Several years ago I was in a company where I had just been promoted to a director level position. I had worked for the company for a several years and I was known as a hard worker and a forward thinker. At the time the company was in culture shift. We had several new senior leaders that had come in from other companies, as well as people internally who had been promoted who thought differently. These two groups of new leaders were there to help transform the company. At that time is was needed desperately. Results had become stagnant and the culture was a mess to say the least.
My current supervisor at that time became a good friend of mine, and even during this growth phase we worked closely together and we learned a lot along the way.
Both mine, and my supervisors boss, who was a vice president and reported to the owners of the company, was a friend as well. Several times a year the vice president had meetings with all of the directors within the organization. We would all meet and go over the objectives and different strategies we were using in our divisions to get better results. You could say it was like a brainstorm session a lot of times.
Since, I am a new director and I am now attending these meetings, I made it a point to make sure my voice was heard. Again, at this time, it was in my DNA to be this way. I was aggressive, I was opinionated (meaning I had some suggestions), and I wanted to be the first to state my opinions. Again, this is what landed me in those meetings in the first place in my mind.
I am not quite sure how many meetings I participated in before this meeting with my boss occurred, but I can remember this meeting with my boss.
My boss sat me down and gave me some feedback. It is probably one of the best pieces of advice I have received when it comes to navigating and managing political issues within the workplace. Which up until that time I never even considered.
He said that some of my peers, as well as some of the other people in the organization feel like I am a “bulldozer”. Which means I am very aggressive in how I talk with my colleagues and how in meetings I want to be first to say what is on my mind, and that I don’t listen to others very well.
At the time, this feedback hit me really hard. Again, this is who I am in. This is what I do. I am aggressive, I want to get business done as quickly as possible. I don’t want to over think anything. But this feedback he gave me was coming from several sources, even the owners of our company’s daughter who worked in the business as well.
After I got over the initial shock of this feedback, and I stated my thoughts on the situation. Which means, I said they are just mad they are not like me. They are passive, they don’t have good suggestions, and why aren’t they aggressive about what it is they think and want to do instead of criticizing me for what I do.
Once I got that off my chest. The two of us talked and he provided me some suggestions on what it was I could do to help manage these perceptions. I ultimately did what he said, and I was promoted to the highest level in the company in my position, which means I was promoted over all of those people who had those opinions.
The reason I was able to win in the end, was because my boss at that time. My mentor, provided me the feedback and the truth that I needed. Sure, what I was doing was good for business, but we have to think about the people involved in the business as well…the people we have to work with on a daily basis.
If it wasn’t for that feedback at that time, I know for a fact I would have never been promoted, because I would had never changed. So all of those people probably would have complained so much that my boss and his boss would had eventually fired me (maybe), but I know for sure I could have never been promoted to the level I was, because all of those people would have had a mutiny.
My boss at the time knew that the feedback he was giving me was going to be hard for me to swallow at first. Because he knew the things everyone was complaining about is why he had promoted me in the first place. But he also knew that if I didn’t fix those things I would never last in that position. He cared enough about me and my career to tell me the hard things that would help me grow and develop. And it did.
In todays culture, we need more of this direct truth and feedback in business as well as in our society as whole. Unfortunately, even when the people do get it, they respond like I did, and in many cases they don’t grow from it. I whined and cried and blamed at first, but then I used it as the opportunity to grow and learn from it.
Also, I didn’t blame the messenger, ever. It wasn’t his fault that people felt the way they did. He didn’t create this issue. But he was being a great leader and fixing it. Because that is what leaders do. They say the hard stuff, the stuff nobody wants to hear. They do the things that have been neglected in doing for years and years.
So when this “real” leader shows up, the long history of avoidance and outright negligence, on major issues are finally being dealt with, people are even more entrenched and worried about how and what they are doing, versus the fact that they are finally doing something about it.
In my case, I ended up taking the truth and turning it into an advantage for me, and I ultimately won. In today’s society, we need to hear the truth, no matter how hard and direct it is, so we can take it, learn from it, and improve things from it. The truth will set your free, if you listen to it.
The alternative to the truth is someone who never tells you anything and you end up some place you never wanted to be. In my case it could have been losing my job, which wouldn’t have ended my life, but it would have sucked at that time.
If we don’t get the truth on some of the major issues affecting our society has a whole, there could be some big implications from this in our future. I am thankful that we have truth tellers in politics now, versus, liars, who either think you are too dumb to know everything and they never tell you, or instead just do things that they believe is best for your future.
Don’t kill the messenger, instead, listen to them, and hopefully we can fix the problem.
