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Crystal Ball

I’m looking into the crystal ball…

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could go to the tarot card reader or crystal ball seer to know where our businesses and industries are headed?  What’s the next trend?  What needs will our customers have?  How do we keep our brand, products, and services relevant?

As leaders we are always balancing today and tomorrow — keeping one eye on the demands of today while keeping the other eye on the opportunities and threats of tomorrow.    That said, by just taking a few minutes a day we can keep that future in view, giving us the information and ideas that we can translate it into meaningful actions for our business today.

The following are some common sense ways to keep ourselves thinking about tomorrow while we’re making success happen today.  How many do you do on a regular basis?

  • Take a look at your company news releases on the intranet.
  • Follow an RSS feed, read blogs or trade journal articles about your industry
  • Follow an RSS feed, blog or trade journal about completely different industries than your own.  If you’re in healthcare, follow a high tech guru.  If you’re in biotechnology follow something from the hospitality industry.  You never know where a great idea will come from.  After all, 20 years ago who ever thought we’d listen to music and play games on our phones?
  • Read newspapers from emerging markets.  The internet makes it easy to access English language versions of many publications. You can also listen to the radio or podcasts.  I listen to the BBC a couple of times a week when I’m driving to and from meetings.  I’m always amazed by the completely different topics and regions of the world it covers compared to U.S.-based news.
  • Talk to someone younger than you.  Try to talk to someone a generation younger than you.  Their perspectives and insights, especially related to technology, will amaze you.
  • Go to a meeting where not everyone does what you do.  I always walk away with a much broader perspective when I have been at a meeting with people whose business or profession is completely different from my own.
  • Work through ‘what if’ scenarios about your business. Think of what’s highly probable and what’s less probable. Then develop ideas for how your company or team would address that scenario.  For example, what if someone came into the market who could deliver the same quality product at 1/3 the cost?  What if a new technology allowed people to access your product for free or a very low price?

Why Should I Follow The Leader?

Earlier in my career, I was interviewing with the SVP, the chief people officer, for a senior role in a large organization.  He was still fresh to the company, having been there about 6 months.  I asked him where the firm was going and what made him get up in the morning and go to work.  He looked at me and with a shrug said, “Edith, it’s insurance,” like it was the craziest question in the world.  How silly to expect that a senior leader, six months into his job would be able to articulate a compelling picture of the place he worked.  He had a golden opportunity to communicate his vision of what this organization was about and where it was going and he came up with nothing. There was no second interview.

This story is not meant to reflect badly on the insurance company. I know plenty of executives in insurance companies who would answer that question very differently.

This SVP obviously wasn’t able to communicate a vision. Over the past 18 months, many of our organizations have been lacking in “the vision thing.” We’ve been focused on a lot of things that were important but  that people perceive as negative — cutting costs, losing sales and revenues, reducing headcount.  But as the recovery starts, we need to think about where we want to go from here, because it won’t be where we were before 2008.

Whether you are hiring to rebuild your team, developing employees, or trying to retain or more fully engage your talent, the first step for taking performance to the next level and creating competitive advantage is to develop Compelling Clarity. Compelling Clarity is about creating a vision and expectations that are so clear it is difficult to say ‘where are we going?’ or ‘what should I be doing?’and so compelling no one needs to ask ‘why am I doing this?’ Instead, they say ‘I need to be a part of this.’

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Where does my organization (or division or group or…) need to go?
  • Why are we going in that direction?
  • What will we look like a year from now?
  • What top priorities will get us there?
  • How will we know we’re successful?
  • Why do I want to be a part of this?  Why would someone else want to be a part of this?

If your answer is “I don’t know” to any of these you’re going to be less able to attract or retain top talent as you move forward. You’ll be appealing to people who want a job but not attractive to people who want to make an impact.  Without a sense of where they’re going, you’re people can’t perform at the high levels you need.

Be ready to talk about your vision.  Gauge the reactions to it.  After all, you don’t want to find yourself saying, with a shrug, “Edith it’s…”

 

Who’s Working 40 Hours?

