The Foundation of High Performance Teamwork: Trust

,
The Foundation of a High Performance Team: Trust
In our work with assisting teams move from groups if high performing individuals to high performance teams, we have have found that Trust is the foundation. When it is present then the other elements of a HPT can be developed, however when it is not then no matter how much you work you will never create a HPT.
The problem is that we all think we are trustworthy.
It’s true for you isn’t it? You are trustworthy. It’s those other people that are not. In fact, when we work with teams this is the lowest rated element in the HPT Assessment. How is that possible? One reason may be that although their are some universal truths about what we would all deem ‘untrustworthy’, ‘trust’ is not arrived at the same way for everyone. There are actually some words that will cause a person to NEVER trust you. The challenge is that those words are different depending who you are speaking to!
The good news is that there is a way of breaking the code. When working with a consistent team, you have the additional benefit of being able to observe people over time and determine what to do – especially when you perceive a relationship is going (or has gone) bad.
Breaking the code.
The first thing you must do to break the code is to recognize our own bias in the way that we judge others. That’s right. You’re biased. Not in an evil way – you just have a very specific way that you see the world. People that see the world much as you do will tend to get more of the benefit of the doubt from you, and those that do not – well you get the picture.
Understanding your own bias.
In order to understand your own bias, we need to take a quick test. Let’s say that someone you do not know very well is trying to convince you to trust them on a recommended course of action: Which of the following words would be cause you to raise your eyebrows and be less likely to move forward:
If they said:
  1. In my opinion…
  2. This is a sophisticated solution…
  3. We should play to win…
  4. This is a revolutionary way to proceed…
While none of the above may be very convincing to you, there are probably one or two that would turn you off more than the others. Those statements will be more likely used by individuals that you will have a bias against.
And the statements that you did not react as negatively to? These are the ways that we are more likely to utilize to attempt to convince others.
The bottom line is this: At a subconscious level do not trust people that use certain language patterns, and at the same time we utilize very specific language patterns when we trey to be persuasive.
In order to increase trust within a team, we need to be aware of the different ways that people interpret what we say. The good news is that this entire process is easy for a team to engage in.

The 4 Decisions you MUST Make to Create a High Performance Team

,

Register now for our Complimentary Webinar: Creating a High Performance Team

Having worked with thousands of individuals and hundreds of teams, you could say we have a fairly robust set of data to draw upon to identify what makes teamwork really click. Now, notice that I use the word ‘team’. There is a HUGE difference between a high performance team and group of high performance individuals.

The Challenge:

In today’s business world the demands on every member of the team continue to increase, even while resources to address those demands become more scarce. We often ask groups we are working with whether they believe their goals will decrease over the next 12 months. You can imagine that the vast majority of people openly laugh at even the thought that expectations will decrease. Expectations always increase. Resources decrease. So we are left with the old cliche: We have t to learn how to do more with less. But how do we make this happen?

The Pattern:

When we work with teams we almost always see a pattern emerge. As business demands increase, team members experience continuous stress and frustration with their inability to control their results. Since they are high performing individuals, they do what has always worked in the past: They work harder. Now, I know you have heard the expression “We need to work smarter – not harder”. Don’t you sort of want to slap people when they say that to you? Of course this does not stop us from offering this same advice to others as they struggle with the same challenge!

When we work with teams and conduct simulations of stressful situations in out 4 Faces of Frustration Process, we find that the ‘team’ almost never responds under stress as a ‘team’. They respond as a group of highly talented individuals. Now I am not in any way suggesting that we should not seek out the very best talent to be part of the team. Hiring and developing the best talent is key to achieving high perfromance teamwork, however it is insuffucient to assure that you have a high performance team.

