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Feedback

April 13th, 2009 No comments

Feedback delivered in an open and respectful manner is definitely a gift.  Assuming that the receiver of the feedback was ready for the feedback, they have now learned some vital information about themselves or their behavior.  Unfortunately in many cases, the creation of the awareness is where it stops.

What separates the winners from the mice, is how they use this new found awareness to their advantage.  The chances of success are greatly increased with help, so enlist the help of the person that provided the feedback.  Get them to define the behavior exactly and also what they believe is the desired behavior.

In many cases it also helps to identify a role model and learn from them.  In the ideal case, enlist the role model to act as a coach or mentor.  Do not forget to enlist the help of peers or direct reports and practice, practice, practice.

If yo do not have clarifying questions, just respond with a “Thank You”.  If you have questions, ask them but do not defend the behavior.  Someone is sharing feedback with you and therefore thank them for that.  If you disagree with the feedback, you need to stay in control and decide how you would like to file it.  Just say “Thank You”.

Categories: Behavior, Leadership Tags: ,

Leadership

April 7th, 2009 No comments

So what is this leadership thing all about?  Henry Kissinger had this to say:  ““The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.”

Here is my definition:  “a Leader must provide their Followers what they Need in any given Situation

This might be stating the obvious but leaders exist for their people.  Followers decide for themselves who they want to follow and therefore it is up to us convince our followers to follow our lead.

Now lets look at needs, I chose this term because, to me, it is indicative of what our people need and not their wants.  We all want a salary of $3 Million per month but realistically we only need enough of a salary to allow us to pay for our basic needs.  e.g. food and shelter.

Leadership is situational and in many situations it does not require the same person to always be the leader. In most cases, all it requires is someone that is credible to them to meet the followers needs (leadership)  in that situation.  Be aware that not all situations require a leader.

Categories: Leadership, People Tags: ,

Managing Expenses Proactively

March 11th, 2009 No comments

Considering the recession that we find ourselves in, I guess it is not surprising that I find myself having many discussions about how to handle the situation where cuts needs to be made.  Unfortunately, I have watched many leaders take an overly optimistic view and totally underestimate the dip of the market and then over estimate their available resources to weather the storm.  For startups with limited resources, this can be fatal.

market-trend-2

In this graphic, I have used the blue line to denote the revenue coming into a company.  The red line denotes the expense reductions that the company is making with the exact points of reduction marked with the A, B, C and D markers.  The area marked in green between the two lines is the bad zone for companies without sufficient reserves to weather the downturn.  Unfortunately, I have also seen  the plug getting pulled because of insufficient funds.

Although this approach is fairly common, it tends to have a rather disastrous affect on the people in the company.  The people are under continuous threat of additional cuts and therefore some of them resort to some rather significant self preservation behaviors.  In these circumstances, the teamwork takes a backseat and as such the productivity also take a massive hit.  In addition, talent retention is an issue and in most cases the best people walk first, because they can, leaving the lower caliber folks behind.

market-investment

This graph shows a totally different behavior and the blue line shows the incoming revenue while the green line shows expenditure.  In this case the expenditure has been drastically reduced when the incoming revenue has declined.  In this graph, I have created the impression that there is very little between the incoming revenue and the expenditure but there are some very successful companies that follow this model but have a much healthier buffer between the the incoming revenue and the expenditure.  In this case, cuts in expenditure are made at points A and B and these cuts do mean job cuts.  Nothing should be spared from the cuts.  e.g. it is far better to sacrifice the free sodas instead of your office mate.

The purple area is where the company is doubling down and investing for the market upturn.  This investment, provides the company with a head start on their competitors.  This approach has some significant benefits because the people trust the management more because they are actively managing the situation.  In addition because a strategy is being followed, it creates an open environment that is predictable for the employees and leads to much less fear and uncertainty.  I have found this approach to be much more acceptable to the high performers and therefore allows you keep the staff that you want to keep.

Lesson Learned: Am I Behaving Like a Teenager?

March 5th, 2009 No comments

Let’s call this executive Steve, he is a  senior level executive, in his early 60’s.  He is very well respected by the people in his organization in a large part due to his extremely calm demeanor.

Steve’s directs are all VP’s in the company and they had been struggling with an issue for close on 7 weeks and were all frustrated.  To make matters worse, these execs had allowed the issue  to impact their interpersonal relationships with some of them having their little versions of the “cold war”.

