Archive for the ‘Performance Acceleration’ 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.

360 Degree Tools Are A Great Way To Learn More About Direct Reports

April 6, 2018

The United States Navel Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU) is an elite team of Navy SEALs that hunted and killed Osama Bin Laden in 2011. Navy SEALs represent the best of the Navy and DEVGRU represents the best of the SEALs.  To graduate to DEVGRU the SEALs must pass a nine-month long grueling training and testing program called Green Team. Only the best of the best survive Green Team and are challenged constantly by the Navy’s best leaders.

Mark Owen author of “No Easy Day: The First Hand Account Of The Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden,” recounts his Green Team experience where he and other team members were asked regularly to make an anonymous list of the five best and worst performers in the class. The instructors compared these lists to their own lists when evaluating talent and deciding who would be promoted or removed.  The instructors know to create high-performing teams capable of accomplishing difficult feats; all aspects of the team members’ performance must be considered including how they are viewed by their teammates.

Though leaders may not be developing a team capable of hunting and killing al Qaeda fighters, receiving feedback from team members about each other can help them make better development decisions.  The common approach in business to getting this feedback is from 360-degree tools.  A well-designed 360-degree questionnaire, one that does NOT use Likert scale questions, is a great way for leaders to learn more about their direct reports and for them to create personal development plans.

Leaders who empower their direct reports with 360-degree tools will experience much success.

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.

Instill More Personal Accountability

March 16, 2018

Of the 23 personal talent skills we measure, the mean ranking for personal accountability is second to last at 22nd.  Perhaps our society has simply accepted the weak behavior trait and essentially enabled it.  Leaders do not need to accept it and can actually encourage and develop their direct reports’ personal accountability.

To instill greater personal accountability:

  1. Establish clear expectations and milestones with each direct report with their input.
  2. Be certain to follow-up at the designated milestones for discussions about being on-track toward the ultimate goal.
  3. If the direct report is falling off track, do not simply move the deadline without serious consideration of the behavior being reinforced.
  4. Refrain from asking how someone can be helped (that simply allows the direct report to delegate up).  Instead ask, “What obstacles do you need removed or what additional resources do you need to get yourself back on track?”

With this empowering approach, leaders are communicating their confidence in direct reports who are capable of getting themselves back on track.  Allowing them to come up with plausible solutions encourages them to experience success.

Leaders who empower direct reports by holding them accountable for their commitments see more personal accountability and increase the opportunities 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.

Embrace Mistakes For Enduring Success

February 16, 2018

In a recent interview two candidates were asked to describe a time they made a mistake; here are their responses:

Candidate #1 – “I thoroughly prepare and plan for situations.  I then meticulously and consciously execute the plans to eliminate mistakes; I rarely fail.  Measure twice, cut once is always my mantra.”

Candidate #2: – “Though I never enter a situation intending to fail, I do make mistakes.  For instance, last month I missed my sales goal because I overestimated how strong my relationship with a key buyer was.  I learned I needed to not take the orders for granted and to work hard at post-sale activities even when I think the sale is a done deal.”

Which candidate would make the best hire – one who over prepares and rarely makes mistakes or the one who is willing to make mistakes but learns from them?

Not only is it important to hire people who are willing to make mistakes, it’s important to foster an environment where making mistakes is embraced.  Jeff Stibel, a neuroscientist and Vice Chairman at Dun & Bradstreet, went as far as to create a “failure wall” when he was Chairman and CEO at Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. where everyone in the company was encouraged to post their mistakes.  The wall, initiated with Stibel’s own failures, quickly filled up with many failures and the organization grew rapidly as employees embraced new and creative approaches knowing that failure was okay.

Leaders who empower their organization to make mistakes experience more long-term success.