How do you keep your team focused when a potential crisis looms?

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We are very concerned these days with the risk of the corona virus. It has exposed how interconnected our world really is. People travel at unprecedented levels and the world supply chain is more interconnected than ever.

How do you keep your team focused and on track when a crisis looms – but perhaps is not yet imminent?

There are two ways that leaders tend to approach challenges like these. In this week’s LeaderShift Insight we show you how both are flawed. Instead we offer a 4 step process to engage your team and keep them focused.

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Who Should You Ask For Advice From As A Leader?

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If you are growing and setting aggressive goals as a leader you will almost always have more questions than answers. In the videocast we look at the two most common responses that leaders have when they do not know the answer to a question.

We also give you a litmus test to know if the person you are asking for advice is going to be able to help you grow as a leader.

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What is the Most Important Leadership Lesson You Have Applied This Year?

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Every leader wants to be more successful and effective. In this week’s leadership insight we help you discover your approach to learning and how to ensure that you continue to not only get better results – but how to do it while engaging your team and challenging them to get better as well.

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What is the BEST way to address frustrations you have with your team?

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Have you ever been frustrated with your team, or a member of your team?

If you have been in leadership for any length of time at all – I already know the answer to this question. We hear about the frustrations facing leaders very day as we coach and conduct our leadership programs . Things are not getting any easier either as the pace of change continues to accelerate, and the labor market tightens.

The interesting part of this is that all of these frustrations have the same thing in common. This week we show you a simple method to help you move past those frustrations permanently.

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What is the Best Way to Set Goals to Maximize Team Commitment and Engagement?

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What is the best way to set goals for your team?LeaderShift One Day Intensive

It all starts with a goal. Either you are handed a goal by your manager, or you are asked to set one for your team. Set properly, the goal will establish a GAP between where you are and where you would like the team to be. In fact if there is no GAP there is no need for a leader. And that’s what you are – so how SHOULD leaders set goals?

It turns out that conventional wisdom flies in the face of recent brain science research.

What does the research say?

Modern brain research indicates that we evaluate a ‘status quo goal’ as more difficult to achieve than a ‘modest increase goal’. Yup. Thats right. Respondents were MORE negative about how hard it would be to keep things the same versus a modest increase. (Harvard Business Review  Nov 2018 – ‘Why You Should Stop Setting Easy Goals’)

But it gets even worse…

Not only did lower goals cause more negativity in respondents, when they were asked whether they would rather pursue the status quo goal – or the modest increase goal – they again chose the modest increase goal. And that finding held true across all different kinds of areas we set goals in.

So maybe we need to rethink HOW we set goals with our team. Lower goals are not actually more desirable or easier to get people to rally around. In fact, research has found that lower goals are less likely to be achieved. Now, before you fire off setting super stretch goals, know that those stretch goals rated the lowest of all three types of goals in terms of engagement and commitment. Maybe not verbal commitment – people may still commit verbally. They just don’t follow thru.

So what is the solution?

In order to maximize team commitment and engagement you need to set a modest increase goal while simultaneously decreasing the timeline allowed for the goals achievement. It is also critical that you make sure the team knows that this goal is a milestone on the way to a larger ideal – an ideal future that they have agree is important and desirable for the team to achieve.

So here is this week’s leadership insight: Set modest goals with shorter timelines.

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How to Make Subjective Feedback Objective

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Some years ago an executive coaching client ‘George’ (not his real name) related to me a particularly difficult challenge he was facing. George was struggling because Sam (also not his real name – but you knew that didn’t you?) was failing in his role as a senior leader. When I asked George what the results were like in Sam’s group, he replied that they were exceeding plan. When I asked how that was possible, he replied that the role was so critical that he had been doing Sam’s job for him for some time.

George was faced with a problem: How do you deal with an underperforming leader when their objective results are strong – even if you know that they are not the reason those results are strong. In other words, your feedback is Subjective rather than Objective, and could be viewed as your opinion.

