you’re actively listening. According to Michigan State University, eye contact shows that you’re alert and interested in the conversation. Body posture is just as important. Sit up straight, keep your hands uncrossed, and don’t fidget.
  3. Use Visual and Verbal Cues. In addition to the cues you give with proper eye contact and body posture, don’t forget to be active in the conversation. Positive visual cues include nodding your head and smiling. They’ll put the speaker at ease and assure them that you’re listening. Likewise, use simple phrases like “right” and “go on” to encourage the person to keep talking.
  4. Paraphrase, Summarize, and Clarify. Paraphrasing and summarization are perfect to show that you’ve been listening after the speaker is done with a particular point. Something like, “What I’m hearing you say is…” shows the speaker that you’ve processed their information and gives them a chance to clarify their meaning. But, clarification goes both ways. If you aren’t quite sure about what the speaker means, then get some clarification by using Tip #1! Asking questions is the best way to make sure you understand everything.

Active listening can go a long way to help your business run smoothly. Not only will your team members trust you to communicate, but active listening will trickle down your organization. In due time, you’ll find that your team will actively listen to customers more. And, customers love to be listened to!

Keep it Simple. Keep it Focused. Definitely Keep it Inspiring! -Steve

As always, check out my other blog posts for even more great manager-coaching tips!

Flight Crew in Cockpit

Managers – Build a Culture Like an Aviation Flight Crew

4 Best Practices to Safely Land Your Business Plane in 2019

Analysis of many commercial flight disasters concludes that faulty communication between the flight crew and captain, not mechanical failure, led to tragedy.  In other words, first officers and flight engineers had critical information of concern but failed to communicate that information in a direct and effective manner. CRM (crew resource management), in part, aims to train flight crews to assertively and respectfully speak up when they possess critical data. Averting disaster is achieved at the intersection of quality communications, leadership, and decision-making.

Managers, like flight captains, need to create psychologically safe environments that encourage reps to share real time data and concerns. In a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world, a rich flow of relevant information enables collective sensemaking to occur.

“Business agility is creating a learning organization this is faster and better at learning about themselves and their customers.”

-Jason Bloomberg (Forbes)

Managers – Create a CRM-like work culture by implementing these 4 best practices

  1. Problems First, Solution Forward Meetings. You’ve hired smart people, right? One-on-ones and team meetings should leverage people’s intelligence by solving significant problems. Top of agenda should always be – What are you seeing? What are your challenges? Where are the opportunities? What aren’t we talking about that we should be? What solutions will move positive action forward?
  2. Establish Collaborative Learning as a Core Value. Humble leaders understand that none of us is as smart as all of us. Continuous learning, together, is espoused as a competitive business strategy, not a nice to have cultural element. Agile managers models and embodies a “we” oriented team culture.
  3. Teach and Coach Effective Communication Skills. This is a primary goal of CRM training. Team members learn how to respectively and effectively “speak up” to the chain of command. This isn’t easy for most team members. Leaders recognize that their formal authority often impedes candid feedback. Therefore, ongoing coaching and reinforcement feedback is a preferred management style.
  4. Develop a Tolerance for Failure.  Unlike commercial aviation, a failure in the business world rarely leads to tragedy. Effective managers who reframe failures into forward-learning events foster a team of agile learners.

A fast paced and complex marketplace demands that managers create a feedback-rich work environment where reality is being openly and accurately discussed. Flawed communication may not result in tragedy at work, unlike on an airplane, but it can be the deciding factor between success and failure. Managers who think like successful flight captains greatly increase their chances of landing the plane safely!

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

Check out our other blog posts too!

Manager Skills

7 Manager Skills That Lead to Mastery and Deliver Results

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”                                                                   

-Aristotle

Assuming a person possesses key core traits – initiative, genuine care for others, drive for results, to name a few — then the craft of management is learnable. Mastery of management skills, like any discipline, is built upon mastering fundamentals.

Increase your likelihood of success in 2019 by implementing the following 7 Manager Skills until they become managerial habit. These competencies may also lower your stress and bring more fun into your work.

