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Tell the Story

teamwork 660 x 330As you and your team are thinking about how to Finish Strong, take a lesson from Twitter to get them fired up.

If you use Twitter you know that you have 140 characters to tell your story. It forces you to really think about what you want to say and about how you’ll say it. To get your team to buy in to your Finish Strong projects you need to give them a compelling reason to join in the effort. You need to engage them in a story about why this is important. And, you need to make it short and sweet. You need to make the message simple and easy to remember so that when asked, each of your team members can share what the team is doing and why.

WHAT OTHER THOUGHT LEADERS ARE THINKING

thought leadership

On a regular basis, I take a look at what other thought leaders are saying about leadership, change, and work. Here are some great ones I’ve found recently.

Do you have someone interested in moving into a leadership position? Share this with them.

Turns out being likeable has more impact on being an effective leader than we may think. Click here to read more.

When you think you have leadership mastered, the world may change on you. Watch this TED talk with General Stanley McChrystal on listening, learning and then, leading.

Now that the economy is picking up, maybe you’re concerned about losing some of your best people. Avoid being dumped by your best employees. Read the full Forbes article here.

RAISE YOUR HAND IF YOU FEEL OVERLOADED

raised hands 220x125If you raised your hand, you’re not alone. A new survey by Harris Interactive for Everest College says that 83% of us are stressed by at least one thing at work. That’s up 10 points from 2012.  

 What’s causing the stress?  The #1 reason is low pay and unreasonable workloads.  Many of us can’t do much about the pay.  However, we can impact workloads. One of the things I see contributing to the unreasonable workloads is how much change is being introduced and how it’s being introduced. 

Often, introducing change and innovation is a bit like changing the tire on a bus going 60 miles an hour.  You have to keep the bus going but you also have to change the tire so the bus can get where it needs to go more efficiently, is able to take rougher roads or deal with dangerous conditions.  Still, slowing the bus down, just a little can make getting that tire changed go a lot faster.  Too often, when companies introduce change it is done rapid fire. We’ll change something over here, something’s over there and a few more while we’re at it.  In even the most change ready and change rich environments — those where people love innovation and change– you will reach the point of overload. 

 To make sure your team or company are not tipping into change overload, implement listening posts to check in and talk about the pace of change, the frustrations, how it could be done better. A listening post is a regularly scheduled time for people to talk, as a group or one-on-one, with you, about what’s working and what’s not.  Your job during a listening post is not to spend the majority of the time on updates about change or innovation projects. It’s not the time to sell change. It’s a time for people to talk about the personal side of change — how it feels, what it’s like for them and the impact it’s having. It’s a time to listen to what’s going on and to synthesize that input into how change is being managed and lead. 

Labor Day

For most of us, Labor Day is the last long weekend of the summer. We host a cookout or try to get to the ocean one last time. We close up the summer camp or cottage. We buy those final school supplies and get ready for Fall. Often, we forget that the reason for the holiday is to “recognize and pay tribute to the contributions and achievements of the American worker.”

The past few years have been tough for the American Worker. We’ve asked them to do more with less and take on heavier workloads. They’ve continued to give their best while worrying about when and if the next lay off will come. In some industries, like financial services, the trust the public had in their companies is deeply eroded and it’s difficult to feel pride.

In the lead up to Labor Day 2012, take time to recognize the contributions of the team of people who work with you. Show appreciation for the hours they’ve put in. Remind them of all they’ve achieved. Thank them for the results. Celebrate the accomplishments. Remind them what Labor Day is all about.

Coaching a Superstar

Coaching a SuperstarThe spectacle of the closing ceremonies have marked the end of another Olympics.  Personally, I love all things Olympic.  Every time I watch the Olympics I’m struck by the stories of how the athletes  got there. Each has his or her own journey but the one thing they all have in common is a coach who got them there.  And, for many of them, that coach was never an Olympian.  They were never as good as the person they coach.

All of us, at one time or another in our career will manage a superstar.  You know them, that person who you know is more talented than  you and who you know will probably surpass you on the career ladder.  Some people don’t think they have anything to teach this person.  Nothing is further from the truth. 

Even superstars need coaches. And, all superstars have coaches.  Coaches add value by being able to see what the superstar doesn’t.  You are able to watch them and see the blind spots.  You can see how if they made a slight change here or a big change there, they will reach even higher levels of achievement.  You can provide them context and be a safe sounding board for new ideas.  You can push them when they need pushing and slow them down when they need to think before they act.

Who is your top athlete?  What coaching will take them to the next level of performance?  

Why Change Kills Engagement


A big concern for manager during times of change is how to keep their people engaged. We all know that change is hard. Just because it’s become a regular part of our work life doesn’t make it any easier. As a matter of fact, because we are continually changing and adapting, keeping people engaged when we announce the fifth major change in the past two years is harder than keeping them engaged for the first one.

