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Today’s Biggest Leadership Challenge – Part Two

Now that you have your mentoring program underway let’s look at the other significant leadership challenge of today. 😀 I joke about already having your mentoring program started but I don’t joke about this: do not delay in getting started with developing tomorrow’s leaders; this workforce issue is going to overwhelm organizations that aren’t prepared to deal with it. Don’t be one of the many who are surprised that this issue overtook them so fast.

The second major challenge facing today’s leaders is micro-managing. Those of you who believe you are micro-managed should not get too excited here. This is not just going to be a recommendation for today’s leaders to stop micro-managing their people. This is about tomorrow’s leaders not allowing themselves to be micro-managed. 

I’ve worked for micro-managers at different points in my career but I’ve never really felt micro-managed. I always listened to my micro-manager (they deserve that respect) and then I always tried to do the right thing. When the right thing worked and it was different from what I was told to do I either heard nothing or I heard I was lucky or if I was working for a leader (yes, even good leaders can fall into the trap of micro-managing) I might have heard “good job.”  When what I thought was the right thing to do didn’t work I heard how I had screwed up. I got yelled at, I felt bad. I might have even embarrassed myself, but I survived. And I learned, I grew, and I discovered why my boss might have felt the need to micro-manage me. 

Here’s my point, the real problem with micro-managing is not only with today’s leaders who micro-manage, it is with tomorrow’s leaders who use it as an excuse to NOT make decisions and an excuse to not begin leading today. They say they “are not allowed” to make decisions and once they convince themselves of that it is certain that they won’t be making meaningful  decisions anytime soon.

The reality is that even in the most micro-managed organizations 85% of all decisions are made below the top levels of an organization. If you’re a true future leader you have ample opportunity to practice your decision making skills no matter where you work. You only have to risk getting yelled at. Okay, so maybe you have to risk losing your job but if you can’t truly thrive in the role you’re in then maybe you don’t want that job anyway. 

If you have the courage required to lead then you also have the courage to make decisions, whether you work for a micro-manager or not. You may not have the authority to move on major decisions but you can still learn effective decision making by making every lower level decision possible.

If you work for a leader who micro-manages they might be limiting their own leadership potential but they can only limit yours if you let them. Don’t let them!

A couple of final thoughts for the leader of today who is sincerely interested in developing the leaders of tomorrow.

If you’re a micro-manager then stop. If you can’t completely stop (and if it was my behind on the line I might find it hard to stop too) then stop a little. If you’ve never had a serious disagreement in your team meetings then you should recognize that as a warning sign that your future leaders are just sitting back and silently letting you decide everything. You cannot develop future leaders that way. 

Encourage debate, encourage the airing of different viewpoints, be quiet, force the opinions out of your people. If you have the right people in the room they most certainly have opinions and many of those opinions will be different than yours; it’s the job of the leader to make them feel safe enough to share them.

This much is certain, you will not find your organization’s next generation of leaders by watching them listen to you. 

 
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Today’s Biggest Leadership Challenge – Part One

Leadership challenges vary by organization. Big organizations have different leadership challenges than small ones. Mature organizations have outgrown some of the leadership challenges that persist in newer organizations. 

In general however this is the biggest leadership challenge facing all organizations today: finding tomorrow’s leaders.

No matter how effective a leader you may be, if you do not at least help find and develop your successor then you will not have completely succeeded as a leader. You may have accomplished great things as a leader but if your accomplishments do not outlast you then you will not be remembered as a great leader. 

The best and most likely way to ensure your accomplishments outlast your tenure as the leader is to develop the next generation of leadership within your organization. 

But that’s not as easy as it used to be for two main reasons.

The first reason is this: The average employee today stays at each of his or her jobs for 4.4 years, according to the most recent available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but the expected tenure of the workforce’s youngest employees is about half that. In fact, ninety-one percent of Millennials (born between 1977-1997) expect to stay in a job for less than three years.

