Renew, Reboot, and Recommit

Celebrate-Rosh-Hashanah-2015-Jewish-New-Year.jpgThis Sunday was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. It is a time to discover a new sense of possibility, a new belief in the gifts we have to share, and a new commitment to our dreams. When we think of Rosh Hashanah we focus on the religious traditions and personal interpretation of this holiday. However, I believe there are important leadership lessons tied to Rosh Hashanah we all can benefit from. I’d like to invite you to take a moment to renew, reboot, and recommit to a good new year.

Renewal. The days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are called the Days of Awe. Many people believe that during these ten days, your fate for the next year is decided. That decision is based in part on your repentance during these ten days. This is your chance to right your wrongs, to repay your debts, and to make apologies so that you will be looked upon favorably. Imagine if we applied something similar in our workplaces. What if instead of an annual performance review we had an annual renewal process? Imagine if at your organization you set aside ten days and asked all employees to connect with their key partners to mend relationships. What if as a leader you took this opportunity to share with your team your personal lessons from the last year and to apologize for your mistakes? Think what your results might be if you invited everyone to renew their commitment to their team and to their work.

Reboot. Another Rosh Hashanah tradition is Tashlikh, where people toss bread crumbs into the water to metaphorically cast off behaviors or sins from the past, thus beginning the new year with a clean slate. This practice gives people the chance to reflect, to be introspective, and to let go of the things that are holding them back. What if we implemented reboots between projects at work? Today we hold project post morts to discuss what went well, what did not, and our lessons learned. Imagine asking those questions about our personal actions: What did I do well, what should I cast off, and how can I clean my slate for the next initiative?  Allowing time at work for reflection and introspection gives people the chance to cast off what’s holding them back and to accelerate future results.

Recommit. Tzedaka is part of the new year celebration and is translated as charity. But the deeper definition of this word means what kind of person do you want to be. We all know leaders that model behaviors that we want to emulate- or avoid at all costs. Think about the critical priorities for your business and your team right now. How do they need you to show up? What kinds of skills or behaviors are critical for you to meet your goals? Then think about building a plan around these ideas. What if we moved from IDPs to I will bes?  Make 2-3 simple, measurable “I will be” statements and post them publicly. Ask your team and co-workers to hold you accountable to these standards. Ask for their feedback on how you can move closer to these ideals.  Then at the end of the year ask for feedback on how you did and recommit to what you will do to continue to move forward.

Taking time to reflect on results and behaviors is an important practice. Building routines that give us a chance to pause and work on our relationships and behaviors is essential if we want to have a good year at work or at home. This month take a moment to renew, reboot, and recommit. It can help you set yourself up for a happy- and productive- new year.

Tri to Manage Stress

Triathon

I was attending this month’s Good Leadership Breakfast  and bumped into Lorrie Anderson – who took me to my first GLB meeting last year. She introduced me to her mentee, and commented to him, “This is the person I told you about. The one with the great fitness story about goals and stress.” So here’s my story… which is a story we all know well. Have you ever been asked to do a project that had big visibility, little clarity, and no executive sponsorship? This blog could be about all the reasons not to proceed with the project, but as we all know, sometimes that is not an option. This particular project was to develop a communications strategy for a global reorganization. Cool opportunity until I realized I was being ask to drive engagement and excitement on a project that had little traction or political support. The project was really getting to me, so finally I said to my coworker, I need to do something to manage my stress. So I’m going to sign up for a triathlon. I was a moderate runner, an occasional biker, and a basic swimmer. So what drove me to try a tri to manage stress? To get control of my sphere of control, to embrace risk, and to get comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Controlling my sphere of control. Your sphere of control has three distinct parts.  Think of it as three concentric circles. The center circle is the things you can control. That circle is surrounded by the things you can influence. That circle is surrounded by the things outside of your control or influence. I was drowning in that last, largest circle, obsessing about all the things I couldn’t control or influence and worried that both this project and I were going to sink. I desperately needed a new perspective, so I thought, I don’t know how I will accomplish this project, and I don’t know how I will accomplish a triathlon. But I do know that I can control my training. Removing your focus from what you can’t control is a critical first step in managing stress. Planning a triathlon moved me into my sphere of control. I started researching training plans. I mapped out a practice schedule. I got feedback from others who had done triathlons to get their advice. And by re-channeling all that anxious energy into productive energy, I was more patient with myself and the project. I found items in the sphere of influence for my work project and got some wins once I focused on my sphere of control.

