Welcome to The Leadership Corner

May 11, 2016

The purpose of The Leadership Corner is to provide valuable tips, research and connection to business leaders and managers who want to build their knowledge, skills and abilities together.  We also list free webinars and teleclasses on our Free Training Page.  Read more in About Us

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Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Change management, Collaboration, Communication, Conflict, Culture, Customer satisfaction, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, High performance team, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale, Peformance management, Personal development, Strategic planning, Teamwork.

Getting Smarter, Stronger and Richer

August 23, 2013

By Phil Humbert

I’m often amazed at how few people intentionally plan their own Personal Development. Even folks who have precise, written goals for their business and finances, or who work hard on physical fitness rarely assess their personal strengths and weaknesses and devise a plan to live their lives with power, style, and grace.

To me, that’s a shame.

Living a great life is no accident! None of us was born knowing how to set priorities, how to develop our best skills or knowing how to get along with difficult people. Life does not come with an “owners manual.” That is up to each of us.

For better or worse, most of us sort of “absorb” some basic social skills and community standards, and often that’s enough for most people. But that level of “automatic” learning will never get you to the top. It will never let you achieve or be your best. It will make you “average,” and who wants to be average and ordinary?

Last week I was talking with a client about her list of “dailies.” This is a term I use in my own life and with most of my clients to describe a set of “daily disciplines” that remind me to grow, to learn, to focus on my values and become my best. In her case, we talked about starting with a Daily Three based on the affirmation that, “Every day I am getting Smarter, Stronger, and Richer.”

Getting Smarter

For this client “Getting Smarter” refers to learning something new, every single day. She’s committed to reading or listening to audio programs, or watching DVD’s that will teach her about business and sales, about history and culture, or about being a better parent to her young son.

Her commitment requires a few minutes a day, but every single day she wants to develop new and better skills in areas that are important to her. Even ten or twenty minutes, repeated daily, will make a huge difference. And so, she affirms, “Every day I am getting Smarter.”

Getting Stronger

My client is also committed to health and wellness. She’s young and vibrant and recently gave birth and she wants to be strong, fit and energized. So every day, she rides her bike or does some stretching or exercising. It may be only fifteen minutes, but over time that small investment will pay dramatic dividends. But only if she persists. So, she affirms, “Every day I’m getting Stronger.”

Getting Richer

She and her husband own a small business, but business skills don’t come naturally for her. No one taught her as a child or in college, so she’s intentionally learning to make more sales, to manage the “back office” and run the business. She figures the tuition of learning by trial-and- error will take too long and cost far too much, so she studies. She reads. She has a coach, and she’s taking classes. She’s getting good at this! And she affirms, “Every day, I’m getting Richer.”

Her list of Daily Disciplines has only three items, but she’s determined to invest a few minutes every day to become the entrepreneur, the Mom and the Person she wants to be. To help her get there, she repeats the affirmation, “Every day I’m getting Smarter, Stronger and Richer.”

Are you the person you want to be? Personal Development is an art, a skill, and a delight. Over time and with persistence, it lets you live an amazing, on-purpose life of your own choice, a life that is consistent with your most important values and priorities. Develop you own plan and your own affirmation. Then, take action! What are your “Dailies?” Write them down, develop a plan and follow- through.

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Change management.

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Your Personal Power Principles

July 9, 2012

by Phil Humbert

 

One of my favorite memories of my Grandmother is how often she would remind us that, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” I’ve since learned that she may have been quoting someone who said it before her, but she gets credit for it, and for the positive impact it’s had in my life.

I was reminded of her great wisdom twice this week. The first time was when one of my MasterMind partners, Jerry Pinney, sent a statement of his personal values. Lots of us have done “value clarification exercises,” and I’ve done my share. But what really caught my attention was that below each of his Top 7 Values, Jerry listed specific action steps to assess whether he was living in harmony with his values.

That, my friends, takes courage! It takes guts to honestly compare our daily behavior to our highest aspirations and deepest values. And then, of course, sharing something like that with a MasterMind team displays incredible trust. It got my attention, big time!

So, rather than ponder the implications for my own life by looking at my own behavior and values, I figured I’d read a good book. I dove into Ron Chernow’s biography of George Washington. It’s a wonderful book and I highly recommend it! Unfortunately, my escapist strategy didn’t work very well.

Turns out, George Washington also attempted to live by a personal code of conduct. Throughout Chernow’s book, a constant theme is Washington’s struggles with his sense of personal responsibility, his desire to avoid gossip, to be industrious and cordial to all, while refusing to be “buddies” with those who did not share his priorities. He chose his friends carefully and avoided temptations to drink, gamble, or indulge in other questionable activities.

Chernow’s biography reminded me of the importance most of our country’s Founders put on following a personal Code of Conduct.

Ben Franklin had a list of 13 “virtues” which he pursued through his adult life. He chose one of the virtues and focused on it for an entire week, before moving on to the next one the following week. In this way, he focused on each of his 13 priorities in rotation, four weeks each year.

Which obviously raises the question: What are your top values?

Do you have a list? Is it written down? Do you review it frequently? Have you shared it with loved ones, your closest colleagues and your MasterMind team?

And perhaps most importantly, do you have a system for measuring your progress? Does your actual behavior reflect your top priorities in terms of time, effort, thought, and investment? Are you closer to living the life you value today than you were a year ago?

What actions are you taking to demonstrate the top values in your life today, and for the rest of your life?

A couple of hundred years ago, Personal Development was commonly focused on living a virtuous, honest and moral life. Personal Development was about integrity, courage, consistency and becoming the person you wish to be.

In our generation, Personal Development revolves largely around financial success, including skills like leadership, public speaking or business. Now, these are good things! I encourage you to develop your skills in all these areas!

But I fear our society is less and less focused on morality, integrity, personal honesty and the courage to stand for our beliefs. We just don’t think or talk about these things very much. And perhaps we should.

For Washington, it meant that “his word was his bond.” He valued  a reputation for integrity, persistence, honesty and hard work, and he meant to demonstrate these values through his daily actions. Franklin had his 13 Virtues and he worked to improve his understanding of them and his behavior, every day of his life.

“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Personal development.

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The Four Keys

March 6, 2012

The Ken Blanchard Companies have found that in organizations where leading at a higher level is the rule rather than the exception, leaders do four things well.

  1. They set their sights on the right target and vision.
    Great organizations focus on three bottom lines instead of just one. In addition to financial success, leaders at great organizations know that measuring their success with people–both customers and employees–is just as important as measuring the success of their financial bottom line. In these organizations, developing loyal customers and engaged employees are considered equal to good financial performance. Leaders at these companies know that in order to succeed they must create a motivating environment for employees, which results in better customer service, which leads to higher profits.
  2. They treat their customers right.
    To keep your customers today, you can’t be content just to satisfy them. Instead, you have to create raving fans–customers who are so excited about the way you treat them that they want to tell everyone about you. Companies that create raving fans routinely do the unexpected on behalf of their customers, and then enjoy the growth generated by customers bragging about them to prospective clients.
  3. They treat their people right.
    Without committed and empowered employees, you can never provide good service. You can’t treat your people poorly and expect them to treat your customers well. Treating your people right begins with good performance planning that gets things going in the right direction by letting direct reports know what they will be held accountable for–goals–and what good behavior looks like–performance standards. It continues with managers who provide the right amount of direction and support that each individual employee needs in order to achieve those goals and performance standards.
  4. They have the right kind of leadership.
    The most effective leaders realize that leadership is not about them and that they are only as good as the people they lead. These leaders seek to be serving leaders instead of self-serving leaders. In this model, once a vision has been set, leaders move themselves to the bottom of the hierarchy, acting as a cheerleader, supporter, and encourager to the people who report to them.

