Don’t Be A Ghost Manager

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Today is Halloween, a day enjoyed by many children in our country as they collect candy wearing costumes of various famous and infamous people or characters.  This year, my daughter is going to dress up as her favorite soccer player, Sam Mewis, and will be trick or treating with our dog, Honey, who will also be wearing a US Women’s Soccer Jersey.  Tonight we will see many wonderful costumes….the simplest of which is the Ghost.  Anybody can put a sheet over their head, cut out two eyes to see with, and transform into this iconic Halloween costume.

A ghost is defined by several things: scaring others, wreaking havoc in your house and with your friends, flying in and out with little regard for others, and basically being a nuisance.  In my 20 years of leading others, I have seen many managers who resemble the disruptive nature of Ghosts, and I have called them Ghost Managers.  What are the characteristics of the haunting Ghost Manager?

  1. Their primary focus is on the success of themselves and not the team they work with.
  2. They “fly” in to work with you and after they leave, neither you nor your customers want to see them again.
  3. When they come work with you, they promise all sorts of good things to you and your customers, many of which are not realistic and you don’t see or hear from them again for a long time.
  4. Ghosts are characteristically invisible, which many Ghost Managers are with their teams.
  5. Ghosts are meant to appear out of nowhere to scare you. Managers who don’t involve their teams in decision making and force their surprise ideas on unsuspecting teams are Ghost Managers.
  6. There is very little substance to a real ghost, typically just a sheet with nothing behind it. Ghost Managers also have very little substance to them with their words meaning much more than their actions.

So how do we know if we work for a leader, someone who is invested in our development as an individual and the team for the betterment of the company and its customers?

  1. Leaders respond to your emails and calls in a timely manner.
  2. Leaders listen to understand or ask questions to understand before making judgments or responses.
  3. Leaders involve you early on in decision making and do not try to force their opinions on you. Example – they ask your opinions on situations before a solution is decided on.
  4. Leaders challenge you in a fair and specific way to improve your personal performance. Sometimes this means delegating their responsibilities to team members for insight into what a promotion into their role will look like.
  5. Leaders promote the members of their teams for different assignments, even if there is a short term loss to the leaders’ individual performance.
  6. Leaders ask you about what’s important in your life vs their own personal agenda. They talk about you more than they talk about themselves
  7. Leaders challenge you to take time away from work and try not to bother you while on vacations. Recovery time is important to high performing individuals or teams in any aspect of life.
  8. Leaders get in the weeds with you. They are visible to you and your teams and don’t ask you to do something they are not willing to do themselves. Leadership and talent assessment cannot be accomplished only by Skype, Text Messages and Phone Calls.
  9. Leaders spend more time building relationships with their team vs strategic thinking. Both are important but the best working environments come from positive relationships with your teams. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”.
  10. Leaders provide recognition to you and your team when warranted and provide solutions to challenges when times are difficult.
  11. During difficult times, the blame falls on the leader and not the team.  During times of prosperity, the credit all goes to the team.
  12. Leaders don’t make promises they can’t keep. They are transparent with situations and consistent with feedback.
  13. Leaders do not get caught up in rumors and gossip.  They will form opinions on their own personal experiences and not those of others.

Here are two suggestions on developing your leadership skills:

  1. Work on performance management of your teams. Unfortunately, many companies define performance management only for their bottom performers, which is critical when you identify people who are not bought in to the current purpose of your organization.  Spend more time with your high potential team members who define what good looks like.  Develop action plans for them, ask them what they want to do in the next steps of their career, send them a handwritten note recognizing their contributions…whatever it takes to keep these top performers engaged so that they stay with your company.
  2. Develop a culture of accountability with your team. A culture of accountability cannot be forced or mandated to your team. Being held accountable must be a choice that each team member makes. If you try to force high accountability without purpose and process, then your culture will slowly evolve into a directive culture, whose decisions and actions are directed by one person. Leaders make suggestions based on what they think is best and team members make decisions which ultimately define culture. When team members are involved in the decision making process before suggestions are made, chances of alignment are far greater which ultimately leads to higher levels of accountability.  People are more accountable to plans they provide input to.

 

Well Done > Well Said

Jimmy

 

 

Leading From The Seat Of A Peloton

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August of 2018 marks my 18th year of marriage to my wife, Christy.  She is an amazing woman who balances being a wife, mother, sister and realtor with such natural ease….I am very lucky to be married to such an incredible person who supports me in everything I do.  Christy has long been an avid lover of mountain biking and road biking, and is able to complete a long distance road race with minimal training.  She is a natural on the bike which brings me to the topic of this quarter’s post.

In February, 2017, I bought my wife a Peloton.  She loves to be on any bike and the thought of spending 45 minutes to an hour every day working out from the comfort of our home brought many smiles to her face as the company was delivering her new piece of exercise equipment.  Personally, spin classes or road biking was never something I adored.  Sitting on a bike for anything more than 10 minutes was about as gratifying as watching paint dry and my time spent exercising was doing pretty much anything else.

