I spent 5 minutes today reading an article by Geoffery James today. It is a clear & concise article titled 8 Core Beliefs that make extraordinary bosses
I spent 5 minutes today reading an article by Geoffery James today. It is a clear & concise article titled 8 Core Beliefs that make extraordinary bosses
Many a true word is spoken is in jest and I had to laugh when I saw this post showing the Org Charts of some of the large hi-tech companies.
Earlier this week I downloaded a paper titled “Eight Signs of Incompetent Managers”. The link to register and download the paper is at the bottom of the post.
Based on research that Profiles International conducted to identify America’s most productive companies, they identified the following Eight Signs of an Incompetent Manager
I arrived early at a restaurant for a meeting and overheard a discussion while waiting for the others to arrive. Here is an excerpt from their conversation that resonated with me.
They don’t get it! They are oblivious to the fact that no one trusts their team. I mean they claim to be transparent but when we need information from them, need have to search for it ourselves. I think it is short sighted on their behalf when they watch me search, even if we ask them for help and they don’t help. Then when we find the information that we need, they claim that they are being transparent with us. Yeah right!!
I discussed this behavior with a colleague and he was familiar with the behavior that was being discussed above. He labeled it as “discovery driven disclosure”. He also mentioned that he had experience with behavior in the past and it had been really difficult to partner with that team because their behavior undermined trust. As a result, the teams spent a lot of time questioning each other and not so much time collaborating which impacted their ability to successfully deliver a solution.
The comments and followup discussion got me thinking about Trust.
Trust is the basis of all relationships, both personal and professional. We all establish trust with others in our own manner. We also have our own starting expectations for others when it comes to us trusting them. Some of us will trust others with little evidence, giving them the benefit and assuming positive intent. Others expect the trust to be earned and start off with a much lower level of trust.
Building on this starting point for trust, let’s look at some of the other elements that influence how we establish trust. The first one, is how the role that we perform affects the trust level. We all tend to trust people that have “earned” a higher standing. For example, we expect the chef at a fine restaurant will use fresh ingredients and work in a pristine kitchen when they prepare our food. If that chef is from a Michelin 3 star rated restaurant, then the expectations will be even higher.
The final and most important element is the impact of our actions. Therefore we need to be conscious of the impact of our actions or inactions on our trust level. Be careful of disingenuous behavior, disrespecting others, selfish behavior and of course lack of disclosure or transparency because these behaviors will impact our trust level negatively..
To help illustrate how all of these areas relate to each other and how they impact the level of trust, here is a formula to help quantify the trust level.
a – Starting Expectations
b – Role
c – Actions
To use the formula, each of these variables needs to be assigned a number of between 0 and 5, with 5 being the highest rating. Now just rate each of the elements and then total up the numbers. This will provide you with a qualitative trust rating. Having some of your customers, partners or employees provide you with their ratings, can be an eye-opening experience.
Regarding the evaluation of the total value. This will be unique to you and you will need to determine what numbers you are comfortable with. For me personally, the number needs to be above 10. I also use the formula by assuming positive intent and therefore if I have not seen any actions or behaviors, I assign either a 4 or 5 and then evaluate again when I have more data. Using the graphic below, the red area is the high risk area while the green is the safer area, naturally with the ideal being a perfect score.
I finish this post with a quote a Robin Sharma book: Leadership Wisdom from the Monk who sold his Ferrari.
Being open and truthful also means that you take care of the little issues and skirmishes that come up every day before they escalate into full-blown wars.
Here is an extract from a recent conversation with one of my mentees, let’s call him Larry. First off, a little background: I have been mentoring him for about 8 months and we work at the same company. He is a manager of a team individual contributors that consists of engineers and project managers; the team is focused on solving various tactical business issues and therefore they tend to have 2 or 3 projects running in parallel with each project taking up to 90 days in duration.
Larry: “I never seem to have any time and I am working 60 hours weeks.”
Me: “Why, what are you spending your time on?”
Larry: “I am super-busy ensuring that the projects that I am accountable for are getting done.” ………..he shared a lot of the details that I have removed from this post.
