Be a Yogi with Flexible Hours

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As a working mom I both love and hate summer. As a Minnesotan we survive winter by waiting for those hot steamy days and eating outside on patios. Then we survive summer by trying to navigate the chaos of having kids at home who need rides to games and activities while we are at work. What can we do as companies, leaders, and employees to stretch our thinking about flexibility over the summer and develop a muscle we can use all year? Blue Cross Blue Shield is piloting a summer hours program to help us test both our culture and our leadership muscle. The keys to our success will be putting the core tenets of yoga into our business practice: creating connection, sequencing movement, and centering on trust.

Creating connection. The origin is a Sanskrit word Yog meaning union. Yoga practices are designed to unite the body, mind, and energy to create a state of calmness. So before jumping on the mat, so to speak, we need to create connection. The most critical connections to test are, do your employees have clear goals and objectives and have you both agreed on how they will be measured. It is surprising how often we lead through assumption vs alignment. This is the perfect time to reconnect with your employees and do a mid year check in. We are halfway through the calendar year. This is the perfect time to spend 30 minutes with each employee and ask them what is their biggest accomplishment to date, what are their remaining milestones,  where do they need help and what are they most proud of. It is then key for you to share your feedback on their performance, their deliverables, and your priorities for the back half of the year.  It’s hard to be flexible if you don’t start on sure-footing- so help you and your team drive results by understanding what is expected. We recognize our summer flex program will give us the chance -and need- to improve this leadership muscle, which will make us stronger throughout the year.

Sequencing movement. Kriya yoga is based on the concepts of “to do,” “to act,” and “to react.” This method focuses on recharging the body with oxygen to enhance the mind. All yoga programs are made of a series of movements or flows that are practiced in a sequence. One of the criticisms we hear about work place flexibility is that it creates chaos. But if we take a systematic approach we can avoid that risk. Every team has workplace norms- the question is are they explicit and are they the ones you want. Pull your team together and ask what is working about the way you are working together.  Making sure you understand the current state before making a change is important.  Discuss your expectations around communication, response time, what should be on a shared drive, etc…, so that if anyone is out for any reason the team can do, act, and react appropriately.  Creating these norms will help our teams be more nimble and improve our efficiency year round.

Center on trust.  Anyone who has tried yoga knows it requires a lot of trust. Trust in your breath. In your balance. In your body. You have to let go and and just be to really get the most out of your practice.  Trust is tricky- and trickier still at work. When someone asks for flexible hours, many managers start with why not, what won’t work, or what’s too hard. Starting with trust means being honest. Yes Bill I have seen your work and it is great- I have every confidence you can deliver those results from anywhere. No Maria, I am concerned about your work and until I see improvements in X and Y, I don’t have confidence you will achieve the goals we have set. Both of these answers can help build trust.  A great Stephen Covey quote is, “Without trust we don’t truly collaborate, we merely coordinate, or at best cooperate. It is trust that turns a group of people into a team.”  Trust is always what makes someone a leader. You may prefer to know Bill is at his desk everyday or can be available every Friday afternoon, but if Bill’s performance is strong, trust Bill to get the job done Bill’s way.  In the research paper, Trust In Leadership Affects Employee Retention, by Jennifer Miller, it cites Spherion research on trust.  Employers ranked  employees’ level of trust in senior leadership as one of the top four indicators of employee engagement.  Unfortunately her research also found that 82% of employees don’t trust their boss. So what’s more important? Seeing Bill in his cube or seeing yourself earning his trust? We want trust to be the centerpiece of our culture so this pilot is helping us practice giving and showing trust in a meaningful way.

Launching our summer hours project has required a lot of flexibility.  We’ve worked with our operations teams. We’ve worked with communications. We’ve adjusted the timing. It may not be perfect, but we will learn. I am excited to be part of testing and pushing our norms. As an employee, I appreciate being trusted to manage my time and my schedule. As a Minnesota Mom, I am grateful that I can see my son’s soccer game this Friday. We will  see where our leadership and culture needs some stretching. The keys to our success will be putting the core tenets of yoga into our business practice: creating connection, sequencing movement, and centering on trust.

