5 Sure Fire Ways to Waste Money on Executive Coaching

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For years clients have asked me to engage in executive coaching and my answer has always been the same: NO.

Why you may ask? Because most coaching engagements are bad deals from the outset. They are doomed to failure before they even start. And since I respect my clients and always endeavor to spend their money as if it was my own, I could not ethically take money on an Indiana Jones type quest – except without any excitement or even the prospect of success.

But then I started thinking: What if you could ensure success before you start?

Crazy idea right? I mean if you were assured of success why would you even need a coach? Well, since success in leadership is not a winner takes all experience, we could accelerate a client’s path to success and help them avoid the mistakes that are too often only learned from bruised knees and running through the jungle being chased by aboriginals.  (I know, if you are under 40 and not an action movie junkie that reference was totally lost on you). Moving on…

The question is how do you ensure success prior to starting? I needed a litmus test. Since there is no such thing as a question without an answer, I soon was able to scope out a simple 5 part test that would allow me to select ONLY clients that I was assured to be successful working with. I am going to share these with you from the ‘dark side’. In other words, I am going to share with you how to make sure you waste your money – which will make the point of what you need to do to ‘not’ waste your money. Here are the 5 Sure Fire Ways to Waste Money on Executive Coaching:

#1: Invest in the wrong person for the wrong reasons.

Too often organizations decide to engage an outside coach to ‘fix’ an individual. What I mean by that, is they hire a coach to help someone play nicer in the sandbox with others. Coaching is most likely to be successful when the person being coached is very valuable to the organization’s success – both in terms of current performance and also future performance. Never choose a person that is disruptive and not particularly key to driving performance – even if they are damaging performance through their behavior.

#2: Invest in fuzzy goals.

Here is a great example of a fuzzy goal: They just need to be nicer. Nicer is not a goal.

“I’ll do my best” (and other words) that should make a leader’s spine crawl

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We’ve all heard it said after coaching to improve performance – the infamous ‘I’ll do my best’ or even better – ‘I’ll try’.

OK, maybe I am a bit of a Star Wars geek, but I love the scene where Luke is ‘trying’ to use his fledgling knowledge of the ‘force’ to raise his fighter that is sinking into the swamp. He tells Yoda that he is trying and Yoda rejects him outright. Yoda tells him, “There is do, or do not. There is not try”. Well, I am not suggesting that you should dress in a ratty old cloak, grow long ears and carry a light saber. What I am suggesting is that when we allow these expressions to go unchallenged we engage in what I call ‘pretend coaching’. To really coach employees we need to dig a little deeper.

The question is : What do “I’ll do my best” and “I’ll try” really mean?

While there is no single answer to that question, I would like to suggest that these words should make your spine crawl as a leader. That is because what typically follows ‘doing your best’ or ‘I’ll try’ is, well – more of the same. So why do we pretend that our feedback was well received? If you really want to improve performance we need to first understand why these responses are so prevalent when coaching employees for change.

Here are some possible reasons for this type of ‘non response’ from an employee:

  1. They are well intentioned and want to change, however they are unclear about what you expect.
  2. They are well intentioned and want to change, however they are unsure that they can meet your expectations.
  3. They are not well intentioned and don’t want to change, however they do not believe that you will hold them accountable to changing in any kind of meaningful way.

The problem is that when you leave the dialogue with an employee with a somewhat vague commitment to ‘trying’, you also create an inability to hold the employee accountable to changing. After all, as long as they ‘try’ or ‘do their best’ then they have fulfilled their commitment to you.

How do you avoid ‘pretend coaching’ when coaching to improve performance?

So, how you avoid this trap?

First of all, you should start with the assumption that the employee wants to do a good job and change in whatever way is being requested. This is important, because quite often after a few rounds of pretend coaching, the leader starts to doubt the employee’s motivation and commitment. While this may be indeed the case, we have not earned the right to make that assumption.

So instead of assuming the worst, when an employee responds with an “I’ll try” or an “I’ll do my best” – imagine that they are running a big red flag up a flag pole that is screaming “I know you want me to commit to this but I see a problem!” Calmly say something like “I actually think you always try to do your best. Is there a reason why you feel unable to commit to doing what we have discussed?”

Then listen and ask questions. Don’t argue. Don’t listen just long enough to jump in and correct them. Really listen. What you will typically find is that they will tell you what their real concerns are. Then and only then will you be able to coach them on what they feel is the obstacle to doing what you want accomplished.

