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.

 

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.

 

 

SKOL Leadership

 

Vikings win

What. A. Game. I live in Minnesota and while I am a Packer fan, for the last minute and a half of Sunday’s playoff game I was sweating purple. This miracle finish was just the latest chapter in a miraculous season. After losing their starting quarterback and starting running back in the opening weeks, somehow the Vikings, led by their third quarterback, Case Keenum, and their defense pulled the team together. Not only have they stayed together, they ended the regular season with the second-best record in the NFC.  As I watched the game I thought, this is an awesome leadership moment in motion. The Vikings showed how teamwork, strategy, and persistence are what it takes to lead and to win.

Teamwork. Good teams work together and come together, especially under times of stress. Great teams are clear on their goal and commit to their specific role in helping the team achieve it. In the Harvard Business School article The Biggest Mistake You (Probably) Make With Teams, author Tammy Erickson gives the analogy of an emergency room, and writes,  “Before the next ambulance arrives, they have no idea of the nature of the task ahead. Will the patient require surgery, heart resuscitation, medications? The condition of the next patient is unknown; the tasks that will be required of the team, ambiguous. But at no time while the team waits, do they negotiate roles: “Who would like to administer the anesthesia? Who will set out the instruments? Who will make key decisions?” Each role is clear. As a result, when the patient arrives, the team is able to move quickly into action. The Vikings acted surgically – each person focused on exactly what had to happen on that last play so the patient- in this case their playoff dreams- had a chance of surviving. In her research, Erickson found that the most successful leaders ensure roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, everyone understands the project’s importance and ultimate objective, and the team is empowered to determine how to achieve their agreed to “what.” So help your team be great by setting clear goals and roles, and empowering and encouraging them to determine how to win.

Strategy. In football the coach can’t take over the various roles on the team, but off the field ask yourself, am I trying to be the quarterback, running back, and wide receiver or am I the coach? Mike Zimmer’s role was to create a strategy, make sure the team knew how to execute the strategy, and to build their confidence so that they could achieve their goal. Leaders don’t win games- they build teams that win games. In the article Doing Less, Leading More, author Ed Batista writes that many leaders believe if we work longer, harder, and smarter than our team, we’ll inspire by example. But he cautions that if you lead like a “Doer-in-Chief” you can’t pivot your teams from fire fighters to fire marshals. In Sunday’s game, it was evident that Zimmer had instilled a fire marshall mentality in the team – don’t panic when the heat is turned up, focus on execution. We can do the same in our roles with our teams if we do less, lead more, and stay focused on our strategy.

Persistence. Let’s not forget, the Vikings were not only down by 1 with 23 seconds on the clock. They have been down similar roads before. The Vikings have lost their last five NFC Championship games and lost four Super bowls. None of this is lost on the Vikings or their fans, nor is the fact that Minnesota is hosting the Super bowl in just 4 weeks. In the article Never Quit: Strategies on Perseverance From 6 Seasoned Entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs share what it takes to be persistent. The willingness to “take the hit.” Lead confidently, think big, and influence your outcome. As entrepreneur Roy McDonald says, “You can influence the outcome with the power of thought and intention. It’s important to focus on what you do want, instead of what you don’t want.” That mental toughness, or Grit as Angela Duckworth would say, is all about what goes through your head when you fall down, and how that—not talent or luck—makes all the difference in a person’s success.

In football and as a leader you want a team with strong teamwork, strategy, and persistence. Even before Diggs’ touchdown, the Vikings had to stretch their bench to get the right people on the field. They had to ensure everyone understood the playbook. They had to make big plays to be up 17-0, they had to have grit after the Saints came out with 17 unanswered points and they really had to dig deep when they were down in the last 23 seconds of the game. Their success- and the success of strong business teams– comes from knowing the plan, and committing to execute the plan. It means having a leader who clears the path and empowers the team. It also means having an unwavering belief that you will achieve your goal. I encourage you to think with SKOL leadership so you can see and celebrate your  team’s success.

