Thursday, September 21, 2017

It's Hard to Breath in a Feedback Vacuum


Hearing feedback can be tough, especially information that we don't like or don't want to believe about ourselves. But those who are willing to face it gain a real opportunity to increase their overall effectiveness, influence and business results. I have had my fair share of days when I have thought that feedback is overrated and I am just fine, thank you very much. But I know that I don't help myself when I shut down data on how my behavior is impacting someone else and taking note of it makes it all the more valuable. And as you will see in this week's article, getting helpful feedback is key to avoiding career derailment, by a big amount.

A Feedback Vacuum 

The world today is filled with ambiguity: the economy, politics, terrorism, Wall Street. With so many factors out of your control, doesn't it make sense for you to ensure you are paying attention to what is in your control? Your own behaviors? What shifts can you make in your behavior to safeguard against possible ego pitfalls that could potentially hurt your career and reputation? What tactics can you employ to sharpen your emotional intelligence (EQ) and reap its proven benefits? It all starts with getting some feedback, especially if you are a leader.

To become a truly excellent formal or informal leader who creates exceptional results, a question that everyone needs to ask themselves from time to time is: "How am I doing as a leader and how do I know I have an accurate answer?" Followed by the all-important question: "How closely does my own opinion of how I'm doing match what my direct reports, my peers, and my boss would say about how I'm doing?" The reality is that your success in leading others requires alignment between your self-perception and your followers' perception. From a leadership standpoint, it's an important distinction. The continuum runs from "plugged in" to "clueless." Where you fall on this scale affects not only your leadership credibility but your effectiveness and ultimately your career.


 What leaders do is always more impactful than what leaders say. And regardless of intent, the message to followers when leaders exempt themselves from the feedback process is clearly, "Do as I say, not as I do" or worse, "I am okay, but you are not." My guess is that most leaders don't mean to make such statements intentionally. Yet when they forgo the feedback-gathering process for themselves, that's exactly what they are doing.

A study of 39,000 global leaders by PDI Ninth House confirms that there is, in fact, a significant correlation between an "inability or unwillingness to see one's own faults" and career stalling or derailment. Those who were identified as "out of touch" with how their direct managers rated them were 629% more likely to "derail"(i.e., performing below the level of expected achievement, being demoted, or even being fired) than those who were in touch with how their direct manager rated them. Stop for a moment and re-read that number...629%! That's a big, career-imploding difference. If that stat doesn't make you stop to consider the importance of syncing up your own assessment of your performance with those around you - to gather and listen to feedback - what will?
  
Much of the time, daily feedback will be delivered to you in vague terms, tied to business issues, or masked within frivolous praise so as not to hurt your feelings, or, more often, so as not to have to deal with your reaction. So you'll need to listen for the cues and really observe what people are trying to communicate to you. If someone looks uncomfortable or hesitant while telling you something, a little red flag should pop up, encouraging you to tune in and ask more. You can also look for common themes among statements by your team members and use these as valuable clues on where your people may need you to adjust.

Feedback provides you with valuable input for how to ramp up your EQ in several key areas:

  • Recognize your own impulses before acting on them (self-awareness)
  • Relate better to others, meeting their needs when appropriate (empathy)
  • Moderate your own behavior (self-control) to avoid unproductive interactions and responses
While the ego tells us that a lack of constructive feedback is a sign that we are doing "great," EQ reminds us to stay grounded in what's true by soliciting feedback from others and using that feedback to create a more complete picture of our performance. A healthy dose of regular feedback from others can help to keep the ego in check and allow the benefits of EQ to flow. Remember that ego and EQ are mutually exclusive: you must make a conscious and daily choice about which one will dominate your conduct each day.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Great Divide: Our Inter-Generational Workplace


I remember watching the Superbowl one year with my daughter Annie. At the time she was 7-years-old, and after a few minutes she said to me, "They are just playing for fun, right?" and I said, "No, they are playing for real. They want to win." And she said, "But it's just a game so it doesn't matter who wins, right?" She was a soccer player on our town's recreational team, her team didn't keep score and everyone received a trophy at the end of the season; thus she thought all games were played that way.

This is a common mindset that we see in the generation who will be replacing the Baby Boomers. They are called Gen Y, Millenials or Trophy Kids.  The “everyone wins” philosophy poses some challenges in terms of how to best integrate younger talent with colleagues of other generations who see things very differently. 
Managing an Inter-Generational Workforce

We live during a unique time in workplace history. Walk into any business, and you might find three - sometimes four - generations working side by side: Millenials (born 1980-2000, also called Gen Y), Generation X (1965-1979), Baby Boomers (1943-1964), and Veterans or Silent Generation(pre-1942).

Research indicates that the generation in which an individual grew up influences his or her behaviors, motivators, expectations, and mindset about work. Consider the following vastly different factors.


And between generations, the outcome of those influences on an individual's work may be very different!

So how do you handle these differences in the workplace?

