Ideas for Professional Growth for the Week of July 5, 2015

many small light bulbs equal big oneNote from Art: Every week, I provide a few simple (but not simplistic) ideas for you to Do/Experiment/Explore in support of your professional development. Use them in great professional health and personal gain.

Do:

Focus on tackling that big decision you’ve been putting off for too long. Whether it’s the “go” on a new initiative, a critical strategy decision or the resolution of an important personnel choice (hire, fire, promote), it’s essential to tee the decision up and execute on it. The big issues that we delay rent space in our minds and slow down the overall cadence of our decision-making.

Take the time to rethink the issue. Look at it from multiple frames (positive, negative, neutral) and develop approaches that match each respective frame.

Identify your expected outcome from making this decision. Review your assumptions and then seek some outside help. Invite an objective third party to evaluate your framing and assumptions and challenge you on whether you’ve completely thought through the issue.

And take a tip from the late, great management guru, Peter Drucker, and start and maintain a decision-log. Take the time to document the issue, your framing, your assumptions and your expected outcome(s) and establish a date to review the effectiveness of the decision. This simple but powerful tool offers you a great opportunity to both assess and strengthen your decision-making effectiveness over time.

Experiment:

Rethink your approach to establishing team or initiative leadership. Instead of defaulting to the most senior person or the technical expert, challenge your team to select the individual who is best at working with people.

The design firm IDEO is famous for bringing together groups of professionals with diverse backgrounds and forming them into highly creative groups focused on studying and solving the business challenges of a wide variety of clients. A core part of their process is selecting a leader for the initiative that has the attributes the team believes are most essential for success. Often, the selection focuses on, “Who’s best working with people?”

Explore:

Comparing your firm or function to someone other than your competitors. Too often, we develop tunnel vision around our industry and competitors and end up in a battle of “me-too” that no one wins, especially the customers.

When Southwest Airlines wanted to better understand how to turn planes around in record time, they didn’t study other airlines, they studied Indy Pit Crews.

Restaurant operators from all sectors send their teams in to study at Pal’s Business Excellence Institute…an institution established by this modest sized but wildly successful fast-food firm to share the practices that have helped Pal’s achieve quality and performance levels that are truly remarkable.

Idea Prompters:

  • Study customer service at Nordstrom’s or Zappos.
  • Explore how SRC applies financial literacy and drives remarkable employee engagement and great financial results.
  • Study how the Mayo Clinic is able to remain at the head of the medical field year after year and decade after decade through the application of a few very powerful values.

It’s time for your and your team and your firm to break out of your industry and competitive rut and studying the approaches of other successful organizations is a great starting point.

OK, I’ve done my part. The rest is up to you. Have a great week as you Do/Experiment/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.

 

The High Professional Cost of Your Inability to Trust

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!

“Trust involves the juxtaposition of people’s loftiest hopes and aspirations with their deepest worries and fears.” –Jeffrey A. Simpson

Trust is one of those terms that is casually tossed around in business conversations and management literature, yet for each and every one of us, the decision to trust someone is a deep and difficult personal decision. It grows even more complicated when we are challenged to operate as a team or develop a team.

I remember resenting the accusation leveled by our Chairman when he suggested the reason we weren’t executing our strategy effectively was because the senior management team members didn’t trust each other. He was right.

There are two possible outcomes when we choose to trust someone. We’ll either find our trust vindicated by the actions of the other party, or, we’ll be disappointed and hurt when our trust is abused. The fear of the latter for many of us overwhelms the potential for reward from the former. Roughly said, the cost of having our trust abused exceeds the potential gain from it being treated with care and respect.

While the root causes of our propensity to trust or distrust may be found in our childhood experiences with friends and family members (issues beyond my pay grade or the scope of this blog), the issue has potentially profound implications on our success as professionals. Recognizing the cost of your inability to trust may very well be the first step to adapting this limiting and potentially destructive behavior.

4 Key Areas Where Our Inability to Trust Others Hurts Us:

1. On teams. Our inability to trust others will impact our effectiveness on teams. Everyone senses when one of the team members has trust issues, and this lack of trust raises the acidity of the team environment. Others will adopt a similar stance towards the non-trusting individual, and the honest, robust communication necessary for navigating tough topics disappears.

2. With co-workers. Colleagues recognize when someone withholds trust and frankly, they resent it. While some will expend a bit of energy striving to bridge this trust gap, most will quickly recognize the futility of the effort and write off the benefits of cultivating a relationship with the trust-withholder. In a world where connections count…for knowledge, specialized information, political insights and access to resources, the person who fails to trust others loses access to these essential currencies.

3. Developing others. The need for others to constantly be in search of our never-quite-achievable trust limits our ability to do our best in support of the development of our own team members. By making them earn your trust, you risk making them tentative in their pursuit of their work…unwilling to take risks and worried about stepping over an invisible line. Your lack of trust in your team members keeps them from opening up to you on challenges and obstacles…it skews the dialog, and this defeats the intent to help people learn and grow.

4. With ourselves.  A fundamental inability to trust others reflects our own self-trust issues. We don’t have confidence in our judgment of others…thus we remain cautious and tentative…and perhaps even micro-managing. This impacts our hiring decisions and it impacts all of our interactions and our effectiveness in the workplace. Lacking the confidence to recover from an episode of trust betrayed, we hunker down in a defensive posture, leaving tremendous opportunities to strengthen, grow and support others on the table.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

The cure for an inability to trust likely lies deep within the individual and I have no doubt altering this behavior is very difficult. Seek the right professional help. Don’t let this serve as your limiting factor. There’s too much good work to be done to spend your career not trusting others. And while someone will inevitably betray your trust, the cost of this is significantly less than the benefits you will accrue from extending your trust.

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 June 26, 2015

Sometimes you have to slow down to go faster!

Sometimes you have to slow down to go faster!

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

1. Reboot professional development discussions with your team members.

Too many of us leave the topic of professional development for our team members to annual review timing. That’s a mistake. Motivated employees are interested in identifying opportunities to gain new experiences and further their careers all of the time, not once per year. You owe it to them to bring this discussion to the table at least quarterly.

For today, reach out to your team members individually and let them know that their professional development is on your mind. Schedule some one on one time in the next two weeks to catch-up on the plans for the year established during the annual review, or make a commitment to work together to identify a series of on-going developmental experiences. While training might be a part of the program, don’t default to this catch-all category. Your team member may well benefit more from a new assignment or opportunity to lead a project team rather than sitting behind a table in a classroom.

If you need a little incentive, know that supporting a team member’s professional development by investing time and defining and supporting them in learning opportunities and new challenges is a tremendous way to show that you respect them and to build loyalty.

Schedule the discussions and commit to making this a regular part of your management routine.

2. Stimulate discussion on topics that count.

Interested in stimulating ideas on ways to strengthen your team, your leadership or your activities with your customers?  Take time with your team to watch a Ted Talk. And then discuss it. I’ve long been a fan of any activity that exposes people to the ideas of others. The gravitational pull of the urgent in our jobs keeps most of us staring out at the same view to the parking lot day after day. Change the view and leverage books, articles, or in a group setting, one of the great Ted Talks available on demand and at no charge.

A quick search on the topic, “Top Ted Talks for Leaders” serves up a variety of lists of some remarkable presentations certain to stimulate discussion and idea generation. As an alternative, go crazy and expand your search beyond business or leadership and challenge your team members to connect how the ideas in the video might be meaningful to your firm or your customers.

One manager I know does this weekly, complete with popcorn and beverages and it’s become a much anticipated ritual on Friday afternoons. Of course, remember, the goal is to find ideas that can be put into action, so some gentle facilitation of the post viewing discussion will support linking it back to improving something in your workplace. The simplest of all facilitation questions are often the most valuable. Try, “what does this mean for us?” and see what the group has to say.

OK, that’s it for this week. Congratulations on finishing strong! Enjoy the weekend and come back on Monday ready to conquer the world. -Art

Ideas for Professional Growth—Week of June 21, 2015

best practice on blackboardNote from Art: Every week, I provide a few simple (but not simplistic) ideas for you to Do/Experiment/Explore in support of your professional development. Use them in great professional health and personal gain.

Do:

Identify the one tough discussion you’ve been avoiding and find a slot in your schedule this week (earlier is better) and make it happen. Unresolved issues…a tough feedback discussion, an apology owed to a colleague and all of the other difficult discussions we attempt to avoid, rent space in our minds and add to our background stress. It’s time to clear this issue out and move forward.