Something changed in January of 2018…suddenly, I was hooked to taking classes every day I could, not only on our Peloton at home, but at other spin class gyms in my travels.  I started looking up what gyms near my hotels offered spin classes.  Days without an instructor led class felt empty.  Classes at 5:30AM were suddenly very intriguing to me, as long as I could get the class in and not miss a day.  Several weeks ago, I was asked what was the “trigger” which made me become a fanatic of the Peloton bike and participating in spin classes almost daily.  To me, it is very similar to leading others and was a combination of things, but most importantly, it was finding instructors who I enjoyed spending 30-60 minutes with on a daily basis.  The characteristics of successful leaders and businesses are very similar to why Peloton has generated a cult-like following in the highly competitive world of physical exercise.

The Similarities Between Peloton and Leadership

  1. Leading others is a competitive environment: There are many choices to choose from concerning where you spend your time and resources on exercising.  You have to love what you do or you will eventually find something else.  Professionally, there are always other companies and leaders, many with competitive advantages, who are trying to take your best people away from you.  Always let your good people know where they stand and work on implementing plans for their continued improvement. Peloton has expanded their portfolio to lead workouts in running, core, and yoga to name a couple outside of their cycling portfolio.  What are you and your company doing to expand the capabilities of your most important asset, your people?
  2. You need to vary your workouts to get better: The most dramatic growth in anything comes from getting comfortable being uncomfortable.  The Peloton instructors are constantly coaching to this concept and recommend varying your class schedule from HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) to Endurance Classes to Climb Rides among others.  Professional growth is no different.  We must constantly be challenging ourselves to improve in areas outside our normal comfort zones.  What are you learning today that makes you a better leader than you were 12 months ago?
  3. You need to have peers who push you to perform at your best: The Peloton bike has a touchscreen with a leader-board which shows how your statistics compare to others, in addition to showing your personal records depending on class. This scoreboard is a great tool to see how you are ranked versus other riders.   Peer leadership is just as important as leadership by hierarchy, and the peers I work with challenge me to be better each week.  I am fortunate to work with talented individuals, who are successful leaders and even better people.  Are you becoming the best leader you can be, not worrying about what others do well or need to work on?  Are you the type of leader that you would enjoy working for?  What do your peers do well that you could improve on?
  4. A good leader will sometimes tick you off by pushing you to attempt tasks you did not think possible:  There are times when I am 30 minutes into a HIIT class and the instructor is telling me to give more and I would love to scream obscenities back at that instructor.  However, they are just coaching me to try and give my best and motivate me to give everything I have for that 45 minute class.   The best leaders are not worried about being liked…they are focused on being respected, developing others and have their employees best intentions at the forefront at all times.  Are you challenging your teams to perform at levels that exceed their own expectations?  Are you coaching them specifically on what their goals are and communicating in a style specific to their needs?
  5. Every day brings a new opportunity to improve and learn: While Peloton offers many outstanding coaches (I have enjoyed every class I have taken with each instructor) I feel connected to several because of the way they push me to perform better.  Each of them is different in their style, music choices, and delivery, and each one talks about setting daily wins to hit long term goals.  They constantly share that the most important part of improving our performance is getting on the bike each day and submitting ourselves to their coaching.    Motivation is an internal trait that the most successful people have….what typically takes an individual’s performance from good to great is an inspiring leader.  To Dennis, Emma, Jennifer, Matt and Jenn, thank you for pushing me to be better and for your constant words of encouragement and inspiration.

When you first turn on the Peloton prior to a ride, the following definition comes up:

Peloton.jpg

Great leaders work together and perform better because of one another.  I am thankful that my wife has a love for biking that has led me to join a community of teamwork, togetherness, and comradery who celebrates individual differences and challenges us to be better.  For other Peloton riders, please feel free to follow me…my user name is AlwaysLearning. 

Well Done > Well Said

Leading With Courage

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This weekend is Memorial Day weekend, a time where we all should remember to honor the lives of our armed forces who sacrificed their lives for us to live in a free country.  Some of the most courageous people I have met have served in our military and they typically understand that respect is a trait that is earned through time and actions and not words.

The traits that make our military successful typically hold true in the business world as well.  As a leader, we are all accountable to developing our teams with experience usually being the best teacher.   Loyalty and trust is built through the hundreds of daily interactions you have with members of your team.  Too many times, disingenuous leaders focus on one big decision or the promise of something big to come down the road without building strong equity with their team using consistent recognition or coaching.  People don’t follow ideas or tactics…they follow the ideas and tactics from the people who they trust.  Focus on big dreams with small tangible actions.

Being a courageous leader also means allowing differing opinions and welcoming discussions which causes healthy debate.  Weak leaders only want “yes” people on their teams…people who always agree with the leader’s thoughts and ideas.  Courageous leadership is not running away from those who disagree with you. Courageous leaders are not threatened by tension on their teams. They deal directly with the challenges and discuss them openly without repercussions.  Embrace differences in opinions and be open to ideas not your own. The strongest teams open dialog with their direct reports in the early tactical stages of influencing change.  They focus on the right questions (does a decision make our product/company stronger or does this decision improve the quality of the services we offer).  The cynical leader knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing, and too often, cynical leaders make decisions that negatively impact their business without listening to their team’s opinions.  Basically, they have their mind made up prior to asking for input…which is the worst decision a leader can make.