The Missing Ingredients:

So how do we move from a group of highly talented individuals to a truly high performance team? We have found that there are four essential ingredients necessary:

  1. Trust: While it may seem like a cliche, the truth is that many teams do not have an abundance of this foundational characteristic. In fact, there is a distinct lack of trust, which leads to a lack of:
  2. Constructive Conflict: When it comes to conflict, team members are often leary of conflict or far too comfortable with what they see as ‘constructive conflict’. In both cases dialogue shuts down within the team. Efforts to restart dialogue tend to create what we refer to as ‘surface agreement’, which leads ro a lack of:
  3. Commitment to Team Decisions: There is a big difference between team members going along with a decision, and actively supporting it. When team members do not engage in respectful constructive conflict team members do not really agree – they just ‘go along to get along’. When this happens there is no:
  4. Accountability: What we all want is a team that achieves results. In order to accomplish this team members must be willing to hold each other accountable to the results and activities agreed upon.

At The Oxley Group we are in the business of  creating individual and team coaching experiences that accelerate business performance.

In order to help you on this journey, we offer you a complimentary webinar that will help you pinpoint the exact pain points that you must address to become a truly high performance team!

Register for the Complimentary High Performance Teamwork Workshop by Clicking Here

 

The Four Faces of Frustration Process

Register now for the Complimentary High Performance Teamwork Webinar

 

Why Everything You May Think You Know About Building the Perfect Team May Be Wrong!

,

Why Everything You Think You Know About Teamwork Might Be Wrong!

Register for the Complimentary High Performance Teamwork Workshop by Clicking Here

What would you say makes the most productive team?

  • Combining the best people? The smartest people?
  • Finding people with similar motivations?
  • Putting ‘like’ personalities together or putting a mix of personalities together?
  • Making sure teams are friendly away from work by creating opportunities to interact and build rapport in non business settings?
  • Making sure people are ‘heard’ by not allowing team members to interrupt each other?

It turns out that while the conventional wisdom around highly effective teams may be conventional – it may not actually be wisdom. According to Abeer Dubey, a manager in Google’s People Analytics division, ‘nobody had really studied which were true’. In other words, a condition may be true for a high performing team – but that does not mean it was the root cause of the high performance.

So what to do? Enter Google with it’s massive data gathering ability. About five years ago Google started a project – code named Project Aristotle – to search for the truth. But who’s truth? Mine or yours? You see, we all have a bias when it comes to truth. Which is why Project Aristotle had to dig deep into the data.

However after studying over 180 different teams and a half century of research to try a discern a pattern, they came up dry. Nada. The only thing that seemed certain was that the ‘who’ was involved in the team did not matter. Dubey said. ‘‘We had lots of data, but there was nothing showing that a mix of specific personality types or skills or backgrounds made any difference. The ‘who’ part of the equation didn’t seem to matter.’’

One thing they did seem to find consistency around was ‘group norms’. Think of group norms as the unwritten rules of the way we interact with each other. After more than a year of research, Google determined that understanding and influencing group norms was the key to highly effective teams. But which norms were most important? Sometimes the norms of one highly successful team clashed with the norms of another equally successful team.

This has huge implications for leaders because group norms that may have worked with one team will not necessarily work with another one!

What the research did show was that there were two underlying behaviors that high performing teams shared, and they determined that these behaviors allowed for the creation of group norms that spurred the higher perfromance.

  1. Team members each spoke roughly the same amount of time. This could occur by sharing time to speak during the task itself, or taking turns from assignment to assignment. IHowever they got there, the team members had spoken about the same amount by the end of the day. If, on the other hand. one person or a small subset of the team dominated the dialogue then collective intelligence of the team declined.
  2. Team members had higher ‘social sensitivity’. This is a fancy way of saying that they could figure out what people were feeling from their tone of voice as well as non verbal clues. While this is harder to assess than the amount of time the most team members speak, it is possible to get a read on where your team stands. In fact, you may not be able to get certain team members to speak more if your team is exhibiting low social sensitivity.

So what can you do?

First of all, the research clearly indicates that you must stop thinking of high performing teams in the traditional way. Many different group norms can create a high performing team – as long as they exhibit the two behaviors outlined above.

