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.

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

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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.

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“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

4 Dangerous Myths About Managing Millennials

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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?

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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

CAN YOU REALLY GET SOMEONE ELSE TO CHANGE?

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Can you really ever get anyone else to change? For those of us in leadership, the answer to that question had better be a resounding ‘yes’. However, the degree to which we are successful in getting other people to change is certainly a different question altogether! In this post we will investigate the one critical question that will determine your success or failure in leading others to change. Often when we conduct our signature LeaderShift Live Workshop participants are confused when we ask them if they ‘Celebrate failure to the extent that ongoing learning takes place.’ Their confusion stems from the fact that most high achieving leaders would never consider celebrating failure. Failure is to be avoided at all costs! And yet we know that almost every success we have experienced in life involves learning, and in many cases, mistakes. So while we ultimately do not want to fail, we recognize their will be small failures along the way in any undertaking. So, while it may sound strange to you, in order to get another person to change you need to create the expectation of failure – not of the entire change process but that there will be failure along the way. This leads us to a fundamental question: How do we (as leaders) approach the change/failure dynamic – and what might we need to do differently to encourage the team we seek to lead to change more consistently and positively? Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford, has researched this question and finds that there are essentially there two ways that people approach change:

  1. A Growth Mindset: This way of looking at the world says that people (ourselves included) can and do change all the time.
  2. A Fixed Mindset: This way of looking at the world says that people (ourselves included) don’t really change that much at all.

People who have a ‘fixed mindset’ believe that their abilities – and those of others – are essentially static. In other words, we are good at some things and not as talented in other areas. In this mindset your behavior is a good indication of your natural abilities. This leads to an avoidance of challenges because failure would reflect badly on your true ability level. In this case, negative feedback is seen as a threat – and you definitely don’t want to be seen as trying too hard – just in case you fail. That way if you fail – well – you always have the defense that you didn’t try that hard. The ‘growth mindset’ believes that abilities are like ‘muscles’. It’s not that some people are not more talented than others – there is not question that Michael Jordan is a truly talented individual. However, we can and do develop our abilities (and talents) through practice. With a growth mindset you will accept more challenging assignments. You are more likely to accept negative feedback, in fact you may seek it out, because you know that it will eventually make you better. Once you understand this critical difference in mindset you can start to recognize the ways that we inadvertantly reinforce a fixed mindset with others. Here are just a few examples:

  • Telling our kids ‘You’re so smart!’ or ‘You’re so good at_______’
  • Telling employees that they are so good at speaking, presenting, or organizing etc.

So what can we do differently?As leaders, we need to start praising the effort rather than the natural skill. While many leaders will object to this insight – it seems a lttle too touchy feely to many – I am not saying that we should not pay attention to results. Nor am I saying that we should not hold people accountable to results. To the contrary, what we are suggesting is that while you recognize the results (or lack thereof) you attribute the results to the effort rather than talent. Let’s use an example to reinforce this point: Employee A: Does all the right things/the right way but gets crappy results. You know this is because the circumstances that particular week just did not line up correctly. Employee B: Does not do the right things/the right way but gets great results. You know this is because the circumstances that particular week lined up in a way that promoted positive results. Which employee would you rather have in week 2? If you answered ‘A’ then you need to consider how you provide feedback and direction to your employees. In other words – Can you celebrate failure to the extent that ongoing learning occurs? Because if you can’t – then you will surround yourself with fixed mindset team members that have already reached the extent of their potential. And that is not a future that I would wish for you!

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 graphic below:

THE HALF LIFE OF COACHING

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The Half Life of Coaching: How to Escape the Groundhog Day Coaching Experience

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How do you make sure that coaching does not end up being a circular exercise that saps your energy and yields virtually no results? In fact, you end up feeling like Bill Murray in the classic movie Groundhog Day. You know the one where he wakes up and relives the same day over and over until he can get it right. Well in your version of Groundhog Day you have the same coaching conversations over and over. And unlike Bill Murray, the conversations don’t usually end in a happy ending.