So during a meeting in the boardroom, Steve watched with mounting displeasure as his directs expressed their frustration at not being able to solve the problem.  Each of them proceeded to provide excuses or point at some or other reason why they could not address the issue on hand.  Steve demonstrated his patience and calmness again by allowing each of them to express their opinions. He then asked them how they were working together on addressing the issue.  Again they behaved in like ducks with watertight backs.  Steve then asked them about what they would do if they were in his shoes?  Again they had many words and Steve slowly stood up.  Some of his directs paid attention but others did not.

However, when Steve slammed his hands down on the table, the loud clap drowning out the expletive that he had just uttered.  All of his directs stared at Steve, dumbfounded, and then he said something:  “If I wanted to hear reasons why this cannot be done, I would have asked my teenage son!  I am paying you significantly more to solve problems.  So why don’t you stop behaving like teenagers and act like the professionals that I am paying you to be!”

Needless to say, his directs had a solution ready for him four hours later.

So the Lesson that I Learned from this, has changed how I approach things.  Now, when I am moaning or bitching about something, I simply ask myself:  ” am I behaving like a teenager?”  If the answer is yes, then I modify my behavior and to ensure that I am adding value.

learning from Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer

February 21st, 2009 No comments

I was watching the Tour of California this morning in the company of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin, the best cycling commentators in the world.  They mentioned that Lance Armstrong analyzes his time-trial performances and makes changes to his training regime to ensure that he meets his season goals.  This got me thinking about the parallels between world-class competitive cycling and business.  The stage was the time-trial  to Solvang and was won by Levi in style with him crossing the line with three fingers extended, indicating his pursuit of his third win.  Go Levi!!  Here are my thoughts:

  • focus on the goals – set the goal(s) and stay focused on achieving the goal(s).  Successful sportsmen are great examples of this behavior and I find that this is a challenge for people in business.  Set the goal and evaluate your efforts to ensure that they are contributing to the goal.  Do not forget that it also takes sacrifices and it is not only what you do but also what you do not do.  For us in the business world, it mainly manifests itself with spending too much time on tasks that do not contribute to achieving the goals.  A good example is the water cooler talk.
  • preparation – During the post stage interview, Levi spoke about his experience of riding the stage in training and knowing how his body responds at the various points of the stage.  This is no different to us in the business because we also need to come to the table prepared.  For us it might mean doing our research, gathering data or something like socializing an idea to gather feedback from our colleagues.
  • confidence in your own abilities – you just have to believe in yourself!  Belief in yourself is key and it is contagious because everyone likes winners.  Just be careful of coming across as arrogant!
  • learning from feedback – top sportsmen are used to getting feedback from their coaches and management.  In the business world, I have seen this improve over the years with feedback from managers and peers now becoming more and more prevalent.  The key for us in the business world is to adjust our behavior based on that feedback.
  • self awareness – The ability to evaluate your behavior and performance objectively is key.  No matter what your chosen profession is, this step is required to get to the top.  It takes regular introspection and self evaluation, which for me is a less than pleasant experience.  A trick here is to do postmortems as part of the process, thereby depersonalizing the experience and making it less of an attack on our egos.

change and stress

January 6th, 2009 No comments
change stress distress graphic

impact of change on us

Based on my experience of dealing with people across the globe, I believe that change always has an impact us.  The actual change event can be fairly small, the impact on us manifests itself as stress. In the change-stress-distress graphic, the black circle is the actual change.  The perceived impact of the change will cause stress, which is shown in green.  The stress level is still fine because it has not crossed our tolerance level, shown in red.  This is key because when the stress expands to more than our tolerance level, the stress becomes distress.

when the stress becomes distress

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distress

As you can see in the graphic on the left, all that is visible is the red, which means distress.  For people in this situation, it is now a rescue situation where the first priority is to rescue the person from the distressful situation.

stress

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.Unfortunately just because the person is no longer in distress, it does not mean that we can work on the change yet.  Looking at stress graphic on the right, we still cannot see the change and therefore we cannot work on the change.  We still need to get the stress under control and only then can the change be addressed.

lesson learned: always assume positive intent

January 1st, 2009 No comments

I had a manager that always told me –  “always assume positive intent”.   Normally this was when we were discussing an issue that was controversial or emotionally charged.

Implementing this lesson in my day-to-day dealings, I find that as long as I approach the situation with an “assume positive intent” mindset, I am generally able to overcome most challenges much quicker and with far less conflict.