Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Results or Relationships: What's the Balance in Your Office?

What is the balance in your office between profit and people? Getting results and building good relationships?

We all get hired to get something done. We have projects and tasks that we are responsible for. Shouldn’t just getting them done effectively and in a timely manner be enough?

Actually, no. How we get them done should be as important as getting them done on time and well.

Unfortunately, often the how is not measured or rewarded. As a manager, you probably are responsible for quantifiable results. Your pay and bonuses are dependent on getting those results. The bottom line is in dollars, after all.

Because the how has not traditionally been measured or rewarded, we have polluted our environment with toxic by-products of manufacturing. We have alienated employees and customers by not taking into account how our actions impact them. We have damaged entire communities by not anticipating how shortcuts may affect them in the long term. Think oil spills, home foreclosures, and poisoned foods. Those are examples of global results of emphasizing the what over the how, the results over the relationships.

Now let’s take it back down to your office and the local level. What can you do to create more of a balance between results and relationships? Are you linking tangible rewards to these intangibles? Let’s look at the people first.

  • Are you rewarding managers for developing their direct reports?

Managers’ performance reviews should have a section for developing others that measures promotions, employee development, team satisfaction, and team building.

  • Are you rewarding your employees for developing trust and respect among their team members?

The performance review form should have a section for communications and teamwork.

Now let’s take a look at your organization’s relationship with the community and the planet.

  • Are you rewarding employees for resource efficiencies?
  • Do you tie bonuses or other rewards to reducing waste?
Alerting employees to keep an eye out for processes that are potentially damaging to the community and the environment should be tied directly to some type of reward. In the long term, minimizing harm results in positive customer and community relations, and increased morale as employees understand that what they are doing is tied to a greater cause. These “intangibles” are easier to quantify. The bottom line will be affected, and employees should be rewarded.
  • Does your organization have an ongoing dialogue and supportive relationship with it's community?
  • How does your organization improve the community?
A once a year charitable drive does little to reinforce the long term benefits to an organization if they don’t visibly commit to ongoing practices that encourage good stewardship and good relationships. A balanced commitment to results and relationships becomes a part of the corporate culture - even your brand - and makes your office a more desirable place to work.

Where does the weight lie in your office? With people and relationships? Or with tasks and processes? A good balance between the two is an excellent indication of long term success. Performance reviews are often conducted in the first two months of the year. As you prepare for those, think about what you want to reward in your organization. It’s a great time to set the stage for total success – for you, your organization, your employees, your community and even your planet – by starting with what you emphasize in your own office.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My Go-To List of Business Classics

In a previous job I was in charge of the management library for the company. As an avid reader, I was excited to be able to buy books and make them available for check-out to the employees. I focused on buying books on CD, because I thought that people would be more inclined to read business books if they were part of their commute. Every month I would send out a company-wide email listing the new purchases and reminding staff of the library.

Much to my chagrin, however, there were only about 4 or 5 core people in the company of several hundred who consistently borrowed books. This made it easy to track who had never returned a book, but I felt at the time that people were missing out. Business books can be expensive, and I thought this was a great resource and service.

Now, years later, I have come to appreciate the valuable impact that a few good books, referenced and read again and again, can have over reading a lot of books and forgetting most of what I’ve read. Although I still read lots, I have some books I refer to as my “classics” that I have incorporated into my life and my business practices.

Therefore I have composed a list of my old favorites with links directly to Amazon should you wish to purchase one. These are books I recommend to my clients and cover leadership, team-building, influence, behavior styles and communications.

I would love to hear what books have positively influenced your life– especially in the leadership and business realm. I hesitate to ask, because of the deathly silence in my comments section, but I know there are some readers out there…so please share. Happy reading!

The Leadership Challenge, 4th EditionThe Leadership Challenge by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner

Kouzes and Posner have created a classic for those who are committed to being great people leaders. With lots of examples and practical to-do’s, it serves as an enlightened “how-to” reference. Based on over two decades of research, the work revolves around the “five practices of exemplary leaders” : “Model the Way”, “Inspire a Shared Vision”, “Challenge the Process”, “Enable Others to Act”, and “Encourage the Heart.” This work has inspired a two-day workshop, which I have participated in, and a 360 assessment, the Leadership Practices Inventory.

People Styles at Work... .And Beyond: Making Bad Relationships Good and Good Relationships Better
People Styles at Work and Beyond by Robert Bolton and Dorothy Grover Bolton

Understanding behavior styles is, in my opinion, the most effective tool in anyone’s interpersonal skills toolbox. If they haven’t taken a workshop on it, I usually take one of my coaching sessions to teach my clients a quick shortcut version of how to recognize behavior patterns in order to communicate effectively and build positive relationships. This book is the next best thing to a workshop or a one-to-one coaching/training session.

First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do DifferentlyFirst, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman

I recommend this book to all new managers and supervisors, and if you aren’t a new manager but have never read this book, you should own it. Based on The Gallup Organization’s research studies of millions of employees and managers, it is foolhardy to ignore their findings on what makes a great manager. Many organizations now use the employee survey that was developed from Gallup’s findings.

Resolving Conflicts at Work: Eight Strategies for Everyone on the JobResolving Conflicts At Work by Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith

Just what the title says, this tome offers eight strategies “to move from impasse to transformation”. This is a handy reference for anyone, but it is especially applicable to organizational leaders who can influence the culture of a workplace. The authors emphasize how conflict can be used creatively rather than toxically.