Second, you have to have a process that has been proven to deliver results. The 4 Faces of Frustration Workshop can help you deliver the kind of teamwork that you know your team is capable of! Or you can register for our complimentary webinar by clicking here.

Register for the Complimentary High Performance Teamwork Workshop by Clicking Here

 

The Four Faces of Frustration Process

Register now for the Complimentary High Performance Teamwork Webinar

 

 

5 Sure Fire Ways to Waste Money on Executive Coaching

, , ,

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.

A Litmus Test for Leaders to Learn What They REALLY Expect From Their People

, , ,

Are you frustrated with some aspect of your team’s performance? Should you be?

Even if you are leading correctly, there will be times (through no one’s fault) where the team’s performance is less than desired. At this point we have a choice – accept the current performance level from the team or work on improving the individual performance of the team members. After some period of time – since we are all creatures of habit – a pattern will emerge within your team. Some individuals will take to your coaching and make significant improvements. Some individuals will improve for a time but slip back into old behavior patterns. And some individuals will make no significant effort to change at all. Sound familiar?

This is where your leadership skill will be tested. Leaders must always be more committed to the achievement of the change than their team is committed to not making the change. Unfortunately, there are always more of them – and the process of making even a small change can be daunting! And so, the leader is faced with the challenge of working tirelessly to shift the mindset, skill set and behavior of team members that either do not want to change or are struggling with the transition.

The Power of Expectation

This is where the power of expectation comes in. People will alway respond to what we truly EXPECT from them – not what we WANT from them. Unfortunately, leaders often EXPECT what they DO NOT WANT, and WANT what they DO NOT EXPECT. Let me explain.

Take a moment and consider what you really want from your team. Are they meeting that standard of performance – whether it be subjective or objective? Now, do you really expect that they will achieve those standards? Most leaders emphatically say “YES – Of course I do!”. And yet after coaching leaders for over 20 years I can tell you than most leaders DO NOT really expect these individuals to change. Now, before you tune out – I am going to offer you incontrovertible proof of what you REALLY EXPECT from your people.

A Litmus Test For What You Really Expect

Imagine that you have two team members Harry (a super high performer) and Larry (a historically low performer).

Now imagine that Harry, who ALWAYS hits his number every month, misses one month.

Are you upset about his performance – or concerned about Harry?

Of course  you are CONCERNED. Why would you be upset? That is not what you EXPECT from Harry. And so, you inquire what is happening, and work with Harry to correct the situation.

How about Larry? Suppose Larry, who always misses his numbers every month, misses his numbers that same month.

Are you upset about his performance – or concerned about Larry?

If you are totally honest – you are UPSET about Larry’s performance. But why? Both Harry and Larry missed their numbers. However, Larry’s history predicted his performance this past month. The reason you are upset is that you WANTED something you did NOT EXPECT.

How about you? Do you have any employees that frustrate you with their level of performance? Are you truly EXPECTING a change or do you just WANT a change?

While being honest about your level of expectation does not change the performance level of anyone, it is the first step in making sure that you align your expectation with your goals, rather than lowering your expectation to meet their current performance level.

If you would like to learn more about how to radically shift your team’s results, click here to let us know and we will connect you to a coach for a complimentary coaching session! If you would like to know more our 2 Day Live Leadership Workshop click here.

LeaderShift Live Leadership Workshop

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

, , , ,

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

WHAT CAN YOUR ALARM CLOCK TEACH YOU ABOUT LEADERSHIP?

, , ,

What can you learn from your alarm clock about leadership? It turns out quite a bit. The scene is played out in almost every household across the nation each morning: The alarm clock goes off to alert you that it is time to get up. At that point there is a battle that takes place between the the rational side of you that wants to get up (and get a head start on the day) – and the emotional side that wants nothing more than just a few more minutes of sleep. I won’t ask you which one normally wins – or how many times the ‘snooze’ button gets slapped in your household. Suffice it to say that the fact that there is a snooze button tells us everthing we need to know!