Coaching has got quite a bad rap lately as the term is often equated with long tedious converations that can make even the most experienced manager want to run for the exit. However the coaching process can and should yield positive long term results.

The good news is that it’s not your fault – you have just been using a broken process!

The process most companies utilize in coaching is; Coach, Measure – Repeat as Necessary on a 30 day cycle. Each time we ‘repeat’ we become just a little more frustrated and in fact start to become convinced that the employee is not going to work out. Given the fact that replacing a non performing employee can cost up to 9 times their salary, we should be heavily invested in correcting the situation quickly!

We have been counseliing clients how to address this cycle for over 20 years using a process we call the Half Life of Coaching.

Here is how the Half Life of Coaching works:

Step One: Identify the KPI

Identify the KPI that you want to improve. Make sure it is a leading indicator of success that can be measured easily and is objective. While a subjective KPI can work, it is far more difficult to gain agreement around and there is almost always an available objective KPI you can use. For more information on how to slect the correct KPI, see the earlier blog post on Turbocharging Your Coaching.

Step Two: Gain Agreement on the KPI and the Time Frame

Use effective coaching techniques to gain buy in from the employee on the KPI and the behaviors that will drive improvement. Now when we say ‘agreement’, it would be ideal if the employee was willing to work with you collaboratively and agree on the objective. While that is not always possible, even in difficult cases they can still be in ‘agreement’ that they know what the expectation is. You must also agree on a reasonable time period for follow up. While there is no ideal time frame, it should probably be in the order of a week. Longer than a week tends to encourage a lack of focus.

Step Three: Have the Employee Report Their Progress

At the end of the agreed upon time frame, have the employee report their progress to you. Of course, you scheduled a follow up coaching session at the end of last session, so the first order of business is to review the results the emplyee ahas achieved. Under no circumstances should you usurp the employee’s responsibility to report their results. If you do, you have now taken on the responsibility for them to change.

Step Four: Determine the Root Cause of a Lack of Progress

Assuming that the employee has not yet been able to achieve the desired results, coach them to an awareness of what is happening and the behaviors necessary to drive success. While the employee may try to take you down the rabbit hole of ‘reasons why I can’t…’, it is important that you keep focusing the conversation on how they can.

Step Five: Schedule a Follow Up Coaching Session at HALF the Last Time Interval

It is key to communicate that we are decreasing the time interval to help both of you determine the root cause of the challenge they are experiencing. It is of course possible that the goals you are expecting progress on are not reasonable, so you must be open to that possbility. If the goals are indeed reasonable, then the decrease in the follow up time frame will assist in:

  1. Providing clarity (for both you and employee) as to what the root cause of the problem is.
  2. Increasing the sense of urgency with which the problem must be addressed.
  3. Eliminating much of the ‘noise’ that clouds a review of what employees are really spending their time on. Quite often it is not a lack of effort that drives low performance – it is a lack of effort on the right things.

Step Six: Repeat or Celebrate!

If performance improves – resist the urge to jump back out to a 30 day follow up cycle. Remember that habits are not formed overnight. I would suggest you back out slowly toward a more regular follow up time frame.

However if performance does not improve, then go back to Step Five. Rarely do you need to get to more than daily check ins as the root cause is quickly identified with shorter time periods between coaching sessions.

Want to learn more about how to accelerate your progress and close the gap between where you are today and where you want to be? Click here or on the image below and let’s get started!

 

 

TURBOCHARGE YOUR COACHING

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Turbocharge Your Coaching

So yCoaching.pngou know the drill: Your team (or a part thereof) needs to change, increase performance, communicate more, increase quality or (insert specific change here) – whatever – it does not matter. Whether you picked the team or not, it is your job as the leader to make it happen.

Every leader has faced this challenge. In fact, if you are not currently facing this challenge it is because:

  1. You have done an amazing job of attracting great talent, hiring, and then coaching them to amazing levels of productivity, or
  2. You are expecting far too little.

That is because the environment you are operating in continues to evolve, and as such, the expectations of your team will also evolve.

Now, unless you have been blessed with a perpetually huge budget to hire individuals whose skill set exceeds the job requirements (in which case you will have high turnover and need to hire again), you will have to find a way to increase the skill of your team and align their behaviors to the changing business needs.

