Friday Leadership Ideas to Help You Finish Strong for July 31, 2015

IMG_0600Every week I share a few ideas to help you finish strong. A great ending sets the stage for success next week.

The Truth is In the Field: Invite a Salesperson to Your Team Meeting

If you and your team operate somewhere other than the sales department, it’s easy to lose track of the realities of competing for business in your market. Gain some critical context for what customers are looking for and for what competitors are doing to try and keep food off your table by inviting one of your firm’s sales representatives to offer the latest market insights. This valuable external perspective helps everyone better connect to the reality that the firm is in business to acquire and keep customers and that everyone’s job is to support this effort. Kudos if you and your team identify an opportunity to better support the sales effort as part of this dialog.

Change Up Your Routine Today to Spark Fresh Energy

Many of us naturally gravitate towards a predictable, consistent routine in our work days. While there’s comfort in routine, in my experience, too much consistency lulls us into a semi-robotic state. Today, shake things up. Politely bow out of a few of those all too common Friday status update meetings and do something different. Take your team out for a long lunch and talk about what’s working and what needs to be strengthened. Catch up on professional development discussions. Leverage my idea above and invite a sales representative or three to share some market updates with your team. Find time to catch and talk with your boss and better align with his/her challenges and priorities. And most of all, enjoy a shift in routine as you wind down your week. It’s healthy to mix things up and you’ll leave excited to get back at it next week.

Take Time to Sketch Out Your Plan for the Next Month:

What two or three major objectives do you and your team need to complete in the next 30-days to make August a success? Take the time to refresh on where you are at with key initiatives and what you can do to better align resources with priorities. It’s too easy to let these months slide by with less than stellar progress on the activities that count. The urgent and urgent-unimportant get in the way of the bigger initiatives that require focused effort. Pull your core team members together for this discussion and write the plan and plan to stick to it.

That’s it for this week. Enjoy these fleeting Summer weekends and come back next week prepared to conquer the world! -Art

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For more ideas on professional development-one sound bite at a time, check out: Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development.

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An ideal book for anyone starting out in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.

 

 

 

Art of Managing—5 Big Lessons Learned from My Hiring Mistakes

Graphic with the words of Art of Managing and other management termsThe Art of Managing series is dedicated to exploring the critical issues we face in guiding our firms and teams to success in today’s volatile world.

Over an extended career, you will make more than one hiring mistake. I guarantee it.

No hiring manager escapes unscathed in this process. While a misfire is inevitable, this painful mistake (for you, your firm and the hire) is packed with some powerful life and career lessons. Trust me, I’ve learned the hard way.

While I’m incredibly proud of a track record hiring and cultivating talent during a career now entering its 4th decade, there have been some notable misfires. Each mistake offered a painful but much needed lesson in this most critical of managerial activities. While I regret the mistakes (they were controllable), the lessons learned helped me dramatically improve my batting average over time. Use these in good health and great hiring!

5 Big Lessons Learned From My Hiring Mistakes:

1. Haste always makes waste. My critical need for help drove at least two hires where I failed to properly assess character. Both individuals had seemingly great credentials and were excellent performers during the interview process. After the hire, excellent and performance weren’t used in the same sentence around them ever again.

I had failed to appropriately apply behavioral interviewing techniques and in one case, I violated my gut sense (more on this in the next example) that something just wasn’t right. I needed help to hit a critical product launch window and I let this pressure overrule the need for process and patience and thoroughness. One of the individuals put on a great public show for management while quietly asserting as the evil dictator with his team. The other was unable to back her talk with action. After offering feedback and coaching to no avail, I had to fire them both.

2. If you have to talk yourself into hiring the person, you’re probably making a mistake. With the recognition that I must be a slow learner, much like the examples above, I made this mistake twice as well. In both cases, an initial very good interview was followed by a series of discussions where I began to doubt the accuracy of the positive first impression. Others involved in the process had similar positive first impressions, however, I was the only one to meet with the individuals on multiple occasions, and after each meeting, I recall struggling with the sense that I had been wrong with that first impression. Nonetheless, I went ahead with the hires. One lasted 48 days and the other 8 painful months.

While hindsight is of course 20:20, I know now that the creeping sense that something wasn’t right should have prompted additional diligence or simple disqualification. However, at the time, I fought this feeling and anchored on the positive first impression. Instead of my blink reaction being right, it took multiple exposures for me to begin to question the accuracy of that first impression.

One individual was a carefully veiled megalomaniac and the other a charter member of the 70-Percent Club. (The 70-Percent Club is an exclusive organization where membership requires that you start a lot of good things and finish none of them. You bring them to 70-percent completion and then let them die.) If you have nagging doubts, they’re probably real. Don’t make the hire.

3. Intelligence doesn’t always translate into actions. I enjoy talking and working with people who are great critical thinkers…who are well read and who do something other than soak up the latest reality television shows in their time away from work. I’m also guilty of imputing that intelligence equates to ability. Sadly, that’s not always the case. Don’t become enamored by how smart and well rounded someone seemingly is. Assess their track record and ability to turn great ideas and insights into meaningful actions. The talk may be interesting, but it’s not going to move the meter unless it can be backed by actions.