  1. Be an agile learner. Your current expertise, and your team’s, is insufficient to solve tomorrow’s problems or quickly pivot to seize opportunities. Your ability to be curious, ask questions, engage your team in divergent thinking, and enable organizational learning is today’s critical leadership competency.
  2. Create psychological safety. This culture dynamic makes people feel comfortable speaking up and being themselves. The business case is that team members move beyond superficial nice-talk and engage in honest dialogue that make everyone better. They don’t avoid conflict, they leverage healthy debate to produce improved business solutions. Open cultures create agile learners, the force behind problem solving and continuous improvement.
  3. Have a bias for informed action. A manager’s credibility is built by consistently making strategic decisions that move the business forward. They are proactive versus reactive but are always making it happen.
  4. Manage by expectations, not hope. According to Gallup“only about a half of employees strongly agree that they know what is expected of them at work.”  Most of us know the frustration of working for a boss who fails to set clear priorities, direction, and responsibilities. This management style also fails to inspire because employees can’t see past the daily grind to the company’s vision, mission, and core values. Management ambiguity degrades people’s motivation.
  5. Teach, coach, and grow others. Great managers invest in relationships. They are servant leaders. They simply bring out the best in others. They grow future leaders, not more followers. Be the boss that everyone wants to work for.
  6. Measure, hold accountable, and reward performance. High performers respect managers who demand high standards and build a culture of accountability. There are no shadows to hide in. Great managers reward the doers, without apology. Low performers naturally get weeded out, making room for better talent.
  7. Be upbeat and positive. This is not modeling Pollyanna behavior, that’s being inauthentic. Leaders’ moods are like a cold; everyone around the manager is susceptible to catching it, which in turn affects employee engagement. Management demands significant energy output so why not make it constructive?

Reflect and look ahead in this New Year. Have you developed your manager blue print for success? What are your top development goals that will inspire others, build a cohesive team, and put up big results?

Consider identifying at least two skills, implement them with regularity, solicit feedback from your team, and become the boss that nobody wants to quit.

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

Disengaged and Frustrated

5 Steps for Engaging a Disconnected Employee

Engaging a disengaged team member can be one of the more vexing manager challenges. And, the associated symptoms can be costly:

Gallup pegs the cost of lost productivity due to absence, illness and stress-related work problems in excess of $350 billion per year nationwide.

-Forbes


Disengaged narratives run the gamut but here are a few common themes:

  • Management has allowed a steady A/B player to be left alone to do her job but the business has outgrown her. Compounding the issue is that management has failed to provide employee any real performance feedback and coaching, leaving employee with a false sense of ability.
  • Personal issues have distracted and drained a usually stellar team member’s passion, focus and accountability.
  • The team member was never a great fit from day one but management tolerated sub-par performance hoping they’d turn the corner.
  • A team member was passed over for a promotion, received a tough performance evaluation, or possible workload increase without additional compensation.

“You manage things; you lead people.”

                   -Grace Murray Hopper, U.S. Navy Rear Admiral

While the root causes for employee disengagement are varied, reflective managers must confront the brutal fact that they may be co-responsible for the current situation. In the spirit of self-development, a few diagnostic questions can help understand the problem:

  • Where did I disengage with this team member?
  • Where did I fail to develop a trusting and effective work relationship?
  • How have I contributed to this current dynamic?
  • How have I failed this employee?

“Management has always gotten what it models and tolerates.”

-Anonymous

Following candid self-reflection, here are 5 Steps for re-setting the relationship, gaining alignment on work expectations, and establishing milestones and measurements:

Step 1: Take part ownership, if necessary, of the situation and be direct with team member. It might sound like, “I apologize for not being more candid in the past, however, your current work contributions are below expectations.” The objective is to re-calibrate an effective work partnership, not be liked.

Step 2: Establish regular, structured and substantive one-on-one meetings. It’s common to hear managers say, “I stopped having one-on-ones with this employee because they ceased to be productive.” Well structured, focused one-on-ones is a trusted process for charting a new path forward with disengaged employees.

Step 3: Present facts and examples where the team member is falling short of performance expectations. Present a written list of non-negotiable work expectations. Establish clear consequences for not meeting the expectations and gain agreement from the team member. Building trust begins with making professional agreements.

Step 4: Set up the team member for success. You are not crafting an HR performance improvement plan (PIP), yet. You might have to if the team member doesn’t make forward, measured progress. First, establish clear, incremental steps for immediate action. In other words…

“If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.”

