Results

BLINDFOLDED DARTS: THREE REASONS WE NEED CLEAR EXPECTATIONS

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Have you ever started a new role, project, or job and your leader says, “Thanks for being here.  I am sure you are going to do great!  Now, go get some results.”?   I do an exercise with my clients called Blindfolded Darts that sounds a lot like this.  In essence, I put a blindfold on them, give them darts, and say go get some results.  There is a dartboard in the room and peers to give them feedback.  What do you think happens? 

Often, the blindfolded person stands there and waits for more instruction while getting frustrated.  Sometimes, they throw darts blindly, which is a scary thing.  The feedback they receive is non-specific like booing, cheering, or good-job/bad-job. The blindfolded person gets frustrated, confused, and loses their motivation.

Does this sound like your workplace?  I find that leaders are so busy that they do this to their employees.  They have good intentions of setting clear expectations, explaining the results that are needed, and providing feedback.  However, the reality is that leaders are moving targets who often feel they only have time to give non-specific feedback like “good job” or “you need to do better”.  Furthermore, they have to cancel a lot of 1:1s and the employee is left blindfolded, trying to figure out what their leader really wants.

Three Reasons We Need Clear Expectations

·       It is hard to hit the bull’s-eye without a clear understanding of the purpose, tools to do the job, and goal and metrics to measure performance.

·       Employees want to innovate and do the work without a lot of guidance from you.  However, with unclear expectations, they do not know the resources available to them and do not understand how much of the project they can own.  Thus, they often end up waiting for guidance which could be viewed as resistance.  Often this resistance is just a lack of clarity.

·       Employees are self-motivated and can do great work without you but, if the expectations are unclear, then they are going to be knocking on your door asking for a lot of guidance.  Now you have a time management challenge that could have been avoided.

How do we get better at this?

·       Take time to set SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.)

·       Ask your employees what they need from you to be successful.

·       Be open to employee ideas, offer your suggestions, and set up a follow-up plan to offer feedback, encouragement, and recognition.

If you are able to follow these ideas, you should have a motivated and engaged employee that is capable to hitting the bull’s-eye consistently!

What are Your Intentions?

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The first time I can remember being asked this question was after a sweaty, 4 mile run in July of 1995 at about 7:15 in the morning. I had just come back in from my early morning run and my girlfriend’s mother was sitting on the edge of the couch and asked, “What are your intentions with Beth”?

I was just trying to get some water and now my mouth got really dry. My face, already flushed from the run, turned even redder and my hands really started sweating. I mumbled that we were really serious. She said great and the reason that she was asking was that there might be some jewelry from Beth’s grandmother that she might like if I decided to propose. Wow, that was a memorable way to be asked the question—What are your intentions? Fast forward to 2018 and we have been married for almost 22 years and have 4 wonderful children. I am still close to my in-laws as well. I have learned to leave water outside when I run so that I do not have to answer any important questions right after a run!!!

Here is how dictionary.com defines intention—

noun

1. an act or instance of determining mentally uponsome action or result.

2. the end or object intended; purpose.

3. intentions

a. purpose or attitude toward the effect of one's actions or conduct: a bungler with good intentions.

b. purpose or attitude with respect to marriage: Our friends are beginning to ask what our intentions are

 

We all have some great intentions—

            I will eat a salad for lunch.

            I will go back to grad school in the fall.

            I will run 3-4 miles, 4 times a week.

How will we commit to our intentions? Many of us struggle to uphold our intentions. Here is the interesting thing—we give ourselves credit when we declare an intention while others judge us on our impact. Here is a recent example—One of my clients stayed home intending to work on her book. However, at the end of the day she had barely done any work on the book. Thus, when her husband got home he was surprised to see only a few lines written.  What happened?

Probably the same thing that happens to most of us. She got sidetracked by emails, a couple of “urgent” calls from work, doing research on YouTube which ended in watching funny cat videos, etc. We are often waylaid by shiny bright objects that might appear urgent but are often not as important as the work we set out to do.

What intentions do you have for 2018?

How can you ensure that your intentions match the impact that others will see?

I encourage you to block off time on your calendar to work on your intentions—Ex. Writing time for your blog; Block off time for your 1:1’s with employees; block off time for your run or walk. I know this sounds like a lot of structure but if you do not do this, I fear at the end of 2018 you will have had a lot of good intentions but not many results to show for your efforts.