40-Hour Work Week

WSJ reported recently that the 40-hour week is a thing of the past. Did you need the WSJ to tell you that? According to the report, 58% of U.S. managers reported working more than 40 hours a week. The only country to report a higher percentage of manager working more than 40-hours is our neighbor to the south, Mexico.

The article mentions the role of technology in this trend. It’s a double edge sword. While it allows us more flexibility and the ability to work from anywhere, it also prevents us from ever being able to completely disconnect. If we don’t get to those emails before we leave the office, we can do them after dinner or over the weekend. No need to wait until we’re in the office to review that presentation, we can download it on our phone.

A question this finding raises for me is, how are we spending our time? Have our jobs changed in such a way that more hours are needed or are we consumed by tasks that aren’t adding much value anyway?

For example, I think we’ve all spent endless hours emptying our inboxes of emails that we’ve been politely copied on so that we can ‘stay in the loop.’ Do we spend too much time composing texts or emails focused on interpersonal transactions that simply move the ball down the field a littler further or are we developing real work relationships that allow us to collaborate, innovate and create significant breakthroughs that really make a difference for our customers, our people or our organizations?

This Could Actually be a Valuable Meeting

Business Meeting

Last week’s blog post focused on using the IDEA model to make your meetings productive and arenas for getting work done rather than getting in the way of getting things accomplished.

Here’s an idea for how to put the model to use in the next two weeks. Have a meeting with your team to review the year to date and decide how to get some great things done over the next three months. The plans from that meeting will create the momentum for a highly productive 2nd half of 2015. Here’s your agenda:

        • Focus on Issues or Initiatives: What issues have arisen that have kept you from achieving your goals this year? What initiatives were put on the back burner because of lack of resources or maybe it just wasn’t the right time? What issues do you need to get a jump on as soon as the new year starts? What initiative will be high priority and needs to start on August 1st?
        • Make Decisions: Which of these issues are critical to address in the next three months? Which initiatives do we want to move back to the front burner? Do we have budget we need to spend or earmark before the end of the year or we’ll lose it? What do we need to do to have everything ready to move on the new initiatives as soon as the holidays are over?
        • Establish Actions: What actions will we take to address the key issue(s) in the next three months? Establish an action plan identifying your key steps, resources and timing. If you previously had a project plan for those initiatives that had been on the back burner, revisit it and see how it needs to be updated. If you did not, create an action plan or project plan that takes you through at least the end of February. Identify any internal or external resources you need for the initiative or to attack the issue. Take action to get them engaged even if they don’t actively need to be involved for a few weeks.

Let me know what plans you put in motion and whether this meeting was a productive use of your time.

Five Reasons Why Good Leaders Fail

Why Good Leaders Fail

 

Jessica had been on the high potential list every year since she started with her biotechnology company.  She was moved into a variety of roles, taking on different responsibilities and succeeding each time. She was known as a strong leader because of her ability to get results. When she moved into the Director of Operations role things began to change. Within 6 months of taking the role she wasn’t delivering the results everyone thought she was capable of delivering.  Her team was contentious and morale was wavering.  What was going on?  Had Jessica topped out her potential, a living example of the Peter Principle?  Had she lost her ability to lead?

Of course she didn’t lose her ability to lead.  Her abilities and skills had not just simply vanished but other parts of the situation had changed.

I’ve seen five common reasons why a leader who has been effective in the past is now failing.

1. Some critical skills were overlooked before. Let’s talk about the obvious reason first.  Some leaders have not developed key skills that they need to be successful.  Just like brilliant students who breeze through school, sometimes people climb to positions of leadership because they are brilliant marketers, brilliant scientists, or brilliant (put your profession here). But along the road to success, the people around this leader choose to overlook a key skill (or two or three) until it can’t be overlooked any more and causes huge issues.  For example, if we go back to Jessica, throughout her career it was noted in talent reviews that she could be abrasive and often got things done through force of will rather than by building relationships and coalitions.  She thought of herself as ‘results-focused.’  When she moved into her Operations role, it became imperative for her to build relationship with peers in other parts of the organization to get results.  Interestingly, her ‘results-focus’ is what got in the way.

