Are You Holding the String?

I shared some of these thoughts with someone just a moment again via email.  I thought I would share this with you.

Are you the CEO, VP, Director, Manager, etc. on your team?  If so, your team needs something from you.  If you are in a team meeting, departmental meeting or all-company affair, don’t discount your impact in those moments.

plumb bob

I’m sure you know this is a plumb bob.  It is used to insure accuracy in construction.  A carpenter’s eye can deceive him.  But a plumb bob cannot be “off”.  The weight and gravity work in accordance with laws of physics.  The plumb bob always shows what is in line/accurate.

Your team does not intend to ever “get off” the line (expectations) in their daily work.  But it happens.  Life events push in on them.  Relationships in the office can become strained.  We all can have bad days.  Sometimes, a customer can be a jerk.

Our teams get off-kilter.

When you have your time in front of your team, it is a perfect time to help them re-calibrate.  To hear and see the vision again.  This is their plumb bob.  And you get to hold the string.

You believe in your company’s vision/mission.  Like it or not, your team looks to you at these key events to hold the string, remind them of their “calling”, spray a little Windex on the vision, and point all of your team’s ships in the same direction.

Be great at this.

That’s what your team needs from you.  To be your best self.  Your team all loves that, wants that, and needs that.

Intentionally Value Others by Jim Johnson

value others

At the end of May, I had the opportunity to speak at the NACAAP Annual Conference in Denver.  In one of my sessions, I spoke on how leaders can add value to customers, coworkers, and their communities.  Part of what I shared was based upon John Maxwell’s writing.  Here’s a snippet of what I shared…

Remember, our work is not about quotas or reports.  Our work is about PEOPLE.

We tend to focus our work on data, reports, spreadsheets, etc.  When we do this, we miss the most important part of our day – the people around us.

So we need to intentionally value others.  How do we do that?

For me, one of the most effective ways to value others is to intentionally verbalize my appreciation of them and speak potential into them.

I have observed leaders are sometimes hesitant to verbally value their team members.  In fact, years ago I had a boss tell me, “I won’t tell you that you did a good job. Want to know why?  Because if I do that, you won’t try any more.”  This person knew nothing about me or people.  Regardless of your position, we all like to hear “job well done” from time to time.  It does motivate people.

I have been pushing myself to make the time to look a team member in the eyes and tell them “thank you” for their efforts.  I’m working harder at verbally giving them kudos.  I’ve also been intentionally speaking potential into others (i.e. sharing my vision of where I see them growing and ways I will help them get to their goals).

Last week, I gave a leadership book to an emerging leader and challenged them to read it.  I’ve offered that after each section, I would take him to lunch to discuss what he’s been learning.  Intentional.  Purposeful.  Direct.

I’ve had leaders in my life who have done this.  An independent grocery store chain owner did this for me almost 30 years ago.  “As I watch you work, I’m convinced there’s nothing you can’t do if you set you mind to it.”  Those words were (and still are) gold to me.

The founder of an international music organization taught me that anything is possible.  Don’t accept “no” as the final answer – there is always a way to make something happen. These words helped me maneuver through tough situations in Indonesia and in Communist-controlled Estonia (25+ years ago).  I apply this mindset in my life today.

I speak potential into my own son during baseball season.  I’ve seen my own words become reality to him.  I hope he holds on to these words.

There is no down-side in speaking value and potential into another human being.  But we miss out on changing someone’s life when we withhold empowering, encouraging words.

Today, speak value to someone else.  Speak their potential.  It will change them.  It will change your team, your company, your community.

Leaders truly value others – and it is intentional.

 

Ask for the Commitment by Jim Johnson

I do a lot of coaching and work with coaches on their coaching.  Over the years, I’ve heard from coaches where they have team players that “do get it”.  Through many coaching sessions, the team player continues to remain where they are, not improving.  At times, this static-ness becomes a detriment to the team.

