Is it Time for Spring Cleaning?

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My wife, Beth, and I were doing some Spring Cleaning in our garage and going through some old clothes this week and it got me thinking about work. I wondered, when was the last time you did a good Spring Cleaning at work? No, I am not asking you to read Marie Kondo. No, I am not asking you if each assignment brings you joy (well, maybe you might want to review your day and see what activities do give you joy—more on this in a minute.) What I am asking you to do is to wake up from your Zombie Zone and notice what is going on around you.

 

Let’s start simple—your office.

1.     Do you have books that you have not touched or never planned on reading? Donate them and clear some space for future books.

2.     How about your pictures? If your 19 year old kid’s last updated picture is their 8th birthday then it might be time for some updated photos.

3.     Files—they can take a life of their own. Schedule a 30 minute clean up time. Get rid of the old files or least get them in a different location.

4.     Chotskies—you know all those things you picked up from conferences or vendors that were cute at one time. Now, they are just filling up office. Keep 1 or 2 and clear out the rest.

 

Customers/Clients

1.     Okay, what customers/clients bring you joy? Oops, I did go Marie Kondo on you! Let them know why you enjoy working with them and do they have any referral for you.

2.     Do you have customers that used to bring you joy/satisfying work but do not any more? What do you need to change in the relationship for you both to find this a rewarding partnership?

3.     Are there some clients that are no longer a good fit for your organization? What is your plan to let them know and find a better solution for them?

 

Calendar

1.     Let’s review where you are spending your time. What meetings no longer make sense? If you started the meeting, when can you end it? Aim for no more than 1-2 more meetings. A good place to start are recurring meetings with no set agenda!

2.     Length of meetings—we default to 1 hour or 30 minute meetings. Can you cut 15 minutes from these meeting to get some time back?

3.     What activities do you find joy in? What activities suck the energy out of you? What things could be delegated?

4.     Have you put vacation, 3 day weekends and fun times with family on the calendar? If not, your calendar will get filled up with lower level activities and you will be bummed you are missing out a great 3 day weekend!

 

Okay, I need to make a trip to Goodwill to drop of some clothes for someone else to find joy in. Let me know how your Spring Cleaning goes. I hope you can open up some space for your clearer thinking, fun and reconnecting with your purpose. Have a great spring!

THE TEN BEST ON-BOARDING PRACTICES

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We have all heard the saying, “People are our greatest asset”. If this is so, then why do many organizations drop the ball with regards to their on-boarding? By the time we find them, tell them, sell them on joining our organization and ramp them up to productivity, we have invested a small fortune! Done well, on-boarding positively impacts culture and reduces bad turnover. Yet some think it’s acceptable to pay lip services to this crucial function. A good hire can be turned into a bad hire if proper on-boarding practices are not followed. Worst of all, it is often self-inflicted.

This applies to the new hire as well as the Team that that they are joining. The last thing we want to do is to do is to find the right fit for our Team, get everybody excited about them joining us and then leave them alone. By following the steps below, we are well on the way to the successful launch of our new colleague. And make no mistake, they will remember that experience, (good or bad).

Ensure your new hire stays and succeeds by using these 10 onboarding best practices:

1. (When possible) Reach Out to New Hires Before Their Start Date – Provide them with re-assurance
 of their “buying decision to join your organization. Ensure that they feel welcome. Setting up an onboarding portal that new hires can access online before their start date is a good way for them
to “buy in” and begin learning about the company on their own time. They may be able to get things like  benefit forms submitted and out of the way.

2. Make Their First Day Memorable – Whatever it is that you do, do something. It might be lunch
 with the new boss, a welcome card signed by all, or something thematically tied into Team values. You don’t get a second chance at a first impression, so make sure day one is a positive experience for all everyone!

3. Keep Schedules Tight at the Beginning – Start off on the right foot and be accessible. Your new hire is talented and may be chomping at the bit to make things happen. Get them up to speed gradually. Scheduling their first 2-3 weeks ahead of time has benefits. It builds trust and says, “We have you accounted for!”

4. Use the Entire Team in Onboarding – They were likely part of the interview process, so keep the continuity and momentum by involving all of the new work family members to ramp them up. Assigning
a buddy or mentor who works in the same department as your new hire is also a good idea. The new hire gets a point person to direct any questions, comments or concerns towards, and the mentor gets an opportunity to demonstrate leadership.

5. Spread Out the Paperwork – Allocate routine paperwork type activities to “down” times, ie those times when the new hire and Team are not involved in “people” work. If you drop all of the necessary forms on your new hire all at once, they could become disenchanted, or worse, overwhelmed.

6. Announce the New Hire to the Entire Company – Job movement is big deal, so make a big deal
out of it. Set a positive tone in the organization for the new hire’s internal brand to grow around. It can also foster vital interdepartmental collaboration. If departments end up working together in the future, everyone will already be familiar with each other.

7. Set New Hire Expectations Early – Communicate clearly about roles, goals and expectations. Set short-term and long-term goals and have them check in regularly to see if they are being met. After a couple of months, a formal performance review should be scheduled to give new employees honest feedback on how they’re doing. And of course, don’t forget to heap praise on those who deserve it.

8. Allow Them to Give Feedback - Create “non-judgmental” space for them to provide feedback about how things are going. The onboarding process provides an opportunity that can benefit your entire organization. Should you implement their feedback, new hires will feel heard, and you’ll have made improvements because of it. That is a big win for everybody!

9. Reinforce Cultural Values Continuously – Be inquisitive and observant, (almost parental at the start). Get to know your new hire’s work habits and personality in order to guide them in integrating with your company’s culture. Remember, it’s a fore gone conclusion that the new hire brings technical expertise to the Team. Almost always when they run into difficulty it is the people side of the equation.

10. Don’t Allow New Hires to Go Too Fast -Too Soon – Remember, they don’t know what you know. And they don’t know what they don’t knowAt the beginning its about people and systems. After about 60-75 days it moves on to “low hanging fruit”, connecting with stakeholders and possible talent assessments (if applicable). Then someplace between 100 -180 days, it’s time to rock and roll. Proper onboarding and new hire integration takes time. In this case, slow and steady really does win the race.

