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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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:

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!

 

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.

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.

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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.

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. 
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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.

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: