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

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—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.

 

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

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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—In Negotiations, Focus on Interests, Not Positions

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.

All of us are involved in negotiating for something on a fairly frequent basis, and over and over again, most of us make the same critical mistake. We reduce the negotiation to a battle of wills over positions (I want/You want) and we try and brute force our way to a conclusion. For many situations, there’s a better way.

While most negotiations start with some form of I want/Would you consider lead-off, (a position proposal), suppress your natural counter-position response and ask questions to better understand what the other party is truly trying to accomplish.

Consider Two Examples:

An educator is approached about switching classrooms and responds with, “No, I like my room” to the administrator making the request.

Two things have occurred as a result of this unfortunate opening dialog. The administrator now must navigate a miffed educator and the educator has most definitely not cultivated any political or negotiating capital with the overt rejection. The administrator’s true need is to bring two classes and teachers closer together to more easily enable team teaching and technology sharing.The educator should have probed for the reason behind the request, and armed with an understanding of the greater needs, might well have leveraged the situation to pursue interests of his own, included added technology, some flexibility on the curriculum or a leadership role on an important committee.

What could have been a productive, interest-focused discussion turned into a tug of wills over the room. It is likely that the next step will be a command to change rooms, leaving both parties worse off than if they had opted for a different negotiating path. In this very real scenario, there were missed opportunities on both sides!

In another example, an aggressive and competent professional consistently nagged his boss about a promotion incorporating a bigger title and more responsibility and compensation. His focus in the discussion was all on position(s), and what should have been a productive and on-going career development dialog turned into one that the boss quickly grew frustrated with when the issue was raised. The employee considered looking for another job and the boss ran the other way every time he sensed this conversation was surfacing yet again. Both responses were highly unproductive to the best interests of the parties and the firm.

The employee failed to build value for how he could better support the company at a new level with broader responsibilities, and the boss failed to focus on the real opportunity to develop and help the firm with this individual. Once interests were surfaced, the discussion resumed, a way forward was designed that satisfied both parties and the day was saved for the firm, manager and employee.

I can extend this discussion to pricing negotiations between suppliers and distributors or sales representatives and clients; debates over process changes between functions in organizations, and arguments over feature inclusions or scope changes on project teams. The position-focused debate is prevalent in almost every area of our professional and personal lives and the parties haggling over the specifics are leaving incredible value on the table with this approach.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

For some reason, many people are uncomfortable exposing their real needs in the opening stages of a negotiation. Arm yourself with the knowledge that something important is lurking behind the individual’s opening request. Strive to understand the real needs behind their position and you’ll be better armed to both address these needs and gain support for your own interests. Use the same technique when you are the initiator. Frame your interest to offer valuable context and to defuse early tension and then pursue a way forward that focuses on achieving respective interests without making the situation a giant tug-of-wills.

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.