How to Avoid Defensiveness When Providing Feedback

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when feedback failsOne of the most difficult challenges we must deal with as leaders is the fact that some people would rather blame others for their results, rather 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 leaders there is an almost universal agreement that this is one of the core challenges that they deal with on a daily basis.

Whether you are speaking with a family member, a peer, or an employee: we are providing feedback to help that person make progress. And yet often that ‘help’ is viewed negatively and discounted by the person we are seeking to assist. Too often they seem preoccupied with deflecting responsibility onto someone or something else.

The challenge that you must overcome when providing feedback to another person, is that your ideas (feedback) conflicts with the way they see the situation – even if they believe that you have their best interests in mind. Complicating matters, research shows that a majority of employees would actually trust a stranger more than their boss. Ouch – I know. I’m not saying that lack of trust is warranted or appropriate, however it could be true that your relationship with the person your are attempting to give feedback to is strained.

How the Brain Experiences Feedback

We tend to believe that since our feedback contains useful information, providing that information to another person it will accelerate their learning. Recent research shows that the opposite is true. There are at least two reasons for this:

The first reason for this is that we make a number of assumptions about the superiority of our understanding of the problem that the person is experiencing. We communicate this superiority through our lack of questions about how they see the problem. Whether or not you do understand their situation better than they do or not – that is not the issue. The issue is that you have cast yourself in a superior role and that is almost always going to cause a defensive reaction.

The second reason that feedback often does not accelerate learning is 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. At least not at the same time.

Now if we were to be honest, we would have to agree that it is hard to be open minded about ideas that conflict with what our experience has shown us to be true.  So our natural reaction is to defend our own perception of the ‘truth’.

When providing feedback to others, 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.

A Better Model For Feedback

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.

Think of a time when you last experienced defensiveness from someone. Did you you model being in ‘learning’ mode? Or did you argue with them and attempt to convince them that your feedback would help them? Did you ask questions with a desire to understand their point of view, or did you ask questions with an eye to uncover where their logic was flawed?

The question is – are you in ‘learning’ mode when they you are interacting with the people you need to model the behavior for? That’s when it counts – they need to 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.

Consider this: 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.

So how about you: When you are seeking to change the behavior of another person do you do most of the talking – or most of the listening?

How Much Influence Do You Really Have?

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Asian Businesswoman Leading Meeting At Boardroom Table

Today’s organizations are increasing characterized by cross functional teams or a matrix structure. In this environment, leaders can rarely achieve their goals by relying on the individuals that are part of their own reporting group. In nearly every case, a leader’s ability to do their job and deliver on the promises they make is dependent on the cooperation of individuals that they have no authority over. Not to mention the fact that often we need to collaborate with vendors and partners outside the company we work for.

In fact, your formal title and the authority that comes with it will only take you so far in today’s workplace. Without question the most relevant skill to address this challenge is the skill of Influence.

At The Oxley Group define we define the amount of influence you have as the inverse of the amount of positional power required to get anything done. The challenge for most leaders is that it is very hard to assess the amount of influence you have with another person. That is at least unless you know how.

Warning Signs

Here are a few warning signs that perhaps the your ‘influence’ muscle could use some work:

  1. You find your work is sometimes stalled because of your reliance on the response from individuals that do not report to you.
  2. It is hard to get people to return calls and emails.
  3. You are not invited to meetings where you perceive your input would have been helpful, or your would have desired your input to be heard.
  4. People rarely ask for your input.
  5. You rarely receive candid negative feedback – even when it is solicited.

Even the most capable leader needs to constantly monitor their current level of influence if they want to ensure maximum contribution and effectiveness.

The Influence Audit

In order to assess the amount of influence you have with the individuals that are critical to your success, perform the following audit:

  1. List the individuals that have the most impact on your ability to get work completed.
  2. Assign a score from ‘0’ to ’10’ to each contact based on how critical they are to your success.
  3. Assign a score from ‘0’ to ’10’ to each contact based on how much value they provide to you. Value includes support, timeliness, and accessibility. Do not assess your perception of their ‘skill’ as part of this equation.
  4. Now take each individual and assign a score from ‘0’ to ’10’ based on how much value you provide to them.