 

Update IDPs to Integrate Deliverables and Passions

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Development planning should always start with needs of the business. It is also key to look at the employees’ current skills and future interests.  We also know creating  a written plan is proven to increase the likelihood of acting on the plan. But this skeletal approach to development planning lacks the heart and soul of developing the full person.  I believe it’s time to update our concept of individual development plans (IDPs). Let’s shift IDPs to focus on integrating deliverables and passions in our personal and professional lives.

Integrating Work and Life: One of my least favorite questions is “What is your aspiration?” I will never forget when I was asked that question by our company president. I remember that my very first thought was, ‘I want to be a good mom.’ Then I thought, ‘Can I say that? No that won’t be acceptable. I better say I want my boss’s job.’ What was intended to be an engaging conversation became disheartening. It is perfectly reasonable for the president to expect a work related answer. It is also perfectly human to have multiple, sometimes competing, priorities that would be more insightful to discuss. What if we replaced “What are your career goals in the next 3-5 years?” with “What personal and professional milestones would you like to celebrate in 5 years?” Imagine how powerful it would be to have that insight and how rewarding it would be for employees to know you want to invest in their full life success. This new question also opens a discussion about  transferable skills and on the job learning. It may be hard for your finance manager to get exposure to online consumer behavior at work but easy to tap into through her gig job. It also opens up on the job learning to include volunteer jobs as well as our day job.

Deliverables vs. Door Signs: What if I had answered, “You know the first thing that popped into my mind is I want to be a great mom- which makes me really proud. I also want to continue to grow my career here and am particularly excited about integrating innovation and engagement in our HR practice.” It still doesn’t answer what I want the door sign on my office to read, but it tells you what deliverables excite me, which frankly is a lot more valuable. In our VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) we talk about needing change agility and adaptability but focus development on climbing an org chart. We know that 85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet – which makes “the ability to gain new knowledge more valuable than the knowledge itself.” Identifying experiences that expand learning agility, organizational relationships, and problem solving skills provides both a richer and more realistic approach to employee development.

Passion vs. Plans: “Every day the spirits of millions of people die at the front door of their workplace.” This is the opening sentence of the Workforce article “Focus on Employee Passion Not Employee Engagement.” The article goes on to say that according to a recent survey from Deloitte, only 20 percent of people say they are truly passionate about their work. Their research found that passion is impacted by 12 organizational factors, job factors, and relationship factors. Instead of asking our employees to write up a development plan, what if we started by asking them to assess how well we are stoking their passion? Through a discussion about topics such as perceived autonomy, goal clarity, and connectedness with their leader we can get to the heart of what is impacting their passion and work together to refuel it. If I had been brave enough to share my true aspiration, and the leader had said he would love to hear more about my kids and my ideas about connecting engagement and innovation, it would have been a home run conversation.

Development planning is, and must be, a business exercise. Understanding the skills we need in the future and helping our team develop them is critical. Most development planning practices successfully outline what steps are needed. Unfortunately, most of those same plans are out of step with what employees want for their development. Asking questions like, “Here are the top organizational priorities. I am interested in knowing how you want to help us deliver them,” creates insights, excitement, and a sense of belonging. Let’s shift IDPs to focus on integrating deliverables and passions in our personal and professional lives. This will make them more valuable – and actionable- for our organizations and our employees.

 

 

 

 

Real Leaders Focus on Learning and Listening

 

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Our current approach to training managers isn’t working. That is not a newsflash but some of the statistics in a recent study on corporate training are stark. 33% of employees who attended corporate trainings say that uninspiring content is the biggest barrier to learning.  Only 38% of managers believe that their learning programs meet the needs of the learner. Worse yet, only 12% of learners implement what they learn from training on the jobs. I am passionate about leadership development and an advocate for creative thinking about how we can do it more effectively. I also think we need to think outside the training box. If we believe that 70% of development happens on the job as the 70/20/10 suggests, then managers should develop 70% of their leadership development through everyday interactions. Pairing practical conversation tools with basic training on hiring, development, and corrective action can greatly improve leaders’ development…and their results.