Embracing risk. “If no one ever took risks, Michaelangelo would have painted the Sistine floor.” – Neil Simon. I love this quote and started to use it as a mirror for myself. I wanted to grow in my career, and I wanted a new challenge. Now that I had one, it was time for me to step off the steps of safety and get a new perspective. In a Forbes article on why risk is the key to innovation, they list some of the steps I took in my journey. I figured if I was going to do it, I was going to make it public to drive my accountability and creativity. Once I got the idea about doing a triathlon, I told a few friends. Then a few more. Then I posted about it on Facebook. Now people were watching, so now I was on the hook – I had to do this race. It also meant those friends were engaged with me- encouraging me, offering advice and supporting me. One of my stressors about my work project was I felt the weight was solely on my shoulders. Once I realized this project was not all about me, and that I had a great team around me, I started to get some momentum. Going to coworkers and admitting you are stuck and asking for their input is a great way to build awareness and shared ownership for a big initiative. It’s also a great way to get more insights and ideas than you could ever generate alone.

Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. As I worked on this project, I realized my stress was tied to my fear of the unknown. What if the executives rejected this project? What if they didn’t? What might change once a decision on the reorganization was made? I was grasping on to the things that were comfortable and looking at how I thought things should be. Training for the triathlon helped me focus on the adventure. I hated (still do!) lake swimming- but I was going to have to get comfortable doing it. I was going to have to prepare that I would finish -and have a plan in case I didn’t. There were a lot of uncomfortable parts of my work project. So how did I push forward? One way to manage my stress was to look at what we could gain instead of what we could lose through this reorganization. Instead of shying away from  the worst case scenario, I looked right at it, and came up with various options – for the project and for me. Suddenly this project was less scary, and I was more confident.

I completed the YWCA Triathlon 5 years ago.  I went way off course in the swimming and lost a lot of time. I was pooped after the bike so had to rest before the run. But I finished, and I loved it. Now I set a fitness goal every year, to help me manage my stress and to push my comfort zone. Try something that pushes you. For me, I decided to try a tri to manage stress and was able to get control of my sphere of control, to embrace risk, and to get comfortable with the uncomfortable.

 

Who is Accountable for Accountability?

Accountability quote

We spend a lot of time in business talking about accountability.  Often the focus is other focused- how do we increase the team’s accountability? Why can’t that poor performer be more accountable? When will that partner/vendor improve their accountability? But instead of looking at the finger pointed at others, let’s think about the 3 fingers pointing back at us. As leaders, we are accountable for accountability. We do that by  modeling accountability, inviting accountability, and by expecting accountability.  Focusing on the actions and behaviors we need to do can move us from talking about accountability to creating it.

 Modeling accountability. The first step in accountability is for you as the leader to model it.  That begins with setting clear expectations. This starts with actually setting expectations. Does your team have clear objectives for each quarter? Where are they posted?  Have you shared your specific objectives for the quarter with the team? And your progress against them?  Research from Kaplan and Norton found that only 5% of the work force understand their organizational strategy. Not surprising given that their research also found 85% of executive teams spend less than one hour/ month discussing strategy.  Visual management is a simple and effective way to model accountability. Create a visual management board for your team- either a real board on a wall or a virtual one where you post the organizational goals, your leader’s goals, and your goals, and your teams’ specific objectives for this quarter. Start by focusing on your goals, and add a red, yellow, green box to show what progress you have made toward each of those goals. Update it weekly. Most importantly, be honest. It’s okay if you don’t have everything green- what you want to model is being transparent about results, openly discussing road blocks and challenges, and how to get back on track.  If you want others to be accountable, then they need to see that you are accountable – so make your accountability evident and open.

