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I’m Here So I Won’t Get Fined

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You Get What you MeasureAn old boss once told me that you get what you measure.

At the time, I was a young and inexperienced manager. My boss was trying to teach me the criticality of establishing performance metrics, standards of accountability, and the importance of diligent follow up.

Yes, yes, and yes. Each of those components are important. However, there was a big issue in the equation with my boss. His formula was rooted in a lack of trust. You see, he believed that employees would always try to game the system, dodge accountability, and were inherently lazy – except for superstars, of course.

Talk about a great learning lesson for me. To this day, that manager taught me some of the most valuable business and life lessons – about how NOT to lead.

When it comes to metrics, as an example, I would agree – you DO get what you measure.

Case in point #1:

Marshawn Lynch, running back for the Seattle Seahawks, is known for not wanting to speak to the media. He has his reasons; I don’t know what they are, and it doesn’t really matter. Point is this – the NFL repeatedly fined him for not showing up to media days. And those media days are particularly high visibility leading up to the Super Bowl. This year, the league said they’d fine Lynch $500,000 if he didn’t show up and talk to the media.

You get what you measure.

Lynch showed up on Tuesday, January 27, 2015, for his required 5 minutes with the media. In that 5 minutes, he stated “I’m here so I won’t get fined” – 29 times. Yup. He showed up. He talked to the media.

You get what you measure.

We see this in the businesses with whom we consult on a regular basis.

Case in point #2:

Traditional call centers are very metric driven. One of the more common metrics is call handle time (the length of time from when a call center agent picks up a call until when they hang up the call). In most traditional call centers, the lower the handle time, the better (more efficiency, lower head count needed to handle customer demand).

Here is the issue. These same call centers say they want to drive high levels of customer service. In as short of a call as possible. See the disconnect? In fact, when recording calls, they listen for the reps to say things like “is there anything else I can do for you?” – because that indicates customer centricity, right? Not when you say it like it is a requirement, as opposed to really engaging and CARING. You know what that sounds like, right? So, you have robotic calls, where the reps are trying to get off the phone as fast as they can. Wait – ready for the best part? The metrics are taken so seriously, that workers in these environments actually call each other, and then hang up the phone when it is answered!!!! Why? To drive down handle time of course!

You get what you measure.

What is the lesson for you, our business leader?

Metrics do matter – BUT – they are only one element in a healthy and robust system of management that exists within a healthy, productive company culture.

Want more detail on those other elements? See other eQ blogs on performance systems, system of management, culture, and winning teams.

 

Andrew Freedman, Principal at entreQuest, specializes in helping eQ’s clients grow by creating well aligned company cultures and strategies that result in remarkable client and employee experiences.

Posted in Business Strategy, Culture, System of Management | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

If at First You Don’t Resonate, Ask, Ask Again

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FAQ keyboardI often speak about the power of questions. I encourage and coach others to use them to more effectively, teach, mentor, and delegate. I enjoy a reputation with many colleagues and clients as someone who asks valuable questions. Yet – as we’re reminded often – like any discipline, following your own advice and behaving consistently can be a challenge. In working with two coaching clients in the same afternoon, I came face-to-face with my need to kick it up a notch when using questions to effectively drive their continued growth and evolution as managers and leaders.

One of the clients I was working with is an earnest and exceedingly well-intentioned manager seeking to more effectively develop his team members and retain them. Together we were working on how he could use questions to build on some great work he’d done laying a foundation of knowledge with a new team member. We’d been talking through the process of specific questions to ask in his next 1-on-1 meeting for about 20 minutes, when I asked the manager whether it was more effective to learn by being told or being asked. A question I figured was a no-brainer, inserted to confirm our understanding. He reacted as if I had just asked for an explanation of cold fusion. He honestly did not know how to answer. When I pushed for a response, he defaulted to “being told.”Cue loud buzzer! Oh my. “Seriously,” is all I could think. I took a deep breath and rewound our conversation. I noted my surprise at his confusion, and added that this was a great illustration of how and why questions are so essential. Had I been in telling mode, I would have continued to assume that the manager was far more comfortable with this shift in his approach with his team than he was. Fortunately, we discovered this – in time – and did some additional work that increases the likelihood of effective action and, ultimately, success.

My other client is a more senior, deep technical expert in a business-critical area. He is deeply committed to the success of his organization and passionate about the quality of their work. This has led him to struggle when working with teams that have varied levels of expertise and different drivers of success. He can come across as dogmatic when requests are made that come with complexities others don’t understand as well as he does. He’d just been in a meeting with the C-level executive he reports to and several other stakeholders discussing the timeline for a high-profile product development project he’s leading. He’d been asked to commit to a specific timeline that he felt lacked the allowance for the uncertainty and nuance his keen eye knows inevitably will be encountered. So, he basically said that the work requested couldn’t be done in any predictable manner, and then began to explain this to the group in a manner that easily could be interpreted as condescending. As he replayed the meeting, I cringed. I did so because I love what this guy stands for, I love his talent, I love his heart…and because – for goodness sake – we’ve been over this, and worked on strategies to more deftly guide people to where he needs them to be. And in just a few minutes, months of work had been undermined. In this case, our challenge is how to get him to ask himself better questions in real time, like “what are they really asking for?”; “how can I say ‘yes’ without promising something I can’t deliver”; and “what do I need to know before giving any answer beyond…’let’s talk about how we can do this…’?” He can do it when specifically scripted, but on his own he still struggles.

