Archive for March, 2011

Coaching to Core Ideals – Environmental Engineering of Success

This is another post in the series Coaching to Core Ideals.

The IDEAL LEADER is 1) Visionary, 2) Authentic, 3) Disciplined, 4) Accessible, and 5) a Strategic Learner. See the Coaching to Core Ideals post to get a quick overview and context for the series. We are going to break each sub-topic down over the next few weeks.

The IDEAL LEADER is ACCESSIBLE

  1. Physically available to the right people at the right time.
  2. Adept at creating forums where discussion and ideas get shared.
  3. Emotionally, mentally and intellectually available

Leading is about engineering success at many levels within an organization. Leaders are focused often only on the “output”. This is only part of the equation. The larger and more complex an organization becomes the more vital it is that I coach leaders around process. Leaders are responsible for the entire environmental system. Leaders are responsible for results or the output that is needed to create success. Success is certainly measured often with financial metrics, but results can be other tangible and intangible defined outcomes.

As an “environmental engineer” you need to quickly learn basic systems theory. The diagram below will provide your master’s level description.

INPUT => PROCESS => OUTPUT

<= FEEDBACK <=

You have to make sure that you have 1) the right inputs, 2) defined output, 3) effective processes, and 4) a grounded feedback. This post will speak to value of the process of creating forums to gain feedback and desired output/results for success. Each process should have a goal and each goal serves its accompanying process as clearly connected to the success desired.

A forum is a PROCESS where conversation can take place and people can be heard. Being heard is a basic human need. Regardless of what that content is…it is important that those you lead experience being listened to by you and others within your organization. I was intrigued that the definition of forum also included the words OPPORTUNITY and MARKETPLACE. Forums are about opportunity and creating an environment that supports not only the values of a leader, but the values of those they lead. A savvy leader knows that meetings/forums are an asset and not a necessary evil that is endured just to get—“the damn thing over with”.

Could you agree with this next idea? The extension of your internal forums into the marketplace makes powerful sense for many leaders to consider. In fact, the quality of the conversations you practice as an organization or team will directly impact the quality and effectiveness of conversations in the marketplace. How many times have we as leaders wondered, even aloud to a battery of subordinates—“Why do our customers feel that we don’t appreciate them?” I

s there a forum in your business that discusses “appreciation and acknowledgement” of each other and the customer? There is great benefit in getting people together in dialogue to share ideas, learn together, and develop relationships that establish accountability to the most important outcomes needed to succeed. There are several types of forums that leaders use to communicate their ideas. Meetings are just one of the important forums that can be a place where important knowledge, information, and direction setting goals can be shared.

Unfortunately communicating or sharing goals does not ensure they are understood and acted upon proactively. My coaching to clients and organizations is the following. Leaders are responsible for creating effective forums that nurture a well informed and aligned community within their business. Become adept at this skill and it will lead to proactive action, accelerated learning, and accountability.

The word “forum” has its roots in the Roman culture of public spaces usually in the middle of a city where speaking and debate took place. It was an important part of the Roman culture. In these forums (or meeting places) ideas, beliefs, and relationships were built. They had social significance for those that were a part of the community. With the Internet and mobile technology we can now create virtual forums like discussion boards, social medium, and blog posts as needed to respond to needs of businesses and customers.

These forums are valid ways for virtual and geographically dispersed teams/organizations to be engaged and connected to important with leader’s dialogue. AND it is often a huge miss on a leader’s part to not take advantage of using a forum to dialogue with their people and organization. It’s not always what does get said that hurts a company as much as what doesn’t get said. The unsaid things (have fun with this one), especially around times of stress (from growth or downturn) in the business, are missing links to understanding.

Managing transition and stress requires keeping people’s minds “right” around how to interpret what is going on in their organization or marketplace. Even more interesting is that when a leader doesn’t communicate people will make crap up. We are “meaning makers’ and we are constantly trying to make sense of our environment. Missing conversations are as bad as or more damaging than poorly held discussions.

One of the most potent and powerful learning experiences I have had as a leader and coach was training on facilitative leadership. Not all of it was about managing meetings, but there was a significant portion of this training around the whole domain of—how we meet. The process of meeting involved managing relationship, process, and results simultaneously. The core premise still resonates with me some 16 years later now. Meetings (or forums) are a microcosm of the larger organization. If you observe how a team meets you have a good view of the macro environment or culture of an organization.

What have you observed as a leader at meetings? Let me make a short list…

1. No agenda and lack of desired outcomes for meeting

2. No process for making decisions or even lack of what decisions needed to be made and by whom.

3. Too much for time allotted or too little time for so much…take your pick.

4. No clear roles defined for the meeting…like a simple “time keeper” makes a huge difference along with a note taker that captures commitments made, so that we can hold each other accountable

5. No clear purpose for “why” we are meeting in the first place.

I could make a list 3 times longer, but you get the point in most likely in your own personal experience. Death by meetings as a phrase even became a book by Patrick Lencioni! It’s a good read and the hyperlink will give you a good summary. There is even a clock that keeps track of the cost of meetings in time investment.

