Go Rogue as a Leader Or You Won’t Survive

Oct 25
2017

A leader who clings to conventional wisdom is relying on a model that just doesn’t work anymore. A new generation of employees has redefined their expectations for top leaders and global organizations. And I’m going to tell you something your employees won’t: if you aren’t meeting their needs, they’ve already decided to jump ship and find a new team or company that will.

You’ve got to grow or lose them. It’s a struggle for every leader — but you can’t afford not to go rouge. It’s the only way to give your team the chance to thrive.

Here are a few ways you can go rogue:

Hire Up

Everyone you add to the team should raise the bar for everyone else. That includes you. Only hire people you could see yourself working for one day. The goal is to constantly boost the talent pool, create ongoing intellectual diversity, and learn from each team member’s knowledge and expertise.

Give Up “Kitchen Sink” Meetings

Stop holding catch-all weekly team meetings. Instead, switch to meetings driven by subject matter. For example: Mondays are project meetings, Wednesdays are budget meetings, and so on. Invite only the key players to keep things simple. A focused meeting makes for quicker and better decision-making.

Think Big and Let Them Call the Cadence

As the leader, paint the big picture for your team. Share with them where you’re heading, tell them that you expect them to get there the quickest way possible, and assure them that you’ll clear the speed bumps if need be. Then step back and let your trusted team members call the cadence, approach, and path they’re going to take to get there.

Kill the Annual Review

Only one thing matters when it comes to connecting with your people: putting them first. Spend more time focused on them and less time worrying about technical aspects of the business. Don’t wait for an annual review to share what you’re thinking; coach and develop them in real time.  Your investment in them will pay big dividends over the long term.

Isn’t it time you threw out conventional practices to go a bit rogue as a leader?

It’s Time To Move Forward: Are You Prepared For 2017?

Jan 04
2017

The new year has barely begun, and the future-focused leaders I coach have been scouting their competition, analyzing the trends, and understanding what unique opportunities the data offers for their own improvement. This process didn’t just start for them as the calendar turned to January 1st—for most of them it began in 2016. Getting a handle on the pace at which the fabric of the business world will continue to evolve in 2017 was critical to how they finished 2016—strong leaders prepared to hit the ground running. Understanding upcoming growth opportunities and trends gave them a distinct advantage as they fine-tuned the strategic plans that they’ll now use to guide them as they hope to navigate 2017 successfully.

The mainstay of the business world continues to be the disruption of the status quo, and the pace will only accelerate in the upcoming year.

In 2017, we’ll see more Millennials stepping into leadership roles, it will be the first full year that Generation Z has been in the workplace, and technology will make how we work vastly different, changing how we communicate, relate, and work with each other. The challenge for those in leadership roles at every level is how to inspire, energize, and enthuse those on your team to be the best people, citizens, and employees while still driving results that keep your organization innovative and profitable.

Here are some of the trends you might want to implement in 2017 that will enable you to do just that:

Create An Employee Experience Mindset And Culture

This is a disruptive and different approach to inspiring loyalty and providing good job opportunities for highly accomplished candidates and employees. Inspiring loyalty and providing good jobs that engage, enthuse, and inspire the most accomplished employees and candidates starts when you create employee experiences that emphasize purpose over paycheck and development over perks as part of your organization and team culture. This type of employee experience mindset and culture gives the people who work for you the opportunity to be emotionally and developmentally connected to the work they are doing. Everyone wants to do something in life that fulfills a larger purpose, and for the new generation their job isn’t just a job—it’s about their purpose and their why.

It’s All About Coaching And Development In Real Time

The people who work for you aren’t asking for fancy offices, free food, huge bonuses, or unlimited lattes. Nor do they want the old style command-and-control leaders of the past or feedback on an annual review. They’re looking for leaders who value them for what they contribute, expect them to perform, and will reward performance over tenure. They also expect their leaders to be coaches and to communicate with them on a constant and frequent basis about how best to develop their strengths and guide them toward a plan for achieving their goals.

Waiting for an annual review to share what you’re thinking and to offer guidance isn’t going to cut it. Not coaching them and sharing feedback both about their strengths and constructive actionable criticism can lead to indifference, which results in their disengagement from their jobs and a lack of respect for you as their leader.