Me: “Humor me please, while he take a little detour into your past. Can you remember when you learned to rides a bicycle?”
Me: “I assume that you rode a bicycle with training wheels for a while?”
Larry: “Yep and then my dad took them off. He ran next to me a couple of times and I cannot remember when he let go. I realized that he had let go when I started to turn around to ride back to the house and saw him standing in the street in front of me.” – he had a big smile on face while he shared this memory from his youth.
Me: “Did you fall?”
Larry: “Ouch, quite a few”
Me: “Was your dad there to pick you up when you fell?”
Larry: “Nope, but my Mom did provide the Band Aids”
Me: “So back to work: Regarding your team, when are you going to let them go and allow them to ride by themselves?”
Larry, with a very started look on this face” “But I cannot let them fail!”
Me: “Why not?”
Larry: “They might not recover”
Me: “Really? Do you doubt their ability to learn from their mistakes?
Larry with a big smile on his face “No! But what happens when they fail?”
Me: “You give them a Band Aid and ask them how they are going fix things. You just need to watch out for the cars to ensure that they do not get killed.”
Larry: “I get it!! Thanks”
Management is similar to teaching someone to ride a bicycle. The trick is not to let go too soon because they will crash. Too late and their learning will be stalled. Once we have let go and they are off riding, we need to keep a look out for the cars to ensure that they are not hit by any cars. In business terms, we need to give our people the room to make their own mistakes, and learn from them. We must resist the urge to stifle them. If they have the self awareness to stop and ask for feedback, then we need to be prepared to provide them with feedback on their behaviors to help them learn and grow.
I don’t know about you but I have run into the situation where a great employee is not delivering the results that the business needs. Here is the question that I ask myself:
If I put that person in a Life or Death situation where they face death if they are unable to deliver the results. Are they able to deliver the results?
And the options are:
I do not recommend that you put any of your people in a Life or Death situation. For me, the ideal approach is to have conversations with them to determine what the issue(s) are. As long as you have already established a culture where they can share issues without any repercussions, they will share with you.
Business has changed: We have moved from business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) to Consumer to Consumer(C2C) model. 20 years ago C2C was pretty much limited to a swap meets.
I believe that the face of management has also changed. There is a move from the pure hierarchical model where top-down rules to a more social form of leadership where the followers get to choose who they want to follow.
To me, there is a new social era of management where leadership plays a much larger role than before. This is especially important when working with Millennials.
Here are some key elements:
I came across this blog post yesterday; it is by F. John Reh and titled Hire Talent, Not Just Skills – http://management.about.com/b/2009/07/06/hire-talent-not-just-skills.htm.
It got me thinking about how hiring the right person can solve both the short term and also the long term challenges that the business is facing. Even the most talented candidate will require time to acclimatize before they can work on meeting the business needs.
However even with someone with immense talent, in addition to time, it takes an investment from the manager to provide the candidate with regular coaching sessions and also ensure that the opportunities are provided for the candidate.
I have seen managers totally ignore this responsibility and as a result not only does the company lose because it takes longer for their investment in the talented candidate to mature. The candidate also loses because their career does not progress as they expected, which often creates a negative perception about that company.
The candidate is not without responsibility in this equation. The candidate needs to evaluate both the managers and the company culture on growth. After the candidate has joined, they now need to manage their growth and totally embrace the opportunities presented.
Recently I had a conversation with a colleague about my post on “hiring the best”. Our conversation hinged on the implications on the manager of hiring less than the best. Here are some of the key points from our discussion.
Both of us were of the opinion that it is much easier on the manager to have more capable people on our teams. Although both of us had many exceptions come to mind where some highly skilled people lacked certain soft skills. We are of the opinion that well rounded and skilled people need little to no guidance from their manager. These people are also able to offload work from us, thereby allowing to focus our time in other areas.
Will Smith’s interpretation of an old Confucius analect is: “You are who you associate with” and this is definitely holds true. In my experience, all it takes is for one person to raise the bar resulting in a positive impact on the team and those who deal with the team.
