Leading with Trust

Depressed Over Losing a Star Player? Consider These 5 Benefits

star-playerA few years back my team underwent a tremendous amount of change as several of our long-term, star players moved on to other opportunities both in and outside the organization. For several years the composition of my team had remained relatively stable, but we entered a new phase of growth, which was both scary and exciting. It seemed like each day I was having the old Abbott and Costello “Who’s on first?” conversation with my managers, as we tried to sort out who was going, who was staying, and how we were going to get our work done.

It’s easy to get discouraged when top performers leave your team. The immediate reaction is often to look at all the challenges that lay ahead — How do we replace the intellectual capital that’s walking out the door? Who is going to cover the work while we hire replacements? Will the new hires be able to match the productivity and contributions of the previous employees? All those questions swirl through your mind as you ponder the endless hours you’re going to have to invest in recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and training new team members.

Rather than being discouraged, I get energized and look forward to the future because the long-term benefits outweigh the short-term difficulties. Here’s five benefits I see to losing top performers:

1. It proves you’re doing something right. Huh? Doesn’t it mean that something must be wrong with your leadership or team dynamics if you’re losing your top people? Well, if you’re a toxic leader and your team’s morale and performance is in the tank, then yes, there’s something wrong. But if you’re doing a good job of leading it means you’re hiring the right talent and developing them to high performance. I take pride in knowing that other leaders see the immense talent I have on my team and they want to hire them away.

2. Your team is better off for their contributions. The contributions of my star players have helped raise the level of professionalism, productivity, and capability of my team over the last several years. They have redefined what “normal” performance looks like and we’ll be looking to existing team members and our new hires to reach that same level. We are better off for having them on our team and I believe they are better off for having been on our team.

3. It provides a chance for existing team members to step up. Losing valuable contributors is an opportunity for other team members to step up their game, either by moving into higher levels of responsibility or by taking on short-term duties to cover the gap. When you have several high-performers on a team, it’s easy for other valuable team members to get buried on the depth-chart (to use a football metaphor). Losing a star player allows second-team players to step into the limelight and prove their capabilities.

4. You can bring in new blood. Having long-term, high-performers on your team brings stability and continuity. However, stability and continuity can easily become routine and complacency if you aren’t careful. Hiring new people brings fresh perspective, a jolt of energy, and a willingness to try new things you haven’t done before. Teams are living organisms and living entities are always growing and changing. I see this as a new era to bring in a fresh crop of star players that will raise our performance to even higher levels.

5. It facilitates needed change. Bringing in new team members is a great time to address broader changes in your business. You have new people who aren’t conditioned to existing work processes, systems, or ways of running your business. They aren’t yet infected with the “that’s the way we’ve always done it around here” virus that tends to infiltrate groups that stay together for a long time. It’s a time to capitalize on the strengths and ideas of new team members to help you take your business to new heights.

Losing high-performers is never easy but it doesn’t have to be devastating. I’m grateful to have worked with star players that are moving on to other challenges and I’m excited about developing a new wave of top performers that will lead us in the years ahead. It’s time for change…Bring it!

4 Ways to Develop & Retain Employees When You Can’t Give Promotions

Climbing the corporate ladder has long been the traditional view of success in an organization. The main strategy for developing and retaining key talent has been to keep them engaged through a series of promotions and title changes that satisfy an individual’s need for growth and recognition.

Corporate Ladder vs Lattice

Credit: The Corporate Lattice, Deloitte University Press

Well, in most organizations these days, the corporate ladder has been replaced by the corporate lattice. The flat design of most organizations has eliminated the ladder—multiple layers of structure—and instead created an environment where growth has to be achieved in a zig-zag, network pattern of project-based assignments or leadership experiences. So when leaders don’t have the ability to hand out promotions, how do they grow, engage, and retain their key talent? Here are four approaches:

1. Ask your team members what they’re interested in doing — Asking someone what they want…novel concept, huh? Many leaders choose not to have this conversation because they are afraid they won’t be able to provide what is requested. Instead, frame the conversation with your employees as a time to explore opportunities with no strings attached. I tell team members that nothing is off the table when we have these conversations and I balance it with also saying I’m not making any promises. We’re simply exploring options, yet I make it clear that I’m in the employee’s corner and will do everything in my power to help them achieve their goals if there is a way we can find alignment between their interests and the needs of the organization.

