Labor Day is Time to Be Accountable for Your Work

Setting_Sun_from_Saltdean_Beach_-_geograph.org.uk_-_634681Yesterday marked the unofficial end of summer.  No more cruising to the beach, laid back office vibes on Fridays and Mondays, and vacationing co-workers.  Starting today, you are in the home stretch for your year.  Time to dust off your review, goals, and bonus plans and measure where you are compared with where you are supposed to be.  Look at your team’s metrices as well and do a similar analysis.  The put plans together to achieve all of the collective goals.

Why all of the goals?  Because being a leader means having accountability to your company, your team your customers, your key stakeholders and yourself.  You cannot be a credible leader without a proven track record of success and owning up to the reasons why you may not have been as successful as you had hoped.

When thinking about accountability, you should look at a number of factors including:

1.       How is my performance?  Am I leading my team to its capacity?  Am I giving the effort, insight, and attitude needed to help my team and me to succeed?

2.       How is my team’s performance?  Are we working to the best of our ability?  Do I need to coach, mentor or guide my team more?  Do I have the right people on the team based on how the challenges have evolved?

3.       How do I work with my key stakeholders?  Are we working collaboratively or are we combative?  Do we have the same end goal in mind or are their hidden agendas?  Do our performance metrices work together or is the success of one team contingent of the failure of another?

You need to be honest about your assessments.  You are doing anyone any favors by propping yourself up unnecessarily.  Take a hard look in the mirror.  If you are happy with your team’s and your efforts, then work to figure out how to close the gaps that are occurring.  If you feel like the reduction of effectiveness is self-inflicted, start the process of breaking the cycle and get back to where you belong.

Owning your situations in life will not guarantee success, but it will guarantee that you can live with the repercussions each situation gives you.

Are You Credible?

credibility1In this age of viral videos, instant news, Look at Me stunts and constant posting of selfies, you have more exposure than ever before.  You can create any persona that you want to be, post it and many people will believe that to be the real you.  People are getting rich from followers and views because of the age-old advertising tactic- people buy from people they want to be like.

 It seems that people are only interested in what you eat or drink, what you wear, and where you go.  However, this is completely different in terms of true business leadership.  According to numerous studies, articles and surveys, the number one personality attribute a leader can have is credibility.

This makes perfect sense as the word credible is from the Latin word Credo or I Believe.  People want to follow people they believe and believe in.  And leaders as people who should be followed need to be believable, real and authentic. 

But the question remains “Are you credible?”  I think a simple checklist may help you.

1.       Am I Honest? 

2.       Do I Tell the Truth?

3.       Can I Be Trusted?

4.       Do I Trust Others?

5.       Am I Believable?

6.       Do I have Expertise in my Field/Craft?

7.       Am I Sincere?

8.       Do I Understand my Team?

9.       Am I Fair?

10.   Do I Have Street Cred?

When going through the checklist, think about your actions and words.  Do you walk the walk and talk the talk?  Or do you try to placate everyone and get them out of your office as soon as possible?  Are you someone who wants others to succeed or do you want to get ahead at almost all cost?

Credibility has a lot to do with your performance with your team over a long period of time.  If you feel that you are lacking it, do not despair.  You still have time to change.  Truthfully answer the questions above again and decide how you are going to be more honest, trusting, believable, sincere, understanding, fair and competent.  It may make the biggest difference in your career.

It’s Not You, It’s Me

Man and Woman Talking.jpgSometimes there are no truer words when it comes to leading people.  I work with a company that has hired five people for the same position over the last 7 years.  It is a tough job in that the person has a lot of autonomy, it involves mostly computer work and has surge work but should all be finished in a traditional 40-hour work week.

As we were discussing their next steps, we agreed that they need to invest in their latest person who was not meeting expectations.  There is a myriad of reasons why it is better to invest versus removing the person- it is costly, disruptive, and no guarantee of better performance.  But the biggest one is that it is forcing my client to look in the mirror and decide how they want to lead this person.

When you see constant turnover in a position, department or company, it is not always because they hired the wrong person (despite what they tell you on an interview).  Sometimes it is because the people leading are not doing it right.  They lack the skills, finesse, tact, direction, or interest to lead effectively.  The leader may not be equipped to be a leader- having been thrust into the position through sole contributor competency, attrition or need.  The leader may not be ready to handle the stresses surrounding leading and fall into a shell.

