As a kid the start of a new school year was both exciting and a little unnerving. A chance to build on what you did last year and a chance to make a fresh start!
Similarly, when you are a new leader or an experienced leader each day is a new start. A chance to build on your experience and the opportunity to make a fresh leadership start.
Amy Jen Su, author and co-founder of the executive coaching and leadership development firm Paravis Partners, encourages leaders to “step back and think about your leadership presence and if you are thinking, saying, and showing up as you most hope to and intend.” In her Harvard Business review article she highlights four key fresh start actions for both new and experienced leaders.
- Set or update a leadership values-based goal. Your people pay great attention to what you do and how you do it. Having an aspirational other-directed goal to guide your daily decisions and actions will directly impact the perceptions your team has of you and will strengthen your relationships at work.
- Continue to develop and increase your emotional intelligence and situational awareness. Leaders get work done through others and everyone on your team is different and every situation is different. Different motivations, different perspectives, different backgrounds, different experiences, and on and on. You need to be agile and adaptive. A starting point is to ask yourself the following questions before important interactions:
- Who is the other person or audience?
- What might their (not yours) perspective on this topic be?
- How are they best motivated or what is most important to them?
- What is unique about this situation, what variables are important here and now?
- What are the optimal outcomes in this situation, for these specific players, for our team, for our organization?
- Be clear and direct, with respect. Leadership is build on two-way dialogue and trust. Leaders need to be clear and open to other perspectives – at the same time.
- Know what you think and what is important to you – what are your convictions.
- Ask, listen and acknowledge – provide space and acceptance of other points of view.
- Share the WHY – include context, connection to personal and organizational priorities, and alignment.
- Be a stable and grounded presence in the face of change, stress, or difficult news. People need to feel safe bringing you news, even bad news. Otherwise you will end up in a vacuum with no information and no ability to make a difference. In addition, your team will look to you and mimic how you react to stress and changes. It is important to be genuine but prepared to demonstrate your leadership presence, even in tough times.
Fresh starts are exciting and a little scary. They give us an opportunity to reflect, build on what has worked and try something new.
Posted in building teams, change and transition, communication, Engagement, Leadership, leading authentically, trust
Tagged confidence, culture, feedback, motivation, purpose, stress, transparency, vision
You nailed the interview, you got the job and now it’s time to prove your value – full speed ahead! Peter Daly and Michael Watson, authors of The First 90 Days in Government: Critical Success Strategies for New Public Managers at all Levels, encourage leaders to take a different approach to successfully navigate one of the most treacherous transitions you will face – starting a new job.
The pressure to deliver results – fast – can backfire and end up looking like the proverbial bull in the china shop. Making a lot of noise, causing a lot of action but not demonstrating your ability to lead and succeed.
To avoid a crash, Daly and Watson describe five crucial subjects or themes that new leaders need to understand before they charge forward. This will require structured on-going dialogue with your boss that they call “the five conversations:”
- The Situation Conversation – discover how your boss perceives the current standing or status of the overall organization and your unit. Your goal is to ensure a shared understanding of the challenges and opportunities you face.
- The Expectations Conversation – define, clarify, and perhaps, negotiate what success looks like for you in your new job.
- The Style Conversation – discuss and determine how the relationship with your new boss will work. How do you each prefer to communicate, what boundaries exist, how are decisions made, and how frequent do you need to interact to ensure trust and success.
- The Resources Conversation – determine what resources are available, what you believe you need, confirm how resources are allocated and begin negotiating to ensure access to critical resources.
- The Personal Development Conversation – mutually identify opportunities and expectations for continual development to ensure success in your current and future roles in the organization.
In reality these will not be distinct one-time conversations but they are a framework to help new leaders strategically approach the transition to a new role. This is a time that it is “all about you!”