2.Don’t be constrained by job descriptions — My HR colleagues may cringe a bit with my philosophy, but I believe leaders need to think beyond job descriptions when it comes to employee growth. Too often we get locked into job descriptions as the defining scope of a person’s responsibilities, including who reports to who in the chain of command. In reality, we need to consider the job description as the broad outline of how and where the person will contribute to the organization. Growing in the corporate lattice requires people to take on BHAG’s (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals) that allow them to develop new skill-sets and competencies. Leaders should frame growth as an individual’s chance for resume enhancement that will benefit them in the future, whether at your organization or somewhere else.

3. Give away parts of your job — Most leaders have far too much on their plates to accomplish on their own, so why not delegate some of your key responsibility areas to competent and motivated team members? It’s hard for some leaders to go this route because it means giving up control and trusting others. It can also be threatening to your ego, as if it’s an admission you aren’t capable of doing it all on your own. Actually, smart leaders use this strategy because it’s a win-win for everyone. Your employees get to take on challenging goals and they earn the satisfaction of contributing in important ways, and you deliver on the key objectives for your team and develop a strong bench of capable and committed team members.

4. Adopt a mindset of being a developer and exporter of talent — Leaders should consider it a fiduciary responsibility to help their people grow, even at the risk of having them leave for greener pastures at some point in the future. My experience has shown when employees clearly know you are on their side and will do whatever you can to support their growth, they devote even more loyalty to you and will stay with you as long as possible. Who would want to leave an environment where they know their boss bends over backwards to provide opportunities for growth and development? Not many.

The corporate ladder doesn’t exist in many organizations these days and leaders don’t have the ability to hand out promotions like they were candy. We’ve got to have ongoing career conversations with team members, look for areas of growth beyond the boundaries of job descriptions, delegate key responsibilities to others, and be willing to invest in developing people, even at the risk of them ultimately leaving the organization. Using these strategies to navigate the corporate lattice, combined with financial models that facilitate income growth, will help you develop an engaged and passionate workforce that fuels personal and organizational success.

Leadership Development Carnival – June 2016

leadership_carnival logoIt’s my pleasure to host the June 2016 edition of the Leadership Development Carnival. This month’s collection of articles is a treasure trove of wisdom from many of the world’s premier leadership, management, and coaching thought leaders and practitioners. Enjoy!

Do Your Motivations Undermine Your Ability to Lead? by MarySchaefer — Certain leaders are disconnected from the motivations of the human beings who happen to be employees. Successful leaders are aware that when you make decisions that affect their lives, employees need to know you understand what keeps them engaged, or you risk compromising their trust.

The Power of Almost Perfect Practice by Jennifer V. Miller — Jennifer’s preteen daughter is learning to play the trumpet and that’s providing opportunity for how to encourage someone who’s learning a new skill. Read Jennifer’s thoughts on how to catch someone doing something (almost) right.

May The Force Be With You: An InPower Guide to Real Superpowers by Dana Theus — The reason media superheroes are so popular is because we all yearn to unlock our secret inner talents, the ones we instinctively know we have by virtue of being human. For most of us, navigating the trials and tribulations of a day at the office, a light saber seems like overkill. But the ability to steer someone’s thinking or read their true intent? Now that would come in handy!

Feel Unappreciated? Improve Your Working Relationships by Joel Garfinkle — I just don’t get it! I know I’m doing good work, but nobody seems to notice. I put in the hours, I bring in the clients, I get the job done. If you feel unappreciated, apply these three action steps to improve your working relationships.