Also, think about who can help hold you accountable for intentions. In my case, there was not any jewelry that was a good match for Beth. However, my mother-in-law did know a good jeweler. This spurred me to action and with the blessing of Beth’s parents, I proposed on September 16th, 1995 at the kissing rock on the JMU quad. Maybe we all need a good coach to hold us to our intentions. Good luck on your intentions and let us know how we can help you hit your intentions.

INNOVATION INC: MINDING THE COMMUNICATION GAP

Lately I have been curious about exploring the essential ingredients of creative, innovative environments: trust and time.

Today we turn to how to prevent the trust-killer miscommunication from arising. I’ll offer some steps to take when miscommunication, unfortunately and inevitably, occurs.

Here is a typical scenario. Can you see yourself in it?

1.       A conversation between two people takes place.

2.       One person leaves feeling they’ve made commitments or defined expectations in a certain way.

3.       The second person does not leave the conversation with the same understanding.

4.       In time, the difference in expectations between the two people bubbles up or boils over.

5.       In an instant, trust that may have taken years to cultivate is damaged.

6.       At times this hard-won trust is destroyed.

Miscommunication has a painful and perilous cost, and it’s a daily occurrence in most organizations.

Given the frequency of such missteps, it would stand to reason that we would have developed a good process for navigating this difficult terrain. But we haven’t. Instead people deal with the consequences of these miscommunications, typically in silence (or by telling many people except the person involved).

Often the story I hear begins something like this:

“He betrayed me. “

“After what she did yesterday, I don’t trust her anymore.”

“I used to think he meant what he said, now I know he doesn’t.”

“She doesn’t care about anything but herself and this business. I don’t matter.”

“He says one thing to one person and another to someone else. He can’t be trusted.”

“I don’t know what to think anymore. I used to trust her. Now, I just don’t know.”

Miscommunication and distrust wreak havoc on creativity. What can we do to prevent this? Take some time on the front end to avoid problems on the back end! Ensure the expectations are clear. Here’s how.

We need to do 2 things: Push and Pull.

              Push expectations by clearly communicating face-to-face and in writing, and then

              Pull for understanding of those expectations by asking questions.

It is both Push and Pull that create a communication loop between leaders and their team members.

·       If you are assigning work to others, set clear expectations. Preferably both in writing and orally. 

·       When you are assigned work, or assume a task or project leadership, ask questions to clarify expectations. 

·       Before leaving the conversation, ask what the other person understands those expectations to be. Make sure they match before you end the conversation.

·       Follow up in writing when practicable.

When we have both actions, Push and Pull, embedded in our communication habits, we hold ourselves to a more disciplined approach to communication, and we set our people up to be successful. 

Helpful Habits: 

Leaders: When you ask someone else to take on an assignment, take the time to ask what they understood you to have assigned. This provides 2 things:

1.       The other person has an opportunity to articulate in their own words what their assignment is.

2.       You have the chance to check that you have communicated well and been understood. This is the first step of shared ownership over a project or task. 

Colleagues and team members: You don’t have to wait for someone else to ask you what you heard them assign. Simply say: “I want to make sure I understood your clearly. Can I repeat it back to you for clarification? What I heard you say was…..”  This conversation is especially helpful if you have a highly creative leader. Creative leader’s often share a dozen ideas at a time, forgetting that their ideas feel like assignments to the people around them. Asking clarifying questions will help you learn to distinguish between the ideas for later and the assignments for today.

Yes, it takes time to have these clarifying conversations. It’s an investment in relationship building and trust making. What do you gain by taking the time?

·       An accurate picture of the requests that are being made.

·       Some insight into how our colleagues think, listen and learn.

·       We learn what motivates people and what causes them to stop listening.

Learning to communicate effectively with the people on our teams provides something invaluable for the future: it creates the dividend of trust that pays off with speed, agility, engagement, and best of all, creativity in the future. It is time well spent.

Note of Caution: When it comes to performance or compensation, it is even more critical to ensure accurate communication. In these important conversations emotions tend to run hotter, even when they are easy “Great work!” conversations. When we talk performance or compensation people have their confidence, their lifestyle, and sometimes their identity wrapped up in the conversation. Asking what was heard is a great reality check for everyone involved.