With those stories as reminders of the challenges of changing our behavior, AND the opportunity we have to make an impact if we incorporate good questions into our approach to management, leadership, teamwork, problem-solving, and more, here are my primary notes to self:

•  Check in early and often—How does that sound? How are you feeling about that? What are the benefits of this approach? What is keeping you from using it?

•  Practice makes perfect (or at least better and more likely)—So, let’s talk through how you’ll have this conversation… You want to help prepare your team member to do X. You share your intent with her. What question will you ask her first? What can you ask her to guide her toward the missing item? In another scenario, you’re going to be part of a team solving complex problems. Rather than rushing to conclusions, what questions can you ask to understand how things are no,w and what led to their development before “fixing them?”

•  Commit—It’s great to earn the mandate of helping to incorporate questions (or any behavior change). It’s even better to practice, so the skill is more present and there’s confidence in it. But, let’s not let it go to waste because we never get around to it’s actual use. Nailing down when, with who, and how frequently are among the most important commitments you can make, or help someone else make to ensure that you do what you intend.

By the way, good questions not only distribute learning and capability, and grow confidence in others, but they make you look smart. That’s right. I’m getting back up on the good question horse for all the right reasons, and because who doesn’t like to look a little smarter every now and again.

 

Jeff Lesher, Principal at entreQuest, blends his deep knowledge of organization design, human capital, and leadership with a pragmatic approach drawn from his own business experience and eQ’s philosophy to help eQ’s clients focus on their core purpose and move people effectively to action.

Posted in Business Strategy, Leadership, Success | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Home Away From Home

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Apple PieIf you haven’t seen my name on any of the eQ blogs yet, that’s because I’m the resident “new guy.” Starting a new job can be tough, and stressful, no matter who you are. But what can make it even more strenuous is the atmosphere. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a tad intimidated to be working alongside such an immensely talented group of people. The amazing thing was, that feeling lasted all of about five minutes. And here’s why…

I was welcomed to the eQ team with open arms. Before my very first day I received email after email from my future colleagues, many of whom I have never met, welcoming me to the team and telling me that they can’t wait to work with me. I was blown away. This is probably because at my last job I was more of a number. I was just another cog in the machine. I felt like the equivalent of the guy who stamps “inspected by #6” on the back of a washing machine. The sad part is, my brief tenure in the professional world has shown me this to be the norm. If you ask me, the culture behind this is all wrong.

It may come as a crazy notion for some, but the workplace is kind of a home away from home. There are only 168 hours in a week, and according to a recent Gallup poll the average person no longer clocks in the typical 40 hour work week. No, in fact, the average is now 47 hours a week. That’s 28% of your week in the office! So why can’t the office be a warm and welcoming place? One where you look forward to spending time alongside your colleagues? It can be, and should be. I can assure you that a happy employee, someone who feels at home in their work environment, will produce much greater work than inspector #6. The school systems spend quite a lot of time and money on researching how to make the classroom a more warm and inclusive place for children to work and learn. So why do we do it for our children and not ourselves? The instructional techniques of a comprehensive environment shouldn’t stop after we receive our high school diploma. These simple, yet positive and stimulating tactics work in the professional world as well. Let’s try inviting people in, instead of dragging them into work kicking and screaming. I think you’ll be surprised by the results of such a simple culture change.

At eQ, I was embraced as the newest member of the family. All before day 1! By turning the workplace into a more inviting place to be, you create that home away from home environment that truly cultivates growth. As for me, I could practically smell the apple pie cooling in the window.

 

As eQ’s Writing Specialist, Eric Stewart works his creative magic by putting our Team’s concepts, ideas, and methodologies into words!

Posted in Culture, Success, Talent, Team Members | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

When the Whole World is on Your Case…How Do You Deal With Life’s Troubles in the Workplace?

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When it rains it poursLast week was far from my best. On the same morning I received an unexpected email from a client terminating our engagement, I got a text from my Mom letting me know one of my brothers was in the hospital. All while I was helping one of my children arrange a leave of absence from college to focus on some more imminent life issues. I also found out at the beginning of a client meeting that a member of their leadership team had his hands full with a personal matter. It was such that the business owner was inclined to unilaterally impose a leave of absence that would cause some significant organizational upset. In the words of the singer Adele: “When the rain is blowing in your face / And the whole world is on your case…”; I was just hoping for someone’s (figurative) “warm embrace.” While I was totally ready to dive into my client’s issue, I had no idea if I should share, or even how to share, with any of my colleagues the weighty issues in my world. This raised the question in my mind of whether it makes sense for any of us to acknowledge the impact our personal lives have on our work. This question exists despite the fact the impact is unquestionable no matter how well we think we can compartmentalize, and is thus very relevant.