-Lord Kelvin

Step 5: Inspect what you expect. Monitoring, evaluating and providing regular feedback on progress are the heavy lifting of good management. Remember, your (or your predecessor’s) historical hands-off management style have enabled the employee to work in a silo. The antidote is an over correction – a very hands-on style that could last several months. These situations rarely develop overnight and neither will the solutions.

The source of many employee disengagement scenarios is often a disengaged manager. At some point the manager failed to commit to the 5 steps above. If you fell off the management horse, get up, dust yourself off, and recommit to engaging your people.

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

Strategic Coaching Chess

Manager-Coaches Don’t Coach to Be Nice; They Coach to Be Strategic

3 Mindsets and 3 Coaching Skills of Effective Managers

 

Asheville-area Managers: Please take our short survey

 

The most successful managers I know are obsessed about pursuing excellence and delivering results. They are equally committed to talent development. Their site line is crystal clear – grow their people first, who in turn grow the business.

 

“If you focus on results you will never change. If you focus on change you will get results.” 

                                                            -Jack Dixon

 

Great coaches are usually born, but can be made. The mechanics and skills of effective coaching, of course, can be taught and learned. But great manager-coaches just seem to get it. Their coaching DNA drives their focus to help others be their best, while insisting on goal achievement and results. Yes, they are skilled but their skills are an outcome of their beliefs about people and business.

 

3 Mindsets and 3 Coaching Skills of Great Managers

#1 Coaching is a strategic business decision, not just a box to check. A talent management mindset is not murky – finding, engaging and retaining great people is a competitive business strategy. Great strategy with mediocre people produces mediocrity. Professionals committed to learning, growth and development will always find a way to increase market share and build long-term customer loyalty.

Coaching Skill: Conduct regular (3-4 weeks) one-on-ones that engage, inspire and insist upon positive action and accountabilities. Coaching without individual, measurable actions is a waste of company resources. Short on time? Use the 4-Step Coaching Plan to conduct one-on-one meetings in 30 minutes.

 

“Talented manager-coaches don’t lose people, they grow them.”

Steve Rudolph

 

#2 The greatest business potential is in the middle. Every manager wishes they could clone their one or two rock stars. Sustained business outputs cannot depend on the few. The strategic coach focuses 80% of her energies on building the skills of the middle 60%, knowing she’ll need solid players to be resilient and adapt to a changing market place. For the rock stars, use this Coaching High Performers guide.

Coaching Skill: Require each team member to develop an IDP (individual development plan) and update it quarterly. Coaching one-on-ones always results in a SMART action plan that directly supports IDP goals. Managers who attract high performers have a reputation for growing future leaders. Implementing a clear system for developing talent forges coaching reputation.

 

“Change before you have to.” 

                                                            -Jack Welch

 

#3 Coaching is not a technique; it’s a strategic connection. Effective coaching cannot exist in low trust relationships. People want to be appreciated and understood. Great coaches get to know their team members, their drivers, values and aspirations. Money doesn’t produce inspiration, meaningful work and a connection with others is the fuel of motivation. It’s a trite adage, but powerfully true – people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Coaching Skill: Listen a lot more than you speak; adopt an active listening technique. Deep, empathic listening builds trust. Trust causes people to open up, to share useful information. Because leadership is the art of influence, trust makes employees more likely to listen and be persuaded by the manager’s ideas.

 

While great coaches are mostly born, not made, managers who make a dedicated, strategic commitment to coaching others often experience a renewed sense of managerial motivation. There’s just something special about connecting with others in pursuit of purpose and performance. Begin a rewarding journey by adopting the above 3 Mindsets and 3 Coaching Skills.

 

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

 

Coach with Employee

5 Best Practices and Actions for Sales Manager-Coaches

Virtual (and local) Sales Manager Coaching Playbook

 

Manager Skills Workshop: Effective Feedback Skills

 

Admittedly this blog targets coaching sales rep, however these coaching principles, processes and skills transfer to general manager-coaches. Swap out rep for employee and modify elements for your world.