Ways To Be More Of A Courageous Leader:

  1. Create a Leadership CRM: You should know everything about each direct report on your team…birthdays, marital status, hobbies, career goals as examples.  You earn trust by focusing on the individual and treating them as your most important customer, which they are.  Personally, I have used Evernote for 5 years and this is a great tool across multiple platforms.  And, as is the case with every CRM, garbage in = garbage out.  Make sure you take the time to develop your customer relationship management tool!
  2. Ask your teams what you can do better – The best leaders don’t have all the answers, admit mistakes, and ask team members what they could be doing better without defensiveness. On every field interaction I have, I close out by asking what we could be doing better as a company.  Some of the best ideas we have come across result from asking this simple question.  And if you have a healthy team culture, then you may get some honest ideas to improve your business.
  3. Be a fountain and not a drain….I heard this from a colleague last month. While we all have times of frustrations in our lives, make sure you are contributing to something positive every day.  Every individual should be self-motivated to perform at a high standard…leaders inspire their teams to achieve what they did not think was possible.  Make sure you are doing your best to provide daily or weekly affirmations to your team in leading them to high levels of achievement.
  4. Conduct After Action Reviews –  After every meeting or major initiative, focus on what went well and what you could have done differently.  Focus more on the positives then the negatives and make sure to learn from your past experiences.  The best teams know that you either win or you learn.

Being a courageous leader requires focus on the things you control, anticipating the challenges ahead (leaders anticipate, losers react), and creating a shared purpose of why you do what you do (a great read is “The Culture Code” by Daniel Coyle).  Anyone can lead when a plan is working…the courageous lead when a plan falls apart.  On this Memorial Day weekend, please take a moment to thank a veteran or active duty member of our military for their service and their courage in defending our country.

Well Done > Well Said

Leading without Regret…The First 90 Days

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Every leader has been promoted into a role that they have never done before….this is the idea behind promotions.  Much like a golfer who practices on the driving range and in practice rounds, the actual tournament play is much harder and challenging with internal and external influences affecting the training they thought were perfected.  Leading others is the same way…you can prepare all you want on the “leadership driving range” but you have to be placed in real life scenarios in order to fully comprehend how you will react and how difficult (yet rewarding) leading others is.

Someone has to give you a chance at any new opportunity.  To me, there are several core principles to seeing if an individual is ready to take on a new responsibility of leading others:

  1. People are interviewing for a position before the job is posted. I value what a person does in the months leading up to a position becoming available more than what they share with me during the actual interview.  All inputs matter…I just like seeing how people act in normal environments in addition to what they share during a face to face interview for a leadership position.
  2. Would I want to work for them? Can they inspire someone to achieve a goal they did not think possible?  Do they have solid communication skills to make the transition from an individual contributor to a leader of others? Can they handle adversity when asked to implement a change that may be viewed as negative by their team? I have to answer yes to these 4 questions to feel comfortable with a potential new leader.
  3. Are they doing something to improve their skill sets? Meditation, personal development through books or webinars, Ted Talks or Blinkist sessions….Each person has to be working on their own development outside of the training a company provides.  My group has been asked to set an appointment in their calendar with themselves for 30 minutes per week on personal development.

After accepting a new leadership role, here are some tips on setting up a successful first 90 days:

  1. Stay Hungry and Humble: I often see new leaders get promoted into a role, get complacent because they finally have achieved that “next step” and forget the core principles that earned them the promotion.
  2. Spend more time figuring out what’s going right versus focusing on what’s going wrong: New leaders make the mistake of trying to fix the bottom 20% and focus their efforts on this.  Work with your top performers, discuss the successes they are having and look to replicate this performance with your other employees.
  3. Leadership versus authority: When you start a new role, you have to earn your team’s trust. A leader does this by listening to understand versus listening to respond, not making quick decisions, and communicating quickly and consistently on expectations.  Keeping your people uninformed creates distrust and anxiety.
  4. Make your own judgement on people and processes: I have seen too many leaders influenced by another person’s feedback on what is working or who their best or worst people are. Always listen to what others say, but don’t make decisions based on someone else’s comments, who may have a different agenda or perspective on a situation.  Make your own informed decisions based on the data you value.
  5. Be careful with drastic changes in the first 90 days: This is not to say that changes should not be made. Make sure the changes you are making are sound in judgement and the impacts to your team are clearly understood.  Change without proper communication leads to uncertainty about the change.
  6. Don’t be afraid to accept hard feedback: New leaders usually excelled in their previous position…now they are novices in their new role. Consistently ask your supervisor what you are doing well and what areas you need to improve on in the first 90 days. Also, ask your team what you could be doing better to help them achieve their goals.  Always Be Learning!

The most effective leaders I work with are genuine in nature.  They have an ability to inspire without trying hard to do so, and are consistent with their day to day actions…you always know what you will get from them.  As a new leader, you must remember that people don’t follow titles…they follow leaders who they enjoy working for every day.  Title management is temporary and shallow.  Effective leaders inspire and motivate, no matter what their business card says.

