Leaders: Always Fix Yourself First

“One who gains strength by overcoming obstacles possesses the only strength which can overcome adversity.” – Albert Schweitzer

We all fight far greater battles privately, within ourselves, than we ever face in public arenas. When people recognize their shortcomings, most will work their entire lives to change and rise above them in order to become the person they want to be. Indeed, some of history’s greatest leaders – Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King Jr. – have each faced personal challenges such as lacking enthusiasm, doubting their capabilities, using poor judgement, and even feeling bouts of insecurity. The answer to why anyone looking to be a leader must work to remove these debilitating factors may seem obvious. But in fact, the reason has less to do with the leader than with the people they are hoping to lead.

To be truly effective as a leader, your shortcomings must never eclipse those of the people that you are trying to inspire.

Leaders inspire others to reach, to go beyond what they believe they accomplish. To do this, leaders themselves must be armed with a clear mind and strength to lift others. This means having feelings in check that may weaken a leader’s abilities.

ACTIONABLE STEPS:

Self-improvement – much like being a leader – is an ongoing activity. The truth is you will never be without faults; the question is how well will you be able to monitor, manage and maintain control of these areas for improvement effectively enough to be a strong, dependable leader. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Acknowledge your shortcomings. As the old saying goes, admitting you have a problem is the first step. Write down the issues you have for you to help get clear in your mind what exactly it is that you have to work on. A good exercise to help you understand what these may be is to ask a trusted friend their opinion. Take their feedback to heart, abstain from objecting, and listen with an open mind. If someone is truly trying to help you improve yourself, it is in your best interest to just listen.
  • Set goals, keep records, and celebrate wins. Any process that requires ongoing work over a long period of time is difficult to do without motivation. Leaders looking to have sustainable results can find this motivation by having points of reference and keeping track of personal improvements. Seeing growth in your abilities to overcome personal weaknesses will help you to remain diligent in keeping with the mental or physical activities driving positive change.
  • Figure our a ‘therapy’ that works for you. It is almost impossible to change who you are without also making a change in the way you approach addressing who you are. Find activities – mental or physical – to accomplish this, that work for you personally, and give you the strength to become the person you want to be. For Lincoln, he would write each evening; Gandhi would take daily walks, Mandela would have regular meetings with trusted friends, and King Jr. would pray. In each of these activities, these leaders found incremental improvements in overcoming their own personal challenges. It is, however, important to find the ‘therapy’ that actually works for you. Once you’ve found it, prioritize the activity and make it a part of your regular routine.

QUESTIONS FOR LEADERS:

  1. What do you do to perpetually address your shortcomings as a leader?
  2. How do you help others reach higher and overcome their own shortcomings?

As always, your answers and other thoughts are welcome in the comments section below.

Advertisements

Bringing Back The Value Of Meetings

“People who multitask all the time can’t filter out irrelevancy. They can’t manage a working memory. They’re chronically distracted.” Clifford Nass, Professor – Stanford University

Imagine you and I are having a conversation – let’s say in your living room – and you’re talking about something that is really important to you. So important, in fact, that you spent several hours preparing to have this talk with me; so crucial for me to hear what you have to say that you’ve asked me to take an hour out of my life and join you in the conversation.

Now imagine – really imagine – that I am reading and sending text messages on my phone the entire time you’re talking; or maybe I’m reading emails from work. How would you feel about that? Would it be rude? Would you be offended? Would you say something? Regardless if you did, I’m sure our relationship wouldn’t be better off for it.

Yet this same behavior has become almost commonplace in today’s business meeting. The larger the group, the more likely it is to happen. The longer the meeting, the more likely it is to happen. Take 20 people and sit them down in a room for 2 hours and each person will, at some point, either check email on their phone or simply open their laptop and start working.

Under the guise of workaholic taskmasters, what the people who do this are really saying is “This really doesn’t matter to me. If it did, I would be paying attention and thinking about how I can add value to the discussion.”

When we dismiss the value of being present, fail to focus on the conversation, stop engaging people in meetings, and pass on the opportunity for discussion, debate, collaboration and consensus building, everyone loses.

