Archive for the ‘Performance Acceleration’ category

Fascinating Stuff About Millennials!

February 6, 2018

Management Research Group (MRG) has been administering Leadership Effectiveness Analyses for 34 years. They took LEA results from 25-35 year olds from 30 years ago and compared to LEA results from current 25-35 year olds and found virtually no differences in results.  

It is important to note that unlike most Lickert-based 360s which ask someone to score based on 1-10, always to never, etc., MRG uses a semi-ipsative tool which cannot be gamed, and eliminates most common rater biases.  The Leadership Effectiveness Analysis is a 360 degree feedback tool designed to evaluate how someone’s leadership practices are perceived by others.

 MRG LEA data

It seems our complaints are more about people in their 20’s and early 30’s and less about one generation or another.  I know, I know!  But “I was different when I was their age!”  I have no doubt!  But when you think about most of your peers — just imagine your last high school reunion — you were probably different from them, too.  That’s why you achieved what you did because you were different form the rest.  Our challenge is to continue to seek those diamonds in the rough, and not just settle for anything that briefly sparkles.  They are out there; sometimes we just need to refine our selection processes!

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.

Reinforce Core Values At Least Quarterly

January 18, 2018

Most organizations have core values or some set of guiding principles that determine the ways in which business is conducted.  Some organizations take them seriously, but others distribute core values within the organization with much pomp and circumstance and pay little attention to them thereafter.

One of the best ways to ensure core values are understood, internalized, and lived is to make them a part of the performance review process.  At least quarterly, each employee in an organization should be asked to recount specific situations where they have demonstrated EVERY ONE of the organization’s core values.

One organization we worked with scored employees on a ten-point scale each quarter for each of their core values.  The score was determined by:

  • 2 points for knowing the core value;
  • 2 points for being able to recite the core value verbatim;
  • 2 points for each of three instances where the core value was documented and demonstrated.

This organization has little problem with their employees living their core values.

Leaders who empower their direct reports to be measured by knowing and demonstrating core values have more successful organizations.

Encourage Direct Reports To Think Strategically

January 5, 2018

According to a study conducted in 2013 by Management Research Group evaluating the leadership practices and effectiveness of over 60,000 managers and executives, a strategic approach to leadership was 10 times more important to the perception of effectiveness than other leadership behaviors.  This strategic focus was twice as important as communication and almost 50 times more important than hands-on tactical behaviors.

Strategic leaders take a broad, long-range approach to problem solving and decision-making that involves objective analysis, thinking ahead, and planning. They think in multiple time frames, identifying what needs to be accomplished over time and what has to happen now, in six months, in a year, and in three years. It means thinking systemically, and identifying the impact of their decisions on various segments of the organization.

Here are some ways leaders can help their direct reports think strategically:

  • Encourage them to set aside regular time for strategic planning;
  • Provide information on the market, the industry, customers, competitors and new technologies that influence your business, exposing relevant and broad business information to help direct reports elevate their thinking beyond the day-to-day;
  • Keep them informed on what is happening internally by sharing information across boundaries, allowing them to see the organization from a global perspective;
  • Connect them with a mentor known for keeping people focused on strategic objectives and the impact of actions on the broader organizational strategy;
  • Communicate a well-articulated philosophy, mission and goal statement throughout the organization, allowing them to understand the broader organizational strategy in order to stay focused and incorporate it into their own plans and strategies;
  • Reward direct reports for evidence of creating a culture in which problems are anticipated and avoided to discourage crisis management.

Leaders who empower their direct reports to think strategically experience more success.

The Holidays and Altruism – A Time For Some Direct Reports To Shine

December 15, 2017

According to a widely adopted behavior model developed by Dr. Eduard Spranger, we all have six common workplace motivators that inspire us to do what we do.  In order of national rank the motivators are: 

  1. Utilitarian: practical accomplishments, results and rewards for their investment of time, resources and energy.
  2. Social: opportunities to be of service to others and contribute to the progress and well-being of society.
  3. Theoretical: knowledge for knowledge’s sake, continuing education and intellectual growth.
  4. Individualistic: personal recognition, freedom, and control over their own destiny and others.
  5. Traditional: traditions inherent in social structure, rules, regulations and principles.
  6. Aesthetic: balance in their lives, creative self-expression, beauty and nature.

The challenge many leaders of “for profit” organizations face is the Social motivator is overly dominant for many of their direct reports (nationally it’s #2).  While this generally creates very unselfish team members who find great satisfaction in supporting others, it could negatively impact the bottom-line; much depends on the roles or scope of responsibility provided to these folks and their ability to find ways to otherwise satisfy this altruistic motivator.

