Archives For February 2011

I was on a client discovery call recently with a sales colleague. On the call, my colleague and I posed questions about their current state, about their desired state, and then about the priorities for addressing identified gaps.

One of the biggest concerns raised was the lack of accountability across their field organization. “But, we’ve got a plan in place to address this,” the client explained. “We’re going to put them all through a class.”

(Uncomfortable silence from my colleague and me.) We reengaged, attempting to dig deeper to learn how the client thought an accountability class would change leader and follower behavior. However, the client believed that they have adequately planned to address this gap; they weren’t interested in discussing this “resolved” issue with us.

Skill Building Alone Doesn’t Change Behavior

In our experience, there are some fabulous ways skill building (training) can address leader behaviors and practices in a workplace. And, training will result in leaders demonstrating desired behaviors only if the organization’s culture supports leaders modeling those new behaviors.

We have all experienced workshop participants learning new skills and practicing those skills – quite effectively – in a structured rehearsal setting during training. Observing those players demonstrate those skills could lead one to believe, “OK, they’ve got it now!” However, until desired behaviors are observed in the workplace, on the job, in real time, one must believe that the training hasn’t translated into workplace behavior.

SKILLS for holding others accountable are different than ACTIONS for holding others accountable.

If skills have been effectively taught but desired actions are not observed, there are other things getting in the way. Attention must be focused on eliminating any policies, procedures, systems, or dynamics that hurt or hinder the demonstration of desired behaviors.

Four Steps to Consistent Accountability

Accountability is a huge requirement in the high performance, values-aligned culture. Our proven culture change process helps senior leaders be explicitly clear about performance and values expectations, and then hold all organization members, from senior leaders through front line staff, accountable for exceeding those expectations.

Our clients have had tremendous success creating consistent accountability by implementing these four steps:

  1. Process Coaching – senior leaders need guidance on how to proactively champion their desired high performance, values-aligned culture. Experienced consultants coach the senior leadership team on these steps and other vital activities to ensure traction.
  2. Create clarity – Create specific & measurable performance goals. Define values in behavioral terms. Get agreement from all players to embrace both.
  3. Gather & Share Data – Monitor performance progress regularly and provide feedback on the good, the bad, and the ugly. Create a custom values survey which ranks the extent to which leaders demonstrate desired valued behaviors each day. Share these results within three weeks of final data gathering. Run the values survey twice annually. Successive runs of the custom values survey will include staff as well as leaders.
  4. Praise & Redirect - Regularly celebrate high performers and great citizens (those who demonstrate desired values). Promptly redirect leaders and staff to increase performance to standard or better citizenship. If a values-aligned player struggles to meet performance expectations, reassign them into a role where they contribute. If they are unable to contribute in any role, you need to lovingly set them free – let them find employment elsewhere. If a player does not demonstrate desired valued behaviors, you must reaffirm values expectations and observe closely. If they can make the shift to values-alignment (it is rare), celebrate! If not, lovingly set them free.

What accountability systems have you or your organization had success with to increase accountability for performance and values?


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Should I or shouldn’t I? Workplace scenarios occur daily which present the opportunity for us to gain credit when we don’t truly deserve it.

An example might prove insightful. A recent UK football match caused quite a stir across professional sports. It was a league match between Boreham Wood and Havant & Waterlooville, with Havant ahead 1-0 with nine minutes left in the game. A Havant player kicked the ball out of bounds so an injured Boreham Wood player could receive treatment – a fine gesture!

On the throw-in, the Wood player kicked the ball from the mid-line to the opposing goalkeeper – who was out of position and totally caught off guard by the strong kick. The ball went into the net, a goal for Boreham Wood. Tie game, 1-1. The Wood manager (Ian Allinson) immediately decided it was an unfair goal. He ordered his team to let Havant score unopposed from the kick-off.

Boreham Wood players stood by as the Havant player moved the ball upfield and kicked the ball into the net past the observing Wood goalkeeper.

Havant prevailed 2-1 with that score. Havant manager Shaun Gale praised Allinson for his sportsmanship. Allinson stated, “I’d rather lose the correct way.”

The highlight video at the bottom of this post shows the two goals being scored – advance to the 4:45 mark to see them.

I wish it was more common to hear of great sportsmanship like this being demonstrated in professional sports. We know good sportsmanship happens all the time. However, those instances are rarely international news.