Why is that? In large part it’s the nature of change but it’s also because of how our organizations manage or mismanage change.

Long term, real engagement comes from four factors — having a sense that what you’re doing is meaningful, the ability to make progress, feeling competent and having a say in how you do your work or a sense of autonomy. Too often, our change efforts fly in the face of these four factors. For example:

    • Change that seems to be done for the sake of change. Too often why change is happening isn’t communicated well. It may not be apparent why this change is meaningful. If someone understand why it’s happening, he’s more likely to make the connection. When communicating about change, make sure you talk about why it’s happening and how it connects to what’s important to each individual. 
       
    • The change effort never makes it to the goal. Too often, change efforts are stopped before they ever reach the stated goal. And then, we introduce another one. People are never going to feel like they’re making progress if half way into every change initiative, we stop that effort and introduce the next one. Before deep sixing a change, step back and ask if you’ve really given it the time to work. 
       
    • “I don’t know what I’m doing.” Change creates uncertainty. Roles can become unclear. People are sure what the expectations are. Individuals may not be sure how to accomplish the task in the new organization. It’s difficult to feel competent when you don’t know what you’re doing and no one will give you direction. Make sure you are helping people understand their roles and responsibilities. They need to hear it multiple times in multiple ways. Don’t assume that because you’ve told them once, it’s all clear. 
       
    • Changing the processes so that there is no room for inconsistency. Some change is about improving service or quality by creating immutable standards. Templates and procedures and operating principles are created to make the achievement of these standards easier. However, when these templates, procedures and operating principles are implemented so that there is no room for personal adaptation or creativity, you’ve lost people. As someone once said, “you could have a monkey do this job. What do you need me for?” Yes, sometimes templates and procedures add value but ask yourself if your approach to implementing them is also killing personal autonomy.

How Effective Is Your Leadership Team?

Leadership Team
Leading organizations happens across the leadership team. We often focus on leadership at the individual level — is John a strong leader? What about Samantha? To really assess the strength of leadership in your organization, you need to look across the leadership team. Each individual may be a strong leader but as a team is the sum greater than the parts?
 

Effective leadership teams are able to take the strength of the leaders on the team and focus them on optimizing the entire business not just their individual balance sheets.

To optimize the leadership team you need:

  • Shared goals: What’s the reason they all need to come together?
  • Compelling purpose: Is the reason we are coming together compelling enough for me to make this team a priority?
  • Clear roles: Are we clear what each of us brings to the table and the role we play on the team?
  • Trust and respect: Do we value what each other brings or are some parts of the business second class citizens?
  • Process: Many leadership teams abhor process. Without it, are you just spinning your wheels?
  • Candor: Do we have a team environment that is transparent and open and not destructive?
  • Metrics and accountability: Does achieving those shared goals mean anything or are my rewards still about individual performance?
  • Decision making: Do we spend our time making decisions or simply sharing information? Can each individual influence the outcomes?

So, how’s your team doing?

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.


Is Your Team Ready to Take Its Leadership to the Next Level?

 Are you ready to:

  • Look forward at the new opportunities, threats and demands on your business?
     
  • Build the ability to think strategically and systemically in your organization?
     
  • Build an even more effective team of people who share your philosophy and purpose, with strengths that complement your own?
     
  • Motivate, empower and enhance trust in the organization to execute the strategic vision and achieve great results?

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Sandbox Rules and the $2B Conflict

JP Morgan Chase $2B ConflictBy now, we’ve all heard about the $2 billion (maybe $3 billion) loss at JP Morgan. An article in The New York Times shows how this loss was the result of long unresolved conflicts. It seems that when mom wasn’t as available, the kids started throwing sand at each other in the sandbox.

The Chief Investment Officer at JPMorgan, who had managed her unit brilliantly through the financial crisis, was less present in the office due to illness for several months starting in 2010. During this time tensions between her two deputies in London and New York came out into the open. The head of the London operation gained more and more latitude to build and expand trades from the desk in London and began to compete with his NY counterpart for supremacy. When the head of the New York office raised objections, shouting matches ensued and the tensions escalated. As one trader said, “The strife distracted everyone because no one could push back.”

Conflicts are a part of life and sometimes, a daily part of work life. When handled well, conflict can spur new ideas and results in stronger outcomes. However, as this case shows, unresolved conflict can cost real money.

When conflicts remain unresolved the nature of the conflict changes. When conflict starts the conversation is about you (your ego), me (my ego) and the conflict. If we aren’t able to resolve the conflict, my focus on the conflict changes. You fall out of the picture and I’m focused on the conflict and what I need to get out of it. If it still remains unresolved, I get to the point of not caring what the conflict is actually about, instead the focus is completely on me and making sure I get what I need, to make sure I win.

This seems to be what happened at JP Morgan. Something in the culture allowed the focus to go from coming up with the best decision and solution to winning at all costs. The inability to play nice in the sandbox just cost them $2 billion.

How’s your sandbox?