How’s Cubicle Life Going for You? by Jim Taggart — In this post Jim looks at how the modern cubicle was initially created and its evolution in the ensuing years, noting the effects on people.

Bubbily Boo’ by Bill Treasurer — While on an epic vacation to Spain a few summers ago, Bill learned a valuable leadership lesson from his kids.It was the first time he realized that Dad Dad and Business Dad were two different people.

Tactical To-Dos for First-Time Leaders by Jon Mertz — Given the opportunity, how would you help someone prepare for their first leadership position? Jon Mertz shares five slices of advice to provide a solid foundation for anyone walking into a new leadership role.

Why You Need to Learn to Coach People by Mary Jo Asmus — There are lots of things that are called coaching, but aren’t. Real coaching uses a special type of two-way conversation that can help leaders to help others. This article describes what coaching isn’t and why it’s important for leaders to (really) coach others.

Give ‘Em Some Space (for Possibilities) by Julie Winkle Giuloni — There’s one  thing that best-in-class coaches do that frequently goes unnoticed to the casual observer. It’s invisible but perhaps the most invaluable contribution a coach can make: Exceptional coaches hold the space for possibilities.

The Problem With Motivating People by David M. Dye — A recent audience member asked David: When it comes to motivating people, are the carrot and stick dead? David suggests that they’re not dead, but they rarely get you what you want.

Deliver on the Promise of Servant Leadership by Chris Edmonds — Two friends – in completely different industries – were excited to join a vibrant boss & company. Within months the bubble burst – their great boss left due to values conflicts and worse. How can we help leaders serve others – not themselves? This post explains how.

3 Practices to Protect Your People from Toxic Stress and Burnout by Michael Stallard — Burnout is on the rise in healthcare and is taking its toll on healthcare workers. Michael Lee Stallard explains steps that leaders can take to protect their people from toxic stress and burnout.

Leading Employees Who Struggle with Self Doubt by Art Petty — The biggest barrier to remarkable achievements in our workplaces is not a lack of resources or a shortage of great ideas. Rather, it is a distinct shortage of a very personal attribute: self-confidence. This article offers six ideas to help you strengthen your support of these individuals on your team.

6 Tips for Becoming a Compelling Conversationalist by Willy Steiner — Willy shares why a good conversation is like playing catch and 6 things that a great conversationalist will do to make the dialogue good for both sides.

Make Communication Personal To Establish Greater Connection by Paul LaRue — With all a of our electronic communication – emails, texts, and even social media – we still have opportunities to connect and build personal engagement.

Talent Management Strategy Lessons Learned from T-Ball by Mary Ila Ward — If you have ever had a son or daughter play t-ball there is only one word that can describe it…chaos. In this guest post from Dave, Mary’s husband, he shares that a couple of weeks into the season he realized he would be utilizing many of the management skills he uses at work.

Managers and Musicians: Leading by Being Present by Marcella Bremer — Marcella says, “I attended a music workshop that helps leaders discover the ‘note you cannot hear’. What stood out for me is that action speaks louder than words, or better phrased: presence speaks louder than words.” Check out Marcella’s article to learn more.

Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family by Paula Kiger — This post is a review of the book by the same title. The book encourages leaders (as well as employees throughout all layers of corporate hierarchy) to recognize and nurture “the power of everybody.”

Acting Without Theory Often Results in Wasted Effort by John Hunter — If you don’t understand why you take action you will find yourself wasting effort. You must have a theory that you can test in order to test what is working and what changes actually lead to improvement and learning.

Turn Relentless Focus into Attentiveness by Jill Malleck — As leaders take on more responsibility they sometimes become adept at compartmentalizing to avoid distraction. This relentless focus may be seen by others as rigidity or disinterest. Here’s how to ensure an ability to focus remains a strength.