Everyone seems to like The Five Dysfunctions of a Team but I prefer this practical book on how to develop a cohesive, productive team. The emphasis is on creating a “Code of Honor” for the team which instills loyalty and team pride while reinforcing good communications and teamwork. There are lots of actionable to-do’s that any team can put into place.

Having taught the workshop many times, I have had the opportunity to instill the seven habits into my life until they are, yes, habits. Or almost. I truly believe if we work to incorporate these habits our lives will be more peaceful and more productive. It’s happened to me. A true classic, which everyone should take to heart.

The Power of TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic) - Updated and RevisedThe Power of TED by David Emerald

This is a transformational little book that shows us how to pull ourselves and others out of a “Victim” mode into a solution-oriented “Creator “ mode. We all have felt like victims, rescuers or persecutors sometimes, and we recognize others who fall into this too. This little volume packs an impact by showing us ourselves and how we can become a coach, creator or challenger. A great book for anyone, and having taken the TED workshop, I often teach my clients how to coach their employees from Victim to Creator, and how to stay away from the Rescuer role.

Leading ChangeLeading Change by John Kotter

One of the two books on change I highly recommend for any leader. All the organizations I work with are implementing changes, and yours probably is too. How to implement change effectively is often overlooked by leaders. This book has a step-by-step approach that leaders should seriously take into account when attempting any type of change.

Managing Transitions: Making the Most of ChangeManaging Transitions by William Bridges

The other change book I highly recommend for leaders. This book takes us through the psychological journey of change and offers practical checklists to ensure you are doing what it takes to help your staff and yourself integrate change and manage the transitions as quickly and as successfully as possible.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bruce Lee's Leadership Lessons

In honor of what would have been Bruce Lee’s 70th birthday last Saturday (11/27), I wanted to write an article about his leadership lessons. I googled "leadership lessons of Bruce Lee" and found this extremely comprehensive article about Bruce’s overall life lessons. It’s already been done, I thought, and really well too.

But the urge to honor the leadership legacy of Bruce Lee, who is best known for his martial arts skill as shown in such movies as Enter the Dragon, persisted. Bruce was incredibly strong and fast, and invented his own version of martial arts called Jeet Kune Do. Although I am extremely violence-averse, I am awed by what he was capable of and what he accomplished in his 32 years.

I have taken the liberty of condensing Bruce Lee’s leadership wisdom into just five lessons. Lee's quotations are in italics.

1. Set big goals and act on them.
A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.
If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done. Make at least one definite move daily toward your goal.

2. Success takes intense focus, dedication and hard work.
I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.
Endurance is lost rapidly if one ceases to work at their maximum.

3. Remain flexible and adaptable to situations.
Flow in the living moment. — We are always in a process of becoming and nothing is fixed. Have no rigid system in you, and you’ll be flexible to change with the ever changing. Open yourself and flow, my friend. Flow in the total openness of the living moment. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Moving, be like water. Still, be like a mirror. Respond like an echo.

4. Adhere to high personal standards.
Knowledge will give you power, but character respect.

5. Mentor others.
I am not teaching you anything. I just help you to explore yourself.

This last quotation is an excellent credo for every manager and coach.

Bruce chooses hard work over partying at the University of Washington.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How to Restore Personal Peacefulness

In a People Skills class, a participant asked, “How can you work with someone if your values don’t match theirs?”

This is a situation that can engender a lot of conflict, whether it is out in the open or not. You may have internal stress and tension when trying to reconcile the fact that your values differ yet you need to work together. (Or, spend the holidays together.)

It’s helpful to step back, take a breath, and consider: Is it in fact your values that are different or how your values are played out? Or do you hold the same value but prioritize it differently? Then search for where you have common ground. Find that common ground, appreciate that there is any, and remark upon it out loud - to yourself, to others, to the other party involved.

This is where change happens: when you give up resisting what you perceive to be against you and your values, and focus instead on where there is agreement, where there is no tension, and where there are commonalities. Start from there, and as you focus in on the common ground, build on it. Spend as much time thinking about those commonalities as you did the differences that irritated you. Then spend more time on it.

The amount of common ground will expand, and if you acknowledge it, will start to include positive differences – differences that you can appreciate. You will find ways to communicate with that person from a new perspective, rather than from the perspective that causes you tension. Resistance only gives birth to continued resistance. If you focus only on the parts of someone that you dislike, even more examples and reasons to dislike the person will occur to you. There is no peace, no resolution from this perspective.

In People Skills we teach that if you push on someone’s behavior, they will naturally push back. If, however, you focus on changing perceptions and beliefs, behavior will change naturally. If your perceptions and beliefs about a person or situation are causing you stress and conflict, start with yourself. A change in your own perception or belief can dissolve or at the least, reduce, the resistance you feel about someone else. It will allow you to approach the person with a positive attitude, which will prevent the other party from getting defensive. And once you put someone on the defensive, all communication breaks down.

The next time you are faced with a dilemma or conflict over values, move toward common ground with that individual and your working relationship will become less work and more peaceful.

Wishing you peace during this holiday season!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How To Master the Office Dragon

"It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him."
~ J. R. R. Tolkein (1892-1973), British author and philologist, The Hobbit

If you have to get things done in your office, (and why are you there if you don’t?) you have to take into account how to get what you need from those who may not want to give you the time of day. There may be those who don’t like you and/or your project, who are jealous of you, who don’t understand the importance of what you are doing, who are insecure, or who are just too busy to accommodate you. Your request for information or participation seems to be an opportunity for them to block your progress.