  • Focus on different benefits and aspects of the company in recruiting. When recruiting Boomers, focus on the company benefits and career paths. For Gen Xers focus on short term perks like gym memberships, flex time, monthly or quarterly bonuses, and cash incentives. Millenials care about the organization's commitment to being green, social networks available, community service opportunities, and the various places in the company in which they can work and learn.
  • Use a slightly different coaching approach for each generation. Offer formal training programs (including topics like flexibility, technology, and interpersonal skills) for Boomers. When coaching Gen Xers, discuss development ideas as peers, and then give them independence and empowerment to try new things. When coaching Millenials, allow them to work in teams, and give them specific and timely feedback on their performance.
  • Understand that different generations are motivated by different rewards. When possible, tailor your rewards to the individual who will receive it. For example, a Baby Boomer may prefer a small bonus or gift card, while a Millenial prefers an email thank you with a new, challenging assignment.
Remember that all employees, despite their generation, want to be treated fairly, managed with respect, and given an opportunity to grow.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Month in a Minute


School is back in session. The Fall routine starts again and we are heading into the last 100 days of the year. For those in Texas, Louisiana and now Florida, there has likely been a lot of business and personal life disruption. If you have been affected, keep that stress tolerance and optimism high and I wish you a speedy return to normalcy. For the rest of us, it’s time to decide what needs to be accomplished before we sing Auld Lang Syne to 2017. If I may make a suggestion, one of your year-end goals should be personal development. Pick a book to read. Attend a webinar. Listen to a podcast. Take an assessment. If your company offers free workshops or pays for you to attend offsite ones, do it. Never pass up an opportunity to invest in yourself.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Taking Stock: Leadership Credibility



This week's blog will help you take a good hard look in the performance mirror and take steps toward becoming the kind of leader people remember....in a good way. What are your leadership goals and challenges? Where should you focus your development? Where are your blind spots?

Finding the answers to these weighty questions must begin with self-examination but then be tested by seeking outside perspective - discovering who we are in the eyes of others. Let your employees hold up the mirror and you may be surprised by what you see. Blind spots are our stumbling blocks, our bad habits that hold us back from being the kind of leader we aspire to be. Resolve to take a risk and learn how to lead from the ones who matter most – those following you.

There are many ways to help your employees open up and share their insight, some more formal like employee surveys, and some informal like an end-of-year leadership performance review. Yes, you read right, it's time to give your employee's a turn to review your performance and provide written and verbal feedback on your key leadership competencies.

Consider the following behaviors that crush leadership credibility and employee motivation (trends uncovered through employee focus groups and surveys across industries and levels):

Lack of direct feedback - Telling others about the person or saying nothing at all.
Common employee complaint: “You can tell they are unhappy with me but won’t talk to me directly about it”

Solitary decision making - Making decisions that impact others without soliciting their feedback.
Common employee complaint: “This directly affected my job but they didn’t think it was important enough to ask me what I think”

Talking out of both sides of your mouth - Being hypocritical, contradictory or overly political.
Common employee complaint: “Mixed messages”

Forgetfulness - Forgetting conversations and instructions given. Poor listening skills. Common employee complaint: “I have to take notes just to be sure I can prove later we had this conversation”

Unpredictable/Reactive - Crisis mentality, often adopting the reactions of others. 
Common employee complaint: “We’re headed one direction today, we’ll be headed the opposite direction tomorrow”

Fairweather boss - A fan one minute, a critic the next.
Common employee complaint: “You have their support until it becomes unpopular”

Unrealistic or assumed expectations - Expecting others to possess the same work ethic or assuming unspoken expectations will be met.
Common employee complaint: “I failed at something I didn’t even know I was being evaluated on and never got the chance to discuss it”

Not understanding their employee’s jobs - Assuming credibility can be earned without understanding the inner workings of the team.
Common employee complaint: “If they had any idea what we do they would make better decisions instead of making our jobs harder”

Breaking promises/poor follow through - Unreliability in all its ugly incarnations. Common employee complaint: “They hold us accountable but when it comes to them there are always exceptions and excuses”

Leadership behaviors that build credibility and employee motivation:


         Getting your hands dirty; working WITH them

         Assuming the best and delaying judgment

         Reliability in word and deed

         Soliciting their input in brainstorming and problem solving

         Challenging them to think outside their job description

         Taking a genuine interest in employees as individuals

         Delegating learning opportunities, not just problems

         Laughing at yourself and fessing up when you blow it

         Encouraging creativity

         Giving others the freedom to “fail forward”

         Operating from a hope of success rather than a fear of failure

         Asking “how am I doing?”

You can make great strides toward becoming the kind of leader you most admire. The first step is moving out of your comfort zone and asking for feedback on how others see you modeling these behaviors. Learning about how others perceive you will reveal ways you can be more effective and is surprisingly liberating.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

10 Conflict Management Strategies


This week’s blog gives some tips on dealing with the natural tensions and differences of opinion that arise when you put hard truths on the table. The days of harmony for harmony's sake are over - keep it authentic and keep it real.  At some point in every relationship - because we're human - we will experience conflict.