By allowing direct reports an opportunity to represent the organization and fulfill that motivation in appropriate ways like contributing a holiday offering to some deserving organization on behalf of the team, or “adopting” a needy family, an important motivator to the individual is fulfilled and the organization gains credibility/respect for giving back to community.

Leaders who empower their altruistic direct reports to give back during the holiday season on behalf of the team experience success all year long.

Help Direct Reports To Become Better Thinkers

December 7, 2017

More and more leaders are realizing their competitive edge lies with their talent.  And with their talent, they realize the greatest opportunity for growth is to develop their critical thinking skills.

Leaders must first create a safe environment for people to make mistakes and to admit thinking errors.  If this isn’t accomplished, people may feel afraid of embarrassment, humiliation, and perhaps even loss of professional status.

Once people feel comfortable explaining their thinking process, the leader can coach them on their critical thinking.  The leader’s first impulse will be to correct the direct report, provide the proper solution, and move on.  Providing the solution and explaining the rationale rarely works to develop cognition.  The successful leader should ask questions to encourage the direct report to exercise that brain muscle and develop better critical thinking strength.  Some questions leaders may ask to coach for better critical thinking include:

  • “How did you come to that conclusion?”
  • “What are the facts that led you to that conclusion?”
  • “What other options have you considered?”
  • “What would happen next?”
  • “Have you considered your bias?”

Leaders who empower their direct reports to learn from mistakes develop them to become successful critical thinkers.

One-On-One Meetings Are Important-Not Urgent

November 30, 2017

In 1994, Stephen Covey, along with A. Roger and Rebecca Merrill, introduced the four-quadrant importance and urgency matrix in their book First Things First.  In the book, Covey describes a framework for differentiating tasks that have long-term benefits (important-not urgent) from daily, more time-sensitive tasks (important-urgent). Without a concerted focus, the important-not urgent tasks are often neglected until they become important-urgent.

Regular (weekly or biweekly) one-on-one meetings between leaders and their direct reports fall into the important-not urgent category, but are often forsaken by leaders because they are too busy dealing with the important-urgent.  It’s in the one-on-one meetings that important-not urgent topics are discussed and dealt with before they become urgent.

During our leadership training sessions, we ask leaders to raise their hand if they’d like weekly one-on-one meetings with their boss (or would have liked them when they had a boss).  Nearly everyone in the room raises their hand (who wouldn’t want regular non-pressured meetings with their boss?).  We then ask the leaders to lower their hand if they conduct these meetings for their direct reports. Sadly, most leaders do not lower their hand.  Why is it that direct reports are willing to invest in the important-not urgent but bosses are not?

Empowered leaders conduct regular one-on-one meetings with their direct reports, and experience less important-urgent issues and more success.

Consider The Two Pizza Rule When Putting Teams Together

November 17, 2017

The two pizza rule states that the number of people working together should not exceed the number of people that can be fed by two pizzas.  The rule was popularized by Jeff Bezos at Amazon who believes two pizza teams create a decentralized and innovative workplace.

The idea behind two pizza teams is that the fewer the people working together, the more effective the communication becomes.  The number of communication links in a two person team is 1, a five person team 10, a ten person team 45, and a 20 person team has a whopping 190 communication links.  The U.S. Navy Seals have learned that four is the optimal size for a combat team.  Larger teams need more communication whereas smaller teams can have better communication.

When assembling a high-function team, a leader may be tempted to include team members from several areas just to make sure everyone is represented. That rarely works – look no further than our government to see what happens with large teams. Ideally, leaders should choose at most six or seven non-ravenous people if they want a highly functional team.

Empowered team leaders build teams using the two pizza rule and have more successful teams.

Group Job Activities Into Three to Five Accountabilities for Best Results

November 12, 2017

Chunking is a term psychologists use to describe a technique individuals utilize to group responses when performing a memory task. When we take pieces of information and group them into chunks, we are better able to remember the details.  Psychologists argue our short-term memory can handle anywhere from three to seven chunks.

What’s easier to remember: 2485222593 or 248-522-25-93? “Jobdefinitionisimportantforsuccess” or “Job definition is important for success?”  This is why we chunk numbers and words.

When defining job functions, leaders easily identify dozens of activities and functions required in the job.  This extensive list usually becomes the basis for job descriptions.  Unfortunately, employees can rarely recall all the job activities for which they are responsible, and end up not accomplishing everything.

The best way to structure job activities is to group them into three to five larger chunks called accountability buckets.  The leader and direct report can then think of the job in these easy to remember chunks, thereby improving their performance.

When defining direct reports’ job functions, empowered leaders chunk the activities and experience more success.