As you look at the scores you may see some immediate areas you need to address. Here are a few Challenges you may recognize in your scores:

Challenge #1: You have individuals that are critical to your success (question #2) however you rated them low on value they provide (question #3)

This a red flag that you may have an issue with Influence with these individuals. Consider how you can build your influence through the value you provide to them. Is the only time they hear from you when you need something? What skill do you have, or that you could develop, that you could proactively utilize to provide value to them. Have you spent time getting to know them as a person? Do you know what is important to them?

If you rated their value low and you suspect that they lack the skill for what you are asked them to do, that is a perfect opportunity to build influence by assisting them develop that skill. Remember that they may not be particularly trusting of you at first, and you may have to spend some time building trust before they feel able to open up about the challenges they are facing.

Challenge #2: You have individuals that are critical to your success and provide great value (question 2 & 3), however you rated the value you provide low (question #4)

The good news here is that you do not have a short term problem. The bad news is that you have a long term problem: this type situation is not sustainable. If you do not address this imbalance, you will eventually find that not only will your current relationships suffer, you will gain a reputation as a person that is a ‘user’. While I have never met a leader that feels they fit this term, I know of many leaders that other people would describe this way. The solution is simple: How can you start to provide value to others? Consider projects that are outside of your formal role that you do not have to be involved in. In this way your peers will start to view you as a contributor to the success of others, even when there is not a direct benefit to you.

At some point in very leader’s career there comes a point when your success will be less dependent on your personal skill and ability than it will be on the relationships that you have created that allow you to play at a higher level.

Bohemian Rhapsody – The Contrasting Personalities of Queen

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With box office sales reaching $142 million in the US and almost $600 million worldwide, the movie Bohemian Rhapsody has captured the hearts and minds of movie goers everywhere. Based on the story of the British rock band Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody chronicles the nascent band from its early days playing clubs to its rise into megastardom.

Comprised of four superstar musicians, the band was unquestionably led by frontman and vocal virtuoso Freddie Mercury. Much like The Beatles did a decade earlier, Queen leveraged the unique personalities of each member to create a sound that changed the music landscape forever.

With millions of musicians in the world, what made Queen so special? Authenticity, emotion and energy is what set Queen apart from everyone else. Whether it’s the euphonic harmonies of the song Bohemian Rhapsody or the unparalleled energy the band delivered during their live concert performances, Queen was the true embodiment of emotion and energy, with a side of style and class.

Creating the band’s sound
Queen is a study in how disparate styles can come together to create something bigger than the sum of its parts. In many ways, the differences in the band were showcased in how Freddie’s style contrasted with the other three band members.

Freddie was a showman who clearly envisioned the big picture, imagining a song from its conception to its stage delivery. Incorporating classical music training into his songwriting, Mercury challenged the status quo of the rock world by delivering a sound that possessed elements of ballads, rock and opera.

Brian May’s musical palate was as vast as his intellect, spanning from classic hard rock such as “Hammer to Fall” to the softest of ballads found in the beautiful melodies of “Love of My Life.” Drummer/vocalist Roger Taylor liked to inject a little humor into his writing as is shown in the song “I’m In Love With My Car.” Bassist John Deacon was a frequent songwriting contributor, penning some of the band’s bigger hits including “You’re My Best Friend” and the unmistakably bass-driven “Another One Bites the Dust.”

 

Challenging the status quo
Often rejected by record company execs for not being commercial enough, songs like Bohemian Rhapsody redefined what commercial became. At the time the song was recorded, there were no six minute radio hits, no opera parts in rock and certainly no music videos.

Queen wanted to break free from what was previously considered “radio acceptable,” fully believing there was a market for their new brand of rock. They rightfully believed that if the public had a chance to experience the music, they would enjoy it.