Enter the Clocky, an invention of an MIT student by the name of Gauri Nanda. As you can see, it is no ordinary alarm clock. Once set, it will go off at the prescribed time just like any other alarm clock. But that is where the similarities stop. Once the alarm goes off, the Clocky rolls off your bedside table and away from your reach. Imagine how hilarious it would be to watch someone chasing one of these around the room in attempt to silence it! But wait – what on earth does this have to do with leadership? Well, I’m glad you asked…

It turns out that the Clocky is a perfect analogy for what happens in human psychology whenever we are asked to do something that we rationally believe to be beneficial, but that is in conflct with our emotional side. The unavoidable conclusion is that when we say we need to ‘make up our mind about what we need to do’ – we really should say ‘we need to make up both our minds’ – the rational and the emotional. Unfortunately the rational side is typically overwhelmed by the sheer power of the emotional side. The emotional side of you is the part that is instinctive and feels both pain and pleasure – and it tends to be governed by HABIT. The rational side of you is what we would refer to as the intellectual or conscious mind. This is the part of you that thinks and (in theory) makes decisions. The crazy part of this is that all decisions made in the conscious mind must first pass thru the filter of the emotional mind before we can take action. In order for the conscious mind to win there needs to be a crisis that reinforces the need for change, or a lot of repetition (hence the prevalence of the snooze button).

So how do we use this knowledge to lead more effectively?

While we all know that it is relatively hard for us to change our own habits, we tend to underestimate the lock that our employees habits have on their behavior patterns. Because of this we tend to frame logical reasons to our employees why they should change. While I am not saying that we should throw logic aside – it is without a doubt an important and necessary element of any change initiative – I am saying that convincing the rational mind of the importance of a change is actually the easy part. The harder part of any change is getting a person to change their habits.

There is normally only one time of year that most people give any attention to changing their habits: New Years Eve. Although many people have given up on the fruitless ritual of the New Year’s Resolution, others cling to the dim hope that the new year will help them overwhelm the power of habit and they will indeed change for the better.

How to change any habit:

Changing a habit is one of the hardest things you will ever do, however it does not have to be as laced with failure as it normally is. Here is a simple strategy that you can follow to help yourself or an employee increase the likelihood of success:

  1. Focus on the root cause of our frustration – which is likely a HABIT not a bunch of tasks that needs to be completed. For example, if you have a messy desk and it bothers you (I say this because it does not bother everyone!) – do not set a goal to clean your desk. It will only be messy again in no time. Instead focus on the HABIT that is generating the messy desk, likely that you tend to dump things on the desk rather than putting them away.
  2. Identify ONE habit that needs to change. This is of course not what we normally do – we normally get so frustrated that we identify a whole raft of changes that need to happen. This almost assures failure before we even start the process. Since most people struggle to change even one habit at a time we must find a way to focus them on that one change.
  3. Follow up relentlessly until either change occurs or you determine that the change will not occur. If you dtermine that this one habit cannot change and it is critically important to the success of the role, then it is immaterial if other habits change or not.
  4. Back out of the follow up cycle slowly ensuring that there is adequate positive reinforcement and then identify what needs to change next.

By following this strategy you can overwhelm the emotional mind with your consistency of follow up. In essence you have (for a short period of time) become a Clocky – a constant reminder of HOW the change needs to happen – but definitely NOT just a reminder that it has not yet happened.

Now let’s get started! What HABIT would help you be more successful? If you are unsure you might want to try reading our post “Are You Coachable?” as most people can identify (at least) one thing they rationally agree should change – even if they have not emotionally decided to do so!

Here’s to your success!

Andrew

We have found that most leaders are frustrated that they experience the same problems day after day. At the LeaderShift Workshop we teach leaders a process that helps them create a Performance Acceleration Plan so that they radically accelerate their business results. To learn more click here or on the icon below.