Even Objective Feedback has a Subjective Component:LeaderShift One Day Intensive

In some cases you can show an employee that objective performance metrics are not where they need to be. That is not to say that they will always agree on their performance being the cause of the metric being less than desirable – but at least you have a solid starting point for the conversation. Note: For more information on handling these type of conversations see How to Avoid Defensiveness When Providing Feedback and Can You Really Get Someone to Change.

Even in the case of incontrovertible objective evidence, leaders are often unable, or unwilling, to see the connection between their operational results and their own leadership skills and/or behavior.

The Solution: You Have to Make Your Subjective Feedback Objective

Since so many of our coaching conversations revolve around subjective feedback, we created a process called Making the Subjective Objective™. Let’s use an example to show how it works:

One of your supervisors is having difficulty driving operational results. You can see that he is not engaging in effective coaching behaviors. Instead, he seems to take great pride in solving operational issues himself. This is lowering overall morale and engagement level in the team. Since he can only be in one place at a time, response times have extended and problems seem to pile up. This has caused him to complain about not being able to find skilled and hard working employees. You have tried to broach the subject of improving his coaching skills but he feels that he is already a pretty good coach.

Sound familiar?

In this case there is a mismatch between his perception of his skill level and what you believe his skill level to be. In other words – your feedback is subjective in nature.

Try Making the Subjective Objective

Ask the supervisor to rate their coaching skill from zero to ten. Note: We use zero because no one can confuse that with a good score.

If the supervisor gives himself rates anywhere from zero to eight, they are indicating that there is a possibility that they could improve. The challenge we fall into here is that we get hung up on the rating being correct – at least in our opinion. This desire for a correct score misses the point. What we want is for them to acknowledge there is a GAP between where they are and where they could be. So if they think they are a 7, and you think they are a 2; who cares? They have admitted that there is an opportunity for growth. So don’t get hung up

Once they have admitted there is a GAP and therefore there is an opportunity for growth – ask “What would a 10 look like?”

In some cases they may have some ideas of where they could improve. In other cases you may have to provide some ideas for them. In either case you have an opportunity to ask them to commit to those changes.

But what if they rate themselves a 9 or a 10?

This is the tougher scenario. Even a 9 is a 10 in disguise – they just did not want to seem arrogant. In this case, you have to have a candid conversation with them that you do not believe that their evaluation is correct. In some scenarios the person may never have worked for someone that has been willing to give them candid feedback, and while painful, your feedback could be a critical step in their career development. In other cases it may may a case of a lack of humility. And humility is one of the hardest traits to coach – and that will have to wait for another day!LeaderShift One Day Intensive

 

 

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 Anna (a super high performer) and John (a historically low performer).

Now imagine that Anna, who ALWAYS hits her numbers every month, misses one month.

Are you upset about her performance – or concerned about Anna?

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

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

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

If you are totally honest – you are UPSET about John’s performance. But why? Both Anna and John missed their numbers. However, John’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, join us for the LeaderShift One Day Intensive Workshop click here.

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Use This 3 Step Process to Determine Leadership Potential

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Leadership is Not Management

Any discussion on leadership needs to start with a simple definition. Let’s start first with what Leadership is not. Leadership is not management. I’m not saying that management is not important. It is incredibly important. Management however deals with static systems. As long as things are not changing then management will suffice. However, as soon as things start to change then leadership is required.

We often use leadership and management interchangeably, and that is a shame because they mean very different things. In most jobs you need both management and leadership skill. These two skillsets can reside in the same individual, but that does not mean that they always do.

So how do you know if a person has the ability to lead as well as manage?LeaderShift One Day Intensive

To answer this question consider the old saw; ‘You must walk the walk not just talk the talk’. In other words, in order to lead others you must first be able to lead yourself.

But what does it mean to able to ‘lead yourself’?

Leadership is about going on a journey.

I have found that leadership is all about going on a journey. If there is not a GAP between where you are and where you want to be, then there is no journey, and management skills are all that is necessary. However, if there is a GAP – then we will need a very specific set of skills to navigate that path.

