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5 Tips To Stay Focused

We’re approaching that time of year when things become more hectic. There’s the year-end push to meet our targets, planning for next year, and adjusting to the change in personal and family schedules that tends to happen over the next few months. It can be easy to lose focus, especially if you layer shifting priorities and organization changes on top of this. Here are 5 tips for staying focused.
  • Revisit your strategic objectives: Remember those objectives that were set at the beginning of the year? Have things shifted, are they still relevant? If not, what has taken their place? Check-in with your boss, your team, and your peers to ensure you are in agreement on what’s most important to achieve between now and the end of the year.
  • Map the next ten days: A few months can feel like a long time or no time at all when you’re thinking about achieving results. I’ve started using a planning system that pushes me to create 10-day objectives that map to key goals and strategies. It has caused me to pause, step back and really think about and then focus on what the most valuable use of my time is over the next two weeks.
  • Manage Your Energy . Along with those 10-day objectives will be daily to-do’s that pop up and can’t be ignored. Be mindful of what time of day you are at your best. Allocate your time so that your most important work happens when you are at your best. Use the first 15 minutes of your work day prioritizing and planning for the rest of the day.
  • Think sprints not marathons: David Rock, co-founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute studied thousands of people and found that we are really only focused for about 6-hours a week and our goal should be short, bursts of distraction-free work. So rather than saying, I’m going to close my door and be focused for the next 3-hours, make a commitment to shut everything else out for 30 minutes. This will give you 5-minutes of transition time at the beginning, 20 minutes of deep focus and 5 minutes to ramp up to what’s next.
  • Reward yourself: Multi-tasking is automatically rewarding to our brains. After one of your sprints, take a couple of minutes to do something rewarding. Take a walk, call a friend, grab your favorite coffee and think about how great it felt to have those few minutes of complete focus.
Do you have other tips on staying focused when there is too much going on? We’d love to hear them!

How Do I Get to the Next Level?

I woke up the other morning and the calendar said it was December.  December!
How can it already by the end of the year? This realization made me think about the goals I had set at the beginning of the year and where I stood against those goals. I asked myself, ‘How can I take my performance to the next level?” At this time of year, especially in companies that have end-year check-ins as part of their performance management process, you and your people may have this same question.

What do I need to do to get to the next level?

When our people ask this question, they are usually looking for us to help them navigate the performance of career development waters and give them the answer for where they should be taking their performance or career. When asked this question, use the GOAL Development Conversation Framework to guide the conversation.

First, determine the individual’s Goals. Review where the individual is in his or her current role. Are they ready for a move? What are the individual’s personal and career goals?

Second, gain the individual’s Observations on what he or she does well, areas of interest and development needs. Ask for examples.

Third, add your Assessment and the assessment of others, if you know them for a fact. If your team member is interested in moving to another role, what skills and competencies does someone need to be successful in that role? How does this person compare to that profile right now? What do they need to develop? How does it align (or not align) with their interests?

Finally, create a Learning plan. What more do you or your team member need to learn about the role in which he or she is interested? What skills or competencies do they need to develop? How do they need to better showcase strengths?

Your Growth Mindset

Growth Mindset

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the edge having a growth mindset gives.  Research shows it is a better predictor of success than IQ.  A growth mindset embraces challenges, persists in the face of setbacks, believes effort will lead to a level of mastery, and learns from criticism. The problem is, on those days when we need it the most, when we are facing challenges and setbacks and nothing seems to be going right, is when it can be the most difficult to engage with a growth mindset.  After all, in the short run, it’s sometimes easier to just throw up your hands, take the easy route or just walk away.

What question is is how do you feel about that choice tomorrow.  Quite possibly you tell yourself that you could have stuck with it a little longer. You may realize that at least some of the criticism may have been justified.  Or, you may decide that the route for growth really was to walk away. Sometimes the setbacks you’re facing are the very things that are telling you to move on and grow in a different way.  The way to face of the setbacks is to make a left turn and go around it rather than trying to bulldoze through it.  Many people will tell you it’s that growth, the growth that happens when we take a totally different view of the setback and how we can move towards mastery, that creates some of the greatest breakthroughs in your life and your work.