Like a dragon, they may choose to hoard valuable information and spend much of their time guarding precious resources and making sure others - like you - don’t get their hands on it.

Whatever the reason for their obstructionist behavior, it causes you stress, frustration and anger. How can you get what you want without going down that dark path?

It may be that you can’t avoid it altogether, but you can try. You can plan ahead. Know who is supportive and who isn’t, for whatever reason. The reason may not matter in the short run. What matters is getting your results in a timely and successful manner.

Time was when the only real performance expectation was “gets the results expected without generating a hostile environment.” That still is the bottom line. Here are some tactics that you can use to accomplish this when you have a dragon in your way:

1. Go around the dragon. Whenever possible, get what you need from friendly sources. Avoid rousing the dragon by cultivating alliances in other areas. However, if you choose to go over the dragon’s head, you may incite the ire of the dragon. Going around is good, going over is dangerous. Be very, very careful if you choose that route.

2. Feed and flatter the dragon. They may be feeling a little insecure about their work. Or, they could be one of those narcissistic dragons who only respond when it is all about them. Let them know what they do is noticed: “John is really taking a good look at the project you are doing…it’s possible that a bigger opportunity could result from your work.” Support their efforts and appreciate their ideas in public and they may start taking a second look at you and what you want. Because if you weren’t around, maybe they wouldn’t be getting any strokes or tidbits at all.

3. Offer the dragon a trade. Is there something the dragon wants from you? Maybe there is something you have that would benefit the dragon and they don’t even realize it. A morsel of information? A computer tip that helps them organize their files more efficiently? An introduction to another influential colleague? A good deal on a smart phone? Find out what they could use by asking or observing and offer a trade.

4. Distract the dragon. Perhaps the dragon can be tricked into giving you what you need with a little bit of distraction. Chat up the dragon about something of interest to him. How about those Rams? Love your car. Those shoes are fabulous. Where’d you find them? Once you’ve got the dragon in a good mood, ask for what you need. They will be in a more responsive frame of mind and more inclined to be accommodating. Just be sure you pick the right time to chat them up – don’t interrupt them when they are in the middle of their work flow.

Fighting, banishing, or slaying the dragon are only for extreme circumstances. We all wish the dragon would just disappear. But there will always be another dragon. Learn how to live with your dragon, work with your dragon, train your dragon. Become a dragon master and you will be the hero in your office.

Here are some dragon-training tips you may be able to adapt to your office dragon.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What Can You Do About Your Blind Spots?

We all have blind spots, those areas about ourselves that we don’t realize are hindering our progress – perhaps obstructing our ability to influence, to communicate clearly, or to form trusting relationships. Sometimes our blind spots are just our strengths overused to such an extent that they cross over, as I like to say, to the dark side.

A client who was a senior manager in a technical role told me that he was good with people. He knew when to empathize, and when to give “tough love”. He communicated well to his employees, colleagues and customers and everyone appreciated his affable yet strong leadership style. He was fair, honest, and looked out for his employees. In his 360 assessment, this was all confirmed. What was also confirmed was that he had a problem with his boss. When we discussed this, it came out that he resented his new boss for inserting himself into his operation, however minimally. It was his operation, and he knew it inside and out. His new boss didn’t know or understand his customers’ temperaments and concerns.

This client’s blind spot was his need for control. For the most part, he knew how to wield it fairly and lightly with his own team – he had been doing so for years, and his leadership style had worked well. But when it came to sharing his turf with his new boss – who was not overstepping or micromanaging by my client’s own admission – he balked. His attitude was souring his relationship with his new manager. He really wanted to ignore the fact that he had a boss at all.

Exploring this need for control revealed that because he had worked with the same group of people for a decade or more, he trusted them implicitly. He could ease up on his natural tendency to be in control, and had learned over the years that being transparent, sharing information, and delegating was a more productive and easier way to lead than the alternative. However when there were new customers, new projects, or in this case, a new boss, his need to be in control would reassert itself and he would tighten up his oversight at least for a while. This tendency didn’t work well to establish a trusting relationship with his new boss.

In a Wall Street Journal article last week entitled Bosses Overestimate Their Managing Skills, survey results from Development Dimensions International (DDI) revealed that managers didn’t equate their weak skills – which they identified as coaching, delegating, and gaining commitment - as areas of development. "It doesn't matter what industry you're in. People have blind spots about where they're weak," says Scott Erker, a senior vice president at DDI.

By definition, we are not cognizant of our own blind spots. Even if, through coaching, feedback, or a 360 degree assessment, we are aware of our blind spots, we will still often unknowingly repeat that undesirable behavior.

Last week’s post was about how to gracefully ask for and accept feedback. That’s an essential skill for any leader. But in order to successfully act on that feedback you may need an ally: someone who can give you a signal, a code word, or just a blatant reminder when you revert back to your old behavior.

Anyone who has attempted to change their own or others’ behavior knows that it takes time and effort. We have built up these behaviors and ways of thinking over time and burnt them deep into our neural pathways. In a sense we really are in a rut that requires motivated, consistent behavior changes over a period of time to forge new habits. That’s why trusted allies can be valuable help. Being humble enough to count on your own employees to be those allies goes a long way toward showing the type of leader you are.

