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.

Level-Up™#4—Six Lessons to Help Grow Your Power at Work

levelupThe Level-Up series at Management Excellence is dedicated to supporting your professional development on the road to senior management.

Ask and answer a simple question: “How did the three most powerful people in your firm (without a “C” in their titles) arrive at their current positions?”

In most cases, the answer is the same: they “got stuff done” and they did it by drawing upon the skills and energy of others.

That’s it. No backs stabbed…no fingers stepped on during the race up the ladder. They grew their power by identifying the vexing problems that needed solving and they figured out how to get the best and brightest around them to help develop and implement the solutions.

While the formula is easy to decode, the art and act of growing your power in an organization requires you to focus your efforts on a few key activities.

Consider the Case of Bob:

Bob joined a major software firm as a front-line manager in the support organization. The firm was just entering what would become a period of remarkable growth and there were more challenges and stress points than there were people to deal with them. Bob recognized this situation as an opportunity and very quickly established an understanding of the top priorities of his direct manager and worked to help her succeed with those challenges.

Bob’s manager quickly developed confidence in his ability to solve larger issues and she assigned him to lead a number of visible strategic initiatives (projects). Bob recognizing the size of the challenges and the need for help from across the organization worked tirelessly to extend his network of contacts and to draw upon this network for resources. And Bob did everything in his power to ensure that these were career enhancing opportunities for his colleagues. In particular, he worked hard to give visibility to team members and to dispense credit and accolades widely. He made certain to shine the spotlight on others at all times.

As the successes piled up and Bob was given the opportunity to lead ever-larger boundary spanning initiatives, his powerful network continued to supply the know-how necessary to successfully complete the initiatives. Bob’s reputation with his senior executives as someone who knew how to lead teams and execute on the key issues put him on a fast promotion path. His reputation with his colleagues as a leader worth following helped his cause. Bob maneuvered from the role of manager to the role of a VP within 4 years…a meteoric rise by this firm’s standards. Importantly, Bob could still look at himself in the mirror and be comfortable that no backs were stabbed and no fingers stepped on as he raced up the ladder. To the contrary, he carried people with him.

I love this story for all of the lessons it offers to us as we strive to help our firms and to grow in our careers.

6. Lessons from Bob to Help You Grow Your Power:

1. Rethink your view on power. It’s not about the bigger office, better parking spot and invitation to meetings in mahogany furnished conference rooms. It’s all about you developing the freedom to work on the issues that matter while helping others in the process. It’s the freedom to act.

2. Calibrate your priorities with the priorities of your boss. In coaching situations, I ask participants to describe their boss’s priorities. In too many situations, the boss doesn’t tell and the employee doesn’t ask. That’s a problem you should fix today.

3. Learn to connect networks! Power resides in your access to talent. The most powerful people in your firm are those who can tap knowledge, insights and support from a variety of sources depending upon the situation. The work of growing power and contributing more to your firm cannot be achieved by remaining in your silo. Not only do you need to expand your network across your firm (and industry), but you need to learn to connect disparate networks to solve the big issues.

4. Mind the gap! The real meaty issues are the ones that exist in the gray areas between the silos. Every firm has a variety of big challenges that exist somewhere between functions. Learn to pick those up and draw upon your extended network(s) to tackle them.

5. Power is there for the taking. Again, I’m not emphasizing a dark view to power. What’s there for the taking are problems that require solutions. I’ve observed cultures where I’m certain if there was a garbage can on fire in the corner, people would notice it and talk about it and wonder whether it would get any worse…but since it wasn’t their responsibility, do nothing to put it out. Those are your opportunities! Seize them.

6. Shine the spotlight liberally on others. Remember…your goal is to gain the freedom to work on issues that matter while helping others at the same time. It’s never about you. You must give liberally to get power.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

The formula for growing your power is simple. The work is noble and good. Get it right and you’ll learn to enjoy being the one who determines what gets done in your organization. After all, those who have the power decide what’s important. After a fair amount of time of people telling you what to do, it’s infinitely more enjoyable to decide what to do.

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.


It’s Your Career—Priceless Perspectives of Experience

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!

During the past few years, I’ve talked to many 40 and 50-something professionals on how their perspectives and attitudes on personal and career issues have changed over time. Their insights are instructive and inspirational. Enjoy!

On Confidence:

  • The sky is not falling no matter how big the problem is we will find a way to deal with it.
  • I’m fearless on taking risks, because I know I’ll find a way to navigate through it and learn a great deal in the process.
  • While the world has changed, people haven’t. If you’re good in working with and through others, there’s no problem that cannot be solved, no matter how new and unique it is.

On Failing:

  • I’ve failed more times than I can count on my way to succeeding in my career. While it’s never the goal, it is a fact of life for anyone striving to achieve something.
  • I long ago learned not to sweat the small stuff that made me a raving lunatic of a manager when I was younger. It turns out that most of our issues are small stuff.

On Striving:

  • Success isn’t a solo sport. Others choose us to be successful and others help us along our journey to success.
  • It’s a lot more about the work and the impact of the work on others than it is about the pay or the title.
  • At the height of what I thought would be success…title and money, I was miserable. I had to learn to redefine success was for me, and it wasn’t title or money.

On Leadership:

  • It used to be about what I wanted. Now it’s about what they need.
  • To lead, I teach.
  • I take more chances on people I truly believe in, regardless of the conventional wisdom around me. The individual is my responsibility, not some other executive’s.
  • I give my trust instead of requiring people to earn it. It saves a great deal of time and eliminates the games.

 On Effectiveness:

  • I flail less, fail faster, teach more and help more and I’m more effective than I’ve ever been in my career.
  • My need to conquer the world in the next quarter has given way to the reality that people and teams evolve at their own pace, not the pace in my mind.
  • I used to be driven by fear. Fear of job loss. Fear of the boss lurking behind me. That stifled my creativity. I finally found my performance gear when I quit worrying about both of those things.

On the Future:

  • My best work is still ahead of me.
  • Every day is a great new adventure. Even the tough stuff feels more like fun than it used to.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

If you’ve got a few miles on you, take heart that you’ve earned the right to draw upon wisdom gained over time. If you’re just starting out, re-read these quotes and strive to realize them just a bit faster than the rest of us. You’ll be happy you did.

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.