Though we increasingly talk about our colleagues as family, the tolerance differential was immediately apparent with my client who – while compassionate – was ready immediately to distance himself from the circumstance of his executive team member. This was prior even to having the full story. I suspected that the affected senior employee was unsure how to engage the owner in a conversation about a very personal matter and/or wanted to have more information on his end before doing so. My circumstances were a bit different. Obviously, the client termination was public. Although I received the termination within a context where I had still earned significant credibility in an organization I’m relatively new to. The family matters – well – I just didn’t feel they were things I could, or wanted to, share. I’m still not sure who I could have spoken to about them, but upon reflection I should have spoken to someone. At least as a hedge or precursor to needing some help.

I’ve worked for many years to help develop top talent and drive extraordinary performance. I have regularly counseled leaders to give their people greater latitude and empower people to do everything they can to keep their sponsors in the loop. This is so important in order to avoid those benefactors being surprised down the road. That’s what it really boils down to: in business, nobody likes surprises. We’re not machines. As people, we are vulnerable to attacks on our emotional and physical selves. When we’re under attack, our focus and performance CAN slip. Just as importantly, many organizations truly are committed to supporting us; but they can’t if we don’t allow them into our lives enough to know when and how. So, while we still have to deal with the nearer and longer term circumstances that cause us distraction and pain, we can and should consider bringing our colleagues up to date. Enough at least to avoid a surprise later, when circumstances may require us to seek help. Here are some thoughts about when, and how, to do this:

•  For you, when—Calamity has a way of striking suddenly. Do your best to triage what’s going on and when you may need to taper back on work, or be absent. Depending on how quickly this might become clear, you can wait to know more before sharing, or you can give people a heads up that this may happen and when you’re likely to know. This is particularly important if your need to be absent, or less present, will follow getting more information quickly.

•  To whom—This is trickier. Surely your immediate supervisor is a good call – and that person may direct you to others/other resources. I’d also include people most directly affected by your absence. Together, you can craft an action plan that may include client notification.

•  How—The initial conversations are best had by phone or in person, when possible. If an email or text comes first, commit to a call or meeting soon after. Internally and with clients, striking a balance between sharing too little (ominous or at least mysterious in a way that invites speculation) and too much is key and can be a challenge. It’s helpful to have a sense of how long a circumstance may impose itself; and, if we don’t know, then perhaps when we can update people.

No one relishes being vulnerable. In fact, it usually sucks. Being alone…or feeling alone…is worse. And, when it puts your colleagues, your business, and your clients at some risk, it’s absolutely unacceptable. So, get your information together, trust your colleagues, and help to not only avoid surprises, but do way better than that by ensuring everyone gets what they need – including you!

Epilogue: The good news is that our client resolved his issue in a very positive way and is back at work at a critical time for his company. His boss really had no Plan B, so this outcome is particularly rewarding and fortunate. We’re still fired by our client – but on good terms. My brother did have a serious health matter, and his quick action allowed doctors to treat him and prevent something far worse. My wife and I are working with our child to develop and implement a plan of action to help them find their path to greater independence, health, and happiness. Fingers crossed.

 

Jeff Lesher, Principal at entreQuest, blends his deep knowledge of organization design, human capital, and leadership with a pragmatic approach drawn from his own business experience and eQ’s philosophy to help eQ’s clients focus on their core purpose and move people effectively to action.

Posted in Client Experiences, Grow Regardless, Motivation, Talent | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lost in Translation: Poor Emotional Intelligence = Poor Leadership

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Colorful brainWhy Do We Promote (or follow) Leaders Lacking a Critical Attribute?

Poor emotional intelligence, or a total lack thereof, sticks out like a sore thumb. It is particularly confounding when the void shows up in our leaders. Imagine participating in a leadership retreat with senior executives and ownership at a company that is mired in stagnant growth and culture. In my anecdote, this retreat occurs at the culmination of months of poor communication, unarticulated goals, lack of trust, emotional outbursts, and a perceived lack of empathy from the ownership. The leadership fails to seize the opportunity to collaborate, listen, empathize, be honest, and reset based upon the ideas and open communication from the other members of the organization. Instead, what happens is the ownership goes into ‘bunker’ mode and dismisses the good ideas and honest dialogue only to allow the existing paradigm to live on. This numbness serves to blunt all notions of growth, collaboration, and engagement. Sound all too familiar? It may be a similar refrain for many where there is a lack of empathy and awareness from leadership; in other words, a lack of emotional intelligence.