We all have blind spots. Understanding ourselves deeply is essential to being an extraordinary leader. Knowing that our personality type, experiences, philosophies, and values can drive our behavior, and understanding how they drive it, awakens us to our own strengths, opportunities for development, and potential pitfalls. Knowing yourself as well as you can – taking off blinders, realizing your impact and how you are reflected in others’ eyes – allows you to realistically assess how to leverage your strengths, and adjust for your weaknesses.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Model How to Ask For and Receive Feedback Gracefully

When I became a parent, I suddenly became very conscious of my table manners. I religiously buckled my seat belt. I watched my mouth. Being a parent is a lot like being a leader: you are under constant observation. You are a role model and your behavior is the best illustration of how you want others to behave. You aren’t perfect, so acknowledging that by asking and acting on feedback goes a very long way toward building trust and respect on your team.

Observing leaders welcome and act on feedback is inspiring to those around them. One of the skills you can model to your employees is how to ask for and receive feedback. Three simple questions should be the standard for your discussions with your employees, both one-to-one and in team meetings:

1. What I can do differently that will help you (us) succeed?
2. What can I stop doing that will increase your (our) chances of success?
3. What can I start doing that I haven’t been doing that will make you (us) more successful?

Ask these questions during their performance reviews, before starting projects, when debriefing projects, and at least twice a year to each employee.

When you get their feedback, model how to receive it. Simply say, “Thank you. I appreciate your honesty and thoughtfulness.” You don’t have to make promises that you will change. You don’t have to say you will think about what they have said. The best way to respond is by your actions. Do make sure you understand the feedback and ask for clarity or examples if you don’t. Then next time you sit down with them let them know what you have been doing differently in response to their feedback. That lets them know that you listen well, take what they have to say seriously, and are committed to personal and professional development. And as a result they will be more likely to be honest in their feedback to you.

By showing that you welcome constructive feedback, modeling how to receive it in a non-defensive manner, and then acting on it, your team members will be more open to it too. They will learn how to ask for and expect feedback from their colleagues as well as you. And that makes for a more productive team.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How To Find More "You" Time

Stress and it’s ill effects are often in the news, and entire books are written on the topic. Perhaps too much stress is one of the reasons why the US has dropped to number 49 in the world in longevity. In the 1950’s, we were 5th.

The Center for Disease Control reports that 85% of disease has an emotional component to it. Stress is emotional yet it affects our physical bodies in measureable ways: brains shrink and nerve endings (dendrites) disappear from brain neurons. The stress hormone cortisol causes increased fat around organs. Stress weakens our immune response and causes changes in antibodies. There’s more, but I am not a doctor or scientist so it quickly gets too overwhelming for me.

Where are we supposed to find the time to exercise, relax and spend time with our loved ones? How can a leader take the time off that’s essential to reducing stress?

If you are a leader it is vital that you can handle stress, and you may think that you can handle more than most people. That may be true. But what is also true is that if you don’t manage your stress well, your organization will suffer from your poor decisions.

According to Henry L. Thompson, author of The Stress Effect, stress is often the reason for poor leadership performance. High stress compromises the ability to access our emotional intelligence and our cognitive abilities, leading to impaired thinking and behavior choices. Brain scientists such as John Medina tell us that stressed brains can’t learn as well either.

Here are two (just 2!) tips that will help you find the time to do the relaxing things that help manage your stress:

First, make sure you have your priorities straight. General George C. Marshall said “save (your) ammunition for the big fights and avoid a constant drain of little ones.” General Marshall, who as Army Chief of Staff during WWII built up troop numbers from 174,000 to 8 million, regularly rose at 6 am to exercise on horseback – to give him thinking time, he said – and quit for the day at 4 pm. From 4pm to his 9pm bedtime he relaxed with his wife dining, walking and canoeing. Sure, occasionally he worked late, but he knew the value of incorporating sleep, exercise, and recreation into a regular schedule. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of your team members and your projects very well.

By reviewing your projects to ensure they are aligned with your organization’s strategy, mission and values, you will probably be able to scrap a few that aren’t. Enlist the help of your employees to identify and eliminate the draining little tasks that don’t directly support the projects that are priorities. One of the questions you can ask to help identify vital tasks is, "Would our customers be willing to pay for that?"

Second, trust others. Delegate, ask for help, and relax knowing that your team members can take care of things as well as if not better than you can. Keeping information and responsibilities to yourself creates a downward spiral leading to dysfunctional teams. Micromanaging is detrimental to everyone, stressing out you and your subordinates unnecessarily and causing them to feel distrusted. Let go a little, and maybe let up on yourself a little too.

These two tips will help you manage your time better. In Good to Great, Jim Collins says “Most of us lead busy but undisciplined lives. We have ever-expanding 'to do' lists, trying to build momentum by doing, doing, doing—and doing more. And it rarely works. Those who built the good-to-great companies, however, made as much use of 'stop doing' lists as 'to do' lists."

If you prioritize thoughtfully and delegate more, you will have time to regularly schedule exercise and relaxation. In global research from the Center for Creative Leadership, it was found that executives who exercise regularly are rated significantly higher on leadership effectiveness by their bosses, peers and direct reports than those who exercised sporadically or not at all.

So take a tip from General Marshall, who wrote this in a note to a new brigadier general:

“Now I counsel you to make a studied business of relaxing and taking things easy, getting to the office late, taking trips, and making everybody else work like hell. It is pretty hard for a leopard to change his spots, but you must cloak your new rank with a deliberate effort to be quite casual….I woke up at about thirty-three to the fact that I was working myself to death, to my superior’s advantage, and that I was acquiring the reputation of being merely a pick and shovel man. From that time on, I made it a business to avoid, so far as possible, detail work, and to relax as completely as I could manage in a pleasurable fashion….”