So we resign ourselves to coaching the team member(s). When we ask our clients what comes to mind when they think of coaching employees, they often say:

  • It takes a long time
  • It is often not successful in driving long term change

Both of these beliefs are not only dangerous, they are also self fulfilling. 

So how do we ensure that our coaching doesn’t drain our energy by taking too long, and that it does lead to long term behavior change?

Note: If you have not read our post on increasing your coachability this might be a good time to make sure you are ‘walking the talk’.

Ok, back to you.

We are going to assume that there are a number of changes that your employee ‘Sue’ needs to make. Now, what we would typically do is make a list and download that list as soon as possible to Sue. Then we would follow up 30 days later. Then repeat for 3 cycles. The we determine that Sue is not a good fit and decide to either find a new Sue, or lower our expectations of Sue’s performance. Sound familiar?

Let me suggest a different approach.

When it comes to coaching, there is an almost inescapable temptation to fix everything NOW. While it is fine to make a list of the most important changes that need to be made, the next step should be to ignore everything on the list except the easiest item that will have some measurable impact. Now, I know this sounds crazy. I have had many managers tell me that they cannot just ignore all the other items that need to change. When I ask them why they can’t perhaps not ignore, but at least put them aside while we work on one item, they tell me that it all has to change NOW.

Well, you and I both know that most people change very little and certainly don’t change more than one thing at a time – so why would we set people up for failure by demanding they change a whole list of things? Now, I am in no way suggesting that the other items on the list be forgotten!

Once we get a change on the easist thing on the list that we have chosen – we will have something to praise the the person on and we can move on to the next easiest thing to change that will have a measurable impact.

On the other hand, if the person cannot make a change in this ‘easiest’ of things, then we may very well have hired a person that is not a good fit for the job… either in terms of behavior, attitude or skills.

Stay tuned for our next post where we will add even more boost to your coaching thru a concept called The Half Life of Coaching.

 

HOW TO COACH AND DEAL WITH DEFENSIVENESS EFFECTIVELY

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One of the most insidious challenges we must deal with as we continue our daily trek is the fact that most people would rather blame others for their circumstances than place at least part of the blame where it certainly belongs: With themselves. We even have a term for this: Defensiveness.

When I speak with audiences there is an almost universal agreement that this is one of the core challenges that they deal with on a daily basis. Whether they are speaking with a family member, or a peer, their boss, or perhaps an employee: we all struggle with the desire to help someone make progress. Unfortunately, too often they seem preoccupied with deflecting responsibility onto someone or something else.

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Some years ago one of my mentors, Bob Proctor, taught me that when we are presented with a new idea – or at least one that conflicts with what we believe to be true, we have a choice to make. We can choose to learn from that idea or we can choose to attack that idea and defend what we know to be true. But we cannot do both. Now if we were to be honest, most people would have to agree that it is hard to be open minded about ideas that are presented to us that conflict with what our experience has shown us to be true. And yet that is the very challenge we are faced with when people we seek to influence are defensive with what we communicate to them.

What we really want is for them to be open minded – in other words we want their mind to be open to the possibility that they could learn and that the idea may actually help them. Unfortunately, our process for getting them to change their minds is flawed.

Instead of opening their minds to the possibility that their understanding of what is happening is flawed, we instead encourage the very defensiveness that frustrates our ability to assist them in making a positive change. In other words, we try to argue people into changing their minds. Rarely does this work, so we up the ante and increase the volume and intensity of our dialogue. Even if this results in a temporary change in behavior – it is too often short lived, and the person reverts to their previous behavior pattern.

Note: To identify the areas you may need to help the team improve complete our Complimentary Team Assessment.

So then how do we coach positive change in another person?

It is actually easier than you may think.

As a leader, we are often told to ‘walk the talk’ or ‘model that which we expect from others’.

Unfortunately, we tend to interpret this in the narrowest sense – we should arrive on time if we want others to do so, we should work hard if we want others too etc. While all of these habits are a great start – they are really just the price of admission to being able to ‘lead effectively’.