Conflict, in and of itself, is neither positive nor negative. Simply put, conflict occurs when two or more differing opinions or values meet. How we deal with the conflict is what affects our relationships and leaves us with a positive or negative experience.

So how do you deal with conflict that arises? Here are 10 pointers to consider the next time you find yourself in conflict.

1. Step back and define the root issue. Some conflicts may be ignited by a work task, but the real issue usually lies deeper. Perhaps an employee feels undervalued or micro-managed. If you never address the root issue, the conflict will continue to surface.

2. When seeking a conflict resolution be sure to include in your discussion the underlying issues (each person's goals, interests, and fears).

3. Choose the setting for a conflict conversation in advance and prepare discussion points beforehand; someplace neutral, quiet and private. 

4. Beware of the overuse of an "Accommodate" (go along to get along) or "Compete" (my way or no way) conflict response. Both have several disadvantages and can do serious damage to either the relationship or your credibility. Sometimes they are appropriate but proceed with caution. 

5. If possible, break down the conflict into multiple parts. Some pieces may be easier to resolve than others, so get those out of the way before tackling the more controversial issues.

6. As Dr. Phil says, "Somebody needs to be the hero." Sometimes the issue can be resolved in more than one "right" approach. If you're in a deadlock over two possible approaches, be the hero by doing what it takes to move forward, even if that means a little blow to the ego.

7. Choose your battles. Not every battle is worth fighting, so best to use this strategy when the relationship is more important to you than the issue.

8. Admit when you're wrong. The goal is not to prove who is right or wrong, but to move the team forward. If you realize that you were wrong, admit it quickly so everyone can spend time on the solution rather than trying to decide who's to blame.

9. Focus on moving forward: make mutual commitments, request collaboration and schedule a time to follow up with each other and do a progress report.

10.
Remember you're on the same team. At the end of the day, everyone wants the company to be successful and profitable. Approach conflict from this viewpoint: you're working together to resolve a problem, not against each other to prove who wins.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Promises to Keep


Promise yourself to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person you meet.
To make all of your friends feel that there is something special in them.
To look at the sunny side of everything, and to make your optimism come true.
To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievement of the future.
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.
To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear...and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

Christian D. Larson

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Emotionally Intelligent Team



The Emotionally Intelligent Team

Have you had that nagging feeling that something is missing on your team keeping you from achieving breakthrough results or keeping you in a chronic conflict cycle? Many leaders have sensed this and found the solution in what experts are calling the #1 predictor of life success: Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is a set of skills demonstrating the ability one has to recognize his or her behaviors, moods and impulses and to effectively manage them according to the situation or person they are dealing with. EQ is the demonstration of Sensibility

Someone with high EQ can manage their own impulses, can communicate with others effectively, can manage change well, is a good problem solver, uses humor to build rapport, has empathy and remains optimistic even in the face of difficulty.

These people can emotionally and mentally plug into others and can read the situation at hand and behave accordingly to get the best results for everyone.
 
To find out if EQ is missing from your team, take this short quiz: 

· Is there often a breakdown in team communication?
· Do you observe symptoms of low-stress tolerance?
· Do one or more of your team members struggle with or resist change - large or small?
· Are you needed to mediate conflict on a regular basis?
· Has pessimism taken over the work environment?
· Do team members say or do the wrong things at the wrong time? 

If you answered yes to more than two of these questions, it is worth your time to explore Emotional Intelligence. There are several case studies of how increasing EQ in a work group results in higher productivity and lower turnover (among other things). To begin, take a baseline of your team's EQ through observation, interaction, and assessment.

EQ is applicable to all types of teams: executive teams, project management teams, sales teams, cross-functional teams, manufacturing teams. In fact, 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 listening to performance feedback; open communication; setting expectations and confronting low performing team members.
Of course, with all development, it has to start with Self-Awareness. The team must be aware of its strengths and deficits. Here are some tips for developing a Self-Aware team:

1. Assign an observer for the next team meeting. That person should not participate, only observe and document. They should record when team members interrupt each other, when team members are non-participative, if the meeting starts and ends on time, team member body language, if the team stayed on agenda, etc. Have them share the observations at the end of the meeting. 

2. Use a facilitator to put the team through a business simulation activity. Team patterns of behavior will naturally emerge and become observable in new ways to the team members. 

3. Identify team members who have an "it will never work" mentality and offer some coaching for their verbal and nonverbal responses to new information.

4. Conduct an Emotional Intelligence assessment for the team members with a group roll up report. This can identify individual areas for development, and common areas of weakness that would be best addressed during a team intervention.

5. Don't avoid conflict to keep the peace. Vigorous discussion is healthy for a team, especially when attitudes and feelings are addressed, not just tasks and action items. 

6. If you are the team leader, you set the tone. If you are not role modeling Emotional Intelligence it will be impossible to expect it from the members. There are several resources available to you, just ask us for some suggestions.    

Emotional Intelligence is comprised of skills that can be learned, so identifying the areas for opportunity can result in tremendous R-O-I.