Content of a meeting is extremely important. However, I have seen very good content lose out for lack of meeting process and facilitation. Forums (like meetings) done well are energy builders and not energy suckers. They are forums of opportunity and not just opposition! Some people believe that modern day corporate environments are structured in ways that prevent productivity. I cannot necessarily disagree with that idea…yet coaching is about possibilities and I don’t see much opportunity in that point of view.

My coaching point here is make meetings an asset not “ass” set. Why waste precious time, money, and resources of your people…and maybe even worse is the time you squander as a leader. You could be out with customers or employees doing meaningful work and make more progress. Better yet engineer the environment you need to create a successful conversation within your business and marketplace.

Coaching Points:

  • Leaders are responsible for creating effective forums.
  • Engineer the environment you need to create a successful conversation within your business and marketplace.
  • Forums can be energy creators and leaders should use it build momentum towards meaningful action.
  • Building an aligned community within your organization will lead to proactive action and accelerated learning.

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Coaching to Core Ideals – Be There or Be Square

Coaching to Core Ideals – Be There or Be Square

This is another post in the series Coaching to Core Ideals.

The IDEAL LEADER is 1) Visionary, 2) Authentic, 3) Disciplined, 4) Accessible, and 5) a Strategic Learner. See the Coaching to Core Ideals post to get a quick overview and context for the series. We are going to break each sub-topic down over the next few weeks.

The IDEAL LEADER is ACCESSIBLE

  1. Physically available to the right people at the right time
  2. Adept at creating forums that important knowledge, information, and direction setting goals can be shared and understood.
  3. Emotionally, mentally and intellectually available in ways that they take risks in being vulnerable by sharing not only what they are thinking but what they are “feeling” or sensing

As basic as it seems, the biggest challenge for any leader is to show up. The gift of your presence is surprisingly underestimated by many leaders. Failing to be with your direct reports on a consistent basis is costing businesses and leaders dearly. Being with your people can not only increase top and bottom line results, but has huge strategic significance for you as a leader. “Showing up” for your people is strategically important in impacting long term results in a marketplace.

Spending time with employees and constituents in your organization is the foundation of relationship. You can’t build relationship without spending time. Not sure you would pay a consultant a lot of money to figure this one out, but I’m telling you that leaders within many organizations are spending very little time “in relationship” with the greatest asset in their business—the human capital —their people. Reasons abound as to why leaders run a deficit in time spent with people.

In many businesses the “span of control” has increased over the last 20 years to ratios that make for a very challenging leader/follower relationship. The increasing global nature of businesses has broadened the geographic dispersion to more internationally. Research has indicated in years past that 7-10 people are the ideal and thought to be the best ratio where teams and managers were most effective. More recently because of economic pressures and technology advances organizations have flattened out. Consequently there have been managers responsible for more and more direct reports.

There are many variables that could influence how to effectively manage more people and be available to them in meaningful ways. Some of it depends on the skill level of the individuals and the type of work being done by them. It seems more appropriate to think about the relationship that is needed in order to drive the results needed. All this aside, I’ve seen managers and leaders with very few direct reports fail miserably in “being” with the people they have been entrusted to lead. Conversely I have seen others build powerful relationships in spite of the large number of people they lead.

It really comes back to a leader and business owner’s clear line of sight to the success of people and the impact on bottom and top line results. We talk more in the next post about the concept of designing forums and space for conversation. Personal skills of time management and prioritization on the leader’s part are vital to success regardless of the numbers of direct reports. Managing your time becomes increasingly important though as people responsibilities increase. You must be better at everything you do to gain efficiencies in your time spent on any given task.

There are many ways that leaders determine when and where to invest in their human capital. With increasing span and consolidation/growth in the size of businesses segmenting employees has become essential in the talent development and management process. The implementation of the process of segmenting employees can be a good thing as long as it is kept in perspective. Success in leading people is ultimately done through commitment to a relationship to people and not a process. Processes should always serve people not the other way around.

Situational leadership is a great example of how a leader determines the focus and need of each individual. It really is a simple approach to making sure you spend time with the people that need you the most.  And when you are with them you are focused on the right conversation.

A good leader develops “the competence and commitment of their people so they’re self-motivated rather than dependent on others for direction and guidance”. – Paul Hersey

 The main thing I appreciate about situational leadership is that there is no one “perfect style” of leading people. Situational Leadership articulates that employees need support in building the necessary commitment and competency to perform. You can then determine not only what to spend time on with a person, but even the level of intensity. There may indeed be a time when those you lead have the skill, but lack the necessary commitment to be successful and vice versa. Understanding when someone’s performance is due to lack of skill or motivation is paramount to knowing what conversation needs to be taking place.

Showing up and being there for your people IS your job. BEING THERE is the core asset  whether you are the CEO of a global organization, president of a country, or line supervisor at a factory. Not being there could change the success of the person in their job and career and the long or short term success of the business. There are times that are critical points of a career, a business, and/or a crucial circumstance that will change the trajectory of a career or business; making yourself accessible is what wins the day for those looking to you as a leader in times that really count. And it counts every day.

 

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