 

4 Dangerous Myths About Managing Millennials

, , ,

Millennials. The stereotypes come at us fast and furious, and most of them are not particularly complimentary.

But what does the research actually show? Are they really that different? We decided to take a look at what is being said about managing millennials and offer some insight into what is true and what is myth.

MillenialsMYTH #1: Millennials are completely different from the way ‘we’ were at that age

This is the grand-daddy of them all. While it is true that millennials are different from the generations that preceded them, that is also true of every generation. Every generation looks at the generation that follows them and complains about how they are (fill in the blank here with a negative term). Research conducted by Jean Twenge, a professor of Psychology at San Diego State University showed that although there were some shifts in the attitudes of millennials toward work when compared to other generations, those shifts were relatively small, and they are not what you think. What is different about millennials is the way that they react to work environments that were tolerated by other generations. Millennials do tend to be more vocal and far less tolerant of leaders and companies that they perceive as not meeting their standards.

MYTH #2: Millennials are primarily concerned with making the world a better place

According to Twenge’s research, millennials are no more concerned with altruistic work values than the generations that have preceded them. You should not read the former statement to mean that millennials are not interested in volunteering and working for a cause. That is something that has always been valued by US workers, although it may be true that millennials are slightly more vocal about their motivations. What is true is that millennials are less tolerant of organizations that they do not believe are engaged in meaningful work. However, meaningful work can be defined in many different ways.

MYTH #3: Millennials are all about work-life balance

The research does not support this conclusion either. While Gen X and millennials are slightly more interested in work life balance, the differences are not nearly as great as managers often believe. The differences more often than not are attributed to the fact that managers have forgotten what it was like to be young, or they were not particularly normal workers themselves before they were promoted. That last piece may sting a little, as we all like to think of ourselves as normal, but the fact that only a small percentage of the workforce occupies leadership roles puts the lie to this notion.

MYTH #4: Millennials need to be treated with kid gloves.

Peter Cappeli, Professor of Management at Wharton, has a strong opinion about this: “It’s ridiculous” he says. He recommends relying less on age bias to determine how we are going to manage people, and that we should focus more on their individual needs. While there is no question that managing a person from a different generation will require you to be flexible in your approach, it in no way means that you cannot or should not keep your performance expectations high. Understanding generational differences is helpful when looking for where a leader can and should be flexible, but we should always remember that we do not manage generations – we manage people. When an entire generation of individuals is denigrated, it is not only unfair, it is unproductive.

So here is the challenge: Let’s put a skewer in these millennial myths and get back to the hard work of winning an incredibly gifted generation to your cause. To that end: Now that we have skewered what is not true, make sure you check back here for future posts on what is different with managing millennials – and how to lead them most effectively.

We have found that most leaders are frustrated that they experience the same problems day after day. We have a process that helps leaders create a Performance Acceleration Plan so that they can move past those problems and start making radical improvements in their business results. 
For more information please click here or on the box below:
LeaderShift

Firing Yourself is the Answer – What was the Question?

, , , , , , , ,

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

THE CORRUPTION OF EMPATHY

, , ,

The other day I was coaching a leader that was complaining that his boss lacked empathy. In this case, the boss was demanding an increase in the level of performance of the team. The manager (I was coaching) felt that the boss was not paying attention to the circumstances surrounding the lack of performance. Then it happened… the manager shared his real concern: “I feel that by I have more empathy than my boss. Maybe if he understood what was happening in our business, he would be less focused on the numbers.”

I have found that most leaders are almost always playing a role – they are either the boss in the above example – or they are the manager. To understand which one you are, and what to do about it read more…

Empathy.

It sounds sort of wimpy to a lot of leaders. To others leaders it can become a rationale (or excuse) for not holding their team accountable to reasonable expectations of performance. However neither of these responses is accurate or appropriate when using empathy in a leadership context.