To your success and your future.
“I quit!”…”It has been six weeks since I quit chewing tobacco.” This is what one of my participants recently told me in one of my leadership training sessions. We were in week seven of a twelve-week leadership course.
As a trainer one of the most important things I do is create an environment where people are excited about learning the material I am teaching. I can do this a variety of different ways. It is done through how I open sessions, the relevance of the material, the examples I use, the facilitation of them applying the concepts taught, how I close sessions, transition sessions from one to another, and most importantly, creating a connection between the material and how they can use it to get better results than they have been getting.
When training is done well, the participants learn something new because they see how it can help them do their job better. More importantly than that to me is, when they see how they can apply what they have learned to make a better life for themselves.
In a twelve week training course, where we spend 3.5 hours together once a week for twelves weeks, we cover a lot of concepts and techniques that can make the participants a better communicator, a better leader, how they can reduce conflict in their life, and a lot of other things as well. In addition, we will cover how to become a more disciplined person in all areas of our life.
The value of a training environment is it provides a place where you can go and focus, even if it is only for a few hours. This focused time is more time than most people find to focus on doing just about everything in their life. It allows time to reflect on the concepts we are teaching, but it also allows time to reflect on other areas of life and how to make changes in those areas.
When this participant shared with me that they made a decision to quit chewing tobacco, something they have done their entire lives, I was really proud of him. He said, that when we were setting goals for the course, he decided that this was a goal that he should pursue as well.
Keep in mind, I am not teaching people how to set goals on how to quit bad habits. However, when training is done well, people will see a connection between what is being taught and how they can apply it to other areas of their life. And that is what he did.
Maybe he was already thinking about quitting anyway. Maybe he was fed up with the costs financially and health wise, from this bad habit. Regardless of what it was that compelled him to quit doing it. He made it happen.
What is even more profound is that after a few weeks of him quitting. He noticed that several people on his team quit doing it as well. And he has a very large team of a hundred people or so, on an off shift.
Think about this for a minute. If you are around hundreds of people, for fifty and sixty hours a week in a high stress environment. Do you think after years of doing this, that the team, and the people part of the team, will have similar habits? Absolutely. We are all products of our environment. My mentor told me that I will become the average of the five people I spend the most time with.
When this leader made the decision to quit chewing tobacco, his team noticed it. A leader is being watched at all times. You set the stage. If you are a mess, your team will be a mess. If you are an ass, the chances are your team will have those tendencies as well. When he decided to quit chewing tobacco, those on his team that chewed, said that they can quit as well.
This is a great example of why leadership is not for everyone. As a leader you have a big responsibility. I make the connection with parenting. More is caught, than taught. Subordinates are watching what you do and how you do it. Kids are watching their parents and what they do. What do you want them to see?
To your success and your future.
Most of us have known someone who we considered to be high maintenance. I didn’t know there was a television show by the same name on HBO until I did a quick google search of the term high maintenance this morning. I digress.
The high maintenance I am talking about is not the show and it is not your vehicle that requires a lot of trips to the service center where you take your cars to get worked on. No. I am talking about people. All people. High maintenance doesn’t discriminate. It could be male or female. It could be any ethnicity. It doesn’t matter.
We have all have known a person that we considered to be high maintenance. If you haven’t known someone, or you can’t think of someone quickly. I am sorry, because the chances are, “You are most likely the high maintenance person.”
A quick definition according to google of high maintenance. Demanding, challenging, exacting, difficult, hard to please, needy. Looking at the synonyms of high maintenance. I personally don’t have a problem with any of them except the last one. Needy.
Over the years in management I have had several needy people who have worked on my teams. These are the people who tell you they don’t need any accolades. But the first time you miss the opportunity to not give them any. They remind you that you didn’t.
Now, as a manager it is my job to reward and celebrate achievements and wins with my team. And I would think that a lot of managers do. I know that I did and do. However, there comes a point where a person who is needy on your team requires too much of it. They want it at every turn.
Here are some high maintenance or needy people’s behaviors:
- Want credit for something they should be doing anyway
- Want credit for something they chose to do on their own that wasn’t part of the overall strategy.
- Want constant affirmation that they are doing a great job.
- Are concerned with what everyone else is doing, instead of staying focused on their own agenda.
- Everything is urgent to them.
- They thrive on constant attention and want it at every turn. Wether it was warranted or not.
- They typically have very high highs and very low lows.
I love a highly competitive and engaged person on my team. However, if it gets to the point where any of the above conditions exist on an ongoing basis, it will start to become a problem with me.
So what do you do with a high maintenance person? Very simply. You must tell them that they are being perceived that way.