Who’s Your Caddy?

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This summer, I spent a weekend with some college friends playing golf in Pinehurst, NC.  Pinehurst is one of the true meccas of golf in the world, and we played on some amazing golf courses.  I played more rounds in those 3 days than I had in the last 18 months and had a blast doing so.  For those of you who know me, I graduated high school in Pinehurst as well and was able to spend some time visiting my mom while there.  I also had the opportunity to watch my niece, Kit, play in a USGA Junior event and was thoroughly impressed with her composure and her ability (at 12 years old she is a much better golfer than I am).

This was the first juniors golf event I have attended and during the round, Kit’s father was her caddy (which seems like a common occurrence for parents to caddy for their kids during tournament rounds).  Through the pre-shot plan of every stroke, to helping her determine the right club or the slope of the green, to encouraging and pushing her to be better, he assisted her to finish second in this tournament.  I wished I had a caddy helping me for the three rounds I played the previous 3 days.  From a professional perspective, it also got me thinking, “Who is my caddy in the professional world”?  As leaders of others, we all should have people in our business life that we are able to run through a pre-call plan with, someone to remind us of the tools we have to be successful, and lastly, someone to encourage us to be better when we have bad days, and continue to push us on the days where nothing can go wrong.

HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT CADDY?

  1. Pick the right number of people to support and guide you. Just as you don’t want to have too many caddies giving you advice during a round of golf, limit the number of people you confide in or seek advice from to 3-5.  Network with as many people as you wish, but try to limit your true “Caddy” group to 3-5 people.  And don’t be afraid to change your group from time to time.
  2. Choose people with varying strengths than yours. The best “Caddy” I ever had was our Chief Financial Officer, whose leadership style and strengths were totally different from mine.  He challenged me to think through situations from a totally different perspective then I had ever used which has allowed me to avoid some mistakes in decision making.   Surround yourself with people you can learn from.   It’s easy to interact with people who share your same way of thinking….true growth comes from getting comfortable being uncomfortable and learning from people who are different from you.
  3. Set a goal and follow up action item for every meeting you have. The most frustrating meetings and conversations are ones without purpose or without a specific direction on what needs to happen after the meeting.  Make sure to set objectives for all interactions and more importantly, make sure you are setting up what needs to take place between this meeting and the next.  This will allow you to hold yourself and others accountable to detailed action items and make sure you are improving on the process or skillset originally discussed.

As we approach the end of my second year with this blog, I appreciate all of the well wishes I have received with this project.  It is truly humbling to think that people are referring to my thoughts or ideas to help them get through challenging leadership situations or using some of these experiences to make their leadership conversations more effective.  I have been fortunate to have worked with and learned from some great people throughout my career who have challenged me to be better than I am today.  The most influential and inspiring leaders care more about impressing the people they lead versus worrying about impressing their boss.   Be confident and courageous in your leadership and challenge yourself to “always be learning”…

 

 

 

Avoiding The Revolving Door

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Employee turnover can cripple a team and organization.  There is usually nothing gained when one of your best employees decides to take their talents to another business (I always think of Lebron James leaving his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers to head to South Beach and the Miami Heat and the crippling effect it had on the Cavs).  Recent articles show the following employee turnover statistics:

  1. A case study published which showed retaining a sales person for three years instead of two, along with better on-boarding and management practices, yields a difference of $1.3 million in net value to the company over a three year period.
  2. Josh Bersin of Deloitte believes the cost of losing an employee can range from tens of thousands of dollars to 1.5–2.0x the employee’s annual compensation. These costs include hiring, on-boarding, training, ramp time to peak productivity, the loss of engagement from others due to high turnover, higher business error rates, and general culture impacts.

*Huffington Post, 1/18/17, Jack Altman

So why are people changing jobs so quickly and leaving organizations?  There has been a shift over the last 5 years with Millennials entering the work force and this chart highlights the top reasons employees left jobs 5 years ago and why employees leave jobs in 2017…

Why employees leave companies 2012 Why employees leave companies 2017
1.       Compensation (base salary)

2.       Did not like their Manager

3.       Work/Life Balance

4.       Poor Career Development

5.       Long Term Vision of the company

1.       Poor Career Development

2.       Life/Work Balance (Flexible working environments)

3.       Feeling they are not being heard

4.       Looking for values that align with theirs

5.       Overall Compensation (Stock, 401k, etc…)

To put in a clearer way, the culture of your organization in 2017 plays a much bigger role in employee satisfaction then it did just 5 years ago.  Strategic vision and strong tactical planning are still the cornerstones for any successful business, but if your organization is not addressing culture and employee development with the same level of investment, your company will be in a constant state of on-boarding new hires (the revolving door).