 


For additional leadership content click here

Lee Hubert is a Speaker, Facilitator, Trainer and founder of iTrainManagerforSuccess affiliate of Voltage Leadership, with over 20 years of experience in human resources development in healthcare, technology, financial and energy sectors. 

RETENTION AND RECOGNITION STRATEGIES

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You get the knock on the door, “Got a minute”? One of your star performers walks in and starts telling you that they are leaving the organization. Ouch, this was quite unexpected and this person is an integral part of the team.  What should we do next? How can we prevent this of type of “bad turnover” from happening again?

Which comes first, employee retention strategy or recognition? Voltage CEO Jeff Smith and I did a recent radio show, Illuminating Leadership on this very topic. Below are some of the tips and tools we talked about.

For answers to the questions above and a deeper dive into Recognition and Retention Strategies please click this link:

                                                Recognition IS a Retention Strategy                                                                                             The Big “3” F-R-C

1.  Feedback – “Retained” employees want and need consistent honest feedback about how they are doing.

2.  Recognition – Ignoring star performers paves the way for them to be recognized by another employer.

3.  Caring – “Retained” employees feel a real sense of integrity from their reporting relationship.

                                     How to practice Recognition as a Retention Strategy

  • Find out what do employees want from their culture. It’s your job as a leader to create space for the retention discussion to consistently happen! Be inquisitive, get behind the Manager’s closed door and understand their satisfiers and dissatisfiers.

  • Don’t get hung up on trying to have the “perfect” retention program. Don’t delay on starting to recognize top performers and keep it simple. Even with little or no budget just do it.

  • Avoid the “Iceberg of Ignorance” - Ask staff and teammates, “what should we be doing differently”? Some data suggest that only 4% of “true” organizational problems are understood at the “C” level while 75 – 100% of the front-line managers and staff live with them every day!

  • Practice Re-Recruiting – Treat them as if you wanted to join your Team. What would you do differently?

Recognition ideas:

  • Lunch with the boss – Make it about them, not a defacto session

  • Don’t forget their birthday – simple, but many forget this simple opportunity

  • Peer to peer recognition – Build esprit ‘d corp by setting the example to follow

  • Hand written notes to the employee’s home / spouse, (with gift card / dinner etc)

  • The Travelling Trophy -Simple, fun and never goes out of style, (take their picture with it)

  • Give Time Back – ie, Time off to let them participate causes they care deeply about

  • March Madness – For fun only, tap the passion and excitement of the road to the final four

  • Let vacation be vacation -  And when they return, let them adjust a little as they “re-enter”

  • Work from Home day – Trust them to do what they need to. Give them the freedom to be who they are.


For additional leadership content click here

Lee Hubert is a Speaker, Facilitator, Trainer and founder of iTrainManagerforSuccess affiliate of Voltage Leadership, with over 20 years of experience in human resources development in healthcare, technology, financial and energy sectors. 

A Case Study On Retention and Growth Solutions

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To continue our series of conversations on hiring, developing, and retaining great new hires and internal leaders, Voltage is excited to exhibit a case study on a phenomenal client of ours.

This past Friday Torc Robotics was acquired by Daimler Trucks, a trucking subsidiary of the German automaker behind brands including Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner. This is big news for Torc Robotics and Blacksburg, Virginia.

Voltage has been working with Torc Robotics for over 5 years now and would like to show you a piece of how we have been able to assist Torc in their growth!

Taking A Walk On The Other Side Of The Street

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I often get up from my desk at least once per day to take a walk outside.  Fresh air, movement, and resting my eyes from screens is helpful.  I realized, today, that I only walk on the same side of the street on which my office is located.  I have never thought of this before.  I mean, who really cares, right?  But I think it must represent something …

               When my thoughts challenged me to go walk on the other side of the street, I experienced slight anxiety.  Weird!  However, once I did, I found that I was more aware of my surroundings because things were slightly unfamiliar.  For example, there is a tree bursting with tiny red berries that is very visible from the other side of the street, but I had never noticed it.  Now, I couldn’t avoid noticing because there were squirrels playing in the branches as I walked under the thick coverage and berries crackling underfoot making the sidewalk quite messy.  There was truly a lot going on in that small 1/10 block that I had never observed.

               What are we missing by staying on the same side of the street?  Think of the different areas of home, work, service, or play that are quite familiar to you.  Do you miss all the bright, vibrant, lively, sometimes messy, small areas that exist around you because you feel anxious about the unfamiliar? 

We stay away from change and continue on our normal path to our peril.

               Yes … patterns, plans, processes, and habits are all very helpful in our daily lives and can serve us well.  You are probably aware of your own – good and bad.  But what about the things you are not doing but could be doing?  What about the things people around you are doing?  We grow together when we are aware of these things. 

               I recently confronted these questions in my own household.  In January, we moved to a new house so our patterns have all changed.  My four daughters, who are very happy with the move, have been resistant to helping with things that they normally did on a routine basis.  As my frustration mounted I realized that their resistance and complaining was a lot less on the weekend.  So I took a “step on the other side of the street” and saw that they prefer downtime before engaging in chores.  Our daily commute is quite different now and with the compression of time I was wanting chores done as soon as we arrived home.  I like to get things done while I am still “moving” because once I stop I want to be done for the day!  But the girls are missing the downtime they used to experience right after school.  To be honest, I didn’t even pay attention to the downtime that they used to enjoy before chores because we had been in that pattern for so long.  With this new realization, I am no longer trying to form them to the process that is comfortable for me and we are working together to make a new pattern for our weekday chores.

               Where can you apply getting out of your “zone” to experience the other side of the street?  Take the step … observe, listen, breathe in that less familiar space.  Learn from the people and environments around you – in your personal world and in your professional environment.  Let me know what you find!

Exposure, Capacity & Priority

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How do we boil things down to their essence and focus on what matters most?