I have done this. It hurts them at first and they want to know why you feel that way or why others feels that way. Be prepared to have lots of very specific examples of times where they have been high maintenance.
Also, be sure after you provide them this feedback, tell them how you would like for things to look going forward. Let them know that you will remind them and provide ongoing feedback as you see other opportunities where they are being high maintenance.
Lets face it. Nobody wants to be considered high maintenance. Unless you are a diva. And the chances are you aren’t reading this anyway. Very simply be a team player. Be someone who does things for the right reasons. Which are usually for others best interests and not your own.
To your success and your future.
Last week, I was kicking off the second, of at least four twelve week leadership training courses that I will be delivering for a client of mine. This client has 3,100 or so employees and produces a very needed product.
One of the most senior leaders in the organization who oversees the manufacturing operations of the organization. Is one of the reasons the training was brought in to the company to begin with. I allow them to kick off the training for the twelve week training program. The twenty or so leaders that are participating in the training all report up to this person somehow. This leader may not have a direct contact with the participants, but they all fall under their responsibilities somewhere down the line.
The reason the training works within this company is because of the commitment of leadership to the training and the follow-up. This leader tells the participants in the room that day, that they appreciate their commitment to their job and the company. They then go on to speak for about three or four minutes on the importance of the training and why they are participating in it. During this message, something they said that most leaders don’t say, or in many cases, are so far removed that they are not in position to say is this.
They said “Over the next twelve weeks of this training course, there will be times when you question whether to complete a job that you are working on, or follow-up with a customer, or need to put out a pending fire that needs your attention, or attend the training. In all of these cases, I want to remind you that there is no need to think about what you should do. The answer will always be make sure you are in this training session and are fully present during this training.”
As a trainer this is music to my ears. And it should be to an employee as well. The commitment that this company has to increasing the skills of its employees is truly amazing. Many times as a trainer, I have conducted training where a person, or persons, who are participating in the training, come and go during a session. I have asked a manager what is going on? Or if they think they should be in here? And I have had managers tell me many times, that whatever it is the employee is working on can’t wait.
By making this statement, the training and development of this employee is put on hold, because the manager has communicated what is most important. Which is getting work done, over getting training in.
One of the problems with this philosophy, that a lot of senior leaders and company owners have. Is that they think there will come a day when the work stops and they can focus on training and development. This is a myth. We both know the work never stops. There is always another issue, another upset customer, another employee issue, that will take precedent over training with this kind of philosophy.
The company that I share the story about above is one that knows that there is never a good time for training. There are always other priorities. However, they also know that without ongoing development and training that the individual will never deliver the best value that they can for their skills and talents, which in turn doesn’t allow the company to thrive and grow. If the employees aren’t growing, the chances are the company isn’t going to grow either.
This leader, and the leaders within this company, understand that growth, training, and development of the employees, especially the leadership working directly with the majority of the workforce responsible for manufacturing, producing, and shipping the product. Is the most important investment that they can make.
To answer the question. Why do some training programs work and some don’t? Very simply the commitment from the top leaders of the company. As I mentioned earlier, one of the leaders in this company gets in front of the group and tells them that nothing they do or are required to do is as important as them attending and participating in this training program for the next twelve weeks.
This kind of statement and commitment not only communicates what is most important, but it also takes the decision-making out of the equation for the employees involved in the training. Leaders have to help employees make decisions some times. It is part of leadership. By telling them in advance what the priorities are and what is most import, it clearly communicates what should be done. When a decision that needs to be made comes up. This is a gift that most leaders never give their employees.
Instead employees are left to make their own decisions. And then when they do, they may find out that it was the wrong decision, and then a leader doubles down on it, by reprimanding the employee for making the wrong decision.
Senior leaders and owners of companies need to ask themselves these questions first before investing in training for the workforce:
- How committed are you to the training?
- How will you communicate the importance of this training to the people involved?
- How will you demonstrate that the training is as important as you say it is?
- What kind of follow-up will you do and require the employees to participate in to make sure the training sticks?
- What kind of accountability will you conduct to those who don’t take it as seriously as they should?
I am sure there are other questions to ask as well, but these are a good start.
If you want training and development to work and stick, you have to create a learning culture that is clearly communicated from the top. That is how you get training programs to work, and when you don’t clearly communicate it, the chances are the program wont work.
To your success and your future.
I am not sure what has brought us to this point in the current workforce and culture, but it seems to have permeated itself in both. And that is that people would rather stay and complain, instead of leave and be happier perhaps.