I once worked with a CEO who took the reigns at a failing company soon after the CEO was fired. After a few weeks on the job, he started to unashamedly telling people they could leave (meaning “leave”) if they were caught working on their phones or laptops. It took very little time for most of his executive team to get the hint and start using the same practice with their own meetings. Six months later the CEO made it official and sent a memo requiring A) all meetings be laptop free and B) any phone use must be related to the meeting discussion (such as looking up information or emailing relevant questions to non-attendees).

As an outsider who worked closely with the teams during both tenures and saw the changes from a neutral position, I believe five benefits came of this:

  1. People no longer accepted and came to meetings that they didn’t need to attend.
  2. People worked more productively at their desks knowing it was the only time to get work done.
  3. People who did attend meetings felt more respect and better about their relationships with coworkers.
  4. Meetings were more productive; people were engaged, added value to the discussion, and *GASP* decisions were made.
  5. Post-meeting confusion and questions about the meeting’s discussions/takeaways were noticeably reduced.

The truth is we’re not mentally designed to do two non-related, complex tasks at once…at least not well. Clifford Nass, a psychology professor at Stanford University, says today’s nonstop multitasking actually wastes more time than it saves—and he says there’s evidence it may be killing our concentration and creativity too. From the interview, Nass states:

“We have scales that allow us to divide up people into people who multitask all the time and people who rarely do, and the differences are remarkable. People who multitask all the time can’t filter out irrelevancy. They can’t manage a working memory. They’re chronically distracted.”

You can see and listen to his interview on NPR here.

So if you’re looking to take the next step and join the “Focused Revolution”, here are some suggestions for writing up your own team/corporate rules:

  • Rule #1: No laptop, tablet or cell phone usage unless it is related to the meeting (such as viewing a PPT or emailing a meeting-related question to a non-attendee).
  • Rule #2 Emergency situation notifications are to be sent via email, with URGENT in the subject line, and those emails can only be answered after excusing oneself from the meeting.
  • Rule #3 While subject lines can be reviewed, no emails are to be opened and no emails are to be sent unless they are flagged as emergencies or relevant to the meeting.
  • Rule #4 Phones are set to vibrate for both calls and text messages. Voice mail cannot be checked, calls cannot be made, and text messages cannot be checked or answered.
  • Rule #5 Notify attendees if an important call is expected. If it comes in, leave the room without distracting others to take the call.

Whether you employ these rules as a team or as an entire company, once they are in place and being followed, meetings will improve. They will return to being a collaborative, informative and strategic tool for developing ideas, setting teams on paths, and delivering decisions for driving towards business success.

Being The Boss Means Overriding The Desire To Criticize

A leader must maintain balance between positive reinforcement and constructive criticism in order to truly motivate others and achieve success. - Brendan Witcher

A leader must maintain balance between positive reinforcement and constructive criticism in order to truly motivate others and achieve success. – Brendan Witcher

There is a hard truth in the world that most leaders struggle with: it is easier for us to recognize good behavior than bad behavior. For many of us, it’s because our emotions tied directly to each are completely unbalanced. When we see good behavior or experience a positive moment, our emotions flow like water from a faucet. By comparison, when we witness bad behavior or experience a negative moment, it’s like the Mississippi River is trying force it’s way through our brains and come shooting out of our mouths. Here is a good example that everyone can relate to:

Think of your car. Today, your car will probably get you from Point A to Point B (and maybe to C, D, E, etc) and then back to Point A again without a problem. You’ll go about your day without thinking much about your car or the modern mechanical miracle that it is. At each stop, will you thank your car? Will you feel happiness towards your car? Probably not.

But let’s say, during that important trip from Point A to point B, that your car suddenly stops working.  You’re not out of gas and there’s no logical explanation for it to break down. It just stops. Now you can’t get to Point B (or C or D or E) or even back to Point A today. Plus, you know that your entire day will be spent getting your car towed, working with a mechanic, and finding a way to get to all the “Points” in your life for who-knows-how-long. Now how do you feel about your car? Do you yell at it? Do you curse it? Do you pound on the steering wheel or kick the tire in anger? Enough said.

This is a good metaphor for how we react to most situations and, more importantly, other people in both our work and personal lives. Great leaders recognize and acknowledge that this is the natural state; to react boldly and swiftly to a negative and passively (if at all) to a positive.

Leaders work consciously to balance their reactions; to raise their level of expression in positive situations as well as suppress some level of expression in negative situations. 

