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

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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.

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 17, 2015

Thank YouEvery week I offer ideas to help you finish on a high note. Use the ideas to finish strong and set the stage for success heading into the new week.

Purge The Lingering Effect of Unfounded Criticism.

Feedback is important in our professional development, but not all feedback is credible and worth the space it rents in your mind. Authors, actors, playwrights all agonize over reviews. They are momentarily excited by the positive feedback and often crushed by the negative. It’s easy to let the opinions others have about you dictate how you feel about yourself. It’s a bad habit to take the positive reviews too seriously or to let the negative reviews crush you.

I learned long ago that I won’t win glowing reviews from everyone…in a workshop, an MBA course or a keynote. The batting average is great…high 90’s on a percentage basis who appreciate and benefit from the work. I value the ideas people proffer for strengthening the content or my approach. And then there’s the input from the 1 or 2 who it just didn’t work for. I look for the pearls of actionable wisdom in the negative feedback, and if there are none, I move on quickly.

Everyone has opinions…and not all of them are equal or worth the energy it takes to fret over them. If you’ve been on the receiving end of some undue criticism this week, take the time to explore the areas for genuine improvement. If it’s just hot air and toxic talk, purge it from your brain. It’s not worth the effort it takes to retain it.

Have You Said “Thank You” to Your Team Members Recently?

It’s easy for the months and even years to fly by in our workplaces without hitting the pause button once in awhile and offering a very well deserved “Thank you” to our team members. While it’s unlikely you take them for granted, it’s ridiculously easy to simply count on people being there to execute on their work and to solve problems and drive performance. I’ve known senior managers who skipped the “Thank you” step and found themselves sitting with a resignation letter in hand wishing they had done more to acknowledge their appreciation for the person along the way.

Take the time today to start working through your team members and offering your thanks for their hard work and dedication. Better yet, thank them for applying their own unique “superpower” to the team and firm. If appropriate, offer a minor token of your appreciation, but be certain to personalize it to the individual. And no, company logo-gear is typically not appropriate.

One business owner reached out to me and shared that he had rarely ever offered anything resembling positive feedback or a sincere thanks. Nonetheless, his team had remained largely intact over the years. (This was a positive sign that he had treated them with respect regardless of the lack of visible appreciation.) He wondered how his staff would react if he started this behavior. I assured him that after counseling them that he was neither ill nor leaving, they would appreciate the shift in style. It’s never too late until it’s over.

OK, that’s it for the week. Finish up in great style and come back next week 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.

It’s Your Career—Try Reframing the Problems to Stimulate Success

Graphic image with the words, It's Your Career and other related professional development wordsThe “It’s Your Career” series at Management Excellence is dedicated to offering ideas, guidance and inspiration for strengthening your performance and supporting your development as a professional. Use the ideas in great career health!

How we frame a situation guides our development of options and biases our decisions. In my coaching work, framing is almost always an issue with under-performing professionals. Here are five common situations that can benefit from some active, personal re-framing.

Framing Error 1—Professional Development: “My company isn’t supporting my development.”

Reframe: You own your own professional development, not your company. Now, more than ever, you must take responsibility to invest in yourself for education and training and the most valuable of all developmental activities…participating in a series of challenging assignments. Seeking out these new challenges must be a deliberate part of everyone’s career strategy.

Framing Error 2—Politics: “Getting ahead around here requires me to play the games. I’m not going to do it.”

Reframe: All human groups are political. Given that someone must choose us for success, ignoring the politics and power issues in your work environment is naïve and limiting. A good strategy is to focus on cultivating “clean power” (no backs stabbed, no games played), by identifying and resolving the thorny issues that reside in the gray-areas between functions. This is typically project/team effort and requires that you gain buy-in across functions and involve a network of resources to resolve the challenges. Place your team members in the spotlight of success with these initiatives and you’ll not only gain the support of higher-ups but of a growing network of your colleagues. Congratulations, you will have grown your power without playing any questionable games!

Framing Error 3—Lack of Advancement: Blaming everyone but the person in the mirror for your lack of advancement.

Reframe: If you’re not advancing in your career at a pace that you believe is proper, it’s time to look in the mirror, not at the boss or your coworkers. Much like the use of “swim buddies” in the Navy Seals (someone who watches, supports and challenges you), you need a “feedback buddy” who will share the hard truth on your presence, your weaknesses and your strengths. We’re notoriously poor at seeing ourselves as others do and cultivating a clear understanding of this view offers ammunition for improvement and for better managing the perceptions about you.

Framing Error 4—Blaming the team. “My team isn’t performing up to my expectations.”

Reframe: You’re likely the one not performing to expectations. Reassess your role. Ask your team what they need you to do to better help them succeed. And then do it. You’ll be amazed how much better you will feel about your team when you’re doing your part.

Framing Error 5—Blaming the strategy. “This strategy just isn’t working. What were they thinking?”

Reframe: While it is possible the strategy is flawed, more than likely, there are problems of coordination, communication and execution. Look closely at where the situation is breaking down and collaborate with co-workers to identify solutions and offer insights to senior leaders. No senior leader expects the strategic plan to unfold exactly as it was drawn up on paper. Strategy refinement is an iterative process based on real-world feedback. Be part of the solution here by sharing insights and offering suggestions for strengthening.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

It’s easy to sit back and view the world of challenges as other people’s problems or other people’s mistakes. The human tendency to take credit for successes and offer blame for failures combines with framing errors to create a cognitive stew of biases and poor thinking. Get out of your own way by reframing the issues and problems, and then take action. Get this right and you’ll be dealing with a whole new set of framing challenges as you gain responsibility and grow in your career.