There are many reasons for this job-hopping behavior but the biggest seems to be speedy career advancement. Job-hopping allows many younger employees the opportunity to “promote” themselves without the “dues paying” that older employees endured. 

This is NOT a knock on younger employees, they are every bit as committed, intelligent, and hard working as employees in any age group. They just (rightly) value life balance more than employees of older generations. 

But job-hopping also gives them a skewered view of what Authentic Servant Leadership, real leadership, looks like. They see “slivers” of leadership but not the whole picture. They simply don’t stay in any one place long enough to become well developed leaders because they don’t stay anyplace long enough to develop a mentored relationship with an Authentic Leader. The more career moves they make the more gaps they are likely to have in their leadership ability. 

Today’s leaders need to identify younger employees with leadership potential sooner and begin a mentoring relationship that will motivate them to see their potential where they are. Their personal motives are no different than any other generation; they NEED to know they matter and they need to know they can make a difference. 

Far, far more employees will leave the workforce in the next 15 years than will join it. Organizations hoping for future success are unlikely to achieve it without a strong mentoring program that encourages future leaders to stay where they are at. It doesn’t matter whether you lead a huge organization or a 5 person company, you will be impacted by the shrinking workforce. 

Don’t allow your organization to get behind the curve on this issue, put a mentoring program in place today.

In Part Two of “Today’s Biggest Leadership Challenge” we’ll look at the second issue hindering the development of future leaders, micro-managing. But for those of you who believe you are micro-managed don’t get your hopes up, you may be more responsible for this than you would like to admit. 

 

Why 360 Reviews Seldom Work

imageFor those of you unfamiliar with the term “360 Review” let me explain. A 360 review is a tool that companies use to evaluate their employees at various levels of the organization. A mid-level manager for instance will be provided feedback from their own direct reports, from colleagues at a similar level within the organization and from their direct supervisor. They may or may not receive feedback from others higher within the organization as well.

The idea is to get a well rounded “picture” of the person from different levels of the organization. A person who interacts well with people above them in an organization may be a horrible boss to those below them. That’s why a review from just one part of an organization provides an incomplete view. You need feedback from all around an organization, hence the term “360.”

Once this complete picture is developed the individual being reviewed should have a good idea of their strengths and weaknesses, other people’s perception of them, and a good understanding of where their developmental opportunities are.

The key words in that previous sentence are “should have.” The concept of 360 reviews is great, the execution seldom is. In fact, the execution of these types of reviews is almost always lacking. They nearly always fail to accomplish the intended objective. 

They fail for two primary reasons. First, many people will not provide honest, open, and sincere feedback. While nearly every company claims that the feedback is anonymous it too often isn’t. Either the person being reviewed figures out where the feedback came from by what was written or the review is so bad that the Human Relations Department gets involved and inadvertently “exposes” the reviewers. 

When word gets around that one person’s feedback wasn’t in fact anonymous then it is assumed that nobody’s feedback is anonymous. From that point forward all 360 feedback is tainted… and far less valuable. 

In a very unscientific survey I asked about 30 people from a dozen or so companies if they believed the 360 review process was truly anonymous in their organization. The answers ranged from “they hope so” to “absolutely not.” Not one could say with certainty that their name wouldn’t eventually be attached to the feedback they provided. Not one said they would provide completely open and honest feedback either.

The other primary reason 360 reviews fail is that way too often the person being reviewed has no real interest in getting better. They claim to want to get better and are even willing to get better so long as they don’t actually have to change any of their behaviors. Unfortunately getting better means something must change and if it is you who needs to get better then you MUST accept some change in your life.

Thankfully there are some people who really do want to improve themselves and they will use what they can from the feedback to actually try to improve. But in an environment where the quality of the feedback is suspect even they will take it with a rather large grain of salt.

All change is hard but personal change is the hardest of all. When the change is driven by perceived negative feedback it can be nearly impossible to change. That’s why feedback from a 360 review so seldom leads to real change; the person being reviewed too often perceives even well-intended comments on improvement opportunities to be negative feedback. 