Here are some best practices for leading others to promote positive employee engagement:

  1. Your People Come First: If you are a leader, you are relying on your team to represent you whether internally for meetings or externally for customer service. Spend quality face time (this means in person and not over Skype or email) with your direct reports discussing where they want to be in 1-3 years and what specific tactics you can work with them on.  If you are not spending this one-on-one time with your employees, someone else will be soon.
  2. Listen More Than You Talk: If a leader is talking more than they are listening, they are typically not genuine in their approach. “Listening to Understand” is much more valuable than “Listening to Respond”.  An interesting approach is to watch poor listeners engage others and see how the conversation goes. I have seen a leader come into a employee dinner meeting to gauge how things are going, ask one question, then talk at great lengths about nothing relevant to the real issues.  My dad always said you had two ears and one mouth for a reason.  The best leaders are the best listeners.
  3. Be Consistent: Your team should know what they are getting from you every day. They need to be able to trust you whether you are having a good or bad day.  Your decisions and direction should always be fair.  It is also OK to say you do not know the answer on a situation presented to you…while it is always great to respond in a timely manner, consistency is more important.
  4. Focus On Short Term Impact: Setup a 30 day development plan for your direct reports. Work on a 1 week goal sheet for performance.  Work on a quarterly team project.  We sometimes get too wrapped up in the big picture that we lose sight of the short term initiatives that get us to our long term goals.  And praise one person per day for something they did.  An employee never can hear “Thank You” or “You Are Appreciated” enough.
  5. Be Humble: This is a constant theme throughout many of my posts. To become a leader that others will follow, humility is critical.  You have to be confident in your abilities to lead others, but never forget what got you to the point in your career where you are currently at.  Always be willing to do the job your team has to do daily….and not just for an hour or two.   Be Visible and Present in these tasks and your team will recognize this.

 

We talk a lot about what makes a great leader…I have also seen many people in leadership roles who struggled to lead others.  How to identify a weak leader:

  1. When something goes wrong, the weak manager immediately looks for someone to blame. They instantly say “you need to fix this” instead of “how can we fix this together”.
  2. When an employee makes a suggestion, the weak manager says “You’re wrong” and immediately contradicts the thought. Why does a weak manager react this way? Typically, they are afraid. They are afraid a direct report might have a better idea than they had.  And weak leaders feel they have to be the smartest person in the room.
  3. A weak leader manages through policies, e-mails, spreadsheets and edicts. They don’t listen. They don’t care about building trusting relationships with their teammates — or maybe they’re not capable of doing that.
  4. A weak manager makes it clear that employees serve at his or her pleasure and can be replaced at any time. Employees who feel threatened cannot produce great work.
  5. Weak managers cannot look in the mirror. They cannot admit to having made a mistake and therefore, they cannot learn anything new.  They will constantly tell you what they have done in a previous company or a previous role which many times is not relevant to the current situation.

I have witnessed many great leaders in my career, as well as some people who I felt were poor and selfish in leading others.  I can tell you that I have learned just as much from the weak leaders in what not to do versus the positives from the great leaders.  Creating a positive work environment is a tough task, and is not solely the leader’s to create.  Ask your team what they want their culture to embody and work constantly to make decisions which support these endeavors.  Employees want to feel valued more than ever…if they don’t, they will leave and you will be stuck in the revolving door.  As a child, going around and around in a revolving door is a lot of fun…a revolving door of on-boarding will lead to high levels of frustration and poor performance.

You Can’t Win From The Sidelines

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As stated in earlier posts, leading others is a very tough and rewarding job.  Being a leader in 2017 requires stamina, courage, and determination to lead multiple generations of employees in the workplace.  Today’s leaders are required to inspire millennials (typically born from 1981 – 1997) who are just entering the work force, generation x (typically born from 1970 – 1981), and baby boomers (born between 1950 and 1970).  These 3 generations of employees have vastly different views on work, life, culture, community and technology, to name a few.  One of the best books I have read in understanding how to communicate and lead various generations is “The 2020 Workplace” by Jeanne Meister and Karie Willyerd.  This great read provides many tips and tools on how to leverage the strengths of all employees and especially the new generation of millennials entering the workplace.

One common trait that binds all successful employees (regardless of age) is the willingness to take a risk, be active and passionate, and understand that perfection is very rarely attainable.  Michael Jordan, the GOAT (Greatest of All Time – a term recently learned from my 14 year old son) finished with a career field goal % of 49.7%….meaning he missed more than half the shots he took.  In addition, a very famous commercial in 1997 featuring Jordan revealed that he was trusted with a last second shot to win a game 42 times, and only made 16, a 38% success rate.  I had the opportunity to meet Jordan in the early nineties while working at a golf course, and I remember him saying to a co-worker that he always wanted to be in control of the outcome of any game he was competing in, and that we wanted the ball in his hands. He was one of the most competitive athletes of all time who was not afraid to miss but knew his team had the best chance of winning when the responsibility for victory was when he had the ball.   After hearing this, I realized that one cannot win a game from the sidelines.  Winners need to be engaged, active, and open to try new things to be successful.