The symptomology includes things like: “We are so busy with day to day activities, we don’t have time to communicate effectively”, or “We never seem to have enough people to get the work done timely, and “How did we let a whole year go by without completing or at least making a dent in our biggest projects?”

Leaders of all levels and from all industries struggle with this from time to time. The answer almost always has to do with the choices they made and when they made them.

When we are up against it, in good economic times or challenging ones, we can make three choices:

A) We can work faster with the resources we have.

B) We can delegate some of the ‘overload’ to another.

C) We accept that some things are not going to happen as planned.

I recently had the pleasure of working with a very busy technology team who was stuck and led them through an exercise to bring clarity and manageability. It had to do with boiling things down to three variables.

Exposure, Capacity & Priority

1) Exposure – Where are we exposed? It could be financial, legal, regulatory, ethical, quality etc.

2) Capacity – Given our current state, do we realistically have the resources to pull it off? If not, which capabilities to we need develop?

3) Priority - What goes first and what happens if we don’t do this?

This simple framework galvanized their thought process without getting to far into the weeds and helped to crystallize deliverables. So, for those instances when you feel ‘stuck’, it might prove very helpful to focus on these three things. They will generate more dialog about how to go about your business and chances are you will be going about the right business.


For additional leadership content click here

Lee Hubert is a Speaker, Facilitator, Trainer and founder of iTrainManagerforSuccess affiliate of Voltage Leadership, with over 20 years of experience in human resources development in healthcare, technology, financial and energy sectors. 

How Do I Develop my Managers so that I Can Retain my Current Workforce?

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Recently we hosted Client Appreciation Breakfasts for our local clients. Over 10 days we traveled to 3 cities to bring our clients together across a broad cross-section of businesses. Our Client Appreciation Events are a time to share the trends we are seeing across industries, to share key strategies for addressing those trends, and to offer some best practices. It is also a time to introduce our clients to each other! Our clients find it valuable time to gather with an inter-disciplinary group of leaders to share questions and ideas about how they are addressing key issues.

The hot topic for 2019? Talent Recruitment and Retention. Our event was titled, “Winning the War for Talent.” After our presentation we took questions and let people know we’d be responding to them in our upcoming blogs.

The question I am going to tackle today:

“How do I develop my managers so that I can retain my current workforce?”

I love this question, because it clearly underscores the relevance of the maxim, “People join organizations and leave leaders.” How your leaders and managers behave toward their teams is mission critical for retention and business success.

 

My first response when I hear this concern is: “what do your managers do well, and what do they need to get better at?” To design the right solution you need to understand the problem.

A quick exercise:

1.      Grab a sheet of paper and list your direct reports and answer these two questions for each one of them: What does each of them do well? What does each of them need to get better at? (If you don’t know, what do you need to do to find out?)

2.      Check to see what trends there are for the team. Are there common strengths and weaknesses? If so, the solution begins with training and setting new, clear expectations for those key problem areas.

3.      Notice the specifics next. These are things that one or two have issues with, but they are not trends across the team. These issues are issues to address in your 1:1 and to create a coaching plan around.

Selecting Training Opportunities

The best training opportunities are ones that are contextually relevant to the team. What kind of training experience do they need? Can you create it internally, or do you need outside resources? Who is the best person to lead the training?

When you offer training, remember:

Ø  Before the training takes place clearly state your desired outcome for the team. Be candid about what new behaviors you want to see.

Ø  Once the training is underway, reinforce the application of the new skills and ideas by asking, specifically, how the content is being applied in their daily work.

Ø  After training is complete, expect the group to continue to meet to share their successes and struggles adopting the new behaviors, and continue to reinforce the content and new habits when you meet with your team.

Accountability is key to the success of any training program.

Coaching for Performance Change

When you sit down to coach someone for performance change the first step is to gain awareness. Both the leader and their direct report should learn something new about the current reality.

Set a time to sit down with your team members 1:1 and ask them to think about their current strengths and weaknesses as managers. When you sit down with your direct report be sure to:

1.      Be curious about what they see their strengths and weaknesses being.

2.      Once you hear from them, name the strengths and weaknesses as you see them.

3.      Explore the differences in your viewpoints so you can come to a shared understanding.

4.      Ask them which weaknesses they would like to work on, and the impact they imagine their improved performance having on their team’s success.

5.      Design together new experiences and habit they need to have in order to improve. This might include:

Ø  training,

Ø  1:1 coaching,

Ø  learning how to ask their team members for feedback,

Ø  new communication strategies,

Ø  shadowing another manager who has skill in the area where this manager needs improvement.

The list can go on. Brainstorm ideas together and then choose together the top 3 ideas to focus

on and create a plan for them to take those next 3 steps.

6.      Follow Up! Soon. You need to check weekly, especially when you are asking people to do things differently. They need to be asked how the plan is going, what they have done, what they are avoiding (and why!), and what isn’t working that needs to be addressed in a different way.

The follow up you provide after training and when you are coaching your team members is key to their success. Regular follow up is your responsibility. It creates the conditions for your team members to be accountable for their new behaviors so that your business can be successful.

Do you have time blocked on your calendar weekly to think about the people leadership performance of your team members?

Developing managers takes your time, thinking and continued effort. Block the time on your calendar weekly to think about the people performance of your team, and schedule the conversations that you need to ensure there is continued to progress in this important area.  

WHAT‘S Your WHY?

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According to leadership guru and Columbia University professor Simon Sinek, people
don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it. I think all generations understand this
to an extent and believe in positive motivation.

Sinek however believes the ‘know your why’ approach resonates particularly well with Generation Y Millennials, those born between 1983 and 1994, who have a large demographic investment in contributing to social impact.

Millennials, are now the largest and fastest growing segment of our workforce. Money is important but not everything. They may not care as much what you do but more about
why you do it. This seems somewhat similar to the saying, “People don’t care what you
know until they know how much you care”.