Categories: Accountability, Attitude, Customer satisfaction, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership.

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Improve Performance with Meaningful Direction

February 6, 2012

How are most organizations doing when it comes to managing the performance of people in their companies? Not very well, according to Dr. Vicki Halsey of The Ken Blanchard Companies. In talking with managers and direct reports over the past year, Halsey has heard a lot of frustration with the process of leading others.

As she explains, “Managers are upset because their people aren’t doing what they think they should do. Direct reports are upset because they are not getting the direction that they need.”

Part of the problem comes from confusing competence with commitment, according to Halsey.

“When I ask managers what they most want from their people, I hear things like, ‘I want them to have a positive attitude. I want them to communicate better. I want them to be more of a team player.’

“So, managers are thinking about the traits that they would like their employees to exhibit, instead of the actions they would like them to be taking.”

That’s a challenge, according to Halsey, who points out that managing performance means identifying the goals that you are looking for from that teamwork, from that better attitude, etc. In Halsey’s experience, managers are not being clear enough with their direct reports about what they are supposed to do in terms of the specific tasks and goals. Managers may have a gut instinct about what they want their people doing, but they are not communicating it clearly to their people.

Without a clear sense of what to do and how to rank and accomplish their most important tasks, employees are left on their own to prioritize their work. But if people aren’t clear on what they are supposed to be doing, they won’t be as successful as they could be. They will be involved in a lot of activity, but the activity will not necessarily be in line with the organization’s overall goals.

That’s when morale problems arise. To feel important and valued, people have to see the alignment between their day-to-day work and what the organization is looking to achieve.

Managers are mistaking an employee’s need for direction and support as a lack of engagement. That incorrect diagnosis is leading managers to the mistaken belief that if they get their direct reports more fired up, they’ll get the work done. The real problem is that people want to know what their role is and how they are supposed to do it.

This leads to a “where do you start” situation with people wanting more communication and clarity about how their work aligns with overall organizational goals while managers are expecting people to know what to do and believing that if they can just encourage folks to be more positive and have a better attitude, they will figure out the rest on their own.

How Did We Get into This Situation?

According to Halsey, some of the problem stems from the fact that managers are busier than ever today. As she explains, “Most managers have their own task-related goals in addition to their people-management duties. When you are trying to juggle both, it’s easy to fall back into a mentality of, ‘I hired you to do this job and I expect you to get it done.’ And what I’m hearing from people is that managers are doing a great job of telling people what to do, but rarely are they doing a great job of telling people how to do it.”

To illustrate her point, Halsey describes a recent classroom situation where she asked participants to identify a “best boss” they had worked for and list the leadership behaviors of that person. One participant related his story about an early sales position he had with an organization and how the sales leader went on calls with him. As the participant described, “Each time we went out, he added something new that I had to do. He would show me what it was and then he modeled it for me with the next client we talked to. After that, with the next client, I would have to do it, and he would give me feedback. He took the time to develop me by not only telling me what I needed to do, but helping accelerate my development by showing me how to do it.”

A second factor is that today, more than ever, managers want to be perceived as supportive. In teaching Situational Leadership® II skills to hundreds of thousands of managers over the past 30 years, Halsey explains that the facilitators at The Ken Blanchard Companies have known for a long time that of the four leadership style possibilities—Directing, Coaching, Supporting, or Delegating, the dominant natural style of most managers is Supporting, which features a lot of supportive behaviors but little direction.

Supporting is not a “bad” style, but it can lead to frustration among people who are not getting the specifics they need about how to be successful. This can be confusing for managers, especially when employees complain that their manager is not communicating.

As Halsey asks managers who are faced with this situation, “Yes, you are communicating, but are you communicating about the right things, to the right people, at the right time?” She explains, “It is so exciting when you see a leader with a good plan for developing someone through all of the phases of development that employees go through. Most managers are pretty good at assigning the task and then celebrating success, but sometimes they don’t have everything in between figured out.”

So, What Can Managers Do?

Managing performance is challenging these days with all of the different things people need to do and with working managers pressed for time. But, savvy managers can improve the situation by focusing on three areas:

Clarify roles and goals. Create alignment between individual tasks and the organization’s initiatives. Use impact mapping to connect the dots.

Identify individual development levels and needed leader behaviors for each employee’s key tasks. What is the employee’s experience with this task? What does he or she need from a manager in terms of direction and support?

Schedule weekly one-on-ones. Don’t let time pressures get in the way of a weekly check-in with direct reports to see how they are doing. A short, weekly meeting where the agenda is driven by the direct report can work wonders in providing the appropriate combination of direction and support people need to be productive.

Get Clear on What’s Important

With time and resources at a premium, leaders need to focus their people on the critical tasks to be accomplished. Begin by identifying the goals and strategic imperatives of the organization. Next, clarify what each team and department needs to be doing to help the organization achieve its goals. Finally, break it down to individual tasks and goals to achieve the desired results.

People will get up to speed faster and produce the results your organization is looking for. In addition to increased productivity, your organization will also see an improvement in morale and engagement. As Halsey explains, “There’s a greater sense of pride in your work and everyone feels better when you’ve worked together to achieve a common goal.”

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Communication, Leadership, Leadership development, Performance Management.

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How to be a Leader at any Level

February 6, 2012

By John Baldoni

When purpose is clear, it provides something upon which to build for the future. Such a future depends on harnessing the talents of employees and developing them to lead into the future. In too many organizations, front-line managers are viewed as doers not deciders, implementers not contributors, and compliers not creators. If these precepts seem arcane, more in keeping with nineteenth-century management principles than twenty-first-century ways of managing, it is because they are, according to a recent study by McKinsey & Company. Unfortunately, this study found that these ideas are still au courant in today’s world of front-line management, particularly in distributed management locations – for example, retail, transportation, and real estate. McKinsey concludes that such practices are making organizations “less productive, less agile, and less profitable.”

Most corporations operate on principles of hierarchy. That is good for ensuring the development and execution of strategy, but it falls flat, as the McKinsey study and others like it have found, when it comes to being responsive to change and responsible for people. One highlight of the study noted that managers were spending more time on transaction than transformation-that is, more on administration than people. In contrast, “at best-practice companies, front-line managers allocated 60 to 70 per cent of their time to the floor, much of it in high-quality individual coaching.” Additionally, such managers had more opportunities to make decisions and “act on opportunities.” If I were a manager, I would use this information as my entree to advocate for more autonomy, or what we might call “leading from the middle.” Here are some ways to put your ideas into action:

Read on…

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Communication, High performance team, Leadership, Peformance management.