Hiring: Interview and Engage. There are some important fundamentals about interviewing that it is important for leaders to know- legal requirements, your particular T/A process, and the ins and outs of an interview guide. But the game changer is engaging the interviewee. Help your managers focus on creating rapport with small talk, listen and linger on tidbits they pick up during the interview process, and talk about why this role and your company would be a great fit for the candidate. The mechanics of interviewing matter, but in today’s competitive labor market, conversations that build genuine connection will close the deal.

Development: Make planning personal. Most of us have some kind of talent review/succession planning process. Training leaders on the rating system, the process and preparation, and the company norms about sharing results are key. But what will actually move the dial on building our bench is open dialogue. If managers ask their high potentials questions like, “In this calendar year what contribution do you want to be known for making?” “What kind of leader do you want to be? How does your role today help or hinder your ability to achieve that?” “Five years from now what does an amazing career look like for you? A mediocre one?” This kind of dialogue will open rich doors and help move development planning from a check the box exercise to a plan truly designed around the individual.

Corrective Action: Process and people both matter. Few people relish writing someone up. Giving difficult feedback is – well difficult. We need leaders to understand the process, the paperwork, and our policies. But most importantly we need leaders to understand their people. Corrective action is the perfect time for real talk. Managers who say things like, “Neither of us wants to have this discussion, but it’s important that we talk through this issue.” or “This was a lot to take in. Let’s meet again tomorrow to be sure you are clear on next steps.” make this process more positive and personal. Arming managers with real talk tips can greatly improve the efficacy of the discussion and ensure we respect people throughout the process.

Training is important, but if we allow our managers to practice having conversations and encouraging them to focus on both training and talking, I am 100% confident we can improve our results and our manager’s leadership skills.

 

Spring Your Goals Forward

 

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Looking outside my Minnesota window today, it does not look like spring has arrived. Yet here we are- snow and all. We are officially a quarter into 2019. So how can we spring into action and make sure our annual goals stay on track? There are a number of good tips and lessons from spring that can help our goals blossom.

Many a genius has been slow of growth. Oaks that flourish for a thousand years do not spring up into beauty like a reed. George Henry Lewes
Big things take time. Sometimes our goals will take time to mature. The key is making sure we give it the time and nourishment required to flower. We are working on cultural transformation at my organization. It won’t be fast, and if we do it right, it won’t always be flashy. But over time, people should see it growing and see how the branches of this initiative are connected, as well as the benefits it can provide them. We want to be sure we grow deep roots so we are taking time to be thoughtful and intentional every step of the way.

Spring: a lovely reminder of how beautiful change can truly be. Unknown
Almost all of our goals involve creating some kind of change. Usually when we start  working on a change initiative our first instincts are often to think about how we manage the change: analyzing the cost, mitigating risks, and creating lots of project plans. But do we ever ask ourselves what will be more beautiful after this change? How can we help people see a sunny future? What will they need to bloom? We are also working on redesigning our customer service model. Our goals for this project will be  SMART, and our work will have milestones and measures. But success will be increasing both our customer and employee engagement by being thoughtful about how each will flourish in the future model.

All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today. Unknown

Sometimes the hardest thing about a goal is just getting started. How in the world can we ____? Who has time to ___? But more often than not, we have the elements we need to succeed right in front of us, we just need to spend some time both fertilizing and weeding. The most powerful thing we can do when goal planning is to pause. Step back and be on the work, not in the work. What are we trying to solve? What will success look like? Why does this matter? If we can answer these questions, then we want to dig in and nourish them. We also want to look at weeding. What do we need to stop doing? Do differently? Do later? We need to create space for this new goal to grow, so we will have to be sure other less important but perhaps more embedded things don’t crowd our goal out. We are also looking at our team structure, our team focus, and our team’s priorities. We are planting some new ideas and weeding some old practices out. Not every one of them may grow, but we know that we are excited to watch these new ideas bloom.

In the spring we spring the clock forward – and often wake up surprised that the year is already a quarter over. But spring also is the season of new beginnings and the perfect time for new ideas and goals to blossom. So take heart and take some lessons from Mother Nature to help you keep your goals growing.