Sinek believes there are three concentric circles that organizations need to get clear:
“what” is the outer ring, “how” is just inside, and “why” is the bullseye.
He argues that most companies can rattle off a description of their product or service
(“what” they do). They express the way they’re unique from other similar businesses
(“how” they do it).

However, if an organization wants to thrive, everyone involved must be crystal clear and
invested in its core purpose (“why” they do it), ie connection to a bigger purpose.

 

Sinek’s Golden Circle:

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Sinek believes no organization wins when its primary “why” is unclear or unknown.

                            Questions to help discover Our Organizational WHY*

Leaders of organizations please consider these questions”

1.   Why do we do what we do?

      For the sake of what…?

      For whatever the answer, FollowUp with the question, Why is that important?

2.   List a few times when morale was highest. What were the circumstances?

3.   What causes or issue touch the organization deeply each time it is heard about?

4.   What do we do best and Who does it?

5.   Are we recognizing / rewarding excellence in the Who?

6.   When people say, “You guys are so good at _____,” how do they complete the sentence?

*Adapted for organizations from Start With Why, Simon Sinek

No organization wins when its primary “why” is unclear. Leaders need to get behind closed doors and reap the not-so-hidden secrets to Sinek’s Golden Circle. If we don’t recognize the “Who,” after starting with “Why”, it could become a strategic miss. When leaders go out of their way to recognize the “Who,” they create a healthy environment that helps to ensure alignment with the Why.

 


For additional leadership content click here

Lee Hubert is a Speaker, Facilitator, Trainer and founder of iTrainManagerforSuccess affiliate of Voltage Leadership, with over 20 years of experience in human resources development in healthcare, technology, financial and energy sectors. 

A Self-Discipline Hack that Works

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“I am never going to be able to make that change.”

“It’s just how I am.”

“Why is self-discipline is hard for me?”

This is just a sample of what I hear from clients, and, truthfully, from my own head at times. Change is hard. And changing yourself is more difficult because there is no one we are accountable to for the changes we want to make in our own lives.

Except ourselves. To make changes in our lives we have to figure it out for ourselves.

So here is the hack you need to have to get on the self-discipline bandwagon:

Talk to yourself.

Talk to yourself, and be your own coach.

We have all heard the ad asking, “Do you want to be your own boss?” followed by the pitch for some new sales or franchise strategy.

Well, NEWSFLASH:

You already are your own boss.

But what kind of boss are you?

·        Are you a mean boss, giving yourself a healthy measure of judgment and shame every day?

·        Are you an absent boss, never showing up to check in and see how things are going?

·        Are you a creative boss, offering so many ideas but no direction?

·        Are you a naysayer boss, killing off your own ideas before you ever get started?

·        Are you an easy boss, giving yourself a pass every time you don’t keep a commitment you have made?

We all have a voice inside our head that can be used for good or ill. 

Here is step one in how to become your own best boss:

1.      Talk to yourself.

Step two is pay attention to how you talk to yourself.

And when you do,

Ø  Be direct.

Ø  Be positive.

Ø  Be specific. And here this where the magic is:

Ø  Speak in the present tense.

 

Let’s say you want to exercise more. Talk to yourself about it. Use action words, be encouraging, be very specific, and speak as though it is happening now

“I am going to the gym.” Is different from “I am working out at the gym,” or “I am going to exercise more this year.” Saying “I am going to the gym,” even if it is not currently true helps our mind work with us not against us.

If you say, “I am going to the gym.” Your brain will start thinking of all the obstacles in the way of you going to the gym.

If you say, “I am working out at the gym.” Your brain will notice that you are not at the gym and start figuring out how to get you there. You get bonus points if you say, “I am working out at the gym now.”

So let’s say you want a new habit of preparing your reports earlier so you are not rushed with deadlines.

Try starting the day with, “I am writing the report.” Even if what you are doing is driving the car to work.

A funny thing starts to happen when we talk to ourselves like this. After you say those words to yourself a few times, your mind will start thinking about the report: how it needs to be composed, what the main ideas are. And when you park your car you often find you have an outline, or have remembered that you still need Bob’s data. Your subconscious mind has helped you write the report.

How we talk to ourselves matters. I invite you to think about what you really want to accomplish this year. Create an active, positive, present tense, specific statement about what you intend to accomplish. Then, repeat it frequently.

And when you find that you are doing what you said you would do, be a great boss and congratulate yourself for a job well done.

 

“X - Y - Z Organizational Structure, Motivation and Total Reward”

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The New Year is well under way, some things cycle predictably while others do not. Market forces, politics, regulations and shifting demographics all influence ultimate success, (or lack thereof). I have been working with organizations that are feeling the impacts of all of the above. And they do not function in isolation.

For example, Generation Y Millennials, those born between 1981 and 1995 are now the largest and fastest growing segment of our workforce. They are motivated by Flexibility, Social Impact, Mentoring, Work-Life Balance and Regular Feedback. Money is important but not everything.

Generation Z is composed of those born between 1995 and 2010. They represent about 25% of the US population. The oldest are about 24 and a large segment of them are entering the workforce.

      How well do our near term and longer-term organizational structures and pay philosophies position us to remain competitive within these changing demographics?

Unlike Millennials, Gen Z is motivated by security. They were kids during the Great Recession and may have seen their parents take big financial hits. A significant portion of their lives may have been defined by struggles related to that, not unlike Traditionalists who came thru the Great Depression.

They are also likely to be more competitive, more likely to start a business and multitask more than Gen Y. Gen Zers as true ‘Digital Natives’ understand that there’s a need for constant skill development to stay relevant.

Moreover, Gen Y and Z are more likely to be managed by Gen X, ‘Latchkey” kids, those who joined us between 1965 and 1980. Gen X Managers prefer Informality, flat organizational structures, Work/Life Balance, and great Cross-Generational Mentoring skills.

      So how do we keep X Managers from becoming bored and wandering off while   engaging and retaining Y employees who desire to make an immediate impact
      and Z employees who value security and financial reward?