Normally when we discuss this concept in the context of leadership we are talking about the setting and accomplishment of goals.

Your goal will involve a journey if at least one of the following is true:

  • You have never attempted to accomplish a specific goal before
  • You have attempted to accomplish the goal but have not been successful
  • The goal has been successfully accomplished before however the external environment has changed
  • The goal has been successfully accomplished before however the people on the team are different

There are three elements necessary to successfully complete any journey.

In order to complete a journey you need:

  1. To know where you are starting from.
  2. To know where you are going.
  3. A Plan.

While reams of articles have been written on setting Vision (#2) and on Planning (#3), there seems to be an assumption that it is obvious where the starting point of any journey is (#1). I have found that this is very rarely true. Even when there is universal agreement on the metrics that measure where we are, there is almost never agreement on WHY those metrics are what they are.

A 3 Step Process To Decide if a Manager is also a Leader

Which brings us to a very simple test to see if a manager is also a leader. In essence, what we need to see if if they can ‘walk the walk’ or if they just ‘talk the talk’. This simple process will work whether you are interviewing a new leader from inside or outside your organization. It will also work if the person is already employed as a manager with your firm and you are trying to determine their leadership potential.

  1. Ask the candidate to recall a time recently when they were having difficulty accomplishing a goal – whether they were successful in achieving the goal or not is not important.
  2. Ask them to describe what was happening and what they desired to have happen. What was their plan to achieve the goal?
  3. Where was the locus of control? Were they in control of the outcome or were they focused on how other people had to change in order for the goal to be achieved?

Resist the urge to give too much direction. What are you are attempting to discern is:

  • Can they identify a time when they were having difficulty accomplishing a goal? If they cannot, then they are either not in the practice of setting and achieving goals, they set them too low to ensure success, or they are unwilling to share. If they answer in ‘generalities’ you should redirect them and ask for a specific example.
  • Were they able to accurately ascertain what the true starting point of the ‘journey’ was? Are they focused on the results they desired, or do they delve into the behaviors and skills required to achieve the desired results.
  • When they describe what was happening do they assign blame outside themselves? While there are almost always external factors that hinder our success, leaders focus on what they can control and influence.
  • Did the plan involve what other people needed to do differently, or did it focus primarily on what they needed to do differently? While leaders may not be creative in the ‘artistic’ sense of the word, they are creative in trying new paths and solutions and asking for advice from others.

While no process is perfect, this 3 step process will help you determine if a manager has the ability to also lead.

 

LeaderShift One Day Intensive

We have found that what frustrates leaders the most is not that they have problems. What frustrates leaders the most is having the same problem over and over.

We have a process that helps leaders move past their existing problems and accelerates their ability to achieve the results they always knew their team was capable of.

For more information, click here…

 

 

How to Get Your Team Focused on Solutions Rather Than Talking About the Problem

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Problems. There never seems to be a lack of them. And there is never any lack of people that want to obsess over them! And when I say obsess I really mean that they are stuck TALKING about the problem as they are not working on a solution.

If we are honest, we are all guilty of indulging in this behavior from time to time. We know it is not helpful and yet we still get sucked down the rabbit hole of negativity at LeaderShift One Day Intensivetimes. Recent brain research gives us some insight into why this is and what we can do about it.

Research on how the brain deals with positive and negative stimuli published in an article in Psychology Today  gives us some insight into why we get so stuck in the negative. It should come as no surprise that our brains are more impacted by the negative. What is surprising is that the ratio of positive to negative stimuli needs to be at least 5:1 in order to maintain a balance in our relationships. This may explain why leaders tend to try to overwhelm their teams with positive ‘how we can’ information when their team wants to talk about ‘why we can’t. Unfortunately all that positivity falls of deaf ears, and the team may eventually writes of the leader as disconnected from reality. And that leads us to Deadly Sin #4.

