Category Archives: Commitment

The Process Equation: People – Part 2

For companies looking to scale, it’s not enough to be smart, purposeful and passionate.  They must focus on developing process by increasing what I call their Process Equation. In my last post, I introduced you to the ‘Task’ element of the Process Equation. This post will focus on the second critical element to the Process Equation: People.

The People Process involves developing the following 4 areas:

  1. Creating Leadership Team Health – Nothing is more important than having an aligned and healthy leadership team.  Smart does not mean healthy.  Healthy means team members are open with one another; they passionately debate the important issues; they commit to clear decisions even if they initially disagree; they call each other out (provide constructive feedback) when their behaviors or performance need correction; and they focus their attention on the collective good of the organization.
  2. Building Trust and VulnerabilityTrust is about creating psychological safety; being able to say what you believe is right, without fear, and knowing that you can take risks without feeling insecure or embarrassed.  It requires intimacy – having an emotional connection to the people around you and making people comfortable with you by sharing personal histories.  Vulnerability is about being open and transparent.  It’s having team members able to say: “I was wrong”,  “I made a mistake”, “You were right”, “I’m sorry”, or “I need help”.  You’re vulnerable when you seek constructive feedback and you make it easy for others (managers, peers, employees) to give it you.
  3. Focusing on How to Communicate – Not communication but the art of communicating.  This is the act and art of conversing with others, whether face-to-face or at meetings.  It means looking at how your email protocol is overused when a discussion is really crucial.  It requires looking at your meeting rhythms; the abundance or over use of ineffective meetings that are a waste of time, then selectively eliminating some.  Most importantly, it’s about recognizing when to pick up the phone or walk down the hall to converse with the other person about a challenge, problem to be solved, decision to be made, giving constructive feedback or managing performance.
  4. Acquiring and Developing A Players – Having a People Process also means you focus on acquiring and developing “A players” in your company.  Jack Welch said it very clearly: “One A player can do the work of three C players”.  His people strategy at GE was very clear:  “Fewer people, paid more, with a lower total wage cost”.  To achieve this, you need to create best practices around conducting a talent review at least twice a year, developing a scorecard for each position with competencies and accountabilities, having a plan for your “C players”, building your “virtual bench”, and coaching and retaining your A players.

No matter how smart your company is or how much heart you have, the need to develop and master task and people process is critical for scaling, growing and succeeding.

Process Equation

The Process Equation: Task – Part 1

While recently working with an incredible start-up, three things occurred to me about this young group of millennials:

  • They are all brilliant and smart – they have “the mind”
  • They are purpose-driven, have passion and focus on stakeholder well being – they have “the heart”
  • They lack process in two critical areas – task and people (the “Process Equation”)

The “Process Equation”, focuses on two critical elements: task and people. It can be developed within your organization.

We recognized that while key business metrics were exploding off the charts, developing a task process would be crucial to sustain the rapid growth and leverage the collective efforts of each leader, manager and employee.

Task Process involves developing these 4 areas:

  1. Prioritizing and focusing the right things – with dozens of priorities and projects and new ones appearing weekly, everything becomes important, creates ambiguity and strains resources.  An organization that is scaling must choose 4 to 5 of the most important priorities it needs accomplish and make them clear to everyone in the company.
  2. Synchronizing and executing – connecting and aligning among members of the leadership team, then through all functional areas of the organization so that everyone is aligned and can describe what is most important to the company this year and this quarter.
  3. Crystal clear metrics – having KPI’s in place and making certain they are understood by all members of the organization.  You must also choose 3 to 4 Critical Numbers (KPI’s on steroids) for the next 90 days.  Everyone in the organization should know how their own tasks and functions impact achieving those Critical Numbers.
  4. Tracking accountability – Individual owners must be identified to be responsible and accountable for project and priority results.  Accountability owners for the top priorities ensure success of priorities and results crossing the finish line.  Owners need to share updates and results of their priority at bi-monthly Executive Team meeting.

No matter how smart your company is or how much heart you have, developing the task and people process is critical for scaling, growing and succeeding.  In my next post, we will explore “The Process Equation: People – Part 2”.

Conflict – So Misunderstood and So Beneficial

Ask anyone in your organization the first thing that comes to mind when they think about “conflict”, and it’s negative.  This is why conflict continues to be one of the most misunderstood concepts in the workplace.