Are We In Tune with the Employee Experience?

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What are your first thoughts when you see this picture? Grandma’s living room? Nice antique? What the heck is that? Those are the same reactions some of our candidates and employees have when they see some of our talent practices. Many companies have designed systems and structures that worked years ago- but lack the flexibility and personalization employees are expecting today.  Our current groove may be familiar but are we hearing its effectiveness?  Let’s relook and listen to our recruiting, orientation, and development approaches and create a new employee experience.

High Fidelity Recruiting. Music lovers look for high fidelity- quality reproduction of sound with little distortion. Candidates are also looking for high fidelity – an actual candidate experience that sounds/feels like the quality of the company brand. As a recent job seeker, I can attest that there are a lot of opportunities in this first employee experience point.  No one ATS system is perfect- but many are a candidate’s pain point.  What information do you really need about someone up front? What can a candidate populate in 5-7 minutes? Banks advertise that you can be pre-approved for a loan in that amount of time- so why can’t candidates be approved by us?  I’m not sure which is worse- distortion or silence. There are number of roles I applied for where I never received any communication about my application. Conversely, there were opportunities where I was not the right candidate, but I was able to help refer some folks to them. It’s all in the experience- and the quality of that experience will definitely be played back and projected to others.

Drop the Needle Orientation. I remember having records and a record player. I remember being careful to get the needle in the groove just so, so I didn’t scratch the album. One of the main downsides to records was that you couldn’t easily replay a song and it was nearly impossible to re-listen to one part of a song. Let’s equate that to most companies’ approach to orientation. A room of fresh, eager faces arrive on their first day, excited to get in their groove and to listen to the key parts of the “record” that are important to them. But most orientation programs are designed to rotate through all the tracks, with only pre-programmed pauses, and at one RPM. Imagine instead walking into a session that revolved around you. “We are so glad you are hear. Here is how your role connects to our mission and purpose. Here are all the things we have information on today. Self rotate to the different topics at your own speed to cover what you want, when you want.” This could be facilitated with technology and by shortening the generic group orientation and having the manager/peer/mentor spend more time with individual employees. Moving to a more employee-centric approach would help move the needle on effective orientations.

Sound system development.  Personalizing development is a hot topic. It is one of  Deloitte’s top HR trends from 2018 and challenges us to move from a career focus to an experience focus. Many employers think about careers the way that record companies thought about music. We have a prepackaged record for you with a set number of tracks  that play sequentially. But today’s employee lives in an Itunes world where he/she can select just the tracks they like and can build their own soundtrack.  It makes sound business sense for us to move away from static tracks and to identify the critical dynamic skills and experiences that employees will need to be successful. We should then build development systems around helping employees see and select the experiences that align to their interests and aspirations.

Today’s employees want to know that they matter. They look for purpose in their work and personalization in their employee experience. Vinyl may be back in vogue, but a turntable approach to employee processes is way out of date. If we want to build the workforce of the future, then let’s rebuild our recruiting, orientation, and development practices to align with our brand and employees expectations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

With Thanks

 

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Forrest Gump said “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.” I agree and as a chocolate lover would add that chocolate – and life – is best when it is surprising, shared, and savored.

Surprises come in all shapes and sizes. Boy was I surprised when the Abra/Caliber merger was announced. That was not a sweet treat.- It was more like biting into a gooey coconut center – unexpected and unwanted. But so was the G&K acquisition, and that brought me so many good friends, experiences, and ultimately brought me to Abra. So instead of despairing the goo, get curious. I had the chance to learn about a new organization and be part of the org design and culture work as part of the integration. I got to meet some great leaders at the the new organization and am getting to watch many talented people move on with “new co.” Sometimes there is more inside than first meets the eye.

Happiness is not so much in having as sharing. We make a living by what we get but we make a life by what we give. – Norman Macewan.  I tell everyone the Twin Cities is the best HR community anywhere. Full stop. People here are so generous, sharing their time, their network, and their ideas to help when you are in transition. I am do deeply grateful to the many people who have met with me and supported me over my career, especially through my two recent layoffs. I am also so lucky to have developed some treasured friendships through these networking meetings. As I have been applying for roles I have been swapping and sharing roles with peers in similar roles looking for similar opportunities. There is always enough to go around and it’s sweeter when we share.