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Curious Insight into Employee Motivation and the Pygmalion Effect

February 6, 2012

Great Performance Starts with Great Expectations No, by “great expectations,” I’m not referring to the Dickens book. Presumably when you hire or promote someone, you expect great things from them. You don’t think, “Yes, this warm body will be adequate enough, I suppose.” If so, then you’re probably not reading this article. Studies based on the … Read More

Categories: Accountability, Attitude, Change management, Culture, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership.

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Direction, Momentum & Goal Achievement

January 29, 2012

This week’s TIPS has two objectives — to give you a model for achievement in 2012, and to give you a loving but swift kick in the butt to get going! (Or a big hug and high five if you are already on your way!)

It’s the end of January! If you aren’t on your way to making 2012 your best year ever, it’s past time to get started! True, the year is only 8% completed, but that means you should be at least 8% of the way to your goal! As the poet said, it’s time to “be up and doing!”

So, let me ask some questions to help you focus. What, exactly, has changed since January 1st? What are you doing more of? Or less of? What has changed for the better? If I walked into your office, what would tell me (instantly and without any doubt) that you’re serious about your goals? If I were your spouse, how would our family routine have changed since January 1st?

Remember, “nothing changes until something changes.” And the primary thing that has to change is YOU. You either change your focus and your behavior, you develop new patterns or new skills and new priorities, or to be blunt, nothing is going to change for you. It’s the end of January. Let’s get this show on the road!

Which begs the question, How?

By now, many subscribers are probably noticing that the goals you set a few weeks ago have not, so far, resulted in the progress you would like. Perhaps, not much has changed…and that feels all too familiar! (If things have changed, WAY TO GO! Keep it up!)

I believe the great weakness of most goal-setting programs is their lack of daily detail, the lack of a recipe for incremental progress.

One of the quotes that inspires me was Jim Rohn’s definition of success. He said “success is making reasonable progress in reasonable time toward a worthwhile goal.” I like that!

It’s very rare that success happens over-night. Most of the time, success is an on-going process of becoming the person, and doing the things, and getting the things we want.

And that means daily action in the direction you want to go.

Let me be clear. I love BIG goals! I have BIG goals and I hope you do, too. But the bigger the goal, the more steps and the more time will likely be required to get there. So the real questions for big-time goal achievement are about “Daily Direction” and “Maintaining Momentum.”

Daily Direction is having absolute clarity about what you will do and, perhaps even more importantly, what you will no longer do. It’s about knowing that every single day you are either moving toward your goal, or you’re slightly off-course, moving away from our goal. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” But the key is that a long journey also requires thousands of consecutive steps that all follow the same path!

Review and re-commit to your goals every day. Be absolutely clear about what it will take to get there, and then be sure you take some step, no matter how large or small, in pursuit of your goals every single day.

It’s rare (and wonderful!) when we can take giant leaps. But most days, we take smaller steps. We read something, or make one more phone call. We problem-solve, or practice a new skill one more time. Every day, make some progress!

And that’s what Maintaining Momentum is all about. Most people fail at this. They work really hard or do something dramatic for a day, but then they get distracted and take no action toward their goals for the next two weeks! That’s a set-up for failure. Don’t do it!

Start every day by reviewing your major goals and write down some action, big or small, that you will take TODAY. Move slightly closer every single day.

“Inch by inch, anything’s a cinch. Yard by yard, everything is hard!” To reach your goals in 2012, remember it’s not a sprint but a marathon. Every day, review and re-commit to your goals, check your direction, and take some action to Maintain Momentum. I think you’ll like the results.

by Phil Humbert

Categories: Accountability, Attitude, Change management, Leadership development, Personal development.

We Are Not Billiard Balls!

January 15, 2012

You and I are not ruled by Newton’s Laws of Physics. It’s true that Newton’s Laws do explain a lot about the world around us–gravity and stuff like that. But you and I are not billiard balls bounced around by nature! We are not planets wandering aimlessly through space.

We seem to have something called “Free Will.” We make decisions and occasionally we surprise ourselves! 

Philosophers can debate the details, but as far as I can tell, I DECIDE what to wear each morning. I think you really can DECIDE whether or not to read this article. You can decide what’s for dinner. You can decide what you’ll read or watch or do with your time. And sometimes, just for fun, we make decisions that shock and amaze even our best friends– “You’re doing WHAT????”

This issue of free will has a rich history with philosophers and theologians. It played a huge role in the Reformation, the founding of the early American colonies, and it still troubles behavioral Psychologists today.

And it is the power behind all success (and failure) in life.

In the most practical sense, the biggest force I see opposed to Free Will is a little thing called, “Habit.” Sometimes it goes by other names and you may recognize it as your Comfort Zone or Tradition or Other People’s Expectations.

Try to imagine two grand forces, a very personal little war between Good and Evil, except there’s nothing spiritual or super-natural about it. It exists in your own life, in your thoughts and imagination.

On the one side is Free Will.  For now, this is the good guy!  (Free Will can get us into a world of hurt, too, but for now let’s look at the Good Side.)  Free Will asks you to explore new ideas, to pursue your dreams, and try things. It’s full of possibilities and daring new options. It argues that you could double your income, learn a language, learn to dance or move to Paris, just for the fun of it. Free Will says, “I can if I want to!”

On the other hand is Habit. Habit says things like, “Don’t rock the boat.” Don’t take chances, and “this is how we’ve always done it.” Habit keeps things safe and familiar to the point of boredom. Habit keeps you in a rut.

Personally, I prefer to focus my time and energy on Free Will. It’s seems to be more fun!

If I have Free Will, I can change things. If I have Free Will, I can learn stuff. With Free Will, my life can be different and better than it is! What a concept!

With the power of Free Will, I can look at my life and dream big dreams. Powered by this wild idea that I’m not a billiard ball bouncing through life, I can DECIDE my trajectory! I can break old Habits and learn new skills.

This is what Self-Directed Evolution is all about. If Free Will exists, we should use it! If we have freedom of choice, it seems likely that over time and with some effort and persistence, we can actually create the life we want. Again, what a concept!

Can you change everything about your life over-night? Or in 30 days? It seems unlikely. But by exercising your Free Will and persistently doing the right things, in the right way, at the right time, you can evolve to become the person and enjoy the life you truly want. I believe this!

There are some key questions you must ask and answer, however.

  1. What do you want?
  2. What will I have to change?
  3. Will I make the appropriate choices day by day, until I get there? 

If you don’t agree that Free Will exists, then of course I’m mistaken and this is just wishful thinking. Without Free Will, we really are just billiard balls bouncing through space. But if we do have Free Will, then a world of choice and responsibility opens up for us. It’s your call.

For myself, I choose Free Will and the responsibilities of Self-Directed Evolution. I really do believe I can choose, and with time and effort, create the life I truly want. I hope you agree with me!

by Phil Humbert

Categories: Accountability, Attitude, Leadership, Leadership development.

