Category: Leadership

Does your team know when it is winning?

Does your team know when it is winning?

It is always satisfying at the end of the game to see my Green Bay Packers with the winning score. Every player knows, no matter how well they did individually, it does not matter unless the game ends in the win column. This same expectation is found in the performing arts as well. When the audience rises in ovation at the end of the show, the cast and crew know they have succeeded in delighting the audience with their work.

In business, the connection is not always clear cut. Sure profits are always good. Increase Sales are also always good. High customer service ratings are also always good. Best Product or Service Best Quality Awards are also always good.

Unlike a single game or performance, work is an ongoing process that never has a satisfactory conclusion. There is always more you can do the next day to change the score. However, like a game, there are times when you are losing (not meeting expectations), or there are times when you are winning (exceeding expectations). Near the end of each financial period, we tally, looking at the data whether we are successful or not. At the year’s end, we look even harder at the numbers squeezing every piece of information to achieve our objectives.

However, these defined objectives are hard to understand because they can seem arbitrary to the people on the front line. For instance, at one large corporation, I worked for our goal was to increase EBITDA by a certain percentage point each year. We use the traditional business formula to make this happen, cutting expenses and increasing sales. When we meet our goals the front office was happy; when we did not achieve our goals, they were unhappy. The staff on the front line felt the difference in numerous ways but had a hard time understanding how their work impacted the outcome.

However, there are successful companies that are transparent on how success is measured. In one company I know, they were bold and proud about what success was. In the manufacturing plant’s main hallway a sign was posted defining success.

We win when:

  1. There are zero safety or security issues or violations.
  2. Our values remain intact
  3. We produce ### of widgets at a rate of 96% Quality Perfection Rate
  4. Keep waste to 1% of the run – the aim is zero. (It is our Planet, after all)
  5. We hug our families today

At the end of each shift, the General Manager would record how well they did on each with the exception of #2. The #2 tally was given to an employee chosen at random who privately handed his score into the General Manager. Because it was more subjective, it was always interesting to see how the score varied day to day. No matter, the general manager always addressed the score and talked to the shifts about it. Good or bad.

The employees at this manufacturing plant knew when they had succeeded; they also knew they would have an avenue to discuss challenges that kept them from being successful at the end of the day.

Unfortunately, this is not the case for most employees. The information necessary for an employee to understand if the team has been successful is too far removed, i.e. the percentage change in EBITDA or too vague, good customer service values, to have any impact. Every manager needs to communicate clearly, consistently and continuously how the individual is successful, how the department is successful, and how the business is successful.

In one case, one of my colleagues had a new role and started working on what success looked and felt like for one of the positions within his team. He did this first my understanding the position through interviewing and shadowing the employees. After a period, he narrowed the definition of what success looked and felt like to his team. He presented this to his team and then listened to their feedback and made adjustments he thought made sense.

He started tracking success for each shift and each employee. The employees knew when there were and when they were not meeting this new definition of success. In time all his employees were exceeding his expectations, so he raised the requirements slightly to challenge the employees. Moreover, again his employees rose to the challenge. Some struggled at first but he paired them with more successful employees, and they too raised to this new level of excellence. However, what he was must proud of was during this whole period, was that his employee engagement scores continued to rise. He contributed this to working with the employees to set the expectations and to the communication of the results on a consistent basis to his team. They knew they were winners.

Does your team know if they are winning?

How to Help Entrepreneurs

How to Help Entrepreneurs

Last year, I did something that I didn’t expect I would ever do. I started my own company.

On both sides of my family, I come from a long line of intelligent, hardworking individuals who spent years working with the same organizations. My dad worked for over thirty years for the same company. My mom did social work for the county government for over two decades. My grandfathers had similar track records. There was only one exception in my life.

It wasn’t that I didn’t have the urge to start my own company. I did, at least conceptually. Yet, I am risk averse, my comfort zone for most of my life has been small. Starting a business is a grand risk that takes self-confidence, courage and a little bit of crazy. Not to mention a lot of resources.

The one exception was my older brother who after getting his MBA and Doctorate decided that working for himself was the best avenue for him. He started a business providing learning solutions to corporations and organizations. Occasionally, we would talk about his business, and although he was proud of his work, at times he was frustrated by the challenges of running a business. A common theme in talking to entrepreneurs.

