Monday, August 3, 2015

Leveraging the power of three

We often write about the importance of allocating one
Google Images:
on one time with direct reports, to make sure that each of your staff members has adequate opportunity to talk with you about current issues, career planning, developmental topics, etc.  But for some purposes, a conversation between two people doesn’t cut it, according to the authors of Tribal Leadership.

Some leaders overuse one on one communication to maintain control over their departments and their employees’ actions.  Tribal Leadership’s authors would tell you that a leader’s excess of one on one communication reveals that he or she is a Stage 3 leader, coming from a mindset of “I’m great (and you’re not)!”

When a leader controls a series of dyads, he or she is always in charge of the message.  The message might change from person to person, unintentionally or otherwise, leading to misunderstanding and conflict.  The one-on-one leader places himself or herself at the hub of the wheel, through which every transaction must pass.  This not only limits the development of the team members – it also limits the scope of operation that the leader can manage.  His or her time is consumed by meeting after meeting with individuals. 

When you introduce and involve two other individuals, whether socially or in a work task situation, you open the opportunity for a relationship between the two of them that is independent of their relationship with you.  When they in turn use the same triad methodology, they begin a process of opening their individual networks to one other, creating a dramatic increase in access to knowledge and other resources.

You can use the power of three to include a content expert in a conversation and drastically increase the speed with which problems are solved.  You can bring in another affected department head when you are discussing a change or initiative to make sure (to the extent possible) that it meets the needs of all impacted parties.  You can assemble the team leaders from two different departments that need to work seamlessly together to complete a project (a productive step toward the extinction of functional silos!).

In employee disagreements, the one-on-one leader meets with each involved party individually and then dispenses a verdict on how to resolve the conflict. And that often results in a perceived “winner” and “loser” once the justice is dispensed. The focus of staff members then changes from the needs of the customer (internal or external) to the lobbying of the leader.  Political concerns start to overshadow business outcomes in the minds of team members.  We don’t have to tell you what that does to the business.

When a leader chooses to engage the power of three (the triad) to resolve conflict, he or she can collaborate with both affected parties at once to determine a path forward.  The focus of the triad is to start from the points of common ground – the values and desired outcomes that the parties share – and filter their different perspectives through that lens.  The leader can even implement a triad philosophy in this case by reminding the other two parties of their common ground, and then freeing them to resolve the conflict with one another without the leader’s intervention.

You might think you’re great and that you’re needed everywhere.  You might be great, in fact. But the true power of your organization is through activating networks that can operate independently of you.  That starts with the power of three.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Get unstuck and rewrite your story

The two people described in this blog post are stuck. 
Google Images:
These two illustrations are designed to show you a process for getting unstuck and rewriting your story about your future.

Annette just got dumped – again.  She and her most recent guy were most of the way to the marriage altar – the date and venue were already set.  Then something caused him to back out, and although he didn’t tell her directly, she heard he had a new relationship that developed during a business trip he took recently.  This isn’t the first time a man let her down in a sudden and tremendously hurtful way.  Annette asked her coach why it is that she keeps attracting relationships that wind up hurting her emotionally and even physically.

Bruce is broke.  He’s frustrated because he always feels broke.  When he finally earns a chunk of money most of it is gone to creditors who are knocking on his door and interrupting dinner with their phone calls. He tries not to spend any money on non essentials, but when he finally gets a financial break it’s hard to resist the urge just to have a little bit of fun with it.  Then he’s broke again.

Annette and Bruce are stuck in patterns of thought and behavior, that’s evident.  But what can they do to make things better and to create more of the lives that they want?