To ease your pre-discussion anxiety, take the time to sketch out key elements of your discussion.

  • Define the core issue in clear terms. If this is a feedback discussion, you have to isolate on the behavior and the business implication of the behavior.
  • Know your desired outcome.
  • Plan your opening sentence. Yes, script this one out. The opener sets the tone for the entire discussion.
  • Prepare your attitude. If you expect the issue to result in an emotional response, you need to plan your vocal tone and facial expression.
  • Find neutral ground to conduct the discussion.

Much like speaking in public, the thought of it is more stressful than the reality of delivering a speech. Get this locked on your calendar and don’t let this week wind to a close without moving forward on this lingering difficult discussion.

Experiment:

Add some life to your regular team meetings. Too many managers squander precious contact team with team members by defaulting to what I describe as the Around-the-Table Update March of Death. You know this meeting. The leader kicks off, shares a few updates on his/her activities and then one by one, everyone in the room does the same. At the end of this in a large group setting, people are drooling from the mind-numbing boredom and irrelevance of most of the updates.

Instead of defaulting to the Around-the-Table approach, mix things up from meeting to meeting. Assign a key, highly relevant topic and have everyone share their ideas or insights.

Examples include:

  • What are we doing great that we should be doing more of?
  • What are the most disturbing things our competitors are doing that we need to respond to?
  • Everyone talk with a salesperson or customer service representative before the next meeting and ask them one of: what they are hearing about how we’re doing/how our competitors are doing/what’s changing in their business, and come prepared to share.

If those don’t suit you, identify your own topics and question. Just vow to take advantage of the gray matter in the room and do something different than the default march of the updates.

Explore:

OK, this one is literally about exploring. Given the challenges, risks and complexity of the world we live and work in, it’s helpful to find inspiration in unusual places, and the age of polar exploration offered many incredible examples.

Read my post, 5 Priceless Lessons from Amundsen and Scott (and/or dig in and research the topic at a deeper level) and consider the challenges they navigated, the approaches of the two great explorers and ultimately what worked and what failed. How can you apply the lessons to your own world of team development, innovation and exploration?

OK, I’ve done my part. The rest is up to you. Have a great week as you Do/Experiment/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—2 to Help You Finish Strong for June 19, 2015

Sign indicating "Brand New and Fresh"Every week, I share a few ideas to help you finish strong. A great ending to your work week helps set the stage for success next Monday.

1. Assess What Worked, Not What You Failed to Complete

I love wrapping up on a high note, and let’s face it, not every week is a rousing success in knocking out our priorities. Sometimes the universe works against us with the urgent and important flaring up to overwhelm our attention.

Nonetheless, there were victories. Even surviving the running of the gauntlet of crises and extinguishing major flare-ups count as victories. What was it that you and/or your team members did that allowed you to succeed with those sudden initiatives? What repeatable behaviors can you draw upon in subsequent challenging situations?

We’re quick to identify what we did wrong and/or focus in on the constructive criticism. That’s fine and necessary, however, reinforcing great behaviors is equally important and worthy of contemplating as you head into the end of your work week.

2. Discuss with Your Team: Why will driverless cars lead to a demand for artificial hearts?

OK, the two items…driverless cars and artificial hearts aren’t related to your business, but that’s not the point. Or, actually, it is. The issue is for you to get better at assessing developments in our rapidly shape shifting external environment and then connecting them to downstream implications for us, our customers or, your entire industry. Ideally, you want to do this faster and more effectively than your competitors.

Plan a meeting with your team and spend 30 minutes once per week just talking about changes that all of you are observing in technologies, social trends and anything else that jumps out from our noisy world. Close out each development with a free form discussion around, “What this might mean for us/our customers is… .” Keep a log of these topics and their potential connections to your world. And if someone seizes upon a thread that merits exploration for potential innovation, go long.

Strengthening the ability of your team to connect noise in the environment to implications for your firm, your customers and your industry…and then doing something about it, offers a host of potential positive organizational health benefits.

Oh, and one of the leading sources of hearts for life-saving transplant operations comes from fatalities due to car crashes at intersections. In theory, there will be no more crashes at intersections if and once driverless cars become universal. The implication for a number of industries, including the demand for replacement hearts will be significant.

OK, that’s it for this week. Use the ideas in great health, finish strong, have an invigorating weekend and come back recharged and ready to change the world next week! -Art