Thursday, January 19, 2017

Motivation Matching


How is it that a person who came highly recommended as a star performer in their previous company joins your team only to lose their spark and fizzle out? Why does someone who has been an average performer one place move positions or change bosses and reach surprising levels of success? This week’s blog offers some insight into this puzzling performance dynamic and how motivation matching can help you bring out the best in your employees....before someone else does.


Performance Factors

From years of working with clients on both sides of this story, we’ve found that the cause for this perplexing change in performance frequently boils down to an incompatibility between the values of the individual and the values of their leadership. For example, all salespeople are motivated by money - right? And everyone loves to be recognized in front of an audience - right? Tell that to the employee who would rather under-perform than risk having to endure public recognition again. Recognition that doesn't match the values of the person being recognized can backfire or have little to no effect at all. Leaders often overlook the importance of identifying the unique motivational needs of each employee in order to assess if their organization, as well as their personal leadership style, has what it takes to fulfill them – a process we call motivation matching.

How does one motivate someone else? In order to answer that question, you need to consider all of the factors that influence someone’s drive to achieve. Exceptional performance is the alignment of skills, passion, feedback, management style, measurement, rewards and culture. We each have a unique pass-code that unlocks our inspiration, potential, and desire to achieve. Before assuming your employee “just isn’t motivated”, consider these questions to determine if it may instead be a result of a motivation mismatch:
  • What skills do they possess that give THEM the most satisfaction?
  • How is their job drawing upon their strengths AND interests?
  • What rewards do they respond to best?
  • What kind of feedback (written, oral, public, private, broad, detailed) and at what frequency do they need?
  • What management style brings out the best in them?
  • What message does our company’s culture send about performance?

Start by making an educated guess and then test your knowledge by sitting down with your employees to ask them these questions. True motivation matching must include both observation and validation. Without it, it's merely assumption and leaves you with the burden of trying to hit a target you can't see. Let them tell you how to bring out the best in them.


Motivation matching requires a realistic assessment of the strengths and limitations of your organization and yourself, the insight to better understand your employee, the willingness to make adjustments that bring out the best in them, and the courage to admit when you can't offer what they need and releasing them to find it. As involved as that may sound, it is painless compared to the hours wasted struggling to solve performance problems or wondering who went wrong – you or them?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Leadership and Delegation


A global survey conducted by the Association of Executive Search Consultants involving 1,311 senior executives found that 46% of respondents felt their work/life balance has changed over the last 5 years...for the worse.

Are you, and your leaders overworked?

It is no surprise that technology is a leading culprit in leadership exhaustion. Smart phones keep us on call 24/7 and email seems to multiply overnight. Leaders are asked to accomplish more in less uninterrupted time. So what to do? Delegation is key. Consider delegation as a win-win opportunity; you provide yourself some much needed time to concentrate on your primary objectives while offering someone else an opportunity to stretch into new areas.




Leaders can hand off more to direct reports but often do not because of the perceived time investment. How much time would be saved in the long run by having a well-rounded team ready to step up to the plate when you need them? The next time you're tempted to come in early or stay late, ask yourself, "who has the attitude and aptitude to take this on?" If you can't come up with an answer, you may want to take another look at our previous Performance Pointer on Interviewing and Selection. As leaders, we need the right players in the dugout.

Are you delegating enough?

Consider how much time you are spending on tactical, non-strategic tasks. How much time would you free up by not doing work that could be given to someone else to complete? Are you allowing your staff to delegate up?


It may be time to give up or give back duties that consume your valuable time and leave you further from your goals. Prioritize your work week to spend the most time on activities that produce the greatest impact and leverage your special strengths. Approach delegation as a development opportunity for both parties; you will learn to let go and improve your ability to prioritize and they will get to take on new challenges and acquire new skills. In the end, were you really hired for quantity of work or quality of work? It may be time to rethink that to-do list.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Are You Listening?


Great leaders are great communicators, and great communicators are great listeners. 

Are You Listening?

"I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."
- Robert McCloskey

If you've ever found yourself shaking your head and saying "They just don't get it." and "I may as well be talking to a wall." Then it might be time to take a look at your own listening skills.

"Listening?" you respond, "THEY'RE the ones not LISTENING." Really? If you're the boss or if you have a specific agenda that you want understood, who should be the better listener? 

Miscommunication is often the product of the unconscious assumption that others have the same experience and understanding as you do. In most cases, that's just not true. Each of us has unique experience, cultural background, education, motivation, desires and needs. You and your partner may both speak English (which, as a second language, presents another layer of challenge), but each word is colored by your specific work and life contexts.

