Archive for the ‘ Leadership ’ Category

Stop Micromanaging!

Micromanaging takes almost as much time as doing everything yourself. And you know you cannot do it, so why are you trying to control everything?

When we hire employees they bring a lot to the table.  They work the hours we want and need, they look the part, and most of the time will do what we expect (provided you have been clear when setting expectations, but that is another topic) but there is something much greater we get from each employee – their mind!  We should use it, help it grow and challenge it to innovate, execute and make the customer’s day.

How can the Micromanager do less of that?

1.  Set clear expectations:  Ensure your team knows what and more importantly WHY things need do be done – think big picture, outcome level, not step-by-step level

2. Check for understanding:  Ask questions to ensure they are on the same page with the desired outcomes and any rules and regs to get there.

3. Set dates for follow-up on projects:  Have employees self-report to each other, key stakeholders and as necessary, you on progress and next steps

4. Back off and trust the process:  Let your team wow you.

Written by Zack Clark, MBA

Zack is a Senior Consultant and one of the founding partners at Five Degrees Consulting. Connect with on LinkedIn and Twitter, or leave a comment below.

This is a blog we share  between several of the Consultants at Five Degrees, guest authors and colleagues.  We work with companies large and small on People and Organization strategies.  Our work specializes in organizational development, leadership effectiveness and executive development. With a focus on working with leaders at all levels to create an intentional corporate culture, we help organizations increase employee engagement, energize working teams, develop critical leadership competencies and enhance strategic communications for more information about our services, please connect with us.

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Accountability, why it’s not a bad or scary thing.

Somewhere along the way, many learn that accountability equals discipline (bad and scary), which could not be further from the truth; and that holding someone to expectations was a difficult task.

I have recently had a variety of experiences personally and professionally that have left me contemplative about this topic.  My hypothesis is that people fail to set clear expectations of self and others and in general are afraid to hold each other to standards or defined levels of performance – accountable for the actions / results they individually generate or the situations they create.

On a personal level I listened, in a group setting, to a friend’s therapist provide a gallon of excuses to explain the person’s behavior; never laying any framework that decisions the person made actually contributed to the situation they were in, or it was going to be their future decisions that  determined the outcome of the story.  It made me think the question – if you are given excuses or a way out by a person in an authority position, how will you ever hold yourself to a higher standard, and perform at a level consistent with your ability level?

I have worked with a “sales professional” who has had an incredible career for many multinational corporations and personally sold tens of millions of dollars of goods and services for those organizations. I told him that I “expected” him to do three things and set a date for the follow-up.  None were outside the scope of his role in the organization, difficult or overwhelming for his current workload.  I was met with hesitation, reluctance and anger.  He questioned why I dared “expect” anything from him.

In any relationship don’t we all have expectations of the other’s performance?   Whether in our personal or professional lives we all expect people to behave in a certain manner.  When they exceed those expectations we thank them appropriately, when they fail we should let them know they failed and what outcome was caused by that failure.  While we finally agreed that it was okay to have an expectation of each other in every situation, the business conversation was nonetheless distracted by this temporary chasm and tense situation caused by me “expecting” a level of performance from a peer.

Expectations are the foundation of accountability.  It is impossible to hold oneself or another person accountable for any task, result or situation without first setting a clear expectation of performance.  I might expect that I will get up and go running in the morning.  There are consequences to meeting or not meeting that expectation.  I might expect that my employees behave in a manner consistent with my customer expectations.  There are consequences to meeting and exceeding those expectations.  If I begin my expectation setting naming all the reasons that I might fail, those expectations  aren’t really expectations to perform, but loose goals for performance.  “I hope I …”

Excuses can be used to get yourself out of trouble later, don’t waste them at the front end of a situation instead of setting a clear measure for performance that we call an expectation.  Set clear expectations then give all you can to make it happen.  And when it does:  celebrate, when it doesn’t happen – face the consequences, remain accountable, regroup and go again.