It may be hard for you too to “change your spots” but the benefits are far more vast, and the detriments far too serious, for you not to take the time, every day, to relax.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Happy World Statistics Day! Coaching ROI Is Several Hundred Percent

A lot of people I talk to have only a vague idea of what coaching is. They think maybe I am a cross between Lucy and her advice booth from the comic strip Peanuts and an airy-fairy motivational speaker. They don’t realize that there are stringent educational and professional requirements for coaches just as there are for any profession.

I suppose anyone can say they are a coach. However, to be a “legitimate” coach, one should have graduated from a certified coaching program and be credentialed, or in the process of becoming credentialed, by the International Coach Federation. All the coaches I know also have other degrees and experience. That’s what makes them good in their area of coaching, whether it is leadership and career coaching such as I do, or retirement coaching, parenting coaching, wellness coaching, or any of the other many niches out there.

In honor of World Statistics Day – which is today in case you didn’t know, I‘d like to share some statistics about the profession and practice of coaching.

The International Coach Federation is the professional organization for coaches, with over 16,300 members in more than 100 countries. The ICF is the only organization that awards a global credential which is currently held by more than 6,700 coaches worldwide, including me.

In a recent consumer awareness survey commissioned by the ICF, 15,000 participants age 25 and up in 20 countries were surveyed by the International Survey Unit of Price Waterhouse Coopers. According to a press release from the ICF:

The Global Consumer Awareness Study determined common areas in which people are using professional coaching today. More than two-fifths (42.6 percent) of respondents who had experienced coaching chose “optimize individual and/or team performance” as their motivation for being coached. This reason ranked highest followed by “expand professional career opportunities” at 38.8 percent and “improve business management strategies” at 36.1 percent. Other more personal motivations like “increase self-esteem/self-confidence” and “manage work/life balance” rated fourth and fifth to round out the top five motivation areas.

In previous research the ICF found that coaching is also generating a very good return on investment—a median return of seven times the initial investment for businesses—while being used for some of the same motivations mentioned in the latest study.

Companies large and small are optimizing individual and team performance through coaching. Despite the recent global economic climate, of North America reported a 563 percent return on investment from its coaching programs that engage sales teams and managers within the company. Solaglas, a leading UK-based glass replacement and installation company, reported higher customer satisfaction and a return on investment of 490 percent. Company executives believe these gains are small compared to the long-term impact coaching will have.

Coaching is not a mystery. It offers real results. Try it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Do You Have the Courage to Be Candid?

In survey after survey, integrity is always one of the top qualities people say they want in leaders. However, one study has determined there are 185 different behavioral expectations around integrity. I’d like to talk about one of them here, candor – “the state or quality of being frank, open, and sincere in speech or expression. “ (

Communicating with candor can be tricky, no matter who you are talking with. It takes some courage to speak frankly to a boss. Some people have trouble doing it with anyone if it involves bringing up something distasteful.

In a speech at the US Naval Academy last April, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told a hall full of midshipmen that vision, perseverance, candor and moral courage are essential qualities for 21st-century leaders. “In addition to speaking hard truths to your superiors,” he said, “as a leader you must create a climate that encourages candor among your subordinates, especially in difficult situations.”

Straight talk, integrity and courage should always be encouraged and rewarded. Wisely, Secretary Gates noted: “In a perfect world that should always happen. Sadly, it does not, and I will not pretend there is not risk. At some point, each of you will surely work for a jackass. We all have. But that does not make taking that stand any less necessary for the sake of our country.”

Or for the sake of your own organization and peace of mind.

I want to make some distinctions about candor. Candor is not forgetting who your audience is. Speaking to the troops, Gates’ use of the word “jackass” was candidly appropriate. But some audiences might be offended or regard the use of coarse language as evidence of coarse behavior – not necessarily behavior connoting integrity.

Candor is not bluntness. It can be blunt, but again, know your audience. Being frank, particularly about negative issues, may require some diplomatic lead-in so that you don’t come across as cold or overly direct.

Candor is not always about something negative. Yes, according to marketing’s ‘Law of Candor’ admitting a negative creates a positive impression in the prospect’s mind. For example, Avis stating they are number two impresses the audience with the company’s honesty. A leader sincerely admitting they were wrong impresses the listeners. See the second video below for an example of a commercial that uses the Law of Candor to the max.

In the first video below we see a former CEO of Philip Morris. What he says may be the truth as he sees it, but does he seem candid to you? He may feel that he is being honest. Nothing he says is necessarily a lie, yet the way he presents the information, without any concern or acknowledgement of the whole truth, leads me to believe that he lacks integrity, even though I can find no lies in his presentation. He doesn’t impress me as being “frank, open or sincere.”

The second video shows a business owner being very candid about his products. He is not dressed in a nice suit, and doesn’t convey a sense of wealth and education. Which video instills more trust? Which leader would you allow to influence you more? Which leader shows more integrity?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tips for Working with Expedient Colleagues

This week I was honored to have an article published on Introvert Zone about how process-oriented thinkers (who are often, but not always, introverts) can work more effectively with expedient thinkers. Check out the two-part article called "No, They Won't Ask: How to Successfully Work with Expedient Colleagues" for some practical tips that will make your life a little easier.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

In US, 40% of Managers are Women - And Pay Has Increased!

In a report released Tuesday by the US Government Accountability Office, not much change has occurred in the number of female managers, their pay or their key characteristics in the period between 2000 and 2007, the years of the study.

