Here in the US, we are celebrating Halloween today. Our children will be out and about this evening trick-or-treating and filling their bags will all kinds of sweets. It is rarely scary and always a lot of fun.
So allow me some latitude to ask: do you know what is frightening you in the workplace today? Let me offer up some scary realities that left unattended can bring on unproductive teams and can often lead to chaos. Leaders, be ware!
Lack of communication
No company-wide vision
“Do as I say, not as I do” coming from leadership
Failure to confront issues
Passive aggressive behaviors
Lack of investment in the team in mental, physical, and financial wellness, personal/leadership development, community outreach
I listed just a few here. So what is the remedy?
Ask yourself: “what am I blind to?” Then address those things.
Develop authenticity. You may need help with this. You cannot merely dictate real change. You need to model it.
Ask your team where they need help? Then act on what you learn.
Bring in a consultant to help you deal with really tough issues that have been ignored for too long.
Communicate. Be vulnerable while keeping the team moving in a positive, forward-moving growth mode. It can be done.
Address what is frightening you and your team/organization. Take the lead to recalibrate if necessary. Keep things real. Keep accountability at the forefront.
For over 30 years, I have been privileged to lead great teams in various organizations. Together, we have pushed ourselves to continually become better. We have held each other accountable even if it became uncomfortable. We worked to have a one-mind approach to our success.
Over the years, I have learned some things about leading teams.
I connected better with my teams when I got to know them better personally. I truly care about the people I serve. I have listened as they shared about their children. I have seen them worry before certain tests were going to happen that would determine long-term care for a child.
I have attended weddings, visited them in the hospital, delivered meals to their homes, and attended their funerals. Caring makes leaders vulnerable, but it is such an authentic way to connect with teams.
Team members want to be coached. They want to improve when they know they are valued. Coaching can pinpoint areas needing improvement as well as celebrating with them when they overcome an obstacle. Coaching means asking great, probing questions to get to the core of issues.
Team members do not like uncertainty. I’ve learned to be available via email, Skype, phone, or personal meetings. The team has not taken advantage of this. But they know I’m open to invest time with them in order to keep our communication lines open. I’ve learned so much from my teams by encouraging open communication.
And I have learned to model open communication.
My teams have accomplished great things over the years. They banded together to make what seemed to be impossible possible. They have reached out to those in need in the community in order to make someone else’s children have a dream Christmas. They’ve shattered expectations in sales and service initiatives.
And in my coaching sessions, team meetings, and on performance reviews I celebrate them. They love the retelling of their story of success.
I have been a promoter of the organizations I have served. I have liked working there. But I have loved my teams. Watching them grow and develop, advance in their careers, and triumph in personal trials has been a privilege for me.
What have you learned about teams from your experience?
“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
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 youwill be listeningmore closely to your staff, reflecting backwhat you hear and questioningthem in order to bring out theirideas 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!
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!
All along my employment journey, I have had positions that had varying amounts of responsibility, and I believed I held myself very accountable. If asked in the summer of 2008 (when I became CEO of a publicly traded company), how accountable I held myself, I would have answered that I held myself extremely accountable.
I was wrong.
That is hard to say, and it took me a few years to see the light, and probably another year or so to admit it. What happened?
I was in front of the very same board (I was CEO of the company’s largest subsidiary prior to the summer of 2008). I knew all the details and activities of the company. However, there was now no one between me and the directors. One of the directors sole focus was holding the CEO accountable – period.
At first, I thought it was about blame. Then I thought is was just about picking on me. Then I thought is was personal.
Once again, I was wrong.
This director did not care about blame. It was not personal, and he was not picking on me. He just cared about what I was going to do to correct things going forward and to insure poor results did not reoccur.
He did not care how it happened, or who did it. He did not care if 15 of the 16 key metrics were good. He wanted to know why all sixteen were not good. What was I doing about the one bad metric?
I could not play CYA. I could not say that overall we were good. I could not use any other tactic to get around it. I had to own everything. I was CEO because a great majority of my decisions were good ones. I was CEO because a great majority of my actions were the right ones. I was CEO because I had selected the right strategies. However, as CEO I had to be held accountable for 100% of what is going on. It was the board’s job to hold me to that standard.
A funny thing happened along the way. I became more and more comfortable with this level of accountability. I recognized it was not about blame. It was about always getting better. It was about improvement. It was about be able to face adversity and take on that challenge versus hiding from it. The more accountability I took, the easier it became.
Errors or bad results are just challenges to overcome. Bad things happen – always. It is not about avoidance, but honestly admitting these ‘bad things’ and coming forward with solutions and actions to overcome them.
So how do you respond when bad things happen? Do you blame others? Do you divert attention? Do you CYA? Do you hide, or do you own it, see it as a challenge, and come back with solutions, ideas, and tactics to overcome the issues?
I want to work with people who hold themselves and others accountable. Easier said than done, but it is so worth it!