Written by Zack Clark, MBA

Zack is a Senior Consultant and one of the founding partners at Five Degrees Consulting. Connect with on LinkedIn and Twitter, or leave a comment below.

This is a blog we share  between several of the Consultants at Five Degrees, guest authors and colleagues.  We work with companies large and small on People and Organization strategies.  Our work specializes in organizational development, leadership effectiveness and executive development. With a focus on working with leaders at all levels to create an intentional corporate culture, we help organizations increase employee engagement, energize working teams, develop critical leadership competencies and enhance strategic communications for more information about our services, please connect with us.

Boring Meetings: Stop the Madness!

Are your meetings a drag? A friend of mine recently described his weekly staff meeting like this:

“I dread it. It’s the worst hour of my week. It’s my personal slow death.”

Over the years, I’ve heard the same sentiment echoed across the working planet. How is it that something so routine as a weekly meeting be so painful?

When I probe for more understanding, a few common themes pop up:

·      The meeting appears to have no purpose other than the fact that it was scheduled.

·      The agenda has too many items and no decisions are made.

·      One or several people dominate the discussions.

·      People are unprepared for their part of the agenda.

·      The facilitator doesn’t keep the meeting on track.

·      The meeting started late or went over the designated time.

·      Communication is one-way; discussion is neither encouraged or the group dynamics don’t allow it.

·      All business or no business: There is either no time for interpersonal connection between meeting participants, or there’s too much “chit chat” and not enough focus on the agenda items.

The most common complaint: “It was a waste of my time.”

Meetings don’t have to be boring or waste time. The purpose of a meeting, actually, is to save time by collaborating and sharing information while the key players are all in the same place. But it does require preparation and planning.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you plan meetings. You might remember them with “SIT”– Structure, Involvement & Time:

Structure:

Meetings should be well planned and the focus and outcomes articulated prior to the gathering. An agenda can be circulated for input if it’s appropriate. Agenda items might be best framed as questions to prompt decisions at the meeting. Instead of agenda item “Kitchen”, say, “What rules or agreements do we need to keep the kitchen clean?”

The facilitator needs to take charge of the agenda, the meeting flow, the group dynamics and the action steps for follow up. Wimpy facilitators allow the group to run amok and don’t accomplish the meeting’s objectives.

Involvement:

The purpose of a meeting is most often to have all the involved parties in one place to discuss ideas and make decisions. If the communication is one-way, it could just as easily be accomplished through email or memo. Allowing time for group members to weigh in on topics is important, not only for their experience in the meeting, but also for their follow-up commitments to the decisions made.

It’s important for the meeting facilitator to manage the dominant speakers as well. Setting groundrules up front often helps; inviting team members who are less vocal to share their ideas and opinions provides space for them to speak up…and may help to quiet down the big mouths. But don’t force anyone to talk or put them on the spot. You’ll get less of what you want from them after that. For some people, speaking up in a meeting is more intimidating than making a presentation to a group. In front of a group, they have time to prepare and think through their message. In a meeting, they may have to think on their feet, and not everyone is good at it.

Time:

Start on time and end on time. For late arrivals, don’t start the meeting over to catch them up—it’s their job to get whatever they missed. If agenda items appear to be taking longer than planned, schedule a follow-up discussion for a later time, or invite the group to weigh in on what agenda items are priority for the meeting and move the remaining topics to a future meeting or other communication format.

Flexibility is important to meeting management, but too much flexibility on the part of the facilitator makes it feel like there is no direction or purpose for the meeting, and thus, “a waste of my time”. Use phrases such as, “I’m aware of the time,” or “We’ll need to continue this next week”, or “While all these are important ideas, we need to move to a decision now.”

Meetings should be carefully planned and managed in the same way you might prepare for an important message. Think about this question:

“What do I want my team member to walk away knowing, feeling, and doing after this meeting?

Try it—“S.I.T.” for your next meeting.