Inviting accountability. Think about what the end of the quarter looks like in your company. Do you/your leaders act like this quarter is the most important quarter in the history of the company- every quarter? Here is a list of the most common quarter end activities: Calling your team and reading them the sales results – even though they have the same report(s) you do.  Telling them you expect them to close the gap and then some, no excuses. Knowing their budget was unreasonable but driving them into the ground to meet it anyway. News flash: this does not create accountability, but it is a great breeding ground for resentment and disengagement. The word invite is intentional – you can’t force accountability and sustain great results. When people don’t buy into a plan and things head south, they jump off the race track and into the spectator seats. What you want to cultivate is a team who stays on the track and shifts into problem solving mode when they hit a speed bump. Inviting accountability forges a new road to results. Ask your team to create a quarterly plan that maps out what they will do to reach their key goals. Review them on a regular basis throughout the quarter. Shift the conversation by shifting your focus from the results (# new customers, satisfaction rating) to the inputs that drive those results. Ask questions about what’s working, what’s not working, and offer some coaching on what else they can do. End the session by asking them what specifically they will do before your next check in. And then at the next check in follow up to see what they’ve done. If people create a plan themselves, they are much more likely to be accountable to it. And you may just be surprised with the ideas they come up with.

Expecting Accountability. So let’s imagine that you have shared your goals and results with the team. You have created regular meetings to assess their progress toward their goals. And you see they are really trying. But one employee, Jim, is not consistently following through. He sort of works on his plan. He hits one or two of their goals. But he is more of a coaster than a go-getter. How you handle this will either cement or crack  your team’s commitment to accountability.  Accountability means everyone, for everything, all the time. Or it is meaningless.  Speak to Jim in clear terms about his performance, and the gap in his delivery.  Start with the facts: he committed on X date to Y deliverable, and to date you haven’t seen the results. Follow up with the impact: Because he has not completed Y, let him know the specific impact on his peers/customers/vendors. Then set the consequence. If Y is not done by Z date, he will be taken off the project. Given an unsatisfactory rating. Written up. Ask him to go back and update his plan with a new approach to hit the new date. End by asking what help he needs from you or others. Confirm his understanding and re-invite his commitment. If he doesn’t want to get on the bus, then work within a plan to get off it.  The team already knows Jim is not carrying his weight- and if you don’t do anything to address it, you risk losing both their accountability and their respect.

Being a leader means both enabling and expecting accountability. As the leader you assume accountability for the teams’ results. What you don’t want to do is assume that the team understands what it means to be accountable. Steven Covey says accountability breeds response-ability. You can drive accountability in your team and enhance their response-ability by modeling, inviting, and expecting accountability.

 

 

Excellent Integrations Start with EI

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Most of us have had the experience of working on some kind of integration – a system integration, a process integration, or a business integration. Usually we are focused on our intelligence pieces – our project plans, our schedule, and our time/cost savings. As a result, we often miss the emotional piece at the heart of this endeavor – the questions, concerns, and experiences of the team receiving our “intelligence.”  A recent Price Waterhouse survey found that gaining people’s confidence and commitment during acquisitions are the biggest challenge to successful integration. Yet only 45% of respondents said they were “completely committed” to integrating staff during the acquisition process. Improving our self awareness, managing emotions, and having empathy are the missing pieces to most integrations- and are needed to complete a project successfully.

Improving Self Awareness. In the Harvard Business Journal article, What Self Awareness Really Is (and How to Cultivate It), self awareness is like a two way mirror: it’s what you see and reflect internally and externally. Self awareness, not surprisingly, starts with self. It is understanding our values, motives, and behaviors, and how they impact others. It also means understanding how others view us.  Before charging in with your “intelligence,” stop and do some self reflection. Add the following to your project plan: How can my strengths help the team during integration? How could my development area impact the team? How am I viewed? How might that impact the project? Taking time to ask – and honestly answer- these question can have a huge impact to your integration.

Managing Emotions. Quick word association: What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say Bobby Knight? Guessing chair thrower, yeller, maybe basketball came to mind. Winningest coach of all time (at the time of his retirement -902 NCAA Division I games) sadly is not usually our first association with Coach Knight. We all have emotions, and they are important to acknowledge. Managing emotions isn’t stuffing our emotions. It is creating a space between stimulus and response. We want Bobby Knight to be passionate. We just want him to keep four on the floor. We all have things that trigger us- that elicit a deep emotional reaction in us. The trick is not immediately responding to that stimulus. During an integration there may be a sense that the new team is resistant. That you are behind schedule. That the process/system changed, but you don’t see the expected improvement. Instead of charging forward, pause and practice mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” Mindfulness allows you to recognize what you are feeling – mad, frustrated, upset – which creates the space for you to take a deep breath and reset your approach. Add the following to your project plan: What emotions might I experience during this integration? How would I like to handle them? What will it take for me to do that? Creating awareness of your triggers before the heat of the moment can keep the integration from going up in flames.