Bi-Directional Mentoring Becomes Key For A Widening Generation Gap And Blended Workforce

In 2017, five generations of people will be in the workforce. Generation Z will have finished their first full year working, more Millennials will be moving into leadership roles, and we will continue to see a rise in the number of freelancers working side-by-side with employees. This diversity in the workforce introduces different perspectives on work culture, widens the knowledge gaps, makes the workforce more global, and broadens an ever-increasing gap between older and younger workers. For those in leadership roles, it means laying out a roadmap that encourages esprit de corps and a sense of the collective vision and direction toward a shared set of goals. It means being able to diffuse strong personalities, differing agendas, and bridging generational gaps to bring about understanding so that differences bring about more connected relationships and those they lead grow stronger and more productive. But there’s more to it than just that. Great leaders build and embed within their teams a strong mentoring culture. Bi-directional mentoring means mentoring programs that aren’t based on age, title, specialty, or status, but rather skills and interests that can really help create an environment of cross-generational / functional skills, trust, and learning. By encouraging and making this type of mentoring a priority, you encourage those on your team to inspire, teach, and learn from each other, and understand the value of getting together to achieve something they cannot do alone.

As you begin thinking about how best to begin the new year, go back and look at what made you successful in the first place, and see what you might want to change. If you aren’t doing these things, consider how you could incorporate some of them into what you’re doing, and if you’re doing them see how you can expand and adjust them to make them more robust in the upcoming year. The great leaders I know are always making adjustments on the fly, and they don’t let failure or change derail them—they use it to move forward and fast track their success. It’s time for all of us to move forward.

Let me know what positive trends you see for 2017, and I’ll be happy to share them with everyone.

 

Let’s Change The Conversation

Nov 08
2016

Let's Change the ConversationAre you still clinging to your predictable old and outdated feedback practices as a leader—those arbitrary timeframes and artificial exchanges that accompany performance reviews?

We all know there are kinks in the system. One of them is not delivering the timely and vital feedback that your people are desperately seeking. Your people want and need to know how they’re doing on the job more frequently than just at their annual review. And you struggle with the harsh reality that the status quo doesn’t cut it anymore, and you’re not all that sure how much you can really do to change it.

Instinctively you know you have to do something because lurking just below the surface are some dangers for you as a leader. You know that if you don’t take the initiative and step up to challenge the status quo, it will be quite costly in terms of your becoming a leader everyone respects as strong, trustworthy, candid, and highly competent.

Now I know exactly what you’re thinking—some days the enormity of the task and the uncertainty that goes along with providing timely feedback in an actionable way that recognizes contributions can be overwhelming. However, the downside of not doing so is much worse.

“How?” You Might Ask

Gone are the days of those stellar performers who will work just for the sake of a paycheck without seeing steady progress from one level to the next. Failing to deliver genuine feedback about a person’s performance—or not rewarding them for their contributions, results, and talents more frequently than an annual review—can cost you damage to your reputation and real impact to the bottom line.

The talented and motivated high performers will describe working for you as hopelessly boring and lackluster. Since they’ll feel as if they’re going nowhere, they’ll quietly bide their time until they can jump to a job that offers them the feedback that fuels their growth.

Trust me, recognizing and rewarding people for the work they do for you—and providing feedback in a timely and actionable way—doesn’t have to swamp your boat or leave you feeling uncertain about how you’ll actually get around to doing it.

So I’ll share my secret with you.

Being the kind of leader who gives authentic and actionable feedback is a process, and all you really need is a road map to get you where you need to be. Think of these things as your GPS for becoming the leader who separates real results from meaningless accolades, and gives genuine feedback on performance in real time.