  1. Take action to prevent near-term repetitions of their problem behavior.  For Bruce that might mean hiding his credit cards or storing them in a location that’s difficult to reach on impulse.  Annette might need to make a decision not to date for a few months.
  2.  Identify the patterns in behavior that have appeared to lead to problems over and over again.  In Annette’s case the speed with which she has advanced relationships has been a factor; she has set a “marriage deadline age” for herself, and is becoming more and more possessive as the deadline looms closer.  In Bruce’s case, the desire to splurge when he’s feeling flush has prevented him from saving any money for leaner times.  He has had a habit of thinking no farther into the future than a few days, when his income cycles are several weeks, even months, long – and the time frame varies.
  3. Identify the attitudes (habits of thought) that are underlying their behavior and their interpretation of events.  Both seem to measure their value as individuals by some outside criteria – Annette by her man and marital status, and Bruce by his purchases.
  4. Mentally rewrite the story, and reinforce the new story regularly.  Habits of thought create behavior that is not at a conscious level – neither of these folks is thinking at the moment about the “why” of their actions.  They simply do them.  To dilute the existing attitudes and work to replace them, these two need to envision – in detail – the life they want.  They need to talk about it to themselves (yes affirm it) as though it’s already there.  “I take my time to build beneficial relationships,” or “I save a portion of every paycheck toward my long term financial goals,” are affirmations of their desired mindsets and behaviors.  They should use whatever modality works best for them – they can rewrite their affirmations each morning, or they can write them and stick them to the bathroom mirror to be reread 3 times per day.  They can even choose to record them and play them back routinely so they can hear them.
  5.  Set short term SMART goals that are aligned with the new story.  Bruce needs to be specific and determine either a target dollar amount in savings, or a certain dollar amount saved each paycheck, or a certain percentage of each check that he sets aside. Since he is trying to change an ingrained behavior he needs to set a short-term deadline, maybe 30 days, to evaluate his progress.  Short term successes create belief in the attainability of longer term improvements.  So after the first 30-day goal Bruce sets another, and eventually he moves to a 90-day goal that has the same intention behind it.
  6. Get an accountability partner.  Annette and Bruce could hire a coach (Bruce a financial planner) who can support the productive new habits and help them notice recurrence of old habits if they arise.  Because habits engender subconscious behavior, Annette and Bruce might not be able to see them as quickly as an outside party could.  Their coach can also help them notice small victories along the way that signify progress.
The longer your habits of thought have been ingrained, the more difficult it can be for you to change them.  But you don't have to be a victim of your habits.  You can get yourself unstuck, and you can create more of the life you want.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Without these skills, leadership success is elusive

In his book People Skills, Robert Bolton Ph.D. says
Google Images:
that 80% of the reason why leaders fail at work is because of their inability to get along with other people. Said another way, regardless of prior work experience, intelligence, or education, people skills are the must-have for success.

Why are they so important?
If this sounds too squishy for you, consider how many ways you have to influence or affect the behavior of other people. You communicate performance expectations and provide feedback on progress to desired results.  You ask favors, give instructions, sell your ideas in meetings and approach people for information.  The success of every one of these functions is impacted by the relationships that you establish and maintain in your workplace and with your other stakeholders.

If you don’t have good people skills you are likely to deal with resistance from others, whether direct reports, peers or even your boss.  It’s possible that employees are concealing important bad news from you, meaning that for the sake of avoiding conflict with you they are preventing you from correcting problems that are readily correctable. And without access to the informal network (which is fueled by relationships) you don’t have access to the nice to know information that can help you.

Where did you get them?
If you’re lucky you learned them at home from your parents, or from your primary caregiver, before you entered school.  You might even have a predisposition to people skills via your genetics, your hard wiring.  You learned them by observing other people in action, and by modeling your own behavior off of theirs.  Modeling can be effective if your model has what you need.  But as a kid you have no ability to evaluate whether the model is a good or bad example of how to behave toward others.

You also experimented on your own to see which interpersonal tactics worked and which ones didn’t. And while you were experimenting your childhood friends were experiencing things like hurt feelings, frustration and even anger when you didn’t get it right. As you grew and your life roles changed you had to modify your people skills to each new application.  And the risks of negative outcomes recurred when you messed up during your trials and errors.

Your formal education might have included principles of leadership and/or management.  The challenge with the educational model is in the application.  How do you take what you have stored in your head and use it live, in the real world?  For many people the knowing is far different from the doing.

How well are you using what you have?

By now you have probably assembled your own set of interpersonal skills.  Are they working for you as well as you need and want them to do?  Part of the equation relates to your mindset (attitudes) about them and their importance in your performance.  You might know all about how to be charming and engaging, but if you don’t like your peers and your staff members there is low likelihood that you will choose to exert the energy to use your copious powers.

