Staying Connected – We’re Better Together

I produced a video yesterday for our local leadership networking forum, First Fridays Fort Wayne.  I wanted to share the text of what I said on video.  This is all about how we can stay connected during this quarantine environment that we are all hoping ends soon.

child zoon

…We’ve moved meetings and events to Zoom and Skype platforms.  We’ve been entertained by the sound of barking dogs, children asking a parent for something to eat, and squealing brakes of a garbage truck in front of our house while these meetings go on.  We’ve hoped and prayed our internet speed holds up.  We’ve been bombarded with emails, instant messages, and more meetings.

And we do all of this in relative isolation from each other.

We are suffering from what someone in our area has called technology fatigue.

Don’t get me wrong.  Technology is great!  But is cannot ultimately replace the face-to-face interactions that so many of us are missing.

So how can you stay connected professionally during this quarantine?

  1. Talk with another leader outside of your company. Pick up the phone, Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, etc. Literally, talk with someone you were connected with prior to the quarantine.  It does not have to be about work or your career.  Just make a person-to-person contact.  A friend called me the other day to ask some questions.  It was SO GOOD to hear his voice.  We need this kind of interaction.  Just like the old telephone commercial says, “Reach out and touch someone.”  (just don’t physically touch them…we’re not supposed to do that!)  You get the jist…

Contact me

  1. LinkedIn connections. So many of you are on LinkedIn today.  This is a great tool to stay connected.  When you read someone’s post, comment on it.  Send them a message.

 

  1. Write a note and mail it. Let me say that again – write someone a note and mail it.  That still works!  Encourage someone.  Tell them you are thinking of them.  Ask them to pass this idea along and to send someone they know a similar note.

 

  1. Email someone. About once a month, I send a few people an email thanking them for their contribution to our community.  I thank them for how their company is positively impacting us all.  It makes a difference in that person’s life.  Try it.

book                                                          podcast

  1. Recommend a book to read or a podcast to listen to. Do this through your socially media channels.  There are many of us out here who are looking for the next book to read or a podcast that will help us grow.  You can be a resource for someone’s personal, professional growth.

 

  1. Even in the midst of a quarantine, you can network. Attend a First Fridays online event.  As I shared earlier, we have some great online events coming in May. Greater Fort Wayne (our local chamber of commerce) is offering a variety of sessions with flexible times/days to connect with others.  Take advantage of these great opportunities.  Make technology work for you to network!

 

  1. Give back. We all know how devastating this quarantine has been.  So many businesses are at risk of closing never to open again. I’ve driven by small businesses in town seeing their site closed with For Sale signs out front.   Support local businesses in any way you can.  Order carry out from local restaurants.  Buy a t-shirt from them.  Buy other products that they offer.  Recently I order a t-shirt and hand sanitizer from Three Rivers Distillery Company here in Fort Wayne.  It was a simple way to support a local company who has pivoted their business to serve the needs of our community.  It was an investment of $24 from me to do this.

three rivers distillery

 

hand santizer

 

I hope that this quarantine comes to an end very soon.  We need to get our economies going and growing again.  But in the meantime, do what you can to connect with local leaders.

Let’s keep our community’s foundation strong.  Encourage one another.  Help one another.

As my new t-shirt says, “We’re better together.” 

The First 7 Seconds

Change the Way

I am re-reading a great book by Dr. Kathryn D. Cramer and Hank Wasiak.  The book is Change the Way You See Everything.  I’m in the section that talks about creating positive interactions/ relationships with others.  Here is something that should make us all think:

 

“Research confirms that the tone you set (positive or negative) in the first seven seconds of any interaction determines the predominant tone for the remainder of the interaction.  Start well, and you are more likely to end well – even in the face of challenging or disturbing interactions.”

Leading a Remote Workforce

business unusual

We are all navigating in a strange new world with the news changing from day-to-day.  We’ve all had to be nimble and flexible in ways we have not expected.

In a meeting I was in this morning, we were asked what we’ve learned with our team working remotely.  My team is comprised of 3 different departments.  Two are working from home and one is onsite right now.  It has been different, but it has worked.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned from having a remote workforce:

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!

  • We are not setting up a lot of meetings, but we do have the option of using Skype for Business.  It has worked as we use it.
  • I’ve asked my leadership team to communicate when:
    • a process is changing
    • a procedure is changing,
    • when they need help, etc.
  • Missing the face-to-face interactions, we need to become very clear in our emails, instant messaging.  Keep communication simple and focused.
  • Pick up the phone and call to avoid miscommunication that can at times happen in an email.

