Learn to Let It Go

let-it-go-frozenNo, I was not watching Frozen this weekend, but rather was thinking about the unrest that festers in the workplace.  More and more people are feeling slighted and holding onto these perceived slights to the detriment of their health and the health of their team.

Instead of moving forward and working towards common goals, people are pushing their agenda to vindicate that they feel are affronts to their character, intellect or abilities.  Many times, the anger stems from a manager’s criticism of their work.  Other times it is because a company decides to fund or green light a competing project.

If you are going to be a true leader, you are going to need to work through these issues and get your team back on track.  Much like parenting every child is different, dealing with an “insulted” team member is unique.  You are going to need to:

  1. Have Two Way Communication. Most grudges happen over miscommunications.  You need to speak openly, honestly, and respectfully so the person understands where you are coming from and that you understand their position as well.  Speaking from the mountain top does not help heal wounds.
  2. Forgive, But Not Forget. You need to be the bigger person as the leader.  Forgive the person who wronged you or accept the apology of someone who slighted you.  But also learn from the experience- both about how you could have handled it better and how you can manage through the situation better with that colleague.  Don’t repeat the same mistakes.
  3. Keep It Close to Your Vest. The lasting thing that needs to happen is for the disagreement to go public and have people choose sides.  That may work in movies, but in business, chasms are really hard to close and overcome.  The end result is a poorly functioning team where no one wins.  Here is an obvious lesson, but needs to be said if you are asked which side you are on, simply state that you are Switzerland.

As a leader, you need to massage egos all day to get what you want accomplished.  Do not let yours be the biggest in the room.  Stay focused, grounded, and engaged to keep your team working well.

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The Two Real Keys to Success

welcome-freshmen11As many of you know, my daughter has started college this Fall.  Her workload is daunting as she majors in physics and music.  Not surprisingly, about a week ago, I got the call.  “Dad, we need to talk.”  Like every other freshman, her world has been turned upside down.  Surrounded by tons of people 24/7, but not really knowing any of them, suddenly having freedom, but buried with school work, she was living the avalanche.

During breakfast, I learned that she was confused and anxious about school, her abilities, and her “after life”.  Some time during this, I decided to tell her the key to success.  I made her hold on to the table with both hands and look at me.  Then I told her- “The Key to Success is Having a Big Ego”.

She looked at me quizzically because we have stressed humble and kind before it became a song.  I told her that if you do not have extreme confidence in yourself, what you are doing and what you believe, no one else will.  You cannot be successful if you can’t speak about your ideas without conviction.  And you have to believe that you will ultimately succeed even if you are hit with obstacles and temporary failures.

Since I was on a roll (and my fifth cup of coffee), I decided to tell her the next biggest key.  You need to be flexible in your journey.  When I was 18, I wanted to be an accounting major then get a law degree.  Today, I hate numbers and don’t like to read volumes of legalese.  I would have never succeeded if I didn’t change my path.

The goal for Katie was to give herself a large enough base that she could follow either of her passions or become something else.  By studying both arts and sciences, she can achieve that.

How does this relate to you?  Are you confident in yourself and your abilities to stand up for what you believe?  Are you willing to stand on the proverbial ledge to do what’s right?  Can you fail, pick yourself up and try again?  Do you roll with the punches?

Unfortunately, the answer for most people is no.  And to compensate for this, they use arrogance and bravado to cover for a lack of good ego.  You need to work at being comfortable in your own skin and do what you feel is right- even if it is not the prevailing thought.

In this time of social discord, make sure you reflect on what you believe is right and follow it.  It will make your personal and professional lives better.  Please let me know if you’d like to discuss further.

Fearless Leaders are Doomed to Fail

patg013There is a certain image of a fearless leader.  Maybe it’s General Patton storming through Europe in World War II or Tom Brady putting his team on his back to win a Super Bowl.  Then when asked about their victory, they tell you how they always knew they’d be victorious and there was never a doubt in their mind about it.

They seem to forget to mention the hours of planning, the sleepless nights trying to figure out the best path to winning, and the missteps that they took to find the right path.  This is a huge problem for you as an aspiring leader because you believe this myth to be true.

You tell your team what they are going to accomplish and to follow you to make sure it will be done.  You ride them to ensure tasks are completed, push them to their limit to get the best results out of each and every one of them, and you blaze a path in your company leaving everybody not on your team in your wake.