I can’t count the number of conversations I had with employees over the years, that complained about everything our current employer was doing that they disagreed with and even hated. In my position, as a middle manager, it was my job to execute many of these initiatives that people disagreed with. And many times, I may have even been the one creating the initiative. Inevitably, the person that was upset about the situation, had their one-sided view-point and weren’t aware of the bigger issues at large that prompted many of the decisions.
The decisions or the reason for the decisions are not the point of this post though. The point is that I have watched and continue to watch people think that they have to stay even when they vehemently disagree with the situation. And the solution to this problem is simple. “Just leave”.
Now many of the snowflakes that are reading this post disagree with the simple statement of “Just Leave”. Look, if you are constantly looking at everything through the eyes that the company is out to get you. Or that people are wanting to hold you down, or hold you back. Then no matter what decisions are made you are going to look at the decisions through these eyes.
If you always see the bad in people, then it is going to be hard for me to convince you to see the good. Instead you and I will constantly go in circles on decisions that have been made, and initiatives that are being pursued.
Look no company is perfect. No leader is perfect. A lot of my training includes equipping executive leaders and managers with the soft skills and leadership skills to create an engaged workforce. Most managers and leaders, and most people for that matter, want to treat people well, and treat people fairly.
Nobody who is reading this post now, can argue the fact that in general people are good, in general people want to treat others like themselves, and treat them well.
We all have to remember that businesses have to make a profit. And the person who has taken the risk and created a business should be one of the people who make the most profit. They took the risk, they did the work, they showed up, they should be fairly compensated for it. If you disagree with that, then again, I would tell you to “Just Leave” and go and do your own thing.
No system will be perfect. No situation will ever be totally and evenly distributed. All of life is made up on compromises and imperfections. If you are only looking for a perfect situation in an imperfect world, then you will always be disappointed.
To your success and your future.
After doing training and development for ten plus years, my experience tells me that most companies are not doing enough training in the areas where people need the training. In many cases, they are spending more time on training people in the areas that don’t necessarily give that person or the organization its best return on investment.
I have created a list of the different kinds of training and development a company must provide and who should be providing it, in my opinion. And at the end of this article I suggest the amount of time that a company should be training in each of the training areas I have described.
In this article, I use the terms inside trainers and outside or external trainers. Whenever I use the terms outside or external trainers, I mean the same thing. It means either bring a training company in from the outside of your organization or send your employees to a conference, or some kind of training being provided by an outside or external company.
Soft Skills (foundational skills): These are commonly called the soft skills. Communication, interpersonal relationships, managing stress, small talk, listening skills, etc.
These skills are the most important skills of all in my opinion. I don’t care who you are and what you do. The chances are, sometime between five years old and who you are today, you have lost knowledge of how to be nice to others. It isn’t totally your fault, in the hyper crazy world you are just busy. You have been conditioned to respond to someone before they are finished talking. You have learned to cut people off in mid sentence. You have lost the ability to disagree agreeably, if you actually ever learned it in the first place.
The foundational/soft skills are the basics of human interaction. And for whatever reason, today, because of technology, we just don’t communicate face to face enough that when we are asked to do so, we just aren’t very good at it.
Who should provide this training? In my opinion most training departments within a company aren’t equipped to handle this kind of training. Hiring an outside company is the best way to deliver this training. The reason I say this, is because the outside company is working with lots of other companies, their material is very specific to this area, but it is very applicable to all organizations. Because the challenges that come up, in the area of soft skills, are universal to all people. Someone within company can get certified in a specific training program that delivers these kinds of skills. But even then, unless they have many years of delivering this kind of training, I would suggest a company still hire an outside company to deliver the training to get the most out of the dollars spent on it.
Skills Training: Includes proficiencies needed to actually perform the job. This kind of training is very specific to an individual job description or category. It could be sales, customer service, engineer, project management, leadership, etc. Skills training is the kind of training that helps someone get better at their job.
Skills training is ongoing and never ends. Unfortunately, we as humans can learn anything we want, but what we learn and what we actually retain are terribly opposite at times. To ensure a person gets and keeps the information that they need to be successful on the job. Repetition is critical. How often do they need it? Everyday is what I say. To really learn, retain, and actually apply the skills. A person must constantly be practicing and learning. Period.
Who should be delivering this kind of training? Obviously some of this training is going to be very specific for certain jobs in the company. I would suggest maybe a person who is doing the job, but also has the ability and the time to train others. Not everyone can train someone else to do what they do. The chances are the manager isn’t proficient enough or fresh enough to teach these specific skills either. By the way, that is okay.