The Comfort Zone

December 21, 2011

As I set my personal and business goals for 2012, I’ve been thinking about what motivates me and what holds me back.   I ran across this poem about ‘My Comfort Zone and it made me think.  I’m sending it to you as food for thought as you reflect on last year and set your goals for next year.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned:

  • Once you set your goals, write them down, post them and share them, you will still need to look at them daily or weekly to keep you focused.
  • While you are filling your calendar, consider how each of those activities will help you achieve your goals – or not.   Schedule your time wisely and recognize your priorities – don’t settle for what you already have.
  • Don’t move into your comfort zone.  Why not you ask?  As much as the comfort zone keeps us safe and doesn’t push us to do more, there’s a cost for not pushing us to do more.  See, the comfort zone limits us, ‘to protect us’.
  • If we are in our comfort zone, we can’t grow.  Just like a pot-bound plant, we can die or quit if we don’t have room to stretch, change and try new things.


My Comfort Zone – Author Unknown

I used to have a comfort zone where I knew I wouldn’t fail.
The same four walls and busywork were really more like jail.
I longed so much to do the things I’d never done before,
But stayed inside my comfort zone and paced the same old floor.
I said it didn’t matter that I wasn’t doing much.
I said I didn’t care for things like commission checks and such.
I claimed to be so busy with the things inside the zone,
But deep inside I longed for something special of my own.
I couldn’t let my life go by just watching others win.
I held my breath; I stepped outside and let the change begin.
I took a step and with new strength I’d never felt before,
I kissed my comfort zone goodbye and closed and locked the door.
If you’re in a comfort zone, afraid to venture out,
Remember that all winners were at one time filled with doubt.
A step or two and words of praise can make your dreams come true.
Reach for your future with a smile; success is there for you!

What are your goals for 2012?  Who do you want to become and what do you want to be known for?  What will you do to step out of your comfort zone this year?

Categories: Accountability, Attitude, Change management, Personal development.

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Trapped in the jar?

October 3, 2011

Have you ever seen an animal reach into a container and grasp an object with its hand or mouth and not be able to remove it from the container?

As thinking people, we know the animal can let go of the object, remove its hand or head, tip the container upside down, and let the object fall out.

Metaphorically, how often do we find ourselves in similar situations – situations where we have grabbed onto something and will not let it go, causing us to be stuck or even trapped.  We continue to hold onto the person, thought, idea, image, situation, belief or ???

The idea is that we are crippling ourselves by hanging on, not letting go.  While crippled in this manner, we are not able to get or accept other gifts coming our way.  Our tight fisted grasp keeps us “trapped in the jar”. 

We must let go of the past – of the thoughts holding us back – of the need to be right, before we can accept the gifts of now.

Use your skills to learn the lessons in your life.  Then let go of the person, thought, idea, image, situation, belief or ???, and “take your hand out of the jar”.

by Michael Price

Categories: Accountability, Attitude, Personal development.

The Joy of Creative Labor

September 5, 2011

In the U.S., this is our “Labor Day” weekend, a time when we generally do our best to avoid anything that looks like work.  Many will go camping, spend the day at the beach, or perhaps at a family picnic.

Unfortunately, very few will pause to be thankful for the work they do.  Only a handful will take time to honor and acknowledge the joy of work, and I find that very sad.

Too many of us believe “work” is something to be avoided, and these people wish for a path to instant wealth, because then they would “never work again.” I suspect that’s one reason the universe makes sure most of them never acquire that kind of instant wealth! I see work as a great honor and source of fulfillment, although I admit there is both “good” work and “bad” work.

“Bad” work is something for which we are not suited, or which we do for the wrong motives. For me, “bad” work would be trying to earn a living as a musician.  My brother plays cello for the Jacksonville symphony, and for him, music is the work of the angels.  He was blessed with great talent and he loves it.  I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, and when I was a kid, piano lessons were a lot of “work” for me, my parents, and Mrs. Bystrom, my long-suffering piano teacher.

Doing work for which we are ill-suited, it seems to me, is so stressful that it borders on the immoral.  Life is meant to be lived, to be joyful, and to be productive.  Doing “work” we hate gives honorable work a bad name.

As I see it, work is our chance to partner with God in the creation of a better, richer, more exciting world.  Work is our opportunity to build, to create, to leave our footprints in the sands of time.  Work is our chance to say, “I was here, I made a difference and I left things better than I found them.”  That is work worth doing! 

Over the years, through my various jobs and hobbies, I’ve met wonderful people who reflected their life’s meaning and purpose in their work.  Some were artists in how they drove a delivery truck, others found joy in Police work, writing, doing therapy, or in construction.  One of my golfing partners loves teaching high school biology, and it shows in his attitude and in his student’s grades.

Vicki is a server at my favorite coffee shop. She has 3 kids, her husband is a chef, and for whatever reason, helping a couple hundred people start their day with hot coffee, a good breakfast and a smile is her calling in life.  She’s a treasure, and is loved by hundreds of loyal customers.

One of the wisest things anyone ever said to me is, “Find something you truly love to do, and you’ll never work another day the rest of your life.”  While I quibble with that disparaging definition of “work,” the point is essential.  In our technological age, we have the greatest freedom in history to find work that is perfect for us!

Work is a very personal thing.  It’s about combining your time and effort with your talents, skills and the situation around you to make things better.  It’s about making a difference.  It’s about making your contribution, and being productive. 

This Labor Day, give thanks for the work you do and the difference it makes.  Celebrate your contribution to your community and our world. And, if you are not doing the “perfect” job for you, pledge that by next year, you WILL be doing the right work.  Life is too short to spend it doing work for which you are not suited or passionate! You owe that to yourself and to the world.  We need your best stuff, your best effort, your passion and your unique genius.  We need Vicki’s smile at breakfast.

by Phil Humbert

Categories: Accountability, Attitude, Employee satisfaction, Leadership development, Personal development.

Be All You Can Be!

June 29, 2011

Years ago, the Army had a recruiting campaign that used the slogan, “Be All You Can Be!” and I love that phrase! 

Who wants to settle for mediocre or average, or for anything less than what’s possible? That’s just silly! 

And yet, one of the Laws of the Universe is that inertia and comfort and habits and ordinary patterns of life conspire to keep us where we are. Even if we are frustrated at work or wish we had more money, a bigger home or more education, the great tendency is to “settle.” We’re busy people and we run out of time, we run out of energy, and our ambition evaporates. 

That’s normal. And it’s tragic! 

It’s long been known that humans use only a tiny portion of our intelligence. We develop only a tiny fraction of our talent and ability. We work hard, but we don’t generally push ourselves to develop our potential to become something

— and someone — special. 

Inside each of us is a genius eager to break free. Inside every single person is an inventor, an artist, a writer, an engineer or a researcher who could change the world.

Except we’re too busy and we lack faith. 

I love Malcolm Gladwell’s little book, “Outliers: The Story of Success.” He writes that genius actually has very little to do with intelligence. Rather, he shows that what most people call genius is actually the result of unusual dedication and effort. He talks about the mathematicians, musicians, scientists and business leaders who transformed our world not because they were unusual people (they weren’t “born that way”) but because they put dedication and focus into pursuing their passion. 

And that opportunity is available to each of us. While they worked or went to school, or raised a family, these “geniuses” also pursued a dream, and they kept at it “until.” 

I love that Albert Einstein was not particularly brilliant at math! He didn’t do well in school and couldn’t get a teaching position when he graduated. I love that he published his Special Theory of Relativity while working as a clerk in the Post Office! And that throughout his career he depended on talented mathematicians to develop his theories because he always felt his “genius” was in his exquisite imagination, more than his math skill. To me, that’s inspiring! 