Get closer.

  • I have been reaching out to individual team members to check on them and their families, find out how remote is working for them, their challenges and how I can help.
  • I send notes and tell team members more than ever how much I appreciate them.
    • I visit our call center and “remote” team in another building to check in on them. I say “Thank you” a lot these days.  Note to self:  when this craziness is over, don’t stop saying “thank you” often.

Working remotely works.

  • Introverts love it.  Extroverts miss their team.
  • But this has worked.  It’s different, but it can work.
  • Collaboration between workers and IT has been critical in making this happen in a secure fashion.

 

I’ve shared with my team that right now, it’s not business as usual, but it’s business unusual.  And we are up to the task.

 

What have you learned?

Outdo One Another…

valentine day

Today is Valentine’s Day.  Here in the US, that means there will be lots of flowers and chocolates and cards given.  Restaurants will be packed with lovers.

 

All this brought to mind a verse from the Bible.  It is in Romans 12:10:

“Love one another in brotherly affection.  Outdo one another in showing honor.”

Now, you may not be a person a faith.  That’s ok.  Stay with me here.

I often tell people who ask that I like my job and love the people I work with.  It’s true.  I’m not perfect in this, but most days and in most moments, it’s true.  It’s what drives me to serve them, to push them to be their best, to cheer them on.

But I want to focus on the second part of this verse – “Outdo one another in showing honor.”

What would happen to your company culture if the majority of the team did exactly this?  I know many of us seem to be in competitions with each other within our companies.  People strive to be the top dog in sales.  Project leaders are looking to excel more than the last project manager.

But what if we all started striving to “outdo one another in showing honor.”  How would conversations sound differently?  How would meetings be run?  How would conversations about someone who is not present sound (would those conversations stop?)?  How would even casual interactions change for the better? How would your company’s culture change?

So, on this Valentine’s Day, I challenge you and me to work to outdo one another in showing honor.  I think this could have a positive, systemic effect in your workplace.  It can become a place where we honor, respect, and appreciate each other.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Get Better in 2020

As we prepare for 2020, take some time to ask yourself some key questions.  When many think of goals, they become overwhelmed by the sheer number of goals they believe they “should” have.

I’ve asked my own leadership team these basic questions.  Try them on for size…

What things have you identified that you need to change to make you a better manager of people?

    • What plans do you have in place to improve on that?
    • How can I help in that process?

What are 2 to 3 things your team – if they really focused on – could make the most positive impact in 2020?

  • What will be your role to help them achieve this?
  • How will your team learn about these focal points?

Take time to document your answers to these questions.  If you lead managers, ask them how you can support them in this process.  Then in coaching sessions, regularly review these questions with your team to keep them on track.

Your doesn’t need dozens of goals. They need focus.  And your support.

Make 2020 a great year for your team !

Keys to Being Focused by Jim Johnson

I came across these notes I wrote over 2 years ago.  I thought I would share them here.

keys

KEYS TO BEING FOCUSED:

  • Understand your goals – what is needed to make your company successful?
  • Align your activity around those goals.
  • Make sure your team understands the corporate goals.
  • Filter – if a project, activity, or attitude doesn’t move you, your team, or the company forward, ditch it.  You don’t have time to waste.

 

Meaningful Coaching & Evaluation Conversations

We’ve all experienced a coaching session and written evaluations.  As you think back on your best and worst experiences, what stands out?

Have you left a coaching session and/or evaluation meeting feeling motivated to achieve more and innovate more?  Do these meetings challenge you to perform at your best?

Or do you leave wondering why your manager didn’t mention your recent initiative that demonstrated outstanding results?  Or you leave wondering where you need to improve because your manager is not giving you any suggestions – “Keep at it…”

If you manage a team, you must find ways to make the INVESTMENT of time in individual team members more meaningful.

Do they deserve your (the manager’s) praise?  Then tell them and be specific!  Document it.  Remind them of their great work. A praised person will progressively perform at their pinnacle.

Do they need guidance?  Ask them better questions which will help them discover their path.  Don’t always tell.  Ask more. Engage the team member in their own discovery.