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.

 

Art of Managing—Be Careful About Labeling Your Employees

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.

There’s an interesting article at Harvard Business Review, entitled, “How to Manage a Team of B Players,” by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic. I appreciate the author’s attempt at describing the leadership challenge and approach to molding a group of “ordinary” individuals into a high performance team. He offers some compelling guidance. I am however, uncomfortable with his easy use of the term, “B-Players.”

And while I am absolutely guilty in the past of using the A, B, C, designation to characterize individuals and their level of skill/capability/potential, I’ve grown uncomfortable with the cavalier assignment of people to these categories. It’s a crutch that I gave up. In my experience, the labels are often misused or abused to mask managerial laziness. Now, when I see it in print, I flinch.

As mentioned in the article, Jack Welch popularized this designation during his tenure as Chairman and CEO of GE, with the notion of turning B-players into A-players, moving C players to B and letting the A-players stretch and run. And while Welch might have had some rigor in his assessment and categorization approaches (along with his forced ranking system), for the rest of us, the cavalier use of these labels is lazy and potentially destructive.

And yes, I get that every person comes to us with different skills, aptitudes and perspectives. I love challenging those ready to navigate big, hairy, ambiguous situations and I love watching others grow into their own by leveraging their skills and capabilities and inner drive. What I truly dislike however, is a categorization Back to Schoolsystem that in very simple fashion draws upon our lifetime of school grading (A=excellent, B=Very Good, C=Average) and mostly assigns people in an arbitrary manner to a particular group, thus altering their options, opportunities and futures. It’s just lazy management and in many cases, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for those being labeled.

Labeling a person a C-player is effectively sealing their fate on your team or in your organization. The connotation is some combination of not smart/not motivated/lousy attitude and managers are quick to write these people off instead of focusing on coaching behavior changes, providing training or varying assignments to better match the real skills of the individuals. Give someone the label of C-player, and you’re capitulating on your responsibility to manage and develop. It’s a way to fast-track a perceived “problem” out of your daily life.

The B designation is even trickier. When polling managers on what they interpret when they hear that someone is a B-player, I hear words such as solid, dependable, journeyman, along with some qualifiers that justify a label other than A or C. Again, this categorization paints a scarlet letter on the forehead of the individuals and dictates a certain, limited level of attention and support. In looping back with managers who had classified a number of their employees as B-players, I’ve rarely encountered a change in label, particularly from B to A. Once the view of someone is locked in as second-tier or second-class or B, it’s difficult for the individual to shake that label.

Every one of us is a work in process. There are indeed circumstances where someone’s combined attributes don’t fit our needs. There are mismatches between the environment and people. There are situations where you have to choose to invest more or cut. Just don’t take the easy way out by lumping someone in a category and then leaving them there to grow old. Your first job is to get the right people in the right roles. And yes, sometimes it takes creativity and effort.

Put your so-called B-player into the right role or a different environment and they may very well swim circles around your designated superheroes. Find the right combination of coaching and challenge and support and watch your so-called C player blossom into a remarkable performer.

And yes, I get that what I’m describing was the intent of the author in the article. His intent is positive. I simply rankled at the focus he placed on the label. It opens up too much potential for misuse and abuse.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

Beware the easy and cavalier assignment of labels. It’s not that simple.

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 10, 2015

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

1. Call a Timeout and Assess Your Progress on the Big Items

Days turn into weeks turn into months and the daily urgent issues keep us sprinting, often unable to stop and catch our breath and assess where we’re at on the bigger plans we established earlier in the year. Take time today to call a timeout (or lock one in to your schedule soon) to assess how you’re doing with the important and bigger picture activities you committed to months ago.

The issues that are often pushed off to some never-to-be reached time in the future include critical personnel decisions, structural changes, new program creation and the ever-important employee development actions. Oh, and don’t forget about your own developmental plans. How are you doing on your own personal growth objectives?

Too many great professionals let the days manage their agenda instead of the reverse. The daily fires will never disappear, however, the big issues that promote significant positive change take focus and discipline. Recommit to working on the big items and then do it!

2. Change Your View

I’m a constant nag on the need for all of us to better understand the view from functions other than our own. Spend too much time observing the world from your department’s windows, and you start to develop functional tunnel vision. Reach out to a peer in another group and ask to be invited to a team update or, invite him/her to one of yours. Do this regularly and strive to learn more about the view others have on market or organizational issues. Better yet, find common areas to collaborate on for improvements.

If you’ve been sitting too long with the same view, it’s time for a change.

3. Revive Your Summer Reading Plans

Read and grow smarter. My suggestions for business reads:

Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World, by General Stanley McChrystal

And

Team Genius: The New Science of High Performing Organizations by Rich Karlgaard and Michael S. Malone.

(Are you hearing a consistent theme with my recommendations?)

For sheer great writing and a unique view into Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt in the time leading up to World War II until Franklin’s passing, try “No Ordinary Time” by Doris Kearns Goodwin. The intimate insights into these two remarkable individuals coupled with the challenges of navigating extreme uncertainty and risk by Franklin, are fascinating. This is one of the only historical biographies I’ve consumer where I could not stand to put it down.

That’s all for this week! Finish strong and the new week will look brilliant. -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.