For a song “certain to fail” according to record company execs, Bohemian Rhapsody became the third most popular song in the history of the British charts based on sales, having reached the #1 spot in two separate decades (on its release and upon Mercury’s death) and charting on the Billboard Hot 100 in an unheard of three different decades (70s, 90s, 10s).

Collaboration is king
It’s safe to say that Queen left an indelible mark on the music world. The bigger question is what propelled Queen to produce music that became so long lasting and impactful? A strong argument can be made that the unique personalities of the band members is what created the greatness.

While no one will doubt that Mercury was the band’s driving force, every member of the band was a contributing songwriter. The future astrophysicist May was the yin to Mercury’s yang, with Mercury’s soft melodies being sonically balanced by May’s raging power chords. When it came to songwriting, they were very collaborative, with different members taking the lead at different times, creating unique, memorable songs that spanned the musical gamut. When the band performed live, however, the three members of the rhythm section were willing to take on more of a supporting role role so that Mercury’s star could shine the brightest.Queen-Performing

History has seen many bands crash and burn with a dominant personality in the mix. However, May, Taylor and Deacon understood that letting Mercury take the lead on stage – and often in the studio too (i.e. Bohemian Rhapsody) – brought out the best from the vocalist. The band’s epic performance at Live Aid, considered by many to be the quintessential rock performance of all time, showed that the bigger the stage, the better the band performed.

As self-assured as Mercury was, it was what the others contributed that made Queen the powerhouse they were. The commercial failure of Mercury’s solo album, made without the help of his trusted bandmates, confirmed this point. It proved that even the most creative minds have their limitations and often it takes another voice or idea to elevate something from good to great.

What motivated Queen?
Queen believed in pushing the limits and creating a new definition of what was considered to be mainstream. The band understood that with their supreme songwriting and performing capabilities, they could accomplish just about anything. Freddie had a commanding personality, wanting to be the center of attention at all times. The spotlight energized him. The others were smart enough to realize that Mercury was a bonafide star and that letting him shine was very much to the band’s benefit.

John Deacon seemed to avoid the spotlight, instead preferring to be the foundation on which the songs were built. Slow and steady, Deacon’s bass lines were the glue that held everything together. Roger Taylor was a showy drummer and a good vocalist in his own right. While the press would regularly gravitate toward Mercury during interviews, Taylor would frequently chime in to remind the eager press that Queen, in fact, consisted of four equal members.

While Mercury attracted attention with his showmanship and stage acrobatics, May attracted attention with his style and guitar virtuosity. With a precise attention to detail, May performed like a master craftsman, creating both a style and a sound that was unlike any that came before or after him.

Wanting to be unique, May and his father Harold built an unconventionally-shaped guitar that became known as the Red Special. It produced a thick, bright sound which instantaneously conveyed the Queen sound. Playing with a Sixpence instead of a guitar pick, May created his unique, ear-piercing squeal that a traditional plastic pick could never produce. To say May was detail-oriented in his approach would be quite the understatement; he was nothing short of a guitar maestro.

The show must go on
The members of Queen had an insatiable appetite for songwriting and performing. Attention to the finest details is what set this band apart from other acts of the time that were more consumed with sex, drugs and everything else that came with the rock and roll lifestyle.

Queen was a supergroup before the term was even coined. Understanding that, through collaboration, they could achieve virtually anything they wanted to, the individual members sacrificed a certain level of personal fame and fortune in exchange for a lasting legacy for the band as a whole. They were a band in the truest sense of the word.

Note: This article originally appeared on TTI Success Insights and was republished with permission.

The Foundation of High Performance Teamwork: Trust

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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

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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 performance teamwork, however it is insufficient 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!

 

The Four Faces of Frustration Process

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

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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

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5 Sure Fire Ways to Waste Money on Executive Coaching

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#2: Invest in fuzzy goals.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, how you avoid this trap?

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

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

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

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

To download the Performance Trouble Shooter just click here.

Here’s to your Success!!

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

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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.

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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.

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