After being downsized through a corporate reorganization and a move to new city, I decided to take the plunge. Luckily, I had the resources and a loving wife that allow me to make this incredible journey into business ownership. Over the past year, I have pushed my zone of comfort, learned new skills and connected with amazing individuals within my new community.

When I talk to friends, family and old business acquaintances, I am asked how can they assist an entrepreneur like myself.

Here are my answers:

  1. Introduce them to your connections: In the 1950’s they tried an experiment to see how people were connected, their research showed that ever person on the planet was connected by six other people. In today’s world, with Facebook, Twitter, the Internet, and Snapchat, we are now connected by three to four people. Building strong business relationships is critical to the success of start-ups. One of your connections may be the one that allows them to make it big.

  2. Buy them a coffee or an adult beverage and listen: Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey. We are focused on the challenges of starting a business, getting financial support, marketing our products or services, finding partners, and building a team. At times, we need others to remind us that the world is still turning. Although somehow, we will figure out a way to talk about our business. (smile)

  3. Invest in them: The simple form of investment is to purchase their product or services. This simple gesture may provide the necessary motivation to keep the business going. Of course, in my case, I realize that not everyone believes that they need leadership development, although, I know that leaders who use business coaches are more successful. (just saying). However, some of my best clients come from referrals from people I know. Lastly, invest in them directly by donating to their go fund me page or other social funding sites. It is amazing how much funding an individual can raise through their connections.

  4. Give them an audience: Most of my entrepreneur friends have built a good connection by standing up and front of people and telling them their story. I worked for an organization that gave entrepreneurs a chance to stand up in front of millions of people and tell their story. It worked. People are more willing to buy a product or purchase a service when they hear the story of the business owner. Everyone belongs to organizations that need speakers ask your entrepreneur friend to tell their story.

  5. Follow them: Social media is a boon for small business owners because they can connect with their customers, clients, etc. directly, at very little to no cost. Maybe your favorite entrepreneur owns a small shop down the street, perhaps across the country. One of my favorite restaurants is in Bath Maine (a three-day car ride), but I am still connected with them through social media. By following entrepreneurs and small business on social media, you can increase their circle of influence, especially by liking and sharing their posts.

Small Businesses powers are the economy. They are the individuals who are investing in our community. They are the leaders who are serving on boards of local non-profits. They are the people who are hiring employees. None of this will happen unless we invest our resources in making entrepreneurs successful.

 

John Thalheimer is a leadership expert from Nashville Tennessee. He continues his entrepreneur journey where he runs True Star Leadership and works on guiding individuals to better leadership. He has a master’s degree in organizational leadership and dual certification in leadership coaching. When asked, John will admit he doesn’t drink coffee but has yet to turn down a chance to talk anyone about his adventure.

Invite John to coffee john@johnthalheimer.com
Leadership: The Ostrich Myth

Leadership: The Ostrich Myth

Did you know that it is a myth that Ostriches hide their head in the sand when they face danger?

However, in the world of leadership, I find various behaviors that mimic the myth of Ostrich with their head in the sand. As leaders, we need to make the best possible decisions to lead our organization forward. At times, we continue not to accept a contrary position, either because we are isolated within our corporate headquarters, or don’t believe the information we are being presented is correct.

I worked with a vice President who spent a lot of time isolated in his office; developing ideas, concepts, and ways to move his organization forward. He was one of the smartest individuals I knew. He could analyze a problem and develop amazing solutions. Unfortunately, his solutions would routinely fail when implemented by his team. At first, my thought was that it was an implementation issue but the more I talked to him and his staff, I realize that his isolation was limiting the information he received. His results were good in theory but didn’t work within the real world of his organization.

After working together, he implemented a new process where his team would present real world solutions to the organization’s challenges and the team as a group would discuss what the best option was. Not only did the solutions work better, but the vice president was also more in touch with his team and the challenges they faced. It also allowed the team to be more involved in the decision-making process, giving them ownership over the solution.