Sometimes this training may land within a human resources department as well. Again, I caution this because unless the person has actually done the job, they may not have the credibility or the depth of knowledge necessary to train the skills required effectively.
Again, depending on the job, hiring an outside company might be best. Especially once everyone on the team has gone through initial skills training that is provided. Having an outside person come in that has a different voice, a different perspective, and delivery methods that reinforces what the company has already trained the employee on. This only enhances the employees skills and helps them buy-in to the philosophies even more.
Leadership Training: I had to create a separate category for leadership training. You could easily put it under skills training or soft skills/foundational skills training. However, because I believe, and it has been validated over and over. Leaders drive the effectiveness, the engagement of employees, and the overall success of an organization. This kind of training should not be taken lightly and should be a significant investment made by all companies and organizations. Equipping leaders with the skills to problem solve, lead people, have empathy, coaching, delegation, project management, celebration, etc. should be one of the primary focuses of all companies and organizations. All companies rise or fall on the ability of the leaders within that organization.
Who should provide this training? From my experience working inside a company, I have always found that a good external training company is always best when it comes to delivering leadership training. The reason I say this, is because the chances are you have already heard and learned the leadership practices within your organization. To get new ideas and ways to approach things, the best way is to bring an outside company in who will have a different perspective and different insights. This will allow your leadership team to grow and add more tools and skills in the area of leadership to their toolkit. Or you can send leaders to a training program.
Professional training and legal training: This is the kind of training that is very specific to a job classification or specific job task. For example, it could be accounting. They must keep up with all of the current tax laws. Lawyers need specific training as laws change. Human Resources must be kept up to speed on the current employment laws. Leadership must be kept up on the current hiring and firing laws if they are the ones interviewing candidates.
Who should provide this training? Well, some of this training can be purchased from outside companies that focus on this. Training such as sexual harassment, discrimination laws, certain health and safety mandatory practices, safe driving, etc. Since most of this kind of training is driven by laws, codes, mandates, requirements, etc. It is pretty straight forward. The key is delivering it in a way that isn’t mind numbing to the people who have to attend.
A company may have someone in human resources deliver it. Or there are many companies out there such as skillsoft and other learning management systems that provide online courses to deliver this training. Again, this is more of a check the box kind of training, however, it is important. So delivering it in a way that makes it memorable is very important.
Team Training: Everybody is part of a team. If you have more than one employee in your company, than you are working as a team. The challenges with the teams is that it is comprised of people who have different agendas and sometimes even different priorities. The goal with team training is to get the team working together as a team. It could be breaking down barriers, improving productivity within the team, or just getting the team to know each other better.
Team training is very important. The more a team knows each individual and who they are, they are more willing to give people respect and encouragement when things aren’t going well.
Who should provide this training? It depends on how bad the team dynamics are. If it is very bad, then my suggestion would be to have an outside firm come in and do the training. The reason for this, is when someone internally does it, the team looks at it as being pushed on them, and unfortunately, no matter how objective the trainer is, the people involved will think that the trainer has a bias in how they interact with the group and the individuals.
If it is just normal team building stuff and the team just needs a boost or the manager just wants to continue to build upon the team engagement. Then a manager could do it, or someone from human resources. Again, it must be someone who is skilled in facilitating and getting a group involved. My suggestion is to always go outside of the four walls of the company as well. There is something about getting outside the four walls that creates a better training environment for the team, especially in these kinds of trainings.
Safety training: Is a type of training that occurs to ensure employees are protected from injuries caused by work-related accidents. Safety training is especially important for organizations that use chemicals or other types of hazardous materials in their production. Safety training can also include evacuation plans, fire drills, and workplace violence procedures. Safety training can also include the following:
- Eye safety
- First aid
- Food service safety
- Hearing protection
- Construction safety
- Hazmat safety
Who should provide this training: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, is the main federal agency charged with enforcement of safety and health regulation in the United States. OSHA provides external training to companies on OSHA standards. Also, someone in-house could deliver this training as well. A safety director or someone from human resources. Again the key is to make it fun, and this requires a skilled facilitator to do so.
Technical or Technology training: All jobs have some kind of technical training involved. It could be something like teaching a server how to input food into the system, to showing a sales person how to use a CRM (Customer Relationship Management system) to prospect for clients. Most companies (I hesitate to say all) have some kind of computer system that helps them manage they work and their business. It could be something very universal such as Microsoft products, to something very specific and tailored to their industry. Whatever the technical training is, a company must invest in it to make sure people know how to manage the business.