What Great Coaches Do

 

Landry quote

Last week I attended the Inside Out Development coaching workshop. It was a great opportunity to reground myself, an experienced coach, in the core principles of coaching and to think about how to make the idea of coaching accessible and relevant to leaders at all levels of my current organization. We all can think of great coaches in our lives (yes Janice Payton I am thinking of you!). When you ask yourself what impact they had on you, you will likely think of things like, he/she pushed me harder than I thought I could go. He/she believed in me. He/she gave me confidence and recognition. I don’t think anyone looks back and says my best coach pushed me to work every night and weekend. Believed PowerPoint was an art form. Gave me the confidence that I could be triple booked most of the time. Yet all of us, even with the best of intentions, can fall prey to the reality of workplace pressures and timelines. So what can we do to make sure we stay focused on coaching vs. tasks? After my coaching workshop I am recommitting to (1) asking vs. telling  (2) staying curious and (3) business KPIs for coaching.

Asking vs. Telling.  Think about how many questions you are asked in the course of a day. From “Mom, what’s for breakfast?” to “Can you help me with this report?” to “How should we plan our (volunteer) fundraiser this year?” And like the answer ninjas we are, we usually whip out solutions as fast as the questions are coming. It may feel efficient, but as Ken Blanchard points out in the One Minute Manager, what you are actually doing is positioning yourself as a professional “monkey collector.” All those monkeys– questions/problems others have–get lobbed your way, and you now have a new collection of monkeys to solve for- in addition to your original to do list.  So what if instead of telling, we focused on asking? In this video, Alan Fine, the founder of Inside Out Development, discusses shifting from fixing the gap we see in others, to focusing on closing the gap between our telling and asking. Fine encourages leaders to build this practice by using three simple questions: What’s working? Where are you getting stuck? What could you do differently? By starting with these questions before jumping to telling, you teach your team to reflect, empower them to solve their own problems, and free yourself from the monkeys.

Staying curious. We all have reactions to situations and people. Just saying certain names or topics, particularly in our current political times, can evoke a strong reaction and facial expression. But what if we could stay curious instead of jumping to conclusions? When you are at work, and a certain name pops up on your phone, you could roll your eyes and think,”Oh great, what could Joe want now? I’m sure he’s going to blame me that we missed our milestone.” Or, you could say, “Joe and I both know we missed that milestone. I wonder what we could do to move forward? I wonder what perspective he has on what we could have done differently?” Setting your mindset to a curious state opens you up to possibility and changes the tone of your interaction before it even begins. It takes a second to make this change, but pays off in spades.

Business KPIs for coaching. Coaching has a mixed reputation. Many HR people love it because it is good for retention, engagement, and development. Many business leaders see it is as an expense, time off the job, and squishy. If we are honest, both are true. I am lucky to be tasked with building a coaching and leadership development program from the ground up. As we develop our strategy, we will be talking about increased productivity, improved customer service scores, and higher turns as our measures of success. Of course I hope to see improved retention, engagement and development as well. But those won’t be the focus in our design or metrics.  Vince Lombardi said, “Winning is not a sometimes thing. It’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” Substitute winning and losing with your business’s top initiative, and ask yourself if you are being relentless in getting to that end goal, and how your initiatives help your teams to build the right habits.

Coaching, like so many other elements of leadership, is talked about and trained on, but hard to put into everyday practice. In a busy world that rewards expertise and confidence, telling is a natural reaction. Making judgments helps us take shortcuts. Focusing on our function vs. our organization is efficient. But it can’t build your team’s capabilities or your organization’s long term success. Sloane Stone was ranked 83 before the US Open, and walked away a champion, the third player ranked outside the top 10 to win the U.S. Open since computer rankings started in 1975. Her coach, Kamau Murray, attributes her success to her hard work, her focus, and their honest relationship. “It’s a progression. It’s not like a one-hit wonder where she won a grand slam prior to winning anything else. If you look at her trajectory, it’s been a line of progression, it hasn’t been like a spike. When you have that kind of development, it’s more sustainable than a flash in the pan.” Let’s build sustainable wins for our business by building a coaching practice on asking vs. telling, staying curious, and one that is all about the business.