Do they need counseling for corrective behaviors?  Ask for their commitment.  Too often, we managers do all the talking in a meeting where we are discussing behaviors that must change.  All the team member has to do is endure us talking.  Be sure to ask for the commitment from them to change.  Document it.  Expect change.  Observe and monitor behaviors and then follow up.

manager as coachAre they progressing towards success?  Document your sessions so you know!  Find a way to document critical focus actions that lead to success.  Document observations you’ve made.  Be specific.  Put it in writing.  Your team members will appreciate your details – it shows you actually know what you’re talking about!

Are you following up?  A  follow up conversation demonstrates that you (the manager) have not forgotten about the team member’s progress.  Any follow ups – I call these POWER FOLLOW UPS – are powerful because you have an opportunity to connect an observed behavior with a coaching conversation and it reinforces the direction your team member needs to be moving.

Managers/Leaders make their teams better when they themselves become better.

Invest in Praising Someone

big potentialI am currently reading Big Potential by Shawn Achor.  It is a great book, and Shawn is challenging my thinking and reminding me of some great truths.

In today’s reading (chapter 5), Shawn shared some strategies to “enhance your resources.”  One of these resources is praise.  “Praise,” as Shawn states, “is actually a renewable resource…praise primes the brain for higher performance, which means that the more we praise, the more success we create.”

I’m pretty certain that the teams we lead could use more praise.  Praise that inspires them.  Praise that sparks some new idea.  Praise that builds up the individual and the team so that they commit to success and excellence.

One of the ideas Shawn encourages the reader to try is this:  Every morning, write a simple yet detailed message (text, email, actual card you mail) to someone in your life.  In this message, tell them “thank you” and “I appreciate you.”.  Be specific and authentic.

This not only will brighten that person’s day, but it will cause your brain to seek out others who you can encourage tomorrow and the next day and the next.

I did this today already.  It’s 7:59 am.  I have sent a “happy birthday” email to a mentor of mine.  He has blessed my life in so many ways.  I have told him so and today I told him he also blesses so many others – in fact, he is heading to Michigan today to give a talk.  I know that the audience will love what he shares.

I texted my 14 year old son.  He set out to improve his grades this year.  And he has done  it.  He’s been consistent.  He’s focused on his goal.  I told him all this and how I much I notice this and appreciate this.

I emailed my worship pastor.  Last night as we together lead worship with a group of nearly 150 kids, I majorly screwed up the intro to the first song.  I mean I was on a totally different planet than the rest of the band – and I had the lead part!  After our set, I apologized to Sam.  He didn’t scold me.  He laughed with (at?) me.  I deserved it.  He is so gracious.  He keeps the bigger picture in perspective – nobody went to hell because of my mistake.  I told him I appreciate him.

So, I encourage you now to take a moment to find someone to thank and/or appreciate.  Text them.  Email them.  Send them a card.  Use a social media messenger.  But do it.

As Shawn wrote in chapter 5:

dont be merely good

What You Don’t Say Matters by Jim Johnson

If you yelled for 8 years, 7 months, and 6 days, you would have produced enough sound energy to heat one cup of coffee.  (from The Book of Useless Information)

I believe in coaching.  I read about it.  I talk about it.  I spend intentional time observing my leadership team as they coach.  Effective coaching works.

Here is one thing I have learned about coaching:  what you don’t say matters.

Many of us can easily fall into the trap of doing most if not all of the talking during a coaching session with one of our team members.  We are passionate about what is going on.  We want the best performance from our team member.  And in our exuberance, we talk too much. We truly believe we are doing the right thing but all we are accomplishing is taking one slow step towards heating up a cup o’ Joe. As a leader, you need to generate a lot more energy towards performance and results than this.

How do you combat this tendency of many coaches?  Ask more questions. 

In your prep time, create intentional questions you need to ask your team member to get a bottom-line issues.  Here are some samples I’ve used in teaching coaching with coaches:

1.     What is happening now (what, who, when, and how often)? What is the affect or result of this?
2.     How have you already taken any steps towards your goal?
3.     How would you describe what you did?
4.     Where are you now in relation to your goal?
5.     On a scale of one to ten where are you?
6.     What has contributed to your success so far?
7.     What progress have you made so far?
8.     What is working well right now?
9.     What is required of you?
10.  Why haven’t you reached that goal already?
11.  What do you think is stopping you?
12.  What do you think was really happening?
13.  Do you know other people who have achieved that goal?
14.  What did you learn from _____?

Let’s commit to halt the “brewing” of future coffee.  Listen more.  Think more.  Ask more. Talk less.

old coffee brewer