4. Misjudging the stretch. It’s my nature to believe in the ability of people to stretch and grow. Nonetheless, people develop mostly on their own timetables and not at the rate that you might desire. In several instances, I’ve opted for people who I believed had “the right stuff” for stretch positions. These were roles that exceeded their prior roles in terms of responsibility, decision-making and leadership, but I perceived the stretch to be within reason for them. While this has worked in many instances, there were a few where it was too much too fast and I had to step-in and simplify the challenge while their brains and their self-confidence grew to match the larger challenges. Noble mistakes…but mistakes nonetheless that came with real costs to the team and organization and psychic costs to the individuals.

5. Don’t ignore reality. Beware the natural inclination to hide from a hiring mistake. While this is one I’ve not stepped in before, I’ve observed it with other managers who viewed it as too costly to admit to a mistake, and therefore, they ignored reality and compounded the problem by letting the poor hire become a long-term poor employee.

Yes, it’s embarrassing to recognize that your judgment call on your hire was wrong and yes, your boss won’t be happy with your mistake. However, no one will be happy with a lousy hire that turns into a long-term problem employee. Admit the mistake to yourself up front and plan on approaching your boss with the message and a plan. Just don’t hide from reality.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

No one gets out of the work of managing and leading with a perfect hiring score. Some managers are outstanding judges of talent. Others bolster their batting averages with external resources that assess fitand that purport to improve predictability. But every manager at some point slips and lets one through the net.

It’s what you do at that moment of truth and what you learn from this experience that either exacerbates the damage or stops the bleeding. Adding the right resources to your team is a sacred responsibility and owning up to and learning from your mistakes is a critical part of your growth as an effective manager.

Don’t miss the next Leadership Caffeine-Newsletter! (All new subscriber-only content!) Register herebook cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

For more ideas on professional development-one sound bite at a time, check out: Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development.

New to leading or responsible for first time leaders on your team? Subscribe to Art’s New Leader’s e-News.

An ideal book for anyone starting out in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.

 

 

Leadership Caffeine™—Resist the Urge to Shield Your Team from Bad News

image of a foam coffee cup with brown outer sleeveThe Leadership Caffeine™ series is intended to make you think and act.

In difficult situations, reality tinged with optimism and backed by encouragement serves as a more effective motivator than a saccharine-sweet message of false praise and manufactured positivity.

The fact is, we’re not always fine. Strategies don’t always work. Mistakes happen. Competitors confound our best attempts and deals delay or derail. Stuff happens, and your attempt to reinforce a false reality will confuse people who expect and need honesty and transparency from you.

I see this dissonant messaging in action when I’m called upon to work with struggling firms or teams. The leader…often the CEO, is concerned about demoralizing the group and instead of shooting straight, obfuscates the reality of the situation with an overdose of praise and ginned up optimism. Unfortunately, this approach generates confusion (people are adept at sensing reality) and fails to do the one thing most critical to navigating the problems…draw people into the good and hard work of finding the solutions.

The Positive Side of Shooting Straight:

I observed a manufacturer navigate a complex quality problem by shooting straight with employees and customers as soon as the problem surfaced, and then making heroic efforts to remedy the problems. This was a potential lawsuit inducing, firm-killing issue and while navigating it was expensive and uncomfortable, the clear, transparent communication galvanized employees to act and actually strengthened the firm’s relationship with a number of key customers.

Another firm was failing to gain traction with a new strategy. The approach would push this firm into new arenas and the gravitational pull of the past resulted in half-measures and  halfhearted enthusiasm for the new direction. The top management took this issue to the employee population by both explaining the strategic rationale and importantly, educating everyone on the declining number of opportunities in legacy markets. The presentation was supported by a company wide review of key financial indicators and trends and a lot of discussion on what it really meant to move to this new market. Armed with new knowledge and clear on the very real need to succeed, the firm’s employees pulled together and not only succeeded in the new market, they became more adept at managing costs and selectively pursuing profitable opportunities in legacy markets.

Both of these very real cases required senior leaders to get out in front of the message. Without broad employee awareness and support, there was no hope.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

While the need to remain positive in dire circumstances is understandable and indeed very human, keeping your employees in the dark will work against you. You’re not protecting them… you are keeping them from getting involved. Resist the urge to shield your employees from reality. Share the facts, offer your assessment and insure that everyone has the opportunity to ask questions and offer ideas. You want to get people in front of the real issues holding you back and give them a voice in finding and implementing solutions.

 

Don’t miss the next Leadership Caffeine-Newsletter! (All new subscriber-only content!) Register herebook cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

For more ideas on professional development-one sound bite at a time, check out: Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development.

New to leading or responsible for first time leaders on your team? Subscribe to Art’s New Leader’s e-News.

An ideal book for anyone starting out in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.

 

Friday Leadership Ideas to Help You Finish Strong for July 24, 2015

mountainEvery week I share a few ideas to help you finish strong. A great ending sets the stage for success next week.

