The Slight Edge to Success

I was introduced to the book The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson.  I began reading it yesterday morning while waiting for some work to be done on my wife’s car in the shop.  I am enjoying it and highly recommend it to you .  

I sent the following in an email to my team here at work.  Olson makes a great point on success, and I want to share it with you now.  

slight edge

Jeff Olson shares that most people in life want to experience success but only around 5% actually do something to become successful.  According to Olson (and I agree with him), “success comes through simple, productive actions, repeated consistently over time.”  That is TRUE.

Here’s an example of that.  In the past 3 years, I’ve lost nearly 50 lbs.  I did not wake up the other day and BAM! those 50 lbs were mysteriously gone (wouldn’t that be great!?!).  No, here’s how that happened:

  1. I decided to fight my diabetes by changing the way I ate.
  2. I researched eating a LCHF (low carb/healthy fat) lifestyle.
  3. Every day, I concentrated on reducing my carbs.  For me, I worked to keep my daily carbs to <100g
  4. Every day, I used My Fitness Pal app to keep track of what I ate and how many carbs I consumed at each meal.
  5. Every day, I stuck to my plan.

 

I didn’t intend to lose weight.  My goal was to reduce my blood sugar numbers – I was unhealthy!  But as a “side effect”, I was losing weight by focusing on reducing carbs every day.

Did you read that?  “every day”  My weight loss success was due to the “simple, productive actions, repeated consistently over time.”  I lost 30 lbs in less than 120 days earlier this year.  I’ve kept it off, too.

Here in your job, you can be successful. It will require daily disciplines that are easy to do.  Really, they are easy.  But just like trying to lose weight, disciplines are also easy not to do.  The choice is yours.

So here are 10 Core Commitments for you.  This is my challenge to you.  Work on these commitments every day at every opportunity.  There may be days when you don’t get to all 10, but if you make it a focus, I bet you’ll do more than you think.

10 Core Commitments

  1. Follow-up (issue resolution, member service one step beyond)
  2. Follow-through (keeping our promises)
  3. Ask for the business (connect to our experts)
  4. Be pleasant & professional (smile and use their name)
  5. Ask for referrals (members who are “fans” will promote us – ask them!)
  6. Communicate appropriately (in-person, on the phone, email, texts)
  7. Add value (be helpful)
  8. Use our resources (and apply what we’ve learned)
  9. Take action now (to delay can mean losing)
  10. Listen more (to get to the core of the issue)

 

Actively, Daily doing this will:

  • Build our business
  • Bring us success (and you personally!)
  • Bring our members success
  • Bring our co-workers success
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Follow Up…it makes a difference by Jim Johnson

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.

 

Power Follow-Ups for Leaders & Their Teams by Jim Johnson

From an earlier post…

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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.

The Power of Praise by Jim Johnson

In my experience as a manager/leader of people for the past 30 years and in observing leaders I’ve led, a key behavior is too often missed.  Sure, we’re all good at pointing out areas of improvement.  We follow-up on the progress of a project.  We question our team member on an expenditure.

But we miss something.  Something that is powerful.  Something that is impactful.  Something that can help turn an indifferent team member into a passionate player.

PRAISE

Why is it we overlook this crucial part of leadership?  When a team member has done something great, overcome a hurdle, landed a significant sale, helped move the company forward, or shown initiative beyond their position, we might give a nod.  But so often we skirt by that and move on to “our” agenda.

The Results of Not Praising

What happens when we don’t verbally (or even in writing) praise a team member?

* We show our ignorance.  That’s right.  If our team member has done something significant and we don’t acknowledge it, they most likely will think “he/she has no clue what I do or how hard I work to make an impact here.”  And that is true.

* We exchange price tags.  What we focus on demonstrates what we value.  If we continually focus on what has gone wrong (according to our perspective), we show our team members what we value.  When they have really hit a significant goal or company metric and we basically ignore it, we have taken the “price tag” off that achievement and placed it on “well, we need to talk about how you…”  Where does that leave the team member?  Frustrated.  They just accomplished something that they are required to do – and exceeded expectations.  And what do we as leaders do?  Place value on something else with barely a recognition of their work.  Don’t ever let a team member feel “well, I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t”.

How to Praise

*Be specific.  It may seem like this is out of the “Mr. Obvious” playbook, but praise them specifically for what they have done.  Document this achievement and put it in their quarterly/annual reviews.  I’ve never had a team member be unhappy to review once again a major accomplishment.  They loved seeing it again.