The Corruption of Empathy.

Empathy can be defined as ‘the ability to understand and share the feelings of another’. Based on this definition, it is actually not possible to have ‘too much empathy’ – however it is possible to allow your empathy (whether it is high or low) to become an obstacle to effectively managing a team.

In fact, the word empathy was hardly ever used prior to 1950, and then it’s use ramped up rapidly. The understanding of how to use empathy in a leadership context has been evolving over that time. When human resource professionals started to try and address their low scores on workplace engagement surveys, they often determined that part of the problem was that leaders had little or no empathy for the people they were seeking to lead. Since leaders seemed to be completely focused on the numbers, some HR professionals determined that if only we could make them ‘nicer and gentler’ versions of themselves then we could have both business results and happier employees.

I call this the corruption of empathy because empathy does not necessarily involve being nicer and gentler. Often it involves very frank and honest conversations that hurt at the time – however we can all attest to the fact that we are better for having had a leader that cared enough to speak the truth with love.

The Accountability-Support Continuum:

One of the concepts we teach in LeaderShift is a model called the Accountability-Support continuum. In this model, Accountability Focused Leaders tend to be more preoccupied with the numbers, while Supportive Leaders tend to be more aligned and understanding of the situation that the people they seek to lead are experiencing.

Which one is better? The answer of course is BOTH. As a leader, you are accouable for achieving results. However, in order to achieve those results you must understand the how your employees ‘see’ the problem so that you can more effectively coach them into different behaviors in order to achieve better results.

When we ask leaders where they would rate themselves on that ‘Accountability-Support Continuum’, most leaders says they are about in the middle.

An therein lies the problem, as very few leaders truly can strike a balance between accountabilty and support – especially when they are under pressure. Now, I am not saying it is not possible – just that most leaders make assumptions about where others would place them.

Who Really has Empathy?

So who really has empathy? It would appear at first glance that the Supportive Leader is more empathetic. But are they?

It may be that Supportive Leaders are no more empathetic than their Accountability Focused cousins. If empathy is understanding and seeing as others see, then Supportive Leaders may be as guilty of prideful arrogance as anyone else. Think about it. Essentially Supportive Leaders are saying that ‘they get it’ and their boss and/or peers do not. What they really have for their employees is sympathy, as they have ‘bought in’ to the way their employees see the problem. In doing so they have abdicated their position of leadership, and can no longer help their employees navigate their way through the problem.

So while there is no question that an Accountability Focused leader needs to increase their empathy by reaching out and making more effort to understand the challenges associated with changing results, the Supportive Leader must also not use their Empathy as a crutch to excuse poor perfromance.

How do you balance Accountability and Support? 

  1. First you must find out what your natural orientation is, especially under stress – Accountability or Support. Do not presume that you know the answer to this question – I have seen too many leaders get this wrong! By the way, if you are a Supportive Leader you cannot task your employees for feedback on this question. The will inevitably tell you that you are a balanced leader. And if you are an Accountability Focused Leader you cannot ask them either because they will reluctant to be completely truthful. Instead find some peers and ask them – as well as your boss.
  2. Once you know where you reside, start working on developing the muscle on the other end of the continuum. If you are a more Accountability Focused Leader, start with reading this blog post USING GOAL SETTING AS A DEVELOPMENT TOOL. If you are a more Supportive Leader, you will likely encounter a fair amount of defensivess when you attemt to speak with them about their lack of production. Consider starting with this blog post HOW TO COACH AND DEAL WITH DEFENSIVENESS EFFECTIVELY.

Empathy is a critical skills for you as a leader to develop – you can never really have too much – but you can use it inappropriatley!

Here’s to your success!

Andrew

We have found that most leaders are frustrated that they experience the same problems day after day. At the LeaderShift Workshop we teach leaders a process that helps them create a Performance Acceleration Plan so that they radically accelerate their business results. To learn more click here or on the icon below.