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.

 

 

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.

 

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

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

 

Just One Thing—Push Beyond “M” for Mediocrity

Just One ThingThe “Just One Thing” Series at Management Excellence is intended to provoke ideas and actions around topics relevant to our success and professional growth. Use them in good health and great performance!

Why do we fail with our initiatives (projects, strategy, leadership) in the workplace so regularly when the causes of failure are well documented and the practices to minimize the chances of failure so well identified?

A student exploring project risk management was perplexed when she compared the data on project failures to the literature on risk management, only to see that the causes of failure and ideas for reducing risk were clearly identified over and over again in a nearly endless stream of articles.

I see this same situation play out repeatedly in leadership and strategy work.

The formula for leading effectively isn’t a secret kept locked in a vault with the combination known only to two people. In fact, the principles have been understood for a few millennia. And for us today in our firms, the behaviors of miserable managers and lousy leader are well understood and at last count, there were seemingly 4 quintillion resources offering input, training and help on how to lead effectively.

For strategy, too many of these programs fail not just because they were poor ideas (usually not the case), but rather because the process of execution broke down. People fail to coordinate the work necessary to properly and effectively bridge ideas to execution. While not to minimize the complexity of executing on strategy, the issues of communication, coordination, feedback, adaptation and so forth are fairly easy to grok.

Finally, when I work with people and teams in troubled organizations, I always figuratively scratch my head over the juxtaposition of relatively smart people who understand what is going wrong with the reality that few are doing anything about it.

It’s as if we have a default gear labeled “M” for mediocrity in our organizations and in ourselves. It’s the acceptance of this gear inside organizations along with the perpetuation of practices that reinforce “M” that governs our consistent and repeated sub-par performance.

However, not everyone or every team is held back by the tractor-beam pull of mediocrity.

In troubled organizations, I look for the individuals who fight back and rail against the tyranny of something that screams less than excellent. These people fight mediocrity with all of their energy and while they are often laboring in relative isolation, I strive to place them in positions of power for getting things done. From leading change initiatives to managing projects to owning big chunks of the coordination of strategy execution, these individuals have an extra gear or two beyond “M” that allows them to move people and teams faster and more effectively than the norm.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

For all of us, we have a choice to make. We can either be part of the problem or we can push ourselves to shift out of “M” and fix what’s broken and quit perpetuating the mistakes that give rise to the same advice over and over and over again. The choice is yours on what gear governs your performance. But be careful, once you shift away from mediocrity, the side effects are quite rewarding. You feel great about yourself and your work and someone somewhere who chooses people to be successful will want to create a whole new set of opportunities for you.

Is it time for you to shift out of “M” and fix what you know is broken?

Don’t miss the next Leadership Caffeine-Newsletter! 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.