Leading From The Field – 3 Tips To Try

  1. Understand your internal customer’s needs and goals. As a leader, our most important customer is our team. We often discuss individual goals at the beginning of the year or at a mid-year review.  When conducting meetings with employees throughout the year, make sure to have them review their objectives again with you, discuss specific action items they are taking to achieve these goals, and their progress made so far.  One tactic I have used is to have an employee write an acceptance speech now for the accomplishments they will achieve at the end of the year (similar to post-dating a letter or email).  Getting your employees to think positively about achievement can help them get through the challenges they may face in reaching their goals.
  2. Listen to understand versus listening to respond. I recently witnessed a conversation between a supervisor and a member of their team.  The supervisor asked what challenges the employee was currently facing in achieving their goals for the year.  After the employee shared several obstacles they were experiencing, the supervisor immediately diminished these thoughts and told the employee that these were just potential excuses.  I doubt the employee will ever honestly share their ideas again with that supervisor.  One of the worst things a leader can do is ask for an opinion, then immediately downplay the individual’s thoughts which are different from theirs.  Listening and communication are the most important aspects of leading others as these two skills create a trusting and collaborative culture.  A poor work environment is established when employees feel that they cannot share ideas on how to improve situations.  The next time you ask a question of an employee, just listen to their response, thank them for sharing (does not matter if you agree or disagree), and ask their permission to follow up with them on that topic at your next meeting.
  3. Establish your criteria for hiring top talent. Think about the people you have led in the past 5 years.  Write their names down and separate them into 3 lists…place 33% of the names into the “Top 1/3 List”, 33% into the “Middle 1/3 List” and 33% into the “Bottom 1/3 List”.  Next, list common traits  for the people in the Top and Bottom lists.  More than likely, you will see a vast difference in the quality of these lists and the people who compose them.  Make sure you are hiring the right people who meet your criteria as a top employee…and never put a time limit on filling a position.  I would rather keep a position open for a year versus hiring someone in a month who is not going to be a standout employee.  We all make hiring mistakes, but minimizing those mistakes by only hiring top talent will make your life as a leader so much easier.

We have a chalk board in our home that my wife updates on a regular basis with quotes to inspire our family and most importantly our kids.  Currently, the chalk board quote is “You Did Not Wake Up Today To Be Average”.  I think many of us want to be excellent at anything we do…the difference between success and failure many times is just getting off the sideline and getting on the “field of play”.  Regardless of your individual field, aspire to make a positive difference in the lives of others and realize the rewards that come with the responsibility of leading people.

 

My Belief is Stronger Than Your Doubt

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The date of January 1 each year brings a varied list of emotions and feelings.  To some, it could be the idea of starting over and forgetting the previous 12 months.  For others, January 1 brings the idea of continuing all of the positive trends that occurred in the past 365 days.  And for the leaders who are multipliers, the New Year establishes hope and optimism in leading others to achieve personal and professional milestones.  These goals and resolutions create a method of setting objectives, leading to the incredible feeling of accomplishment when achieving them, and also holding yourself accountable when falling short and figuring out why.

Hopefully, nobody goes into a year with a goal of “I am going to finish the year ranked last in my company’s bonus pool” or “I am going to be the worst manager I know”.  Conversely, we set goals of “I’m going to make more money this year than last” or “I am going to work out 3 days a week and lose 20 pounds by March” as tasks we wish to accomplish.  If you look at your team from last year, what separates the people who exceeded their goals versus ones that fell short?

To me, it is the difference of being COMMITTED to the process of succeeding versus being invested in success.  There are many people who say they are invested in reaching a goal…they only do the work asked of them and only focus on results.  When I see people who are COMMITTED to exceeding their targets by tackling weekly or monthly objectives, these are the ones who show the grit and determination in the process, knowing that success will follow suit.  An example…when my father was training for a marathon, he had certain miles he had to run each day/week to be fully prepared for the day of the race.  The weather outside did not matter to his training and he ran in any type of weather (and this was in the 1980’s so the availability of treadmills and indoor gyms was not as prevalent as it is today).  On the day he was supposed to complete a 20 mile run, the weather was below freezing and he came home with icicles in his hair from the sweat freezing so quickly.  He was committed to hitting his weekly target to achieve his end goal of finishing a marathon.  On the flip side, the person who was invested in this same training regimen might have taken the day off because of the bad weather.  They are still capable of finishing the race, but may not have the resiliency to succeed, no matter what obstacles are thrown their way.

As a leader, how do you get your team committed to achieving their resolutions and keeping them on track for the year?

  1. Goals/Resolutions have to be written down, visible, and SMART: This seems to be a very basic concept however many people write down a goal or resolution and forget it 30 days later.  I ask my team to hand-write their goals and take a picture of them to keep on their phones or in their cars/offices…A person will relate more to a goal written in their own handwriting versus one typed in a “Calibri” or “Arial” font on their computer.  And each goal must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.
  2. Change the mindset about Resolutions and Goals: People who are committed say “I WILL have a great year this year” versus “I hope to have a good year this year”. Leading your people to think about their goals with this positive mindset will lead to improved performance, if their belief is stronger than someone else’s doubt.
  3. Shout Praise and Whisper Criticism: Most of us crave recognition of a job well done. And while we welcome coaching on areas of improvement, a diminishing leader will focus longer and harder on the areas you are not succeeding in and the need to show improvement.   An example is the parent whose child brings home a report card with 4 “A’s” and 1 “C”.  The parent should focus on recognizing the positive “A” grades more than criticizing the “C”. While not rewarding “C” work, make sure to have balance.  Pay more attention to what people do well versus what their gaps are.