The rise of data and analysis swirling around this incredibly important attribute is undeniable, and understandably so. Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize, gauge, and control your emotions, while recognizing and responding to those of other people. Certainly, a desirable ability for leaders. The widely recognized emotional intelligence expert, Daniel Goleman, suggests that there are four dimensions of emotional intelligence: self-awareness; social awareness; emotional management; and relationship management. Organizations with healthy cultures, strong retention of talent, and a well-developed succession plan often reflect the high emotional intelligence of their leadership teams. According to a recent study, emotional intelligence was found to be the strongest predictor of performance among workplace skills, revealing a 58% factor of success in all job types. The study further revealed that 90% of top performers are also high in emotional intelligence while just 20% of bottom performers are high in emotional intelligence.

Now, here is the head-scratcher: organizations promote people to positions of leadership that lack this critical attribute! CEOs, on average, have the lowest EQ scores in the workplace. CEOs… THE LEADERS… are lowest!!! Joe Mechlinski, founder of entreQuest and author of Grow Regardless, suggests that leaders beef up their emotional intelligence to create an energy and a culture that is conducive to growth. We live in an age where the ‘leadership pipeline’ is the number one area of concern among hiring professionals. The surge of data compels the conclusion that your organization needs to have emotional intelligence front of mind (pun intended) when promoting and cultivating leaders.

To avoid the promotion of those with dulled emotional intelligence, here are some things to consider:

1.  Don’t guess; assess! There are several credible emotional intelligence (sometimes referred to as the emotional quotient) assessment platforms, for this critical attribute.

2.  Provide real, practical challenges for the individual in question so that you can evaluate his or her emotional intelligence in action. Use a group project or task where self-management, creativity, diversity of thought, and humility are necessary for the successful completion of the group project. And be sure to survey all team members upon completion of the task.

3.  Can they ‘check the ego at the door?’ A sure fire way to find out if a leader should be promoted at all is to determine whether the individual will put his own goals ahead of the betterment of the organization, or insists on getting all the credit himself.

These three steps, if followed, will help to keep those with low emotional intelligence away from the important leadership positions. A lack of emotional intelligence can be dangerous in a leader, but if you strive to cultivate this skill within your employees, and leadership, you’re sure to have quite a powerful team at your disposal.

 

As Vice President at entreQuest, Chris Steer works closely with the eQ principals to develop and execute on eQ’s strategic growth plan to expand and position eQ as a leader in talent acquisition, growth, and management consulting.

Posted in Business Strategy, Emotional Intelligence, Grow Regardless, Leadership | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Unlocking the Key to Powerful Performance Cycles

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Vintage lock and key“It takes so long for me to prepare for annual reviews – it wipes me out.”

“I don’t find performance reviews useful at all. It’s only a chance for my boss to talk at me about his/her goals for me, but isn’t really about ME.”

“Yes, we set annual goals at the beginning of the year, but I can’t remember what they are. My boss and I never talk about them again until the end of the year. Honestly, at that point, I have to dig them back up to remember what we talked about at the beginning of the year.”

YIKES!!!!!

Yes, those are actual quotes from employees that we’ve talked to over the years. Yes, this aligns with the statistics that have shown, for over 14 years, more than 70% of workers in the US are disengaged. Employees just don’t feel that their boss or their company takes a vested interest in their personal and professional development. (Caveat – it isn’t just about the boss – every employee has a responsibility to OWN his/her development and goals. Even if the boss isn’t leading the way, a person cannot place blame for lack of development on anyone but him/herself. There is shared responsibility here.) It is bad across the board. And don’t give me the old line when it comes to sales people: ‘we talk about their production all the time. If they are hitting their numbers, they are doing a good job. What they care about is money. That is all.’ I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard that. Are you kidding me? You think what your people care about most is money? More than their growth, development, achievement, contributions, and being part of something bigger than themselves? I’ve got news for you – if you are in that camp, you just don’t know humans.

The good news is you can do better. The better news is that I’m going to share a simple blueprint to show you the way. Along the way, remember that this is about planning, engagement, and execution.

Planning:

•  Set annual goals with each employee. The employee should come to the table with goals, and you should have some thoughts for what you want the employee to accomplish as well. This includes performance goals that are role based, and also targets that link to company culture, and professional and personal development. To maximize impact, goals need to be about the WHOLE person; connect their personal mission/why to that of the organization.

•  This part of the cycle should begin prior to the end of the current year for the following year (for example, start the discussion in November 2014 for 2015). Ideally, goals are locked down by mid-January.

Engagement:

•  Have regular 1:1 meetings with each employee – ideally, these are weekly or bi-weekly. There should be some structure to the sessions, while also remaining flexible to handle ad-hoc needs that arise. Part of these sessions should focus on the employee’s progress towards his/her annual goals. When this is part of the fabric of the ongoing discussions, what is most important remains what is most important! This also creates a regular feedback loop, so the employee knows his/her boss is totally dialed in to the employee’s progress, development, achievement, and growth.

•  The employee runs the 1:1 – after all, it is his/her goals and development we are talking about here.

