Thursday, October 19, 2017

Man Up

I don't know how it has happened exactly, but there seems to be an epidemic of employees who are lacking in personal accountability. I have observed it myself, and hear a lot of excuses when I ask someone why they didn't take control of their own actions. When talking with leaders, they say that finding employees who take responsibility for their behaviors or those of their team is getting harder and harder to find. So, where did accountability go and how do we increase it? First, as leaders, we must role model it, and second, we must hold people to their word. It takes some courage and persistence but remains a worthwhile focus area. Here are a few tips to assist you in your efforts.

Man Up

There is a dynamic going on in the workplace today: a shortage of people willing to step up and own their behaviors. The way it plays out is in employee's who blame others for their failures, get defensive, deflect responsibility or claim ignorance. There is a link between Self-Awareness and being accountable for our behavior. It requires self-reflection, and it requires seeing ourselves from another point of view. It requires manning up to apologize, even if not for the content of your message but for how you botched its delivery. Self-awareness helps you sense when your behavior is being disruptive and making efforts to remove yourself or use your self-control to minimize the negative impact on others.

To Increase Accountability:

  • Be a leader, role model for your team how to say, "I had no intention of misleading you, I don't think I was clear with my expectations and I am sorry it created confusion for you."
  • Stop telling people how to accomplish tasks: if they are simply carrying out your directives, it makes it impossible for them to take any ownership of its outcome or for you to hold them accountable to it.
  • Be self-deprecating.  Don't take yourself so seriously that you get defensive when given feedback. Be able to laugh at your own mistakes, especially in front of your team.
  • Any time you end up in a conflict or a difficult confrontation, really consider the part you played in it. Almost always, people's bad behavior is the reaction to something you have done (usually unintentionally). So reflect on what you did to get such a reaction from them, and own up to it with them and apologize.
  • Watch the blame game. No one wants to work with someone who is always pointing fingers at others as an explanation for their own failure. Do people let us down? Yes. Does workload sometimes feel unfair? Yes. Deal with it.

Should you apply some of these suggestions, you hold the power to change the behavior in your entire team by doing so.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

5 Ways to Be More Resilient at Work

Resilient employees adjust to unexpected change. They also remain positive after a setback. They can make the best of a situation without any special accommodation or drama. In short – they make a dream employee. This week’s blog provides 5 tips on how you can be one too.

Resilience is becoming a critical competency for employees at all levels to demonstrate. It can be seen as strength, stamina, grit, endurance, recovery, growth and hope. It is something that comes from deep within us, but it also can be enhanced and learned as you increase your EQ. Not only does being resilient help you if you are faced with a crisis, it also helps you better navigate day-to-day stress and build more risk tolerance and self-confidence.
  • Ask for stretch assignments.  How long has it been since you have taken on something new and challenging? Instead of adding more volume of the same work to your plate, ask for something that you’ve never done before. By volunteering for something small you can ease yourself in and grow the deliverables from there. You can also suggest things that you know you will be suited for or have an interest in.
  • React to new information as an optimist. Instead of allowing your first reaction to unexpected news to be negative, find ways to see the positive in change. What could you learn? How can this make your organization more competitive, thus giving you job security or new opportunities?
  • Get yourself engaged in your work. According to Gallup, over 60% of US employees are not engaged in the workplace which means they are coasting through the day without putting in extra effort or energy. Who is responsible for your engagement? YOU are. Reflect on why you might be lagging, identify what you need to do to re-engage and start a conversation with your manager. They will be happy to work with you; they want you to be engaged.
  • Build a support network.  Resilient people rely on others for help when they need it. Network both inside and outside your organization so you have colleagues who can provide advice, assistance or influence others on your behalf. Like everything, you get out of the network what you put into it, so be generous with them and they will be there when you need them.
  • Keep your perspective. Minimize the drama. Avoid gossip. Don’t worry about things that haven’t happened yet. All aspects of our work and home life have ups and downs. Hang in there with a smile and trust that nature seeks equilibrium. Don’t pass up opportunities because “the timing isn’t right.”
Resilient employees report 4 times higher job satisfaction. Building resilience doesn’t require psychotherapy (although that might not hurt!) but it does require mindful awareness and a willingness to leave the comfort zone behind. Small but consistent actions pay off in a big way! So, what are you waiting for?  

Thursday, September 28, 2017

I Call It Like I See It

I was working with a client a few weeks ago and heard him say, "I just call it like I see it..." in response to being called insensitive after giving some brutally honest feedback to a coworker.

Think about that statement: "I" call it like "I" see it. You can call it like you think it is but it still remains your perception, not someone else's reality. Honest feedback is important but the way it gets delivered makes all the difference in the world. It is easy to think that it is only about getting results from people. Why should you care about hurt feelings? You should care because your goal when giving feedback should be to get better results by changing someone else's behavior. You cannot do that until you change your own behavior first. 

This week we explore the EQ skill of Empathy. Empathy by definition is "identification with or vicarious experiencing of, the feelings or thoughts of another person" but in the context of Emotional Intelligence, it is deeper than that. It is about reading the emotional needs of someone else; fully connecting with them to understand how they think and prefer to communicate. 

Empathy is not sympathy, and it is not always agreeing with someone else's preferences. Empathy requires us to frame our message differently based on who we are with, and more importantly being able to recognize that the way the message is delivered can be more important than the message itself. We use Empathy when we select the most appropriate means of communication (email, phone, text, in person). Low Empathy sounds like: "I don't text so I am not doing that" and we expect others to adjust to us and what we are comfortable with. Low Empathy also sounds like: "the truth hurts" and "it's not personal, it's business." 

Exceptional leaders understand that people are the most motivated when they receive fair, clear, and respectful performance feedback. For those who just want employees to come in and check their feelings at the door, must remember that employees bring their head AND their heart to work - it's a package deal.  But here is a little secret - you can show Empathy even if you don't feel Empathy.

Here are some suggestions:

1. If your tendency is to walk into the office Monday morning and get right to task, assigning duties, asking for deliverables, and setting the priorities for the day - STOP. Many people in the office need to reconnect with you before they can move on to a task. Delay your needs by 120 seconds to ask how their weekend was and make some small talk. Likewise, if you are someone who enjoys 15 minutes of chit-chat with co-workers over your morning coffee, cut that down to 2 minutes and skip the gory details of your weekend with the person who just wants to get to work.

2. When you have to deliver bad news, consider in advance how it will sound to others. Some will want to hear it straight, with little superfluous data included. Others will need to be eased in, gently told, and will want to ask a lot of questions; feeling they have your support. Let go of your own preference for hearing tough messages and meet the needs of the other person first.

3. Body language speaks volumes: if you want to show Empathy you must give someone your undivided attention, use eye contact, show concern in your tone, resist the urge to speak and just listen to understand them. Don't judge or try and fix them. 

4. Ask yourself how often you are focused on your own needs and concerns without much thought to others? When communicating with others, be cognizant of how much time is spent talking about you and your opinions versus asking questions and listening to others.  

Part of being emotionally intelligent requires us to get out of our comfort zone - to meet others in theirs - and the pathway to get there is by demonstrating Empathy.

It can be difficult to see how this approach will get you what you need. However, even a small gesture goes a long way with others, and they will want to work with you when they see that it doesn't always have to be about you. As it has been said, the Golden Rule is to treat others the way you want to be treated. But the Platinum Rule is to treat others the way they want to be treated.      

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 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.