The average pay increased by 2 cents: “When looking at all industry sectors together and adjusting for these factors, we estimated that female managers earned 81 cents for every dollar earned by male managers in 2007, compared to 79 cents in 2000. The estimated adjusted pay difference varied by industry sector, with female managers' earnings ranging from 78 cents to 87 cents for every dollar earned by male managers in 2007, depending on the industry sector.”

The number of managers with bachelor’s degrees or higher has increased for both males and females – from 53% to 56% for men and from 45% to 51% for women. 59% of female managers are married, compared to 74% of male managers. 63% of women managers have children compared to 57% of male managers. The percentage of female managers increased from 39% to 40%, and the number of female non-managers remained the same at 49%.

Generally, women were under-represented in upper management. However in several industries, they were proportionate or even over-represented: construction, public administration, transportation and utilities. The widest under-representation was in education and the retail trade where the majority of non-management workers were women, and most managers were men.

This study didn’t address the reasons for the gaps. I know there are many. From my own experience and the experiences of some of my clients I know that one reason for the pay gap is that women are less confident about negotiating for higher pay when first getting hired.

As a personal example, in applying for a management position, I accepted the first offer because it was higher than what I had set in my mind. Of course I would accept! However, later during a company-wide equity review, my salary was bumped up considerably to reflect the pay of other managers in my grade. I was both happy and depressed at the same time. I had missed out on higher pay for two years simply because I had not asked for it from the beginning. When I accepted a severance package from this same company a few years later, I was told “As a manager at your level you should have received stock options. We are going to give you the cash equivalent of the stock options you should have received.” Thank God this was an extremely fair and generous company. Most companies would not do either of those things. But it taught me a lesson. ALWAYS negotiate; never accept the first salary offer.

The reasons behind women’s promotion challenges are varied. Studies have indicated that women have a higher need for connection, authenticity, and balance. They are often held to a higher standard. Agentic behaviors (“typically masculine” leadership behaviors such as ‘command and control’) are often reinforced in traditional leadership cultures and that type of behavior is not expected from women.

Truly, the above paragraph could apply to many men as well. They may be overlooked for leadership roles because they do not lean toward agentic behaviors but work in that type of organizational culture. The male executives I coach appreciate a work environment that has more connection and balance, and where people can work according to their values and behave authentically. They know, as women need to understand, when it is sometimes appropriate to use agentic behaviors and when it isn’t.

I believe that the American work environment is slowly evolving to embrace the leadership of men and women who do understand the value of connection, authenticity and balance. When these humane and balanced leadership styles are more common, we will see more women in leadership positions.

We’ve come a long way – at least in hair styles!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lack of Management Communication is the #1 Reason For Quitting

In a recently published study from Regus, over 15,000 business managers were interviewed to find out which issues would drive them to quit their job. Interestingly, 40% of them admitted that they were considering quitting their jobs after the summer vacation. Although ‘considering' is different than actually taking the courageous step to do so, it is revealing that nearly half the respondents would like to find a new position.

Less surprising are the top five reasons they state would drive them to quit their jobs:

1. Lack of communication and involvement by top management 40%
2. Lack of promotion despite good work results 37%
3. Overwork 34%
4. Lack of company vision 31%
5. Lack of belief in colleagues’ competence 28%

Although the respondents of this survey were primarily senior managers, study after study reveals that the top reason anyone leaves their job is their relationship with their manager.

Reiterating your vision, communicating your appreciation, sharing plans, and involving your employees are key to keeping good people. Here are a few tips on what works when communicating:

• Keep communication simple and heartfelt, not complex and bureaucratic.
• Repeat important messages such as vision, goals and valued behavior often.
• Do your homework before communicating in order to understand what people are feeling, to get the whole picture, and to be able to answer questions well.
• Begin your communication by speaking to where people are: usually they are thinking of themselves and how things impact them. Then bring them with you to think of the team, the company, the vision.
• Acknowledge feelings. This will allow people to feel understood. Once they feel you understand them, they will listen to you.
• Ask questions and listen.

Particularly when changes are going on – and when aren’t they? – frequent communication is essential to gain employee engagement. An “open door” policy is great, as long as you walk the talk and leave your office to communicate often with your employees.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

5 Marketing Rules For Long-Distance Influencing

I was listening to a leadership CD in my car and the speaker said the sole difference in whether one is a leader or not is whether one can influence others. It makes sense to me. As we know, leaders are found at all levels, at all ages, in all places. There are leaders of gangs, of friends, of families, of organizations, of all sorts of groups and teams. What makes someone a leader is whether others allow them to influence them.

Granted, other factors are considered before one decides (consciously or not) whether to allow someone to influence them. Do they know what they are talking about? Can I trust them? Do they have a decent track record? Do they impress me enough – in whatever ways I deem important –so that I will accept their influence?

Today with more and more people working remotely and in virtual teams, learning how to positively influence others that one has never met face-to-face is even more challenging. Yet every day we receive direct mail, email, and other advertisements that attempt – often successfully - to influence us to take advantage of whatever offers they are hawking.