While this does not assure success, it does assure that you will be engaging in a true coaching dialogue. In order to diagnose further what the challenge blocking performance improvement might be, we offer a free Performance Trouble Shooter that will help you diagnose performance issues and pinpoint what you can do to maximize the likelihood of coaching success with any employee.

To download the Performance Trouble Shooter just click here.

Here’s to your Success!!

If you want to know more about how we can assist you or or your organization in accelerating your progress on your goals, schedule a complimentary coaching session here.

LeaderShift Live Leadership Workshop

Firing Yourself is the Answer – What was the Question?

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While the New Year brings boundless opportunity and the possibility of a fresh start, most of us find ourselves starting the New Year without a clear plan.
Why? Because while a New Year offers the opportunity for a fresh start, we also drag the past into the future with us. What I mean by this is that the longer that we stay in the same job, the more likely it is that we see that job from a stale perspective. There is old saying that goes something like this; “Do you have five years of experience? Or the same year five times?”
While it is easy to see that a peer or another employee has started to take their job for granted, it is much harder to see this challenge in ourselves.

The quality of your life is determined by the quality of the questions you ask.
When we have a ‘stale’ perspective the questions we are asking are often not helpful. In other words, a salesperson could continually ask “Why can’t I sell more?” or a manager may ask “Why can’t I find more engaged employees?”. While neither of these questions is inherently bad, they are also not helpful. This is because they are too often asked from a stale perspective. We are not really seeking an answer. We are actually seeking to change our circumstances without changing the only person that we can change – ourselves.
Which leads us to the best question I have ever come across when I am seeking to plan the next year.

Here’s The Question: Why should I be hired to do this job next year?
What if you fired yourself? I don’t mean literally – I mean as a mental exercise. What if did not have your job and you had to apply for your job right now? How would you look at things differently?
Why should you be fired?
What are the reasons why you are fireable? How have you missed expectations in the past year? What skills have you neglected to develop? What has happened that should not have? What opportunities were missed?
Why should you be re-hired?
Now that you have fired yourself, you will need to get yourself rehired. When you start a new job you have to interview for it. Pretend that you are preparing for that interview. Ask yourself what you learned last year that may you more capable in your job. Do you have the qualifications to achieve the objectives of the job this coming year? Also, when you interview for a new job you have to provide references. What would your boss, customers and peers say about your performance this year? You may want to rewrite your job description. What do you need to change in terms of your skill, behavior or attitude? What do you need to optimize that you have been doing the same way for some time? What could you eliminate? What do you need to do a better job with? Why do you want this job? What is your commitment as you start your new job?
You need to accept the job.
If you are going to accept the job this year, then you must be clear about what you are committing to. If you have done this exercise properly, then you should find your excitement level and motivation is higher than before you started this exercise!
Remember when you started this job – you were excited. There is no reason why you cannot recapture that excitement as you plan for the New Year.
Make sure that every year is the best one yet by making every year a brand new start.
So go ahead – fire yourself.

LeaderShift Live Leadership Workshop

Connecting Learning to Performance

MICROMANAGEMENT PHOBIA

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Management involves actively monitoring the progress of our people through the numerous twists and turns that they will encounter as they learn and master the skills necessary to achieve excellence in their jobs. And yet I can feel the fear emanate from leaders as we discuss coaching and following up. I know that leaders fear these tough conversations for a number of reasons – in fact too many to list in this blog.

The fear I would like to address here is what I call Micromanagement Phobia: The fear of being called a micromanager. Notice that did not say you were a micromanager. Just that you did not want to be called one. Leaders strive to be careful not to even create the perception that they are a micromanager, as they fear that people will accuse them of it behind their back.

Here’s the issue: Management involves follow up. To abdicate the right to follow up is to abdicate the position of a manager. Now I hate micromanagement as much as anyone. Perhaps more. I will not engage in it any more that I will tolerate it from another.

Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary defines micromanagement as “management especially with excessive control or attention on details”. The key here is ‘excessive’. A micromanager does not allow the employee to make decisions or take action that they are totally capable of without first checking with them. Now, you may ask: Who is to determine what is appropriate? Clearly that is the manager. If you have an employee that is chafing that you are not allowing enough empowerment, or that you are following up too often, then you are certainly at risk of being accused of micromanagement.

In Leadershift we discuss four levels of freedom that allow you to delegate the appropriate level of authority to employees, based on the type of task involved and also their personal competence.