Developing Your Own Management Career Plan by Lexie Martin — Lexie says, “Proactively motivating and managing yourself, including your career development, is part of your responsibility as a manager.” This easy-to-follow guide provides simple steps to help you take control of your development, from identifying where you what to head as a leader to planning the actions you need to take to get there.

It’s Time to Take a Stand for a #TrueLeaderCreed by Jesse Lyn Stoner — Jesse’s post features the True Leader Creed, created by by Aspen BakerEileen McDargh, and Charlotte Ashlock as a vehicle to take a stand for positive leadership. Read the post and sign the creed!

Are You Giving The Right Message With Your Leadership? by Tanveer Naseer — When it comes to praise, it’s not just how often leaders give it, but also what kind. Discover how this difference can help to empower your employees.

Don’t Worry About Being Humble, Just Do It by Wally Bock — Humility is a virtue. You acquire it be acting humble. Here’s how to start.

Creativity’s Role in High-Performance Organizations by Neal Burgis — Being creative helps high-performance organizations stay ahead of the competition by doing things differently and they do it better. Most organizations don’t realize how to thrive, but here are some ways they can move forward.

Avoiding the Big Mistake New Leaders Make by Robyn McLeod — Robyn shares essential steps for avoiding the deadly traps organizations fall into when bringing in an external hire for a leadership role.

What to Do (and Not to Do!) to Get Your Presentation Off on the Right Foot by David Grossman — It’s not uncommon to hear leaders say they need to tell a joke to get the audience’s attention, but what many don’t know is it’s not a helpful strategy for the majority of us. It’s risky. Read on to get proven tips to ensure your presentation gets off to a strong start.

4 Conversations First-Time Managers Should Master

Peer to BossBecoming a manager for the first time is a significant career milestone. It brings a mix of emotions that range from excitement, confidence and eagerness on one side, to nervousness, fear, and anxiety on the other.

The biggest challenge for most new managers is they rarely receive any management-specific training prior to stepping into their new role. New managers are usually high-performing individual contributors that get promoted into a leadership role. Unfortunately, just because you’re a star performer in your individual role doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be a superstar manager. Leading people requires a different set of skills, and if you don’t have a game plan of how to develop those abilities as a manager, you’re setting yourself up for a difficult transition.

In particular, there are four primary conversations that first-time managers should be equipped to have with their people:

  1. Goal setting conversations – Ken Blanchard likes to say that all good performance starts with clear goals. If you don’t know where you’re going, how do you know when you’ve arrived? Effective goal setting tends to be one of the weakest skills of most managers, and for good reason…it’s hard! Mastering the art of setting goals sets the foundation for good performance.
  2. Praising conversations – When I conduct training workshops on building trust, I often ask the participants this question: “How many of you are sick and tired of all the praise you receive at work?” No one ever raises their hand! The truth is that most people don’t receive enough praise or recognition on the job. Learning how, when, and why to praise performance will help first-time managers get the most from their team members.
  3. Redirecting conversations – Sometimes team members get off track with their performance and need some redirection on how to get back on course. Redirection conversations can be tricky and difficult to navigate. They have the potential of building trust, commitment, and enabling higher levels of performance of team members. If handled poorly, they have the potential to erode trust, destroy morale, and send team members into a nose dive.
  4. Wrapping up conversations – Too often first-time managers end their conversations with team members with no clear plan of action. Talking about what needs to be done doesn’t ensure it will get done. Wrapping up conversations with a positive tone and a firm plan for implementation helps team members follow through on their good intentions.

There is much more detail behind each of these four conversations that will be highlighted in our First-Time Manager Leadership Livecast on Thursday, December 3, 2015 from 8:00-9:00 a.m. PST. It’s free to join and you’ll get to hear more about these four essential conversations and get a sneak preview into Blanchard’s new training program for first-time managers.

