Archive for Coaching Skills

A New Manager’s Guide to Honesty

LeadingFirst, a short story.

Not long ago, a team we are familiar with described their experience with a difficult manager. The frustration level was such that the core team were ready to quit.

Their issue? A lying Manager.

The team was weary, distrustful, often cranky and angry at each other, and they were beginning to unravel thread-by-thread. It was easily traced to the manner in which the manager had been handling the team.

Sadly, the issues they had went on for a number of years:

  • They were all privately told different versions of what was going on in the team.
  • The manager made promises to all of them, separately, but did not always back it up or follow it through.
  • The manager continually deflected accountability for actions by pointing in any direction but his own, including pointing up the chain or at other team members.
  • Many of the stories pitted members of the team against one another.
  • The manager promised roles to team members when that role already belonged to other team members, without using professional due process.

In addition to lying, the key ingredients to frustration were the manager’s inability to take ownership or accountability for most actions, especially anything the employees disliked or when they challenged his lack of willingness to be open about future planning.

The thing about lying is, as mentioned in a previous post Liars get caught, period, the lies are almost always found out, eventually. When a manager lies to his team, he destroys trust. Avoiding difficult situations, or conflict altogether, are as good as lying and continues to diminish trust within a team.

Ways to be an honest Manager, especially through change

Hold yourself accountable and take responsibility for moving the team forward. The manager who falls into the habit of blaming their bosses for decisions made loses the team and creates an ‘Us against Them’ environment. This can be avoided by one of the foundational principles of management, keeping the team unified and in alignment with the company strategy.

  • Take ownership of the decisions which are out of your control and made at a higher level.
  • Champion these decisions as your own and encourage your team to do the same.
  • Recognize when you are powerless to change the decision and move on professionally, even if you disagree (keep it to yourself) as you are the ambassador for the people who lead you.

Build the functional capability of the team as a team. Many a manager believes that once given the title they are empowered to make all the decisions and the team must simply follow it through. While that may be true in terms of power and authority, by disrespecting your team members’ valuable knowledge and ignoring group decision making, a manager may be putting the team, and ultimately the company, at risk.

  • Make meetings productive by listening, not by trying to be the smartest person in the room. Ask a lot of questions and get answers from your experts, leverage the team ‘on the ground’ and utilize and respect their knowledge.
  • Mine solutions from the whole group then ask all in the room to question the validity and be the ‘friendly critic’ who can identify associated risks.
  • Keep ‘water cooler’ conversations away from planning and decision-making unless you are focused only on that team member’s performance.
  • Never make promises you cannot keep, the entire team will slowly begin to distrust your leadership.
  • Focus on the strengths of the whole team united, the importance of a team that works together and is not in conflict.

These are a just a few ideas for helping your build honesty and trust within your team. An honest, transparent and trustworthy manager is far more effective than a top-down, distrustful one. Leadership is not about you, it is about the team and what is best for the company. Open, honest transparency will be a far better guide through change and will serve you as a new leader in all walks of life.

What ideas can you share with new managers?

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Your Yes Men Are Hurting Your Business

clearYes men are the people always willing to agree with or go along with the leader for any of a number of reasons.

Yes men (or women) have a reason to believe that contradicting the boss or executive is detrimental to their career.

If you see this in your business, and you are at the top – you did this. You either inherited or created a culture of Yes Men and you likely have failed to address it.

At first it feels good. It’s great to feel like the smartest person in the room that everyone looks up to, the person who everyone agrees with. But it does not bring change, it will not bring innovation, it will never make your company distinctive or set you apart from the competition. It will stagnate you.

Yes Men fail in the actions your business really needs:

  • Challenging how money is being spent and why
  • Courage to innovate
  • Willingness to be accountable for a creative solution
  • Desire to adopt new ways of marketing or selling your brand
  • Being a unique player in a highly competitive market

Sure your business is doing fine. But, are you okay with fine?

Yes men are more about someone’s ego than what is right for the business.

Be willing to hire strong, capable people who are experts in their field. Create an atmosphere of trust where they feel safe telling you what they believe or think. Learn how to facilitate the kind of meetings that pull the best ideas out on the table. Ask yourself these:

  • When a “friendly critic” comes into the company, are they embraced or chased out?
  • Do you take challenge as a personal attack?
  • Think about it. Who could you ask or trust in the business to tell you what you really need to hear?
  • Who is the person who has the guts to challenge the status quo?
  • Are your ‘challengers’ really contrarians or do they have a passion for success?
  • Are they discounted because they are not following in the steps of your Yes Men?

Are you a strong enough leader to allow yourself to be challenged by your employees?

It’s YOUR culture, what are you going to do about it?

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Use Your Simplicity Super Powers

Super PowersWhen I am with a coaching client, it is my job to focus on that client without distractions. They are often grateful for the time because they are able to focus on their own personal goals without their usual complex environments filled with distraction.

Finding simplicity in a confusing and chaotic world can be as good as a vacation. I can hear the resounding “ahhhh” now as all you readers begin to imagine your lives with less stress, less connection, less of everything. Not feeling the simplicity love? Use your superpowers.