We all know of former couch potatoes who go on to run a marathon. We know of people who were bankrupt and later built major fortunes. Or how about those who struggled with drugs or alcohol or some other problem who go on to become extraordinary parents or community leaders? It’s called Personal Development, and it’s available to each of us. 

People have been writing to ask me how to get started. I write back suggesting they “start where you are and do what you love.” 

Would your career be richer if you were slightly better at your job? Would your world expand if you learned a new language, or if you added a new word to your vocabulary each day this summer? Would you feel better if you were healthier, stronger or slimmer? It’s called Personal Development! 

Would your family benefit if you developed your skills as a parent, spouse, lover or partner? Would you enjoy reading a bit more, or listening to audio programs on your daily commute? Would your retirement be a bit richer if you joined an investment club? It’s called Personal Development. 

The temptation is to settle. We are busy, no doubt about that! We have obligations, commitments and responsibilities.

But we also have the ability to grow, to learn, to become more than we are. And, of course, the fact is that we do change over time, whether we guide and direct that change or not. 

One of the greatest secrets of long-term, magnificent success is Personal Development. Over time, day by day and moment by moment, we change and become someone new. The question is whether (or not) we intentionally grow to become the people we want to be. In the moments and hours of your day, take charge of your life! “Inch by inch, anything’s a cinch!”

By Phil Humbert

What is the last thing you did for your Personal Development?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Leadership, Personal development.

Five Leadership Rules

June 22, 2011

1.  Have confidence in yourself.   Always believe in your abilities to be a great manager and leader.  Tackle all situations and dilemmas that come your way with enthusiasm and gusto.  The fact that you are reading this shows you have the desire and talent that exists within you.  Show you have the confidence and believe in yourself, and others will believe in you as well.  In time you will develop a sort of “instinct” when something needs attention, and a “presence” that people will find ensuring.  You will come across like a leader without even having to say a word.

 2.  Act the way you want others to act, walk the walk you talk, lead  by example, practice what you preach, etc.  These are old clichés but some of the most important tips to build respect within your organization.  If your team sees you working hard, they will work hard.  If they think your slacking, they will start slacking off.  If you tell them what to do, but you do it differently, they will not see you as an honest leader.  If you want an optimistic and positive team, then you need to always be optimistic and positive.  When your employees see that you act in the same manner you expect from them, a true sense of respect will begin to build.  These are just a few of some obvious, but extremely important, leadership skills.

 3.  Honesty and integrity is key.  People do not necessarily expect managers to always have a quick fix to solve the issues, but do expect fundamental leadership principles of honesty and goodness.  In due time you will earn credibility, which is a major leadership trait.  With the high level of integrity they will see in you as a leader, comes the trust that you are not the cause of the issues.  They will automatically know that you, as a manager, will truly do all you can to solve the issues.

4.  Emulate a person who you truly respect as a leader.  There must be someone you know whose leadership skills you thought were admirable.  It could be, or could have been, a boss, a teacher, a friend, or a relative who you admired as a person with respectable leadership characteristics.  Someone who inspired you to want to work hard, to not only try to impress, but to show you cared about the mission at hand.  Study how they made the right and effective decisions using certain facts, opinions, and ideas.  Look for the leadership qualities you would like to incorporate into your leadership style.  By remembering what it was about them that inspired you, you can emulate that style when your leadership skills are called upon.

5.  Listen more than talk.  You will earn a great deal of respect and credibility by actively listening, rather than just blowing your own hot air.  Let them share their passion, and when the time is right, you can interject with passion of your own about the subject at hand.

Question:  What is one of your leadership rules?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Culture, Employee engagement, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale, Peformance management, Personal development, Strategic planning, Teamwork.

Who Are Your ‘Eyes On the Ground’?

June 15, 2011

No matter how long we’ve been doing it, many of us who own and ride horses continue to take lessons from time to time.  The major reason is to see what we can’t see.  When you are in the saddle, you can feel your horse, move your horse and communicate with your horse.  And, your horse can feel, move and communicate with you.                           

Taking a lesson gives you ‘eyes on the ground’ . . . someone who can see what you are doing from a different perspective and view.  This person sees your hands, your legs, your posture, your movement, your reactions, your communication.  They also see what your horse is feeling, how he/she is moving and responding, what he/she is ‘saying’.  This different perspective helps you be your best so that your horse can be his/her best!  It increases the rider’s performance and confidence and increases the horse’s performance and satisfaction.  

Just like riders need eyes on the ground to continue to improve and grow, people who manage people can benefit from the same.  How do you know how well you are doing to bring out the best in your people?  How do you know what could be improved to increase your employee’s performance and satisfaction?  

Here are a few ways to gain perspective and to regularly assess and increase your effectiveness. 

  1. Ask your employees how you are doing.  Do they have the information, resources and support they need from you?  Do they understand your expectations and how well they are performing?  Are you available?  Are you communicating clearly?  What else do they need from you to be their best?
  2. Ask your peers.  What’s working, what could be improved?  If they could give you one piece of advice, what would it be? 
  3. Ask your manager.  Are you meeting expectations?  What are your strengths?  What is one thing that you could do better? 
  4. Complete a formal 360 process.  Work with your HR department or a management coach to source and conduct an anonymous feedback process on you where input is provided by your manager, your employees, your peers and you.
  5. Work with a management coach.    A coach can see you and be candid about what they see.  They can be your ‘eyes on the ground’.  During your regular conversations, they see your style, your reactions, your strengths, your confidence and how you manage stress.  They can also collect input from your employees, peers and/or manager, facilitate open dialog with you and others and teach you new skills to be a more effective leader and bring out the best in your people.   

Having ‘eyes on the ground’ will increase your awareness of your strengths and opportunities and increase your employees’ and your own performance and satisfaction.

Question:  How do you regularly assess your performance?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Culture, Leadership, Morale, Teamwork.

Are you a Strong Leader?

June 8, 2011

Being known as a strong leader is easy to obtain when you know in your heart you are doing the right thing for the “good of all.”  Here are five key points, which are the pillars to being a successful leader that you should absorb into your consciousness.   

 1.  Develop trust and credibility.  When people trust you, they will be more inclined to follow you.  If they follow you, and you have all the pieces of the puzzle in place, you will succeed.  A leader builds trust by considering the “good of all” when making decisions. Leaders do not abuse their power, but build trust by using it properly.  Trust fosters collaboration, which contributes to openly sharing information, which then creates a solid team who supports each other.  Trust is based on the respect and expectations of a leader who cares and acts with compassion in a most positive way.  With trust there is:  

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Compassion
  • Fairness
  • Good relationships

Incorporating these five traits will help guide you on the right path to strong leadership.

 2.  Share the vision with absolute clarity.  Leaders need to share the vision of what they want their department to achieve.  For example, a leader might share a vision like, “We will be a world class customer service organization that provides the benchmark for customer satisfaction.”  To get others to see and understand your vision, you need to motivate and inspire with the same enthusiasm and positivity you have inside you. 

It is vital, however, that your team understands the vision, and is 100% clear on the objectives.  People with a shared vision are more productive and have a greater sense of achievement. 