Note that I did not state a complete reversal. Leaders don’t constantly play the cheerleader while ignoring that the team needs a swift kick in the pants. Here are some simple steps that can be taken towards that balance of positive reinforcement and constructive criticism:

  1. Be fully connected to what is going on: Actively look for the positive things happening around you (as well as the negative things that you might normally glaze over).
  2. Acknowledge good behavior immediately: Don’t wait for reviews or send it later in an email; do it now and do it publicly if appropriate.
  3. Pause before calling out bad behavior: Take the opposite route and plan to address bad behavior later that day and in private (note: never wait too long to address bad behavior)

Following these three steps with some consistency will get you most of the way towards this balanced leadership approach. By doing so, you’ll start to realize and recognize how far off your natural state is from this balanced state. If you find yourself having a lot of chances to praise that you wouldn’t have seen before (or pausing a lot more than you thought you would), you know you have some work to do. But stick with it, and you’ll find that mastering this skill is one of the greatest tools for elevating yourself as a leader and having success in working with others.

Leadership Means Letting Others Learn From Adversity

struggling

Hardships often prepare ordinary people for extraordinary destiny… – C.S. Lewis

It is our natural instinct to want to help others. We see someone struggling and our first reaction is to do what we can to resolve their issue. We empathize, internalize their struggle, and make it our own. This happens with our friends, family, spouses, kids, employees, co-workers and even strangers.

Normally, stepping up and inserting ourselves into a situation to help someone else is a welcomed action. A bit of hesitation maybe on the other person’s part that they may be troubling you, but in most cases the helping hand is a relief. The issue gets resolved together and everyone is happy.

A good thing…right? Not always.

When someone has an opportunity to learn from a difficult situation, you are hurting more than helping when you resolve the issue for them.

It’s a thin line that determines when you should jump in and stay out, but there are some steps you can take to help you stop and think before moving in with all your wisdom and resolution skills. I call it PADDing a situation:

  1. Pause: Giving it a moment, relaxing, and thinking about the situation is usually a good first move. Consider what this person can learn from the situation. If someone is trying to figure out an Excel function or how to craft a difficult email to a co-worker, allow them the chance to connect their own neurons and have the experience logged into their memory. If someone is trying to push their car off to the side of the road because they ran out of gas, the lessons probably been learned and giving them some assistance would be appropriate.
  2. Ask: This is what many people ask when they see someone faced with a challenge: “Do you need some help?” Wrong question. Here is the question you should be asking: “What are you working on?” This question 1) keeps you out of the situation, 2) helps you assess the other person’s level of frustration, and 3) let’s you know if you can even be helpful in the first place . It also gives them permission to inform you, dismiss you and/or ask you for help, which you still should not do until you…
  3. Discuss: Talk it through. Don’t solve it for them – guide them to the answer. Let them know what you did the last time you faced a similar situation (or what first step you would take). In the examples above, you might say “The last time I needed that, I found the answer using the Excel help function.” or “Whenever I have to write those kinds of emails, I usually ask myself two questions: ‘What am I trying to really say?’ and ‘What is the other person probably feeling?'” Once you have given pause, asked the right question, and given them a nudge (vs. a shove), then you have to…
  4. Determine: Now it’s time for you to ask yourself some questions. Is this out of this person’s abilities to accomplish? Is the answer too complex? Is the person completely off in the wrong direction in looking for an answer? Most importantly, ask yourself if the lesson learned is important. Be really critical of yourself as you ask these questions. By solving a problem for someone, you risk robbing them of an opportunity, making them feel incompetent or stupid, and possibly embarrassing them. Move in only if you feel like “the juice isn’t worth the squeeze” for the other person.

I say this a lot, but as a leader it’s your job to take ownership of a situation and do what’s best for the other person. Thinking the other person is going to get mad at you for not helping is not a reason to interfere. You have to give other person the chance to stretch their limits, to see that they are capable of doing more than even they believe they can. When they figure it out, give them praise and acknowledge their accomplishment. Most people will appreciate what you’ve done for them when you let them grow…even if they don’t express it. People can overcome most problems when are given the time and encouragement to have confidence in themselves.

Roadmap for Success in Building Your Personal Brand

You may stand out, but are you stepping up?

One of the most challenging things we can do as Leaders is to inspire and motivate a wide range of personalities. Some would tell you that personal branding of your leadership requires you to have one approach, one style, and to become master of that approach, to be recognized for those values, to use it to lead all people down the path to eternal bliss…

But does it?