Moving From Peer to Boss – 5 Steps to Success

Peer to BossCongratulations! You’ve just received the news that you’re getting a promotion to supervisor! You’re excited, thrilled, eager to get going…and scared out of your mind! You don’t have a clue about where to start and you’re nervous about how your team members will react to you now being the boss. You’ve worked all these years to build great relationships and friendships as a team member and colleague and now you’re faced with the prospect of having to be tough, lay down the law, hold people accountable, enforce the rules, and all that other mean boss stuff. You’re starting to question yourself before you even get started: Do I really want to be a manager?

Well, before you get too riled up and freak yourself out, or worse, go on a power trip and start making enemies, take a deep breath and put a plan together. Remember, someone promoted you because he/she has confidence in you. You’ve also proven yourself as a high performer and that track record of success will give you credibility as you transition into a managerial role.

However, if you’re like most people in most organizations, you haven’t received any kind of specific leadership training to prepare you to move into the role of leading people. Success as an individual contributor does not guarantee success as a manager. Leading people is a whole new ballgame.

That’s why you need a plan. Far from being a complete treatise on the subject, here are a few key steps you should consider taking as you move from peer to boss:

1. Acknowledge the awkwardness – There’s no two ways about it; moving from a friend and peer to being the boss is an awkward transition for everyone involved. That’s why it’s best to acknowledge it up front. Lay the cards on the table by having open conversations with your colleagues about the transition. Communicate your desire to be open and authentic during the process, all the while recognizing that some things will definitely change about your relationship. You won’t be able to be “one of the guys/girls” in the same way you were before, but you will settle into new norms that will add depth and dimension to your relationship that didn’t exist before.

2. Focus on building trust – The number 1 priority…number 1…should be building trust with your team members. Every person on your team is eagerly watching your every move to see what kind of leader you will be now that you have access to more power and control. Your primary focus the first few weeks/months in your new role should be to show your team that you mean them no harm and you have their best interests at heart. That doesn’t mean you let the inmates run the asylum or let them run roughshod over you. Keep enforcing the rules as needed but make it a point to not go on any power trips. Focus on acting with integrity, learning the basics of your supervisory role, building relationships with people, and keeping your commitments. If you have your team’s trust, you open the doors to all kinds of possibilities. Without it, you’re dead in the water.

3. Get leadership training – Leading and managing people requires a specific set of skills and abilities that is likely quite different from those you mastered as an individual contributor. If your organization offers formal leadership training then take advantage of it. If not, find your own through books, online courses, You Tube videos, or blog articles. There is no shortage of leadership content out there to help you become a better leader. Part of your leadership training should also be to get a mentor. Find someone you respect with a track record of success as a leader and ask if he/she would be willing to offer you insight and advice. There’s nothing quite as valuable as wisdom from those who have walked the path before us.

4. Clarify expectations and intentions – If performance expectations aren’t clear with your team members, spend some time making sure goals are clear and people know what’s expected of them. As a general rule, I think it’s easier to start a little “tighter” with your team in terms of clarifying expectations and holding people accountable and then loosening up over time, versus starting too loose, have things get out of control, and then have to tighten the reins. Having said that, it’s important you make sure your good intentions are expressed as well. Let your team members know that you believe your role is to serve them and help them succeed and you’ll do whatever it takes to support them. Most importantly, make sure your actions align with your words. If you say one thing and do another you will quickly erode trust with your team.

5. Catch people doing something rightKen Blanchard has said that if he had to choose one thing to remembered by as a leadership guru, it would be the value of catching people doing something right. So many positive things happen as a result of the leader reinforcing good performance: trust is built, people’s self-esteem grows, team morale is improved, and good performance becomes contagious. It’s a virtuous cycle – people who perform well feel good about themselves and people who feel good about themselves perform well. Catching people doing something right should be a primary focus of your leadership.

Moving from peer to boss is a career milestone for most people. It’s a time of growth and opportunity and it’s important to start off on the right foot. These five steps can get you going in the right direction.

For those of you who have already made this move into the ranks of leadership, be sure to leave a comment with words of advice about other things a new manager should consider.

 

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