  1. Implement – No Need to Inform
  2. Implement and Inform
  3. Consult Before Implementing
  4. Wait Until Told

Our goal as leaders should be to move individuals to as high a level of freedom as is possible.

ARE YOU COACHABLE?

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While leadership training and development will always be instrumental to a leader’s progress, there is a opportunity that is constantly available to every leader – if only they will avail themselves of it.

What is this opportunity? The ability to gather insight from others as to what skills and behaviors will accelerate your progress. However, this is very difficult to do if you are viewed as an individual that does not accept coaching well.

This challenge will be particularly acute the more aggressive you are in setting goals for yourself and your team, as you will continue to experience problems and challenges that are new to you.

There are two ways to overcome these new challenges:
1. Trial and error by yourself.
2. Learn from the experiences and input of others.

In order to accelerate your progress on goals you have set, and minimize challenges and frustrations, high achievers become experts at learning from others. There simply is not enough time to learn everything by yourself!

We call this an attitude of coachability. We define coachability as:
1. Recognition of your contribution to the problems you are experiencing.
2. A willingness and ability to adapt your behavior.
3. A willingness to follow through until your results improves.

Recognition
What is the most important change you need to make right now that would accelerate your effectiveness?
Experience shows us that most leaders struggle with this seemingly simple question. Why would that be?

I think that at least one answer lies in the observation that most individuals, when asked, would claim they are quite open-minded. However, the same individuals would claim there are many people they interact with that are not open-minded. In truth, how ‘open-minded’ we are depends on how emotionally vested we are in the idea that is being challenged.

Now imagine that you are being challenged and asked how you are contributing to the challenges you are experiencing. Most people, when faced with this type of question become at least somewhat defensive. Unfortunately, defensiveness shuts down all opportunity to learn from the person that is providing you the feedback.
When presented with a new idea, we only have two choices: we can choose to learn, or choose to defend why we are right. However, you cannot do both at the same time. If you choose to defend why you are right, all learning will cease. If you choose to learn, you must suspend the right to defend yourself, only asking questions to understand a different point of view.

Choosing to learn does not imply that you blindly accept another’s point of view. It means that you are willing to let go of being right and objectively analyze an opposing point of view.

When you are provided feedback, learn to say “Thank you”. Not “well, you see… “ or “I did that because…”.
Responding with a simple “Thank you” will encourage others to continue to provide feedback to you.

Adaptation
Change of any kind is difficult to implement. Changing habits can feel downright impossible unless it is approached correctly. People who struggle achieving behavior change often focus on why the change cannot occur. Goal achievers exhibit a willingness to change their behavior when provided with feedback.
It has been said that ‘first we make our habits – then our habits make us’. This deceptively simple statement contains a rich truth that can help us determine how we need to adapt once we have recognized the need to change.

Rather than focusing on a series of ‘tasks’ to be completed, ask yourself: What fundamental ‘way of behaving’ would transform the way I complete all these tasks?
For example; often leaders feel that there is just not enough time. Instead of becoming a more ‘effective time manager’ (whatever that is) – ask instead: What the 3 most important activities I need to engage in on a daily basis? Then, make sure you schedule time for those activities first.

Follow Through
Coachable people realize that until an improvement in results has taken place, there is still more growth, development and change necessary. The success or failure of individuals, and organizations, hinges on an understanding of this critical concept. You must never lose sight of the fact that hard work and long hours are meaningless if we you do not change your results.

Pay attention to whether your efforts are delivering the desired results.

If they are not – guess where you need to go? You guessed it: Back to your trusted advisors for more feedback.

ACHIEVING WORK/LIFE BALANCE IN A BLACKBERRY CULTURE

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I still remember the ‘old guys’, Bas and Hans, at my first corporate job. They were standing at the fax machine lamenting about how it had changed everything. No longer did they have the luxury of fielding a client request and mailing a quote or proposal to them. Now the client wanted it that day. Perhaps even that hour. Or God forbid – right away! Things were moving too fast they said.

I wonder what they would think of today’s business environment, where the luxury of time and connected thought have become unfortunate casualties of the ‘blackberry culture’. In the ‘blackberry culture’ the business leader of today is constantly available, and hence always on call. There is very little down time. At the same time, as a society, we have a deep yearning to create some semblance of work/life balance. I hear this yearning resonating in groups that we work with across all demographics and geographies. It reaches it’s height in the first and second levels of supervision, and starts to decline in the more senior levels of management as leaders become accustomed to the culture of connection and resign themselves to their fate. Some brave souls have found the way to strike the delicate balance between their personal and professional life, but more often than not there is a quiet resignation to the reality of corporate life.