As an aside, as I was working on becoming more accountable and less defensive, I would sometimes say in a board meeting – “Thank you for pointing that out. I am sure I will appreciate it tomorrow.” I was half kidding, but once I got over my defensive posture, I knew I would be a better person for it.
The cool thing? The more accountable I became, the less fear I had. The less fear I had, the more accountable I was. It was a self fulfilling prophecy.
So next time something bad happens to you or to your company, or division, or team, go down the checklist. Did you hide? Did you blame? Did you CYA? Did you divert? Or did you state the issue and lay out how to correct the problem and keep it from happening again?
The news is still churning on the Wells Fargo Bank story of how thousands of employees opened bogus accounts for their customers in order to pad their results and earn incentives. The CEO of Wells Fargo has been marched up to Capitol Hill where lawmakers have demanded answers. It’s ugly.
But for the rest of us, perhaps we should take advantage of this to inspect what we are expecting out of our teams. I’ve heard a lot of self-righteous talk such as, “we’d never do that!”. I hope not.
It wouldn’t hurt to follow up recent customer interactions to see how your team behaves, speaks, and presents themselves. I am fortunate that I work in an environment where I and my managers can listen in on phone calls. We ask for and receive a lot of customer feedback that gets reported up and down the line. We follow up on both the positive and negative.
Customer engagement and retention is always critical. Take the time to invest in a little inspection of your standards. Freely share your kudos to your team members that are representing your team and company with excellence. Coach team members that need to improve.
I’ll be meeting soon with someone who is interested in coaching. I’ve not shared much about this, but I am available to meet with folks who want you improve at their job, work towards advancement, public speaking, and even personal health. I have great resources available to me through the John Maxwell team as well as my own materials.
If this interests you or if you know someone who would benefit from this, contact me. We can do lunch or coffee and talk about the possibilities. If you’re outside my hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana, we could also meet via Skype. You can reach out to me at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
I attended a meeting this morning where a manager (not one of my direct reports) shared a frustration with a staff member of his. This employee would often “forget” to get something done – sometimes something fairly important. This manager asked for suggestions that would help him coach more effectively. A few suggestions were floated around: “You need to find out why they forget these things.” “Maybe they’re not clear on what you want.” etc.
I had a suggestion but kept quiet in the meeting. I’m not sure why I did. I was a guest of this group. Perhaps I didn’t want to impose my thoughts where they might not have been welcome. I also could have left it there.
But I didn’t.
I later called the manager. In fact, we just finished chatting. I shared some specific ideas he could use today to move this forgetful employee towards improvement. We already have some great coaching tools and technology he could use today. We had a very good talk, and he ended our conversation by thanking me for my “insights” into management.
I’ve not interacted with this young man before. I enjoyed our talk. I could hear the passion in his voice. I could sense his wanting this employee to grow beyond this stage of forgetfulness. I appreciated his desire to help others grow and develop. I wouldn’t mind having this leader on my team!
I would have missed all of this had I not acted and followed up with him.
This post is simply an encouragement to act on intuition. As a leader, you have experience to offer others. Act. Get involved. Follow up. It’s worth it.
Observation coaching involves something called “power follow ups”. If you see or hear something that is not the standard you set for your staff member, try the following:
You observe an employee, Joe, waiting on a member. During the interaction, the employee rarely made eye contact and he did not use the customer’s name (both standards for your company). As soon as the customer walks away from the transaction, turn to Joe and say (quietly to them directly), “Joe, I noticed that while that customer was here, you hardly made eye contact with them. You also did not use their name. We’ve been trained that those 2 simple interaction skills make a big difference in how we build important relationships with our customers. I’ll be here observing the next several transactions. I need you to work on those 2 skills. In a while, I’ll give you my feedback on how you did. I know you can do this.”
Do you think Joe will make the changes? You bet! He knows that you know how he is interacting. You just witnessed it. He also knows that you are intentionally watching him and that he now has his marching orders. After several more interactions with customers, watch what happens in the following interactions:
Joe begins to make eye contact, intentionally uses the customer’s name and even smiles.Here’s your power follow-up, “I knew you could do it, Joe! That was great. Did you see how Mrs. Jones responded to you? She even asked you some additional questions that allowed you to talk about that new product. You’ve proven you can do this. Remember, our commitment is to do this at every encounter every day. It will become habit. Super job, Joe. I appreciate your concentration on this.”
You have just provided immediate, specific feedback on your employee’s performance.
He performed + you observed + you praised = a power follow-up
Chances are he will become more consistent with his customer interactions. By the way, don’t make this the last time you ever observe this employee on this issue.
Observing coupled with a power follow-up also works with negative behavior. The secret here is to give your power follow-up in a more private environment such as your office or a side room away from other employees. You never want to embarrass a team member in front of others on the team. It will only demotivate or anger that person.
As someone once said, “you have to inspect what you expect” and that means getting out and observing.