We can learn some lessons from the advertising world when attempting to influence long distance:

1. Repetition. Every marketer knows that repetition is necessary in order to make a sale. In 1885, a London marketer named Thomas Smith wrote some advice that started out “1. The first time a man looks at an advertisement he does not see it.” It goes all the way to “20. The twentieth time he sees the ad, he buys what it is offering.” Frequent communication of the same message is essential. For example, say you need help from another department in another city in order to get information for a client. Let them know something like “excellent customer service means on-time delivery of vital statistics” every time you speak or email with them. Even add it to your email signature. And to take this a step further, frequent communication in general is essential, in order to build a relationship. Which leads us to:

2. Build a relationship. The best marketers build a relationship with their customers. They find something in common – their love of their product ideally, but sometimes it’s a concern for a philanthropic cause, or the community they are in, or an event. We build a relationship with someone the same way – by finding something we have in common, by truly being interested in the other person, and by getting to know them beyond our surface transactions. Take the time to get to know someone over the phone, Skype, and through email. Do you both have teenagers? Both love football? Build on commonalities by sharing stories, tips, and resources. This helps with the next lesson:

3. Understand your customer. Understand what they want and need, and speak to that. Marketers know that fear and wanting to be part of a desired group are both big sellers. With fear, you are selling the idea that “you don’t want to have bad breath/excess weight/(insert undesirable quality here)”. With selling the desire to be a part of a certain group you sell the idea that “if you buy this you will be beautiful/part of the in crowd/smart/sexy/(insert desired state here)”. Know what is important to your ‘customer.’ Do they want to be part of a winning and successful team? Do they want to be promoted, recognized? Do they want to avoid looking dumb/failing? How can you present your idea to appeal to what they want, or as an antidote to what they want to avoid? “Getting me those statistics on the 5th of each month will be so impressive to my customer – I’m going to let your boss know you do that and how helpful it is.”

4. Make what you're selling accessible. It can't be too hard to do or get. It’s not too expensive. It’s not too complicated or too boring. It’s even fun to use or do. It’s easy to ‘buy’ and easy to use. “Here’s a template that you could use if it makes your work easier.”

5. Finally, engage them. Use the Law of Reciprocity to encourage them to buy into your idea by giving them something first. (E.g., the template, the compliment to their boss.) Intrigue them with your ideas by involving them in fine-tuning them. (“What other information could we give this client to really ‘wow’ them?”) Involve them in a group event where everyone is experiencing the idea. (“I’m inviting you to meet the customer at the Client User Forum next month.”) Tell them stories to help them visualize and emotionalize your idea. Get them excited and enthusiastic about your idea and watch it take off. Studies have shown that all decisions are emotional decisions, yet are justified with logic. Give your ‘customer’ both – positive emotions tied to your idea, and logic to back it up.

Influence is at the core of leading. And you don’t need a title to lead, or to influence successfully. You don’t even need to be in the same room to influence. But the best leaders wield their influence with integrity.
Be a human being.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Personal Customer Service Standards Build Your Reputation

When I worked in corporate America, my own personal obsession was customer service. “Customer service should be in everyone’s job description,” I would tell my employees at about every chance I got. “We all have customers, even if we don’t work in Customer Service.” One of my own standards was to get back to people within 24 hours, even if we didn’t have an answer for them, just to let them know we got their message and were working on it.

Although I wish it were so, not everyone shares my philosophy. Lately I have been experiencing a wide range of “personal customer service” behavior, or what could also be called simple professional courtesy.

My more senior clients are unfailingly professional. They always answer my emails, although some take much longer than others to do so. They give me a heads-up, usually several days ahead, if they have a conflict with an appointment. They come to coaching sessions prepared, knowing what they want to talk about.

Recently I have taken on more “high-potential” clients. These clients often miss coaching appointments without notice. They rarely respond to my emails. They don’t return my phone calls. They come unprepared to the coaching sessions.

Some may question that with this behavior, are they really “high-potential” employees? Actually, for this organization, they are. They went through a stringent selection process to be accepted into the leadership program. One participant has already been promoted into a leadership position. Yet another, however, was turned down for a promotion due to consistent tardiness.

What’s puzzling to me is the organization that sponsors this leadership development program is known for it’s excellent customer service. When I am there, employees always smile and are consistently polite, helpful, and treat me like I’m important. Why then, are so many of the high potentials not exhibiting the basics of customer service like returning a phone call?

These “high-pos” range in age from early twenties to mid-forties. So although the majority are younger than my senior clients, some are similar in age. I don’t think age or generation makes any difference.

I believe that lacking common courtesy shows a lack of professionalism that should be a red flag for senior managers when considering who to promote. Certainly, other factors will carry more weight: a track record of results, people skills, intelligence and potential. However, common courtesies are part of people skills and not engaging in them indicates a lack of respect for others. Essentially, this is a case of not meeting expectations at a basic level – especially when you consider the importance of customer service to the culture and business model of this organization.

I was sharing my observations with a community college teacher, and was told similar stories. “I’ve decided not to give any more recommendations. I’m tired of not even getting a ‘thank you’ for writing them,” he told me. “Why would I recommend someone who can’t be bothered to say thank you?”

When we have our own personal “customer service standards” that we adhere to, these repeated small gestures help create our own personal brand that affects our reputation and our success. When an entire team upholds service standards, it directly affects the culture and the business.

I encourage you to make customer service part of everyone’s job description. Gather your employees to determine exactly what behaviors define customer service for your team. Then keep your folks accountable to it, and appreciate it when you see it. Your workplace will be more pleasant, your team will get a great reputation, and I guarantee you will generate repeat business as people will enjoy interacting with you and your colleagues.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Know When to Delegate

The managers I talk to are slammed with work and time is a precious commodity that always seems to be in short supply. Yet when I ask them about sharing the workload with their direct reports – an excellent way to develop employees and groom successors – they often have legitimate excuses as to why they don’t do it as much as they could or should. And the biggest reason revolves around time. It does take a bit of time to delegate effectively.