Work some magic by re-approaching “What’s not working?” discussions.

All of us have been in the project wrap-up that focused on what went wrong or the team brainstorm meeting that emphasizes looking at where we have to improve. While there’s a place and purpose for those discussions, they emphasize the negative and frankly, they generate the same lists over and over again.

At the next occasion (why not today?) pull your team together for a creative dialog and ask, “What’s working well that we should do more of?” Be prepared for a slow start followed by a torrent of ideas, energy and enthusiasm. Take great notes and be certain to have the team prioritize those they believe are the most important. And then challenge them to put the ideas into action.

This simple framing change is an antidote to the negativity and frustration attached to too many of our team and group discussions. Try it and watch the magic unfold!

Shift the Focus to Your Own Professional Development.

I offer regular reminders in this series and in my other blog posts to take time and focus on the professional development plans of your team members. It’s challenging for most busy leaders and team members to stay on top of this, and kudos if you’re current. (If not, it’s time to catch up and refresh those plans and ensure progress. After all, the calendar year is more than half over.) Now, it’s time to look in the mirror and assess your own professional development progress.

Ask and answer:

  • How am I refreshing my skills?
  • What have I read that has challenged me to re-think my role and/or raise my performance level?
  • What new skills have I developed this past year?
  • Have I received feedback that has challenged me to change or reinforce key behaviors?
  • What was the last training session I attended that wasn’t mandated by H.R.?
  • Am I doing ostensibly the same work this year as last year?
  • What challenging new assignments have I completed this year?

If you’re answers are less than complete, it’s time to get to work. Take the time to talk with your boss and team members and solicit input and feedback. Explore external training courses that will challenge you to stretch and develop new skills. And importantly, sit down with your boss, ask for input on his/her perceptions of your professional development needs and jointly develop a plan. If your boss isn’t the sympathetic or thoughtful type on professional development, come to the discussion prepared with a plan and suggestions versus expecting him/her to generate the ideas. Last and not least, seek out opportunities to build new skills through job rotation opportunities or taking on challenging new projects.

As I reference regularly in my It’s Your Career” series, you truly do own your own professional development. Now more than ever in an era of constant change, the only security we have is the security of ensuring that our skills are refreshed and current. Don’t let your learning program go dormant.

That’s it for this week. Enjoy your weekend and come back next Monday ready to conquer the world. -Art

Don’t miss the next Leadership Caffeine-Newsletter! (All new subscriber-only content!) Register herebook cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

For more ideas on professional development-one sound bite at a time, check out: Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development.

New to leading or responsible for first time leaders on your team? Subscribe to Art’s New Leader’s e-News.

An ideal book for anyone starting out in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.

 

 

Ideas for Professional Growth for the Week of July 19, 2015

Problem is Opportunity Blackboard ConceptNote from Art: Every week I offer ideas to encourage you to stretch and grow. Use them in great professional health!

Do: Volunteer to Lead an Initiative to Solve a Lingering Problem.

In most organizations, the problems are well identified. It’s finding someone to do something about the problems that’s the issue. Listen carefully for one of those annoying, recurring issues that seem to exist in some gray area between functions, and volunteer to lead an initiative to stomp the problem out of existence. Make certain to recruit some help on the spot.

In addition to the chance to stretch your leadership skills with your volunteer team, you’ll quickly gain the attention of your senior managers as someone willing to go the extra mile to improve the business. What a great, positive way to grow your power and influence!

Make certain when the project wraps up successfully to both thank your team members and to reach out to their direct managers and offer your appreciation for the hard work of their employees. You’re team members will appreciate your support.

Rinse and repeat.

Experiment: Add Energy to Your Team by Rotating Responsibilities

Keep your team members fresh, challenged and learning by making assignment rotation a regular part of the working culture. Nothing builds empathy with others by spending some time walking in their shoes or navigating their tasks. I value team members who are competent and confident in stepping up and filling in for a colleague. Instead of waiting until it’s a necessity, be proactive and have team members teach and then step in for each other.

Explore: Take Your Team on a Field Trip

Chances are you haven’t been on a field trip since middle school. While you can skip the permission slips and leave the pb&j sandwiches behind, consider an opportunity to get your team off-site and immersed in an activity or environment that stimulates creativity and thinking. My favorites…a visit to a natural history or cultural museum; a symphony concert or a tour of a factory in a completely unrelated industry. Encourage your team members to jot down any ideas sparked by the trip and schedule a debrief meeting. While I can’t guarantee that a killer idea will emerge, the opportunity to rest and recharge and engage in a unique setting will be a positive for the team. And, remember, it just takes one idea!

That’s it for the early encouragement in our new week. Best of success as you do/experiment and explore! -Art

Don’t miss the next Leadership Caffeine-Newsletter! (All new subscriber-only content!) Register herebook cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

For more ideas on professional development-one sound bite at a time, check out: Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development.

New to leading or responsible for first time leaders on your team? Subscribe to Art’s New Leader’s e-News.

An ideal book for anyone starting out in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.