Then there is the irritation factor. This is when the junior person is not able to meet the expectations, or interrupts fellow team members to ask for guidance. The irritation level can grow quickly if the person does not have the soft skills needed or the mental horse power needed to learn quickly and perform.
A junior person requires time to learn and get up to speed. They have to improve on multiple fronts: They need to learn how to fulfill the role and also learn the skills needed to deliver the goods. This takes time, drive and effort. To contrast this where the more experienced/senior person can adapt to the new environment. Because they already have the skills, they are able to simply slot into the role and start to deliver the goods.
Having spent many years with startups; I am sensitive to the impact on the cash flow that a senior and experienced person can have. I do believe that hiring the best that you can afford is the best option for all concerned. The return-on-investment (ROI) for the more skilled person far outweighs costs and in most cases I believe that a skilled person with soft skills is worth way more than a more junior and less capable person.
For the most part, the more junior the person, the longer it takes for them to be fully productive. The more senor people are able to be productive in days or weeks and not months or years.
This can be a massive challenge and I have seen ot go both ways and therefore is one of my hiring requirements now.
By hiring the person that is most capable also increases the team’s capability to deliver more and faster. Because the team is more capable, they are able to achieve more and therefore win more. Winning leads to more winning.
In a previous blog post titled: feedback, I covered how to make the best of feedback that is provided to us. Now let’s take a look at how to give feedback to others in a structured manner. Providing feedback to others, such as our directs, it is not good enough just to create the awareness. As managers we also need to define what the desired state or behavior is and follow it up with the definition of the plan to make changes. So let’s look at the 3 distinct sections of the feedback: Providing the feedback, defining desired state or behavior, determining plan of action based on feedback, and finally the ongoing coaching.
Like all feedback, it is imperative to provide the feedback in a way that the recipient of the feedback can understand it.
The feedback only creates the awareness, as managers we also need to show the way. Therefore rounding out the feedback by providing the light at the end of the tunnel and defining the desired behavior or state provides the person with guidance on what the goal posts look like. In most cases this also goes a long way because it balances out the negative feedback by helping the person by defining what is the desired state. Having discussed the desired state or behavior, have the person define how they see the end state to ensure that they see it in a similar manner. Ensuring that you are aligned at this stage is important because you do not want them heading off in another direction. For the person receiving the feedback, they get to understand where the goal posts are and what they look like.
In our role as managers, we are responsible for providing guidance for our people and therefore after making the direct aware via feedback, and establishing the desired state/behavior. We now need to ensure that the desired state or behavior modification is achieved. This requires a plan of action that both parties agree to with specific milestones that allows for progress tracking.
Sometimes the direct needs additional guidance as they attempt to modify their behavior. They need to feel comfortable to come and ask for additional guidance, either from you or from others. Remember coaching is asking questions in a manner that allows the person to solve the problem for themselves and not corrective instructions.
I have had many discussions with my directs where they are not comfortable with exerting this level of guidance on their directs. Many of them felt that this was looking for conflict.
Look at providing feedback as the gift that it is. Most people like gifts.
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.
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.
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.
I recently had a conversation with some managers regarding their hiring criteria. They were looking at candidates that could fulfill the role that was advertised. I presented them with a different perspective that has caused much followup discussion.
In the graphic above, the yellow dot indicates the work capability of the team. The blue dot is meant to indicate the expected contribution of candidate.
In this graphic, the green dot indicates another candidate with what we expect to be able to contribute more than the blue dot. Bringing someone into the team that is capable of a higher level of work output also tends to raise the output level of the whole team. One of the people that benefits significantly from this addition, is the team manager. The higher the level of the people on the team, the more the manager can delegate, thereby allowing the team manager to expand into other areas.
Therefore simply by bringing in a more capable person into the team, the productivity of the team expands beyond the yellow to include both the yellow and the orange. And over time, it will only increase.
One of the common questions I get about moving to the next level via the management road. i.e. should I move from an individual contributor role into management ? Or should I move into a 2nd level management position from a 1st level management position? To help highlight the difference, here is how I see the differences.
Please let me know if I missed anything.
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.
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.
.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.
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