Expectations need to be clearly defined. This is the most difficult part, and the most crucial. In the future, I am going to dedicate a blog posting solely to communicating expectations, but that’s not the topic today.

Besides setting clear expectations, managers need to ensure their delegatee has all the tools, resources, knowledge and skills to do the task. Sometimes check-ins during the task or project delegated are necessary. When the task is completed, the manager needs to follow up with their direct report to debrief and express appreciation. Or alternatively, to back up and make some changes if things didn’t work out as expected the first time.

When I recently spoke to one of my clients who is always overwhelmed, I was surprised to find that he was less stressed and seemed happier with how things were going. When I probed, I found out he had finally taken the plunge to delegate some responsibilities off his plate and onto his employees, who were happy to be trusted with meetings, customers, and tasks that the boss had previously kept to himself. It really didn’t take as much time as he thought it would to delegate effectively. It was a leadership step that freed him up to be a better leader.

Delegating builds relationships, and your employees will feel like they’ve gained (more of) your trust and respect. In return, you’ll get more loyalty from them. If you are afraid that you would be overloading them, just be sure to let them know if they feel they can’t handle the extra work, to let you know. You can then help them with prioritization and perhaps redistribution of their workload.

Delegation is an underused development tool. Survey your current responsibilities. What could you pass on that would expose your direct reports to new people, new situations, new knowledge and new tasks? And would lighten your load in the process? You could use that extra time to concentrate on planning and yes, leading.

There are some instances when you do not want to delegate. As you survey your responsibilities, determine which are:
• Extremely time-sensitive. It may be necessary for you to keep the task if explaining it and a ramp-up training time is too long.
• Too political or protocol-oriented. Some tasks just need your personal attention.
• High risk. If it is a task that cannot handle a less than stellar performance as your delegatee gets up to speed on it, then keep it in your own hands until that person can do it up to standard every time.

If any one of the above points are true, it’s better not to delegate that task. In addition, sometimes you just don’t have the candidate with the right stuff to do the job. Make sure you know your direct reports well, and understand their current skills, their working habits, their interests, their potential, and their knowledge. You want to be able to delegate the task or project to just the right individual – one you can trust and who sees the extra responsibility as an opportunity to develop their skills and stature in the organization.

Delegating is a leadership skill that benefits everyone. Take the time to delegate effectively and watch as not only your open time grows, but your employees do too.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Change Management => The Costs of Efficiency Can Be High

“Two more days,” my friend groaned-sighed as I was driving her home Wednesday evening.

“You used to like your job,” I said.

“I loved my job. I used to love my job. Now I just go in and try to make it through the day.”

A year ago my friend ‘s department was reorganized. Everyone in her area was either laid off, quit or transferred. She was moved to a different building, and she got a new supervisor. She was nervous about all the changes, even though she was receiving a slight promotion. (“A forced promotion,” she called it.) So to help her look on the positive side of this transition, we held a barbecue for her with a “Dress for Success” theme. We added padded shoulder blazers to our shorts and partied on a friend’s patio.

Her job changed significantly. She had to learn new processes to accomplish the same ultimate outcome as in her old job, only this way was supposed to be more efficient, and better for the bottom line, as well as the customer. In this case I can’t speak for the bottom line or the customer, just for my friend, the front line employee.

My friend works for a hospital, one of the hospitals mentioned in this July 10th The New York Times article, Factory Efficiency Comes to the Hospital. These hospitals have adopted a Japanese efficiency system that is widely accredited to Toyota, and now taught by them. (Toyota actually learned these processes from American management guru Dr. W. Edwards Deming.) “The program, called “continuous performance improvement,” or C.P.I., examines every aspect of patients’ stays at the hospital, from the time they arrive in the parking lot until they are discharged, to see what could work better for them and their families." According to the article, “checklists, standardization and nonstop brainstorming with front-line staff and customers can pay off.”

From what my friend says, the checklists and standardization are overwhelming. It took her quite a while to finally master them, with a few tears along the way. In the first few weeks, she didn’t know if she could get a grasp on everything. “Hang in there,” I told her. “It will all fall into place eventually." Tonight my friend told me they hired a new employee a few weeks ago who is still struggling and can’t be left on her own even though she has had two weeks of one-to-one training on the procedures.

And the “nonstop brainstorming with frontline staff”? Non-existent. Oh yes, she was told to let them know what suggestions she has. But she says that’s useless since they don’t listen to her.

After breaking down a few times at work and coming down with a case of hives, she has finally found how to deal with the stress. “I just tell them ‘You created this, not me. I’m the one who has to figure out how to deal with it, and this is the way I’m dealing with it.’ Then I take my time and work at my own pace. It’s not worth trying to get everything done as fast as they want it. Some of those doctors and nurses are really demanding and rude. My health is more important than paperwork.”

I’ve offered to help her get her resume up to speed. Life is too short to be under so much stress all the time. It’s been a year, and the reorganization has not settled down and smoothed out. Management has put too much emphasis on “factory efficiency” and forgotten about the effects on real people. In this case, a loyal, long-term employee has become just a cog in the wheel of efficiency.

Incorporating change always takes longer than we think it will. A lot has been written about how to introduce and implement change, but rarely does management follow the advice, even if they are aware of it. The costs of poorly implemented change are high, and not just to the bottom line. The costs to human psyche and health can be deep.

According to Brain Rules author Dr. John Medina, the type of stress my buddy is going through affects our brains in all types of negative ways, including reducing productivity. Sounds like just the opposite of what management’s goal is.