Here are some quotes of praise that you can share with your team…once you share the quote, make sure to cite the specific reason for the acknowledgment.  And instead of recognizing the result, praise the process.  Even if you are recognizing the little things that everyone should be doing, this positive reinforcement will turn an average day into a potentially great one and your team will know you care about their development:

  • I appreciate the attitude you bring to work every day…
  • I am proud of you…
  • I am lucky to work with you…
  • Our team needs you to be a leader and help us through this situation…
  • What you just did was so extraordinary…
  • Thank you for working so hard…
  • I know you can accomplish more…
  • You continue to impress me…

“How Full is Your Bucket” is a great book by Tom Rath and Donald Clifton and is a quick read on how to have a happier and more fulfilling life.  The concept is one that my team has been working on over the last year in helping us adapt a true “Multiplier” leadership culture.  Having a balance between praise and criticism is just as important in building up your team’s morale and performance as any tactical or strategic plan with proper execution.  And consistently having a full bucket will help bring you sanity in a somewhat cynical world.  Leading your team to be committed to a specific process versus just focusing on results will bring happiness to you and the people you influence, for 365 days a year.

 

How Did I Get Here?

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Over dinner recently, someone asked me to summarize how I have become the person I am today.  The question was not to validate whether I am a good person, which I hope I am.  The question, he said, was to realize all of the specific interactions we have in life (most of which we take for granted) and how they shape you as a leader, a parent, a partner, or any other role that we play on a daily basis.  It was a wonderful conversation which caused me to appreciate how lucky I am to have been surrounded by so many good people both personally and professionally.

During my tenure in training, I usually started off each development session with a quote.  “In order to know where you are going, you need to know where you have been and where you are now”.  A more eloquent way of understanding the meaning of this message is to watch the below video of Matthew McConaughey’s speech after winning an Oscar Award for Best Actor.

https://www.facebook.com/JayShettyIW/videos/1699571663690625/

Back to the dinner conversation…as I was discussing what has helped shape my professional life, I recognized that I have been fortunate to work with so many good people.  I am grateful for their influence on me, on providing me opportunities that at the time I am not sure if I deserved, and most importantly, always lending an ear for when I needed it. During the dialog at dinner, I learned that I need to personally thank several people for what they did to shape me as a leader and teaching me the core principles I lead with on a daily basis.

MS – First impressions mean everything.  Mike taught me to fully prepare for each day with your appearance (collar stays and shined shoes) as well as walking with confidence and not arrogance.  These initial interactions will help you create lasting two-way relationships. Also, planning for any situation you may encounter will help determine your level of success.

RD – Serve the people who work for you.  Rob taught me to focus on the needs of others first, before my own personal needs.  Acknowledge other people’s perspectives, give them the support they need to meet their work and personal goals, involve them in decisions where appropriate…these actions will lead to a sense of community within your team.

JB – Make time for professional development and personal growth.  Jim has forgotten more about training then I will never know.  Training cannot always be about a product or a job.  He was always striving for additional personal growth programs for our employees and he valued the role training played in shaping people’s lives, both in and out of the workplace. And Jim promoted the concept of “Life-Work Balance” with life being more important then work.

BA – Sometimes, you need to follow your gut.  We all need to understand the data before making any decision; however, sometimes the data is only a partial indicator of what that correct decision is.  Several times, I would see Brad make a decision that was not supported by the data, but was the right thing to do for the business.  These valuable decisions were made because he trusted his gut feelings.  And if he was wrong (which was rare), his “fail fast” motto made sure that the course would be corrected very quickly.

MG – Understand your position.  Marcus is one of the best marketers I know from a brand as well as a personal perspective.  Building personal brand equity as an individual is the same as developing a strong brand campaign for a product.  Brand positioning is critical to both and understanding how to enhance your position is something I learned a tremendous amount from him about.

DO – Keeping it simple.  One of the best takeaways I have taken from David was the “Art of the Flip Chart”.  When working with David, you should always be able to discuss your business plan on one page of a flip chart (and usually with a calculator not too far away).  Breaking down annual goals into smaller chunks is something he is excellent at and I am so fortunate I have been able to work with him since 2004.

TB & RB – No Gotcha Moments (either positive or negative).  Travis and Rob are two of the most polished and fair people I have ever worked with.  They taught me to be straightforward with any information (no sand-bagging) and to always make them aware of situations which could come up in future meetings.   I will always remember the term “no surprises” and I am honored that I got to work with these two consummate professionals.

MN – Bring positive energy and excitement to everything you do, no matter how big or small.  Michael has a way of making anyone smile, usually within 30 seconds of meeting him.  He is the type of person you have to call when you are having a day that you would like to forget and usually, within that small time frame, he has lifted your spirits and made you laugh.  It’s a trait that very few people can pull off without coming across fake or phony, and he accomplishes this with such ease.  He is truly one of a kind.