PUSHING FOR RESULTS? MOVE THE NEEDLE WITH iPUSH

A fresh new year is well underway as we continue driving for results in “Q2”.  Are things unfolding as you had planned during strategy sessions at the tail end 2016? If so, great and congratulations. If not, what actions should be taken and how should they be communicated?

In other words, how hard should leadership push for results and how should they go about it? This is a question that all leaders face at different times. The answer to it often determines how culturally engaged the workforce is.

·       Are leaders “pushing” on the right things?

·       Are these things fully understood before actions are taken?

·       Are the right actions being taken at the right time vs prematurely?

·       What are the leadership skills necessary to rally the troops during these trying times?

If you have been there, or are there now, you will want to explore the use of an excellent management tool we’ve developed called iPUSH to hit the finish line strong and move the needle.

The iPUSH Model:  Please answer these three preliminary questions

1.       What are you potentially struggling with that needs attention now?
2.      What are the right developmental goals to work on over the next 3-6 months?
3.      What are the best ways to interface with you as your Accountability Partner to move the needle?

Then cycle the responses to these questions thru iPUSH

              i PUSH stands for:

              i = Intention, succeeding with intentionality
              P = Problem(s) to resolve
              U = Understanding problems fully before acting
              S = Setting the right actions in motion at the right time
              H = Hitting the Finish Line strong

The goal here is to become an Accountability Partner, one who shares in the real work of ensuring the deliverable is met. In other words, the push-or is on the same Team as the Push-ee and they win together.

So, go ahead and PUSH, but make sure intentions are combined with integrity and that the Problems to resolve are fully Understood before Setting the right actions in motion at the right time, Hitting the finish line strong!

iPUSH, How about you…?

WELL – WELL – WELL, THE ‘SEVENTH HABIT’

Well, well, well – now that’s a deep subject. How to stay ‘well’ during intensely busy times is even deeper.

In our leadership practices with busy professionals from all disciplines, we often notice that one of the first things that seems to go away is meaningful self-care. As Stephen Covey points out in his excellent book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the 7th Habit is “Sharpening the Saw.”

The analogy is simple. You expend energy to get results. The tools you utilize are finite. They are not inexhaustible.

You cut wood. Your primary tool, the saw, starts to break down at the point of contact. Even 100,000-mile spark plugs need to be changed after 100,000 miles to retain their “spark.” Nevertheless, the primary tool we utilize to achieve results, people, seems to be thought of in this way…inexhaustible.

It can be very harmful for organizations to miss this point. It seems obvious, yet engagement and turnover statistics often show it isn’t. It’s like driving a car in one gear all the time. Eventually the gear, at the point of contact, grinds down causing the transmission to slip. Many in management say “keep your foot on the gas and gun that engine” attempting to ignore the obvious. That is that their “cultural gears” are slipping and their people are expending energy but aren’t getting enough traction to achieve results. How about you?

Take this simple wellness self-assessment. Honestly rate yourself on a scale of 1-5, on these dimensions of life:

Key: 1=Not Concerned, 2=Somewhat Concerned, 3=Concerned, 4=Constantly Concerned, 5=Freaking Out

a)      Physical –  Regarding my physical well-being I am (record number)

b)      Mental – My mental capabilities may not always be available at their best level (record number)

c)       Emotional – I feel emotionally drained or unavailable to others most of the time (record number)

d)      Spiritual – My inner being feels disconnected from the rest of my world (record number)

If you scored 12-15, its time to get real about meaningful self-care. Stop and change your spark plugs. If you scored 16-20, its time to reverse course or prepare for a transmission overhaul in the emergency room.

Those who believe this is hogwash are like people driving a car without a spare tire, or those unfortunate soles who keep driving on that weird little spare tire. They are announcing to the world, “See I am 100% certain I will not get stuck.” That is until life happens and the tow truck loaded with EMTs needs to come and rescue them.

If there is any one thing that can have the greatest, most immediate positive impact, it is creating time to get physical (whatever that means to you.) It almost doesn’t matter what the physical activity is so long as you reverse the course and do it now. You can do the ‘physical therapy’ now or later and if you do it later, it could be ugly.

The Physical, Mental, Emotional and Spiritual benefits are too numerous to mention here. But needless to say, people who are healthy in these areas are happier, more resilient, more engaged and more productive employees.

Well now…. isn’t that something?

CHANGE THE CULTURE TO CHANGE THE GAME

Every organization has a culture, which either works for them or against them.  Sounds obvious, right?  This being the case, why do so many organizations ignore their culture’s impact on their long term results?