Some observations to consider:

> Org Chart Flexibility – Build in career ladders and career tracks for Y and Z. Definitely build

X Managers ability to connect as leaders and mentors. This is a win-win-win trifecta. Flat is good overall as it presents opportunity to learn and apply skills while minimizing politics.

> Comp / Total Reward Philosophy – Even within relative flat organizations, build into Comp structure, job families that have real merit. Check your org chart for the number of Senior Manager or Director titles. If inordinately high, the comp system is being used for faux promotions, (not a good thing to attract and retain Y’s and Z’s.) Communicate Total Reward frequently. Retirement plans and healthcare coverage can be major hot buttons.

> Variable / Merit Pay – Consider a variable pay plan for Gen Z and to an extent for Gen Y.

Both are looking for opportunities to get ahead with Gen Zers more fully embracing the entrepreneurial spirit they share with their Gen X Managers. This may also assist in avoiding wage compression as a portion of Total Reward becomes performance based.

> Performance reviews - Equip Y Managers with a system that allows sufficient gradation in assessing Gen Y and Z performance. For example, a 3-scale system may turn Y and Z off as “not everybody can be a 3”, and “hey you are a solid 2” meets “you should be happy”.  Instead consider 4 or 5 scales that allow for personal growth and communicate frequently to Y & Z what is needed to achieve it.

There are many things to think through for sure when putting the pieces of the deployment success puzzle together. We have touched on a few. And before we know it, in 5-10 short years, the Gen X Managers will be retiring and Gen Alpha, (born since 2010) will begin to enter the workforce, while the first Gen Yers will be pushing 50! And so it goes.


For additional leadership content click here

Lee Hubert is a Speaker, Facilitator, Trainer and founder of iTrainManagerforSuccess affiliate of Voltage Leadership, with over 20 years of experience in human resources development in healthcare, technology, financial and energy sectors. 

Seven Questions that Help You Coach Up (and ensure you get the feedback you need too!)

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Regular, direct communication between a direct report and their leader is what grows and develops employees, yet so often I find the time people have together is not used effectively. The most common issue: the conversations are largely transactional.

What gets covered in these meetings are the needs of the day: the tasks that need to be accomplished. Left unaddressed are the conversations about employee performance. What do they both need in terms of communication from each other to be successful? What behaviors are helping and what behaviors are hurting both the relationship and their individual performance?  These issues all too often remain unaddressed.

If you are a leader, when was the last time you had a conversation with your direct reports about their professional growth? One thing to remember: you might think you have had these conversations, but if it was not explicit or intentional your direct report may have missed the coaching. Be intentional and take the time to have regular professional development conversations with your people.

Often someone is able to change and do something differently, but they don’t know that a different behavior would be helpful. Perhaps they don’t know how to do the behavior at all, and they need coaching from their leader in order to learn a new way of operating.

This kind of regular coaching and feedback helps people grow and perform better and better in their role. It impacts the bottom line, grows your culture, and creates more successful team members.

If your leader does not offer this kind of feedback, you do not have to wait. Here are seven Coaching Up questions you can use to get the conversation started. Add this habit into your 1:1s or ask for a few minutes at the end of your weekly or monthly meeting, and let me know what happens!  

Seven Coaching Up Questions

Find out how you are doing:

·        What did I do well?

·        What could I do differently in the future?

·        What did I miss?

·        What do you want me to accomplish next week/month?

Share what will help you get better:

·        What do you appreciate that your leader is doing?

·        What could they do differently that would help you perform better in your role?

·        Is there something new you need from them so you can be successful?

Imagine how well you and your team can perform if you were asking and answering these questions regularly. Now ask yourself: what can I do differently next week so that I am getting and giving performance feedback to my team? What is the next opportunity I have to ask one (or all) of these questions?  Decide who you want to talk with, what you want to ask, and when you will ask those questions. Enjoy the conversation! Performance conversations are a gift that you both give and receive.

The 5 Stay Questions

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I recently attended a professional meeting where colleague of mine presented some excellent and timely information.  As our economy heats up and job opportunities become more plentiful, it is incumbent on employers to fully understand why people stay in their jobs. Improving employee engagement and retention is more important then ever to keep high performing people on your team.

It got me thinking about a recent radio show that Voltage CEO Jeff Smith and I did on the topic of retention.  We used the term re-recruiting to describe how to keep valuable people from leaving the organization.

Jeff made the point that when a star performer comes to you, the leader, and says, “I’m thinking
about taking an offer from another organization. What do you think my chances are for advancement here?” By that time, it’s too late.  The star performer has already entertained and turned over in their own minds the proposition of working elsewhere, (you are just the last to know).

Below are what Richard Finnegan, the author of The Power of Stay Interviews, calls the five stay interview questions. These may be very appropriate to incorporate into periodic re-recruiting meetings
in 1:1 mode behind the manager’s closed door.

1. When you travel to work each day, what things do you look forward to?

The opening clause, “When you travel to work each day”, encourages the employee to imagine their daily
commute to capture their everyday images in the here and now. Then asking them what they look forward
to drives them to their positive images.

2. What are you learning here?

“Learning” in the present tense sends the compelling message that we want you to grow, to prosper
for both yourself and our organization. When employees answer and hear their own lists, they
know they are developing and not standing still.

We encourage managers to engage employees in career discussions built around the word “skills”. For example:

“What skills would you like to build?”
“What skills do you think are required for that position?”
“What skills do you possess that are not being fully utilized on your present role?”

3. Why do you stay here?

The goal here is for the employee to drill down, identify, and then verbalize why they stay. The initial
response might be something mundane like,” I have to pay the bills” or “Because its familiar and steady”.
The manager may respond by saying something like “Of course, me too, but I really want to learn why you
stay. Please take a few moments and let me know what you really think”.

The point is that few employees really take the time to consider why they stay and voice them once they have been challenged to think about them. This is a very “local” discussion, one that hits close to home. It needs to
be done thoughtfully as the employee just might be thinking, “Yep you are right. I am so out of here.”.