•  Having these regular 1:1s makes the end of the year review just a summative conversation – there are no surprises, and no one needs to spend 3 hours preparing. You’ve been having pointed performance related discussions all year!

Execution:

•  By following this blueprint, the focus shifts to GSD (get stuff done!) throughout the year. It is about growth, achievement, performance – in all aspects of the employee’s world. It is the job of the ‘boss’ to help remove obstacles in the way of high performance, to fully support the employee’s development, and to foster accountability.

This is a very straightforward blueprint. The complexity lies in all parties operating purposefully and consistently in execution. Everyone is busy, so don’t tell me how busy you are, and that you can’t possibly fit one more meeting in. Actually, I’d wager that at least 25% of the meetings you have: either aren’t necessary, don’t need you always in them, or could be less frequent. AND, if you actually install this performance system, many of the ad hoc conversations and emergencies will go away – you’ll actually have MORE time!

So, if you believe the people in your organization really are your most important asset, SHOW IT through a simple and powerful performance system.

 

Andrew Freedman, Principal at entreQuest, specializes in helping eQ’s clients grow by creating well aligned company cultures and strategies that result in remarkable client and employee experiences.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Blog Filled Newsfeeds: Why We Love Them!

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Blog smIf you are reading this, my guess is there’s a good chance this is not the first blog you have read from eQ, thanks for following us! We get a lot of feedback from our network that our blogs are great resources for professionals looking for insight or advice in the workplace. People have even reported that it helps them find a balance in their personal lives. It’s been a steady few months for eQ in publishing blogs and we make an effort to keep our material fresh and exciting. Here are a few reasons why we feel blogging is important for our organization, and how it may benefit your company to do the same:

•  Share perceptive. Everyone on our staff brings a unique background to the team. We have a teacher, yoga instructor, animal healer, lawyer, gearhead, star athletes, neurocoach…and the list goes on. We all bring a different perspective on the world, but share a common interest, growing talent. Our #dailycommitmenttogreatness focuses on empowering others to be at the top of their game personally and professionally.

•  Give back. We are so thankful for each opportunity that a partner provides us, we want to share what we learn. There are common themes in the work we do, but every project offers some uniqueness. Why not share with our network the things that made us and others successful? If it weren’t for our network of trusted allies we wouldn’t be growing as a company.

•  Branding. To be an elite, dynamic, kick a$$ and authentic company we have to be bold. We need to differentiate ourselves from other talent consulting firms. Our blogs cover a variety of topics that often times highlight the elephant in the room. Hopefully through reading our content you have insight into who we are as a company, and our story and what we value.

•  Interactive. Our blogs create interest, and people want to talk about topics we hit. It’s a great way to share connections with clients and engage in conversations that may not have happened otherwise.

•  It’s fun. Who doesn’t love to read content that their team puts out? Getting to see someone’s creative impact only makes us a closer work family. Sharing pride in the work of others is exciting!

So if you are looking for a way to add creativity into your organization, challenge your team to start writing! Give them topics as starting points and offer some proofreading. We love producing content at eQ and hope you do as well!

 

As Talent Acquisition Manager, Jessica focuses on finding the right candidates to fit our clients’ needs. She works with our clients to understand the exact skills and attributes that would fit with the cultural climate and their environment.

Posted in Business Strategy, Grow Regardless, Motivation | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A New Year Resolution to Cut The Bullsh**

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New YearResearch by the University of Scranton concluded that 92% of us making New Year’s resolutions will break them. While a more optimistic Covey study said only 77% of us will fail to follow through. Basically, as individuals, we’re as likely to fail in our initiatives as companies are in theirs. Maybe that’s because corporations are people, too; or maybe it’s that they’re made up of people. Whatever the case or the mate – as the Old Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier might say, our likelihood of success is “not very good.”

With many businesses starting their performance cycles along with the new year, our resolutions are a window on the professional goal-setting that many of us engage in with equally poor results. The commonality between personal and professional goal-setting is that we assert things we’re going to do and then don’t do them, or do them consistently enough in order to achieve our desired outcomes. Among the reasons we find it so hard to follow through on our good intentions is that we’re very good at stating broad aims, but too often we tie their achievement to unrealistic plans or plans that fail to bind us to those efforts in a way that build new habits effectively. More bluntly, we fool ourselves and those around us with what can technically be termed as ‘bullsh**.’ But it doesn’t have to be that way. If we acknowledge this tendency and draft others to help us work through and beyond the smoke screen of generality and all the reasons why we can’t do what we said we would, we’ll likely find ourselves exactly where we started when the smoke clears. That can be very demotivating, and worse for us and those who depend on us.