What you can do about it now
Summit begins an open enrollment workshop series on Team Leadership beginning September 15, 2015 in York, PA.  Summit coaches also can work with you one on one via phone or Skype to help you apply what you already know, and to unlock the interpersonal habits that will help you to achieve outstanding results with your team. Click THIS LINK for more info, or visit us at

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Superworker is different from supervisor

What process do you use to identify your up-and-coming supervisors? 
Google Images:
If you are like many leaders you look to the super workers among your employees for your candidates.
The Superworker
Your Superworker does what he or she is required to do and more.  You can count on him to work autonomously.  You can rely on her to have a can-do mindset about her work, even in the midst of challenges and setbacks.  You notice that your super workers have attracted followers among their peers - they answer questions and rally the troops on a daily basis.
The Superworker might be a young whippersnapper with great education but not an extensive amount of experience.  You notice them because of their intellect and fresh approach, and you see potential in them.  Or your particular Superworker might be a long-time employee whose desirable traits are experience and loyalty to the company.  They might not have many (or any) educational credentials of note, but the veteran has bootstrapped his or her way into possessing a valuable level of expertise.
You might be considering tapping either of these two individuals on the shoulder for supervisory responsibility, but wait just a minute.
Supervisor vs. Team Leader
The Superworker performs the content of the job - the Supervisor's role is to help others do it.  Sure, there are plenty of roles out there where the Supervisor is a player/coach combo, where they are doing the work alongside the people they lead.  You need to consider whether the Supervisor role you are filling is a less formal team leader or a true supervisor.  The team leader doesn't have responsibility for hiring, disciplining, etc.  They are solely accountable for the effective flow of work.  Your informal leader can be effective here, because he or she has the interpersonal skills to attract people to the work.
Note: In current parlance team leader is a title that is used to describe a lead person, informal leader right now in the workplace, but it is also used in some cases as a substitute for the term supervisor.  Don't get caught up in the semantics here, but rather focus on the function that you want this person to fulfill.
Beyond the interpersonal leadership role of the Team Leader, a Supervisor will also handle hiring, firing, discipline and scheduling in most instances.  The Supervisor comes with accompanying authority from the company, and this changes his or her relationship with the rest of the people on the work team.  There are several likely outgrowths of this situation:
  1. The person who used to be the post-work bar buddy might now be perceived as the long arm of the law, and therefore excluded from the informal relationships that they used to be part of. 
  2. The new weight of the responsibilities in the new Supervisor's own mind can cause him or her to over steer or be heavy handed in how they relate to their former peers.
  3. The new Supervisor can have a difficult time separating from the old comfortable technical tasks, and avoid the real supervisory portions of their new job description.  When this happens you don't really have a supervisor in function - only in name.
New Role Calls for Different Skills
The new Supervisor needs more in the way of interpersonal capabilities, because they have several potentially difficult jobs to do:

  • Effective separation from their former peer group without building walls so the supervisor can be effective in performance management.  Perceived favoritism is one of the potential consequences of failure to separate. That can not only cause performance problems in the department they supervise,  It can create legal problems for the company as well.
  • Willingness to become the voice of management.  A Supervisor spoils the soup when he gives an instruction accompanied by a comment like "I know this is stupid, but management says we have to ......."  This is an attempt to maintain rapport with the individual contributors for which the supervisor is responsible, but it compromises his or her effectiveness as a leader representing the company's interests.
  • Communication skills and process knowledge for setting expectations and providing performance feedback.  The goal of performance feedback is to obtain the desired results, not to throw one's authority around.
  • Results focus and context.  The day to day operation is important, but the Supervisor benefits the company most when he or she can connect today's activity with the impact on the company's bottom line and overall strategic direction.
Facilitating the Transition from Superworker to Supervisor
Some individuals come to the workplace with interpersonal skills that are observable, and they are probably some of the easier individuals to transition to the more interpersonally-focused role of supervisor.  There are, of course, other qualifications to be considered beyond being a "nice guy", but human relations skills are really the combination of readily trainable behaviors and supporting habits of thought that are not as easy to instill.  You can train your supervisory candidates in skill areas and provide a supportive work climate, but THEY have to make the choice to develop the habits of thought that support the role in which they are placed.