You also need to listen to what they are saying.  Doing all the talking does not let them participate in the vision quest with their ideas.   

Tracking and assessing successes, as well as failures, helps put the right goals and processes in place to reach the vision.  If the employees always know where they stand, they will know what part they played in achieving the vision. 

3.  Be there to help them succeed – Coaching, mentoring, communicating, and listening.  Great interpersonal skills are vital for a successful leader.  You don’t lead by sitting behind your desk.  Be out there and find the strengths and talents of your employees, and place them where they can shine.  They need to know how their strengths serve the objectives.  Show them the respect they deserve and that you have their interests at heart. 

The bottom line is that they need to know that you will be there to help them succeed.  You can do this by:

  • Coaching.  Try and help them improve their skills to do their job better.  Give them feedback on their performance with observations and give good advice.  Use specific statements rather than general comments, whether good or bad.
  • Mentoring.  Help them understand what you are all about, guide them for a better chance of promotion and have them learn about other aspects and functions of the business.
  • Communicating.  Clearly share your vision and goals, encourage individuals and groups, praise when praise is due and take the time for one-on-one meetings. 
  • Listening.  Let them share ideas, concerns and know you are approachable and caring without judgment.    

The most important aspect here is that you are always looking at ways to help develop your employees’ unique skills, both individually and as a group, for a better future including possible growth in the company.  This is a win for the company as well.  The company will gain more productive employees who are ready to take on new challenges and roles as they become available.  

4.  Make the decisions and be held accountable.  Make the right decisions and guide your department into the right direction. 

Clearly define the issue you are solving

  • Sift the data for facts and relevance. 
  • Look closely at the issue at hand while never losing sight of the big picture.
  • Talk to and involve subject experts if needed. 
  • Don’t make a decision too quickly unless necessary. 
  • Think about the cost-benefit for both short-term and long-term. 
  • Once a decision is made, do not be wishy-washy or unsure about yourself.  You will be seen as a person who can be easily persuaded with little confidence. 

You as a leader are expected to take some chances and you might make some risky decisions.  In saying that, as people expect to be held accountable in their job performance, they also expect you to be held accountable as their leader.  If you fail or deny any wrong doing on your part, or place blame on someone else, you will lose credibility and not be seen as an effective leader. 

You also need to know when it is better to follow, rather than lead, by trusting your employees’ suggestions.  Leaders realize they can’t know all the answers, and earn respect when they seek advice of others when needed.    

Being held accountable is a positive thing, as you want to be known for the good things that you do.  The same goes for your employees as it makes them feel important and appreciated.  You do, however, need to allow people to sometimes fail or make mistakes during the process of achieving difficult goals.  You also need to confront them.  By using your management and leadership skills, people will admit their mistakes and accept accountability.  Your skills as leader will also help and coach them to improve.  

Make sure your decisions are always ethically sound.  Do not ask or expect your team to get the results unethically or use a “no matter what it takes” approach.

5.   Keep it all under control and headed in the right direction.  The objective of every leader should come with the mindset of striving for “mission accomplished.”  You, as leader and manager, need to focus on what’s most important related to the vision and goals of the organization.  You need to eliminate chaos and be known as a person with authority who can make the right decisions.  You might have 5 projects going on at once, but focusing more on the least important when the most important is in need of help will destroy your vision and miss your goals.  Make sure you get your team to focus on the most important and critical tasks to achieve the goals.  By delegating tasks to the right people, fulfillment of the vision will become more likely.

  Everyone needs to have the same focus and direction you have.  A sense of community within the team, with a common goal, is key.  If you waver and change your mind and direction continually, you will lose trust.  Consistency is key to maintaining control and keep things going in the right direction. 

 These “five key points” are the core competencies to strong leadership.  Which of these competencies are your strengths and what could you be doing better?

Question:  What do you think your employees would rate you on each of these competencies?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Conflict, Culture, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, High performance team, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale, Teamwork.

Another Lesson from the Horses

June 1, 2011

It was a gorgeous, warm day with LOTS of wind.  So I decided to work the horses in the round pen rather than go for a ride.  It also gave me an opportunity to work with both horses, rather than only take one out that day.  

The primary purpose of using the round pen is to teach your horse to listen and respect you.  You do this by talking to the horse in his language – body language – not by talking out loud.  Do you remember the cartoon Charlie Brown?  When the adults talked, all the kids heard was ‘blah blah blah . . . “  I think it’s the same with horses.  We want to believe that they understand ‘our’ language, and in some cases they do.  But if we really want our horses to listen and do what we want them to do, we need to speak their language.  

So, there we were in the round pen.  And, I was speaking their language and they were listening!  I worked with Buddy first and he was an angel.  I would point him in the direction I wanted him to go and he did exactly what I wanted.  I gave him the cue to trot and he did.  I cued him to canter and he did.  He was perfect.  When I stepped back and stopped moving, he turned towards me and stopped – perfect!  I would point him in the opposite direction and he did what I asked.  After a while, he started to get bored with the circling and I began to get frustrated that he was no longer being perfect.  My frustration led me to be inconsistent with my language with Buddy which led Buddy to get confused and frustrated with me.  We weren’t communicating and as hard as Buddy was trying to do what I was asking, he couldn’t perform.  I finally began to listen to Buddy, figured out what he needed to meet the expectations and we ended on a good note.  

Then it was Blue’s turn.  Lucky for Blue, I was a quick learner.  Buddy had taught me that I needed to listen and communicate consistently with him.  Because of that, Blue performed well, neither of us got frustrated or confused and we met the expectations for the day.   

Moral of this story

  1. Consistent communication – Communicate the expectations in a way that your employee can understand.  Speak their language, not yours, and make sure you are consistent in the way you communicate and reinforce the performance with rewards and consequences. 
  2. Listen – Check in with your employees on a regular basis to assess progress and offer support.  Listen to what’s working and where they may need some support. 
  3. Keep it under control – Manage your emotions – if things aren’t going well, point the finger towards yourself first.  Assess whether you have communicated the expectations clearly and if you have provided the necessary training and resources for your employee to be successful. 

Question:   How do you manage your emotions when expectations are not met?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Conflict, Culture, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale, Personal development, Teamwork.

Your Pursuit of Happiness

May 25, 2011

I’ve been thinking about happiness. Specifically, in the days since our World Class Life Conference ended, I’ve been pondering the keys to total happiness and a wonderful book by the Dalai Lama, “The Art of Happiness”. 

The Dalai Lama argues that, fundamentally, we all seek more and greater happiness in our lives and that the one really key questions in life is, “What makes me truly happy?” 

For many people, happiness is related to money, and happiness means accumulating wealth. For them, money has great value and they are motivated to work hard and smarter, and to use money in ways that make them happy.  But there are thousands of individual differences in the details of exactly how that works. Some make money and give it all away. Some make money and hoard it, even burying it in the backyard, while others invest it, and still others make a show of displaying a wealth of possessions.

For others, happiness has little to do with money, and they seek fulfillment in their creativity, or they find ultimate happiness in family relationships, or by serving others.

There are many paths up the mountain called “happiness”!