Posted in change and transition, communication, goals, Leadership, leadership development, organizational culture, resources, self awareness, stakeholders
Tagged communication, culture, feedback, Leadership, performance, professional development, purpose, questions, self-awareness, success, transparency, urgent
A leader at one of our schools remarked that when done right, performance reviews can be energizing and uplifting but when done wrong they are demoralizing. It appears that the latter is what is happening in most organizations. David Ulrich, the Rensis Likert Professor of Business at the University of Michigan and the “Godfather of HR” just published an article in the latest issue of Talent Quarterly titled “Resolving the Performance Management Paradox.” He cites that 90% of HR professionals are unhappy with their review system, only 14% of CEOs believe that the review system is working and only 8% of HR executives believe that performance management makes a contribution to the success of the organization. Yet, he also cites a long history of studies that clearly indicate that accountability makes a difference. In fact one study identified that just the presence of a performance review system is the greatest predictor of success for hospitals. What can a leader do?
Ulrich recommends that regardless of the process or forms used, leaders embrace conversations: conversations focused on what he calls “positive accountability,” conversations emphasizing learning and improvement opportunities rather than evaluating what went wrong, and conversations primarily focused on the future rather than the past. He suggests that leaders look for opportunities to engage in “real time” conversations that are ongoing and revolve around work events (projects, semester start or finish, work cycle periods, annual milestones, etc.) Leaders should focus on asking questions to discover how employees can sustain success and prepare for the future and help their people look forward to apply what they have learned and address new opportunities or challenges that arise.
A simple conversational model for leaders to use with their performance review process includes the following three steps:
- Know Yourself – ask about and discuss each person’s strengths, weaknesses, passions and interests.
- Action for Growth – ideas and concrete action to leverage individual strengths and interests to support success and on-going development.
- My Value – dialogue focused on the value that each employee provides to the work unit, institution, students, stakeholders or overall organization.
By focusing less on the process and more on the conversation we can make performance reviews a more uplifting experience.
Posted in Accountability, build organizational talent, communication, higher education, Motivation, performance management, talent management
Tagged accountability, asking questions, assessments, career development, communication, engagement, evaluation, feedback, leadership development, paradox, self reflection, talent management
A colleague of mine shares a funny but helpful story on ineffective feedback. She was a co-owner of a small business and the co-owners decided they needed to terminate one of their employees after a long and unsuccessful progressive discipline attempt. Her business partner was a nice guy but had trouble delivering tough messages. Since he had hired the employee he wanted to deliver the news. He met with the terminated employee for an hour and later reported to my colleague that it was a tough meeting but it went well and he had asked the fired employee to pack up his office at the end of the day and wished him luck.
Much to her surprise the next day the “fired” employee was at his desk working away. Her co-owner had been so unclear, so indirect and so muddled that the employee had no clue that he had been terminated! Not effective feedback at all.
As this article in the New York Times reminds us, the purpose of feedback is to help people do better, not feel better. Both positive and negative feedback need to be straightforward. Being direct and clear is key to effective feedback and will improve leadership communication. The What and Why model I learned a number of years ago can help leaders overcome the tendency to over-complicate feedback and keep it focused. Effective feedback only needs to include – and must include:
- What specifically the person did, said, or didn’t do. The behavior or action that you want to reinforce or needs to be changed. Stated directly, specifically and clearly. No extra explanations or editorializing – “just the facts!”
- Why it matters. A short but direct statement that describes the impact or consequences of the action or behavior. Either positive or negative. Again, no editorializing or explanations at this time.
Nothing more and nothing less.
“It won’t happen again,” “I’m sure he has it under control now,” “She does everything else so well,” and “I hate having to talk about this.”
How often have you had this talk with yourself? I know I have and many leaders I work with have shared that they also dread having tough performance conversations. We avoid the issue, we over-analyze, we search for glimmers of improvement, we obsess and over-prepare. And what happens? The performance problem continues or gets worse!
To drive high performance we just need to dive in and have the conversation. While that is easier said then done, the “Two Minute Challenge” (from The Practical Coach distributed by Media Partners) is a straight-forward guide to start the conversation and initiate improvement.
The Two Minute Challenge asks you to follow these five steps, in order, without skipping one:
- State what you have observed – only the actual behavior or issue. Be specific but concise with no extra details, potential motives or personal assumptions.