4. When was the last time you thought about leaving our team? What prompted it?

This question gets to the core of retention issues. Everyone at some point in their tenure thinks about
leaving at one time or another. Some of the drill down questions are:

“How important is that issue to you today?”
“Can I count on you to come 1:1 if you ever feel that way again?”

“What’s the single most important thing I can do to make it better?”
“How often has that happened?”

5. What can I do to make your experience at work better for you?

This question is often seen a lip service or as a cliché. It is about building the trust bridge behind the manager’s closed door. It requires the manager to be comfortable in their own skin and not react defensively. The responses from this dialog often provide insight into regarding how the manager can adapt their leadership style with each employee.

 “Do I recognize you appropriately when you do something well?
 “How do you like to be recognized? Privately? In public?”

“Are my work instructions clear?”
“Are there times you don’t always understand what is expected?”

“Do I seem genuinely interested in your career here?”

“Am I with you enough? Not enough? Too much?”


For additional leadership content click here

Lee Hubert is a Speaker, Facilitator, Trainer and founder of iTrainManagerforSuccess affiliate of Voltage Leadership, with over 20 years of experience in human resources development in healthcare, technology, financial and energy sectors. 

Check Your Assumptions

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People struggle to communicate. We struggle to say the important, vulnerable thing to our spouse. We struggle to ask for raises or reassignments. We struggle to set boundaries with or make requests of our colleagues.

Oftentimes we are struggling because we have already drawn a set of conclusions about the outcome of the conversation so we never bother to have the actual conversation. Or we think we know why someone is doing something we don’t like or appreciate, and that assumption about some else’s motives turns into a story about that person. Slowly those stories we have about other people begin to feel like facts.

But something feeling like a fact does not make it true.

Judith Glaser, in her work around Conversational Intelligence, called this habit we human beings have “climbing the Ladder of Conclusions.” (Glaser, 2014)

We all make up stories in our lead about why another person says or does something.

· When someone talks over us in a meeting, we write a story about why they did that.

· When someone is late with a reply or promised project, we make up a story to explain why.

· When someone else is praised for their work and we are not, we create a story about this too.

In every case we are trying to explain “Why?” from our point of view.

But we are trying to explain “why” in relationship to our own emotions, because first we feel, then we think. It is our feelings, layered with our thinking about our feelings that creates our beliefs about other people, and color our conclusions about their intentions.

I am continually reminding people of two things:

1.      Learn to assume the best intentions in others.

It will make your life happier, and your relationships easier.

2.      Check your assumptions.

Investigate. Ask. Find out. Not from one third party, from the person you are making assumptions about.

Yes, I am suggesting you go and actually have a conversation with the person you think doesn’t like you, …who looked at you “funny , … who did not reply to your invitation. 

Here’s one approach:

Ø  Ask if you can talk over coffee or lunch or a break. This signals more time, relaxed environment.

Ø  Let them know you are curious to learn what you can make the relationship better.

Ø  When you meet, let them know you want to better understand their point of view, and offer your own firsthand experience. Then share your stories. Both the facts and the story you are making up in your head. Use the language, “the story I am making up in my head…”. For example: “When you didn’t reply to my email, the story I made up in my head was that my idea was bad, and you don’t like me.”

Ø  Share the impact your interactions have had on each of you. Describe also the positive impact you want to have on them in the future.

Ø  Talk through your ideas about how to make the relationship better in the future.

We spend a lot of time believing the wrong thing about other people’s intentions. I know, because at least 30% of my time coaching leaders is spent helping them find ways to think through the stories they are making up about other people, and figuring out how to simply talk with them directly.

So the next time there is someone you have written a big story about, take a moment to walk down the ladder of conclusions: set aside your conclusions, challenge your beliefs, separate your thoughts from your feelings and then from the actual facts.

Remember, even the best relationships have some tension in them from time to time. When we check our assumptions, assume best intentions, and seek to understand the other point of view, more often than not we find common ground. And common ground is where trust is found.

 

Development: Who is in the lead?  

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I was working with a client recently and one of the leaders asked, who is responsible for his direct reports development? He is a self-starter and has created his own development plan without the help of his leaders. His question was, ‘do I write my direct reports’ development action plan (DAP) or do they do it?

His employee has not taken the initiative to write his DAP. He wanted to know if he should do it, ignore the situation or “make” the employee do the DAP?

What do you think?

My thinking is that it is a 50-50 contract and the leaders will want to go first. The leader should highlight why development is important. Next, the leader should ask the employee what they would like their desired outcomes to be in the next year. What is the gap between the desired outcome and current reality? This is the starting point for the development plan.

Who owns it now? The employee owns the plan. The leader’s role is providing time, resources, and support for the plan. The employee will be the one working on their growth, keeping track of their plan and etc. What happens if they do not do anything? The leaders should follow up and check on the progress. Ask if they need resources, guidance, etc. If they do not do anything, you have owned your 50%. The employee will have trouble keeping up until they work on their development.

Here is the coaching model I use for these conversations –

               G – Goal

               R – Reality

               O – Options

               W – What’s next?

Finally, I ask the person to envision completing the plan. How do you want me to recognize you for when you complete the plan?

Let me know what your development best practices are and good luck on growing yourself and your team!

GAP

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It is the holiday season in the U.S., what are you thankful for? What went right this year? When did you grow this year? Where do you grow in 2018? Before we plan too much, I would like to stop and assess.

My favorite easy tool is called GAP. Here is the tool and how to use it.

G ------> What am I grateful for?

A ------> Who do I appreciate?

P------> What am I proud of?

I turned 50 this year and it has been a reflection year. A few things I am grateful for are –

A loving family

My health

Healthy parents

Next, I think about who I appreciate. The first is my wife and co-owner of our business. Beth is the calming presence I need to stay tethered to reality. I also appreciate the amazing leaders and organizations that I am bless to work with. I also appreciate the Voltage Team and how they have grown.

Finally, I reflect on what I am proud of. It was great to be recognized by the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council (RBTC) as a Regional Connector. I also appreciate the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce for recognizing Voltage LC as a Small Business of the Year in the Business to Business Category. As important as these achievements were, I am most proud of my family. I love the life that Beth and our four kids have created. It is a fun, crazy, and joyful life.