Savor the journey. I just read this Blog by Susan Wright about chocolate as a metaphor for life. She poses the powerful question “When was the last time you actually savored the moment, relished in it, and/or accepted the moment as is?” The honest answer for me is rarely. I always have good intentions and always have a long list of to-dos and too often that to do list wins out. But this time I have been conscious of trying to be present and patient and giving myself permission to get back on track. The last time I was laid off the journey had a lot of twists and turns – and some fantastic family time over the summer. This time I am so fortunate that a great opportunity has come up right away, and I have a new destination on my path. So now my goal is to savor being new and staying curious about learning a new organization.

“Make a list of important things to do today. At the top of your list put “eat chocolate.” Now, you’ll get at least one thing done today” – Gina Hayes. I’d suggest that while you indulge in your sweet treat take a moment to be open to potential surprises, to new friends to share with, and to savor each day.  You won’t regret it.

 

 

The Problem With Our Problem Solving

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We spend a lot of time at work in meetings solving problems. Our team meetings often allot 15 -20 minutes to discuss the problem, brainstorm up solutions, and agree on a delivery date. We march back to our desks and jump into execution mode.  What if we turned our problem solving approach on its head- and even more importantly on its heart? Human Centered Design doesn’t start with time or an agenda. It starts with identifying who are we solving this problem for. IDEO is one of the most famous human centered design organizations, and their Human Centered Design approach has three phases: an Inspiration Phase to understand needs, an Ideation Phase to distill what you learned, then an Implementation Phase bringing the solution to life.

Be inspired by the problem. Our traditional problem solving spends the least amount of time here – but if we jump right to a solution how do we know it solves anything? Right now I am working on the problem of transition for many of our central services leaders during our merger. I have experience (unfortunately!) in this situation from my past, so an easy and efficient solution would be to cut and paste my last approach to my current company. The next stretch I could take is to consult with my HR peers – internal, external, best practice – and identify tools to apply.  A human centered design approach means actually observing and interviewing our managers to find out what they want. We have attended staff meetings, met with leaders one on one, and made notes as we walk around our building to identify what we need to solve for first. Our initial list of problems includes lack of communication to and from managers, uncertainty on how to retain employees, and a desire for clear process.

How Might We Ideate? When we follow a human centered design process, we have to stay in a learning and curiosity mode.  For many of us suspending our inner knower is a challenge, and even if we patiently moved through inspiration, our solution engine is revved.  It is easy to take what we heard to validate what we know how to do or want to do. But this stage is about still understanding the problem, not landing on a solution.  The phrase “How might we..” is a helpful way to keep the funnel open. We asked the question “How might we address the lack of communication?” Part of the exercise is putting some crazy ideas on there.  We could have a communication contest. We could ask the new CEO to call all managers. We could post all the answers we have in the cafeteria. One of our how might we’s lead us to informal coffee sessions with leaders and our HR team to have a safe forum to ask questions, confirm answers, and practice/discuss how to communicate to employees.  It is also key in this stage to prototype and test. Try something and validate if it is or is not a solution. We were sure having one of our senior leaders speak at an all employee meeting would be viewed positively.  It wasn’t. But it was a good takeaway on how the leader prepped and what people infer.

Implement a Success. Now that we have observed and interviewed, ideated and tested, we are finally ready to implement. Keeping our focus on the needs of the end user throughout the process should give us high confidence that the solution is actually what people need. Check out this link for a great video that summarizes the IDEO process and a real solution you’ve likely seen in your day to day life. In our case we implemented several different communication approaches to try and address as many of the gaps as possible. The key theme- make it informal, two way, and authentic.

There is a real problem with the way we solve problems today at work. HR has the opportunity to be leaders in the area of human centered design. Teaching and bringing this approach to both our functional projects and our business challenges has the opportunity to uncover all kinds of cool new ideas and solutions. So break free from your meeting mindset and focus on inspiration, ideation, and implementation to create something amazing.