Create a Fair & Just Workplace

Blanchard’s research has shown that fairness and justice are strong contributing factors to positive employee work passion. If employees perceive that their work environment is unfair and/or unjust, they demonstrate:

  • an intention to leave the organization
  • less organizational commitment
  • less job commitment
  • less discretionary effort
  • less employee endorsement – of the work, the company, the customer, etc.

Those are not desirable employee behaviors – nor are they indications of a high performing, values-aligned culture.

Here are a few suggestions that culture clients have found beneficial in their efforts to create a work environment where EVERYONE does the right thing, the first time, every time.

  1. Leaders must pay attention and be attuned to what is happening within their teams. In today’s fast paced work environments, targets, expectations, and even allegiances can change quickly. Leaders need to be present and listening to gain insights into things that may not be going as well as expected. Mechanisms that can help leaders stay attuned include:
    • Wandering around and hanging out – being available for casual connections will increase the likelihood that the leader learns what’s happening in the moment.
    • Regular 1:1 meetings with team members – face time between leader and follower helps keep the team member connected, informed, and feel heard. The leader is more likely to learn things that aren’t going well in a 1:1 meeting than in a team meeting.
  2. Leaders must clearly define the team’s purpose, goals, and values. Clarity of the team’s “reason for being,” performance expectations, and desired citizenship helps the leader and team members praise progress, accomplishment, and fair treatment while redirecting undesirable behaviors.
  3. Leaders must not delay in praising appropriate behaviors and redirecting inappropriate behaviors. The leader’s proactive efforts here keep the work environment focused and safe for team members, and encourages team members to effectively praise and redirect each other.
  4. Leaders must keep the team informed about changing strategies or opportunities. There is nothing more frustrating and demotivating for staff than to learn about key changes from someone other than their boss!

What tools and techniques have you seen that enable leaders and team members to always “do the right thing”?


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

This guest post comes from friend and leadership guru Kevin Eikenberry (@kevineikenberry on Twitter). Kevin’s new book, From Bud To Boss, (written with Guy Harris) officially launches on February 15, 2011 (tomorrow). Purchase the book online on launch day to enjoy many cool goodies!

The Value of Dissatisfaction in Organizations

As leaders we are taught to be on the lookout for dissatisfaction. We learn quickly that dissatisfaction is the cause of many negative results: it causes people to leave; it causes people to become disgruntled; it causes problems of all sorts.

Because of these lessons we learn to look at dissatisfaction as something to avoid, or something we wish or hope will go away.

However, on further study, I believe you will see dissatisfaction isn’t to be avoided or something to be scared of. Rather, it is a natural human situation that should be understood, explored and even celebrated by leaders.

Celebrated?

Let me explain.

Dissatisfaction is simply a state where people wish something was better or different. It’s a sense that the status quo isn’t comfortable or in the best interest of that individual or group. Hence they become dissatisfied with the way things are.

Leadership is about moving people towards a result, an outcome or a goal. If the present situation was perfect, there would be no need for leaders – the status quo would be creating perfect results. Since there is no “perfect” and nirvana exists only in fiction, leaders are required.  And the leader’s work is to move (or lead) people towards something better.

So, when you look at it through this lens, dissatisfaction is simply a precursor to change. When dissatisfaction doesn’t exist – when we are in our comfort zone – choosing to change is very unlikely.

Leadership is about change.

Given this connection, you hopefully can see why celebrating dissatisfaction makes sense. Here are some facts to consider about dissatisfaction:

Dissatisfaction creates energy and interest in people. When it is strong enough they want to make a change of some sort.

Dissatisfaction opens people’s minds. When people sense growing dissatisfaction, they begin to look for ways to make things better – to move back to or towards a new comfort zone.

Dissatisfaction provides an opportunity for change. As I’ve already stated, until people are dissatisfied with the way things are now, they are unlikely to want to change.

Using Dissatisfaction to Your Advantage

Now that you see the clear connection between dissatisfaction and change, here are six ways you can use these facts to your advantage:

Stimulate conversation. When you sense dissatisfaction it is an opportunity for you to ask questions and engage people in conversation about their concerns, dissatisfaction and frustrations. If you bury your head in the sand or avoid the issue, you increase the chance of getting the negative results mentioned earlier. You won’t have to think too long to find examples of this happening in your life.

Create understanding. Conversation can create understanding. As a leader, strive to understand the source(s), depth and potential impact of the dissatisfaction. This understanding will be helpful to you and the other person as well.