* Make eye contact.  Look them in the eye when you are praise them specifically.  I’m bad at this.  But when I do it, it positively impacts me AND the team member.  It gets all of the focus on what you’re saying.

* Smile.  Again, I’ve got work to do here.  But if you are saying something positive, look positive.

* Remind them of their accomplishment.  Weeks or months down the road, you may be in a coaching session with this team member and they are not having a good stretch.  Remind them of what they can accomplish.  Remind them of what they did “back then”.  They can do it again.  Encourage them.

I just had a coaching session with one of my leaders yesterday.  I was so encouraged to hear how an online class had gone for her.  She took the lead in the class and was recognized for it by her professor.  I was able to put into my own words why this experience is true at her work, too.  She is very passionate about her job, her team, and her impact.  I was able to speak encouragement to her.

A few weeks ago, I sat in on an interview with the leader of my call center.  We were meeting a young lady who was hoping to get our part-time position.  She said at the beginning on the interview that she was nervous and not very experienced in interviewing.

But as my team leader worked her way through the conversation, this young lady spoke clearly, specifically, and confidently of her experiences and what she would bring to the table.  At the end, I said I had something to say.  I asked the young lady to look at me and I said, “you did an excellent job in this interview.  You did not come across nervous.  You gave specific examples of how you handled various work scenarios.  You demonstrated confidence in you as a person and your abilities.  You interviewed very well.”

The young lady almost cried.  She then said that she so needed to hear that.  She told me how much that meant to her.

Oh, yes, we hired her and she started this past Monday in training.

Don’t underestimate praise.  Don’t forget it.  As a leader, you probably don’t know how much your words of praise means to a team member.  The benefits for them, for your team, and for your company are endless.

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So There’s a Problem on Your Team…by Jim Johnson

No manager/leader will ever have a career where everything goes according to the plan.  Something is wrong on the team you lead. The wheels get wobbly on the wagon.  Sometimes they fall off.  Sometimes you have folks in the wagon that you wish were on someone else’s wagon.  Stuff happens.

There are times where a turn-a-round is a pretty simple fix.  Then, again, you’ll be faced with a team that is out of sorts – with each other, with you, or both.  Those times can be tough.

As the leader of your team, it is your responsibility to keep everyone on the same page, right?  Your boss will expect this of you.  Your company’s culture, I’m sure, demands it.  Teams that don’t function appropriately quickly stand out.  Managers who lead these teams also stand out.  So if you’re “stuck” in this situation, how do you handle it?

First, own it.  Whatever is happening…whatever has been said…what ever is the complaint…own what you can of it.  Take responsibility.  There is truth in difficult situations.  Find it and act upon it.  Yes, there will be drama, lies, and innuendos.  Stay clear of those.  Acknowledge the truth and act.

Second, understand your role and your team’s role.  As the leader, you will be setting the tone and leading the charge towards change.  Your team will be watching you.  That’s good.  Model the appropriate attitude and behaviors.  And know that it’s not all on you.  Each member of your team needs to be committed to helping the team out of its hole.  Personal opinions and biases get in the way.  Leaders can fall into the trap of blaming the team.  The team will talk about the leader behind his/her back.  Everyone is looking for a personal win.  But in business, “the house wins”.  You and your team needs to realize that the success of the business is paramount.  The best scenario is to bring alignment from both the leader and the team to what will be the “win” for the company.

Third, communicate.  If things aren’t going as you wish they were, don’t stop communicating.  You are still the manager.  Tell your team where they are succeeding.  Share with them where they are not.  Communicate change clearly.  If you don’t, your team will fill the “holes” with what they assume is happening in the change.  

Fourth, coach.  Spend significant time moving your individual team members forward.  A difficult team environment is not an excuse to stop developing your team.  They need you more than ever.  Keep the conversation on personal growth and your team’s/company’s metrics.  Don’t get caught up in the drama of one employee talking poorly of another employee.  Keep the conversation on what that team member can control and encourage them to meet/exceed their goals.  Give them the resources to do it.  Be there for them.  

Fifth, listen.  If you don’t, someone else will (i.e. HR, CEO).  Practice active listening.  Ask questions and then listen.  Take notes.  Follow up and follow through on what you hear.  Your team has a voice – listen to it.  

If you’re in a rough team environment, take heart.  You have what it takes to lead them out of it.  Keep short accounts with your team.  Don’t ignore bad behavior.  And by all means, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT your interactions with your team.  You’ll be glad you did.  

