Setting Goals for your 2020 Vision

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It’s January 27th , so according to the New York Post article, most New Year’s resolutions died two weeks ago. That’s right. Strava, a social media network for athletes, analyzed 31.5 million online resolutions, and January 12th is the date when most resolutions drop off. This same article states that just 8% of people achieve the goals they set at the beginning of the year. Given these gloomy statistics, how can you ensure a clear vision for your team in 2020? The key, according to Forbes magazine’s article, Does Your Goal Setting Have 2020 Vision, is focusing on inspiration. This year try a new process to goal setting. Instead of a full day offsite on goal cascades, look for passion, see what matters, and observe what gives you energy.

To Do vs. Can’t Wait to Do: Too often, goal setting is a left-brained exercise. It is the list of items we’ve already committed to on our to do list, that we roll up into elegant phrases on a PowerPoint. But just like a resolution, what is the shelf life of the work I have to do vs. tapping into how I can impact our overall strategy? For example, at Blue Cross Blue Shield, our mission is to Inspire Change, Transform Care, and Improve Health for the people we serve.  Instead of a functional focus on our to do list, what if you asked your team if we were to be recognized on stage for helping to move the mission forward this year, what would we hear? Who would be there? What would they say? By building a vision of success as the starting point, you shift the discussion and thinking beyond block and tackle tasks and tap into what motivates and inspires your team. Once you have a shared aspiration, you can shift to a discussion around what you should do more of or less of in order to achieve this aspiration. That helps us identify areas of focus and actions for the upcoming year.
More Meaning than Meetings: A great concept in the Forbes article is, we don’t become creative because we’re inspired; we become inspired when we tap into new, intrinsically interesting and valuable things. At some point your team will have to leave that safe haven you created in your goal setting session and enter back into the daily world of work. But this year you want to help them work differently. Challenge your team to have at least 10% of their time “On the work” instead of spending all their time “in the work.” This means allowing space and time to stay focused on the stage you’ve created and keeping your creativity fueled by reading articles, attending classes, meeting with others,
and/or making room for interesting and valuable things in your workday. Allowing space in our busy day to keep our eye on the horizon is key to keeping our goals alive.

Making vs Taking Energy:  It requires energy to fuel our vision, and tapping into our passion creates energy instead of sapping energy. For example , we can all be committed to the goal of putting the customer first, and we can achieve it by leveraging the team’s various skills and passions. Let Mary redesign the website and have Bill populate it with data. Chris would be best at collecting customer data and Sue most interested in finding themes. The more we can leverage our collective strengths the more passion and creativity we will get in our results. When people do have tasks/projects that aren’t aligned to their passion, ask them to bring that vision to the work. For example, I don’t love merit planning. But I am passionate about equity and investing in talent. So making this more about the people than the numbers helps give me energy to pursue this task and brings a different perspective to this project.

Project plans and tracking tools have their time and place. As we know, a goal without a plan is only a dream. But dreams can die under the weight of process and practicality. The key in 2020 is for you to create an inspirational vision to meet with your team and look for passion, see what matters, and observe what give you energy.

 

 

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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.

Spring Clean Your Mind

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Build the Foundation

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It is easy to become enamored with the latest HR or business fad. Every where you look these days teams are getting agile, delivering micro learnings, and investing in crowd funding. You don’t want your team/company to be left in the cold, so you pick the buzzword of the day and propose a project around this idea in a meeting, everyone gets excited, and you dive in to kick it off. Great, right? Wrong. Agile, micro learnings, and crowd funding are great solutions– to the right problems, and with the right readiness. In HR we have lots of annual solutions that may or may not solve the right problem at the right time. Just because we’ve always done it, doesn’t mean we ought to do it. And just because we have a full box of Jenga blocks, we don’t have to use them all. Good HR solutions are built on strong foundation. We can test that foundation by asking  three questions: Why does this matter? Who does it matter to? What else matters right now?

Why does this matter?  A favorite HR solution is annual HR talent reviews. Not inherently a bad solution, but why does this matter? If your organization’s goal is to increase global sales by 10%, how does your solution advance this goal? Your answer might be we have to know who our high potentials are so we can retain them. If we can retain them and let them know we value them, we will increase employee engagement. I would say that may be an HR goal but not an organizational goal. Take a step back and ask, why does talent review matter?  Maybe– hold on– it doesn’t matter right now. It is important to be able to separate the sacred cows from the milking cows– what we love vs. what fuels our current goals.  Maybe the foundational step is to do an inventory of the current experience of your global sales leaders, then to gain consensus on what experience we want people to have. Once we have this information, then maybe it makes sense to broaden talent review. Or maybe it doesn’t. Breaking down your approach to talent into pieces and asking yourself at each step why this matters will help you build a strong foundation and scalable solutions.

