Tuesday, October 29, 2013

GUEST BLOG: Are You Leading?

This is a guest post from my friend Rich Berdan - we spent a great deal of time with each other in past lives and learned a ton together!

Thanks Rich, for the lessons & the post!

Are You Leading?

The art of inspiring others

In the drive to lead in a big box store – or an entire company for that matter – the aspiring manager begins to lose his or her technical expertise. At the same time, the human relations side of their role grows to a point where it is no longer possible to perform the day-to-day tactical functions, and the leader can no longer rely exclusively on their own skills and resources to accomplish tasks. Once a manager reaches this pinnacle of his or her career, the individual either becomes a true leader and accomplishes the big things through others or becomes unsuccessful because they have failed to master the art of inspiring others.

The new leader is quickly tested, and unless he or she is a skilled leader, negativity breeds among employees, and the organization is likely to implode from within at some point due to issues such as employee turnover, poor morale, absenteeism, workplace accidents, and diminishing productivity, sales, and profits. In dealing with such problems, a leader must become increasingly agile and responsive.
It also becomes necessary for the leader to promote a certain amount of open, transparent and healthy conflict in dealing with issues.

Techniques such as focus group meetings and an open door policy allow for issues and grievances to be aired publicly and constructively so that disgruntled employees feel free to speak candidly and openly.

Once grievances have been aired, clear and decisive action on the part of the management team and the quick implementation of solutions agreed upon by all parties go a long way. Even “quick wins” should be communicated throughout the organization – whether at all-employee meetings or more informally through discussions in the lunchroom or on the sales floor. This is a skillful approach that can eventually lead to naysayers throughout the organization being silenced.

The next step for our leader is to create positive thinking and morale in the organization. The principle is this: Enthusiasm is contagious. Eventually when the optimistic enthusiasm reaches a high enough temperature, the fire becomes self-generating.

It is then critical to place enthusiastic performers in key areas to be that “burning charcoal” that ignites others and creates a sustainable fire. Senior managers who are not enthusiastic in their approach to leading the organization will be left alone to see the flame slowly flicker and eventually go out.

'Igniting’ other employees

One new manager I knew came into a store where there was poor morale, specifically on the overnight shift where the employees stocking the shelves each night were the unnoticed backbone of the store's success. This store manager made the key decision to come in early before the end of the shift and “high five” a lonely employee in one of the aisles stocking shelves for a job well done and to express his appreciation for the employee’s efforts.

A funny thing happened the next day when the store manager arrived early in the morning. The employee who received the high five the previous day was peering down the aisle in anticipation of the manager's early morning walk by. When the manager approached the employee, he was pleasantly surprised that the employee had increased his productivity substantially and was proud to show off his best work. Another big high five followed and they were now connected in achieving mutual goals of respect and a well-stocked store ready for customers.

In the above example, one “hot coal” ignited another employee and things heated up. The stocker, who at one point was a disengaged employee, was noticed, recognized, and is now a high performing assistant manager. By the way, the store manager is now a district manager. What makes a great leader memorable is the time they spend developing the next great leaders who speak profoundly of the influence their mentors had on them during their careers.

Unintended consequences of negative behaviour

Another store manager more focused on his technical skills was pulling a skid of merchandise down an aisle and scowled as he walked past a department manager working in her department. She thought she had done something wrong and was visibly upset. Shortly afterwards, the store manager was asked why he had scowled at the employee, and he explained that he was not pleased with a featured display producing very little sales and had no idea the employee was nearby or had seen him demonstrate his frustration. The department manager shared her experience with others in the lunchroom and continued to be a mediocre performer. The store manager did not create an environment of contagious enthusiasm and eventually burned out and left the business.

A positive organizational culture

The positive culture cemented in the fabric of an organization becomes quickly evident when a new employee is hired and easily falls in line with the values that instill respect for the individual, consistency, a strong work ethic, confidence in one's skills, and eliminating frustration that results in excessive turnover.

In essence, the employee should enjoy coming to work when that work intertwines purpose and fun. The enthusiastic fire becomes a self-generating furnace that pumps out “hot” employees ready to perform.

