Archive for the ‘Communication’ category

Empower Direct Reports By Setting Boundaries

April 19, 2018

No competent leader consciously micromanages or controls their direct reports’ activities.  Most leaders truly believe they give their direct reports ample autonomy to do their jobs.  Why is it then that most direct reports feel their managers don’t give them the independence they need to do their jobs effectively?  It’s because sub-consciously leaders are reluctant to empower their direct reports and tend to micromanage without recognizing it.

Dr. James Dobson in Dare to Discipline relates the study where social psychologists observed elementary school children in a playground protected by a high fence. The children ran with abandon, playing joyfully within the confines of the fence, unaware and unworried about the busy street just a few feet from the play area. Some theorists decided that the fence was too restrictive, that it inhibited the children, and that they should have more freedom. So, the fence came down.

When the children entered the playground the next day, instead of running with their previous abandon, they tended to huddle together at the center of the play area. Unsure of their limits, they appeared insecure and fearful.

Empowerment works the same way.  Leaders need to consciously define and communicate the boundaries of their direct reports’ tasks, get out of the way, and the direct reports will use their whole playground.  There are four boundaries the leader should establish:

  1. Expectations – what does success look like
  2. Resources – people, processes, budgeting available
  3. Timeframes – hours, deadlines, check-in points
  4. Restrictions – budgets, authority level, non-negotiables

Leaders who consciously empower their direct reports by giving them the tools and boundaries to do their jobs then step aside experience more success.

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Ask For Solutions When Giving Course Corrections

April 13, 2018

Most leaders have exceptional problem solving skills – that’s generally what got them to their leadership position; however, when providing course correction feedback to direct reports, skip the problem solving and ask the direct report to come up with a solution.

Course correction feedback should focus on the direct report’s behavior AND their responsibility to change it.  The leader’s job is point out the correction, offer encouragement, and solicit a behavior change.  The natural tendency will be for the leader to offer solutions – don’t do it.  Let the direct report provide the solution; there will be a greater chance getting the wanted behavior change.

Some examples:

“Tim, we really appreciate you attending the management meetings, but when you raise your voice and sneer at Joe, the team respects you less.  What can you do next time?”

“Sue, I like all your hard work, but when you show up late for work, we all think you don’t care about the team.  What can you do to be at work on time each day?”

“Joe, great sales call yesterday, but when you order a martini for lunch, our clients might question our professionalism.  How might you handle the next client lunch?”

Leaders who empower their direct reports to offer course correction solutions will experience future successes.

Help Direct Reports Hit The Ground Running Monday Morning

March 30, 2018

Do people dislike Monday morning because they are disappointed the weekend is over, or because they dread the week ahead?

There’s not much a leader can do about the disappointment direct reports feel when the weekend is over but they can help make the start of the week less dreadful by helping them understand their job’s priorities.

Leaders can use a job accountability matrix to identify the three to five major parts or buckets of the job. Once these accountabilities have been identified, rank them in the order in which the direct report should think about them at the beginning of the week.

Helping directs reports REALLY understand the order of importance of their job accountabilities allows them to focus on what’s important and relieves some of their anxiety over the week ahead.

Leaders who empower their direct reports with rank-ordered job accountabilities experience more success.

How Leaders Ask For Feedback Impacts The Feedback They Receive

March 23, 2018

What do Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Frédéric Chopin, George Orwell, Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss), Charles Schulz, Steven Spielberg, Larry Page, and J. K. Rowling all have in common? They are all introverts whose feedback has made a huge impact.

Often, the most insightful feedback comes from the analytical, introverted observer who spends more time digesting and thinking through a situation or problem before offering their insight.  The challenge is, while they are processing their thoughts (especially in meetings filled with more extroverted types), the train has pulled out of the station before they have had a chance to offer their feedback.  I’m sure you’ve been in those meetings where an idea is presented, excitement builds, momentum is created and the last thing an introvert wants to do is speak up to share the potential obstacles or concerns they have thought about.

As the leader, it’s easy to accept an exciting new idea, but every good leader must explore potential downsides.  Because introverts are known to nod their heads as a way of demonstrating active listening, that head nod is often misinterpreted as consent to the idea at hand.  The team must encourage the introverts to express their opinions.  One of the best ways to do this is when an idea is discussed, take a trip around the room and ask everyone to identify two items they like best and two items that concern them about the idea.

Leaders who empower their direct reports to offer a difference of opinion often save the organization from avoidable problems or disasters while creating plans destined for success.

The One Question Every Leader Should Ask

February 23, 2018

Dwight Eisenhower was recognized as one of the greatest leaders of his era.  Imagine having to deal with Patton, Stalin and Roosevelt, and with Marshall, Churchill, De Gaulle, and Montgomery.  Each had idiosyncrasies that would drive any leader nuts, but Ike got through it all and achieved victory.

Ike’s favorite leadership technique was to simply ask others: “What do you think?”  With that one question, Eisenhower was able to:

  • Learn what was going on;
  • Gain insights into other’s thinking processes;
  • Understand how well someone could articulate their thoughts;
  • Get different points of view;
  • Demonstrate an interest in the other person;
  • Engage the other person and develop their relationship.

Sometimes it’s the simple things in life that produce the greatest results.  Those words “What do you think?” are a key to good leadership and give direct reports an opportunity to express their opinion.  Additionally, asking the question shows the leader is interested in the thoughts of the direct report, and demonstrates the leader has at least some confidence in the competence of the direct report’s thought processes.

Leaders who empower direct reports by asking them what they think have a more successful team.

Use Assessments To Build Team Trust

February 2, 2018

In his book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” Patrick Lencioni suggests trust is the basic foundation for a high performing team.  Teams cannot engage in healthy conflict, commit to each other, hold each other accountable, or achieve sustainable results with an absence of trust.

So how does a team build trust?  According to Lencioni, “Some of the most effective and lasting tools for building trust on a team are profiles of team members’ behavioral preferences and personality styles.  These help break down barriers by allowing people to better understand and empathize with one another.”

The psychometric instrument the team uses is not as important as going through the exercise.  Whether you use Myers-Briggs, PI, DISC, or another assessment tool, the value to the team is in having each team member share their results, discuss their strengths and weaknesses, and learn to leverage each team member’s strengths.  The shared vulnerability exhibited in the exercise creates a team bond and an inherent level of trust.

Empowered teams take an assessment then share and discuss each other’s results to experience high performing success.

Consistency Is The Key To Successful One-On-Ones

January 28, 2018

When our kids were growing up, we took them out to breakfast every Friday morning before school.  We rarely missed these routine times together.  During each breakfast we would ask, “How’s school going?” and almost every time the answer was “good, okay.”  The important point is almost every time.  One time the answer was a mumbled “fine” followed by a shoulder shrug.  Not the usual “good, okay.” After further questioning, we found out there was an issue in science class.  If it were not for the regular breakfast meetings and the consistent questioning, science class would have been a big problem.

Leaders need to be consistent with their direct report’s one-on-ones. Holding them at the same time each week and asking the same check-in questions.  When the leader’s direct report has challenges, knowing they’ll have their attention regularly gives them a built-in forum for dealing with the problem.

Asking the same check-in questions during each session will yield the same responses most of the time.  That gives the leader a basis for measuring unusual answers that may indicate underlying issues.

One-on-ones are one of the most empowering leadership tools in the leader’s toolkit.  Exercising consistency will make them even more successful.