Leadership Deadly Sin #4: Allow People to Focus on Things They can Neither Control Nor Influence

There is a lot riding on whether you can get your team’s focus on solutions rather than problems. It will come as no surprise to you that your success as a leader is directly proportional to your ability to get your team to focus on what they can do, rather than on what they cannot. The question is HOW. In order to answer this question, we need to first look at a mental model of how problems interact with what we can control and what we can influence.

Your Circle of Control (COC):
Although we may try to control many different things in our lives, there are only two that we can exert complete control over; our thoughts and our actions. No matter how talented you are you cannot control your results, and you definitely cannot control another person. As a individual contributor you may have felt that you were in control of your results, but you really were not. You just were using your talents, skill and experience to create positive results. Once you become a leader you now are responsible for the results of others, but you have even less control because you are one step removed from the activity that creates results.

While you may not be able to control people, circumstances and results – you can influence them.

Your Circle of Influence (COI):A second larger concentric circle is your Circle of Influence. This circle encompasses people you have strong relationships with, some events that occur, and some circumstances you encounter. There are other people, events and circumstances that you have little or no influence over that would be outside your COI. While the Circle of Control is static (it does does change), the Circle of Influence is dynamic – it will grow or shrink depending on how you deal with Problems that come into your life.

Problems:
We define a Problem as a person, event or circumstance that you have some influence over. There are actually two parts to any problem. The first is the part that you have some control of influence over. The second part of the problem is the part that you have no control or influence over.

If you chose to focus and take action on the part of the Problem that you have some influence over, then you will feel empowered and you will experience growth in your capabilities and results. In addition, over time your Circle of Influence will grow; and people, events and circumstances that were previously outside of your Circle of Influence will now fall within your new Circle of Influence.

Unfortunately, many people choose to focus on the part of the Problem they have no influence over. This is initially very liberating, as blame for the problem can be assigned elsewhere. However, over time this focus will lead to a decrease in growth and eventual decay of an individual’s Circle of Influence.

How to Change Your Team’s Focus:

In order to shift a team member’s focus off the part of the Problem they have no influence over you must do something that is completely alien to most leaders. You have to agree with them and stop arguing with them. In other words, when they say “We can’t because … insert reason here” we would normally say “But you could do … insert solution here.” This amounts to an argument with your employee. It’s an argument it would appear you eventually win, because they may capitulate and appear to be committed. However you almost always will find that they do not change.

What if you tried this. Next time when a team member says “We can’t because … insert reason here” say “You are absolutely correct, that is why we can’t do it.”

Then stop. Don’t talk. It will absolutely pop their navel. They were expecting an argument but you a agreed with them. They don’t understand. And so they will be listening to what you say next.

The Magic Moment:

Now you have their attention say: “I have a different question for you though… What could you do that would positively impact the situation?”

Do you notice what happened? We moved from why they can’t – to what they could do. However, we did not ask them to do it – just to entertain the possibility. Now that you have them discussing what they could do you can engage in a conversation about can actually happen.

So next time you notice that your team is focused on ‘why they can’t’ do what needs to be done – don’t overpower them with positive solutions. Redirect their focus with a question like, “What part of this Problem do you have control or influence over? Once you identify the part of the Problem that they have some control or influence over, then coach the person to set goals and action steps in that area.

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How to Make Sure You Receive Feedback That Guarantees Results

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In the last blog post (How to Avoid the Most Common Error Leaders Make When Setting Goals) I recommended you set a goal that you were absolutely passionate about achieving, one that you most likely do not know how to achieve. I am also going to challenge you to write it down and post it somewhere where you will see it multiple times each day. If you do this, you will find that you will have one of three experiences as you review your goal:

  1. You will find yourself thinking about how to make it happen.
  2. You will ignore the goal because you cannot figure out how to make it happen.
  3. You will start hiding the goal because people keep asking you what it’s all about – and you are embarrassed because of #2.