Change Your Attitude

change your attitude

Anyone will tell you that attitude can make up for other things that may be lacking when it comes to success.  Carol Dweck’s most recent research shows that attitude is a more effective predictor of success than IQ.  However, what makes a difference is not whether you are Mary Sunshine, alway arriving with a smile and a spring in your step or Sam Schlubbum who greets interactions with a stoic face and isn’t excited about too much of anything.

The key difference is whether you have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset.  A growth mindset embraces challenges, persists in the face of setbacks, believes effort will lead to a level of mastery, and learns from criticism.  A fixed mindset,on the other hand, tends to avoid challenges, gives up easily, doesn’t believe effort will lead anywhere and ignores useful criticism. I’m sure we all know people who fit both of these descriptions.

If you’re stuck in a fixed mindset, don’t despair. Anyone can move into a growth mindset. The key is to start small. For example, when you’re faced with a challenge and ready to give up, decide to work at it for a few more minutes. Decide what you’re passionate about and find ways to incorporate more of that into your day. When the answer is no, don’t be afraid to try again. Countless successful people were rejected over and over again.

Watch the people around you this week.  Who is exhibiting a fixed mindset?  Who’s exhibiting a growth mindset?

Mindful Leadership

mindfulness

In a recent Huffington Post article, Harvard’s Bill George discusses the power of mindful leadership.  Mindfulness, according to George, is the practice of self-observation without judgment with a focus on our minds and inner voices. It allows you to center yourself, step away from the distractions of technology, deadlines, daily demands and become more fully present in your daily interactions. Mindful practices include meditation, journaling, jogging alone, and prayer. They are practices that allow you to become focused, more self-aware, and intentional in your actions.

One of my premises in Getting Real is that to be effective in this increasingly more complex world where leadership occurs, you need to be aware of who you are, why you are a leader and to work to understand who your people are and why they are doing what they do. Leaders need to be intentional about their actions and interactions and understand their impact on relationships and results.

About this time last year, I began integrating mindfulness practices into my life. It is an ongoing journey. The biggest challenge I’ve faced is being disciplined and integrating it into my life every day. It’s the same with being a mindful leader. We usually have the best of intentions. We plan on being present. We plan on being intentional with our actions and interactions. Still, we’re not always very good at it. However, if we keep working at it, results are significant. Click here to read about the impact of mindfulness.

Are You Spending Time with the Right People at Work?

work relationshipsNow that the end of the year is in sight, it’s a good time to take a step back and assess how we are progressing.  Usually, when we do this type of assessment, we look at progress against our business plan, project timelines or other priorities we’ve identified.

I suggest we all take a look at our key work relationships and assess how those are going.  We all know that our work relationships are important for a wide variety of reasons.  We also know that these relationships shift over time.  Someone who it wasn’t important to have a good working relationship with in the past is now an important partner.  Someone who we worked closely with in the past moved to a new role or division and we don’t really work together anymore.  And sometimes, there are people we need to build relationships with that we don’t spend the time on because they are difficult or building a new relationship is outside of our comfort zone.

I suggest you assess the balance in your network of work relationships and ask:

  • Who are you spending a great deal of time with?  Why do you spend that much time with them –familiarity?  The ease of the relationships?  Because you need them to get work done? It could be a combination of reasons.
  • Based on what you want to achieve, is that the right amount of time to be spending with them?
  • Who are you spending less time with but should spend more because they are important to success?  What needs to happen for you to be able to spend more time building the relationship?  Do you need to spend less time on those relationships that are comfortable
    but not as important to the work?  Do you need to force yourself out of you comfort zone?
  • What’s your plan for building or expanding the relationships you need to work on?  Set 2 or 3 goals for making the necessary changes to re-balance your relationships and put them into action now.