So if work/life balance is at all possible, how do people strike the balance? We asked 15 senior leaders this question. In the discussion that followed we discovered 5 myths that they had to honestly uncover within themselves and address.

Myth#1: I have to be accessible all the time.

The unfortunate reality is that cell phones and blackberry type devices have created an ‘electronic tether’ for high achievers that is highly seductive in it’s allure. This tether serves to massage our egos while allowing our need for control and constant contact to run amuk. Here are 4 ways to recognize and counter the allure of the ‘electronic tether’:

1. Reconcile yourself to the fact that you are not indispensable.

While there is no doubt that leaders make a valuable and significant contribution to the success of the teams they lead, only the most egocentric amongst us would deem themselves to be truly indispensable. In fact, it is a sobering reality that no matter how talented a person is, everyone will be replaced one day. The only question is when that day will occur. Every city has a piece of real estate full of people who once considered themselves indispensable. In fact, we would argue that if you are indispensable, you are not performing adequately as a leader – but more on that later.

2. Check your ego at the door.

There is no doubt that successful leaders have a healthy self image and they draw on this belief in their own abilities to tackle challenges and obstacles that would seem daunting to others. The question that every leader must ask is this: What gives me my sense of self worth? Does it come from an inner sense of contribution to others and recognition that adding value is always recognized by others in any organization of value? Confident leaders can always afford to lavish well deserved praise on others. Jim Collins spoke to this issue with a concept he referred to as the window and the mirror. He related that his research of successful leaders showed that when things went well they went to the window and praised the people in the organization that had made it happen. When things did not go well, they would go the mirror and ask themselves what they could have done differently. In contrast, leaders who struggled would go the mirror when things went well and congratulate themselves. When things went badly, they would go to the window and chastise the culprits who, no doubt, had caused the poor results. Where do you go when things are going well – the mirror or the window? When was the last time you were at the window?

3. Recognize your addiction to being in control.

One of the disturbing trends that I see in many client groups is the growing addiction many leaders have for controlling every aspect of the business. The Blackberry Culture allows you to insert yourself in to aspects of the business that would have been impossible only a few years ago. Most leaders do not recognize this trend within themselves, but they do complain of one of the major symptoms of this trend – lack of engagement from their employee base. If you see this trend with your people it may be time for some self reflection as to it’s root cause.

4. Recognize your crisis orientation.

Leaders excel at problem solving. There is a sort of adrenaline rush that comes from being the one who is not stressed but energized by daunting tasks, by being the one person everyone knows will be able to pull the rabbit out of the hat at the last moment. In fact, most leaders (if they were honest) would admit to some degree of satisfaction from being the one who can handle the crises that others stress about. Leaders must learn to judge their success not by how many crises are addressed, but by how many are averted and/or handled by others.

Myth #2: I have to work the hours I do.

Do you? Think back 3-5 years, if you could go back in time, could you do that job in less time? Most leaders answer that question with an emphatic yes! Well, how did that change occur? For most leaders, it happened slowly as they gathered additional skill and knowledge. It happened in reaction to the demands of having to do more in less time.

Here is another question for you: Do you expect the demands on you to increase or decrease over the next year? That question usually evokes a chuckle from the audience. Of course, demands always increase. The problem is that we linearly increase our production capability in response to demand, rather than making a dramatic shift in the way we address our work.

What is required is a quantum shift in our thinking rather than a linear shift in our ability or, worse yet, more ‘effort’. Now, I am not peddling the ‘work smarter, not harder’ adage that is true, but not exactly helpful. Most people inwardly groan when a leader starts that pep rally speech. The problem is not that we want to work harder, but that we do not know how to work smarter. In fact, our thinking is limited by the challenges and problems we experience every day.

One of the best ways to make a quantum shift in your thinking is to make the status quo unacceptable. Here is one way to make this happen:

Sit down with at a quiet time and blank pad of paper, and answer the following question: If I had to double my group’s production in the next year, how would I make that happen? Now, I know what your immediate reaction will be – that’s impossible! Well, maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t. (I have seen it happen to many people who initially thought it so.) But, at the very least, looking for the answer to that question will take your thinking to a higher plane – to solutions that you would not have otherwise considered.

Once you have completed this exercise, determine one habit that you must change to move yourself in this new direction. Next, commit to making this habit change a reality – not tomorrow – today.