Who does it matter to? Diversity is another popular HR solution. There are lots of  opportunities connected to diversity.  If you break this down and ask why this matters, you likely can come up with a great reason why diversity can drive sales growth. The next question is, who does this matter to? If you have bricks but no masons, it will be hard to build off that foundation. Who is excited about this? Who do you need as champions? Who can they influence? Maybe before you hit go on your new diversity initiative, the foundational step is to assess your champions. Pull them together and ask them to explain why diversity matters to them and to their business goals. Ask for their ideas on how to make it matter to others across the organization. Ask them if they will be be your champions, and what you need to consider before you hit go. By taking the time to ensure you have this foundation set before creating a change, you have a much better chance of having that change stick.

What else matters right now? Context is key when developing a solution. You might be right that recruiting is a critical issue. But your company is working on another corner of the house, go toward that energy first. In my organization creating a great customer experience is a priority.  In order to deliver that great experience we need to ensure a great employee experience. As we got deeper into our data gathering we realized our current company values our words but are not connected to our employees’ experience. So while recruiting was our top priority, values has jumped to the top of the list. As my boss says, the order of events matters. Values are foundational and once we have values we can integrate them into our learning content, recruiting and talent practices, recognition, and communication. So lets do things in the right order. Let’s be part of the business blueprint. It we have the right timing, the right order, and the right alignment we can make sure our solutions matters.

In HR we love to build things. We see all the opportunities and want to help our teams succeed. However we often forget to step back and look at the leaning tower we’ve created. There is another way. We can start by asking why this matters, who does it matter to, and what else matters right now. By being intentional about what you do,  determining who are your champions, and sequencing how you connect the dots you can build a strong talent foundation for your organization.

Math (vs Change) Management

 

Overwhelmed

I recently got to hear Nick Tasler  speak at an author’s breakfast. Nick is the author of great books like Ricochet and Domino about change management. My takeaway from his talk was that the real change we need is math management. There are a finite number of hours in the day. Within those hours humans require sleep and food to live. We need social interaction to be alive. These are realities. In my last blog post, I talked about embracing constraints instead of fighting or denying them. So let’s focus on the math management instead of change management. How can we divide our time, multiply our impact, and add uncertainty to support organizational change?

Divide (not dilute) your time. This is a key distinction. Many of us have diluted our attention across many different priorities, working on many things but making progress on few. So let’s take a new approach to this math problem. In Tasler’s book Domino he asserts that a key to change is identifying your top three priorities. Next you need to review your projects and divide them into two lists: a 90 day sprint – items that accelerate your top three priorities — and those that will have to wait. By time boxing your projects and focusing on what is tightly aligned to your priorities, you and your team will be able to focus and make meaningful progress on your most important initiatives. You will allow your team to give these priorities their undivided attention, and the dividend is that they can invest their discretionary effort into the change effort.

Multiplying (by magnifying) your impact. Southwest Airlines was the pioneer of the low cost airline business model. Today, 47 years later, they are the largest low cost domestic airline and have the second largest market share by revenue passenger miles. How did this upstart airline create and sustain such a change in the airline industry? Through their laser focus on their purpose: to connect people to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel. Every decision they make as an organization is held up to this magnifying lens. When the marketing team was researching how Southwest could differentiate itself from the competition, one team suggested offering free meals on short, but popular flights. The executive team reviewed the proposal and decided it may be friendly, but it didn’t drive reliability or lower costs, so turned down the proposal. When a different group pitched allowing two free checked bags, the same decision process was used– friendly? Yes. Reliable? Sure. Low cost? Definitely. This differentiation hit on multiple elements of their core strategy and magnified their position as friendly AND low cost. What is your company’s purpose? How will your proposed change magnify your purpose and multiply your impact?