Chickens (Leadership Brand) vs. Eggs (Leadership Values)

Is leadership about a unique style, delivery and method…or is it something more? Is it more about the underlying values you place on being a leader? On integrity, courage, trust, wisdom, honestly, communication, genuineness? Are these values – if present in any approach – really the only things that matter? I might argue that they are.

I’ve seen many (far too many) people fail at “leadership” and then place blame elsewhere by stating that their unique leadership approach just doesn’t work for certain personality types. When, in fact, what I perceived the cause of failure to be was a missing value of leadership. Often, for some reason, the missing value is empathy (not sure why…maybe another blog post for that one), but I also find many wannabe leaders who miss on using leadership values such as compassion, honesty, transparency, wisdom and, worst of all, listening.

But let’s assume you have your ducks in line, and that your underlying value system is both strong and contains most of the critical components to be a Leader. What are the steps to putting the frosting and sugar decorations on those value cake layers? How do you build a leadership brand that inspiring, memorable and unique?

Build the Unique You

The most unique thing about you is…well…“You”. The first step here – and it must be the first step – is to get a firm understanding of who you are; where you came from, what gets your juices flowing, and what comes naturally to you. When you’re comfortable, others will become comfortable around you. Forget that you want to be, be who you are naturally. As long as that person inside you isn’t a screaming, selfish jerk, you’re probably in the range of acceptable personalities. The point is to focus on the things that make up who you are – your interests, talents and passions – understand them, appreciate them, and then use them to start building “You” The Leader.

The next step to developing your unique personal brand is to find the one thing that you can use to make “You” stand out. You need to pinpoint what is unique about you — not something that applies only to a few other people, but something that applies only to you. For most of us, this is only going to be one or two specific things. My personal thing is analogies. I love them and use them so frequently that people often jest at my expense if one doesn’t come out of me in a meeting. But that makes me memorable…in a good way. It’s a part of how I deliver my leadership to the masses and it gets noticed (I will save you from my urge to present some clever comparison for you here).

Get Hooked Up to the Network

In addition to the deep, introspective stuff, there are some housekeeping steps to take care of, and these can be done anytime (translated: ASAP). Make sure you have ahold of “you” and own your name everywhere. Start a list and make sure you sign up using your name for every social network and website login you can think of. I even own Hotmail, Yahoo and a dozen other login sites just in case I might need them in the future.

It goes without saying that part of this ownership involves you buying your space on the Internet. Use NetworkSolutions.com or GoDaddy.com or whatever site you like to register “You”.com. If you’re ready to start using some of these sites, have at it and show people who you are. Being a leader means getting yourself out there and practicing being one through communication. Trust me. Trying to be a leader with just you is both strange and pointless. Get Blogging, Tweeting, Liking, Stumbling or whatever you prefer, but get engaged on a variety of social media networks. Hitting Klout.com can be used as a starting point to make sure you’re linking up all the biggest sites out there.

As part of this exercise, you’re also going to want to put pictures up on these sites, tagged with your name so that search results you have image results. If you start getting some level of recognition in these communities, it’s a smart move to utilize the Google Alerts system to monitor your name (and misspellings) so you always know what people are saying about you.

I should point out here that the most important thing about getting out there is to do it in some way that’s valuable – through content, communication or even just encouragement. While I’m sure it would be riveting, don’t post things that are only of trivial interest to you like“25 Things I Found in My Couch Today”. Write with an audience in mind, whether that is a single person or a general group. Ask yourself this before you write, “Why would someone want to read this?” Don’t get me wrong, the topic you write about can be you, but make it relatable to someone you can picture in your mind’s eye. Also, make it relevant in a manner that relates to your brand so others start getting a feel for what you’re about.

Advanced Leadership Branding Efforts

Once you start finding your groove (and you’ll know it when you get there), start taking your efforts to the next level. You’ll start to have more time as you find leading to come more naturally. Here are three steps that I recommend you start thinking about.

Package It! A Brand is more than a pretty face (most of the time), so get a theme going. If you want to “sell” a product – aka Leadership Brand – you’ll need to become a marketer to some degree. One of the first (and easiest steps) is to get some consistency going across all off your sites/assets. Pick color(s), phasing, a motto, a headshot, fonts, and even a particular creative pattern, then use these everywhere. Being consistent in appearance tells the general public “Hey, you’ve seen this before. Yes, it’s me. You’re in the right place.”

