Labor Day is Time to Be Accountable for Your Work 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.

Are You a Meeting Animal?

We all know that person who tries to dominate a meeting- answering rhetorical questions, making counterpoints to their own points, pushing their agenda without any chance for input. Then they instantly become disengaged when they are finished with their rant. They read their phone, start sidebar conversations, and fidget in their chair until their time to pounce comes again.

Of all of the types of meeting goers, which also include the note taker, the contrarian, the face maker and the disinterested attendee, this person is the worst attendee. Their only agenda is to win the meeting, to prove that they are smarter, louder, and more aggressive than everyone else.

Ask yourself, “Am I that person?” If you are, please stop. Meetings are supposed to be for collaboration and team problem solving. If you need more attention, call your mom and ask if she is available to give you a hug. Your insecurities are hurting your team, your reputation and your career. Being passionate about the meeting subject is fine. Just be respectful that others may have different styles and perspectives and together you will solve the problems. It is really difficult to be an independent contributor in a group setting.

If you are running a meeting and you have a hijacker, you need to gain control of the situation. You need to exhibit strong leadership skills. Statements that redirect the meeting to your stated goals are important. “Thank you for the input, Tom. I think you covered that topic very well. Now we are going to discuss… Kate do you have any input.”

Put an end to cellphone use and sidebars immediately. Remind people that not only are those activities disrespectful, they increase the length of the meeting and reduce the effectiveness of the team. Be ready to handle snide comments with grace. Remember, you are in control of the meeting.

Plenty of books and articles have been written about the art of conducting/attending meetings. All of their main points center on respect- respecting the attendees, their time, their views and the moderator. Remember whether you are running the meeting or a willing participant, the way you respect your peers will go further than any idea that you have.