 

Some enduring truisms are worth repeating. “You get what you pay for,” “You reap what you sow,” and…

 

Reps who receive just 3 hours of coaching per month exceed their goals by 7%, boosting revenue by 25% and increasing close rate by 70%.”  Corporate Executive Board

 

However, unrelenting day-to-day pressure on sales managers often bleeds time away from vital sales coaching and training efforts. Successful sales leaders who create effective coaching cultures have seemingly executed the Pareto Principle, which states that 80% of results come from 20% of efforts. Simply stated, driving sales by dedicated coaching efforts is a critical lead indicator for performance.

Reflection Question:

Name a single activity that will grow the long-term sales success of your organization more then a sustained and competent 1:1 and team sales coaching and development program?

 

“Every great performer has a great coach.” Anthony Iannarino

 

Playbook Skills and Best Practices

The tips below are sourced from currently successful sales leaders in a wide range of industries. Steal them, edit them for relevancy in your world, and make them your own!

 

#1. “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” (Stephen Covey)

A growth mindset is critical. Sales coaching must be viewed as a long-term strategy, not a nice-to-have activity. Your competition may beat you on price, but they will never match your culture’s zealous drive for continuous learning and excellence. Hope is not a strategy. Your calendar is where hope is replaced with high-leverage priorities.

Your Playbook Actions

  • Schedule 3 coaching hours per sales rep, per month. That’s only 2% of your monthly workload! The spacing effect on learning instructs you to schedule 75 hours of coaching per rep, per week.
  • Elevate your coaching to the elite level. Download the free 4% Championship Sales Coaching and Training Plan.

Master Sales Coaching Tip: Establish two distinct 1:1’s

  1. Accountability one-on-one’s. Current results to goals, health of pipeline, market obstacles and opportunities, current strategy and tactics.
  2. Coaching one-on-one’s. 100% focused on developing the sales reps skills, knowledge and abilities to be successful in achieving sales goals.

The risk of merging these two conversations is that the well-intended sales manager can’t remove their Mr. or Mrs. Fix-It hat and the business review dominates the entire hour. The result? The rep can’t wait to get the meeting over and with five minutes to go the sales manager says, “We have a couple of minutes left, what’s on your mind?” All business, no development and no clear action plan for how the rep will achieve success.

 

“I believe that wherever there is mastery, coaching is occurring, and whenever coaching is done, mastery will be the outcome.” Andrea Lee

 

#2. Sales observations + metrics drives a focused coaching agenda

Think like an elite athletic coach who customizes each athlete’s training session based on measureable and observable performance results. Sales managers and reps report mixed benefits of the full day ride-along, often a company mandate. Sales leaders and their reps should collaborate to ensure these don’t become lackluster or a simple box to check. However, you can’t effectively coach what you don’t observe!

Example: A data-centric sales leader observes her sales rep hitting their outbound lead generation metrics, but these efforts are not leading to sales opportunities. Their coaching agenda goal might be to review the sales rep’s scripts and outbound communications to identify gaps, and thus, the rep’s targeted sales skill development focus area.

Your Playbook Actions

  • Prepare for one-on-one’s. Review rep’s current sales metrics and recent observables, and identify 1-2 development areas for focused coaching.
  • Implement your 0.75-hour, 1:1 sales coaching agenda. Play with the agenda. Keep it fresh, but ensure major focus is on the rep’s growth and success.

 

Master Sales Coaching Tip: Put the Pareto Principle into play – allow rep to speak 80% and you, the master coach, 20%. Be disciplined with asking great questions and deep, sincere listening.

 

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing…That’s why we recommend it daily.”  Zig Ziglar

 

 #3. Inbound sales scenarios – overcoming the space-time coaching barrier

Many sales leaders say they wish they could spend more find time observing their reps in action. A rigorous development process to consider is inviting the sales action to your inbox or phone. Require your reps to send in a weekly vexing sales situation, an audio recording of a sales call, or a video of the rep presenting their value proposition.

Your Playbook Actions

  • Request that reps send you a weekly, current sales scenario or audio/video recording along with the skill or capability area they’ve identified to strengthen.
  • Review sales scenarios and craft your weekly 1:1 coaching agenda. This development process has powerful benefits:
    • Encourages a collaborative, two-way coaching partnership
    • Leverages your rep’s autonomy (a key source of employee engagement)
    • Loudly communicates that coaching, learning and development is a competitive, long-term strategy

 

#4. Sales leaders must coach each rep, but enlist peers to help train

Technically, coaching is not training. Training is requiring a rep to repeatedly practice (role play) a sales skill, such as handling various sales objections while the coach provides constant stimulus and feedback.