As humans, we are limited in our decision-making ability by the shared experiences we have in our lifetime. One of the reasons, our social and emotional intelligence continues to grow is that we continue to experience life and learn how to deal with the many challenges it offers. If we hide in our figurative office, we will not be receiving the experience we need to make the best decisions for ourselves. We need to step outside of our comfort zone and have new experiences that challenge us and create new perspectives.

The Ostrich with his head in the sand was an optical illusion. From a far distance because of the difference in size of the ostrich’s head and their body, when they are foraging for food, it may have looked as if the head is in the sand.

This is why it is important to change our perspective.

Clean Slate

Clean Slate

Monday’s Clean Slate:

Each Monday Morning, I clean off the “white board” in my office. I love the possibility a clean slate gives me. When I worked in the theater, my favorite time was after the old show had been “struck” (remove from the stage) and before the new one began. The stage was empty except for the infinite potential of future shows.

I have this same feeling each Monday morning as I remove the old notes, scribbles, and lists from the previous week and before I begin adding my top three goals for the week. This week networking, a project submittal, and sharing leadership best practices.

What is on your slate for the week?

The Importance of Routine

The Importance of Routine

It was Thursday Afternoon, and I was waiting for a manager I coached to arrive at the local coffee shop. It has been a good year for her. She managed a team of high-performing individuals and had focused on continually improving their performance, creating and changing processes to get better results. I was looking forward to our conversation.

As I waited, I noticed that a good portion of the customers were greeting each other by name, exchanging pleasantries and waving their goodbyes, saying they would see each other tomorrow. It was their afternoon routine.

The Manager arrived sitting heavily in the chair next to me. Apprehension showed on her face and in her body language. This wasn’t going to be the conversation I had imagined.

“I just reviewed the numbers. I wanted to give you an update, show you the improvement.”

A long pause as she gathered herself.

“Productivity is down ten percent from last month. And it’s not a blip; I looked at the previous week, it is down fifteen percent.”

“How is it year to date?”

“Still good we are up overall by twenty-five percent.”

“Good then?”

She smiled. She knew what I was doing, trying to get her to look at the big picture; to see the improvement in her team. What they had accomplished together.

“I am just frustrated that the team is losing their level of commitment to the new changes.”

“How does the team feel?”

“Frustrated, to be honest. They are complaining about the latest change. Too complicated they say.”

“Is it?”

“Not any more than the last few changes.”

“Maybe it’s not the change but the amount of change.”

“Huh?”

“Let me give you an example. Do you remember when they were working on the major interstate and each morning you had to take a different way into work?”

“Ugh. That was terrible. I could never get my rhythm in the morning. I felt out of sorts.”

“Yes. Each day there was a new change. You had to adjust.”

“I did. I had to watch the detour signs. In fact, it was so confusing; I turned off the radio so that I could concentrate on where I was going.”

I sipped my drink.

“Oh no. My employees are feeling confused. They are working harder when I told them they would be working smarter. They aren’t sure where they stand because our expectations are changing with each change.”

“And now what?”

“I need to work with my team to develop a routine so we can smooth things out and get them feeling better about the job they are doing.”

“So how are those numbers?”

She smiled.

With all the push for evolving, changing, progressing and growing our organizations, leaders have forgotten the importance of routine. Humans have a basic need for security and stability, to be able to forecast the possible future when change disrupts this, it makes us uncomfortable.

As a leader, I made touching base with my staff part of my daily routine. Each day, I set aside time to get out of my office and talk with my team. This method allowed me to see what their day was like, what challenges they were facing and how I could support them. Usually, there were little to no, short-term gains, i.e. there wasn’t anything I could do to support them at that particular moment, however in time, I learned who my employees were, saw trends impacting the business and was able to make better management decision based on this routine.

Routines are also beneficial to the productivity of your team as it provides them with a sense of security, a feeling of stability and increases their overall confidence. In a study done by Dinah Avni-Babad (2010), showed that individuals use routines to increase their sense of well-being.

Routine also allows for the automation of thought. The benefit of this can be seen in our average commute to work. As I used in the example with the manager I was coaching, her commute to work was disrupted by the road work. She had to increase her concentration, and she was continually out of sorts, emotionally tired. However, when the road work was done, and she was able to get back to her morning routine, her energy came back, and she was able to plan for her day as she drove into work.