 

Refresh Your Training Menu

Stuart SaladYou are planning a dinner party and want to serve today’s most popular dishes. You do a little research and get to work on your menu: homemade cream of celery soup, potato chip tuna casserole, and broiled grapefruit for dessert. Right on trend- for the 1950s. If you served that today, your guests would, at minimum, be surprised. But many of us in HR are still serving an out of date training menu: 3 days of content delivered lecture style with big clunky binders for participants. Our customers consume content in a totally new day today. They also curate and create content daily. It’s time for us to update our approach to learning and focus on what our busy leaders and employees can digest. This is not to suggest we should abandon workshop sessions that provide the time to go deeper on content and apply new learning. It is to suggest, however, that it’s time to expand our learning menu by serving bite sized learning, adding new ingredients, and trying some new recipes.

Serving Bite Sized Learning. Our employees and leaders are interested in their development. The challenge is that development is “important but not urgent” and is competing with throngs of “urgent and important” and “urgent and not important” emails, calls, and texts. We can help our teams find time for themselves by serving bite sized learning that has 10-15 minutes of content. There are so many great resources for this, including business and leadership book summaries from Get Abstract, hundreds of free videos and discussion guides at Lean In, innovative speakers and ideas shared through Ted Talks, and curated content from sites like Flipboard. These can also be great reinforcement resources to send out after a training to follow up on the learning.

Adding New Ingredients. A great Ted Talk I recently watched was titled Three Ways to Spark Learning. In this talk, Ramsey Musallam talks about how being a science teacher, a dad, and having a health scare gave him some new insights about learning. His take always are that curiosity comes first, we should embrace the mess, and practice reflection. Imagine you are leading a training on performance reviews. Your leaders come in, eyes rolled, expecting a lecture. But this time you take a new approach. Instead of telling them that performance reviews are great, drive engagement, and create performance records, you start by asking “I wonder how we could make the performance review process easier?” After gathering their ideas, you acknowledge that performance reviews are messy- both in the execution and in the delivery. You then offer some ideas on how to make the best of everyone’s least favorite process. You end by asking the leaders to reflect on their last performance review discussion and what they will do differently this time. You can still include tactical information they need to know and do some skill building in the class. But by adding some new ingredients to your facilitation, you just might spice up the discussion and the learning.

Try Some New Recipes. We encourage learners to take risks and try new approaches. But we don’t always this advice ourselves. Here are two creative approaches to learning to consider: a flipped classroom and an unconference. Flipped classrooms are common in education. The concept is that instead of lecturing when the kids are in the classroom then sending them off to do their homework on their own, teachers provide video/online lectures to watch at home, and use class time for discussion and projects. The same approach can be used in adult training. Send out pre-work and use more of your classroom time for discussion, questions, and application. If you are feeling really brave, try an unconference. The concept is very simple. At an unconference, there is no agenda. No topics or speakers have been pre-selected. Instead, attendees review a list of all possible content and decide what they want to hear about. Most unconferences includes less common approaches such as Big (or Little) Question sessions where someone asks a question he/she want to know the answer to and engages the group in a peer  discussion. Show and tell sessions give participants the chance to share a cool project/update and use that as a springboard for discussion. There are also more traditional lectures and/or group discussions options offered. This approach may be more stressful for the facilitators but almost always increases attendees’ engagement and participation. 

Julia Child said, “No one is born a great cook. One learns by doing.” Julia Child also included recipes for cream of celery, potato chip cassarole, and broiled grapefruit in the Joy of Cooking in the 1950s. But she continued to evolve her craft, grow with her audience, and innovate new dishes. How can you refresh the training for your organization?