Tag Archives: commitment

Flexing to Your Impatient Boss

Building trust with your impatient boss may be challenging and stressful at times, but if you know how to communicate with them by being direct, concise, and bottom-lined, you can build trust, showcase your competence in delivering the results, and grow a fruitful and successful relationship with them.

When your boss is an “A-Type” personality demanding more and more from you and your team, keeping up and satisfying them can be a challenge.  Most impatient bosses are not suffering from some chronic character flaw.  More often than not, they just have a particular communication style that likes things at a high level, without too much detail, and a focus on cutting to the chase.  And for the record, that describes a lot of bosses.  C-level executives, and especially CEO’s are often wired this way.

Not everybody likes to give and get information the same way.  A lot of bosses, and especially those that seem impatient, want you to be brief and to the point without much emotion.  If you give this boss the bottom line, big picture view first to gain their buy-in, you’ve got a good shot at winning them over to hearing your other points.  But if you are someone who naturally gravitates towards process- driven, detailed communication, and you give the boss point a, then point b, then point c, slowly and incrementally building to point z, you are absolutely going to make their head explode. Add emotion and drama and it’s even more deadly.

Let’s say you wanted to give your boss a presentation on 10 recommendations you have for increasing the customer experience on the company website.  Here’s an approach that would be deadly:

“Recommendation number 1 is we revamp our sales funnel to take a consultative approach to the sales process.  I suggest creating three distinct sales funnels that are based upon the customers’ skill level: straight to the shopping cart for professionals and a question/answer for novices.  Recommendation number 2 is we increase our testing and monitoring.  We can do this by hosting user-testing days that let us observe our website users live and listen to them narrate their experience so we know where people are having trouble and what their opinions are about the site.  Recommendation number 3 is to employ customer service surveys and have constant communication between our customer service department and our tech team…”

I’m going to stop there because my head is already exploding and we are only on recommendation #3.

So this isn’t about how you like to communicate or how you’d like to have it communicated to you. It’s about how the boss wants to be communicated and FLEXING to you boss’ communication style. That means adjusting your style to reduce the tension and make your boss more receptive.   What you want to do is get right to the endpoint, cut to the chase and say:

“I have 10 recommendations for improving customer experience on our website. #1: take a consultative approach, #2: test and monitor, #3: customer surveys, #4: educate consumers, #5: interview users, #6: optimize language capabilities, #7: track what’s hot, #8: implement responsive web design, #9: determine calls to action and #10: make it more social.  Please tell me which of these 10 things you want to hear more about?”

Here, the seemingly–impatient boss gets to pick and choose the recommendations they want to explore.  So instead of eye-rolls,  finger drumming and other impatient behaviors, you’re going to hear, “Number 3 sounds really interesting.  Tell me more about that.”  Now you’ll get a chance to go back and give your detail while the boss listens.

Flexing to your boss using this direct, concise, and brief style puts an end to impatient behavior, builds the boss’s trust in you, showcases your competence in delivering the results the boss wants, and allows you to grow a fruitful and successful relationship with the boss.

 

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.

The Value of Involving Your Managers in Creating Your Planning and Execution Strategy

When setting out to develop a strategic plan as part of the annual planning process, it’s crucial for leaders to understand the difference between Strategic Thinking and Execution Planning.

Strategic thinking is done by the leadership team, engaging in discussions defining the companies core ideologies (values and purpose): core customer, brand promise; Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) and the 3-5 year targets / winning moves.

Execution planning is about the short-term – what happens within the 12 months, and more specifically, the next quarter (or 13-week period).  This involves creating the quarterly goals (rocks).

While both of these functions must include the organization’s leadership team, outstanding results occur when the next level of managers are brought into the execution planning process.

A recent 2-day Annual Planning offsite proved to create outstanding momentum for one of my clients.  On the first day, the leadership team focused on strategic thinking.  We reviewed the rocks from the previous year and quarter, then developed targets, priorities and critical numbers for the next year and upcoming quarter.

The second day, next level of managers joined the leadership team and developed the details of the 1-year and quarterly priorities.  Blended sub-groups worked at flip charts outlining the detailed tasks that needed to occur over the next 13-weeks.  Cross-functional “Rock Teams” were formed with members from different functional areas joining together to plan out the tasks and activities that needed to occur for each of the four new company rocks that were created for the quarter.

The effect of this effort created five (5) powerful outcomes:

  1. The company developed a strong execution plan for Q1.
  2. The next level of managers felt significant, respected and included.
  3. Some new hi-potential managers stood out to the delight of the leadership team.
  4. Action plans were created for communicating to the next (third) level in the organization.
  5. Accountability and alignment were crystal clear and the company was energized.

Leaders must set the course with strategic thinking, but true wonders occur when their managers are involved in the execution planning process.

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.

Never Stop Learning

Never Stop Learning

The last four days, I had the privilege of attending the 2015 Fortune Magazine/Gazelles Growth Summit, in Dallas, Texas.

Four days with my fellow Gazelles coaches and presentations by some of the greatest business thought leaders (and authors) of our day:  Ron Kaufman on Uplifting Service, Adele Revella on Buyer Persona, Andrew Davis on Brandscaping, John Mullins on The Customer-Funded Business, Jeff Sutherland on Scrum, David Rendall on The Freak Factor, and Verne Harnish on Scaling Up.

We shared ideas, debated issues and sharpened our saws.

This session impacted my entire being – brain, heart, soul and spirit.  At the core is the love of learning.  I want to continue learning.  To not learn means I stop growing, expanding and changing and I start dying (little by little each day).

I want you to keep learning about whatever it is that you love, whatever it is you are passionate about.  Read books, magazines, blogs and articles.  Watch videos, YouTube and webinars.  Listen to podcasts and audiobooks or any other way you like to learn.

You will become smarter and discover new parts of yourself, plus you will impact and inspire others – your family, friends, teams, colleagues and associates.  And there is no greater gift that you can give.

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.