In his book, Daily Rituals: How Artists work Author Mason Currey describes the importance of routines for some of our greatest thinkers. In one instance he talks about Benjamin Franklin, who at the end of each day asked himself “What good have I done today?” used a routine to make sure he was accomplishing all of his goals. His routine provided structure for his day. Like Einstein who wore the same clothes each day, Benjamin Franklin did not have to think about how his time would be spent and was able to focus on the work at hand.

When an individual creates a sense of well-being for themselves through routines, it offers an increase confidence. Allows them to project forward and create a sense of control over the future. It also gives them the platform to take risks, be creative, be innovative, and paradoxically challenge the status quo.

To recap routinely provides the following benefits:

  • Better sense of well-being
  • Increase focus on high priority tasks
  • Daily or weekly structure
  • Reduces distractions
  • Increases overall confidence
  • A platform for challenging the status quo.

When we realize the importance of routine on the individual, we can now appreciate why people are naturally resistant to change. We can also understand the importance of Change Management to help facilitate bringing an individual from their old routine to their new routine. Change Management is the framework that allows the organization to manage the people side of change. Without Change Management there is a greater risk that change initiative will fail.

Emotional Intelligence: Awareness

Emotional Intelligence: Awareness

A little more than a year ago, Jeff Lurie, the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles fired his head coach Chip Kelly before the end of the season, a rare act in the prestigious NFL football league. The reason Mr. Laurie gave for firing Mr. Kelly was Emotional Intelligence.

The term Emotional Intelligence has been used in the corporate world for years to help executive and managers to lead their organization better. It first became attention to the business community through the work of Daniel Goleman and his 1995 breakthrough book titled Emotional Intelligence.

According to Laura A. Belsten, Ph.D. of the Institute for Social & Emotional Intelligence, Social and Emotional Intelligence is the ability to be aware of our emotions and those of others, at the moment, and to use that information to manage ourselves and manage our relationships. Simply put Emotional Intelligence is your awareness of your emotions and making the appropriate behavioral choice for the situation.

As you define your goals for 2017, make sure to include increasing your Emotional Intelligence. The benefits include better relationships, handling change better, being a better leader and most importantly getting better results at work and home.

The first step to increasing your Emotional Intelligence is to become aware of your emotions and the behavioral choices you are making based on them.

One of the best ways to understand your emotions is to acknowledge the emotions you are experiencing. This can be done in a formal manner by writing down your emotions at regular intervals through the day. For example, in the morning, midmorning, early afternoon, later afternoon, after dinner and at bedtime. Or less formally you can recap your day writing down all the different emotions you experienced and when.

Secondly after acknowledging your emotions for a week or two, start to assessing when you are experiencing those different emotions. Do you consistently get anxious when meeting with your supervisor? Do you constantly feel grumpy when you first wake up? Are you happiest when you are making progress at work?

Now, think back to any behavior changes that can be contributed to those emotions. For instance, you tried to start your monthly results oriented staff meeting, and two of your managers came in fifteen minutes late. What emotions were you feeling? Were you frustrated; were you annoyed; were you incensed; did you feel disrespected?

How did you react? Did you berate them in from of your other staff? Did you ignore them to the detriment of the meeting? Later, did you cut them out of important decisions?

As the emotions and behaviors become more linked in your daily life, you can start making choices on how you want to handle certain situations. For instance, if you know when people are late to meetings, you will feel disrespected; you can make choices on how you want to react? You can get angry if you think that will benefit the situation but more likely, you can let the slight go at the moment and focus on the message you need to deliver.

This exercise takes practice and will not be easy at first but as time passes and you become more aware of your emotions you can start making better choices.

We are not sure what particular aspect of emotional intelligence Chip Kelly is missing. We do know that in the future that if Mr. Kelly works on his emotional intelligence, he can increase his performance; build a stronger relationship with his players; have the ability to handling conflicts and focus his energy on winning games.

If, in 2016, you would like to increase your emotional intelligence and achieve all the goals you have set for yourself, please reach out to me at john@o3consultingllc.com, or one of the many Institute of Social and Emotional Intelligence Coaches at ISEI.com.