2. Cultural mismatch. This is a common reason why leaders who have been wildly successful in one environment for a long time, fail miserably in a very short time in another.  The way a person operates and becomes successful in one culture can be very different from another.  For example, a leader may have been very successful in a culture that a valued quick decision making and risk taking.  Put that same leader in an environment driven by consensus and a desire to explore issues from every angle before moving forward and wait for the results.

3. Process and system mismatch. In the 1800’s, some people did very well in the wild, wild west and others went back home to the security of their established communities.  Some leaders are very adept at working in environments with less defined processes and systems.  They either work without them or really enjoy putting them in place.  Others thrive in environments where processes and systems are clearly defined.  Think of the serial entrepreneur who is put into a large, complex organization that has acquired his firm.  Change was a way of life in his entrepreneurial firm but isn’t in this large organization.  Leading change in the former was easy; everyone thrived on it.  In the new organization it takes real work. The processes that exist are meant to maintain the status quo not change it and people in his new organization wonder why he was once perceived as someone who drove change.

4. Lack of management support. Even the most seasoned executive needs people in her corner.  She needs people who support her success.  She may need coaching and mentoring to navigate the new role.  Even the best CEO won’t succeed if the Chairman of the Board decides she is not the person for the job and needs to go.

5. Organization structure. We all have been in situations where roles aren’t clear, responsibilities are redundant, unnecessary internal competition is the norm, resources aren’t available or decision making is lost in layers of management morass.  Leaders can find themselves in the same situations.  I worked for an organization once that routinely pitted leaders against each other by giving them the same issue to address or initiative to lead in different parts of the organization without each leader knowing about the other’s charge.  There could only be one winner in this situation so one of them automatically was going to fail.

Why have you seen leaders fail?

 

Results-based Performance in a Virtual World

This posting is co-written with my colleague Stefanie Heiter, Bridging Distance.

In the emerging virtual workplace, do you miss the comfort of walking by an employee’s desk and feeling confident she or he is working hard and doing a good job? If you can’t see them working, do you wonder what they are really doing? Are you baffled by how to set expectations  that will drive results when you are not working in the same place? Are you concerned about whether your talent has the right competencies to hit the ground running when it all turns around?

Today’s workplace is characterized by people working in dispersed locations,  within matrixed structures,  with colleagues from multiple functions – even multiple organizations. Gone are the days when high performance was assessed by how much time someone ‘put in’ at the office. We are less likely to be ‘going to work’ and more likely to be ‘working’. Technology affords 24/7 access from almost anywhere. ‘Do more with less’ is now a mantra heard across countless companies via all communication media.

Despite these changes, managers are still expected to manage performance, regardless of location, time zone, function, or even language barriers, and often in the face of decreased budgets and reduced labor force. Successful managers have learned to overcome the challenges of virtual leadership, and move to results-based performance management. Here are strategies and tips successful virtual leaders use to create an effective results-based performance management approach:

Focus first on intentional, consistent relationship building.  Create presence with employees by checking in (not checking on) frequently.  Use more real-time technologies like telephone, instant messenger, chat, or text.  When you check in, ask questions focused on getting to know their locations, resources that are needed, what else is happening, sharing information and decision-making whenever possible, and asking about their lives.  Presence involves being available to people so they don’t have to make up reasons to be in contact.

Slow down to speed up.  Take time upfront to define how you are going to stay in touch, share status, keep people in the loop, and when and how you will ‘meet’.  Considerations here are protocols for high use technologies such as email (i.e., names in ‘to’ line means action required whereas ‘cc’ line means information only, when to ‘reply’ versus ‘reply to all’).  It means agreements about when and when not to use technologies, defining who should be included and NOT included in particular categories of information and meetings.

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. What behaviors will they exhibit?  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.

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.

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.

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 workplace.  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.  In 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.

 

Strategy & Choice

door-knocker-sm

The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do. — @MichaelEPorter

 

 

I was recently having a conversation with someone about strategy. He noted that at the end of the day, strategy is simply about choice. As someone who does a lot of strategy work, I was taken by this elegant definition of strategy. A well-defined strategy should be an articulation of a choice you are making about how you will achieve your vision. It is also the choice of what you will not do to achieve your vision. It is saying yes to some things and no to others.