Providing dedicated coaching to ten or twelve reps easily stretches and stresses sales managers. Creating a peer-to-peer training culture leverages your resources. Giving your top performers training responsibilities is also an excellent way to provide leadership advancement opportunities.

Peer reviews of calls, scripts and outbound emails helps build a collaborative and fun learning environment while shifting co-ownership of sales training to the team. Not everyone will be thrilled, but harmony isn’t the objective, continuous learning and performance is.

Your Playbook Actions

  • Involve the team and establish training/mentoring buddies. Delegate this task! You are off-loading training to the team. Require team members to co-own development and have skin in the game.
  • Expect weekly (30-minute) mentoring sessions. These micro-training sessions are often part of the rep’s weekly SMART action plans. Inspect progress during your weekly one-on-one’s.

 

#5. Monthly team sales training sessions…A rising tide floats all boats

We acknowledge that most sales reps eat what they kill. To incentivize collaboration, many organizations weight individual compensation with team results. Either way, individual sales wins do not naturally scale, so how do teams and organizations leverage sales and marketplace insights and wins?  Sales leaders must leverage team IQ by creating a monthly collaborative and continuous improvement platform.

Your Playbook Actions

  • Set 45-minute monthly team collaboration and learning sessions.
  • Delegate that each team member assumes monthly leadership role by:
    • Surveying and collecting rep’s universal (ideally) or on-going sales challenges
    • Creating and sending out the learning agenda with a singular focused topic two days in advance
      • g. Skills and strategies for gaining access to C-Suite clients
    • Requesting that each rep comes prepared with a question and a success story related to a topic or a best practice for overcoming sales obstacles
    • Requesting that reps come prepared to role-play and receive feedback
      • The antidote for boring meetings? Keep them highly engaged, relevant, and hold everyone accountable for showing up!
    • Having the monthly team leader assume the lead facilitator role
      • The sales manager plays a supporting role (in other words…don’t talk too much)

 

A dedicated sales coaching program is a strategic investment, therefore it’s an opportunity cost. But can you measure the ROI (return on investment)?

 

In closing, I’ll let legendary CEO and extraordinary manager Andy Grove answer this honest question:

“Training is the manager’s job. Training is the highest leverage activity a manager can do to increase the output of an organization. If a manager spends 12 hours preparing training for 10 team members, it increases their output by 1% on average. The result is 200 hours of increased output from the 10 employees (each works about 2000 hours a year). Don’t leave training to outsiders. Do it yourself.”  Andy Grove, High-Output Management

 

Manager Skills Workshop: Effective Feedback Skills

 

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

 

clarity

Clear Expectations: A Key Manager Coaching Skill

Manage from clear expectations, not around personalities

 

Managers who possess unflinching clarity on performance and behavior expectations are skilled and assertive communicators who build high performing cultures. Why? Because trust, accountability and alignment infuse how work is done. Managing from expectations shines a bright light into the workplace, preventing complacency from creeping in.

 

The employee personalities, workplace dynamics and performance concerns outlined below offer mini-case studies for examination:

1. Sarah is a highly competent team member but is abrupt with her peers.
2. Jorge is a steady, dependable employee who likes to be left alone to “do his work.”
3. Pat is a positive, collaborative team player but performance outputs consistently hover around meeting expectations.

 

“It is no use saying ‘we are doing our best.’ You have to succeed in doing what is necessary.”Winston Churchill

 

In each of the employee scenarios there are reasonable expectations that an effective manager would insist upon. Think of these fundamental behaviors and values as your non-negotiables.