Oh, I almost forgot–Humor. Remember, people will not long remember the details of what you said, but they will always remember how they felt, which comes from their perceived meeting takeaways. Sprinkle in a little humor whenever you can. When people laugh together, they often feel more connected and open, two of the most important factors in engaging and involving them. But don’t use humor at someone’s expense, or tell inappropriate jokes for effect. You’ll lose more than you gain.

SIT while you plan your next meeting. You can add the “H” for humor in wherever you like.

Written by Merrilee Buchanan, LCSW

Merrilee is a Senior Consultant and one of the founding partners at Five Degrees Consulting. You can connect with Merrillee on Twitter and LinkedIn, or leave a comment below.
This is a blog we share  between several of the Consultants at Five Degrees, guest authors and colleagues.  We work with companies large and small on People and Organization strategies.  Our work specializes in organizational development, leadership effectiveness and executive development. With a focus on working with leaders at all levels to create an intentional corporate culture, we help organizations increase employee engagement, energize working teams, develop critical leadership competencies and enhance strategic communications for more information about our services, please connect with us.

Service Marked Leadership

My sister and I recently visited my aunt and uncle in New York.  My aunt is a Catholic nun, serving in the Maryknoll Mission.  My uncle is a priest serving in the same order.  Together, they have spent over 100 years of their lives serving people in communities across the United States and South America.

I stayed the night at the convent.  My room mirrored the same sparse furniture and belongings of the grey-haired Sisters who lived there.  As I wandered the labyrinthine hallways in search of the cafeteria, Sisters pushing walkers and poking canes greeted me with enthusiastic warmth and welcome.  Everyone I passed invited me to return.

Sitting at breakfast, I saw an older sister in her wheelchair entering the cafeteria.  Using her right foot, she dragged herself towards my chair.  She was mumbling at first, but as our eyes made contact her voice grew louder and more coherent.  “I’m 102 years old,” she exclaimed.  “I don’t know, but I think I’m number 1.”  (Later I realized she was referring to her seniority as the sister with the most number of years in the convent.)  She proceeded to tell us of her years of service in Korea, China, and Hawaii.  She also regaled me with a story about her missing teeth.

She glanced downwards and shook her head as she lamented, “My family is all gone now.  No one cares about me.”  Next, she pointed a gnarled finger at me and stated, “It could happen to you.”  On the back of her wheelchair was an affectionate note stating that she knew who she was and where she lived and asking us not to let her wander outside the convent.  She laughed, taught me some Korean, and accepted my kiss goodbye before my sister and I left for our long trip home.

My aunt, who is 83 years old, told me the Sister was the first Maryknoll missionary sent to Korea. While serving in Korea, she survived over a year of house arrest.  Up until four years ago, she was still assigned to a mission home.  She was 98 when she finally retired, although it was not her idea to retire.  The convent was full of slightly stooping women who announced their years of service and location of mission like a calling card.  Their aging bodies were the only limit to their boundless desire to show God’s love to others.

Churches everywhere refer to this as servant leadership.  At Five Degrees, we call it Service-marked Leadership.  Companies that have at their very core the desire to deliver outstanding service to their customers, their communities, and their employees are marked by their service.  Their leaders model a life of service.

I’ve been thinking about her finger pointing at me and haunted by her words, “It could happen to you.”  When I become consumed with my desire to win, to be profitable, or to close a deal, I wander far away from my desire to be a service-marked leader.  It could happen to any of us – the moving away from our center, our core values.  We all have to be vigilant about making sure our actions are aligned with our core values.

I’ve been reading a book about leadership, True North.  The author, Bill George, believes that the most important quality of an effective leader is to know his/her passion, his/her “true north”.  My aunt, and the women who grace the halls with her at Maryknoll, embody the spirit of living their “true north”.

Every year my aunt takes a retreat to make sure her work and her spirit are aligned with her passion and her desire to serve.  I know of many businesses that have week long retreats to pour over their budgets and make sure their business is aligned with their profits.  Very few businesses devote an equal amount of time aligning their actions with their “true north”.  I wonder, if we did more of the latter, how many companies would have employees devoting their careers to service, working tirelessly until their bodies prohibit the life of service they’ve come to love.  Nothing is as insatiable as an appetite for doing the work we love.  My aunt and the Maryknoll missionaries taught me that.