There are certainly other issues with the 360 review process but those are the big ones. Once broken the 360 review process can be nearly impossible to fix.

Just so we’re clear, I am most certainly NOT an HR professional. I can’t say with certainty that there are better developmental tools available than the 360 review. I just know that without a doubt that there needs to be. 

Old Ears

wpid-Photo-20150419143300778.jpgSome people have old ears.

I know, I know, you're thinking, “well, obviously, some people are old,” so they have old ears. But a person’s age has little to do with how old their ears are. It has to do with how open their mind is.

You see “old” ears has to do with hearing “it all” before. An older person can have very young ears and a younger person can have very old ears.

When a person has old ears they stop listening before the other person has finished speaking. They don’t really need to listen because they have heard it all before.

People with old ears only listen to respond. People with young ears listen and listen more until they understand what is being said. People with old ears are forced to make new decisions with stale information while people with young ears are making great decisions with current information. Young eared people never stop listening and because of that, they never stop learning either.

You can keeps your ears young by simply using them throughout the day. If there is something worth listening to then you should be listening. People who desire younger ears seek out good information and interesting people which makes it easier to listen.

Young ears are a choice and so are older ears. When you choose to listen, really, really listen then you're also choosing younger ears. When you stop listening because you have heard it all before you are giving yourself old ears and you are missing so much of life because of it.

Choose young ears and choose a vibrant life full of learning and growth. You will be surprised how fresh you can stay by filling your brain with a bit of new information each day.

It’s seems counterintuitive but again, the best way to keep your ears young is to use them. Use them to listen to a variety of opinions and people. Use them to listen to “tones” you may not like and use them hear people outside your “normal” group of influencers.

Hearing comes naturally but listening is a skill. It’s a skill we can choose to develop if we really want to learn and keep in mind, the most successful people learn something new every single day.

Are you listening?

 

 

The Difference Between If and How

imageThe attitude of less successful people says “if” I can succeed. The attitude of highly successful people says “how” will I succeed. They know they will succeed at whatever they do, the only question is how.

When your mindset is one of “if” you allow the possibility of failure to enter your life. When you allow the possibility of failure into your life you could possibly talk yourself into not even trying.

There may not be a way to absolutely guarantee success but there is most certainly a way to guarantee failure… and that is not trying in the first place. When you decide the effort to try is too great to bother you have just accepted failure. You may have to swallow hard the first time you do it but no worries… failure not only gets easier, it becomes a habit.

The mindset of “if” causes lots of self-discussion. Discussions about “if” I try how much work will it be. “If” I try will I might look foolish if I fall short. That discussion can quickly become one of “why bother” because it’s so much work and I’m more likely to fail than not.

With a mindset of “how” the self-discussions are much more focused…. the “if” is not considered, the discussions are all focused on the strategies and tactics required to succeed.

The “how” mindset accepts 100% responsibility for the success or failure of whatever it is they are working on.

The “if” mindset prepares the excuses in advance. The “how” mindset simply prepares to succeed. The “if” mindset says I’ll do everything I can and if things work out I’ll be fine. The “how” mindset says I’ll do everything that needs to be done so if things don’t work out I’ll still be just fine.

If you think having to do everything is unfair then consider this:

50% – 50% partnerships do not work. You may think that if do your part and “they” do theirs everything will work out. But when was the last time anything great was accomplished with a 50% effort. Success happens for those people who give a 100% effort every single time. They don’t leave any part of their success up to chance and they certainly don’t leave it up to anyone else.

The most successful people have a mindset of “how.”

What’s your mindset today?

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Your Most Expensive Employee

7218CE00-05C5-4C4A-9644-BEAC2B76D45A.pngIf you’re managing a business then keeping track of expenses is probably high on your list of priorities. One of your biggest expenditures is likely to be compensation for your employees. I’m sure you know what you’re paying your people but do you know what they are costing you?

I can’t be sure who your most expensive employee is but I do know it’s likely one of the types of individuals I describe below.

