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Make This Your First Business Conversation in 2018

 

Lots of people are now deep in the process of resolving to do a few things differently over the coming New Year. Many are resolving to join the growing crowd of Americans who are quitting their jobs (about 100,000 daily) and taking their talents elsewhere. A few of them perhaps work for you. The question is, which ones? Rather than waiting to find out, my suggestion is that you take a proactive measure to let some of your very best people know that you truly appreciate them. Try this:

 

Make a list of the three best people on your team. Do it today. Then, adjacent to each person’s name, write the answer to the question, “Why does this person stay… with me, with our organization?” If you’re like most leaders, coming up with the three names is the easy part. Figuring out what keeps each person where they are is a bit more difficult.


Having done that, quietly have a conversation with each person individually to let them know that they mean a lot to you and to the organization. Tell them that they are special - not privileged, special. Then, go ahead and ask them what makes them stay with you, and the organization. (This wouldn’t be a bad time to take a few notes.) Ask them what, if anything, they need more or less of in order do their best work every day, and to feel appreciated for doing so. Listen, really listen, then, as best you can, make sure those things happen. 

This just might be the most beneficial thing you've ever done to start a New Year. Godspeed!

***

Make this the year that you take solid steps to improve your leadership skills, by working with a coach. I would be happy to hear from you.

When I begin a new executive coaching engagement, my due-diligence process usually involves conducting focused interviews with a representative sample of my client’s peers, direct and indirect reports, other close associates, sometimes their spouse, and of course, their reporting senior.

One of the questions I ask is, “Does this person enjoy the benefit of the doubt with you?” The implications associated with the answers to this question are material. If a significant portion of the people within my client’s sphere of influence are unable or unwilling to give them credit for trying and adopting new behavior, our task becomes more difficult.

This same principle applies for each of us as leaders, and on a broader basis, within our businesses and other organizations as well.

As leaders, our ability to get people to embrace change, overlook our imperfections and errors, endure hardship, accept unpopular decisions and occasionally leap before looking is tied directly to whether or not we’re getting the benefit of the doubt.

Wednesday, 07 June 2017 15:15

Keeping Some of Your Powder Dry

Keeping Some of Your Powder Dry

by Bill Catlette 

When coaching those who are new to a leadership role, one of the top five items we deal with pertains to the advisability of keeping some of your “powder” dry. Translation: Your role vests a certain amount of authority in you to use positional power in order to get things done; power to decide, to commit resource, to give instructions, even orders, the list goes on. The amount of power one has ready access to is usually a factor of our level on the organizational food chain. It is there for our use, but not abuse. It’s not easily replaced or replenished, hence it is unwise to squander or misuse it. Moreover, it’s really unbecoming.

We’ve all seen so called “leaders” whose sole purpose in life seems to be to throw their weight around because they can, or think they can. In the workplace, they can often be spotted marching people around – Over here! No, over there!... belittling people, or seeking comfort for themselves while others are sweating or suffering. Those people aren’t leaders. There are other words to describe them, and there is always a day of reckoning for them, always. They will be found out and turned out, unceremoniously.

A few thoughts on your use of position power.

Coaching Tips: Discovering a Reason to Change

by Bill Catlette

One of the most common difficulties encountered by workplace coaches is finding something that will serve as a lever to trigger different, more positive behavior by the individual being coached. Too often, when reaching for a reason or rationale to justify change, we lean on organizational impacts…   “Your tardiness in arriving late to scheduled meetings means that we start late and finish late.” In an era when so many of us are walking around wrapped a little too tightly, self-absorbed, and organizational engagement is extremely weak, these impacts lack potency. They seldom move the needle. So what might work better ?

In reaching for a reason that will cause someone to change, bear in mind that what you’re trying to do is help them see a reason that makes sense to them (not you) to change. So get personal, look for ways to establish a connection between the condition you’re trying to help them change, and something that is personally important to them.

Ask questions, even ones with a sharp point on the end of them. “You’ve told me that you want to build a reputation as a talent magnet. Do you think that chronically wasting people’s time by showing up a few minutes late to every meeting helps or hurts that purpose?” Or, try an analogy. “I know you’ve got a teenage daughter who has begun dating. When your daughter has promised that she will return home from her date by 10PM, how do you feel when she strolls in at 10:20? (Pause to listen, really listen.) Might the people on your team feel the same way about your tardiness to meetings?

Generally, only when we see a reason that makes sense to us to change does it become likely that we will actually take steps to do so. Because we’re all different, with different goals, values, and sensitivities, it often takes two or three attempts before we strike paydirt, but it’s worth it. Change initiatives that are well-founded, with some personal interest at their bedrock are more likely to stick. Try it, and let us know how it worked.

 

If you want to learn more:

 

  1. For self-help, read, “The Coach” by Starcevich and Stowell
  2. For private or small group coaching, contact the author.
Sunday, 26 February 2017 00:27

How to Avoid Cow Tipping at Work

How to Avoid Cow Tipping at Work

by Bill Catlette

02/25/17  Memphis

Urban mythology has it that teenagers, likely fueled by alcohol have, in the pursuit of fun, been known to enter a pasture, sneak up on a grazing cow and, through brute force upend the animal, pushing (aka “tipping”) it onto its side. Rural mythology, however, aided by people who have actually touched a cow with something besides a fork know that “tipping” a cow is a lot more difficult than the legend allows. In fact, tipping a Toyota Celica onto its side would be considerably easier. The Celica after all would at least hold still. 