Make “You” Tangible! The way you present yourself is critical, but having something tangible, something that goes beyond words in a blog or tweet, is what will set you up above the crowd. These can be done in a number of ways, the easiest is to either publish something or create an event (seminar or even an online chat). Have something that people can talk about and think of you when they think of that thing they are discussing with others. Make people your champion and they will do half the work for you in spreading the value that “You” bring to the table.

Get Up There! Public speaking is something that doesn’t come naturally to most people. This is exactly why getting good at it matters; it sets your brand apart to many people. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to get this part going:

  • DO get comfortable with whatever you would eventually discuss as part of the leader you want to be. If you’re into motivation, learn it like the back of your hand. There is not substitute for being confident in the knowledge you have about a subject.
  • DON’T practice alone in front of a video camera. I assure you, everyone looks stupid doing this. This will only hurt your confidence level. If you do have the opportunity to speak, I DO recommend asking someone to take video of you. But being up in front of a group, you will behave in a natural manner vs. critiquing how you look giving a speech to your cat.
  • DO get in touch with Toastmasters (toastmasters.com). These folks are great for helping with taking your public speaking skills to the next level. My experience has been that they will let you attend a couple sessions free of dues just to learn about it.
  • DO volunteer to speak whenever you get the chance. Even if you’re in a meeting and someone asks how everyone’s weekend was, share something. Getting comfortable looking people in the eye, having all eyes on you, and hearing the sound of just your voice resonate in a quiet room can never be done enough to prepare you for presenting or teaching in front of a crowd.

A Final Note…

As with any endeavor, there are always going to be those who will find some pleasure in questioning you. Don’t let it distract you. You own this process. This is one time when something can be all about you and have it be a good thing. Advise is great – heck, I’m giving you some here – but in the end, you have to decide for yourself what you like & don’t like, what you want to be or not be, and the way you want your leadership brand to be presented out there in the world.

 

Resolving Conflicts in Your Work Relationships

Does this remind you of anyone?

When it comes to confronting difficult people at work, we all feel challenged on a level that’s hard to compare to other situations in the work environment. Unfortunately, speaking to that person directly is usually not the action we take – replaced by either hesitation, coddling or, in extreme cases, complete avoidance of the individual. Why? Because most people are fearful that any action would lead to a worse situation than simply ignoring the person’s abrasive or downright abusive behavior. Yes, there are those who confront others easily without as much as a bat of the eye. But without a good understanding of the situation and the right approach, this can easily lead to irreparable damage to the relationship or even a “friendly” meeting with HR.

People I’ve coached on this topic have most often expressed concern that, if they confront the other person, he/she will either retaliate, make their life at work difficult or at best cause a scene. I’ve also heard statements made of futility, that it’s useless to speak up because ‘There’s no point. The person will never change.’

I’m not going to pretend that this isn’t sometimes the case. There are folks who think they’re perfect, don’t care about how they are coming across, and are not open to change. I have found, however, that most of the people we find challenging either a) know they are imperfect, b) have heard similar feedback, or c) are not aware of how they are coming across. In these cases, I’ve usually found people are willing and open to change (or at least try). If you have a situation like this and feel a relationship with this person is salvageable, here are some steps you can take towards improving the issue and, hopefully, creating a better work environment for both of you.

1. Put your perception in a positive place.

You have to start here. Without believing that the situation can be worked out, your approach will come across as defensive or accusatory or both. Your words need to come from a place where you genuinely want to work things out without a desire to make the other person feel bad or regretful. Once you can confidently and honestly get to this place, go on to step 2.

2. Plan the right time & place…for both of you.

In your office or just when the other person is trying to leave for the day would be the wrong approach. Schedule an offsite lunch or casual dinner (no drinking) with the person, just the two of you. A neutral environment is important for both of you to feel secure and physically “separates” the issue from work. It goes without saying, but don’t plan 30 minutes if that’s what time you need to get your conversation out. Leave time for discussion. The other person may need some validation or additional communication from you and deserves the time as well.