Okay, now it is your turn. Take a moment to think out your GAP analysis. Next, go celebrate the people that you recognize as having an impact on your life. I do this daily as a wrap-up in the day. Quarterly, I try to do this as a deeper dive.

I hope you had a great holiday season and thank you for being in our lives! Have a great 2019!

HOW TO MAXIMIZE YOUR OPERATING RHYTHM

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Each person, group and organization develops an operating rhythm, but do you take time to notice the rhythm and decide how to maximize that rhythm?  Let’s start with a brief definition of what I mean by operating rhythm:  simply put, it is the way we get things done around here.  It is the patterns of our work:  busy vs. slow, high stress times, or even best times of day to get your own work done.

I work with an organization that supports a lot of school districts and the school’s budget cycle is July 1 - June 30.  Thus, May and June are a scramble to get all the contracts into the final budget for the school districts.  August is crazy as well as it is time to train all teachers on the software that has just been bought.  As you interact with this organization, you learn that these months are always a bit hectic, team members can lose perspective for a moment and momentum for some projects gets lost.  After observing this for a couple of years, the Senior Management team started to understand their own rhythm and how they were contributing to the feeling in the organization.  The team now has regular updates, pizza parties and celebrations during this time period.  They also encourage days off right after the busiest season and plan fun events for the team.  The stress is still there, but the perspective and framing of the work is much better now.

What about you?  What are your busy seasons?  What are the best times of the day for you to do your work?  I have learned that I am a morning person and so I do my best work in the morning while the late afternoon can be a fog for me.  I used to run first thing in the morning, but I found that, while it was great for training as my energy was high, I was missing out on my best mental clarity time.  I now do my run most days around 4:00 or 4:30 to get a second shot of energy.  This allows me to release the stress of the day.  I then wrap up a couple of follow-up items, prep for the next day and have the energy to connect with my family.  In the morning, I line up my facilitation and coaching sessions to match the peak of my mental and physical energy.

I would also challenge you to think about your week and year to maximize your rhythm.  I work with some clients who love Monday morning meetings to kick off their week and make sure their team is ready for an awesome week.  I work with other leaders who avoid Monday meetings so they can plan first thing on Monday to launch a great week.  Either can be right, but it is about being intentional. Another client knows that their most productive time of the year is January - May and September - early December.  This leader works extremely hard during both stretches and travels a lot during these months.  However, he takes off almost all of the summer because his clients do not really need a lot of his attention in the summer months.  He does some periodic check-ins, but also spends his time relaxing and enjoying his time away from the office.  Now, I know his schedule will not work for all of you, but I would encourage you to start noticing your own rhythm and see if there are ways to proactively get more out of your day.

When are you most productive?  When are you least productive?  What part of the week are you most creative?  What steps can you take to set up your schedule to maximize your productivity?  

Conflict 101: Setting the Ground Rules and Refereeing the Team

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Conflict. It is an essential ingredient for high performing teams, but when it is not productive it’s a destructive force that kills creativity and saps institutional energy.

To ensure the conditions are right for productive and healthy conflict, be sure 2 things are present:

1.      Shared Ground Rules

2.      Good Refereeing

Anytime more than one person is involved it is good to have Ground Rules.  Ground Rules help people understand the basic expectations and rules of engagement for a group, a team, a partnership, or an organization.

Establishing Ground Rules

How do you establish Ground Rules? Start with a Communication Conversation. Here’s how to get started:

Invite your team or colleague to a conversation:

"I want this team/partnership/project to be successful. Can we talk about the communication rhythm and process that will allow both of us to perform at our best? I want to hear what you need/prefer, and want to be able to share what I need/prefer with you. From there I am confident we can find a process that will help both of us."

At the meeting:

1.      Frame your desired outcome.

2.      Ask what communication processes help the other person/team perform at their best.

3.      Listen carefully and reflect back what you hear.

4.      Share the ways you are able to meet some (or all) of those communication preferences.

5.      Ask the other party if they are willing to hear your communication needs.

6.      Share your communication needs. Make clear requests about which of these are most important to you.

7.      Communicate back what was agreed on by both parties.

And, finally,

8.      Agree to follow up the following month to check in on how it’s going.   

Some questions you might ask during the conversation:

·        What do you need from me, in what format, for this scope of work to be successful for you?

·        How do you best like to manage your time and communication?

·        Based on what we have heard from each other: At what interval should we communicate? In what format?

One of my teams created the following Ground Rules:

1.      Work at a sustainable pace.

2.      Take the time regularly to ensure that what we are doing aligns with the vision, values, and current mission of the team.

3.      When there are problems speak up, speak directly, and when you speak say the last 10% or what is bothering you so that it can be out on the table and we can address it.

4.      Regularly recognize what is going well on the team.

5.      There are no bad ideas: be creative, be forthcoming.

6.      Once a decision is made, we speak with one voice, and support each other within the rest of the organization.

A Final Thought: Refereeing the Team

Now that you have great Ground Rules, you have to referee the team. People mess up. It is what happens next that makes all the difference. Once you have your plan in place, before you leave the conversation agree on when you will check in next to evaluate how it’s going. Plan this up front! For ongoing colleagues, a monthly check in is an important collegial habit. Also, agree at the outset how you will signal each other when something has gone wrong, so the issue can be addressed quickly. It is when mis-steps and mis-alignment are not addressed that mis-trust begins to grow. Be sure you have a follow up plan, so that you start and end strong together.

We May Not Have It All Together, but Together We Have It All

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Recently, I had the opportunity to facilitate a team offsite for a major bio-tech client. They were an impressive collection of talented and highly skilled professionals. Helping them formulate their unique guiding principles was my contribution. These principles help to create the operational framework from which the team will focus and coalesce around their leadership direction.

What continues to strike me is the amount of productive synergy that is obtained by teams focusing on:

                  a) why they exist,

                  b) where they are going and

                  c) the agreed upon behaviors that will make that happen.