Having empathy. Empathy is not sympathy. Empathy is understanding another person’s thoughts, feelings, and condition from their point of view, rather than from your own. So try it. If you were on the other side of the integration, what would you be thinking, feeling, and/or worried about? What might help you move forward? The word might is important — empathy is not based on the golden rule but rather the platinum rule: treat others as they would like to be treated.  How will you know what they want? Ask and listen. Ask the team what is important to team. What is on their mind? How can you be most helpful? You don’t need to agree with what the other person says — this is not about you, it’s about understanding them. Next listen to their verbal and non-verbal cues during the project and adjust your approach. Add the following to your project plan: How can I find out what this team wants and needs? Add a listening session to the project up front, and check-ins along the way, to be sure you continue to look at progress through their eyes, not just your checklist.

Integrations tend to be a GSD exercise. Successful integrations shift their perspective from Getting Shit Done to Solving Goals Together. Adding emotional intelligence to your integration puzzle will improve both your project and people results- and keep those pieces together.

Laughter Should Be Your Engagement Survey

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Think about the time and effort you currently put into your engagement survey. The hours reviewing questions, creating distribution lists, developing communications, executing the survey, and of course, action planning. What if I told you that listening for laughter in the workplace is an easier and more authentic way to get the pulse of your organization? Best selling author Dan Schawbel says engagement can be boiled down to four measures: happiness, purpose, belonging and trust. Laughter is a great way to measure each of these elements. So let’s engage in laughter.  

Happiness and Purpose. Wharton Professor and co author of Option B, Adam Grant, has a Ted Talk called Faking Your Emotions at Work. We all know we have to manage our emotions at work – keeping our cool under pressure, or smiling politely in meetings while that marketing guy drones on and on. But if we do this all day, it can be draining. Grant say, “It seems like the easiest way to cope is to tell yourself, ‘Well, this is just my job. I’ll pretend to be this person in this role when I’m at work.’ That’s called surface acting. It’s wearing a mask that you take off at the end of the day. It feels like the simple way to distance yourself from the role. But it creates a sense of being inauthentic, which can take a real toll.” Instead Grant challenges us to take the opposite approach. Tap into your emotions and ask yourself,  How can I make my work more meaningful? How do I find a sense of purpose in my job? Instead of being disconnected, be objective about your role and contributions. What do you love? What are you passionate about? Take off that mask and make real connections with your team.  When we play together, we stay together — and feel stronger connections. When people have tapped into their happiness and purpose you will see increased energy, creativity, and commitment—and laughter.

Belonging. Social science researcher Brené Brown defines belonging as “the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us.” She also says we know we truly belong “when we can present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world.” In Gallup’s article How to Bring Out the Best in Your People and Your Company, author Jake Herway states, “an organization full of employees who believe they belong is an organization full of employees who feel purposeful, inspired and alive — in other words, engaged. And these engaged employees are more productive and better performers.” When teams can joke about shared experience or problems they have created a social connection. So rather than asking in a survey “do you have a best friend at work?”, listen for laughter to gauge belonging.

Trust. In the Speed of Trust, Stephen Covey states that trust is rooted in credibility.  We earn credibility when we can laugh at ourselves. Trust also requires us to be self aware. Understanding how your actions are either trust builders or trust busters is a critical leadership trait. The stories you tell and the jokes you laugh at are barometers on whether you trust others, trust yourself, and/or are worthy of trust. Trusting environments invite us to be vulnerable, and when we feel comfortable, we are comfortable taking risks. When people laugh, they are in a relaxed state. They are open to new ideas because they feel safe. When we share laughter, we trust each other. And laughter deepens our trust.  As employee engagement expert David Zinger says, the shortest distance between two people is often a good laugh.  So listen for the speed of laughter to gauge your organization’s speed of trust.