Who should provide this training? Most companies are using something very specific that is being provided by another company. For example: Salesforce which is a CRM for sales people, or WordPress which is a website developer. Whatever the software is, the chances are the company providing it will have a team that delivers training. I always suggest using that team as much as possible to deliver the training for your employees.
Now some companies may have little nuances that the company that they are buying from may not be familiar with. In that case, you may have someone within the department deliver the training or human resources. But for the most part, the company that is providing the software or the system should have some training that you either get when you buy the product as well as ongoing training.
Quality Training: Refers to equipping the employees with the means and expertise of preventing, detecting, and eliminating non-quality items, usually in an organization that produces a product. Many companies use the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to help develop what the quality standards are. But equipping the employees within the company to administer these standards is what is most important.
Who should provide this training: Just like technical or technology training this kind of training can be administered from an outside company like ISO. But most companies usually have someone within their company that oversees quality. In this case, this person must become skilled at training and delivering quality training to the people who need to know it. Again, the people who are receiving this training must understand the quality standards and be able to actually point it out when the standards are not being met. So teaching the people who are managing quality is a job that requires someone who is very technical, but also very creative in their training and delivery methods.
In addition, I want to point out that some companies hire someone from within to oversee the quality. If that person has never been exposed to any outside training or outside quality metrics, then a goal of their development should be to expose them to outside best practices. I have seen too many times where a person has been promoted up to oversee quality, and unfortunately with their very limited experience, fail to develop a world-class quality system.
My hope after reading this is that you have a better understanding of the different kinds of training that is important to deliver within your company. As I stated before, many companies are simply not doing enough training in the areas where the employees need to be trained. Or they are not getting the right kind of training that really helps an employee develop new skills or enhance their current skills to provide a better return to the company.
A company should be spending no less than 50% of an employees training time in enhancing that employees skills in the job they are required to do. Another 20% of the allotted training time should be in soft skills development. And the remaining 30% should include technical training as needed. Professional training as needed. Safety and Quality as needed.
All of these percentages are based upon what a person job is. It will vary significantly, depending on your role within the organization. The key point though is ensuring that the employee is getting the training that will allow them to deliver better results in their position. When a person has the skills to deliver better results in their position, because of the training they are getting, this is how companies grow and so does the employee.
Again, I have learned through my experiences that everyone thinks they can train. Just because you know something, it doesn’t mean you can train someone on it. Highly skilled trainers and facilitators know how to engage an audience. They know the right practices and methods to get participation and make the learning and training experience enjoyable.
When is the last time you had an external company come in and provide training for your organization? If it has been a while, I would suggest trying it out and seeing what kind of result you get.
I hope you found this information to be useful. If you did please share it with others.
To your success and your future.
Many people talk about the characteristics that leaders must have to be considered great leaders. Words such as vision, character, empathy, charisma, outgoing, sympathetic, fair, ability to communicate, persuasive, etc. are just some the words most people use. I agree that all of these are important. But there are things that leaders must do that are even more important.
Most of the lists people have created describe what leaders must be. Meaning they must possess these characteristics and skills to be a great leader. What I am describing in this article is what leaders must do. There is a big GAP in what people do and what they say they do.
This list provides leaders a great outline on how to lead in todays workforce and get people to buy in to their vision. Vision, charisma, persuasive, and all of the other traits are important, but doing these six things are more important.
Time: Time is the one of our most precious commodities. No matter who you are and what you do, you don’t have any more than anyone else. And in this hyper busy and noisy world, it seems like we all have less of it than ever before. So when a leader spends some of their time with the people they lead, it demonstrates and communicates to the person or persons, that they are important enough that the leader is willing to take some of their precious time and spend some of it with them.
I know spending time with the people seems like a simple thing to do. However, as I work with leaders around the country, I find that most leaders are spending less time with their team. Instead they are going from meeting to meeting, running reports, and putting out fires and not actually spending enough time with the people they lead.
If you want to become a better leader and get engagement from your team, you have to make time for the people on your team. This must be a priority.
Recognition: Being recognized is probably one of the most inherent qualities that we as humans have. We love to stand out or be pointed out in a crowd as someone who is doing something different. I have worked with thousands of individuals in my training sessions and I have yet to find a person that says they don’t like to be recognized. Great leaders find ways to recognize employees in everyday interactions.
Appreciation: Being a trainer for many years now, one of my favorite sessions in my training classes is something we do called “strength centered comments”. A strength centered comment is where the people in the training recognize each other for the strengths they have observed while they have been in the training together. Most of the training I do is spending a day with a group, many days with a group, or many sessions with a group. The group has the opportunity to spend a lot of time with the other participants in the training. At the end of the training, they have to get in to group of three-five and write out strengths they have witnessed in the other participants in their group throughout the training.