The phrasethe whole is greater than the sum of its parts” was originally coined by Aristotle.
It helps the team understand the concept of synergy. For anyone who has played team sports,
it echoes the T.E.A.M. acronym—together, everyone achieves more. Whether you call it synergy, teamwork or something else, there is something special that happens when we work together towards a common goal.

Stephen Covey puts it this way, “Synergy means ‘two heads are better than one’.  To Synergize is to foster the habit of creative cooperation. It is teamwork, open-mindedness, and the adventure of finding new solutions to old problems.”

Everyone has a role to play and a job to do. When we understand our role and strive to do it
in an excellent way, what happens –synergy! Gaining a better understanding and greater appreciation of each team member’s style gives the team as a whole the ability to work together more effectively.

Consider a time when you might have quit, given up, or simply not done your best. Whether it was with your family, in school or even in the gym, was there a time when somebody urged you not to give up or offered a new perspective? While it didn’t always change the outcome, did it not equip us with more confidence and capability going forward?

Team synergy capitalizes on these qualities:

1. Consensus – we may not agree with the chosen path forward and that is OK. However, we agree, by consensus, to move forward as one unit once the rationale for the direction has been shared. This also presumes the directive passes muster with ethics and integrity.

2. Commitment– unless there have been some extenuating circumstances by which not all voices were heard, the team ceases from anything counter-productive, i.e. drama, politics or noise. Decisions have been made and synergy does not continually look back over its shoulder.

3. Collaboration – this means speaking up. Is there some request that is off task or out of scope that the leader needs to make the priority call on? Collaboration means adhering to team boundaries as a unit and allowing leaders to lead.

4. Collegiality – is the relationship between colleagues united in a common purpose. We win
or lose as a team. Winning is fun and it feels good. It builds confidence which builds more confidence. People don’t get too jazzed about running and yelling we’re #6, (and they shouldn’t).

So, the challenge is to understand our roles, be excellent at what we do and think in terms of the team approach. Whomever goes first in taking one for the team will very likely have their efforts recognized and rewarded.

 And as my wife Jane frequently reminds me and she is right (even when she is wrong!)

    “We may not have it all together, but together we have it all”


                                    For additional leadership content click here

Lee Hubert is a Speaker, Facilitator, Trainer and founder of iTrainManagerforSuccess affiliate of Voltage Leadership, with over 20 years of experience in human resources development in healthcare, technology, financial and energy sectors. 

Navigating the Obstacle Course: The Importance of a Beginner’s Mind

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When I train groups of leaders I often bring in an obstacle course that 2 participants have to navigate -- blindfolded! -- with the help of the rest of the group.  Here is the trick: the group that can “see” may only use their voices to guide their blindfolded team members through the course.

When the exercise is over and we are debriefing the experience, people tend to have a few takeaways:

"People in other departments, people in outside organizations, and new hires all have blindfolds on when it comes to my work.  They don’t know what I do. The don’t know what I need.  I see and understand the situation; they don’t.”

Other departments are ignorant about things you are expert in and that is normal.  They are experts in other things! 

What can you do to help others better understand your world? 

 

Have a beginner’s mind. 

STEP 1

How would you explain your project, your request, your issue, your department, your assignment to someone who:

1.      has no experience or expertise in your subject;

2.     has their own demanding job and expectations that they have to deliver on.

STEP 2

Reach out and be curious about their area of expertise and the current scope of their work.  Understanding the project pressure and deadlines of others will help you plan what you need from them and decide when, how, and what to communicate to them when collaboration is necessary.

These types of conversations build rapport. 

Start with the Relationships that Matter Most

To be successful, who do you need to have the strongest relationships with?

Which relationship would you most like to improve? 

Reach out and find a time to connect when you don’t need something – except an easier, smoother, working relationship. Learn about their world. Invite them into yours. With a better understanding of each other’s “obstacle course,” and some agreements about how to best communicate so that you can help each other be successful, you will have fewer “blindspots” as you go about your day.

Who do you need to reach out to and have a Beginners Mind conversation with?

BY SAYING YES, I AM SAYING NO

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You may be thinking, “Oh no! This sounds complex.”  However, this is not going to be a deep philosophical debate.  I learned this exercise while I was attending my coaching program at Georgetown University.  Take out a piece of paper.  In the left column, write By Saying Yes To…  In the right column, write I am Saying No to…

 Here are some samples from me and from one of my clients:

 

By Saying Yes to….                                     I am Saying No to…

Coaching Philip’s Basketball Team                 Free time on Tue, Thur, and Sat

                                                                    Dinners with the rest of family

                                                                    Missing an opportunity to connect with Philip

                                                                                                   

Leaving X Company                                       Stability

                                                                     Friends

                                                                     Short commute

                                                                     Dead end job at X company

                                                                      My frustrating boss

 

I love to do this activity with people I coach as it helps them go beyond just the pros and cons list.  We rarely consider the opportunity costs of our Yeses.  Instead, we just tend to say, “Yes” and then one of several things occurs: we break commitments, we miss deadlines, we become overwhelmed, we resent that we said yes to the person, etc.  I think this exercise helps leaders start to clarify what they really want to be working on and what are their top priorities.

I was coaching a CEO recently who was overwhelmed and who could not remember when she last had fun.  When I asked her to do this exercise, I began to see that she kept stacking more and more on her plate.  This helped her understand that she needed to be more intentional in what she said yes to and what the consequences of her Yeses were.

This exercise helps people become more mindful.  Mindfulness is a buzz work right now and so let me provide a definition for you:

Mindfulness = Awareness + Intention

Scott Eblin shared this formula in his outstanding book, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative.  Thus, we first have to become aware of our challenges and then take intentional actions.

 I am curious about:

·       What intentions do you have?

·       How do you honor them?

Scott gives lots of ideas and I highly recommend the book. If you want to learn about how to use this content in your workplace or life, please reach out to me.  

Thanks and create a great day!