Authored by Clare Coonan, LCSW

Clare is a Senior Consultant and one of the founding partners at Five Degrees Consulting. You can connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.
This is a blog we share  between several of the Consultants at Five Degrees, guest authors and colleagues.  We work with companies large and small on People and Organization strategies.  Our work specializes in organizational development, leadership effectiveness and executive development. With a focus on working with leaders at all levels to create an intentional corporate culture, we help organizations increase employee engagement, energize working teams, develop critical leadership competencies and enhance strategic communications for more information about our services, please connect with us.

Five Degrees Consulting Online Book Club

Calling all readers! Please join us in our very first online book club! I want to invite you to follow Clare Coonan, Co-founder and Senior Consultant at Five Degrees Consulting, as she leads discussions and answers questions on personally selected, relevant leadership and business books. You have a chance to follow a book club in the comfort of your own home or office and tune into a discussion anytime throughout the week. The first book Clare will be discussing is, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel H. Pink.

Drawing on four decades of scientific research on human motivation, Pink exposes the mismatch between what science knows and what business does–and how that affects every aspect of our lives. He demonstrates that while the old-fashioned carrot-and-stick approach worked successfully in the 20th century, it’s precisely the wrong way to motivate people for today’s challenges.

So snatch up a copy of this ‘paradigm-shattering book’ and join us in our first discussion on Friday, March 2nd. What time? Anytime! Clare likened it to Words with Friends, you can participate at your own pace, wherever you are. Post in a discussion or just follow it. You can choose!

Click here to join the Five Degrees Consulting Book Club. You will need to create a completely free account with GoodReads.com. Need help? Email me at meagan@fivedeg.com.

Thanks to all our readers!

Meagan Nielsen

Meagan is co-founder and all things administrative and then some at Five Degrees Consulting. You can find her on LinkedIn and tweeting for Five Degrees @fivedeg.

Changing Course

I’m in the office recounting one of my many river trips on Cataract Canyon. Nothing like the roar of 16 foot waves and an accidental swim to get the blood pumping and to focus the mind. Have you ever planned a course of action, only to discover midway through that life and the elements were taking you in a different direction? Sometimes you need to stick to your guns and push through along the path you planned, and sometimes you need to switch gears and make a new plan. Knowing which time is before you is the great challenge of life.

I was at that crossroads in the rapid named Big Drop 1. I scouted the rapid from shore and plotted my course before shoving off to run the first of a series of three extremely gnarly rapids. I steered the boat through the first waves and set up to avoid a large hole at the bottom of the rapid. En route, I discovered that my boat was too water ladened and the river too swift to execute our escape. Consequently, we were headed straight for the center of a large and ugly-looking wave.  In a panic, I shouted out loud, “Holy s__t; mother of god; this is going to be bad!” This, of course, did not inspire confidence from my four friends in the boat. As we crashed into the hole our boat was twisted sidewise and the wave swept me off my seat and into the water. This left the boat upright, but captainless. One of my co-adventurers grabbed me and plopped me back in the boat. I searched the horizon for where we were headed next and spied “little niagra”, the most dangerous feature at the top of Big Drop 2. Normally, you pull the boat over to scout the next two rapids, but a heavy boat and the loss of time from hanging out in the water made this option impossible. The river was taking us through the next rapid!

I pulled with all my might, but the boat was not budging from its collision course with “little niagra”. I begged Ferryn (the one who plucked me from the water) to jump on the oars and help me maneuver the boat to a safer course. Together, we pulled the boat across the river where I had to make a decision: should we keep pulling to get us to the left side of the “marker” rock (the traditional and most used route) or straighten the boat and take a right run (a non- traditional and more dangerous route)? In a couple of seconds I had to make a decision that would significantly impact the safety of my friends and myself. In Big Drop 1 I had stayed on course and nearly flipped my raft. This time I decided to abandon my initial plan and change course. Fellow rafters have since exclaimed, “nobody takes a right run at Big Drop 2!”. I’ll never know if I had the strength to safely pull our boat to the more traditional path down the rapid.