Or the leader may just be a manager- focused on their job, making their bonus, and not rocking the boat.  They may give too much space to their employees because they are too busy, distracted or overwhelmed themselves.  They may look and only see flaws and decide to harp on shortcomings and demotivate their team.

A true leader understands that when a team member fails, so do they.  They did not reach that person to maximize their potential.  They failed in their most basic duty- motivating their team to meet and exceed expectations- their company’s, team’s, and personal ones.  Before you eliminate a person because of performance, take a second to make sure you did all that you could to keep that person liable in your company. 

4 Ways to Lead the Younger Generation

InterviewEveryone who knows me, knows one thing about me- that I love standing in front of a group to tell them how smart I am.  That’s why I jumped at the chance to become an adjunct instructor at the Temple University Fox School of Business.  For the next 6 weeks, I get to form the minds and actions of 30 future business leaders who need to take my class to graduate.

Initially I was apprehensive in sharing what I know with these students.  After all, they are much more tech savvy and in tune with the now.  I even wondered if I had enough class (RIP Prince).  Then a funny thing happened, we started talking about business.

And then I realized why experienced leaders need to be around.  We get it.  We can help turn a dream into an idea into a reality.  More importantly, I rediscovered how we can work better with the younger generation and become even better leaders.  The funny thing is, we already do most of them every day:

  1. Listen to what people are saying and discern what they mean. Many times, younger colleagues have their ideas have baked.  Take the time to think through what they are saying, translate it into your world and discuss options on how to make their idea possible.
  2. Take the time to care about what is being said. Understanding what is being said is not enough.  You need to take the time to personally invest in each person.  If you understand their back story, you will understand them.  This will help you lead them better.
  3. Understand what is not being said. Body language is a nuance that you need to learn, especially with younger people.  Know when they are frustrated, confused, angry and apathetic.  The most successful leaders master body language.
  4. Collaborate, don’t lecture. No one wants to be preached to outside of church.  “What do you think?”  goes a lot further than “Do it this way”.  Open ended questions like “Have you thought about this?” or statements like “Don’t forget to consider that” will spur conversation.

Being a leader is difficult.  When there is a large age gap, it becomes even harder.  By improving on your listening, comprehension, empathy, and open-mindedness, you will become an even more successful leader in this new world.

Sometimes Being a Leader Means Saying Goodbye

DrowningThere is a romantic notion that a leader is like a knight in shining armor.  They can save anyone and anything in any situation and everybody will cheer their efforts and laud them a hero.  As great as that sounds, that is not always the case. 

Sometimes, the best way for a leader to lead is to remove themselves from the situation.  The circumstances dictate that the right move is for new blood to tackle the issue.  Even the noblest of leaders cannot fix every issue.  Their skill set, belief system, or team constraints force them to step aside and let someone else try to resolve the situation.

In many instances, it is better for a leader to leave them wanting more instead of staying too long.  It is better to be seen as going out on top because when the failure to achieve occurs, the fall may be too great for the team to bear.

We see this a lot with celebrity CEOS, TV personalities, politicians, and athletes.  But it also happens every day in companies, non-profits, and schools.  The leader reaches a point where they are no longer effective.  Their message is tuned out, their results are not what anyone is accustomed to, and rather than accepting that they had a good run, they hang on too long.

Often times, the demise is self-imposed by doing things illegally or by cutting corners.  Other times, it is just the natural business cycle.  Someone was lucky enough to catch the wave and not smart enough to get off before the crash.

If you are a leader who does not feel they are being effective anymore, you need to evaluate whether you should still be leading that team.  Be proactive to figure out how to recharge your team and honestly access what they need to be successful.  If the answer is not you, you need to be the leader that you are and move on.

It may be scary to change positions or to be between positions, but your reputation and the team you leave behind will thank you.

Yes is Only the Beginning

bigstock-Business-people-shaking-hands-38603158I have been talking to colleagues who work in a variety of industries, different sized companies and all over the corporate ranks about the difficulty to execute projects in today’s business setting.  Even in meetings where everyone agrees to green light something, the next steps are taking weeks, months and years to execute.

We came to the conclusion that when people say “Yes”, what they really mean is “Time to start the arduous task of making this happen.”  The reasons are complex, but a simplistic view is that companies are more siloed and centralized than they want to admit.

Getting projects through the myriad of approvals, checks and balances, and legal clearance is taking longer than ever and is greatly affecting companies’ abilities to innovate, change and grow.