Adding (by addressing) uncertainty. The good news is you don’t actually have to add the uncertainty. You just have to honestly address it. Kurt Lewin created the three stage theory of change, commonly referred to as Unfreeze, Change, Freeze. The challenges today is that change is happening so fast we never get back to freeze and instead have to live in a state of slush. So when your team asks, “When will the change be over? Will there be more changes to come? How can we master this change before the next one comes?”, tell them never, yes, and unlikely. This may add uncertainty but it also adds honesty.  The next discussion you can have with them is, given that we live is a new state of slush, how do we navigate effectively? What should we let float by and what needs to crystallize? It is perfectly natural to seek solid footing in times of change, and it is highly unlikely to find it. Help your team navigate this tension by acknowledging and addressing it’s presence.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “If I had six hours to cut down a tree, I’d spend the first three sharpening my ax.” Unfortunately many organizations today have abandoned the idea of sharpening the saw, and instead reward a mass machete approach to change. Given that 70% of change initiatives fail, perhaps we need to take a step back and try a new approach. Don’t ask your team to power through a change. Instead empower them to create realistic plans that divide their time, multiply their impact, and add uncertainty so they can support your organization’s change priorities.

 

Embrace Constraints

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Our lives are full of constraints of all shapes and sizes. From taking conference calls while dropping off kids, to making dinner with what’s in the fridge, to juggling multiple work projects, we are all constantly balancing our limited time, resources, and scope. We often talk about these three interconnected constraints in project management — changing one impacts the other two. But what if instead of talking about these factors as constraints we think about them as accelerators? In his post How Constraints Fuel Innovation Instead of Restricting It, Vishal Kataria tells the story of how Toyota broke into the luxury car market. Their chief engineer challenged the team to build a car with a top speed of 155 miles per hour, an efficiency of 22.5 miles per gallon, a cabin noise level of 58 decibels at 60 mph, an aerodynamic drag of 0.29 or less, weighing less than 3800 pounds. None of their competitors had cracked one, let alone all five, of these goals. At first this seemed to be an impossible goal. But when the team designed to meet all these collective (and sometimes conflicting) constraints, they created the Lexus LS400, which outrated the BMW 735i and Mercedes 420SEL in every category rated by Car and Driver Magazine. And for $30,000 less.  Constraints can help you accelerate your productivity if you think outside the time, resources, and scope “box.”

Time: Think of less as more. Deadlines are stressful. And companies are infamous for short changing time to meet an executive’s schedule or demand. So embrace it.  According to a recent article cited in the New York Times, the average employee admits to spending 2 hours a day on non-work related tasks. So whatever timeline you thought you had, you really had 25% less anyway.  Help focus your team with more frequent, shorter meetings. You will have a different level of energy if you hold four 30-minute meetings rather than one two-hour meeting. Tell the team when the meeting ends, that phase of the process is done. Tell them in the first 30 minutes we need to complete X so that next time we can start with Y. Creating focus and urgency can up productivity– remember cramming for your college exams? Test it out and see what new results you see.

Resources: Look for the double down. There are never enough people or money for any given project. I am currently a department of one designing the learning and talent strategy for a production driven company. I am short on time and money and so are our leaders and team members. We have limited processes or practices to build off of. Isn’t that great? Now I get to focus on bite-sized learning, as I discussed in my Refresh Your Talent Menu blog, and to ensure that each piece we decide is intentionally interconnected. I am currently partnering with one of my peers to repackage some of our customer service training as coaching training. After all, asking questions, listening, and staying calm under pressure are key skills for working with customers and employees. And by using the same concepts in both scenarios we hope to ingrain them in our leaders.

Scope: Look through a new lens. Who decides what is in scope or out of scope for a project? Very rarely is it the end user. Lets say, for example, that your company is working on an acquisition. Your hands are more than full working on onboarding and talent assessment for the new employees. You don’t have the time or resources to address what is happening in payroll. You are in HR. But ask the average employee what HR does and they are likely things like payroll and benefits – because those are transactions that impact them in a tangible way, on a regular basis, and they don’t care what function that department sits in. So before deciding what is in scope, take a step back and think about what your employees are looking for. Design your project plans around that.

Think about Apollo 13. The constraints faced by that team were unimaginable – NASA had precious few hours to figure out how to return a severely damaged aircraft to earth using only the supplies the astronauts had on board. But everyone came together and came up with an ingenious, lifesaving solution. So how can you accelerate your productivity by embracing your constraints? Take a fresh look at the time, resources, and scope elements of your current project.  As Jeff Bezos said, “Constraints drive innovation. One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out.”