So what should we do?

The answer is to model the very behaviors we desire in those we seek to lead. So, if we want people to be in ‘learning’ mode rather than ‘defensive’ mode – we need to model that behavior ourselves.

When faced with this challenge, leaders often look perplexed as they believe they already are in ‘learning’ mode. And, of course, they often are. The question is – are the in ‘learning’ mode when they are interacting with the people they seem to model the behavior for? That’s when it counts – when they see you making an effort to learn (interpret this as understand) their perspective on a change you are seeking them to make.

Try this experiment next time you are faced with defensiveness from another person: Set aside the need to be right and ask questions to understand their perspective. That does not mean they are right and you should accept their answers as facts, however it does mean that you listen and really try to understand why they feel the way they do. You will find that the emotion in the dialogue decreases, they open up and you actually can have a conversation rather than an argument.

The reason this works is that when we are in ‘defensive’ mode we are almost always talking. When we are in ‘learning’ mode we are almost always listening. So, to model ‘learning’ behavior we must listen. Only then will you understand how the other person sees the issue.

To learn how to increase your leadership skill and reinforce the core attributes of high performing teams, use our Complimentary Team Assessment and learn:

  • Whether there is sufficient trust for open dialogue
  • Whether your team engages in constructive conflict
  • Whether the team feels there is commitment to team decisions
  • Whether the team feels there is true accountability for results

USING GOAL SETTING AS A DEVELOPMENT TOOL

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As a leader, one of your primary responsibilities is to guide your direct reports as they set goals for their development. Unfortunately, too often we set either general goals for our people like ‘become a better listener’ or metrics based goals like ‘increase customer service scores to 68%’.

Now, at their face, neither of these goals is a ‘bad’ goal. It’s just that they are not particularly helpful in assisting your direct report in what they need to do differently. Both ‘general’ goals and ‘metrics’ based need to be broken down into more helpful stages. In other words, take the result you desire and ask:
“What behaviors would move this person in the direction of this goal?”
Once you have established the behavior change you would like to see, use effective coaching techniques (see LeaderShift) to create buy-in from the employee on the change that is required. A good time frame to focus on these types of behavior changes for is about 2-3 weeks.

As you consider the behavior change goal you will work on the for the next few weeks, it is helpful to keep in mind the following:

Consider what is happening, and what needs to happen over the next three weeks.
Each time period in a business brings it’s own set of unique challenges. As you look out over the next few weeks, consider what what is already scheduled, and what projects are they already committed to. In addition, what needs to happen in order to move the organization forward?

What skills/ideas have they already been exposed to that could accelerate their progress?
Once you have clarity on what must happen over the next few weeks, the next thing you must do is consider what skills/ideas have they already been exposed to that could accelerate their progress.

Focus on Habits not Tasks
As you consider at what ideas they could apply to accelerate their progress, evaluate the ideas as to whether you have chosen a ‘task’. If so, ask yourself how they could accomplish that task differently utilizing skills/ideas have they already been exposed to. As you know, sometimes we focus on tasks and miss the intent of the task. For example, we can spin through Quality Assurance Coaching, and miss the intent of changing rep’s behaviors.
In many cases, the intent of the task is best accomplished by focusing on establishing certain habits. In our example above, the habit might be making sure that I deliver the feedback to the rep on a timely basis, asking them their thoughts on what they see in the file, and ensuring that I gain their buy-in on what behavior they plan to change.

Elements of a Good Habit Change Goal
1. Daily
Habits are changed by focusing on daily activity. Consider the behavior change you are focused on. How would you break this down into a daily behavior? If you have focused on a behavior you need for a specific meeting, what elements of that behavior might apply in other situations?
2. Proactive
Your goals should be proactive in that they should move you toward a better future. Be careful not to set goals that require someone else to act before you can take action on your goal.
3. Control
Your goal should be something you can do, not something someone else needs to do. If you need a behavior change to be made by another individual, ask yourself: What do I need to do to encourage this pattern of behavior in them?

First you make your habits…. then your habits make you!