 

 

 

 

About Edith Onderick-Harvey

Edith Onderick-Harvey is a highly regarded consultant, leadership and talent expert, and speaker. Edith is frequently quoted in the media including The New York Times, CNN.com, HR Executive, and American Executive. As the President of Factor In Talent, Edith works with leaders to take performance — their own, their team’s and their organization’s — to the next level.

Leading Virtually Part 3: Feedback and Maintaining the Relationship

Feedback circle

The tips in this post were co-written by my colleague, Stefanie Heiter of Bridging Distance. This is part three of a three part series.

For the past two weeks, I’ve shared tips with you for creating results and managing performance when leading a virtual team. Last week’s tips focused on discussing both the ends and the means and creating a game plan. This week’s tips are about creating a feedback and coaching loop and maintaining the relationship.

Tip 5: Create a feedback and coaching loop. Feedback on performance is most effective when it is timely and about performance that you’ve directly observed. In a virtual world, the ability to physically see someone’s performance is not always possible. Create processes that allow you to gain meaningful information about an individual’s performance. For example, a sales director uses a survey with customers to get input into a sales person’s performance. While she created the survey to get direct feedback from customers who interact with her salespeople in live situations that she is unable to attend, it has created better customer relationships. The customers have told her that they are thrilled to be asked because it allows them to be heard. Also use technology to coach. For example, virtual meeting software could allow a less experienced team member to simulate a client presentation to you, providing you with the opportunity to coach them in real time.

Tip 6: Maintain the relationship. Our first tip was about relationship building. Once you’ve built the relationship, take steps to maintain it. When we primarily use technology to communicate, we often feel like we need to have a reason to communicate. Develop a culture that says it’s ok to just check in – not check up on – by calling or initiating contact without a specific need. Make it clear that you don’t see this as a sign that someone doesn’t have enough to do. Also, make a point to communicate the positive. Say thank you, recognize an individual’s achievements and results. If we are in the habit of using technology as a vehicle for only task oriented communication, we miss an opportunity to use it as a vehicle for building capabilities and engagement. Model this behavior with our team and you’ll find that when you do need to communicate because of a specific need, those conversations are more productive.

Effectively leading performance in a virtual world is similar in many ways to effectively leading performance in a more traditional work configuration. Leaders need to communicate expectations, monitor behavior and results, and establish an effective relationship so that we can work through the invariable issues and problems that arise. Ina a virtual world, we have an ever growing toolkit to help leaders be more effective. By understanding how to use each appropriately, leaders can get strong performance in any of the many work arrangements we find today.

Part 2: Create a Game Plan

The tips in this post were co-written by my colleague, Stefanie Heiter of Bridging Distance. This is part two of a three part series.

Success GoalsLast week I shared two tips with you for creating results and managing performance when leading a virtual team. They focused on building relationships and being thoughtful about how and when you communicate. This week’s tips are about setting goals and creating accountability.

Tip 3: Discuss both the ends and the means. Clearly understand the expectations you have of the individual. What does success look like? Make sure your definitions of success focus on the results the individual is achieving, not just the activities. Think about using the SMART criteria – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound – to both set and communicate goals. A goal of “Have 5 customer satisfaction meetings each month’ focuses on what you want someone to do. The goal “Increase annual customer satisfaction by 10% through improvements identified in customer satisfaction meetings” focuses on the result.

Another thing to think about is how the individual will achieve the goal. When people work virtually, they don’t have the opportunity to learn the culture and the way things get done. Explicitly help them understand what works and what doesn’t in your organization. How are people expected to behave? How should they be working with others to meet their goals? Sharing stories of how others have been successful is a powerful tool for communicating expectations. It paints a picture of the type of results and behaviors you expect.