 

Set a New Year Revolution vs Resolution

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At the start of the year many of us set our new year’s resolutions. According to the  article, Ten Interesting Facts New Year’s Resolutions, the most common resolution made is to exercise more (almost 40%!)  Unfortunately, about 22% of resolutions fail after about a week, 40% after a month, and 50% after 3 months. So why do we get back on the same hamster wheel year after year? Perhaps it’s time for a new cycle- a revolution vs a resolution. The word revolution has several definitions: (1) the action of going round in an orbit (2) the completion of a course (3) a sudden, radical, or complete change. Send 2019 into a new orbit with your own revolution.

Get wrapped around the axle. A common challenge with resolutions is that we don’t stop with just “exercise more.” We decide our real goal should be exercise more, be faster, get stronger, look better, and wear cuter exercise clothes. Sometimes the power of simplicity can power a goal to the end line. Pick one thing you want to improve on. Keep narrowing in on that idea until it is finite, measurable, and doable. Refine your “exercise more” goal to “I want to ride my bike 3 times a week for 45 minutes.” Now make that your thing.  Schedule around it. Post about it. Track the # of times you ride and for how long. No need to add miles or speed… just focus on the goal. Maybe your thing is to read one leadership book a month. Great! Same steps apply… and so can great results.

Complete a course. You may decide your course is a spin class or maybe it’s an online certificate. In either case building your goal around something with a clear beginning, middle, and end can be helpful.  A lack of timeline in the “exercise more” resolution is part of its downfall. How much is more? For how long? When have I achieved that goal? A key word here is complete. It’s ok to take six months to complete six online sessions. It’s also ok to knock through the same sessions in six weeks. The only right answer is what is right and realistic for you so that you can see it to completion. Then mark that completion with a celebration. Reward yourself for your hard work once you break through that ribbon at the end.

Change your perspective. Another definition of revolution is a fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something. This may be the way you think about exercise (Who would spin? Why would I get up that early? I just can’t do it), or the way you think about leadership (Who would believe that? Why would people follow her? I just don’t get why they don’t get it). Changing our paradigm is critical to achieving our goal. Franklin Covey has some fantastic resources on paradigm shifts. I love the quote they shared from Thomas Kuhn.  “All the significant breakthroughs were break-withs old ways on thinking.”  Challenging assumptions, listening and talking to people with different perspectives, and jumping in and trying something new are all steps we need to take to create our revolution.

In 2018 I set a goal to ride or run 2018 miles. I achieved that in December. I focused on my revolution. I completed all the class challenges at #addiction cycle, my spin studio. I got over myself and got up and did it. So what will be your 2019 revolution? Whatever it is, if you make it your central focus, commit to completing it, and are open for a change, you can meet whatever goal you set.

Change, Priorities, and Possibility Walk Into a Bar…

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But in this scenario there is no punch line, there is just a punch to the gut. You see, for the last year and a half I have worked for an unbelievable leader, done meaningful work, and been part of a supportive and flexible team. Then last week it was announced we are merging with one of our competitors and our headquarters is moving to Texas. The good news is I have been in this scenario/bar before – the bad news is I hadn’t planned on returning, and definitely not so soon. So as I look to the new year, I will be raising my glass to change, priorities, and possibilities and making the most of this cocktail.

Managing Change.  You can’t actually manage change- you can only manage how you show up in it. I had the opportunity in my last acquisition to create a leadership blog and training series on Leading Through Transition. I am grateful I can dust that off and share it with Abra leaders.  I am excited to be part of our integration team and to learn some new skills through this merger. I am appreciative that I have time to figure out what’s next for me. I don’t believe things happen for a reason but I do believe you can be the reason opportunities happen when the unexpected comes your way.

