Same Ol’, Same Ol’ by Jim Johnson

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You’ve heard the definition of insanity, right?  “Doing the same things over and over again but expecting different results.”  Yet (if we are honest), we all are guilty of this from time to time.

Here we are in the middle of 2018.  Are you achieving the goals you set for yourself at the beginning of the year?  Is your team meeting and exceeding their KPI’s?  If not, perhaps it is because while your goals may have changed, your behaviors did not.

Why do we set new goals yet hold on to behaviors that we adopted years ago?  Probably because we are comfortable with what we know.  Also, many of us do not like to be pushed and a great many of us do not like change.

So if you want better results, what’s a leader to do?  Try this:

Shock test.  Sit down with your team leaders and ask them “if we had to produce drastically better results (i.e. 100% improvement) in the next 90 days:

  • How would we approach our work differently?
  • How would we feel about our work?
  • What would we hear ourselves saying to each other, our customers, ourselves?
  • How would our team’s focus need to change?

I actually ran this experiment last fall.  Some of my managers still use the lessons they learned today and are getting more done with more intentional focus.

Read.  Most of the ideas I get come from reading that I’ve done or am currently doing.  Not that a specific idea comes from an author, but reading opens my mind to new concepts – a new way of thinking.  When that happens, I’m in a mental environment where I can see new possibilities and try new things.  And by reading, I don’t just mean books.  Blogs, magazines, LinkedIn content.  Expose yourself to new ideas and you’ll find new ideas to adopt and apply to get better results.

Network.  Find local leaders (or online leaders) and connect with them.  Pick their brains on ways they are working to become better.  I know you will find great insight and inspiration from doing this.

Brainstorm.  Get your team leaders together and, as a group, brainstorm on how you can improve.  Push each other to think differently.  Years ago, I read about the marketing team that was responsible for increasing sales of Raid – the bug spray.  The team came together to figure out a way to jump start lagging sales results.

Raid

At one point, someone in the meeting asked, “what would we not do with Raid?”  The group sat silently for a bit until someone said, “We could make it smell better.”  Again, more silence.  Then they began to discuss why the insect-killing spray smelled badly.  Why couldn’t Raid smell better?  So they experimented and created a more fragrant bug spray.  And sales increased.  All because in a brainstorming session someone asked a different question.

Accountability.  Many times our teams are not meeting expectations because we have failed to hold them accountable for their performance.  Coaching sessions have lost their edge.  Metrics are not talked about.  The team begins to live to the lowest common denominator (i.e. no one should rock the boat).  Poor performance is glossed over.

It has been said that leaders should inspect what they expect.  And that should be done regularly.  It should be documented.  Wins should be celebrated.  Falling short must be addressed.  Accountability gets your team living in “real-ville” quickly and consistently.

Accountability says that competence matters.  Competence leads to confident team members.  All this leads to better customer engagement and improved results.

Same ol’ same ol’ does not work.  Be different.  Do differently.  Become better.

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The Impact of Coaching

“From my point of view coaching is not a tool, it is a way of being. At best it is a way of being with someone so that they begin to believe in, and progress, their own ideas. Coaching your employees can best be achieved by setting up a certified coach training programme for managers so that they can coach their staff successfully by:

• ensuring there are clear agreements and confidentiality
• creating and maintaining the energy and space for them to further their own potential
• encouraging them to take calculated risks
challenging their negative beliefs
• enjoying with them the sense of achievement
• working with them to enhance their potential

Successfully done coaching can greatly enhance the self-belief and motivation of staff, particularly in times of change and uncertainty.”  (excerpt from Coaching in the Workplace by Jackie Arnold).

I agree!  I have found no downside to effect coaching.  Your team wants it.  Your company/organization needs it.  You, the leader, needs it!

So why don’t we do it consistently?

  • Many people don’t know how to coach.
  • Many people don’t value coaching.  “I’ve told them once…why don’t they get it.”
  • Many people don’t value other people.
  • Many people have a skewed idea of what coaching is.

In the article mentioned above, Jackie Arnold goes on to say:

“One significant advantage of coaching is that your employees will begin to take ownership and responsibility for their actions and self-development. The good news is that the manager as coach does not need to come up with solutions. Instead you will be listening more closely to your staff, reflecting back what you hear and questioning them in order to bring out their ideas and solutions.”

My leadership and I have been working on developing our coaching skills.  I am happy to say that they have dramatically improved! They have learned to ask great questions to get to the core of issues.  And they don’t stop with just one question.  They dig.  They probe.  They get their team members to really think.  They get to the bottom of issues.  And their team members are coming up with solutions.

So as you head into a coaching session, prepare yourself by writing down key questions you want to ask.  Avoid questions that can be answered with a yes/no.

Not:  “Did you learn something from that project?”  Rather:  “What did you learn from that project that you can apply going forward?

Not: “Did your interaction with that other department go well?”  Rather:  “How did your interaction go with that department?”

Not: “I see you did not complete the report on time.  Are you going to get it done by next week?”  Rather:  “What got in your way that caused the report to be late?  Who was affected by this delay?  What needs to change in future for you to be more timely?”

It is easy to move into auto-pilot mode as a leader.  You are busy.  You’ve got your own deadlines and initiatives.  But as a leader, you are supposed to get results through others.  And those “others” also can slip into auto-pilot.  Great questions help them break free from that mode.  Great questions help you understand what is happening and why it is happening.  Great questions help you and your team member become better.

Do some preparation in advance, and your next coaching session can improve!

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The Best Version

I just received in the mail the book The Dream Manager (Matthew Kelly). It was recommended to me by a new friend about a week ago.  Here’s an excerpt from the very beginning of the book:

“A company’s purpose is to become the-best-version-of-itself.  The next question is:  What is an employee’s purpose?  Most would say, ‘to help the company achieve its purpose,’ but they would be wrong.  That is certainly part of an employee’s role, but an employee’s primary purpose is to become the-best-version-of-himself or herself…

The company exists for people.  When a company forgets that it exists to serve its customers, it quickly goes out of business.  Our employees are our first customers, and our most influential customers.  

A person’s purpose is to become the-best-version-of-himself or herself.”

I’m looking forward to diving deeper into this book.  Thank you, Scott Druhot, for the recommendation!

Update:  I just finished this book during my lunch!  Wow!  I will be implementing these ideas with my leadership team soon!  You need to read this book!

 

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.