Most people would not say they are ‘ignoring’ the goal. We just get very busy with all the urgent matters that we already DO know how to do. The end result is the same though – we lose focus on the important because we are preoccupied with the here and now.

What about hiding your goal from others because you’re embarrassed? It is natural for human beings to only want to focus on goals they know how to achieve. In fact, most of us don’t like having questions that we do not have the answer to. We certainly do not want to bring attention to the fact that we do not know how to achieve our goals! However, it is been our experience that success in life is has more to do with asking the right questions than having all the right answers. In fact, you can almost always find the right answer once you have asked the right question!

The key is to know what questions to ask – and who to ask those questions to. And that brings us to Leadership Deadly Sin #2.

Deadly Sin #2: Solicit feedback from people just like you.

One of the consistent challenges we find with leaders is that when they set a goal, or experience a challenge that they are not sure how to resolve, they either do not ask for advice or they ask for advice from the wrong people.

You may ask: Why would a successful leader have a tendency not to want to ask for advice? Most people will go to great lengths to give the impression that they know what they are doing. In addition to this, there is the socially accepted vision of a leader being a strong individual who always seems to have all the answers. So the idea of admitting you don’t have all the answers flies in the face of all socially accepted norms of leadership. It is been our experience (and the research bears this out) that the most exceptional leaders are humble individuals that admit when they don’t have all the answers. (At the very least those are the types of leaders almost everyone would prefer to work with.)

Who should you seek advice from?

When leaders do seek out advice, they tend to seek it out from people who are just like them. Now, I do not mean that they only seek advice from other leaders. What I mean is that they tend to seek the advice from leaders who approach challenges much the way they do.

Lets consider the example of an “accountability” or “task” focused leader. Let’s also assume that this leader is struggling with the ‘engagement level’ of his employees. In many cases, the root cause of this challenge is that the leader is highly focused on holding employees accountable to reach their goals. What the leader may need to do is support her employees in the learning associated with the very behavior changes that would eventually drive results. It has been our experience that  an “accountability” focused leader will tend to seek advice from another leader who is also more accountability focused. Now, these two leaders will have a great conversation and will empathize with each other as to their people’s lack of engagement, but it is unlikely that either one will learn a lot from that conversation. In fact, what they will find is that their perspective has been validated by the other leader.

LeaderShift One Day IntensiveConversely, consider the example of a leader has a more “supportive” or “people-oriented” view. This type of leader has a tendency to empathize with the people they are seeking to lead. The most common complaint from this type of leader is that his employees seem to ignore his ‘requests’ for increases in performance, In many cases, the root cause of this challenge is that the leader is so busy ‘empathizing’ with his people that he is not holding them accountable for the required behavior change. It has been our experience that  a “supportive” leader will tend to seek advice from another leader who is also supportive. Now, these two leaders will have a great conversation and will empathize with each other as to their people’s lack of accountability, but it is unlikely that either one will learn a lot from a conversation. In fact, what they will find is that their perspective has been validated by the other leader.

Sound familiar?

Now, it does not take a rocket scientist to realize that the insight we require often resides with the people who have a different perspective than us. So why don’t we do it more often? Because when we ask someone for advice and they turn the ‘mirror of responsibility’ back on us, it makes us very uncomfortable. And so, we ignore them and seek the soft comfort of those who ‘understand’ the problem the way we see it.

As a leader, you need to seek out advice and input from people who are very different from you and  your leadership style. And these won’t be comfortable conversations. But they will drive you to look at things differently, change your perspective and you’ll learn from the  dialogue.

So how about you?

Do you have a tendency to seek advice from people who are just like you? Or do you actively pursue dialogue with people who  challenge your perspective of the situation?

Here’s your next assignment:

  1. Keep your goal posted where you’ll see it multiple times each day.
  2. As you interact with other leaders in your organization, start asking them what you could do differently to move your group in the direction of that goal.

And, if you ask for advice from the right people – get ready for some pain.

Next we will look at how to make sure the team we seek to lead is focused on the right things.
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