Conflict is the productive exchange of diverse ideas and opinions in a focused, efficient, unfiltered way. Teams must engage in conflict.  Without conflict, decision-making suffers and relationships among team members stagnate.  Worse, if conflict does not surface, it tends to degenerate to mean-spirited, back-channel comments made behind closed doors.

Redefining conflict as passionate debate is necessary to achieve resolution.  Conflict generally arises when two “A Players” have distinctly different points of view over a key emotional issue.  Here’s the challenge: they both think they’re right and guess what, they both can be!  So now what do you do?

The 5 key options around conflict are: avoid it (we both lose); get aggressive (I win-you lose); acquiesce and give in (I lose-you win); compromise (mini win/lose for both of us) or collaborate and resolve (I win-you win).

Teams must learn to collaborate and resolve conflict.  It’s about having the mindset and communication skills to work it out.

To be really good at working through team conflict, here are the 8 things you need to do:

  1. Introduce and acknowledge that the topic is difficult; call out that it’s a conflict.
  2. Watch out for artificial harmony – where people sit in silence and don’t participate.
  3. Have strong facilitation of the team, someone operating like an air traffic controller – controlling and guiding participation.
  4. Get everyone to weigh in – it’s usually only the most emotional, passionate people who speak up.
  5. After a timed discussion, pause to define and articulate the issue clearly.
  6. Brainstorm ideas and possible solutions then write them down.
  7. Come to a decision. This may need to be forced by the leader or facilitator, or the leader may need to take a stand to break the tie.
  8. Don’t strive for consensus – what we call “agree and commit”.  This is fine if you can get it, but strive for “disagree and commit”.  You may not agree but you must totally commit to and support the decision.

 

Learn to Decide Using “Disagree and Commit”

One of the most common dysfunctions on a leadership team occurs when the team leader believes they must achieve consensus for all decisions.  Great teams make timely decisions around direction and priorities and move forward with complete buy-in from every member of the team, avoiding the desire for consensus.

How do you create buy-in for a decision without consensus?  You learn and embrace what it means to “disagree and commit”.

Here’s how it works.  You need to make the distinction between “Agreement” and “Commitment.”  You can feign agreement with artificial smiles, vacant stares (what I call the silent veto), or even outright political phoniness (advocating publicly it’s a great idea while privately despising it).

With commitment, you are all-in and will support the decision to the point where you will champion it even if you initially disagreed.  Your own team of direct reports will see you being supportive.

There are only 3 choices for team decision-making:

  1. Agreement without commitment is compliance or passive/aggressive behavior.  This is a toxic.
  2. Agreement with commitment equals consensus – a wonderful result when you achieve it (which teams will do quite often).
  3. Disagree and commit when you can’t achieve consensus.  It’s okay while discussing the decision to debate, question, challenge or disagree.  This is healthy because adults need to “weigh-in” to “buy-in”.  This option allows for passionate debate but requires, at the end of the day, all team members to be supportive and aligned.

By establishing this practice, you’ll make a huge difference in achieving your goals and will create healthy alignment for the teams you lead.

A leader must remember to manage

A Leader Must Remember to Manage

With so much emphasis on leadership over the last 10 years, critical management responsibilities haven taken a back seat.  Proactivity, flexibility, vision, inspiration, confidence, intuition and optimism are all key characteristics of a great leader that can create a great organization.

Leaders also have the responsibility to manage.

Oftentimes, a leader (especially at higher levels of a company) will forget the role he or she plays as a manager, neglecting the 5 key critical management responsibilities:

  1. Coaching:  Leaders must target and provide stretch opportunities to their direct reports so they can develop into strong A players.
  2. Holding people accountable for their performance and behaviors:  Leaders often say they don’t have time for this, yet it only requires a 30 second direct conversation.
  3. Managing performance:  Stating clear expectations for tasks, results and projects required and taking the time to follow-up on agreed upon expectations.
  4. Giving positive and constructive feedback:  Having the difficult feedback conversation when necessary.
  5. Decision making:  Knowing when to step in to “tell” an individual or team what the answer is (or what to do) rather than gain consensus or allow people to flounder.

Great leadership is required to take companies to new heights.  Leaders must understand (and remember) the importance they play in their role as a manager.

Your Sales Are Great - But Your Business Is Not

Your Sales Are Great – But Your Business Is Not

In working with leaders of companies where top-line revenue is growing between 20 – 50% per year, there’s often a feeling that “we’re in great shape”.  But when you go deeper and look at the low morale, high amounts of stress and drama, mistakes made and poor communication, you can see that companies too often are not prepared to deal with the growth or that maintaining the level of growth is not sustainable.