You are a team leader.  If your team is off track, lead them back on it.  It won’t be easy.  But it’s your job, right?  You can do it.  

 

“Nothing will work unless you do.”  Maya Angelou

 

 

Do you have a “Mother, may I?” Culture? by Jim Johnson

mother may I

 

I recently heard John Stossel make the following statement concerning government:  “when we have a “mother, may I” government, innovation and creativity dies.”  He went on to say that when people are over-burdened with regulations, fewer and fewer people will fight the current to find a better way to do business.  This got me thinking…

Do you have a “Mother, may I?” culture at your company?

  • The staff is petrified to act in the best interest of your customers because they may “get in trouble” for acting first instead of asking first.
  • Your team comes to you constantly throughout the day to get permission to act, get involved, decide on ____________.
  • You have employees who’ve been in their positions for years and they have not generated a new idea, initiative, suggestion, etc.
  • Your team waits for you – the manager, VP, CEO – to decide what to do next.  Until then, nobody moves.

In 2008, I spoke at a national credit union conference at Disney World.  One of the keynote speakers was the former CEO of Mountain America Credit Union (Utah).  In his early days, he once observed teller interactions with members in the lobby of the main branch.  He stated that at almost every interaction, the tellers excused themselves, walked over to their manager’s office and then returned and finished the transaction.  After several interactions, he walked over to one of the tellers and asked why they continued to seek out the manager.  He was told that the manager had to approve almost anything a teller did.  He soon found out that this was happening all over the credit union.

“We had created a sluggish, ineffective bureaucracy here. I set out to change it.”  He did.  The credit union’s assets more than doubled under this man’s leadership in about 12 years.  They acquired several smaller credit unions.  Their business now spans 4 states.

So here’s the question for you:  How do you change from a company of “Mother, may I?” to one that empowers its staff to think, innovate, create, and serve your customers?

I’d love to read your thoughts.  Please share them!

Lead by Telling or Lead by Questioning by Jim Johnson

We’ve all had “that boss” who would dictate directions from afar.  We would be fearful of taking any action on most anything for fear that we were heading in a direction that they would not like.  So, we sat on our hands waiting for our orders.

Leading by telling is not an effective or efficient way to get things done.

One of the things I’ve tried to get better at is to lead by questioning.  This leadership tactic has required me to roll up my sleeves and spend time with my team leaders.  I’ve worked hard to build trusting relationships with them so they aren’t afraid to disagree with me, challenge me or question me.  I’ve had to make it safe to do this with me – the “ownness” is on me.

Just the other day, I sat down with one of my first-year leaders to talk about some results I needed to see improved.  I had been using a report that, I thought, demonstrated the need for improvement in a sales area.  I asked her a lot of questions about the performance of her team and how she managed them in this particular area.   She began questioning where this report came from, who showed it to me, and was it the same report that the lending department actually used.  Since someone in lending gave me the report, I had assumed (oops) that the report was valid.  It was not.  I was able to find the right report and we both got on the same page right away.   But I only learned this when this leader questioned me on it.  We then created a better tracking mechanism that she can use with her team to predict their performance by month’s end.  It was a very good use of our time.

In this interaction, there were a lot of questions and clarifications being used – and this was healthy.  We got to the heart of the matter.  I worked hard not to simply tell this manager to “fix it”, but we talked through the issue and found the resolution that we both needed.

In her post “If You’re Always Giving Order, You’re Not a Great Leader”, Jessica Stillman shares the following:

“Think about a leader and chances are your first image is of someone giving orders — maybe it’s the quarterback in a huddle outlining the next play for his teammates, maybe it’s an army officer coolly  barking commands in the heat of combat. But chances are, when many of us think of leadership, we picture a person telling others what to do.

After all, that’s the essence of leadership, right?

Wrong, says Christine Comaford, an executive coach and author of SmartTribes: How Teams Become Brilliant Together who recently participated in a series of interviews on the website of fellow author Keith Ferrazzi. In the course of a long exchange about leadership, she tells the story of an executive she was coaching who couldn’t stop telling his employees how to do day-to-day things.”

She goes on to say that when a leader asks more questions vs. telling the employee what to do, good things happen:

  • The employee learns that they do have responsibilities (and the abilities) to get things done on their own.
  • The leader cannot create an environment where the staff will not act unless they get permission.  Nothing will get done this way.
  • The leader and the employee will both learn more with this method.

“The great leaders are like the best conductors –

they reach beyond the notes to reach the magic in the players.” –Blaine Lee