The way it sounds is like this “Laura, one of the strengths I have observed and appreciate about you, is your willingness to ask very thought-provoking questions. This tells me that you are really listening to the other person and really care about what they are saying. I watched you do this throughout the training in all of the interactions you have been a part of.
Everyone loves this session in my training courses. Leaders have the opportunity to do this every single day. They can show appreciation for their teams strengths daily, and good leaders do this consistently.
Forgiveness: You and I both have done things that we wanted forgiveness for. It is just a part of life. If you aren’t doing things that require forgiveness from time to time, then the chances are you aren’t taking any risks, especially in the work environment. Forgiveness is something that we all want when we do something that we shouldn’t have done. It may not have been maliciously done, but it was done nonetheless. And we as humans want affirmation that the person impacted by whatever we did, has forgiven us and put it to the past.
In leadership, you want employees taking risks, you want employees pushing the boundaries to ensure success. You don’t want them to do anything that is unethical, illegal, or unmoral, however, you do want them to be creative and look for new ways to solve problems that impact business.
If a person feels like a leader is resenting them or holding a grudge on a decision they made. This creates animosity and lack of engagement on the part of the employee. A leader must communicate to this person that it wasn’t a big deal, that is was okay, and it is in the past. Now I know this seems like an easy thing to do, and it may be a little overstated. However, I have been the person that needed forgiveness and affirmation from a leader that what I did was in the past and it wasn’t impacting any thing going forward. We all seek this in our personal lives, so leaders must also give this to people in the business environment.
Attention: Spending time with someone is very important, but when you spend that time with someone giving them your full attention and being fully present is just as important. They way you show that you are fully attentive and present is by engaging with the individual to show that you are hearing what they want you to hear. Leaders today may be willing to give some time to their team, but they may not be fully attentive. Great leaders clear off the desk and put their phones down and give their employees all of their attention and not part of it.
Credit: I don’t care who you are and what you say, my experience tells me that all of us want credit for anything and everything that has a positive outcome. Whether it is an opinion on a football game, a thought on a project, or we guess on the right directions on a road trip, all of us love to get credit for something. My guess is some of the mostly used words together in the human language are “I told you”, “That is what I said”, or the passive aggressive way to say this is “Didn’t I say that?”. All of these statements are examples of all of us wanting to get credit for are efforts and being right.
As a leader, especially a good leader, you should be listening more than talking. Which means most of the good ideas that solve problems in your organization are coming from the people on your team. Most of us have had leaders take credit for our ideas. You know they did. This is one of the most demoralizing and infuriating things you can do to someone on your team. If you are a leader, you have to give public credit to people on your team for their contributions. I would say that you have to go out of your way to ensure the people on your team know that in the board room and in other meetings, that their leader is giving the proper credit.
Here is your challenge: Write these six words down on a piece of paper. Next to the words also write down the numbers 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10. Now circle the number you feel like represents how well you do these six things. 10 being you do it really well. 1 meaning you don’t do it well at all. After you rank yourself in each of these areas. Write down a specific goal you would like to work on accomplishing in this area?
Is it giving more public credit? Is it recognizing people more? Whatever it is, you have to commit to a goal and then implement ways to accomplish the goal.
To your success and your future.
If you are like most leaders you are making your way in to work today and there is someone on your team that you need to give some hard feedback to at this very moment. The chances are you have been delaying it for days at least, probably months, and some of you have been delaying it for years.
Why haven’t you done it yet? There are a lot of reasons, maybe one of these are yours.
- Because you are fearful of how they might respond.
- You don’t want to hurt their feelings.
- You just never do the hard things.
- You are afraid that they will quit.
- You keep telling yourself it really isn’t a big deal, but it keeps happening.
- You say that they do so many other things well.
- You are about to get promoted or quit so you are passing the buck.
- You are waiting for it to resolve itself. (it won’t)
- You don’t know how.
I am sure there are other reasons as well, but from my experience these are usually the reasons.
If you don’t know how, I am going to give you a process that you can apply today that will make this easy. Now, unfortunately, courage doesn’t come with the process. However, if you practice the process enough, overtime you will gain more courage because it will get easier and you will become more comfortable at doing it.
As the title states. A lot of leaders have been taught the shit sandwich approach. I am not saying it is a horrible process, but it doesn’t always feel right. This is where you give them some praise for something that they have done. Then you tell them something that you want them to work on (feedback), and then you give them some more praise on something that they do. From my experience, this process can sometimes water down the feedback you are trying to provide. I am not saying leaders should stop this altogether, I would just use caution when applying it especially with some of the bigger issues.