Oh, and one other thing: Give up on the idea that you have to work all those hours, and start asking yourself every day how you could do more in less time – unless, of course, you actually like the people at work more than the people at home.

Myth #3: My boss expects everything yesterday.

At VisionPoint, we have had the pleasure of working with thousands of leaders from all levels in many types of organizations. One of the key comments we hear from leaders is that everything is urgent and that their boss requires everything ‘yesterday’. Since we often work with different levels of the same organization concurrently, we decided to check this feedback out with the ‘boss’. What we have found is that the ‘boss’ was unaware of a problem and did not know that their demands were creating a culture of reactivity. To remedy this, leaders need to learn to push back more effectively on demands made by their boss, rather than just accepting all assignments without question. This is particularly hard for those of us that were raised with the belief that when the boss says jump – you ask “how high?” Although this is an admirable trait and will serve you well in many areas of life, it is not the response of a leader.

The truth of the matter is that the more competent a leader you are, the less your boss knows of what you have on your plate. In other words, your boss is NOT thinking of the other five projects you are working on when they assign the sixth. They are merely thinking of that project. The urgency they impart to their request may very well have more to do with the fact that it is the last thing they were working on than that it is of a higher priority than the other five projects. Their confidence in your ability allows them to focus on the matter at hand, because they know you will not only accomplish the other five, but in their mind they are already complete.

As a leader you must master the skills of saying no. In reality, you never say ‘no’ to your boss, however you must push back enough so that you can establish the true urgency and relative priority to the other projects/tasks you are working on.

Myth #4: I can’t take a vacation (without wishing I hadn’t when I get back).

One of the greatest joys of your life can be the time you take to pursue extended periods of relaxation or adventure away from work. The unfortunate reality for many leaders is that they neither relax while they are away, nor are they able to reenter work after a vacation without a tremendous amount of stress. In fact, I know of many leaders that deliberately go on a cruise for their vacation because there is no cell phone coverage at sea (read this – my job cannot reach me).

Contrary to what many people believe, the current state of their ‘vacations’ is not the problem.

It is a symptom of a much bigger problem. Here is the brutal truth about vacations: What you are experiencing during times of vacation is a logical extension of the way you conduct yourself on a day to day basis. If you wish to increase the quality of both your vacations (and the time after them when you return to work) you will have to restructure the way you lead long before you go on vacation.

And there is no quick fix.

You must make a decision about what you want to have your next vacation look like. Then, take deliberate steps to put in place the systems, processes and people to make that vacation a reality.

It can happen. And you will be a better leader for it.

Myth #5: My employees are not motivated

It is almost impossible to achieve work/life balance without a motivated support team. At the same time, recent research shows that 71% of the US workforce is either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged”. It bears consideration then, what we as leaders can do to make sure we have “highly engaged” employees.

Take this quick quiz:

  • List all your team members and rate their current motivation level on a scale from “1” to “10”.
  • Estimate what the effect would be on the team’s productivity (and your quality of life) if all team members were at least an “8”.

This is the hard part: Recent research (Gallup) shows that leaders can significantly increase the motivation of employees. Here are some of the reasons employees are disengaged that have the strongest link to business performance:

    • Employees don’t know what is expected of them at work.
    • Employees do not have the material and equipment they need to do their job properly.
    • Employees are not utilizing their key talents – they are ‘misaligned’ in the organization.
    • They do not receive recognition for good work.
    • No one at work is interested in them beyond the work they do.
    • No one at work seems to care about their development.

As leaders, we need to long take a look in the mirror and ask how much of the problem we could be contributing to. Be honest with yourself – that’s what leaders do.

Once you have your answers you will need to commit to addressing the challenges you have identified.

Now, establish 3 actions you need to take to evaluate and improve the motivation level of your team.

As I think back on my experiences with Bas and Hans at my first corporate job, I realize that they were hoping to get to retirement before change caught up with them. These days, for those of us farther than a few years from retirement, that is a race we will lose. The good news is that the path to effective leadership is available to those who will make daily self improvement a habit.

The choice is yours.

ACCELERATING CHANGE IN AN UNCERTAIN WORLD

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Sooner or later it happens to every manager and leader. The group you seek to lead has been doing what they are doing for so long that they appear incapable of change.

And yet, change they must. You see the writing on the wall. If they do not change the very existence of the organization is at risk. Unfortunately for you, endless downsizing, rightsizing, re-organization, redeployment, layoffs and other management initiatives have left the management “trust” account empty. You know, the account that you draw on when you have to ask people to do that which is unpleasant. But you know that you need their buy-in for the objective to be accomplished.