Prioritize Priorities. I had already been toying with making “Important” my word for 2019. What is really important to me? Is that where I am spending my time? Did I treat each day and each person with importance? I love the 7F Wheel by Paul Batz and the Good Leadership team, and rely on my family, friends, and fitness to make my wheel- and life- roll. This change may cause a bump to my finances and my future, but if I have faith, have fun, and have my family, friends, and fitness I know I will be ok. As Stephen Covey wisely said, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”

Invite Possibility.  It has only been 7 days since the merger was announced. There are many possible possibilities ahead. As a planner – and let’s face it, control freak- I like to know the options so I can start building around them. I rationally know the short term will be ambiguous, so am choosing to focus on the long term. What do I want to do 5 to 10 years from now? What can I be doing today to start that journey? Who can I connect to and learn from?  The new year is always a good time to invite possibility and to imagine what else can be ahead.

My husband and I love wine and love touring vineyards. I really like this quote by wine maker Allen Sichel: “Wine is a living thing. It is made, not only of grapes and yeasts, but of skill and patience. When drinking it, remember that to the making of that wine has gone, not only the labor and care of years, but the experience of centuries.” Magic happens when you can combine skill, patience, and care. So here is a toast to change and to resetting priorities and reimagining possibilities in the new year.

 

Give the Gift of Leadership

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The holiday season is upon us. Diwali has ended. Hanukkah starts Sunday. Christmas and Kwanzaa are around the corner. People are already in full swing on their holiday shopping. Black Friday deals are everywhere, and we set a spending record of $7.9 billion on Cyber Monday. But your mom always said, the best gifts are free. You don’t need a gold card, or gold, frankincense or myrrh to be wise this season. Wise leaders will be giving their presence, their time, and their appreciation.

The present of presence. All of us multitask, yet according to a Forbes article, 98% of us are not good at it, and multitasking actually decreases productivity by 40%.The truth is we cannot be present if we are not fully engaged with those around us. Were you listening when your employee said they had to leave early to check on their mom? Did you ask why? Did you ask how you could help? Did you ask the next day how she is? When we are truly present with others we hear and feel what is important to them and show them that they are important to us. To give the gift of presence, you will have to give up some of your screen time for real life connection time. Gift giving tips: (1) Shut off email and phones during meetings and one on ones and give your team your full attention. (2) Arrive 5 minutes early to meetings, and check in with people vs. checking your email. (3) Block daily or weekly time on your calendar to connect with your team in their space. Don’t bring your laptop- focus on asking, observing, and learning.

The gift of time. We tend to measure our time at work by the number of meetings, emails, and tasks we checked off our list each day.  These are often urgent, but not important distractions that fill our time but are not fulfilling. What if instead we measured our time at work by the number of people we coached, the new ideas we learned, and the recognition we gave?  Our teams regularly tell us in engagement surveys they want more information, more recognition, and more development. So, let’s give them what they want – your time and insights. Gift giving tips: To give the gift of time you will have to give up on getting to the bottom of your inbox. Don’t worry, it’s an impossible quest. Instead work on putting these 3 tips into practice: (1) Save time by setting team norms around emails. This is a great list of ideas to start with. (2) Block your lunch hour every day. Yup- everyday. Take different people on your team out to lunch and/or connect with peers at an electronic free meal. (3) Use team meeting time to inform and engage. Select a few key topics to cover and use 80% of the meeting for brainstorming, sharing best practices, and problem solving.

Packaging appreciation. As you write out your holiday cards ask yourself, when is the last time I gave a team member a thank you card? Small, regular signs of appreciation have the biggest impact on engagement and loyalty.  A sticky note that says “Your presentation was awesome and so are you. Thanks for making a difference on our team.” will stay up in someone’s cube for months and takes seconds to write. One of my favorite managers gave me a subscription to a scrapbooking magazine because she knew it was one of my hobbies. It probably cost her $20 and 15 years later I still appreciate her thoughtfulness. Gift giving tips: (1) Add recognition as a 5 minute agenda item to your team meetings. Encourage people to thank each other. (2) Buy a pack of blank cards and keep them on your desk. Commit to writing out at least one card a week. (3) Ask your team what kind of recognition is valuable to them – we all like to be recognized differently, so customize your gift.

Make this season merry and bright by giving your team the gift of your leadership. The investment you make in being present, giving time, and showing appreciation will come back multifold. The best part of giving the gift of leadership is you can give it every day, and it never goes out of style. So, give it, celebrate it, and enjoy it all year long.