As a CEO or leader, two critical areas to focus on are your people and your execution.  You have to step back and work with your leadership team and ask (then answer) some very important questions:

About People

  • Do we have the right people in our organization? (and do I have the right people on my leadership team)?
  • Are my managers all “A players?”
  • Would I enthusiastically rehire everyone in my organization?
  • Are we regularly reviewing every six months our talent and going through an “A, B, C Player” Assessment?
  • Are we developing our B players and exiting our C players?
  • Do we have a process for finding and hiring the best people we can?

About Execution

  • Do I have everyone on the same page?
  • Are we all aligned on the priorities – for the company and individuals?
  • Are we focused on the right projects and goals for this quarter?
  • Do we have KPI’s in place to measure our results?
  • Are all processes inside the business running smoothly without drama?
  • Are we having effective meetings and moving communication throughout the organization?

First work with your leadership team to answer these questions.  Then dig deep and begin to create plans for overcoming any deficiencies.

Top-line sales growth can be a blessing, but without the right people and flawless execution, you might start thinking that it’s a curse.

Daily huddle

The Daily Huddle – Instantly Communicate and Execute

Do you hear these things in your company?

  • “I didn’t know you were working on that.”
  • “That’s great news!  Why didn’t you tell me?”
  • “I was working on that too.”
  • “I could have helped if you told me.”
  • “Things are chaotic and moving too fast.”

What if I said you could quickly eliminate issues around communication and execution if you started one new practice a day?  Have a Daily Huddle!  It takes discipline, a leader committed to the process and only 8-10 minutes a day.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Bring your team together at the same time everyday (use an “off” minute to start, such as 8:07am).
  2. Conduct the huddle standing up.
  3. Everyone needs to be prepared to answer:
    – What is one piece of good news from yesterday?
    – What is your most important priority for today?
    – Where are you stuck or need help?
  4. The leader goes around the circle three times, asking one question per round.
  5. No problem-solving or extra discussion (the huddle is for raising problems, not solving them).
  6. Bookmark items to review/discuss after the huddle.

Each leadership team member then conducts a separate huddle with their team (the team they lead). Keep cascading this down in the organization.

By having a Daily Huddle you will:

  • Speed things up in your organization
  • Ensure teamwork
  • Heal relationships

Try it for 30 days.  I’m confident it will become part of your daily practice!

Building a high performing team

5 Steps for Building a High Performing Team

Imagine 2 Organizations…

The first is led by a leadership team whose members:

  • Are open with one another
  • Passionately debate important issues
  • Commit to clear decisions even if they initially disagree
  • Call each other out when their behaviors or performance needs correction
  • Focus their attention on the collective good of the organization

The second is led by a leadership team whose members:

  • Are guarded and less than honest with one another
  • Hold back during difficult conversations
  • Feign commitment
  • Hesitate to call one another on unproductive behaviors
  • Pursue their own agenda rather than those of the greater organization

What steps have you taken to build a higher performing organization where you work?

 

 

What Makes a Winner a Winner?

I had an opportunity today to coach and train a young middle management team at one of my Fortune 100 clients.  It inspired me to ask myself, what are the qualities that leaders need to demonstrate to be a winner?

The topic was helping them develop strong and effective meeting facilitation skills and getting groups to make a decision.  They came in a bit resistant, but within minutes I could see enthusiasm, desire and willingness to not only absorb the material but to connect with it, apply it and see new possibilities for introducing the skills and concepts into their organization.

I was in the company, all day, with “A Players”.

I can’t over emphasize the importance hiring and retaining A players in your organization.  To do this, you must focus on finding talented people who are not only smart and capable but demonstrate the values of leading, commitment, making a difference and of learning. For me, that creates a winner.

what makes a winner a winner?

What Makes a Winner a Winner?

I had an opportunity today to coach and train a young middle management team at one of my Fortune 100 clients.  It inspired me to ask myself, what are the qualities that leaders need to demonstrate to be a winner?

The topic was helping them develop strong and effective meeting facilitation skills and getting groups to make a decision.  They came in a bit resistant, but within minutes I could see enthusiasm, desire and willingness to not only absorb the material but to connect with it, apply it and see new possibilities for introducing the skills and concepts into their organization.

I was in the company, all day, with “A Players”.

I can’t over emphasize the importance hiring and retaining A players in your organization.  To do this, you must focus on finding talented people who are not only smart and capable but demonstrate the values of leading, commitment, making a difference and of learning. For me, that creates a winner.