Basic neuroscience tells us that new habits are formed by doing new things every day for many days (often said to be 90 days) to ensure that our new habits take root. There are a gazillion articles, books, and experts sharing advice about how to increase the likelihood of fulfilling your goals…and there’s a lot of good in what they say. But #1 on my list for the immediate and effective address to improve goal fulfillment is minimizing the peril that we create through bullsh**ing ourselves and others. Here’s the deal: as humans, we possess the extraordinary ability to rationalize. It’s an ability we exercise often. Just in the first few days of 2015, I have facilitated four client meetings in which I felt like I needed a hat to protect myself from all the falling bullsh**. This was not malicious or willful on anyone’s part, it’s just the all-too-common way in which we set goals. We need to work towards a more collaborative, constructively challenging approach to support each other’s success. It’s not complicated, but it can be difficult – or at least uncomfortable.  But in the words of my former colleague, Randy Stott, co-author of The Portable MBA, pushing people to a level of “productive discomfort” is a laudable and achievable goal.

Here’s a quick picture of how business planning and preliminary goal-setting conversations can evolve from where most of us start to where we all need to move:

Context: Picture a company where referrals are a key driver of success. Each business development professional needs an action plan to enable their goal of generating enough opportunities to translate, ultimately, into sales. As a group, we talked through how these contacts are being kept fresh/refreshed and then shared some high-level approaches to stimulate everyone’s thinking about their respective action plans.

Starting Point: Ideas included to ‘shake the trees’ of a number of people we haven’t spoken to recently, to expect a current client to continue to use us in the same amount as they have in the past, and to count on an appropriate number of opportunities to present themselves to us.

Doing better: We can begin to help our colleagues or clients with a pretty simple, 3 Step process:

1.  Ask them questions to help them identify what’s lacking in terms of concrete actions

2.  Helping them develop an approach that incorporates those missing actions that are more likely to produce progress and results (or at least inform what they do next)

3.  Be available to hold them accountable to doing what they say they’re going to do

Since an ounce of prevention is worth (at least) a pound of cure, my encouragement is that you focus on the following steps to avoid having to go backwards before you can go forwards; or as Billy Joel sang it: “Get it right the first time, yeah that’s the main thing…”:

•  Know your terms—Vision: Where we’re trying to go; Strategy: How we plan to get there; Goals: How we measure our progress and achievement; Tactics: What we need to do to bring the Strategy to life and reach our Goals.

•  Write it down—Whatever you plan to do, write it down and you’re instantly more likely to do it. There was a fascinating study conducted on the 1979 Harvard MBA program where graduate students were asked, “have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?” The result, only 3% had written goals and plans, 13% had goals but they weren’t in writing and 84% had no goals at all. Ten years later, the same group was interviewed again and the result was absolutely mind-blowing.

The 13% of the class who had goals, but did not write them down was earning twice the amount of the 84% who had no goals. The 3% who had written goals were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97% of the class combined! (Forbes, April 8, 2014)

Note to self: WRITE IT DOWN!!!!

•  Enlist an accountability partner—Ask a colleague or friend, hire a coach…find someone who will commit to holding you accountable. You should determine the ground rules for what this means to you. It can be as simple as sharing what you’re going to do and having them check in with you beforehand to offer encouragement and afterwards to see how it went. Better yet, team up with someone who can, and will ask you good questions, test your thinking, share ideas, and who can be empathetic and, as needed, call you on your bullsh**.

My final bit of counsel and tough love on the process of significantly enhancing your ability to accomplish what you set out to is that knowing what you should do and doing it are two VERY different things. Accept that it’s hard and that most of us do better when we know someone is watching. Embrace that reality. Find someone not just to watch, but to invest in your success through a collaboration. One that is defined in such a way as to be mutually rewarding. Your opportunity to be different from most people is right there in front of you. Seize that opportunity through engaging with others and together shed the bullsh** and be great.

 

Jeff Lesher, Principal at entreQuest, blends his deep knowledge of organization design, human capital, and leadership with a pragmatic approach drawn from his own business experience and eQ’s philosophy to help eQ’s clients focus on their core purpose and move people effectively to action.

Posted in Business Strategy, Grow Regardless, Motivation | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hooks: Helping You Reel In Better Business

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Antique Fishing LureAs a business, you need to have compelling reasons in place for a customer or candidate to want to work with you, or for you. There are a lot of competitors out there, and a lot of relationships already established. So, how will your business set itself apart to outshine the competition? And break up long-standing partnerships?

You need a ‘hook.’ And better yet, lots of hooks. Your hooks will reel in the customers or candidates you are seeking. A ‘hook’ is a clearly defined competitive differentiator. First, figure out what your company’s hooks are, and then insert them into your brand messaging, sales, or recruiting pitches. These hooks must not be vague or confusing to the customer or candidate. They must be clear and compelling!

EXAMPLES OF HOOKS TO BRING IN NEW CUSTOMERS

•  Awards and recognition:

•  Winner of the 2013 National Commercial Real Estate Customer Service Award of Excellence.

•  Named by Washingtonian Magazine as the “Best of 2014 Accounting Firm.”

•  “You can have confidence in our 30 years of expertise in the telecommunications industry.”

•  “We are locally owned and operated—so we are loyal to this town and its customers.”