One of the most important distinctions the Dalai Lama makes is between happiness and pleasure. We can all think of experiences that bring us delightful pleasure but which utterly fail to make us “happy” in life. Almost everyone enjoys a fine meal, perhaps with good wine, but we all reject a life of gluttony and drunkenness.

 So the question:  What makes you truly happy? 

This is a central question for the World Class Life Conference because in order to have a GREAT life, we must first determine what it might look like. What are the key pieces of a great and joyful life FOR YOU? 

Almost 150 years ago, Henry Thoreau wrote that most people “live lives of quiet desperation”, and sadly, I think that’s still true. All our wealth and freedom, our education and power, even access to the greatest wisdom and literature of past generations, has not created a society in which most people seem truly happy. 

Indeed, many people seem to be incredibly unhappy. While some are overtly miserable, millions more are stressed, anxious, uncomfortable or angry. Some focus their discomfort on their work, others on politics or public policy, while some are simply annoyed by noise, pollution or road construction. Whatever the details, the question remains:

With our incredible freedom to create the life we truly want and live as we please, why aren’t more people happy? 

I think this is a vital question. It may even be THE question for modern adults to ponder and answer. Given that you can live almost anywhere you choose, read and learn almost any skill, and have pretty much any lifestyle you want, WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY? 

What are your happiest memories? What are your happiest fantasies, dreams and aspirations? Who do you know who seems to be truly, massively happy? 

What makes you happy? At the end of life, what will let you say, “I did it right. I made good choices. I am HAPPY with how I lived my life!” Whatever your answer, in the coming days and weeks, do more of that, and less of everything else.

by Phil Humbert

Question:  What makes YOU happy?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Culture, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale, Personal development.

A Gift in Disguise

May 18, 2011

All of us have had, and continue to have people/situations/occurrences/events in our lives that we interpret as good or bad, happy or sad.  We know how to handle the good and happy events in our lives.  We enjoy!

In each event we interpret as bad or sad, there is a gift disguised as a problem.  Each of us have had, and will periodically continue to have bad, sad or negative events/encounters in our lives.  In each of those situations, there is a lesson for us to learn, an opportunity to grow.

We normally feel the emotion of the event, which is natural.  However, many times we fail to learn the embedded lesson.  Often, we continue to feel the emotion long past what is healthy for us.  We re-live the situation over and over (Self-Talk).

It is said that we learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes.  If this is true, then we should view our mistakes or events in our lives as an opportunity to learn.

Certainly we need to feel the emotion.  And the more severe the event, the longer we will naturally feel the emotion.  However, at some point it is time to “Learn the Lesson” and move-on.

We are feeling beings.  We are also problem solving beings with the gift of “Original Thought”.  So, when the time is appropriate, we need to “Leave the Event” behind, and carry the lesson into our future.  We can then put the lessons learned into our tool-box of experience to deal with future events.

Use your skills to “Learn the Lesson – Leave the Event” and move-on.

By Michael Price

Question:  What are YOU learning this week?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Culture, Leadership, Morale, Personal development.

Communication 101

May 4, 2011

Never talk over people, rarely talk at them, at the very least

talk to them, and try to talk with them.

Talking over = diatribe They’ll leave at the earliest opportunity because you’re insulting them by treating them as if they’re not there. They’re thinking: “What a buffoon, I’m outta’ here at the next break.” Never do this.

Talking at = debate  They feel like you’re sticking your finger in their face. They’ll either: a) hunker down in a submissive pose with their chin tucked into their neck if they’re intimidated. It’s as if they’re saying: “Please don’t be angry at me;” or b) they’ll stick their chin out at you and narrow their eyes if they’re ticked off. It’s as if they’re saying: “You can’t talk to me like that!” Do this only in a situation such as being in overtime in the seventh game of the NBA finals, your players know you respect them and you need them to execute, not think.

Talking to = discussion  They’ll nod from the neck up as if to say, “Yes, that makes sense,” and may or may not follow through. This is the language of doing business as usual. Use this as your usual mode of speaking.

Talking with = dialogue They’ll relax their shoulders and neck as if you’ve moved over to their side and put your arm around their shoulder like a loving parent or grandparent. It’s as if you’ve told them: “It’ll be okay. We can work this out.” This is the language of intimacy. Aspire to this in matters of the heart and when possible in matters of the world.

Question:  What’s your preferred communication style?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale.

What’s In It for Me?

March 23, 2011

Setting clear goals and expectations is a two-way street.  Managers have expectations for employees that are job specific.  And, employees have development expectations of their managers and company, too.  It’s important for managers to understand their employees’ development and career goals.  

Employee development planning is typically a part of the performance management process.  As part of the process, the manager and employee discuss plans for individual development that will take place during the coming year that support the employee’s development goals.  Development plans can include special projects, seminars or conventions, rotational assignments, self-study, specific skill acquisition, to name just a few. 

The best development you can provide is to build on your employees’ strengths.  How can you unearth and nurture those strengths? Here are a few tips to help you achieve that goal.  

  • Identify ways to apply existing strengths in new ways.  How can you look at your employee in new, different ways? What qualities has your employee demonstrated, and how can these translate into transferable skills?
  • Ask employee what they like to do.  People who excel at a specific job are typically promoted to management level.  As a result, we’ve often taken the person out of the exact environment in which they succeed and which they like and sometimes reducing their success in the new position.  You cannot fully uncover a person’s strengths without their input.  Tap into what the employee discerns as his or her strengths by asking what they enjoy most, and why, and in what role they believe they are of most value to the organization.
  • Get co-workers thoughts.  As the business leader, you work with employees in different ways than they work with each other.  Asking peers to share kudos and thank-yous at staff meetings can provide insight into traits and behaviors that suit  and benefit the entire team and help you assess the strengths of each employee from their peers’ point-of-view. 
  • Look to history for clues.  If you’re having a difficult time identifying an employee’s strengths, spend time thinking about why you hired them, what their references told you and what your first impressions were. There were reasons you brought this person on board — revisit those reasons to refresh your thinking about strengths, contributions and potential.
  • Turn a weakness upside down.  Physicists know that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  Applied to employees, consider, “What’s the opposite of this weakness?” to unearth possible strengths. For instance, if an employee inconsistently completes projects that he developed in the first place, perhaps his strength is in generating ideas, not executing them.
  • Allow the employee to test-drive a new role.  Maybe you’re seeing the employee in a specific role, yet more of their strengths would blossom in another role. Consider establishing a cross-training program, in which employees shadow co-workers for a day to learn more about the roles and responsibilities available. This test-drive might spark new ideas about increased value from the employee, and allow you (and them) to see where a role-shift may make sense for the company. Set clear goals and intentions for the exercise, including, “What we want to know at the end of this day.” 

Creating development plans that build on strengths and provide opportunities for your employees to learn and grow are key to promoting a great company culture and building employee retention and loyalty.

Question:  What are your development goals?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Collaboration, Culture, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Peformance management, Teamwork.

Making the Goal!

March 17, 2011

Employee productivity is one of the first places where less-than-optimal management practices drain an organization of financial performance.  When employees don’t receive the clear direction and support that they need to accomplish their key tasks successfully, the result is wasted time, substandard results and costly rework.  The primary culprits?  Unclear expectations, lack of follow-up and ongoing feedback.