Take a company like mine, Halo Health, which provides patient education in waiting and exams rooms that customized to the health system or practice’s needs.  On the surface, the question is simply do we want to replace cable TV with a digital education system?  Which usually leads to a yes decision.

But in the environment we live in, from “yes” to installation becomes ten meetings, four requests for sample content, three rescheduled installation dates due to “IT” (which is never the case, so Techs don’t hate), and months of ultimately patients losing out on the ability to live healthier.

There is an overall fear of making a decision.  People are hiding behind workloads, data, and insecurity.  We as leaders need to break through this muck.  99% of the decisions that you make can be reversed, altered, or forgotten about.  Do not let “no-brainers” get bogged down because you are worried that in the above case, a patient may switch doctors because they like watching CNN.  WHAT!?  That flawed logic tells me that you need to spend more time on making sure people know your differentiation from the competition.  And hopefully a lack of patient education is not seen as a positive.

Leaders must balance flexibility and conviction.  If you believe in the project that you just turned on, take it by the horns and run it through your company, knowing that you are going to run into roadblocks and challenges.

Communicate to stakeholders on the status of the project.  If it is a low priority project, tell everyone.  They appreciate knowing where they stand.

Hold people accountable.  Projects losing steam because of bureaucracy are costing everyone millions of dollars in hard costs and thousands of hours in soft costs.

Shorten time from yes to go and you will be a corporate hero.

The Key to Success is Knowing What Details to Attend

checklistI tend to snicker when people tell me that they have great attention to detail or that they are big picture strategists so details aren’t their thing.  Both kinds of people raise red flags to me when assembling my team.

People who are self-proclaimed detail oriented tend to look only at what is in front of them and fixate on the current issue.  Big picture people often overlook their day to day responsibilities as they try to “take the long view”.

When assembling your team, you need to identify people who know what details they need to perform their tasks while keeping their focus on both short term and long term results.   This is especially important as most companies can slice and dice data on every piece of minutiae regarding their business.  Start asking yourself:

  1. What is the goal of this piece of information? Does it help me perform my job better?  Help a corporate or customer issue?  Solve a problem?  If the answer is no, look for better data points.  Sales reports that just show units and sales are a good example of this.  You need to understand so much more before you decide what the best-selling items are like average price, gross margin, net margin, availability, etc.
  2. Is this information “repeatable”? Meaning, is this something that I need to share with my team to help them perform their job better?  A report that shows customer payment terms and trends can be a great report, especially if a customer who is complaining about their margins does not take their discount terms.  That type of report is good for anyone who touches your customers, including finance.
  3. What if I don’t know this data? Or more likely, what if I forget the data?  How will the lack of knowledge affect my team?  If it is something that is easy to look up, like a list price, then don’t commit it to memory.  If it is something that you need for a presentation like a deadline or project milestone, you better remember it.

Use the 80/20 rule when going through the details.  Remembering the 20% that drives progress is the key.  Good luck.

Maneuvering through Conflict is a Necessary Skill

 

Business People YellingI have spent a lot of time dealing with conflict resolution over the last few days, and how it affects my team, my key stakeholders, and me.  As a leader, you like to think that every situation has a cut and dry ending.  If this happens…then that. 

 

However, business and life are not that simple.  For every rule, there is a caveat.  For everything that you know to be true, there is a potential loophole.  And for every instance of conflict, there is an opportunity for you to lose your team.

 

Seldom are there absolutes when dealing with conflict.  But here are some that may help you.

 

1.       Whomever Yells First, Loses.  When managing a difficult situation, you need to keep your cool.  You need to keep your judgement clear and screaming and hollering to get your point across will not yield success.  You have ceded control to your opponent.

 

2.       Keep an Open Mind.  To understand the real issue, you need to listen to the other person’s view and try to see where they are coming from.  By getting to the root of the conflict, you can see what a fair and equitable resolution may be- even if you don’t win or agree.

 

3.       When Possible, Seek Input.  Not every situation affords you with the opportunity to get input from impartial observers.  But when it does, make sure you use those resources. When you are knee deep in the drama and stress of the situation, these people can make you take a pause and see things in a different light. Remember that input is different than gossip. 

 

4.       Scorched Earth Does No One Any Good.  If you are inevitably going to lose the conflict, destroying everyone associated with the issue does more harm than good.  You still need to lead these people, but losing their respect will cause you to be ineffective.

 

5.       Gloating is Worse.  No one likes a sore winner.  You need to handle the “win” in stride and continue to conduct yourself with class and dignity.  People watch how you act in wins and losses to decide whether to follow you.