Researchers found that by the time the average kid reaches kindergarten, he or she is laughing some 300 times each day. Compare that to the typical adult, who laughs 17 times a day.  Perhaps now that we’re all grown up we think we are way too busy to have fun. But studies show laughter allows our minds to juggle and connect concepts in a way that rigid concentration does not. We talk a lot about employee engagement, but really there is nothing fun in most engagement surveys. Laughter is a great pulse check for happiness, purpose, belonging and trust. So think about how you can engage in laughter in your workplace.

Spring Clean Your Mind

Spring cleaning

April usually brings thoughts of spring and renewal. Many of us have a ritual of spring cleaning – donating clothes the kids have outgrown and admitting we don’t need 6.5 pairs of scissors in one drawer. Spring is also a great time to bring a renewal mindset to our work. In the article Three Easy Ways to Spring Clean Your Work Life author Zameena Mejia says that we take in about 64B of information a day. This makes our brains feel like our hall closet- stuffed the the gills, no longer organized, and hard to open. It also makes it hard to be productive at work when we are in overload mode. Take the time to spring clean your mind by clearing clutter, creating focus, and having free space.

Clearing Clutter. Clutter can be both physical and mental. Start with the stuff that’s easy to see. Take a step back and think about how you would like to organize your work space. Give yourself permission to give away or throw away the books, papers, and even mementos you really don’t need anymore. Once you’ve made a dent in your office space try something radical – delete all emails over 30 days old from your inbox, sent, and deleted folders. Just do it. Freeing up that space is very liberating – and helps you to focus on the current tasks at hand. Learn some of the simple but awesome Microsoft Outlook rules to help you manage incoming emails more effectively. Now for the hard part. Clear the clutter from your mind. That project that didn’t go as well as you hoped. The nagging feeling you have that Pam in Payroll is upset with you. Make a list of the worries that are gnawing at you. Then crumple up the list and throw it away. Those worries are in the past. The question is, how do you want to move forward? You can choose to set up a meeting to check in with Pam. But if you don’t, then let it go. That issue no longer has a worry hanger in your mental closet.

Creating Focus. April means we are 25% through 2018. Have you accomplished 25% of your goals for the year? If not, how can you create more focus? Now is a good time to take out your annual goals and ask (1) Are these still the right priorities? (2) Am I making progress? (3) Where do I need to focus? One the best leadership tools I’ve picked up comes from the book The 12 Week Year. This book was written way before quarterly reviews became trendy. It challenges us to break our goals down into 12 weeks vs. 12 months. That means each week has more urgency to make progress towards your goals. It introduces a Periodization Plan to help you track and monitor your goals. I have been using this with my teams for the last ten years and it is a great tool to create focus.  Another key to mental focus is taking time to pause. If you are like me and love the idea of meditation but find it really hard to do, check out Buddhify. com. It is a great app for those of us who have a hard time slowing down. This is the most important step in your spring cleaning routine- so be sure to give focus some focus.

Creating Free Space. The only way to keep your spring cleaning stay clean is to ensure you don’t fill it with new clutter. In order for you to be your best self at work you need to have some downtime at home. Downtime is time when you are powered down and present. That may mean not working after dinner. Or not bringing phone in the bedroom. We all need some time of our day to be spent without a screen. We can also create free space by regaining control of our calendar. Instead of multitasking on a conference call, decline it and spend an hour focused on researching a key project. Block time on your calendar to read business and industry news. To be a leader we need time to think, not just do. Another great way to create free space is to work out. It doesn’t matter what you do or what level you are at. Engaging your body physically can unhook your mind and give you time to think about things in a new way.

I encourage you to make a commitment to spring clean your mind this month. It won’t make the MN snow melt, but it will help you with clearing clutter, creating focus, and having free space so you can spring ahead on your 2018 goals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Encourage Courage

Courage Award

I was at the Good Leadership Breakfast this month, and the host was talking about an award that her family created – the Courage Award. It was a travelling trophy awarded to the family member that did something brave that week. I was struck by the power of that idea and started to imagine the impact of encouraging courage at work. Dictionary.com has three definitions of courage: (1) the power or quality of dealing with or facing danger, fear, pain, etc. (2) the courage of one’s convictions, the confidence to act in accordance with one’s beliefs. (3) take one’s courage in both hands, to nerve oneself to perform an action. There are some simple yet powerful things we can do in HR to encourage courage at work that will  help people face their fears, act confidently on their convictions, and take action.