Tip 4: Create a game plan. Once you’ve set clear expectations, staying connected and establishing accountability is essential. Specifically discuss which technologies you will employ for different communication needs. Is status best delivered through email? Do you utilize Sharepoint as a repository for different types of documents? How should time sensitive conversations occur? How should the individual communicate with others on the team? When should they make a decision on their own and when should they make sure the two of you talk first? Determine the most effective mix of ‘old’ and ‘new’ technologies. A client recently shared that their geographically-dispersed sales team is using a private Twitter site to share product information, market intelligence and sales tips in real time. They credit the site with increasing the effectiveness of their sales efforts. Determine what suite of technologies you will use to assess progress against goals. Real-time conversations will be part of it but also consider the use of technologies that allow for asynchronous communication.

Next week: Feedback and keeping momentum going

Finding Leaders

 

Numerous business journals report that a majority of Boston employers are finding it difficult to find strategic thinkers. They also report that it’s just as difficult to find candidates who can lead and motivate.

Isn’t it ironic that in an area with one of the most highly educated workforces in the country, our employers cannot find leaders who possess two of the most important leadership skills? There’s no doubt that our people are among the best and the brightest professionally and technically. But we also know that those who are the most technically or professionally proficient don’t necessarily make the best managers and leaders. They didn’t become the best in their field without an investment in developing skills and knowledge so why do we think they’ll figure out leadership on their own. These reports should sound the alarm bell for all us about the importance of investing in effective leadership development. It is a key lever for moving us from recession to recovery.

From my perspective, three important characteristics of effective management and leadership development are:

    • It’s aligned to the business strategy. How can we develop leaders who are thinking strategically — that is, exhibiting the ability to create strategies, plans, and priorities consistent with the mission and competitive strategy of the organization — if we are developing skills and competencies that are not aligned with the business strategy?
       
    • It allows them to work on real world issues that are pertinent to their daily activities. Development, whether in the classroom or in the field, should provide tools and frameworks that support actions on the job. I was recently facilitating a session on leading through influence, in which plans are created for making a proposal. One of the leaders in the program commented, “Who knew we would create real deliverables from a training program.”
       
    • It creates a network for continued development. The power of peer relationships and the learning that occurs from it is one of the most powerful development tools I’ve found. By creating peer relationships focused on sharing ideas and learning among leaders, a sustainable system is created to support continuous, self-directed learning.

Research has also shown that Boston-based employees reported they want their employer to help them further develop their skills which is a key engagement factor. What better win-win can you create than investing in development that will move the business forward and will support further employee engagement?

I’m sure these findings aren’t that different from other parts of the country. This research should spur all of us to take a deeper look at what we expect from managers and leaders and how we invest to support the successful execution of those expectations.

Are You Really a Team?

Are You Really a Team?The word and idea of a team gets used a lot in corporate America. Managers talk about their teams. Teams are pulled together to solve business issues. Teamwork is touted as the best way to achieve results.

I’m often asked to work with teams who are not performing as well as they should be. Some are outright dysfunctional. And, sometimes, the group is not a team at all. They are a group of people who report to a particular manager or who serve a particular client group. Usually, the person who brought me into the organization thinks they are or should be a team, but in reality, they aren’t or don’t need to be.
 

There are four reasons why what is often called a team is not a team at all:

  • Lack of common purpose: A team needs to have a common purpose that can only be achieved by the members of the team working together. If the purpose can be achieved without that kind of collaboration or if the only commonality is that we have the same boss, it’s not a team.
     
  • Individual, not shared, goals: Teams have shared goals and accountabilities. If each individual only has individual goals and there is no need for shared goals, then what is it we are all trying to achieve together?
     
  • Team members aren’t bought into the cause. If the team members don’t find the purpose of the team to be compelling and can’t really see how they add value, there is no team. Team members need to believe that the work being done by the team is important. They need to be committed and motivated to achieving the results.
     
  • They only get together to share information. Many of us have been in team meetings where the sole purpose is for each team member is to update the other team members and this is the only interaction the team members have with each other. Teams exist to take action against a shared purpose and goals. If we do not work collaboratively to generate ideas, to make decisions or to execute specific actions, then the “team,” is really a very labor-intensive communication vehicle. The “team” is a distribution channel. It’s not really adding any value, just getting information from one point to another.