 

Staying above the fray, taking a long view of the situation, seeking out others’ input and being a gracious winner/loser are all ways to handle conflict correctly.  If all else fails, remember Ralph Cramden’s advice- “Say pins and needles and needles and pins, it’s a happy man that grins.”  Then count to ten, you will probably already feel better.

 

Leading When Your Team is Not 100%

unmotivated-employees-in-meeting_pop_18933When your team is firing on all cylinders, it is a beautiful thing to watch.  High quality work gets done on time, on budget and everyone is moving in harmony.  Your team works as one and becomes the envy of your company, heck even your industry.

But what happens when life gets in the way?  Maybe a team member or their family is dealing with a private health issue, or someone just gets into a funk.  How do you work to bridge that noise in the system to get the team back up to speed?

1.       Communication- you need to talk to your team member about what is going on and how you can help them.  You also need to discuss with your team how to improve its performance with that team member potentially pulling less than their weight for a time being. 

2.       Confidentiality- However, you are not to disclose what the issues may be.  That is for the team member to share if they feel comfortable.  The leader should never be the one to break that type of news nor should they speculate on that person’s condition or state of mind.

3.       Clarity- you need to keep the team’s focus and goals in plain sight.  Changing or wavering on the team’s direction because of a personal issue brings great unrest to the team.  Keep everyone focused on the tasks at hand.

4.       Comfort- depending on the situation, you are going to need to assure your team that they can achieve their goals- even if a key contributor is not able to perform at their normal level.  You also need to reassure the team member that they are valued and will have plenty of room for growth when they return to 100% focus.

5.       Confidence- now is not the time for you to lose faith in your team.  You need to believe in them even more in times of adversity.  They look to you for guidance and strength.  Be a pillar for them to build momentum and peak performance off.

One more thing, you need to get HR involved.  They are experts in helping team leaders get through issues like this.  Their insight helps you steer and guide your team through the trials and tribulations of life.  Ignoring them would be foolish.

Good luck and become well versed in the 5C’s.  Unfortunately, your leadership road is going to be filled with adversity.

Leading Means Watching Your Team’s Time

man late looking to his watchAnyone who knows me, knows that I am not a clock watcher.  I believe you dedicate the time to get a job done- whether it is completing a project or perfecting a skill.  But as a leader in the new workplace, I find myself watching the clock.

 

Labor laws were not made for our 24/7 social media world that we are living in today.  The laws are based traditional 40 hour work weeks with overtime laws based on working more than the 40.  This leads to a huge issue for leaders.  You have a mix of professionals, support staff, and production workers who are all classified and compensated differently. 

 

Not only do you need to be mindful of what your team is doing during traditional work hours or shifts, you need to be aware of their personal time too.   Contacting hourly employees or salaried employees who earn less than the Department of Labor’s thresholds during their off hours needs to be documented, and the employees’ hours need to be adjusted.

 

You might just be asking your admin to check your flight, but that fifteen minutes of work while he is at home needs to be tracked.   The same goes for the texts and emails that get sent (and you expect the recipient to answer) from customers, colleagues on different shifts, etc.  Don’t forget the “Can you post this?” requests as well.  They are all work requests that are not happening during traditional work hours, but need to be tracked.  Otherwise both your team and you are out of compliance with the law. Remember every communication sent and received is time stamped.  It is not hard to figure out that your team is answering out of work.

 

This is especially dangerous with shared services, especially when you are responsible for the cost center, but not all of the work comes from your team.  Multiple bosses may be asking for a person to complete tasks without them realizing it. 

 

There are some ways to make sure your team is covered and compliant. 

 

1.       Ask your “affected” employees to track their time spent out of work on work issues and deduct it from their weekly in office rules.  For instance, if you notice that a person spends three hours a week working at home, let them leave at 2 pm on Fridays. 

 

2.       Encourage non-essential workers to not bring home their laptop, check email or answer company related texts.  This way they are truly out of pocket. 

 

3.       Be more mindful of your requests.  If you are no longer emailing at 2 am, chances are your team will stop too.

 

4.       Shorten your “in office” work week to compensate for the out of work responses. Working 8:30-4:30 reduces your work hours to 37.5 hours meaning that the first 2.5 hours working out of work are covered.

 

Some labor attorneys are going to make a lot of money on this with a class action suit.  Make sure your team is not the reason your company goes under.