•  “Our products are used by over half of Fortune 100 companies globally.”

•  “We serve fewer clients per advisor than most wealth managers. With a 97% retention rate, apparently we’re on to something.”

•  “Our customers see 50%+ revenue growth as a result of our consulting efforts within the first year of partnership.”

EXAMPLES OF HOOKS TO BRING IN NEW CANDIDATES

•  Awards and recognition:

•  Ranked as one of the Baltimore Business Journal’s “Best Places to Work.”

•  Named one of Fortune Magazine’s top “100 Fastest-Growing Companies.”

•  “We are moving to a brand new, state-of-the-art office space in 2015.”

•  “Our average employee tenure is 10 years, so this is a company you can call home.”

•  “Our benefits package is the most competitive in our industry, including 3 weeks of vacation for new employees and work-from-home flexible hours.”

•  “Our CEO was voted “Entrepreneur of the Year” by Ernst & Young, so you can have confidence that our leadership is highly dynamic and forward-thinking.”

When you have competitive differentiators defined, your company message will be so much more powerful and effective. It also helps greatly to establish a tagline for your company and what it does, and complement that tagline by the competitive differentiators that set you apart. Talk about your company awards and recognition, your industry expertise, your history, your size, your customer service experience, your accomplishments, the results you provide, etc. Make a compelling case as to why that customer should buy from you, or why that candidate should come work for you.

Sharpen these hooks for your business, and start reeling in prime targets before your competition does!

 

As Talent Acquisition Manager, Daley focuses on finding the right candidates to fit our clients’ needs. She works with our clients to understand the exact skills and attributes that would fit with the cultural climate and their environment.

Posted in Talent, Talent Acquisition | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Truly Tricky Top Down Leadership: Leading Yourself in Order to Lead Others

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sm shoeThere’s an old expression about being “the cobbler’s children who have no shoes” that speaks to the very real tendency we can have as service providers to do better for others than we do for ourselves. For those of you under say, 100 years old, a cobbler is a shoemaker…so that expression makes sense.  This circumstance of doing better for others increasingly includes the similar malady among leaders who see deficiencies in rank and file of their organizations while not recognizing disconnection or distrust among their leadership teams.  In fact, the distraction or disengagement of their people more often than not stems directly from the dysfunction at the leadership level. While many of our clients come to us with the stated intention of having us help them develop programs and process to better engage their people to drive growth and customer loyalty, what we find is the need to first and foremost address issues among the leaders themselves.  The likelihood of our ability to help them realize the results they desire is not all that good If they’re not willing to look in the mirror and take on the challenge of making a sweet pair of shoes for themselves before doing anything else.  That’s a major reason that we take on only about half of the opportunities we could, because we’re in it to help you win it…not for the check.  Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of timing – an organization may not be ready yet for the reflection and renewal needed to be successful in achieving sustainable change.  In other cases, the buyer prefers to continue to search for the painless pill that will magically cure them without any real investment.  I’m an optimistic pragmatist, so I’ve gone ahead and outlined some useful information for you whether you’re in the category of the aware and committed, the unaware but willing, or the aware/unaware and not willing.

I have a long-time friend and colleague who likes to say that it’s hard to tell your client that her “baby is ugly” but sometimes you have to.  The issue here really is telling your client that he’s ugly.  Here’s the funny thing: when you’re talking with a leader who is genuinely committed to doing better and helping her organization do better, the conversation usually is easier than you might imagine.  Being clear that you’re sharing your perspective to help the person and the business succeed as they have told you they want to succeed buys you a lot of forbearance.  A little tact doesn’t hurt either.  So, really, for the leaders who know something is amiss at the leadership level and for those not as aware but open to the possibility, making these connections works and works well.  It makes sense to them that, unless they get on the same page, they’ll never be able to consistently rally the troops.  The fixes for them are relatively straightforward, though a lot of practice is required.

The biggest challenge lies with the leader who’s aware but in denial or actually unaware that one or more of her leadership team members is rowing the other way or trying to take the oars away from everyone else.  One option for those of us on the consulting and coaching side of this relationship is simply to walk away. And, as noted above, we often do.  But before we do – being passionate about helping clients grow and have a remarkable impact on their employees, clients, and communities – we fight like crazy to draw attention to this dysfunction and encourage its address.  Often, the symptoms of this dysfunction include meetings that go off track regularly when the person in question hijacks the meeting to vet his own agenda.  This may be the insistence of visiting or revisiting tangential or previously resolved issues, the thwarting of others’ involvement in or contribution to the meeting, or other disrespectful behavior that can include getting up and walking out of a meeting.  Another symptom is an ongoing appeasement of the most disruptive person owing to my father’s insistence that the “squeaky wheel always gets the grease” (also, see James Taylor’s “Shower the People”). When this situation becomes even more dire, people move from limiting their discretionary efforts (like choosing not to respond to calls for assistance, etc.) to actually voting with their feet and leaving outright.  To me, the most toxic symptom is how much people begin to dread coming into work.  They feel that they “have” to go to work versus they “get” to go.  All of this can be as the result of the behavior and influence of one senior person who operates against the best interests of the organization seemingly with the endorsement of its leader(s).  There are very few circumstances (and I’m being incredibly generous here) in which one person is so important that their value supersedes all of the damage they inflict.  How do you know if and to what degree your organization is suffering from distrust, disengagement, and/or distraction? If you are, why does it matter?  If it does matter, what should you do?