But now the account is empty. No more opportunity to withdraw. And there is no time to make significant deposits. You need action now. You know that the situation deserves a long-term fix, but the luxury of time is not yours.

It’s the kind of scenario that is played out all too often in corporate America these days. In order to address this issue we must start at the beginning. To begin with the “end in mind” may be good speech material, but this group has heard too many promises and “feel good” approaches. No, in a case like this, the only thing that will work is to start at the beginning – with the people.

There is no such thing as a group reaction.

Groups or organizations are nothing more than a collection of individuals. So it is very dangerous to generalize about the way a group will react. The group doesn’t react. People do. Now that is not to say that there is no such thing as corporate culture, there is. But what is culture? Culture is the habitual way a group of individuals will act. And habits are nothing more than an unconscious response to a situation.

Three types of employees.

In our experience there are three types of employees; the superstar, the average performer, and those who quit along time ago – but are still collecting a paycheck.

The danger in managing a group through change is that the average performers are often being influenced by the low performers to react to change negatively. The major reason that we have so many average performers in a typical organization is that the manager is managing for “average performance” not “excellence”. We spend all our time trying to bring those with below average performance up to the average. The theory here is that by improving the weakest members of the team we will shift the average performance upward. Our experience has been that this hardly ever works.

The Plan Of Action.

In order to get a change initiative into high gear, the leader must move decisively to:

  1. Identify by objective measurable terms the criteria for membership in each group.
  2. Determine which employees are in each group.
  3. Clearly communicate the goals for “excellent” performance to all employees.
  4. Give objective one on one feedback to all employees as to where they are now. Offer alternate employment to anyone who is unwilling or unable to improve.
  5. Place the bottom 10% of employees on a “performance improvement plan”.
  6. Use a “performance management plan” to communicate progress on their goals to all other employees. Focus your attention on the best performing employees.
  7. Do not tolerate average performance for very long if there is not progress being made.
  8. Celebrate excellence at every opportunity.

Accelerating Change in an Uncertain World

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Sooner or later it happens to every manager and leader. The group you seek to lead has been doing what they are doing for so long that they appear incapable of change.

And yet, change they must. You see the writing on the wall. If they do not change the very existence of the organization is at risk. Unfortunately for you, endless downsizing, rightsizing, re-organization, redeployment, layoffs and other management initiatives have left the management “trust” account empty. You know, the account that you draw on when you have to ask people to do that which is unpleasant. But you know that you need their buy-in for the objective to be accomplished.

But now the account is empty. No more opportunity to withdraw. And there is no time to make significant deposits. You need action now. You know that the situation deserves a long-term fix, but the luxury of time is not yours.

It’s the kind of scenario that is played out all too often in corporate America these days. In order to address this issue we must start at the beginning. To begin with the “end in mind” may be good speech material, but this group has heard too many promises and “feel good” approaches. No, in a case like this, the only thing that will work is to start at the beginning – with the people.

There is no such thing as a group reaction.

Groups or organizations are nothing more than a collection of individuals. So it is very dangerous to generalize about the way a group will react. The group doesn’t react. People do. Now that is not to say that there is no such thing as corporate culture, there is. But what is culture? Culture is the habitual way a group of individuals will act. And habits are nothing more than an unconscious response to a situation.

Three types of employees.

In our experience there are three types of employees; the superstar, the average performer, and those who quit along time ago – but are still collecting a paycheck.

The danger in managing a group through change is that the average performers are often being influenced by the low performers to react to change negatively. The major reason that we have so many average performers in a typical organization is that the manager is managing for “average performance” not “excellence”. We spend all our time trying to bring those with below average performance up to the average. The theory here is that by improving the weakest members of the team we will shift the average performance upward. Our experience has been that this hardly ever works.

The Plan Of Action.

In order to get a change initiative into high gear, the leader must move decisively to:

  1. Identify by objective measurable terms the criteria for membership in each group.
  2. Determine which employees are in each group.
  3. Clearly communicate the goals for “excellent” performance to all employees.
  4. Give objective one on one feedback to all employees as to where they are now. Offer alternate employment to anyone who is unwilling or unable to improve.
  5. Place the bottom 10% of employees on a “performance improvement plan”.
  6. Use a “performance management plan” to communicate progress on their goals to all other employees. Focus your attention on the best performing employees.
  7. Do not tolerate average performance for very long if there is not progress being made.
  8. Celebrate excellence at every opportunity.