And you’re wondering what on Earth cow tipping has to do with a management-oriented post. Fair question. For the last twenty years we’ve maintained that just as well cared for dairy cattle produce more milk (that’s not an AltFact), well led humans in the workspace produce more and better stuff (also a fact). We’ve done more than “maintain” that notion, we’ve proven it, and written three books about same.  If you’ll permit one more little extension of the metaphor, I will submit that there is a LOT more cow tipping that goes on in the workspace than in any pasture. Here are three ways that managers derail, frustrate, or prevent outright the best efforts of a contented (read, engaged) workforce:

Hanging Onto “Non-Producing and Misfit Cows, ‘er Workers” - Even after proving beyond reasonable doubt that they cannot or will not produce / behave as expected, many employees remain in position because their management chooses to avoid confrontation with the individual (or HR), doesn’t want to expend the energy to hire and train a replacement, or has fallen in love with them for other reasons. Managers then look to A and B players to pick up the slack. This thoroughly disrupts the “spirit of the hive” as others rightfully resent having to carry someone else’s load, and lose pride in what they view as a diminished team. Nobody gets up in the morning and says to themselves, “I want to go lose today”, or, “I want to hang out with losers.” By tolerating this behavior, management tacitly lowers its standards and disenfranchises its best performers.

Systemic Defects - Embedded in every (yes) work process are policies, procedures, methods, tools, equipment, etc. that are not working as expected, and as a result, they add friction to productive effort. Left untreated, this friction is demotivating to the entire workforce. By way of example, the next time you board a commercial aircraft, take note of all the extra effort that flight attendants must exert in order to shoe horn the over-limit and excess carry-on luggage into the overhead bins. Add to that the inevitable arguments with passengers, delays due to deboarding excess luggage, and the realization that this occurs on nearly every flight. If these ladies (mostly) wanted to work for a freight hauler, they would have signed on with FedEx. Your people are enduring comparable irritants. You would do well to spend thirty minutes a day discovering and dispatching these dispiriting productivity killers.

Bad Hiring - By hiring people who, by virtue of pace, preference, values and temperament are out of sync with the organization, managers are adding people who are easily “tipped over”. One misfit person in the right position amidst a hundred others can represent critical mass. Smart managers and smart recruiters take pains to put job fit requirements on an equal basis with talent, and to recognize and deal with hiring mistakes as soon as they become apparent.

If you would like to hear more about this topic in a one-on-one coaching session, keynote speech, or seminar, we would love to hear from you.  

Three Essential Steps to Improving Your Managerial Coaching Results

by Bill Catlette

Few would argue that coaching has become an important part of any leader’s repertoire for improving human and organizational performance. Yet, most have given little thought to when, where, and under what circumstances coaching is most effective, let alone trying to define or understand its key components. Let’s try to shed some light on the latter, with an eye for things that can immediately be put into practice and used to move the needle.

Friday, 27 January 2017 21:51

Coaching Session Part 2, Debrief

Coaching Session Part 2, Debrief

by Bill Catlette

 NOTE: This post is a debrief of a mythical coaching session that was posted yesterday. If you haven’t already read that post, please do so before proceeding further.

 

The coach’s objectives in this case were to: 

  1. Begin to build trust thru truth
  2. Engage in a somewhat jarring, but narrowly focused session keyed to the individual’s self-interest
  3. Define and arrest, albeit momentarily, unhelpful behavior
  4. Create the first step and timely follow-up on a path to improvement and success

Coaching, particularly at senior levels, is an intensely personal, trust-dependent process. Each party must believe that the other is sincere, competent and is an interested partner. The player (President in this case) must believe that the coach has his best interest at heart.

Five things that I liked about this conversation:

Thursday, 26 January 2017 21:28

A 5 Minute Coaching Session With the President

A 5 Minute Coaching Session With the President

by Bill Catlette

Understandably, lots of managers at all levels struggle to have work-related coaching conversations. Typically, they are not something we've learned about in school, we lack a method, and in too many cases, find ourselves without a good example. So, using a contemporary, very public situation that has played out of late, here’s one example of what a good coach might say if they had five minutes alone with the new Commander in Chief, and a mandate to make it count. Tomorrow, we'll dissect it and try to give you some tips:

Coach:  Mr. President, I’ve been retained by the American people to provide you with some executive coaching, some fresh insight perhaps. My first question is to ask whether or not you are amenable to working with a coach, because it is truly your choice.

Prez: I’m not sure I feel the need, but for now, I’m willing to hear you out. You’ve got five minutes. Use them wisely.

Coach: I’m seeing some things that I believe are keeping you from being as successful as you can, and probably would like to be in your new job. Are you interested in discussing that?

Sunday, 08 January 2017 00:37

Some Tips for Emerging Leaders

As a leadership coach, I work with managers up and down the ladder, helping them capitalize on their strengths, discover hidden (to them) weaknesses, and rehab or minimize the impact of the latter. In almost every case, these leaders find that there is more work for them to do in at least one of the following areas. As an emerging leader, some effort on your part now, while you’re still in a formative stage will pay great dividends to you.

Less Selfies, More Ussies

Being a leader is not about you. Repeat, it’s not about you. Rather, it’s about them…  the team, the mission. In that vein:

Thirty-five years ago this week, when I was a young middle manager at a nascent FedEx, my boss flew to New York for exactly two reasons: 1) To go Christmas shopping with his wife, and 2) To do a little coaching with me. Though the time-split between those two objectives was about 90/10 in favor of shopping, both purposes were well served. On the premise that you’re more interested in your holiday shopping than his, let’s talk about the second item.

One afternoon as we were riding across town in a limo, he initiated his coaching by saying something to the effect of, “You seem to be a pretty driven, bright, young guy who, when he weighs in on a topic is right more often than not. The question is, why do you have to be so damn right?

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