•  How do you know?—I’ve been told I sometimes speak over the heads of my audience.  I’m not sure that’s true, but I’ve got this one for sure.  How do you know?  You ask.  You ask frequently, you ask effectively, and you listen to what you’re told.  Engagement surveys done annually are a good start.  They need to be constructed by professionals who know how to get at issues and their dimensions.  Survey instruments are increasingly adept at collating the comments they collect, and organizations that specialize in this work can powerfully report back about where your opportunities and challenges are greatest.  You can do pulse surveys as well, targeting specific issues at particular times.  You should be meeting regularly with your teams and then with each other as leaders to share what you’re hearing and talk about how to apply what you’re learning.  Trust your gut.  If you’re connecting with your people often enough to earn their trust and you’re observing your leaders and forming questions if not opinions, use your relationships to test what you think you’re seeing.  I had a senior leader many years ago come to me – a few levels down – because I worked closely with one of his reports about whom he’s observed and heard a number of troubling things over time.  We talked about this local leader, his strengths, some of his opportunities for development, and then came the zinger.  I was asked – when I thought of what we could accomplish and how – could we have a more effective local leader…and should we?  Bam.  I’ve never forgotten that.  I hesitated; he encouraged.  Finally, I answered honestly.  Soon, we have a better leader, and everyone benefitted from the change that only happened because the senior leader, looked, listened, asked, and acted.

•  Why does it matter?—Sometimes, I find myself having a conversation with a prospective client that they asked to have; and I’m asked why they should take the course of action we’ve been discussing.  Not, “why do clients choose to work with you?” but “why would we do this at all?”  My response usually is along the lines of “you tell me…we’re having this conversation because ______?”  I’m happy to share back what they’ve told me to this point, but the answer to their question already has been answered to some extent because we’re having the conversation.  How or why addressing the situation matters to your organization is a function of the impact of the symptoms you’re experiencing and the greater recognition of the larger impact they’re having or will have if those symptoms are left untreated/unchecked.  If you’re expect to grow this year by 10% and growth depends on your ability to generate new and innovative ideas, but only the leader of a business unit ever offers any ideas and most of those are about trimming existing budgets…and you grow only 8%, if you’re $100 million company, that 2% shortfall just cost you $2 million.  If you’re publicly traded and the Street decides that your $250 million market cap should drop 10% because your growth is slowing, you just lost another $25 million.  Setting added value aside, is the person causing the bulk of these issues worth $27 million?  If so, don’t do anything.

•  What should you do?—Learn, plan, act, succeed.  If addressing the symptoms does matter – if you want to avoid loss and create additional value – and, oh by the way, have a company where people “get” to go work – then investing a modest amount of time in getting a crystal clear picture about what’s going on is the best place to begin becoming an even better business.  The expert interpretation and guidance drawn from that picture should inform a planning process that allows you to act on the right things in the right way in the right order, with those actions enabling success.  This is an ongoing, iterative process – it takes time and effort; but the results can be amazing.  We had a client tell us just the other day, “thank you for the work that you do and for being so good at it.”  Wow!  The thing is, he and his team are doing most of the work.  The greater success that they’re beginning to experience stems from his willingness and ability to look honestly at himself, to work hard to evolve into a different role, to make room for another senior leader to take on responsibilities, and to guide but not suffocate his team.  At least as important to this leader as the performance of his company financially is the visible enthusiasm that his team displays every day and the way they are living to their values…including pointing out to him if he isn’t abiding by his commitment to do so.  Pretty powerful stuff.

Nobody wants to be called ugly.  But the ugly duckling only realized and benefited from his maturation into a swan when he chose to leave his cave and rejoin the world around him.  If we’re honest with ourselves, gather information, and commit to working to be better at what we do – for ourselves, our team, our clients, and our communities – we can achieve great things.  As a leader, you’re obliged to take on and remove obstacles that stand in the way of your success.  If there’s someone, anyone standing in the way of that success, we need to be willing to invite that person to join in our effort to be even better, to get out of the way of it, or to leave us altogether.  If we don’t, that may be the only person left standing with us in the end, and that’s likely to be a very unhappy ending for you.

 

Jeff Lesher, Principal at entreQuest, blends his deep knowledge of organization design, human capital, and leadership with a pragmatic approach drawn from his own business experience and eQ’s philosophy to help eQ’s clients focus on their core purpose and move people effectively to action.

Posted in Business Strategy, Client Experiences | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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