Face Your Fear. Change in our personal and professional lives is a constant. So how can HR help our employees and leaders cope more effectively? It starts by acknowledging this reality. When working through a big change, like a spin off or layoff, or a smaller change, like a new benefit plan or PTO policy, talk about fear. Encourage people to discuss their concerns and worries, and help brainstorm solutions and options. Really listen to what you hear and be brave enough to respond. Be willing to change a plan or policy based on new information. Don’t be afraid of – or limited by – timelines and deadlines. Have the courage to do the right thing so that the project is done right.

Act on your convictions. Being an HR manager is a hard job. You wear a lot of hats ranging from coach, to project manager, to strategist. One of the most important hats you wear is as the conscience of the company. You have the unique position of hearing both what employees think and senior leaders are planning. And both parties are counting on you to serve as a bridge to the other. So listen, learn, and act. If you believe that the new values senior leaders are working on won’t resonate, speak up. If your gut says it’s the wrong time to launch an engagement survey, don’t do it. If you ever see sexist, racist, or otherwise disrespectful behavior or language – call it out. As Gloria Steinem said, “Whenever one person stands up and says this is wrong, it helps others to do the same.” Be the model of acting on your convictions for the organization – and help both employees and leaders learn how to follow your example.

Take Action. Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” A powerful way that HR can take courage “in both hands” is to focus less on communication change plans and more on change action plans. Work with teams to understand what is important to them. What actions help them achieve or preserve those things? How will they measure their progress? Celebrate their success? It is easy to have a talking head, senior leader video tell the organization about the benefits of a big change. It is impactful to understand the WIIFM from the employee and managers’ point of view and to help them to take action to achieve what’s in it for them.

The third Tuesday of October is National Face Your Fears Day. Consider making this an event in your workplace. Ask people to share how they overcame a fear or to discuss a fear they are struggling with. Create a Courage Award that you give every October to encourage courage at your workplace. But don’t stop there. Remember that courage is composed of big and small things every day. Most of the time these acts are invisible, but it’s time we shine a light on these examples. There are some simple yet powerful things we can do in HR to encourage courage at work that will  help people face their fears,  act confidently on their convictions, and to take action.

 

Rock and Role Rock Star Leadership

Rockstar blog

Great bands – and great teams- are composed of talented individuals collaborating to make something new and exciting together. As part of our new leadership curriculum at Abra we have designed a Rock and Role Rock Star Leadership module to help our leaders rock productivity and retention in their centers. We believe that good leaders want to rock results by focusing on key priorities, that teams with clear roles drive productivity, and that real rock stars build all star teams.

I wanna rock. Employees want to jam with the best, earn the applause, and collaborate on creating hits for the business. But before we are ready to perform we need to know our playlist. Rock star leaders help their team focus on priorities by identifying the big rocks and eliminating the gravel. Big rocks are the things that are important, but likely not urgent. They are the long term, strategic projects that will have a direct impact to the business. They are the things we know we should do, what we want to find time to do, but often don’t prioritize because we are drowning in gravel. Gravel is the thousands of small tasks like emails, meetings, or conference calls that can fill your calendar, but don’t fill your bucket and definitely don’t fill the stadium with fans. Rock star leaders help teams separate what is important from what is urgent, and work with the team to create clear priorities and areas of focus. They recognize that to do that we need to clear the gravel. Rock stars give the team permission to start new riffs, and to stop old habits. They remind us just because we always used to do X doesn’t mean we should still be doing X. They ask what we can automate and eliminate so that their team can rock.

Role With it Baby. Once you have the big rocks identified, a rock star leader now looks at where the work should get done. Some leaders think their job is to own every big rock themselves. But organizations don’t need one man bands, they need well- tuned teams. Teams can rock and roll when they have clear roles, use their strengths, and have on-the-job development opportunities. One role of the leader is to sort that gravel to determine if there are some diamonds in the rough that should be done, but should be done differently or at a different level or by a different team. In my earlier blog,  Improve Through Improv,  I talked about the magic teams make when they leverage team members’ individual strengths to collectively create the best outcomes. Teams have a lot of different roles, and a rock star leader looks at how to train the drummer on keyboards, and encourages the bassist to try a solo. This approach provides cross training and succession planning. It also brings new eyes to each role and empowers each person to roll with new and innovative approaches.