Business managers and supervisors are constantly plotting courses forward into their future. We face challenging decisions such as when to keep going with a software program that needs configuration and when to scrap it and purchase a new program, or when to keep going with a marketing strategy that isn’t generating the results we want and when to create a new marketing plan. We can use hind sight to evaluate how we performed, but not to determine if another option would have worked out. We all come to crossroads in our lives and face the challenging decision of staying the course or plotting a new one.

The most important thing to do when you come to this point in business, or in your life, is to MAKE A DECISION. Choose a course and allow the consequences to guide your hind-sight evaluation. We regret a “default decision” far more than a conscious decision. When we go into default mode, we tend to bemoan the fact that “I should have done something.” When we make a decision that didn’t work out the way we planned, we tend to exclaim, “I’ll never do that again.” We made it successfully through the rapid, barely kissing the edge of “little niagra”. More importantly, my four friends are still friends.

Authored by: Clare Coonan, LCSW

Clare is a Senior Consultant and one of the founding partners at Five Degrees Consulting.  This is a blog we share  between several of the Consultants at Five Degrees, guest authors and colleagues.  We work with companies large and small on People and Organization strategies.  Our work specializes in organizational development, leadership effectiveness and executive development. With a focus on working with leaders at all levels to create an intentional corporate culture, we help organizations increase employee engagement, energize working teams, develop critical leadership competencies and enhance strategic communications for more information about our services, please connect with us.

Encouraging your team to speak up

“I could have told you that was going to happen!”

Have you ever heard that line, or something similar, from a coworker? Have you ever experienced the maddening and costly frustration of not having valuable information from your team? Of course, the next thing to come out of your mouth in unmasked exasperation is “Why the hell didn’t you say something!”

There are really only three reasons why someone chooses not to speak up:

  1. Fear – of possibly being wrong or of being dismissed or of being chastised.
  2. Believing it is not his/her place to say something – the problem is someone else’s problem to fix.
  3. Desire for someone else to fail.

If you want your team to speak up more, first find out what is getting in their way. We have a number of activities that are designed to help teams get everyone’s answers and opinions to important questions. You can try What Else Could It Be Activity for starters.

Once you know what’s getting in the way you can take steps to make sure that “speaking up” is a vital part of your culture. For example, let’s say that fear is getting in the way of gaining access to valuable information. Here are just a few of the things you can do to encourage “speaking up”.

  1. Ask this question at the end of project meetings/discussions: “Is there anything we forgot or is there something missing that we haven’t discussed?”
  2. Celebrate the learning that comes from mistake making routinely. Once a month have an agenda item called “Greatest Mistake” and invite people to describe a mistake that they made in the past month and what they learned from it. Have a rotating trophy that is passed from winner to winner.
  3. Publicly thank coworkers who bring up concerns or “speak up” whether they do so in a meeting, in an email or in private conversations.
  4. Apologize publicly when you dismiss an idea. You’ll need to enlist a trusted team member’s help because the chances are very high that you won’t even recognize when you have dismissed an idea. After meetings ask the trusted team member if you dismissed any ideas, and if you did make sure you apologize at the next meeting.

Authored by: Clare Coonan, LCSW

Clare is a Senior Consultant and one of the founding partners at Five Degrees Consulting.  This is a blog we share  between several of the Consultants at Five Degrees, guest authors and colleagues.  We work with companies large and small on People and Organization strategies.  Our work specializes in organizational development, leadership effectiveness and executive development. With a focus on working with leaders at all levels to create an intentionalcorporate culture, we help organizations increase employee engagement, energize working teams, develop critical leadership competencies and enhance strategic communications for more information about our services, please connect with us.

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