Now keep in mind, I don’t want you to only use the process below when you are giving what could be viewed as negative feedback only. You should also use this process, and do it quite frequently, to provide good feedback as well.
I have used this process and others for many years with great results. You can apply it to a subordinate, a peer, a child, etc. This process has been credited to the Center for Creative Leadership, but everyone has their own spin on it. You can see the framework below, but I would encourage you to modify it to make it work for you.
The process goes like this: You want to tell the person about a situation that you recently witnessed that they did something. I will give you an example here in a minute. So you remind them of the recent situation. You then tell them the behavior that you witnessed. And then lastly, the impact that the behavior had on that situation. Lastly, ask them their thought on the situation and then ask “what would we do differently the next time we are in that situation.
- Impact it has/had
- What will you do differently next time.
Here is an example:
“Joe in our last meeting I noticed that when Joan was talking you cut her off several times, not allowing her to finish her thoughts on the project. (situation) By cutting her off (behavior) it doesn’t allow her to make her contribution to the project and we want everyones buy in on this project(impact). Did you realize you were doing that Joe?” Joe responds. “In future meetings lets be sure we get everyones contribution to this project.
Maybe it is something a little more simple as showing up on time.
“Frank I have noticed that about every few days or so you have been coming in later and later to the office. Being late doesn’t allow you to plan accordingly for your day. This impacts your productivity as well as the teams productivity. ” I would then ask if something is going on that is causing this. And then move to resolving the issue and discussing the consequences if this behavior continues.
Look, giving hard feedback is never easy, by using a process it will allow you to give it to them the way they need to hear it.
Apply this process today and let me know how it works for you.
To your success and your future.
Most leaders are lying to their employees everyday. Some of the them are doing deliberately, while others don’t even realize it. And it all comes down to the fact that some..
Well, based off my observations…Most leaders…
Aren’t willing to do the one thing that all leaders must be willing to do, and that is be very candid with their employees.
They lie by telling their employees they are doing a great job and the employee is really not. Or, they are not telling them anything at all and just ignoring them. By ignoring them they are lying as well. By saying nothing to the employee the leader is communicating through their actions that they are pleased with the performance.
In both cases the leader is hurting three parties by not telling the employees the truth. They are hurting the organization, because the organization is paying for an employee that is not meeting expectations. The leader is hurting themselves, because they are not getting the work that needs to be done, done. More than likely the leader that is unwilling to give the necessary feedback is doing more work and dealing with more headaches, all because they are unwilling to coach the employee the way they need to be coached. And lastly, they are hurting the employee.
In my leadership training and coaching business I ask business owners, managers, executives, leaders, etc., about the behaviors they are seeing or not seeing from employees. Many times, the reason I am meeting with the business owners or leader is because they have some kind of gap in the skills of the people they are looking to get training for. Hey, I am thankful for this.
However, what I must remind them of is this. Most of the challenges that they are facing is because some leader in the organization, or they themselves are the ones that are unwilling to have the hard conversations to deal with the issues the employee is causing.
The phrase that I use most often with leaders and business owners is “Are you being candid with your employees” or “Are your managers being candid” with their employees.
Many leaders unfortunately tend to ignore bad behaviors altogether and hope that if they ignore an employee long enough they will quit. You also have leaders who are not straightforward enough or candid enough, with the shortcomings of where someone is not meeting expectations. When they speak to the employee about their shortcomings, they do so by watering down what it is that the employee needs to hear. Many times what needs to be said goes unsaid. Some watered down version of the truth gets communicated and what needs to be heard is rarely said.
The tool that leaders must include in their toolbox is the willingness to be candid with their employees. From business owners to senior leadership, all the way down the line to front line supervisors. Everyone must be willing to provide the hard feedback when employees or managers are not meeting the expectations. Until the person understands clearly where they are not meeting expectations, they can never improve their work performance.
I tell business owners all of the time this. “To be unclear is to be unkind.” When we are not straightforward and speak with candor with our team members. We are being unkind. Because they don’t know where they are falling short, which means they don’t know where to improve. Which means they can’t improve. You as a leader must be truthful, straightforward, and direct when communicating with employees. You don’t have to be an ass about it. That is another blog for another day. However, we do have to be truthful and candid.
Are you being candid with your team? Or are you ignoring the shortcomings and just staying frustrated with certain team members on your team or management staff?
The way you fix this is easy. If you want to learn how to provide the candid feedback that is necessary, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will share with you the playbook that I use.
To your success and your future.