If you are planning to take no chances and develop them for the Superworker to Supervisor role shift, recognize that it is probably the biggest single career change that an individual will make.  It is to your advantage to start the process of preparing them before they are assigned to a Supervisor role.  Transition to leadership is not the same as transformation into a leader.  If you delay in helping them to come along, you will be subjecting the people that report to them to a process of supervisory trial and error.  And who among you would like to be tried and erred upon until your boss gets it right?  'Nuff said.

Summit HRD, in partnership with Alternative HR, is presenting Team Leadership, a 10-session workshop series beginning Tuesday, September 15th. More information is here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Is your self-image holding you back?

Your motivation to act - or not - can be a complex mixture
Google Images:
of your goals, your habits, and your self-image. Ultimately your self-image rules the day.  You can't create sustainable behavior in contradiction to it.  Yes, you can temporarily choose new behavior, but to do so repeatedly requires constant mindfulness, constant intention and attention if it is not in alignment with the way in which you see yourself.

When a person is stuck in a pattern of behavior that is self-destructive, there is usually a self-image issue at work.  A man who considers himself to be fat will choose excess portions of foods that are calorie-dense, despite stated intentions to become more fit.  When his self-image whispers "I'm fat," the next inner voice says, "Why not?" when faced with bad choices.

Self-image comes into play when women choose to stay in abusive relationships.  They might know that the relationship is dangerous to their physical and/or emotional health, but there is a piece of conditioned thinking that tells them they are not worthy of more, or that they have earned the poor treatment they are receiving because they have committed some transgression.

Self-image driven behavioral obstacles aren't necessarily as dramatic as those associated with abusive relationships or morbid obesity.  They might be as simple as disorganization or habitual lateness. Regardless, ultimately the person needs to address his or her self-image to create real improvement.

So how does one improve self-image?  It's a collection of impressions that are stored.  It's conditioning.  Some of it came from others very early in your life and some of it came from your inner conversation with yourself, through your interpretations of your life's events.  So just like other habits, we deal with self-image by diluting old habits of thought with new ones.

  1. Set goals that are achievable (or at least progress is observable) in the near term. You have to determine what short term is for you, but the point is this: every achieved goal is a victory that benefits your self-image.  You make a commitment to yourself and you keep it.  The goal may have rewards of its own, but the making and keeping of the commitment is a victory in itself.  If you're really struggling to believe in yourself don't set the bar too high to start.  The point is to create a positive expectation and then to fulfill it.  Once you start to accumulate a string of successes you can add more stretch and challenge.
  2. Take control of your self-talk.  Use affirmations that support the self-image you are trying to create for yourself.  An affirmation is stated in the present tense, as though you are already there.  If you have difficulty feeling credible in affirming a character trait, start with a behavior that is observable and measurable, and affirm that.  "I am the kind of person who exercises for at least 30 minutes per day." "I choose to eat at least 4 servings of fruits and vegetables every day."
  3. Surround yourself with people and information that align with the self-image you are trying to create in yourself.  It can be difficult to ignore negative messages and/or criticisms that come from your friends, even family members. If a certain group of friends parties too hard and you're trying to stop, start spending time with other friends who won't drag you into that old behavior to which you're susceptible.
  4. Forgive yourself for slips and keep moving forward.  If this self-image has been in place for a long time it might be tough to shake off. You might mess up.  You're growing and improving, but you're not perfect.  Acknowledge your mistake, and then move yourself back on track to the habits of behavior and thought that are in better alignment with the person you want to be.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Six steps for your big, hairy goal

Do you have a big goal, a big project, or a big problem
Google Images:
that requires action from you?  Feeling a bit put off or even afraid at the size of it and your chances for success? No worries - these steps will help you bring it down to manageable size.