Simplifying

The Tiny House movement is one example of how many people are feeling burdened by the trappings of what was once a lofty goal – big house to hold lots of things and more and more gadgets. And yet there is a feeling of great weight that seems to have loaded people up to the point where more and more people are sharing, dreaming and talking about tiny houses…but not living in them.

Real Simple, the magazine, strikes deep longing breaths as one paws through each page longing for less pressure, less clutter and less hassle, yet it gets stacked in a pile next to all the other interests beside the couch in a living room filled with so many children’s toys one can barely move.

Software websites that once held flashing reminders to buy, buy, buy have simplified to beautifully designed simplistic pages with a small scattering of visual-based links that draw the mind into believing solutions are simple, but people are failing to purchase because the choices of similar software are far too grand and need more investigation.

Not Really Simplifying

The thing is, we want and crave simplicity, less distraction, less of all the millions of messages hitting us on a daily basis, overwhelming our senses and distracting our focus – but actions and wishes do not always match. Goodness knows, I am guilty of getting sucked into the ‘always on’ mentality!

Human beings crave attention – and the digital age has provided us with an attention banquet unsurpassed in history – often at the expense of giving attention to those we are with. We have at our disposal, hundreds (if not thousands) of attention getting gadgets, platforms and media to fill every minute of our day and keep from every getting anything of value accomplished.

Sit in a coffee shop and watch the throngs of people sitting with each other but all looking down on their phones. Sit in a meeting and notice how many people are actually listening compared to how many are checking phones. Notice how many people on their drive home from work are texting, talking or handling their handheld devices – in spite of legislation that tells them it’s illegal.

We crave simplicity, yet we ignore the many avenues for gaining it. I find I am most successful when I drop the gadgets and start listening and doing and that requires super powers!

Use Your Super Powers for Good!

All your gadgets, devices, applications and digital connectors to your world have hidden super powers. That’s right – and we are going to show you a few.

  • Voice Mail: For meetings, driving, paying at the till, walking your dog, getting stuff done. This little super power of your cell, desktop and home phone gives you the power to organize your life. Stop running to answer and be respectful of the people who you are actually with.
  • Airplane Mode: This is great for tablets, laptops, phones and other devices we may not know about. Can’t get something done? Shut ‘er down, my friend and finish that project.
  • Flag or Close Your Email: You are the hero of this story – you get to decide when you check your email and you get to decide when you will get back to someone. Prioritize who gets instant gratification from you.
  • Stop answering texts – hit the call button. Are you getting inundated with texts? They take time, especially if you are a slow texter. Hit the call button and call them back when you are finally alone, make it quick and answer fast.
  • The power button, on your T.V., computer, or any other distracting electronics. This ultimate of super un-power gives you those long craved for moments – go for a walk, soak in a tub, play with the kids – escape the time suckers.
  • Turn off Social Media Notifications – you don’t really need to check EVERY ping and knock from your social media, it’s not like it’s going anywhere! Check it after a nice lunch – perhaps

You get the hint – take control, because the attention you are getting from a text, social media notifications, email, or any other distracting forces in your life is taking you AWAY from simplicity and pulling you toward loneliness and complexity.

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Own It to Change It

Own_It_Change_It How does organizational change occur?

Change occurs because people, just like you and me, made the decision to change. How that decision came about may be different for each individual involved; the motivator, influence or even traumatic event that may occur and spur someone toward change is usually personal and unique to each.

In the end, change occurred because the individual decided to take responsibility for their contribution to the current state of affairs & take action toward the future.

Every stakeholder involved plays an instrument in the orchestra of change.

Successful, sustained change occurs when someone owns and takes responsibility for their individual piece of the musical score, especially if it achieved a not-so-appealing outcome based on past performance.

Change is hard. It involves leaving our comfort zones, habits or belief systems and developing new ones. The transition is messy while we figure out how to accomplish new behaviours. There will even be a few mistakes along the way and people will need to readjust, (forgive), move forward and shift action. It can be awkward or frustrating. Keeping the whole orchestra (organization) and the final performance (goals) in focus will help.

  • Each person needs to know what instrument they play and how that instrument contributes to the whole.
  • Each person will need their own sheet music and it will be slightly different than someone playing a different instrument.
  • Each person will need to own their personal performance AND how they perform along with others. (You’ve all heard music when one instrument is off or out of tune.)

Making change is not about laying blame, it’s about being responsible for and owning ‘what doesn’t work’ or is no longer sustainable action – owning it personally in your corner of the stage – and it will take practice. Equally important to successful change is collaborating with others, following the beat or lead of another, being supportive of and aligning with other members of the orchestra, not to mention caring deeply about those people who will bear witness to the performance.

Own it to change it…

With luck, your orchestra has a supportive and active conductor guiding you along the way.

P.S. If you have an absentee or a non supportive conductor, you are still part of an orchestra and need to own your part in the overall performance in spite of a lack of leadership. Working together WITH the other musicians toward the greater performance is the best way to win with change.

P.P.S. Pointing fingers at others and blaming a lack of leadership as an excuse for poor performance or a bad attitude is a cop-out that shifts responsibility to others – this is a lose-lose activity. Win-Win activities involve owning it to change it.

 

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