Leaders, managers and anyone who needs to influence (especially without authority) has a coaching role, and coaching requires deep listening skills, often called "committed listening" skills. Committed listening is listening to understand others' needs and desires with the goal of putting yourself into their frame of reference. Listening should make others feel that someone understands them - a deep human need and one of the foundations of trust.

Most of us have average listening skills. We have our preoccupations and agendas and we get caught up in our own feelings and - yes - we take things personally. Why, then, should you ASSUME a common language, let alone common motivations and goals?

There are plenty of barriers to committed listening:

  • Preparing to respond instead of listening without judging
  • Zoning out when others speak, one-on- one and in meetings
  • Interrupting others when they speak
  • "Knowing" what you want to hear
  • "Knowing" what you're going to hear
  • Assuming what is meant without asking or confirming
  • Listening for confirmation rather than information


By listening closely to others you'll discover that beliefs and assumptions are present in everything we humans say and do. If you can hear them, you can address them. For example, how would you interpret the following statement in a team meeting?

"The problem is that we can't move forward until leadership makes a decision about our next step."

Some possible translations are:

  • The team has no power to move forward.
  • If management doesn't see what we're doing as urgent, then why should I?
  • It is not our job to set direction.


There are many other interpretations, and every one needs confirmation, but there is much more information here than is evident from the words alone. How would you react? Here are some suggestions:

1) Ask questions without challenging, for example:

  • What can we act on right now?
  • What's the best decision that we can make? 


2) Ask questions that illicit governing values, such as:

  • What if we went with the best information we have now? Could we be effective?
  • What's the worst that could happen if we get it wrong?


3) Suspend judgment, without agreeing or disagreeing:

  • What is the team's decision-making role?
  • How would you handle it?
  • What information does the leadership have that we don't?


Notice, you're not giving advice or direction. By asking questions you coach others to think clearly through unresolved issues and to discover the solutions they have inside of them already. You also encourage accountability. Giving advice removes accountability and places it on the adviser.

How can you be a better listener?

  • Commit to improve your listening skills and to take responsibility for full and clear communication in every interaction from now on.
  • "Voice echo" to yourself what you hear as you hear it without judging.
  • At the end of each conversation, take a moment to tell your partner you appreciate what they said and then reflect it back, with the goal that the partner corrects your report until they agree that you understand.
  • Don't be offended or discouraged by feedback that says "You just don't get it." Most people don't communicate well. Allow for that and ask clarifying questions until you DO get it.
  • Keep a listening journal, noting when you do a good job of listening, and when it goes wrong, why and what you'll do differently next time.
  • Look for patterns that derail you, like particular people or topics that don't interest you.

  • Enlist someone you trust to offer support. Call on them if you find yourself stuck or unable to overcome distractions or break inattentive patterns.
Answer the questions:

1) When did I listen attentively? How can I tell?
2) When did I stop listening to the meeting or conversation?
3) What distracted me from listening to the conversation or meeting?


As Stephen Covey said in the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood." Be the one who opens the truly collaborative dialog and watch your influence grow with your effectiveness.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Interviewing and Selection: The Invisible Cost

What does it say about us as leaders when we have reoccurring turnover? The loss of respect, credibility and trust can be the most damaging long term effects of turnover.

The Invisible Costs

As a strategic business leader, selecting and retaining good employees is a key skill that must be learned. And that is the good news! It can be learned. There is a wealth of resources available to today’s candidates, yet most interviewers are not up- to-date on latest trends. As you are looking to continually develop your professional skills, don't overlook the importance of keeping your interviewing skills current. Candidates today are savvy and well trained, can we say the same?

We all know the pain of a bad hire. Often our focus is on the hard costs of turnover, expenses such as advertising, training, equipment, and payroll. While these are significant, they can distract us from the intangible consequences of lost human capital; the “invisible costs”, those which can be felt and observed but not measured.

Every time an employee walks away, it slowly chips away at our leadership credibility. This “revolving door” may be the result of hiring mistakes or even the loss of star employees fed up with working with those mistakes. Our team trusts us to select and retain the right people to work alongside them. They rely on us to make the decisions they cannot, choosing people who will enrich instead of erode team morale.

Customers also take notice of office instability and wonder about our inability to keep an intact team. Our competitors get wind of yet another lost employee and see opportunity in the weakening of our workforce. Both active and passive candidates observe the same open positions and wonder why people don’t stay.