Baby I’m a Star. Plenty of bands have split because the lead singer demanded artistic control and tried to keep the spotlight on him/herself. A rock star leader doesn’t want credit – they want collaboration. They also know that to create that collaborative environment they have to focus on both short and long term results. They know that today’s hits won’t stay on the charts. They invest time finding and growing their future stars. They push their rising stars to test and try new ideas. They build all-star teams that deliver bold solutions. Rock star leaders give credit where its due, cover when it’s needed, and trust freely.

Leadership isn’t an easy job, but it should be a fun one – and one that we should make more fun, more rebellious, and more edgy. Kind of like a rock star. Wild make up and leather jackets optional. What’s required to be a Rock and Role Rock Star Leader is to  rock results by focusing on key priorities, that teams with clear roles drive results, and that real rock stars build all star teams.

 

 

Are Your Values Valuable?

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Every company has a set of values. They are the norms that describe what is important to the organization, and the behaviors that are encouraged and rewarded. Some of these values are what you see on the walls of the building- but often there are different values playing out between the walls. The new CEO at Uber has just rewritten their values, dropping  “hustling,” “toe-stepping,” and “principled confrontation” and replacing them with, among others, “We celebrate differences” and “We do the right thing. Period.” Or perhaps you are on your second or third iteration of your company’s values, leaving your employees skeptical that you really know what you stand for. If your company’s values include integrity, commitment to customers, or teamwork/trust you’re in good company-According to the Booz Allen Hamilton and Aspen Institute’s Business and Society Program researchers, 90% of companies reference ethical behavior/integrity, 88% mention commitment to customers, and 76% cite teamwork and trust. As my CEO, Ann Fandozzi, says, “I’m pretty sure our competition’s values aren’t we have no integrity so come work here. If your values don’t differentiate you, then they aren’t valuable.” Yet values do matter. According to a global survey by HR.com, one of the top 5 drivers of employee engagement is alignment between your personal values and your company’s values.  At Abra we are on a quest to create values that mean something to our team, to our customers, and to the way we do business.  We are getting great input, feedback, and buy-in as we work to create not just new values but a new way of leading our teams and our business.

Values and teams. It is ironic that the two most common approaches to creating values is either to hire an external consultant or to have a small group of executives pen them.  If values are our guiding principles, then we believe our employees should lead the way. When we began this journey, I spoke to the executive team and said for this to resonate across the organization, our values must come from voices across the organization. We are a national, production-driven organization, so this is not an easy task. But we partnered with the leaders across our stores and organized short focus groups. When we couldn’t pull people together, we took our notepads and talked with employees at their workstations –in the paint booth, next to a car, at the front desk. We asked 5 questions:

  • What do you like best about working at Abra?
  • What makes you proud to be an Abra employee?
  • What makes Abra unique?
  • How does a satisfied customer talk about Abra?
  • What does Abra need to do to become the Employer of Choice?

Over the course of 5 months we collected 90 pages of notes from over 300 employees. We are now going through this feedback and extracting the essence of what our employees said. We are not editing or changing their words – just summarizing.  The nuances and examples our teams shared are the heart of what they value- and will be reflected in our final summary.

Values and Customers. My family likes Panera. They have a great selection of healthy foods, and the quick food vs. fast food environment quells my mom guilt. We love our Panera because of Justine. Justine always greets our family with a smile, remembers my kids’ orders, and engages them in small talk.  To engaged employees, the organization’s success is personal. It matters. It’s a reflection of them and what they believe in, who they are, how they show up in the world. In a service industry, the customer’s experience IS your brand, so your company values should also reflect what is important to your customers. We are reviewing our customer survey data to identify common themes from our customers and our employees. We want our values to be our brand – but more importantly we want them to be our Justine –the essence of your experience with us.

Values and Business. Identifying the values is the easy part. Creating the process to integrate these values into the way you conduct business is hard. There are some obvious places to start – interview guides, recognition, and communication. These steps are critical, but if you want to see a great model of building your business around values, look at Zappos. All Zappos’ employees spend their first three to four weeks manning phones in their call center. This training helps new hires learn the business, but it also provides an internal resource for the company.  Zappos does not hire temps during the busy seasons – all employees are expected to sign up for shifts in the call center during the busy seasons. For employees hired directly into the call center, once you complete your four weeks of training  you are offered $3,000.00 to leave the company.  Not stay- leave. The Zappos’ philosophy is if you haven’t committed to the company and the values, then you should leave. Think about what that could look like – and say about – your company if you did something similar. Powerful.