On the other hand, if the culture is mired in confusion and a lack of any real leadership, the new employee will not perform at a level of excellence and a sense of urgency. New employees joining a team simply become assimilated into the existing culture, and resistance is futile.

Leaders need to ensure members of their management team know what is expected, whether executing the tasks at hand, providing superior customer service or demonstrating values, respect and a strong commitment to a superior work ethic that sets the example for all to follow. They will, in most cases, go to great lengths to live up to those expectations and do a good job if they are provided with the proper environment. Any non-compliance needs to addressed expeditiously, or a splinter of issues will begin to widen further until band-aid solutions can no longer heal the cultural wound of accepting mediocrity, which can lead to the eventual collapse of the business unit or the entire operation.

During tough economic times, the organizations and business units that succeed are those where a distinct culture of contagious enthusiasm and positive employee engagement thrives within the organization.

It all starts with a leader. So, are you leading?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Change Makes Us

Change can be like shouting at the wind.
You have done it...with very little results.

As leaders, our role is to envision change, get people on-board with the change and help them to implement it.

Change sucks.  Change is uncomfortable.  Change is irritating.
Change means investment of time and energy.
Change means talking, communicating, listening.
Change could mean re-development or re-organization.
Change could mean some people leave us....team members or clients or vendors.
Change is scary.

Change is what makes us who we are.
Change is what separates us from the rest.
We are not satisfied with the status quo.
We are not ready to commit to okay.
We are not going to let well enough alone when we know it can be better.

Go ahead!  Tackle it.  And as Seth Godin says 'ship!'

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Teams in Action

I have been working with a few new tools - all from Actionable Books  and they are super.

The focus of the tools is 'actionable' workshops.

In our busy lives, we know we need to continue to develop ourselves and our teams - what the collection of workshops can do for you and your organization is provide you with a series of 'lunch & learn' type sessions that can tackle specific opportunities...in your team...in your business....and beyond.

And the best part - they take an hour or less!  In my toolbox I call the events
How to BUILD IT - Inspired Teams

Stay tuned for more information on how to explore this opportunity, how to participate in a public session and event attend a 1/2 day workshop that will get you set up to BUILD IT.

If you have questions in the meantime or want to know more, drop me a line here....and I will be happy to explain more details (ahead of the launch!)

As leaders, we are always seeking new ways to keep our teams engaged.  This is a simple way to provide development opportunities as well as enhance engagement that will retain your top talent.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Greatful or Grateful?

Every once in a while, I get sappy....and you, my dear readers, get to benefit from that.
This is always an emotional week for me, right around Thanksgiving, because it is the time of year when my oldest son was born.  On Wednesday he turned 21.

He is GREAT!  Like totally cool, Tony-the-Tiger GREAT! (this is not just because I am his mom - if you ever meet him you will agree!  Ask his boss!!)

I try to make this day extra special.  A birthday is the most important day of the year - this is the day each of us were put on earth to make a difference.

I almost lost him at his arrival into this world.  And in his teen years, we were forced to face that again with another health problem.  I am blessed everyday to see his smiling face.  I am grateful for his greatfulness.

Making this day special is simple - favourite foods, time together (usually shopping) and of course lots of hugs and kisses.  On our way to Freed's on Wednesday, my son made a few very interesting and mature statements.
  1. I can't believe I am 21 & can drink in the States.
  2. I have a really wonderful life and you and stepdad have allowed me to be me, and inspired me to be more like both of you.
  3. I am truly blessed to have a great family, great friends, a super girlfriend & great marks at school.
  4. I am feeling so grateful for everything.
  5. I need to take more time to reflect on everything I have, it inspires me to go for more.
Please don't take this as bragging about my son.  This was a revelation to me....I know I can see the impact of my work with my business clients....my life work of raising cool kids with great spirits and hearts...when it stands in front of you and says these words with meaning and tears in his eyes lets me know that my reach is further than I can even imagine.

Take a moment this weekend and reflect on the impact you have on the people around you.  A very smart person told me that you are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with...so that means you are part of their 'sum'....how do you make a difference for them?