It’s also a guide for the choices you make about how to implement the strategy. On a tactical level, it serves as the guidepost for the daily choices and decisions that get made about what markets to pursue, what products to introduce, who to hire and promote and where offices should be located. It can be a touchstone for difficult decisions, providing criteria for weighing your options.

For the strategy to play its important role in guiding choice, it needs to be widely communicated and understood. It needs to be discussed on a regular basis so it is top of mind. Too many times I hear Directors or VP’s in large organizations that the strategy is not clear. If they don’t know it, how can anyone else?

 

 

 

Edith Onderick-Harvey is a recognized organizational and leadership development expert.  She works with Fortune 500 firms, growing companies, and universities to design their organizations, develop their leaders and continually elevate performance.  She has been quoted in The New York Times, Human Resource Executive, CNN.com and the author of the newly released book “Getting Real:  Strategies for Leadership in Today’s Innovation-Hungry, Time-Strapped, Multi-Tasking World of Work”

 

What Does HR Do For You?

What does HR do for youToday’s HR departments come in all shapes and sizes. Centralized. Decentralized. All HR services under one roof. Few kept internal, most outsourced.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal raises an interesting question. Do you really need HR? It profiles organizations that have decided to go without an HR department.

Managers take full responsibility for hiring, firing, mediating employee issues, career development, etc. There are some executives in the article who love it. There are managers in the article who find it concerning.

So, my question is, what does HR do for you? Would your organization be more nimble and innovative without it? Does it get in the way of moving things forward? Is the coaching and resources of an HR department valuable to you as an executive and manager?

Click here to answer our poll question:
Is HR valuable to you and your company?

 

 

 

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.

 

 

We Are Really Bad at This

Promoting ManagersOur friends at Gallup have found that hiring and promoting managers is something we are not very good at doing. As a matter of fact, according to their research, we get it wrong about 82% of the time.

Part of the reason is what I’ve seen, and you’ve probably seen, time and again — we promote the person who is a really good performer not necessarily someone who will be a good manager. According to Gallup’s research, we also get it wrong so often because the odds are not in our favor to begin with. Only about 10% of people have the five talents essential for great managers. On a positive note, this 10% make up about 18% of the management ranks.

So, what are the five talents?

    • They motivate every single employee to take action and engage them with a compelling mission and vision.
    • They have the assertiveness to drive outcomes and the ability to overcome adversity and resistance.
    • They create a culture of clear accountability.
    • They build relationships that create trust, open dialogue, and full transparency.
    • They make decisions that are based on productivity, not politics.

If you don’t possess all of these talents, don’t despair. Gallup found in addition to the 10% who have all of them, two in ten people have at least some. With coaching and development they are able to develop into very good managers.

To read more, click here.

 

 

 

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.

 

Big, Hairy Audacious Goals

Big, Hairy Audacious Goals

Many of you have just finished your annual goal setting process. Often, that includes creating at least a few big, hairy, audacious goals. We’ve all heard about the importance of these types of goals in motivating and engaging our workforce to achieve top performance. So, we create the goals and roll them out. However, to achieve top performance, there’s another step in the process. You need to break them down into bite-sized pieces.

In his blog for Harvard Business Review, Robert I. Sutton lays out the reasons for making those big, hairy goals not so big and hairy. He shares the story of a CEO who sets a really audacious revenue target for his company. The CEO then has the team break the goal down into a campaign that will make it not just possible but probable. When the team lists over 100 tasks, the fear and anxiety level is palpable. When they sort the list into easy and difficult tasks, it becomes apparent that more than half the tasks can happen in a few days. The stage is now set for a series of small wins that will create success.

Take a look at the big, hairy, audacious goals you’ve set for this year. Have they created motivation or fear or just apathy because they seem so out of reach? How can you break them down into bite sized pieces? What’s easy? What’s difficult? Knock off the easy ones. Get some small wins. Build the energy for tackling the more difficult ones.

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.