3. Focus communication on the problem, not the person.

You have to own this situation with the other person. You cannot put the blame solely on their head. This is critical for yielding a positive outcome from your discussion. Avoid any name calling, direct accusations or statements that start “You’re being…”.  Instead start with something along the lines of “There are differences between us I’m hoping we can discuss and maybe I can learn what I can do better to create a more positive relationship between us.” It is important that you stress how valuable a good working relationship is for both of you and that this is the goal you hope the two of you can reach together. From there, work towards defining the cause of the problem; maybe you have conflicting goals or objectives, maybe you’re both under a lot of stress or maybe each of your communication styles are simply hard for the other to understand. Defining the problem in a way that both you and the other person agree upon removes blame and allows you to address the real issue, not the other person’s self-esteem.

4. Allow for venting, and then strive for a partnership.

While you may be focused on the future, there may be some need for the other person to express how he/she is feeling about a past situation or conversation. Here is where you have to be the listener and validator. Be empathetic and patient in hearing the other person out, but don’t add to the discussion over details regarding a past event, not one comment. Your goal is to focus on the future and how the two of you can partner to make sure what happens from this moment on is positive. If the other person is asking for all the change to come from you, begin ideas with ‘Can we both…?’ or ‘If I…, will you …?’. Come together on future agreements; don’t split up over past disagreements.

5. Consider following up with a written recap.

If there is a trust issue or a history of problems, you may want to communicate in writing what you’ve discussed. Simply send that person (and only that person…no blind CCs) an email, thanking them for their time, communicating gratitude that you were able to talk it out, expressing hope that the future holds better opportunities to work together and, most importantly, what was agreed upon. For your own protection, it is also important to keep a personal record of past situations, how you reacted at the time, the meeting/discussion you had to resolve the issues, and length of time until any issues happened again. Your records may be important if you need to escalate the situation or HR is asked to get involved.

6. Expect another discussion.

Unless the issue was a blatant misunderstanding or you both have uncommon ability to change your personalities on a dime, there will likely be another moment where an issue that arises. This shouldn’t be looked at as a setback; rather, take this as an opportunity to learn, communicate and recommit to a positive relationship. If there has been progress, it should be celebrated and made the focus of the discussion. If you don’t feel any progress was made, don’t get frustrated. As long as you’re making an honest effort to respect the agreement and create a positive work environment, then start with step 1 again and follow through. Sometimes people need to be shown that a situation isn’t going to be ignored, but it also won’t be handled unprofessionally. You might be tempted to ignore or escalate the situation, especially now that you’ve applied additional effort to resolve the situation, but consider arranging another meeting with the same process to try and get results from your hard work and efforts.

7. Be smart and protect yourself.

Again, there are people who you’re just not going to be able to work things out with, but you have to assume from the beginning that you can if you hope to resolve these issues that may be affecting both your work output and your stress levels. Here are a couple of quick tips to make sure you are positioning yourself for the best possible outcome:

  • If you sense you’ve picked the wrong time, place or you messed up a step, start back at step 1 and be patient with working through this process.
  • If the person can be particularly volatile, then make sure you take the suggestion of a public place that allows for a private conversation (like a restaurant).
  • If you think they are likely to accuse you of a serious violation of company policy, like harassment or physical threats, agree to have a person from HR join you at that meeting
  • If the issue is serious and can’t be resolved, then do your best to protect yourself (and your mental health) and do what you can to make the best of a bad situation. If this means moving on – after management has been made aware of the situation but taken no action – then work towards making that happen.

My hope is that you never have to take these steps and that all your relationships are positive and healthy. But should you find yourself needing the advice above, I believe there is some solace in knowing that almost all of us face with this type of situation at least once in our careers. It’s how we chose to handle it that will determine both the outcome and, maybe more importantly, the way we look back on it when the situation no longer exists.

Is Your Company a Perfect “10”?

“10” is within every company’s reach!

The whole cannot be greater than the sum of its parts.

Some of us may remember this statement from elementary math, but its principle seems forgotten when it comes to organizational structure. Recently, I was dining with three C-Level executives at a well-known and expensive restaurant. The purpose of this meeting was exploratory in nature. The BOD’s P/L goals for the company had been repeatedly missed over the past 3 years and wanted something done about it. The goals had been reasonable, the marketplace had been strong and, unfortunately, the competition was doing well.