Get Yourself So You’re Practiced At Giving Feedback

You’re the leader—so it all starts with you. You have to think and prepare long before that first feedback conversation. You need to be a model for both imparting and hearing the type of feedback that is impactful and helps other progress in their careers quickly based on their merit and ability. Increasing your own self-awareness is essential. Acquiring an appreciation for the feelings and thoughts of other people, recognizing your emotions, knowing why you feel the way you do, and recognizing the sway they have on those around you are some of the critical things you have to have on day one. Conveying your thoughts clearly, precisely, and explicitly while at the same time being sensitive to the needs of the other person, along with taking their temperature and perspective, is what will help you effectively guide the conversation to a productive outcome. Doing these things connects you with the other person and supports them as they see the feedback as the gift you intend it to be. My last tip—and probably the most important one—is to think before you speak, and by that I simply mean find your key point about every bit of why you are giving this feedback by asking yourself the following three questions:

  • Why am I sharing this? What’s my objective?
  • What is my key take on the topic? What’s my point of view?
  • Why does it matter to the person I’m trying to reach?

Field The Right Team In The First Place

Organizing and putting the right people on the field is critical to making certain that people are capable of what you’re asking them to do. Stack your teams with people who have the skills, are open to constructive feedback, and who can take a compliment with grace and dignity. This reduces the chance that you’ll have to deliver feedback to those who may react in an overly emotional or defensive way. Focus on making sure that all the people on the team have the resources they need to execute and make decisions, have a measure of autonomy and discretion, and are willing to challenge the status quo themselves. Encourage bi-directional feedback, let them know that you’ve got as much to learn from them as they do from you, and teach, as my kindergarten teacher used to say, sharing is caring.

Tackle Their Needs With As Much Focus As You Do The Bottom Line

Multitasking is a given when you’re a leader. And as much as you have to keep your eye on the bottom line, you have to tackle their needs with as much focus as you do the bottom line. Spending time with them means balancing priorities and making sure that the time you spend isn’t always about the nuts and bolts of what everyone is working on. There need to be moments when it’s just about them and what is going on in their lives—listening to them, learning from them, and sharing stories that have absolutely nothing to do with work. But what is the right mix of tasks versus personal connection time? You’ll have to see what works best in your workplace, and if you have to err on one side or the other, choose tackling the needs of the person before the business.

Prepare For Things To Go Off Track – And Know How To Get It Back On Track

In spite of our best efforts, there are times when we’ve got to deliver feedback that is going to be difficult for the other person to hear. If you’ve done the work in step one you’ll be well-prepared to do the heavy lifting required here. Timing is everything—when at all doable, schedule these feedback conversations for the end of the day so that when the conversation is done, the person doesn’t have to go back to their workspace and can leave the office to process and think outside of the gaze of their coworkers. How you start the conversation usually dictates how it ends, so affirm that you’re in this together. If you’ve established yourself as an honest broker acknowledging significant contributions as well as areas for growth, you’ll have a baseline of trust to leverage. Focus on the performance and how you’ll work together to choose strategies that will help them succeed. Diffuse emotional reactions by leaning in and listening. If the conversation gets out of hand, delay responding by calling for a break, and regroup when everyone has time to cool down before things spiral out of control.

Follow these steps, defy convention, and become the one leader everyone respects as being strong, trustworthy, candid, and highly competent. The journey is less challenging when you have a roadmap and your focus is firmly on the destination. Share with me the stories of how you broke away from your old feedback habits and what happened when you did.

3 Easy Ideas To Halt Meeting Monotony

Sep 13
2016

3 Simple Ideas to Halt Meeting MonotonyIt’s 8 AM, and one glance at your calendar tells you it’s another day crammed full of an endless stream of mind-numbingly boring, antagonistic, and unproductive meetings. We’ve invested thousands of hours—which we will never get back—in contentious, monotonous, and frustrating meetings with nothing to show for it other than our being stressed, tired, and dreading the next one on the calendar.

If you’re anything like me, you’re continually on the quest for a few simple ideas to shake up and halt meeting monotony. Here are 3 simple ideas to make what seems like an impossible task possible.

1. Disruption Is Crucial

Even the most disciplined among us are inclined to approach familiar situations and people in routine ways. Disrupting well-known patterns is crucial to halting meeting monotony, along with shaking up the routine thinking that lulls everyone into a trance of just going through the motions.

There is no right or wrong way to disrupt the status quo. Simply changing the venue, length, format, players, and asking people to assume different roles (e.g. meeting manager, devil’s advocate, solicitor of other’s points of view) can create enough disruption to spark the various players to pause, reflect, think, and respond more intelligently.