There are so many other people who have shaped my leadership style over the last 20 years.  As discussed in previous postings, I look back at my early years of managing others (most of those times, I was managing versus leading) and I am perplexed at some of the decisions I made.  And moving into the future, I know that I will still make mistakes and will continue to learn from the obstacles that I am faced with.  However, I am committed to “always learning” and trying to lead in an optimistic and uplifting way, no matter what the situation.  And to me, there is a huge difference in being “committed” versus being “invested”.  Many people want to be invested in a process, but are not committed to success as evidenced by their daily actions.  More to come on this topic later….

 

 

The YoYo

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I thoroughly enjoy the sport of soccer.  I love playing the game, I enjoy coaching and teaching children, and I always look forward to watching both of my kid’s games.  As each child embarks on a new season, one of the training methods used to determine fitness and conditioning is the YoYo Test (also referred to as the beep test).  It is the ultimate test of stamina, speed, and agility for an athlete and requires each participant to dig deep to perform at a high level.  For those of you who have completed this type of fitness test, “lungs burning” or “wobbly legs” are two of the terms used apon completion.  For those who have not taken the test, please click on the link below to see a brief example of a test for the US Men’s National Team.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcJ6ueF6C4E

While watching my son recently participate in his pre-season YoYo test, I was reminded of how similar this test is to leading others, and how leadership requires both stamina and speed, while also challenging us to overcome internal and external obstacles.  One cannot fake their way to success with the YoYo.  The YoYo tests humbles all participants, and being humbled is an emotion every leader should deal with on a regular basis.  Being humble in leadership is one of the most important traits to me in future leaders.  Effective training and time must be put in to succeed in leadership, the same as training for a sport or a race.  And time is our most valuable asset as a leader.    We are always looking for more time to accomplish tasks and rarely are successful leaders asking themselves “I have too much time and not enough to do”.  Your time as a leader in developing your team is just as crucial as working with your most important customer.  John Maxwell describes the value of time as below:

“To know the value of one year – ask the student who failed their final.

To know the value of one month – ask the mother of a premature baby.

To know the value of one week – ask the editor of a weekly magazine.

To know the value of one day – ask the wage earner with six children.

To know the value of one hour – ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.

To know the value of one minute – ask the person who missed the plane.

To know the value of one second – ask the person who survived the accident.

To know the value of one millisecond – ask the Olympic silver medalist”

So how do you increase the value of the time spent in leading others?  How do you avoid feeling like a YoYo, being constantly pulled in opposite directions?  Here are three ideas to consider:

  1. Turn your “if only’s” into “what if’s”: It is easy to say “I would be successful if only I had additional resources”.  Often times, our employees are looking for easy ways out of situations by making excuses or blaming others versus finding solutions with their current state of business.  The most successful people in life do not look at others for accountability…they look inwards and figure out a way to get things done.  Challenge your team to come to you with problems and solutions.  Also, challenge your team to imagine success with no boundaries or restrictions…some of the best ideas come out of these strategic thinking sessions.

 

  1. Are you hiring and retaining the right people? I recently listened to a prominent college soccer coach talk about what he looks for in potential athletes.  He mentioned Grit, Love of the Game, Team Work, Self-Belief, and Competitive Drive as some of the characteristics he looked for in a student athlete. If a recruit did not possess one of these traits, then the coach and his staff looked elsewhere.  In addition, the coach would re-assess these characteristics each season and challenge his players to maintain high scores in these core competencies.  Do the same with both your potential new hires and your existing team on a regular basis.  As a leader, your performance is based on the success of your team…make sure they are consistently engaged and focused on both short term and long term goals.

 

  1. Make decisions quickly: Sometimes, leaders suffer from “Paralysis by Analysis” and are slow to act on timelines or resolutions because they feel they need more information.  They have fear in making the wrong choice.  The most successful leaders in the world have made mistakes in their past and will make poor decisions in the future.  However, each of these leaders will also describe how being first is just as important as being right.  Some people may associate timely decisions with poor decisions, but to me, timely and thorough thinking usually wins.  Set aggressive timelines with decision stakeholders to educate you on new initiatives and the data required to be both quick and accurate.  Understand the risks and benefits to any decision…many times the biggest risk is not being timely enough.  Be nimble in your leadership and realize that all of the planning in the present will not prepare you for unforeseen obstacles in the future.

 

Leading others is hard work.  As Tom Hanks stated in the movie A League of Their Own, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard … is what makes it great.”  A great leader should also realize their individual value to their team and their company.  I don’t buy into the idea that everyone is replaceable.  To me, I will do everything in my power to retain my most valuable employees and I should tell these “A” players how lucky I am to work with them on a frequent basis.   Recognizing others is a detail commonly missing from our weekly tasks.

Effective leadership requires us to be in great shape both mentally and physically (a positive balance of health, mind and body and not just a gifted athlete).  Building stamina in leading others is just as important as the stamina required of an athlete to participate in a sport.  Also, understand that your time is the most valuable asset you have as a leader.   Focus on being great with your leadership, investing in your personal development, and achieving new levels of leadership fitness with your own YoYo tests…strive to be better, not perfect.

Well Done > Well Said