As we discussed the situation, they painted a picture of a company with barely any turnover, but also acknowledged that there was very little motivation for employees to excel. By the time dessert came, it was clear what their problem was and why business had been suffering.

At this point I reminded my clients that our waiter had missed a few basic service standards that evening. One of our meals was wrong (and not corrected), we were never asked how the food was and we sat with empty drink glasses for most of the evening. Our server was also generally rude and impatient towards us and another couple sitting nearby. I asked the three individuals sitting with me if they would give him a 10 for this service. They all agreed that a 4 was about as high as he would rate. I then asked if they felt the food was a 10. We all agreed it deserved a 10. I asked them to rate the oveall restaurant itself; decor, music, menu selection. For these aspects in total, again, they gave a 10.

I then asked, “What final score would you give this restaurant?” They all agreed that it would recieve about an 8.

“That,” I said, “is exactly where your problem lies. You want to operate as a “10” but you have too many “3s” and “4s” in your teams.”

This is not an uncommon problem. In fact, because of weak human assets, I have watched entire companies go into the red and disappear despite having solid products and great market penetration. Yet, turnover is thought of as a bad word in corporate circles. It is often interpreted to mean a company can’t retain employees and that it likely spends too much on hiring and training initiatives. This view of turnover inherently dibilitates a company’s ability to grow. When it is purposeful and strategic, turnover can be extremely beneficial. When you let go of people who are not pulling their weight, it sends a message to the rest of your staff that:

  1. Those who give 110% to the company deserve to work with people who will give as much.
  2. The company is striving for perfection.
  3. The company will reward those who take ownership of their jobs, and remove those who do not.

Here is an excellent exercise to put things into perspective. Make a list of all your employees or, if you are a large organization, list employees in just key positions. Score each one of them based on their ability to do three things:

  • Consistently meet your expectations for tasks you expect them to own (1-4 Points)
  • Regularly exceed your expectations in terms of attitude, professionalism, work ethics and commitment to excellence (1-3 Points)
  • Effectively comprehend, communicate and enforce your expectations to those who do not report directly to you (1-3 Points)

When I work with upper-managers, I don’t reveal the theme of this exercise. That being said, I’ve often seen managers beam with pride in their organizations built with average scores of 7s-8s. After we complete this part of the session, many will make comments such as “This looks pretty good” or “My teams are strong overall in these areas.”

First, let me point out that the scoring is usually on the high side. I’ve learned that most managers will give their teams/employees at least a 3 on the first point (just above average) and 2’s on the second and third point (average). In my opinion, these scores lean towards the higher end of the scale because C-Level execs know, to a certain degree, that their subordinates are a reflection of themselves as managers and leaders. If nothing else, they are a reflection on the executive’s ability to hire and motivate good talent. Scoring their subordinates below average is something few execs are willing to do in front of colleagues or their direct reports (or a “tell-it-like-I-see-it” consultant).

It should be clear how absurd it is to rate your most important company assets (your people) as average and call this result “pretty good.” Without excellence in this crucial aspect of your business, you can never obtain excellence overall. Again, the whole cannot be greater than the sum of it’s parts.

What I am saying is this: You must hire, train and retain all level 10 employees if you want a level 10 company. This is a simple concept. If you have all 7s and 8s working for you and running your business, your company will always fall short of its market potential.

How do you fill your ranks with level 10 employees? It starts with the interview process. Most organizations in this day and age have figured out that you better vet your applicants for key employment positions. I’ve even known one person who had to go through a 2-day interview marathon where they met with 16 individuals and 4 groups (she didn’t get the job, but the person who did get the position had to weather another day and 4 individual interviews for a total of 20). But it’s not the number of interviews, or the number of days, or the length of the interviews that matter. It’s what is asked, what is answered and, most importantly, what is not answered. Be sure you have a firm grasp of this person’s ability to:

  1. Do the job better than the person they are replacing.
  2. Bring some kind of strength/experience to the company/department that does not already exist.
  3. Hold themselves accountable for all of the responsibilities you will be asking them to manage.

Next, incentivize and reward employee behaviors that go beyond normal day-to-day responsibilities. Often, all it takes is a simple personal acknowledgement from someone way up the chain to motivate a person to continue outstanding performance for months on end. Think back to when you were starting your career and what it would have meant to you to have someone way up the chain acknowledge work you made great. It costs nothing, so give praise often and whenever it is deserved.