The article Ban These 5 Words from your Corporate Values Statement recently appeared in the Harvard Business Review.  (1) Ethics and Integrity -as discussed, those are table stakes. (2) Collaboration. As the author says, if your employees aren’t working collaboratively, listing it as a core value isn’t the solution. (3) Authenticity- that should not be an aspiration, it should be a reality. (4) Fun- if you have to claim you are fun, you probably aren’t. (5) Customer-centric- all of us in the for profit sector best be customer-centric. Dig deeper and do the hard work to really understand what is important to your employees and your customers. Take an honest look at your business model and ask if this aligns with what our employees and customers value? Join me on a quest to create values that mean something to your team, to your customers, and to the way you do business.

 

 

 

50 books by 50

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I have always loved to read. I was “that kid” who took her book with her everywhere –reading on the bus, in the doctors office, at the dinner table. Today I still love to read but struggle to find time to read and feel torn between reading for work and reading for pleasure. Apparently I am not the only one struggling with this. According to a recent LinkedIn post by Amit Somani only .5% of people in the world read more than 3-5 books a year. So I decided to set a goal to read 50 books by age 50. That means I will need to double my reading rate and sustain it for two years. How I am going to do that? Good question! Here are some of the tips I plan to employ -and how it relates to leadership: Decide what supports the goal, learn from others, and follow your passion.

What supports the goal. Most of us have worked at a company with a WIG (wildly important goal) that was something like double sales by 2020 or increase our customer base by 30%. Aspirations are great but without clear plans to support them, won’t be more than a bumper sticker slogan.  With any kind of goal it is helpful to ask questions like these, from the Huffington Post article 5 Leadership Goals:

  • What have we tried to achieve in 2017 that we must accomplish in 2018, and how will that be rewarding to you (and your team)?
  • What targets are we hitting — and which ones are we missing due to our own actions as executives?
  • Is there anything I can do to get out of the way of — and, indeed, accelerate — our success?

These questions are insightful whether you are trying to improve quality, reduce turnover, or increase your reading. In my case, reading is rewarding, so what I will accomplish this year is setting a target of reading at least 20 pages everyday. I will accelerate my success by setting a firm bed time and creating a routine of reading every night before I go to sleep.

Learn from others. Whatever goal we are trying to achieve, we can pick up ideas and insights from others. I currently have over 500 books on my Amazon reading list. So one way to prioritize those books is to see what others recommend as their top reads. President Obama posted his reading list, as did Daniel Pink, Richard Branson, and hundreds of other thought leaders. Pick one or two that you already know and love and challenge yourself to follow the recommendations of someone outside of your normal go to group. Share your challenge internally and find out what your peers/other functions are doing that relates to your goal. My internal inquiries led me to read Lean Turnaround and  Four Disciplines of Execution  as my first two books this year. Ironically by starting with a discussion about Four Disciplines, I am now leading a training session on 5 Choices,  and am collaborating with senior leaders on our shared priority of driving productivity through improved people leadership.

Follow your passion. I love the quote, “If it is important to you, you will find a way. If  not, you will find an excuse.” That definitely applies to me and the goals I set for working out, at work, and now reading. The gap isn’t really time- we all have 24 hours in a day. It’s how we use and prioritize our time. Goals that ignite us are easy – creating a new leadership program, developing the acquisition strategy, defining a new customer segment. Goals that are outside of our expertise and interest are usually the ones that we keep deferring. In my earlier post Improve Through Improv I talked about tapping into- and trusting- the talents of the team to achieve your goals. Leveraging people’s strengths and passions is a natural accelerator.  So in my quest to read 50 books by 50 I give myself permission to pass on the books that don’t fuel my fire, to quit the books that aren’t engaging me, and to seek books that are aligned with my personal and professional passions.

Rachel Anders said, “The journey of a lifetime starts with the turning of a page.” Whether you are reading or on the journey to achieving a different goal, deciding what supports the goal, learning from others, and following your passion will help you get to your destination more quickly, and make it a more enjoyable ride.