Noticing when people seem to be coalescing around repetitive thinking is vital to halting the cascade toward monotony. Asking innovative questions designed to spur debate and challenge the common thinking reinvigorates the discussion and disrupts the trend toward groupthink.

2. Don’t Dictate The Approach

Disruption is vital to invigorating your meetings, and yet it isn’t all that’s required. Dictating the way in which the players interact in the meeting isn’t a great strategy for spurring enthusiasm, creativity, robust debate, and trust. How everyone will interact is fundamental to creating the space needed for transparency, fruitful dialogue / debate, and learning to happen. The approach must reflect the collective values and principles of everyone involved, along with those of the organization. Here are a few essential ones that you can build upon:

  • Common focus—the success of everyone involved.
  • Respect for each other regardless of title or position.
  • Free expression of perspectives, views, and beliefs, especially when they highlight flaws and assumptions.
  • No one sits on the sidelines—active solicitation of participation.
  • Recognition and support of the role of the ultimate decision maker.
  • Agreement to support the final decision once it is made.

These principles must extend beyond the meeting and become part of the DNA of the team or organization. Everyone needs to embody these at all times.

3. Design With The End In Mind

We are all well-versed in the trail of breadcrumbs that Hansel and Gretel use to guide them back home to safety when the moon rises. There is a lesson there for us. It is critical to the success of the meeting that we know EXACTLY where we want the journey to end.

Starting with the end in mind stems tangents and unnecessary side discussions that quickly derail and catapult us toward decisions that don’t serve our needs and that we aren’t invested in. Designing meetings with the end in mind, simply stated, means delineating and clarifying what the ultimate goal being sought is, and establishing the path that gives you the best chance of seeing it come to fruition. Agreeing in the short-term on where we are ultimately headed—even when we don’t all agree on the nitty gritty of the how this will be done—is what creates the shared enthusiasm and investment in striving for the same result. Here are two quick ideas for you to experiment with:

  • Start with the meeting invite. Include a request for people to get ready for the meeting by thinking about the ultimate outcome, and what gives the team the best chance of attaining it and get the creativity and focus going.
  • Use technology to gather the data and share the information with everyone so they come aware, informed, and prepared. A low-tech way is to collect people’s thoughts and ideas at the start of the meeting on a flip chart.

The information gathered becomes the genesis for the conversation that will build consensus, set the ultimate outcomes, create enthusiasm, and define the trajectory of the meeting.

Perhaps implementing these strategies will feel strange and uncomfortable at first—most change is. However, in the long run, changing the direction of your next meeting is critical to leveraging the differences, bonds, and insights of the brilliant minds in the room, and most of all their impression of you as the meeting leader.

What tips have you used to take a break from meeting monotony and give your meetings a well-deserved shot in the arm? I’d like to hear them so please feel free to share them below.

 

If We’re Not Scared, It Isn’t Big Enough

May 24
2016

If We're Not Scared, It Isn't Big EnoughScrawled across the whiteboard of a large conference room, in vibrant red, were the words, “If we’re not scared, it isn’t big enough.” To the casual observer, these words may have not meant much, but to the team assembled in that room, it was a well-understood and familiar refrain designed to propel that group of brilliant people to take action that firmly placed them in their discomfort zone. This refrain was their rallying cry—a less-than-subtle nudge by a truly innovative leader calling them to rely on their own creativity, step beyond what was comfortable, and do what others might consider the impossible.

Every industry has its great leaders: those people who enthuse, energize, induce, and propel others to accomplish more than they ever dreamed possible. But what does it take to create the excitement, energy, and intensity required to propel those talented people around you to excel and move beyond their self-imposed limits?

Energize, Enthuse Rather than Simply Engage Them

Creating the excitement, energy, and intensity in those you lead is less about engaging them and more about energizing them. Energizing them is about building their internal drive to excel beyond what they even think they are capable of. This requires you to give those you lead the opportunities they don’t even know they’re ready for. Place value on expecting high levels of performance by setting what appears to be impossible as possible. Setting high expectations and aspirations encourages people to develop the skills that lead to their being able not only to survive, but also thrive in an intense environment. Your acknowledgment of their skill and successes will lead those exceptional people to want to excel even more. The high and energy they get from succeeding, your acknowledgement of their success, and their confidence gained gives them a sense of being extraordinary, which drives them to be seen in only that way.