  1. Make sure it's written - and specific - and include a deadline. You've got to know exactly what you're working toward, or else how will you know when you have reached it?  When you haven't documented it on paper or you aren't specific your goal becomes a moving target, always just a few inches out of your reach. Or you run the risk of selling yourself short by settling for less than your total original intention.
  2. Know why you're doing it.  What are the rewards associated with reaching it?  Are there emotional rewards, tangible rewards?  What are the negative consequences that you want to avoid by achieving it?  Give this a lot of thought, because it's your motivation to persevere through all of the necessary actions to accomplish what you set out to accomplish.  If your big goal is no big deal, you're more likely to walk away from it before it's done.
  3. Plan for obstacles. You know some that are there already, because they are the reasons why you haven't achieved the goal yet.  List those, and then stretch your thinking into potential obstacles that might slow you down or even stop your progress.  Are you thinking that this sounds like Negative Nellie talking?  It's only negative if you stop here.  When you do a good job with this step you will be far less likely to be stymied by being caught off guard.
  4. Brainstorm solutions. There is more than one answer to your obstacles.  Challenge yourself to develop potential alternatives to your first solution.  Some might sound silly now, but might gain relevance once you get there.  Some solutions overcome more than one obstacle, and these become your critical path.  And some will wait until your first solution doesn't work for some reason - your Plan B will be already ready in case you need it.
  5. Choose your path and act.  No plan is successful without action. Choose your best solutions and convert them into a series of action steps. Incorporate the action steps into your daily calendaring and planning system.  You might find it a bit scary if your goal is a big one, or if it's a Must-Do sort of goal.  It's understandable, because when you take action you reveal a result.  But no worries - your plan increases your likelihood of success.
  6. Align your self-talk with your goal.  Choose statements that affirm the abilities and characteristics that you need for your intended accomplishments. If you need to be more comfortable meeting new people, talk about that as if you are already there.

Friday, July 17, 2015

If you're not doing this you're not performing at your peak

All year long you produce, produce, produce.  Have you
JPoland - Dusk at Lewes Beach, DE
given yourself a change of venue yet?  We've said it before, but it bears repeating - you wouldn't be able to run your car indefinitely and expect great performance without refueling it and changing the oil - why would you try to run yourself that way?  At some point you have to work on maintaining or rebuilding your personal production capacity, and it helps to have a change of venue.  You need fresh scenery, a change in schedule, the potential for new contacts - and REST.

With all of the hectic scheduling, deadlines, and multi-tasking much of the workforce faces it takes a force of will to choose to get away.  Moreover, a 2013 report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research said that almost a quarter of workers in the U.S. get no paid time off.  And that number goes up to around 30% in small businesses.  So that means that a lot of people are having to sacrifice income for vacation, or they are forced to grab their time away in small snatches of time over the weekends. Or they don't take a break from the daily grind - ever.  

How long does it take you to kick back and recharge the batteries? A weekend away can be refreshing here and there, but it takes a week for many people to really relax.  Time away involves the preparation, the packing, getting there, unpacking, orienting - and then the relaxing.  On a week-long vacation by Thursday morning many folks are starting to anticipate the dismount:  repacking, reloading, traveling home, unpacking, laundering, grocery shopping to refill the fridge, picking up pets at the kennel, and the zillions of other tasks associated with getting back into the groove.  So it takes a 7-day vacation to get 4-1/2 really relaxing days that are free of logistics.  

Do you ever talk about how much time it would take for your favorite vacation spot to become routine, hum-drum, etc.  Our next goal is to have a two-week (concurrent) stay, and at some point test a summer at the beach - uninterrupted.  How cool to be there long enough in one stretch to test your tolerance for kicking back and listening to the surf and seagulls!

It's a different type of relaxation when you're exploring new turf - touring abroad or visiting a site that's new to you.  This is more about expanding your thinking rather than suspending it (or allowing room for it to drift on its own).  The explorer vacation or educational vacation stimulates, builds new connections, uncovers new skills perhaps.  

If you're reading this post and you're a person who has left vacation days untapped and unused from one year to the next, shame on you!  Yes, we're sure you're indispensable, but regardless of whether you could be choosing to delegate, if you're not giving yourself a periodic change of venue you're not only cheating yourself of benefits you've earned - you're not operating at your optimum level.  Simple as that.  So git!  Skedaddle!  Vacate!