In real life, this cannot happen.  Aside from the enemies you will make with this no holds barred attitude, it is impossible to be a true leader without doubt and introspection coming to light.  You need to have a healthy fear of failure because that grounds your decisions and forces you to continually check the competitive environment, your team’s “temperature”, and your companies’ attitude towards your project.  Going haphazardly guns a blazing will cause your team to burn out and for you to miss the mark in the long run.

Instead, understand that a little uncertainty in your mission will cause you to be a better leader.  You will be able to access your situation more clearly.  You will be able to see the big picture and understand the goal of your project, not just the tasks that need to be accomplished.  And you will develop empathy for your team.  Your Emotional Intelligence will grow and that is a real skill that measures your long-term success.

Unless you work in a military style environment, how you understand and treat people will contribute more to your success than the hard driving style of a fearless leader.  Remember, just because you buy into the project, doesn’t mean your team has.  Having that awareness will help you get the results you all need to be successful.

Labor Day is Time to Be Accountable for Your Work

Setting_Sun_from_Saltdean_Beach_-_geograph.org.uk_-_634681Monday 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 metrics 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.

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. 

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.

Yo! Millennials are People too!

Happy co-workersThat was the comment from one of our Millennial employees after our office was doing our usual bashing of his generation.  And while it is easy to classify an entire group of people as lazy, self-absorbed, and coddled, it is very dangerous to do this as a leader.

From the beginning of time, the establishment has complained about the younger generation.  The Traditionalists complained about the Baby Boomers, Baby Boomers about Generation X and now everyone about the Millennials.  Whether it was blue shirts and long hair or a better work life balance, there has always been a biased against the younger generations.

The true leader is the one that knows how to tap into each of their team members and get the best results from them and the group collectively.  You need to understand what drives each team member in a few key areas:

1.       Values- Millennials tend to value their individualism above all else.  The one size fits all mentality really has become one size fits none.  You need to work to understand and know each team member as a person and what drives them.

2.       Business Worth- Millennials believe that their contribution to the company is the key to their work.  You need to spend time recognizing their good performance way more than you point out how to improve.  Being part of the team is fine for them.   

3.       Business Focus- Millennials have grown up with the “It’s a Small Word” mentality.  They care about the Global impact of their job and how networked their job is to the rest of the world.  You need to explain the big picture to them so that they understand and embrace that their task is making the world and their company better.

You need to adjust your style for Millennials and focus on team work, celebrating small victories, and adding variety to their tasks.  You need to understand that for them, effective work is greater than hours worked, that “paying their dues” is not a reason for a task to be done, and that there is no line between work and family time.  You need to help them grow up in life as well as in the workplace. 

Failure to incorporate this into your management style will cause you to be the “old person” in your office.  And no one wants to be seen as the dinosaur.  Every generation can agree on that.

When to Hire New Employees

InterviewNew Year, New Beginnings.  For almost 20% of the workforce, this is really true as January is one of the top months for new job starts.  With over 87% of the workforce changing jobs within 5 years, that is a lot of turnover.  While it seems to be easy to leave jobs, how do you know if the job is worth replacing or if you need to add staff?

The old adage that people find work to keep themselves busy sometimes clouds what is really necessary versus people filling the day.  Social media also hinders your ability as a manager to see how “hard” a person is actually working.  Group texts, posts, tweets, etc. sap countless hours out of your team’s work day.  Throw in meetings, conference calls, and forget about it!

When we look at increasing our staff, we look at three things:

1.       Is our current staff actually taxed?  As I mentioned above, putting in 40-45 hours a week but spending 15 hours goofing off may mean that we need to change the person doing the job, not splitting the job.  However, if an A Level performer is struggling to keep her work flow going, then you may need to look at getting her help.

2.       Will the hire either reduce costs or increase revenue?  At the end of the day, every employee needs to fall into one of those buckets.  If an AR manager brings a wealth of experience in reducing the amount of outstanding invoices, then that may be a great hire.  However, adding a person to AR because there is a backlog may not be.

3.       Can you outsource the needs and receive better service?  Before hiring an HR manager for a small office, look at the alternatives.  Can a third party company handle the issues that you are typically having?  The third party typically is more cost effective since you are only utilizing them when you need them.  Payroll, sales, creative services, accounting, and marketing are all departments that outsourced vendors tend to work well as they bring lots of experience from different industries to your company.

When I was cutting my teeth as a manager, I was once given some advice that stuck with me.  Top performers always get help.  Middlers need to be mentored to see if they can perform better and lower performers need to leave.  I guess that is why 20% of the workforce moves in January.