Tag Archives: Leadership

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.

Not another meeting

Not Another Meeting!

Frequently, leaders, managers and employees tell me (with frustration) how ineffective their meetings are.  It’s become a national, if not global, epidemic!  From lack of focus to poor facilitation, people are wasting millions of hours a year which not only takes an economic toll but an emotional toll as well.

Are ineffective meetings draining company productivity?  Adopt these 4 best practices and watch your meetings go from boring and mundane to compelling and engaging:

  1. Know Your Purpose – Be crystal clear about the purpose of the meeting.  Ask yourself, is this meeting necessary?  If the answer is yes, identify if it is to provide updates (reporting out and information sharing); or to problem-solve and make a decision.  Clients tell me the typical ratio is 80/20 (info sharing to problem solving) where it should be the reverse.
  2. Use An Agenda – Stop fighting it and create an agenda template for every meeting.  Lay out the timing and objectives of each section of the meeting.  Be sure to distribute the agenda 24 hours in advance give people time to prep.
  3. Use Skilled Facilitators – This is a great opportunity to capitalize on the strengths of others on your team!  Be sure to include a scribe, timekeeper and someone who is comfortable intervening when they see challenging behaviors (ranging from dominators to silence).  Having a small cadre of leaders trained to become strong, effective facilitators will bring drastic improvements in your meetings.
  4. Finish Strong – Too often the hour is up and people are abruptly dropping off the call or packing up and running off to their next meeting.  Schedule meetings to end 10 minutes before the hour.  The final 5 minutes should include 3 essential things:
    –  Ask: “What decisions did we make today?”  Agree and write it down.
    –  Complete the “Who-What-When” action register so there is accountability for unfinished items and next steps.
    – Decide what info must be cascaded out of the meeting and to whom.

Meetings don’t have to be nightmares.  They can be incredibly productive for speeding communication; accelerating decisions and healing relationships.  Try following these 4 best practices and I guarantee success!

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!

Having a feedback conversation with a difficult person

Having a Feedback Conversation with a Difficult Person

We’ve all smiled at the phrase “you know, feedback is a gift”.  But the receiver’s defensive reaction(s) can be a significant deterrent, when you are simply trying to be helpful by providing them feedback.  This is especially true if the receiver is someone who typically responds with difficult behaviors such as: interrupting, justifying, arguing, or worse, lashing out with brutal attacks.  They are often unaware (or even in denial) about their behavior.  I refer to these people as B/C Players.

Some leaders of B/C Players will “look the other way” and tolerate these behaviors.

The most common excuses I hear are:  “But they’re so productive and produce results”, or,
I don’t have time to deal with stuff like that”.

I find that B/C Players are usually poison in an organization.  They provide obstacles and make it difficult for A Players to thrive.  Oftentimes, they are poor examples of living the core values.

Leaders MUST deliver the tough feedback message by doing the following 8 things:

  1. Collect examples of behavior through first hand observations and interviews with A Players.
  2. Spend time thinking about how to make your feedback message behavioral (citing the actual behavior).
  3. Schedule a feedback meeting that is formal and structured.
  4. Deliver the feedback directly,  no sugar-coating.
  5. Actively listen to the B/C’s point of view, but don’t waiver from yours.
  6. Be willing to offer coaching.
  7. Get agreement about behavior change and follow up minimally on a monthly basis.
  8. Recognize improvements; stay firm if no improvement.

Leaders have an obligation to the organization and to A Players to deal with difficult people on their teams by having these conversations.

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.