Lead by Example from Deep Within Your Own Discomfort Zone

Asking others to embrace the journey into their discomfort zone begins with modeling that behavior oneself. Visibly demonstrate the willingness to challenge your own thinking and behavior, and also set those seemingly impossible standards for you. Let those you lead see that you keep the pressure on yourself as intently as you do them. Your continued quest to elevate your own performance reassures those you lead that pushing the limits is more than just rhetoric, and that possibility lies in the zone of high expectations. Those you lead learn that, working together, you can all become more resourceful, innovative, and creative. And that enables them to see the possibilities in themselves.

Illuminate and Articulate the Challenge in Terms of the Vision

We can all become mired in the details of a problem and faced with only unexceptional solutions. Shedding light on the matter at hand in terms of the why helps you, your team, and the organization recast the matter at hand in ways that expand options, outcomes, and possibilities. Instilling and expanding the possibilities creates that wow and energy-producing moment. It inspires and affirms the underlying purpose for acting, helps guide the individual’s unique contribution to the outcome, and leads to more innovative, impactful, and authentic connection to the vision from which groundbreaking and revolutionary growth and resolution happen.

Being in the orbit of a leader like that can at times be pressure-filled, hard driving, and arduous. However, it spurs you to disrupt long-held patterns and to see what else you’ve got. I’d like you to share your memories of those people who’ve dared you to ask yourself: Is it big enough?

 

Accentuate the Positive in 2016

Jan 12
2016

sparkler3As 2015 draws to a close, it is a great time to celebrate our wins and begin preparing ourselves for success in 2016. Although our specific goals and resolutions for 2016 might be different this time around, the desire, drive, and motivation to pursue them is the same. Each and every one of us hopes and wants the upcoming year to be better than the last. We want to be happy, fulfilled, and successful.

Before you begin to set milestones, plans, and goals for the upcoming year, it is important to notice and acknowledge what you and those around you have done well. Starting your 2016 planning by identifying and acknowledging what you and others have done well helps all involved build and reinforce that as we go into the new year.

You can begin accentuating the positive in yourself by asking the following questions, and then writing down your answers, as you begin your year-end review.

  1. What were the highlights of the past year? What did you learn?
  2. What went well this year and how can you do more of that in the upcoming year?
  3. What impact did what went well have on you and those connected to you?
  4. What did you learn about yourself based on what went well this year?

Once you’ve answered the questions above, it is key to acknowledge yourself for all the things done well, successes you experienced, and the challenges you overcame before deciding what you want to accomplish in 2016. Choose a quiet moment either at the start or end of each day for a week and choose one item to focus on in the moment. Acknowledge the accomplishment by replaying what you did and how you made a difference.

To amplify and share this powerful experience with others after your week of acknowledging yourself, begin acknowledging those around you. You could start off by choosing one person each day and acknowledge something specific that they have done well, and then tell them how it made a difference. Be as specific as you can with yourself and others. Acknowledgement is more that just saying you or they are great. Acknowledgement means noticing what a person does and how they make a difference.

There is no secret formula for living a happier and more fulfilled life. Accentuating the positive in others and ourselves helps us understand how and what motivates us to achieve our goals, leverage what works well, and connect more deeply with who we are and how we make a difference in the world.

My wish for all of you in the New Year is to flourish and have the success and fulfillment that you desire.

How to Inspire Passion and Creativity Among Your Team

Nov 12
2015

inspire-creativityWhether you lead a huge organization or manage a small team, a large part of what you do revolves around building that dream team of super bright, highly successful people who have what it takes to put your team over the top. However, as the Chief Encouragement Officer, you often find yourself with an interesting dilemma: how do you instill in them the courage and motivation to realize their potential, without limiting their creativity, brilliance, and innovative nature?