One school of thought is that today’s economics don’t support the “warm and fuzzy” Dr. Phil type of cultural “therapy.”  Some employees have become so shrill in guarding their incomes over the last 8-10 years that they are willing to accept doing more with less, working longer hours, and sub-standard leadership.

Organizations that are seduced into accepting this are deceiving themselves.  The proof will come when our cyclical economy creates better jobs, at which point they will pay the price in turnover for ignoring their culture.  There is an old business saying that states, “Culture beats strategy every time.”  In the long term, I believe that to be absolutely true.

The goal of the Game is to change from Anti-Culture to Shared Culture.

Anti-Culture sounds like this:

“It’s Monday, how are you doing today?”
“Well, I’m hanging in there”,
“It’s almost Friday”, or the sarcastic
“I’m living the dream!”

In our experience, this is symptomatic of the short term “Action to Results /Command & Control” management style outlined by Roger Connors and Tom Smith in Change the Culture Change the Game (see top half of the pyramid below.)  In this model, staff experiences “You’d better do this [Action] now because we need this [Result] now.  At times it is obviously appropriate.  Other times, it is less than effective when it becomes perceived as the normal Cultural Operating System.

A game changing Shared Culture foundationally looks like this:

·       What a Team Member Experiences over time drives their Beliefs.

·       Their Beliefs about their organization drives their Actions.

These Actions may or may not fulfill leaderships’ targeted Results.

 

 

What would Anti-Culture employees need to experience to change to a Shared Culture environment? 

It’s all about the Shared Experiences:

·       What is it like to report to you?

·       What is it like to report to your boss?

·       What is it like to work inside the walls of your organization?

Leaders who understand this challenge the conventional by demonstrating, over time, behaviors that create Shared Experiences with their employees.  For example, as an employee:

·       Am I heard at work?

·       Do we make joint decisions?

·       Is management fair?

·       Are rationales offered for the strategy and tactics employed?

Furthermore, as Connor and Smith point out, it only takes 3-4 shared cultural experiences among staff to form a new cultural belief.  When a new hire asks, ”What is it really like to work here?”, what do they hear in reply?  The honest answers to that question could have great strategic impact on long term results as Culture beats Strategy every time.

BLINDFOLDED DARTS: THREE REASONS WE NEED CLEAR EXPECTATIONS

Have you ever started a new role, project, or job and your leader says, “Thanks for being here.  I am sure you are going to do great!  Now, go get some results.”?   I do an exercise with my clients called Blindfolded Darts that sounds a lot like this.  In essence, I put a blindfold on them, give them darts, and say go get some results.  There is a dartboard in the room and peers to give them feedback.  What do you think happens? 

Often, the blindfolded person stands there and waits for more instruction while getting frustrated.  Sometimes, they throw darts blindly, which is a scary thing.  The feedback they receive is non-specific like booing, cheering, or good-job/bad-job. The blindfolded person gets frustrated, confused, and loses their motivation.

Does this sound like your workplace?  I find that leaders are so busy that they do this to their employees.  They have good intentions of setting clear expectations, explaining the results that are needed, and providing feedback.  However, the reality is that leaders are moving targets who often feel they only have time to give non-specific feedback like “good job” or “you need to do better”.  Furthermore, they have to cancel a lot of 1:1s and the employee is left blindfolded, trying to figure out what their leader really wants.

Three Reasons We Need Clear Expectations

·       It is hard to hit the bull’s-eye without a clear understanding of the purpose, tools to do the job, and goal and metrics to measure performance.

·       Employees want to innovate and do the work without a lot of guidance from you.  However, with unclear expectations, they do not know the resources available to them and do not understand how much of the project they can own.  Thus, they often end up waiting for guidance which could be viewed as resistance.  Often this resistance is just a lack of clarity.

·       Employees are self-motivated and can do great work without you but, if the expectations are unclear, then they are going to be knocking on your door asking for a lot of guidance.  Now you have a time management challenge that could have been avoided.

How do we get better at this?

·       Take time to set SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.)

·       Ask your employees what they need from you to be successful.

·       Be open to employee ideas, offer your suggestions, and set up a follow-up plan to offer feedback, encouragement, and recognition.

If you are able to follow these ideas, you should have a motivated and engaged employee that is capable to hitting the bull’s-eye consistently!