We ourselves may even begin to question our abilities or feel defeated, seeing hiring as nothing more than a crapshoot. Often, the deck is stacked against us from the start. How often are we given the responsibility to interview and hire but no resources to learn how? But there IS hope! Great interviewers are made, not born. Interviewing is a learned skill set, requiring practice and precision. By seeking out resources to increase your hiring effectiveness you can replace the "invisible costs" with visible results.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Trust Thing

It’s been said that trust is like money: it's tough to get and easy to lose. But what does trust look like and how can you tell if there’s trust within your leadership, your team and your organization? It’s much easier to discern its absence than its presence. When trust is low, morale and profits follow. Other telltale signs are higher turnover, an overactive rumor mill, less innovation and risk taking, followed by lost customers. By contrast, high trust pays. Watson Wyatt Worldwide found that companies with trusted top executives posted shareholder returns 42 percentage points higher than those where distrust was the rule.


Sadly, trust in leadership is not the rule. According to Aon’s Loyalty Institute, less than half of employees trust their organizations leaders overall. The challenge can be easier to address once it is defined. One definition of trust is: “a positive expectation that another will not act opportunistically.” Another is: “Confidence in and reliance on good qualities, especially fairness, truth, honor or ability.” Trust requires a mutual understanding and expectation of values, roles and behavior. Can you say with certainty that you and your team share the same expectation of your role in their immediate work life and career? Building trust means looking for what you may not want to see and finding what you may not want to know. Can you really afford not to?

What can you do to rebuild lost trust with teams or customers?

● Seek feedback: Leaders are often baffled by the lack of trust in their organizations. Multirater feedback instruments, such as a validated 360 degree assessment, can offer a reliable window into areas for improvement.
● Zero in on the issue: Is it personal mistrust, such as lost credibility, reliability or overindulged self-interest, or organizational mistrust, caused by unfulfilled promises, organizational misalignment or the unintended effects of rapid change?
● Acknowledge and plan: Once identified, openly acknowledge the specific issues and create a plan to close trust gaps.
● Raise the bar and follow-through: Whatever the initial issue, repair comes over time with overt and consistent behavior. Create higher expectations for trustworthy behavior and follow through.
● Watch it: Monitor the effort closely, repeating assessments within six months.

Trust is priceless and can even be a competitive advantage. Don’t assume you deserve it. As in all things, be deliberate about earning and maintaining organizational and personal trust.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Meeting of Minds(and Emotions)



Managers achieve results through people. Strategies, goals, service and innovation all depend on a team’s ability to envision a common outcome and make it happen. According to Robert Kelley of Carnegie-Mellon University, there is no choice-we need each other. Since 1986 Kelley has asked workers from many industries: “What percentage of the knowledge you need to do your job is stored in your own mind?” In his book, How to Be a Star at Work, he reports that at first the answer was typically 75 percent, but by 1997 it was between 15 percent and 20 percent.

The most common unit of collaboration is, of course, meetings. A recent business-school review of meeting research over several decades found that managers spend as much as 80 percent of their day meeting. While many believe much, if not all, meeting time is wasted, it is how management’s work gets done. What’s more, data suggest that using your Emotional Intelligence (EQ to distinguish it from IQ) contributes to meeting and team success.

A study of sixty work teams found the single most important dimension of success, was how members interacted with each other and with those outside the team. Another found that emotional competencies distinguished “star teams” from the others studied, based on objective performance data. Among those competencies were: flexibility in how they addressed tasks; unified effort; learning to improve by listing to performance feedback; open communication; setting expectations and confronting low performing team members. The good news is that these skills can be learned and applied quickly to improve the quality of collaborative work.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Month in a Minute


Steve and I with Lindsay Mattes at SLC SHRM, Steve and I with Dennis Pratt at Alkermes in Waltham MA, with Mike Kleis and Katie Douglas at Iowa CEO Conference in Des Moines, Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, AICPA Conference in Boston, Steve and I with Amy Blackmore at Moorings Park in Naples FL
I am having a hard time believing it is December already, are you? It seems summer was just a month ago and here we are with the new year less than 30 days from now. The year started out pretty quiet in our business, but it has picked up so much steam we have been traveling almost every week since Labor Day. I am incredibly grateful for the business and love being out with clients and seeing the country, but I am exhausted with the extra travel combined with being a single mom, visiting a boyfriend who lives 3,000 miles away every chance I get, and did I mention, I just finished my 2nd book? As a result of fatigue and stress, I have a bad habit of forgetting things. Not things like names or directions: I forget items. It is my warning system that I am overtired or brain dead. As a result, in the last 30-days I have left my laptop in a restaurant, my sunglasses at the movies, my jacket at a hotel, and if you happen to be flying Delta and find a blue iPod in the seat pocket, it’s mine.