Leading Through a Bad Cycle

Super KidIf you read the popular management and leadership books, you get the feeling that leaders always have good years.  They always make bonus, get lavish raises and are universally loved.  If that was true, many of them would still be running companies and not writing books.

So what do you do when your team has a bad year?  No bonuses were made, raises will be minimal if at all, and your team may need to be broken up due to performance.  Morale is at an all-time low and now you need to rally the troops to start building momentum for next year.

Some techniques that have been helpful over the years are for you to be H.A.P.P.I.E.R.:

  1. Honest- your team knows they are not performing well as a unit.  They need to be told what is going on in straight talk.  If changes are going to happen, let them know. Nothing derails your ability to lead than lack of trust.
  2. Adaptive- many times your team hiccups because of them relying on the old ways.  Social marketing did not exist ten years ago.  Now your product is DOA without it.
  3. Proactive- have conversations with your key stakeholders and work through issues before they snowball.  Getting out in front of the problems will help your team perform better.
  4. Professional- now is not the time for you to start acting out.  Do not blame, gossip, complain, or any other negative behavior.  Lead steady and sure.
  5. Innovative- look at new ways to jumpstart your team.  Team bonding over lunch, a group outing, an airing out meeting- use any technique that will spur new ideas.
  6. Energetic- if you are normally over the top energy, keep it going.  If you are normally a stoic leader, add some more personality to your style.  People will follow you if you can convince them it is the right thing to do.  Being upbeat is a natural way to do that.
  7. Reliable- keep your word.  If you tell everyone that you are going to do something, do it.  Building that trust is of the utmost importance during a downtime.

It is never easy to lead through difficult situations.  However, you can get through it by following the advice above and by remembering that people want to be treated just like you do- fairly and openly.  Telling your team what is going on will always work better than hiding behind “I can’t tell you” or “You’ll know soon”.  Don’t get caught in the corporate speak, get out there an lead!

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Leading a Remote Team

woman-on-phoneTechnology has made physical location a non-factor in recruiting talented leaders.  Companies want the right person for the job regardless of where they live.  This creates a lot of logistical challenges for the leaders.  They need to learn the company culture, develop relationships with their virtual team members and key internal constituents, and focus on excelling in their position- all without the benefit of being situated in their company’s offices.

While it is easier to “see your team” via conference call apps like Skype, Go to Meeting, etc., leading your team takes more personal touch than a five minute video chat.  By taking the time to develop the repertoire with your team, you will be seen as always there- even if you are 5000 miles away. 

1.       Be Personal.  One of the fastest ways to build trust is to find common ground.  Take the time to ask members about their work and personal lives.  And be sure to share about yours.   People like to work with people they like.  This is especially true when they do not have the benefit of physical interaction.

2.       Be Honest.  That uncomfortable pause in a video or phone conversation yields immediate distrust.  Instead of umming your way through a tough question until you come up with a scrubbed answered, redirect the question for more clarification.  This gives you time to find the right answer and gives you more insight on why the question is being asked.

3.       Be Mindful.  No one wants to hear from you at 5 pm on a Friday in your time zone.  They really don’t want to hear from you when it is 8 pm in theirs.  Be respectful of your team’s time and they will be respectful of yours.

4.       Don’t Gossip.  Trying to be “dialed in” on company romances and other gossip is not your position in the company.  It is very destructive to your authority when you are probing about water cooler rumors.  It opens you up for people talking about you- and you never having it get back to you until it is too late.

5.       Be Yourself.  Being a successful leader always boils down to people follow someone they trust, like and respect.  Putting up a false bravado does not instill any of the three.  If you are struggling with dealing with a particular department, ask a colleague for help.  Showing that you are a real person will work wonders.

6.       Be Truthful.   It is hard enough to tell and remember a lie when you see people every day.  It is impossible when distance is involved.  If you only tell the truth, it is easy to remember what you told people.  If a part of a project won’t be done until Friday, tell people that.  Telling one person Thursday and another Monday will yield unnecessary confusion for you.

As with most of the topics I cover, the key to being a successful leader is always the same.  Be true to yourself and your team, and people will want to follow you- regardless if you are in the next room or on another continent.

Are You Your Office’s Kobe Bryant?

kobe-bryantSince I saw Kobe Bryant play in a state championship game in Hershey, PA back in 1996, I have followed Kobe’s career. On the eve of his last appearance in Philadelphia, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on his skills and how they may translate into the workplace- both the good and bad- and how those skills could affect you.

The Good

  1. Passion– no one has ever questioned how much passion that Kobe brought to the court every day. Do you match his love of the game? Loving what you do typically yields fantastic results.
  2. Drive– Kobe believed that he needed to be the hardest working player in the NBA to excel. Are you a max effort person? Or do you coast once you have reached success? The best ones never settle and always push themselves harder.
  3. Worldliness- Being raised in Italy, Kobe brought a unique perspective to his career. He had many interests outside of basketball that helped him in his basketball life. Are you a one track minded person who obsesses over your career? Or are you well-read so you can have conversations about many topics of interest? Having a broad perspective is a big key to success.

The Bad

  1. Selfish- even with his diminished skills, Bryant leads his team in shots taken. Bryant needs to be the star regardless of the situation. Can you share the limelight or are you a piano tuner (always “me-me’-ing? A team will always achieve more when the individuals sacrifice for the good of the team. Don’t be the work ball hog.
  2. Difficult to Work With- there is a fine line between pushing people to be their best and crushing their spirit. There are loads of players who failed to carry the burden that Bryant put on them. Do you repel or attract colleagues? Do you find yourself explaining your actions to superiors instead of receiving accolades? Don’t be a bully. You may get short term results, but your team will never reach its fullest potential.
  3. Calculating- Kobe felt he was the smartest person in the room and made rash decisions because of it. Alienating Shaq not only caused Kobe to lose potential championships, he lost the ability to attract players to work with him. Do you dominate meetings, pushing your agenda, then find yourself backpedaling or blaming others when things don’t work out?

There are many other descriptions (egotistical, skilled, polished, arrogant) come to mind, but the last word is complex. No one could ever figure Kobe out- his rap album, his weird tattoo, and his obsession with Michael Jordan- and he never came across as genuine. This lead to him not being the beloved icon he could have been. Don’t be that person, be transparent, honest and open. That will make you a better player than Kobe.