Happy Thanksgiving....and I am grateful to you for being part of my life.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Complicated? Well, Yes and No

Leadership can be complicated.  It can be difficult to figure out....in last year's Leadercast event we focused on the topic of "Simply Lead".  Speakers of all avenues of work and life talked about how to create more simplicity, eliminate the clutter and find order in the chaos.

As leaders we need to realize a few things:

  1. life happens
  2. chaos is a regular state
  3. at the end of the day  - we can only control our reactions to all of this around us
So, if we are the only ones who can control our reactions, actions or choices, what have we done to create that simple space in our lives to process all of this.

So yes - leadership is complicated.

And no, we don't have to leave it that way.  We can create our own simplicity by doing a few really simple things:
  1. get some sleep...our brains and our bodies need to recharge and process (I am constantly amazed at the great work I can complete at 5am ...the same work that was most likely driving me crazy the afternoon before)
  2. dump out what is floating around in our heads - we are always thinking - new ideas, problem-solving and creating.....by dumping them out onto a flipchart, iPad, sharing with others (including a coach, like me!) can help us sort and compartmentalize or prioritize what should take place next
  3. exercise - the energy we build from good cardio and strength work outs is really an opportunity to clear our minds and focus on something completely different while taking care of ourselves and even pushing us to new limits (something leaders need to be challenged to do)
  4. stop & listen -  taking time with your team, your mentor, your family and friends engaged in good conversation means staying present and listening.  This again is focused attention...a great way to take a break from the complicated leadership lives we lead and streamline our breathing by engaging with others- and we may learn things too.
So - yes and no - leadership can be complicated if we allow it to be.  Try not to, okay?

PS - had to do a shameful plug on dumping out your thoughts with me because many clients  say this is one of the greatest values they get from our coaching relationship.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Compare Cookies to People

Oh, it would be so cool if we could make dollars like cookies!
(okay, I realize that is a different take on 'printing money')
Why I use this analogy is because we often think that we can hire the right people by developing a cookie cutter outline of who we are looking to put into place.

Often, I work with team leaders who need to hire.  They already have in their mind exactly who they are looking for from a personality level.  They seem to not step back and determine who they need from the skill gaps they have in their organization.  It can be quite interesting and quite a waste of dollars when that happens.

Here are some questions I ask my clients who are in need of new team members at any level:

  1. what skills are required - that is usually outlined in the job description
  2. what type of person fits into the culture
  3. what is missing from the organization at the moment - skills or attributes
  4. are you interested in hiring someone like the last person in the role - specifically what was good about that person and what needed improvement
  5. are you filling a role or replacing a person - that is completely 2 different things
Using a cookie cutter to define people will not work.  Then you have the same face, attitude and productivity right across the board.  Not only that, do you really want all the same type of creativity, sense of urgency and motivation or are you looking to create a diverse team that reflects the attitude of your clients along with stretching you to think differently.  You cannot do that with a cookie cutter.  And it is a complete waste of money.......

Tell me how you go about bringing new people on board.  (not the on-boarding process, that is a whole different subject) but recruiting or finding the right talent to fill the roles in your organization.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What Are You Risking?

Leaps of Faith come in many varieties.
Sometimes it's financial - do we invest in that technology today or tomorrow?
Sometimes it's personal - do I trust them with this information?
Sometimes it's physical - do I try this?
Sometimes it's mental - do I have what it takes?

All risks cannot be categorized....some risks we don't even want to talk about because we hava buried them so deep.

Leaders take risks.  Good leaders, just like the entrepreneurial spirits they are, find ways to calculate the risk.

  • is it good for my people?  team, clients, family, community
  • will the outcome create a lasting benefit or is this a one-shot deal?
  • does the opportunity to take the risk advance me or my organization? and which is more important for this objective?
  • can taking this risk impair our future?
  • does this risk align with our mission & values and equally important, our vision?
  • is the cost of this risk worth it? in time, money, change strategy
Lots of things to consider.  To continue to grow as leaders, we need to develop a serious way to calculate risks in order to determine their worth - to ourselves & our organizations.

How do you calculate risks? Or do you even stop to measure, simply forging ahead?