This isn’t an easy task, nor is it a one size fits all formula for everyone on your team. Therefore, your only option is to tap into their genius, and the best way to encourage them to succeed is to stop doing the thinking for them.

As Chief Encouragement Officer, when we encourage others’ thought process, we tap into their creativity, help them make their own connections, improve the quality and clarity of their thinking, and create the passion and motivation to act.

Here are some ways that you can inspire and encourage those you lead to perform at the optimal level—who knows, maybe during the process you’ll even give yourself the encouragement you need to achieve what you desire.

Step Back In the Moment from Giving Answers

Stepping back in the moment takes great self-management as a leader. It means going against the urge for expediency and opting for the longer-term gains that come with encouraging those we lead to think for oneself. Stepping back in the moment allows you to become the catalyst for the other person to uncover what isn’t working. At its core, encouraging the person to think through the issue with you as a sounding board, resource, and interested party creates the safe space needed to move beyond what may be comfortable for them without fear of disappointing you.

Challenge Them to Make Specific Changes

Encouraging them to think independently of you is critical to their ability to change long-held patterns and behaviors that aren’t working. Independent thought and experimentation fosters and develops the individual’s ability to create the new map that will be their guide as they move forward. Pushing them to select goals that are challenging and specific helps them build the structure that supports the new behaviors as they emerge. Holding them accountable for their choices means praising what is working and encourages a quick transition from what isn’t working to addressing what can work.

Acknowledge and Encourage Forward Movement In the Moment

Helping people re-shape their self-perception means letting them know that you notice the changes when and where they happen. Don’t wait for the next official performance review or conversation to acknowledge their progress and encourage continued movement forward. When you notice the change, say something about it to the person in that moment. Impromptu acknowledgement encourages continued action and is a powerful motivator. Encouragement helps them push through when the process is scary and challenging.

Encouraging others to do the thinking for themselves delivers a huge dividend for all involved. Creativity abounds, and people learn to encourage and support each other instead of lamenting what isn’t working.

Are you ready to instill in those you lead the courage and motivation they need to excel?

 

3 Steps To Help Manage The Brilliant Minds You Lead

Oct 22
2015

It is no secret that our leadership practices are failing to keep up with the reality of how employees in the 21st century want and expect to be led. One only has to look at survey after survey on employee engagement to know that today’s workforce continues to tell those in leadership that they want a different style of leadership than the traditional command and control structure of generations past.

Gen X and Gen Y employees are well educated, more independent and work in a more thought-driven environment than their predecessors. Gen X and Y employees come into the workforce with different expectations for their leaders, and expect more from the organizations in which they work. For those in leadership, thriving and success as a leader means adapting your style of leadership to one that helps your team work smarter, and tap into their desire to create value and do things in a smarter way.

Why should leaders care about improving thinking? Improving thinking among those you lead supports their personal development, independence, and respects their need for diversity and change. Supporting your team in improving their thinking helps them fulfill their potential, spurs innovation and creates employees who take on the responsibility for becoming engaged and highly productive.

Here are three steps that you can take today to manage the brilliant minds you lead:

1. Create A Space For People To Simplify Their Thinking: As a leader you have to engage in behavior that helps others feel safe in opening up to you. This means that you must always treat people with fairness, allow them to give voice to their concerns and truly hear and understand what is being said. Lastly, you have to be willing to not win your point so that the other person can draw his or her own conclusions. Creating a safe space allows someone to simplify their thinking and open himself or herself up to exploring new and different areas without feeling judged, criticized or blamed. As a leader, developing and expressing genuine regard for the other person goes a long way toward building trust and creating a safe space.

2. Encourage People to Think Things Through on A Deeper Level: Help those you lead focus on creating distance between action and reaction. Help them pause and delve deeper into the habits and the behaviors that are driving what they do. Together explore their thinking and approach rather than what happened and what didn’t. This type of exploration helps them move away from reacting to a stimulus and more toward responding to it. This is not about improving the process or how they did something, but rather focuses on helping them understand the behavior and habits that are impacting their performance. Helping and supporting them as they think through things for themselves, challenging thinking appropriately and respectfully assists them in making the connection between behavior and outcomes. This is how as leaders we can help them begin to think and act differently.

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