On the reverse side, do not tolerate laziness, irresponsibility or unprofessional behavior from any of your staff, but especially from those in upper-management. Leadership, or lack thereof, always trickles downward. Once bad behaviors become commonplace deep in the organization, they can be difficult, costly and even impossible to remove.

Finally, remind those that work directly for you that the people who work below them are the “parts” of their “whole.” They are responsible for hiring and developing talent below them that raises the score of their areas to “10s.” Again, to reach a 10, one cannot have a score below a 10 as part of the equation.

It’s really just a matter of simple math.

LeadToday

Helping the Next Generation of Leaders Develop Themselves

How We Lead

Conversations on Leadership with Ken Blanchard

ashleyenicholson

maven of creative trades :: be the change you wish to see in the world. -ghandi

Brian Vickery - Social Media Sport Analogies

Social Media & Sports...who knew?

Blanchard LeaderChat

A Forum to Discuss Leadership and Management Issues

Chicago Brander

Commentary on the brands shaping the greatest city in the world.

adminrenegade.wordpress.com/

My Motto = #KeepLearningKeepGrowing

valentine defrancis

using every crayon in the box

Leading with Trust

Trust is the essential ingredient for leadership success.

AB Reflections

living and leading in light of eternity

Linked 2 Leadership | The Leadership Collaboratory

Linked 2 Leadership Blog is designed to serve professionals interested in Leadership Development, Organizational Health, and Personal & Professional Growth. We provide a safe and fun place to Learn, Grow and Develop Other Leaders.™

shereallysaidit

Book Reviews and Author Interviews

Irene Becker | Just Coach It

Career and Life Success Strategies

Motivated for Success

Equipping aspiring leaders with success principles to help them reach their full potential.

POB: Positive Organizational Behavior

My purpose is to change your mind about the value of partnering with others to build healthy, responsible organizations where everyone can thrive

MHP Life Coaching

Successfully, deliberately and enthusiastically embrace life's opportunities!

Go to New Site. www.LeadWithGiants.com

"If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulder of giants" - Isaac Newton

A time to write

For me, writing has always been a passion and the words that fill these pages are just some of the things that run around my head on a daily basis.

ExcelMax Soluções

O ExcelMax Soluções apresenta dicas: criação de softwares , macros, funções, gráficos ... e muito mais !

Expert Solutions from your Trusted Advisor

Colin Turner, CEO Advisor and Mentor

Steve H. Mills

on Life, the Universe and...

Tax and Accounting Tips

Your Online Tax and Accounting Advisor.

TheWaterside

Dunedin - Community - Music - Photography

freespiritwoman

"Lily" My Runaway Camper

The Inside Out with Dr. Mary Canty Merrill

Accelerating your full potential!

Conversations with God Sifu Yoda - Master of Ki Force

Secret Recipe Using Five-Elemental Analysis

KnowledgeBishop

Data and Deep Thoughts

Openingnightatlast's Blog

Motivation, Inspiration, Sponsorships, Marketing

newprairiestore

All about vintage purses for the purse enthusiast!

marsonmaynor

Revolutionizing the Way People THINK!

Smita's Blog

Founder and Chief Test Consultant at QAZone. Part of the 3rd billion.

The Social HR Connection

by Ashley Lauren Perez

Blog of Stuart Allen FCMI

Founder & MD of The Sales Performance Company Ltd www.TheSalesPerformance.co.uk

Customer Service Power . . . Turn it On!

Melissa Kovacevic on Service, Coaching, Contact Centers

Creative Writing with the Crimson League

Creative Writing Tips and Authorial Support from Fantasy Writer Victoria Grefer

LeadStrategic

Challenging Leadership Thinking ... To Enable Strategic Improvement

On Purpose Magazine

Inspiring, Educational, Enlightening and Entertaining Content of Value

Political Musings-At the Sunset of My Life

Just another WordPress.com site

Good Management Is Not, LLC

Keynotes, Workshops, Job Skills Coaching, Home of the Six Second Résumé™

The Art of HR: Tim Vanderpyl

My thoughts on leadership, human resources and theology

Little things that Matter - Lalita Raman

Transitions, People, Leadership and Life

AnneThomas.net

"ALWAYS IN THE BLACK"

My Gray Stripes

Becoming whole through family life. Desserts help.