An old organizational development saying is ‘you get what you measure’.  If we set clear expectations and don’t follow-up, employees may believe that the task is not as important as something else. 

Following up helps to ensure that goals are on track and will be met.  It provides timely identification of potential obstacles in meeting those goals such as lack of tools, skills or resources and ensures that employees get the support needed to meet expectations.  Follow-up may also uncover lack of commitment or employee nonperformance issues. 

The best way to follow-up with employees is to have regular one-on-ones with each of your employees.  Don’t let time pressures get in the way of a weekly check-in with your employees to see how they are doing.  A short, weekly meeting where the agenda is driven by the employee can work wonders in providing the appropriate combination of direction and support people need to be productive and meet expectations.

While follow-up ensures goals are being met, feedback is essential for improving performance. Throughout the year, it is important to understand how you and your employees are performing.  Managers and employees should have a solid understanding of the areas where they are most effective, as well as the areas where they could improve. 

Here are some keys to providing effective feedback:

  • Include the positive. To keep employees motivated, managers must recognize their accomplishments.
  • Make feedback frequent and informal. Going an entire year without feedback is like having a toothache in need of a dentist.  Employees need to know how they’re performing in their jobs – and this is especially true in the case of new employees or temporary workers, who need to have early feedback on a regular basis.
  • Keep documentation.  Records should be kept to document progress and accomplishments, as well as performance problems discussed. These records need to be dated and the corresponding expectations and next checkpoint noted. This information will make the formal review process simple and can also serve as documentation in the event of promotional opportunities or legal or disciplinary actions that could develop.

As you can see, regular feedback and follow-up are key to ensuring individual and company goals are met.  See below for more information on purpose and process for an effective follow-up process – One-on-One meetings with your employees.

Question:  How often do you follow-up on key goals with your employees?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Morale, Peformance management, Teamwork.

Follow-up with Regular Employee One-on-Ones

March 17, 2011

Outcome

Individual goals/commitments are always met.

Purpose

  • Provide a structure for opening up communication and monitoring performance. 
  • Review, assessment and planning to ensure goals are on-track or renegotiated.
  • Employee knows how they are doing, receives helpful feedback and coaching, participates in problem solving and feels valued for their contribution

 Guidelines

  • Short—15 to 30 minutes
  • Frequent—at least once every two weeks
  • Focused on individual goals and commitments
  • Individual owns bringing the necessary information to show results, issues and recommended solutions
  • Scheduled in advance (recommend a regularly scheduled meeting)
  • A top priority—If a meeting is postponed, it needs to be rescheduled promptly

 Agenda

  • Review goals/metrics and commitments

                  –  On-track?

                  –  If off-track, assess cause (resources, information, development need)

  • Create plan to address (owners, timeline, etc.)
  • Any urgent issues/needs? 
  • What support do they need from you?
  • Ask what else is on their mind
  • Schedule follow-up, as appropriate

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Communication, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Leadership development, Peformance management, Personal development.

Moving from “The Company” to “Our Company”

February 2, 2011

The heart and soul of engagement is ownership.  As long as your employees feel they are working to help you make your company succeed, engagement will be low.  Once you get them to see themselves as partners in the endeavor—making decisions, staying informed, linking the impact of their day-day job to the company’s success —everything changes.  Engagement rises, productivity soars, customer satisfaction increases and profit grows! 

Engagement does not come from dollars but from more personal factors.  Here are seven things that will help your employees stay engaged for the long term. 

  1. An employer who cares enough to listen. The best way to know what your employees need and expect is to ask them.  And to listen carefully to their answers. 
  2. Clear, consistent expectations.  Clear expectations are key to ownership and self-motivation.  Vague policies and unclear expectations can make employees feel irritated, unsafe, even paranoid – and disengaged.  They click into survival mode instead of focusing on how to help the company succeed. 
  3. A sense of the importance of their work.  Giving an employee line of sight to how their day-day job impacts the bigger picture – customer and company goals – gives them a sense of belonging and an opportunity to see how they make a difference.  This has a greater impact on loyalty and customer service than all other factors combined.
  4. Opportunities for advancement. The chance to learn something new, whether it’s development to be better in their current job or work their way up the ladder, is a tremendous incentive for productivity, bonding, and engagement. 
  5. Good relationships with others in the workplace—especially their boss. If that relationship is weak or toxic, you can forget about asking the employee to put their shoulder to the wheel for the company.
  6. Regular feedback.  If you want to keep employees moving forward, give them regular feedback. And don’t forget positive feedback, which should ideally outnumber the negative by about 5 to 1.   After all, you get what you measure and acknowledge. 
  7. Celebration and rewards for success. Set realistic targets, then reward and celebrate when they are reached.  And don’t wait for the end of a big project to celebrate.  Pick milestones along the way and recognize them (aka have fun, party) when you hit them.  

Help your employees feel a part of the company – our company!   Help them know that ‘we are in this together’ and you will see amazing, positive results! 

Action plan

  1. Assess your current use of the seven factors above.  Do you believe ‘we’re in this together’?  Do your employees? 
  2. Identify and implement a plan to improve at least one within the next week. 

Question:  

Do you work for ‘the’ company or ‘our’ company?  What would make you change your answer?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Leadership development, Peformance management, Teamwork.

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Negative Feedback – Good, Bad or Gift?

January 26, 2011

Nothing makes for a bad day like negative feedback.  However, there is a role for positive negative feedback in your life, and according to Sam Chapman, CEO and author of The No Gossip Zone, negative feedback should be seen as a gift.

“Without negative feedback, we would never improve ourselves and our lives,” said Sam Chapman. “And after enough practice at accepting negative feedback, you might even find yourself letting out an involuntary “hmm” noise as you realize the truth in a bit of negative feedback.”

Step One: The Giver Is Not Your Enemy
By accepting that everyone has something valuable they can teach us about who we are, we open up to a realm of creativity, growth and success that we never thought possible. This means accepting negative feedback with an open mind and discovering what it is that you need to improve about your performance.

Step Two: Curb Your Natural Reaction to Be Defensive
This will take some practice. It is our natural reaction to immediately leap to our own defense whenever someone puts us down. We immediately come up with several different rebuttals, all of which are aimed to prevent us from taking a single iota of responsibility for the situation at hand. However, if you can take a step back, a deep breath and remove yourself from the situation for a moment, you might realize that you are being told something worthwhile, something that can help you grow personally and professionally.

Step Three: Allow Yourself to Feel Emotions, But Don’t Get Stuck
You have the right to get upset whenever you hear negative feedback. It is perfectly natural to feel sad, angry or any variation thereof when you hear that your performance or behavior needs work. Allow yourself to feel those emotions, but don’t allow yourself to become them. Otherwise, you will be so busy “being” angry or sad that you won’t have the emotional energy or wherewithal to realize where you stand to improve.

Step Four: Turn Your Complaint Into Requests
At the end of this process, you are more than welcome to share your feedback with your giver; just make sure your feedback isn’t in the form of a complaint. The gift is much easier to receive when it’s in the form of a request rather than a complaint.

Question:  How do you respond to negative feedback?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Change management, Collaboration, Communication, Conflict, Leadership, Morale, Personal development.

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