- Wait for a response – make yourself stop. Do not charge forward with your ideas. This clarifies that they are responsible for taking action, not you.
- State or clarify the expected performance or goal – focus on the outcome desired not explanations or unrelated issues.
- Ask for a specific solution that will meet the expectation – what specifically will they do differently?
- Agree together on the solution – clarify what they will be doing and establish a shared understanding of next steps.
Following these five steps doesn’t make the conversation easy but it provides a structure that can help you take action sooner. Recently a dean at one of our schools shared that he had been planning and planning a performance conversation with a faculty member and not actually having it. After I shared the two minute challenge with him he scheduled the meeting, followed the steps and agreed with the faculty member on a plan of action. It wasn’t the favorite part of his day but it was productive and started the ball rolling!
Most of us will never enjoy having tough performance conversations but the Two Minute Challenge can kick-start the action needed for a productive outcome. Give it a try when you hear yourself hoping the issue will go away.
Have you heard yourself, or other leaders, saying “I was just being me,” or “this is my style” at work? Sounds like authenticity, right? However, it can also be a warning sign of TMA, Too Much Authenticity.
Professor Herminia Ibarra, author of Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader (Harvard Business Review Press, 2015), describes the Authenticity Paradox in the January-February 2015 issue of the Harvard Business Review.* She highlights two situations that all leaders face and how holding too firm to a self-image can derail success.
Moving into a new role.
Leaders face very different challenges as they move up the leadership pipeline. The scope of issues increase, the risks and rewards are greater and performance expectations change. What worked in the past may not work as well in the new situation. Leaders can stymie the growth and flexibility needed to succeed in their new roles if they don’t try out new responses and behaviors, even if they feel different than “who I am.”
Hearing and processing negative feedback.
Successful leaders often struggle to correctly interpret negative feedback. Not only is it hard to hear it can easily be misinterpreted as a style comment. Focusing on how well a style worked in the past can cause us to dismiss valid feedback or resist trying out new behaviors. New behaviors that may be different than “my view of myself” but important to success and growth.
What to do?
Authentic leadership and being true to yourself requires us to both know who we are and to be willing to revise who we are over time. Too much authenticity can be a code for an unwillingness to try out new behaviors. Ibarra suggests that we adopt a “playful frame of mind.” Actively try new ways of doing something, ask questions differently, work on new projects and explore what you learn about yourself. Stay true to your core values but purposely challenge your view of yourself with unfamiliar action and embrace what you learn.
*Jan-Feb 2015 HBR article
Posted in change and transition, integrity, leadership development, leading authentically, self awareness
Tagged asking questions, blind spots, feedback, integrity, Leadership, leadership journey, paradox, self reflection, self-awareness, values
High performing teams sound different than other teams. They are noisier!
The Harvard Business Review in June reminded leaders that providing feedback to your team is truly a shared responsibility. Taking actions to facilitate team-directed and team-provided feedback can help keep your team on track and lead to new levels of performance.
I worked with an oncology practice team that consistently received the highest levels of patient satisfaction across a large care delivery system. When asked what helped them provide such high levels of care they focused on the daily “huddle” they held. Once a day the entire team gathered together and shared feedback with each other on what was working well that day, what unique issues were coming up and what ideas each of them had to improve care. They all spoke; the front-desk receptionist, the rooming nurse, the physician, the manager, the chemotherapy tech, and the radiology tech. Each one was allowed and expected to give feedback to the rest of the team from their own perspective.
Rebecca Knight, the HBR author mentioned above, encourages leaders to follow these principles to build a culture that supports team members providing feedback to each other:
- Establish the expectation of group feedback and accountability and define it as a team.
- Schedule and hold regular “check-in” meetings – like the huddles
- Start with general, easy to answer questions.
- Role-model listening to feedback.
- Moderate and facilitate to allow everyone to share.
- Don’t avoid negative feedback or “issues.”
Helping your team members give and receive feedback from each other leverages the insights each person has and also creates a shared leadership accountability to high levels of performance.