In a conversation with one of these coaches who had one of these team players, I asked, “Who does most of the talking during your coaching sessions?”

“I do,” the coach quickly responded.

“And you continue to see the same results from this team member?”  I ask.

“Yes, and I’m frustrated!”

“Then talk less,” I say, “it’s time you ask them for a commitment to change.”

This launched us into a good conversation about the coach’s focus – it had been all about what the coach wanted to happen.  The team member only had to sit and listen.  The team member “had to have skin in the game.”  They just had to endure a coaching session, and then it was back to the same behaviors.

There was no commitment coming from the team member.  None.

So the coach and agreed upon these next steps:

  • At the next coaching session, the coach would approach the same topic but this time ask the team member for their commitment to the process.
  • The coach would ask something such as:  “What things do you need to do more of or less of to bring about the change needed in your performance and to improve your relationships with your coworkers?”
  • The coach then needed to be quiet and expect answers from the team member. Ask more follow up questions and listen.
  • The coaching session would be documented and followed-up on.
  • The coach would take time in between coaching sessions to be around the team even more to observe and listen.
  • Feedback would be provided at future coaching sessions.
  • The team member’s commitment would be reviewed and evaluated in future sessions.

This plan was implemented.  It worked.  The coach remained consistent.  The team member complied and improved.  But she eventually left the company.  Why?

Expectations were backed up with accountability – the team member didn’t want this kind of accountability over the long-haul.  She knew (in my opinion) that she would not keep up her end of the commitment.  So she left.  And that was ok.

The coach’s team is now performing well together.  Their results have improved.  Their reputation has improved among their peers.

Leader, do not be afraid to ask for a commitment from your team.  Back up your expectations with accountability.  Be consistent in your coaching, documentation, and follow-up.  Your team can and will improve!

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Coaching to Become Better by Jim Johnson

coaching

Will your team get better just because they show up for work?  Doubtful.

Coaching is the only, sustainable way to improve your team.  Of course, your team needs training and communication, but coaching is the only way YOU, the coach/manager/leader, will be able to enable them to become better.

As a leader, you cannot rely on other leaders to improve their teams to compensate for weaknesses on your team.  Each team leader must dedicate themselves to team improvement.  Then, as a whole, your company becomes better.

Improve your coaching and you help your team members become better.  Then your team becomes better.  Your company (and your customers and communities) become better.

That’s a winning combination.

 

Voice vs. Vote by Jim Johnson

Every day, decisions are made at organizations everywhere.  In some companies, a select few are chosen to make the decisions.  In other organizations, more of a team approach is taken.  And there are plenty of examples of everything in between.

Your team members need to understand how decisions are made in your particular company, and they should understand what role they could play in the decision-making process.

I call the the Voice vs. Vote understanding.

If you serve in a company that allows team contribution during a decision-making venture (i.e. bringing on a new vendor, new software solution, etc.), be sure you are doing the following with/for your team members:

  1. Be on their side.  Actually, breakdown the “sides” and help them know their input is important to share.  And have them share it in the appropriate channels.  Ask for and expect open communication and the flow of ideas.
  2. Encourage them.  I’ve seen team members complain about a process but they offer no input into that process.  Encourage them to get involved!
  3. Give power to their voice.  Get them on a project where their experience and expertise are needed.  Expect collaboration.  Tell them that their voice needs to be heard.  Help connect them to the right people during a decision-making process so their voice is heard.
  4. Help them succeed.  Don’t assume your team member knows how to voice their opinion into a decision-making process.  Show them the way.  Help them succeed – even if their idea is not acted upon.
  5. Help them understand.  The decision-making process, recommendations, and letting go are critical for your team to understand.  Do not assume they already know how the “powers-that-be” operate.

Hopefully at your organization, everyone has a voice.  But as I explain to my team, not everyone gets a vote in the end.  But the voices during the decision-making process are vital for great decisions to be made.

speak up