Sarah – civility, professional respect, courtesy, kindness

Jorge – cooperation, team orientation, collaboration, professionalism

Pat – results, outcomes, productivity

 

10-10-10 Coaching Engagement Agenda: A 1:1 Meeting Guide

 

Effectively managing from expectations requires two core supporting skills:

#1 – Conducting regular, substantive 1:1’s
• Actionable
• Clear, mutually-beneficial agenda
• Individualized around employee’s motivational drivers, goals or career aspirations

#2 – Delivering constructive feedback
• Caring and candid
• Acknowledges effort and contributions
• Identifies weaknesses or areas to strengthen

 

Sample manager 1:1 dialogue with Sarah

Sarah, you know I value your intellect and competency, and you consistently exceed most performance expectations. There is one critical expectation area that you fall short on and that is treating your colleagues with professional respect and courtesy. Your responses are curt and abrupt. In this morning’s meeting you gave a blunt “no” to Ryan and Monica. This makes you appear that you don’t value others contributions, shuts down valuable dialogue and falls short of my expectation of professionalism. What improved or constructive behaviors can you begin modeling with your colleagues starting today?

 

Most employees want to be their best at work. They value progress, professional growth and achieving significant goals and results. Managers who insist team members achieve high standards, and give them coaching support, foster loyalty in their teams. Managing from expectations is usually considered “tough love” but as the adage goes – nobody has ever been motivated by low expectations!

 

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

 

Throwing Papers

3 Manager Skills for Bringing Order to Disorder

Effective managers don’t wait for top-down direction, they set it!

 

Schedule a Call with Steve Today to Discuss Tailor-Made Coaching Strategies

 

Many managers express their frustration about senior leadership communication – That it lacks clarity and congruency or is short on inspiration. If a manager reacts with passivity or paralysis, she is guaranteeing the delivery of a muddled message. After all, the seeds of team apathy and anxiety are fueled by ambiguity. Managers must proactively engage their teams with a constructive strategy.

Bringing order out of chaos is a manager’s #1 responsibility. A thought-out, action-oriented strategy (even an incomplete one) will always beat a foot-dragging, wait-and-see approach.

 

“Let chaos reign, then reign in chaos.” Andy Grove, former Intel CEO

 

3 Manager Skills and Mindsets for Reigning in Chaos

 

#1 Develop and upgrade your team’s capabilities. Effective managers leverage chaos to test and develop their team’s capabilities while channeling attention and focus. They take a sustained growth and development view but don’t allow disruption to rattle their team. Purposeful urgency is good, unbridled distress can be debilitating.

Manager Skill: Engage your team in rigorous thinking that stretches and grows members while demanding forward action, such as…

  • What do/don’t we know?
  • What’s in our control?
  • Who will do what by when and what’s our action plan?
  • What will we do to make sense of uncertainty?
  • How will we leverage our current capabilities?
  • What new knowledge and skills do we need to be successful in this environment?

 

Disciplined, thoughtful action is the antidote for chaos.

 

#2 Set provincial stretch goals for and with the team. Compelling stretch goals help focus the team’s attention, fosters a feeling of camaraderie, and maintains performance standards and high expectations. Low standards have never motivated anyone!

Manager Skill: Foster collective ownership and accountability by facilitating a collaborative goal-setting process. Motivation is strongly related to feelings of control. Heavy, top-down goal setting can worsen team anxiety and confidence. Striking a balance between quantitative (e.g. beat revenue goals by 15%) and qualitative (e.g. be #1 in growing and retaining customer loyalty) helps galvanize energy and channel focus.

 

In an unpredictable world, the effective manager knows that goal setting is a powerful process that can buffer the paralyzing effects of chaos.

 

#3 Be an optimistic, passionate and inspiring leader. Your team doesn’t need ‘rah-rah’ speeches or rose-colored predictions. They do, however, need a confident leader that can set direction, build positive team unity and hold others accountable.

Manager Skill: Communicate a collaborative “we” expectation. Express belief in the team’s ability to conquer adversity. Be passionate about the organization’s purpose. Tell stories of historical challenges that were overcome by strategic discipline, commitment, and unification.

 

Leadership is not a position. It’s a behavior. It’s the rare combination of driving results while engaging others in a vision worthy of inspiration.

 

Unclear direction from senior leadership rarely disables the competent manager. They embrace chaos, and employ skills and trusted processes to best manage the turmoil. The most critical ways to guarantee success include adapting a growth mindset, encouraging individual and team performance, and being a leader worth following.

 

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

 

Schedule a Call with Steve Today to Discuss Tailor-Made Coaching Strategies

 

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

 

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