Offer the alternatives. Once you understand the dissatisfaction you can help others find solutions. This can be a joint process or you can independently offer alternatives based on your view of the situation. Possible changes are the first step to alleviating dissatisfaction or transforming it into something positive.

Help people move toward the new future. With your help, people can see a new future; one that removes or diminishes the dissatisfaction and creates a better future. As a leader it is your job to create a new future that benefits the organization and its customers. This is at the heart of our jobs as leaders, and dissatisfaction can be the impetus for making it happen. Without your help, especially at this point, dissatisfaction can lead to chaos. With this step, you can make change more positive and possible.

Help people get unstuck. Understanding the dissatisfaction and seeing a new future isn’t enough. People must also know how to get there. As a leader it is your job to help create a plan and a pathway towards the new future. Recognize this role and take it gratefully. You can help people become more satisfied and, in doing so, create better results for individuals and your entire organization. The added benefit is that you will build your credibility and effectiveness as a leader at the same time.

Dissatisfaction needn’t be avoided or seen as a negative. Instead, view dissatisfaction as an opportunity to create change and new results for everyone. When you do this, everyone wins, and you are developing into an even more effective leader.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Today’s post features a conversation with From Bud to Boss book authors Kevin Eikenberry and Guy Harris. From Bud to Boss officially launches on Tuesday, February 15. This post will give you a great understanding of this terrific resource for new bosses.

Who will benefit from reading your book?

(Kevin) – There are three groups of people who will benefit the most from this book. The first, as the title implies, are people in the transition, or have been living through the transition from being a peer to delivering a performance evaluation! The second group is people who want to prepare themselves proactively for their first leadership role. The last group is more experienced leaders who are preparing or helping new leaders to be more successful.

(Guy) – Someone who was great at getting things done on his own and now finds himself having to get things done through others would get great value from our book. Someone who is preparing for leadership or helping others prepare for leadership would also get great value from it.

How can readers gain the most benefit from the book?

(Kevin) – The way to gain the most from the book is to put something into action.  We made that easier for readers by providing a self assessment at the start of every section – to help them see their strengths and weaknesses, and by providing a “Now Step” section at the end of every chapter. If a book buyer will open the book and read, then at the end of any chapter take the immediate actions suggested, this book will be of tremendous value.

(Guy) To make the book content more accessible and easier to put into action, we wrote the book in sections targeted at the six key areas where many new leaders have struggles and frustrations. We then broke each section into short chapters so that readers can get to the content in smaller, more focused chunks of information. We structured the book to make it easier to read, and we added the action steps so that readers can get into application quickly.

What was your first leadership experience? What training/support did you receive in the transition?

(Kevin) – My first leadership role was on our family farm and related business. Often when people were hired to a specific task or season, I was responsible for supervising them. In many cases (as is the case for many who will read the book) I was much younger than those I was leading. I didn’t have any formal training. Dad was an example and role model. We did talk about how things were going and answered questions. He would have been the first to tell you he wasn’t the perfect leader, yet he was extremely supportive and aware of the need to coach others.

(Guy) – My first leadership role was as a division officer on a submarine. I led a division of 8 or 10 enlisted personnel. One of them was a chief petty officer with more years in the Navy than I had been a legal adult. Several members of the division had been in the Navy much longer than me, and they definitely knew more about operating the engineering plant than I did. I did have some basic leadership training in Officer Candidate School, but it did not really prepare me for what I experienced as a new leader. The best support I received came from the Chief Petty Officer and senior enlisted personnel. They were honest, sometimes brutally honest, about my shortcomings as a leader. And, they helped me grow because of their honesty.

What are the core skills people need in order to make a successful transition to leadership in their organizations?

(Kevin) – Beyond the skills and strategies of the transition itself, we believe there are five big competency areas that need to come first, and we built the book around them.   They are:  change, communication, coaching, collaboration and teamwork, and commitment to success (everything related to goals and goal setting).

These aren’t the only competencies of leaders – AND we believe they are of prime importance for two reasons:

  1. They are highly important and complex skills to learn
  2. When someone first becomes a leader these skills take on a very different meaning or level of importance in their work and life.

(Guy) – The core skills are reflected in the sections of the book. When you carefully examine the content of each section, you will see that our focus is primarily on the people side of managing the transition and to developing competency in each of the six areas of leadership included in the book.  Leaders need to develop understanding and competency in the technical or transactional aspects of their role, and the people side of leadership is more complicated and difficult. This book provides a solid foundation in understanding the people skills so vital to leadership success.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”