The first is a “manager” of people. That in itself is a problem because people will not be managed. People resist being managed because they are people, they expect leadership, not management.

A manager was explaining to me the challenges of managing a particular new employee. When I suggested that they try leading this particular individual instead of managing them I was more than a little surprised and disappointed by their response. 

The manager said employees must be managed before they can be led. They must have the “spirit” managed out of them because people with “spirit” won’t follow anyone. Apparently only people with their “spirit” broken can be “tamed” enough to follow. 

I found it almost impossible to believe that anyone could think that way. It was medieval leadership at it’s worst. 

It’s also incredibly expensive these days. Disengaged employees cost organizations a ton of money and one of the fastest ways to cause them to disengage is to break their spirit. Make them feel unimportant and they quickly become unproductive too.

No organization that intends to last can afford medieval leadership or management.

The second type of very expensive employee is the know it all manager. They know everything they need to know and they have nothing left to learn. 

I talked to a manager a while back who had just lost a very talented team member. When I asked if they had learned anything in the exit interview about why the employee left I was again surprised and disappointed by the answer. 

They said that they had nothing to learn from a quitter. They weren’t even interested in looking at the exit interview because “people come and go” and “there is nothing that a manager can do about it.” 

The second part might be right… there is nothing a manger can do about it. 

But a leader can! 

The odds are pretty high that if the employee had felt led they may not have left in the first place. But even if they had decided to go a leader would want to understand why and what they as a leader could have done differently to help the employee want to stay. 

Organizations invest a small fortune in recruiting and training their talent. Then they turn them over to a manager who treats them like a piece of equipment; the same as the copy machine.

If you intend for your organization to stand the test of time then you need to invest as much in developing your leaders as you do in developing the people they lead.

Do not allow your leaders to manage people, teach them to lead and they will be a bargain, no matter how much you pay them. 

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Unconventional Wisdom

Why do you do it like that? Because it’s always been done that way? Because that’s how “they” do it. Maybe it’s because conventional wisdom says that’s they way to do it. Conventional wisdom seldom leads to breakout success. Unconventional wisdom often does.

Things change! Pretty much everything changes!

Here’s a fun story that shows why we should always be thinking “why.” 

It’s Easter morning as a little girl watches her mom preparing the ham to go into the oven. The mom cuts a bit of ham off of each end before placing it it the pan for baking. The little girl asks her mom why she cut some ham from each end and the mother answers, “I’m not really sure why we do that dear, I do it because my mom always did it. Why do you go in the other room and ask Grandma.” 

So the little girl skips on into the family room and asks the same question to Grandma. Her answer is surprisingly similar, she says, “well I’m not really sure why, I always did it because that’s the way my mom always did it. Why don’t you go into the other room and ask great-grandma why she did it.” 

Off goes the little girl into the living room to ask the same question to her great-grandma. Her great-grandma answers, “well dear, I’m not sure why your grandma or mother cut a piece off of each end of the ham, I did it simply because I never had a pan big enough to put the whole ham in.” 

That’s just how it happens when we allow “we’ve always done it that way” to be part of how we do things. Anything! 

We’ve always done it that way is the absolute worst reason for doing anything a certain way.

Annual or repeating events are the most dangerous and most likely to become “habit” events. Never do an annual event without re-thinking every part of the event. Why do we do it? What must be better? What must be different? Should we do the event at all? 

Relentlessly re-think. Why? Why? Why?

Improvement requires some sort of change, even if it’s only doing the same thing better. We’ve always done it that way is not the way to improve anything. 

Even when you’re satisfied that something is “good enough” you must challenge your thinking. The most successful people know that good enough never is. “Good enough” is accepting mediocrity and once you accept mediocrity then excellence becomes out of reach. 

Stop thinking we do it this way or we do it that way and start asking why. Why? Why? Why not do it some other way? 

Be honest with your answers. If you don’t know why then find out. Accepting what is without determining what could be is just being lazy. 

Don’t be lazy and you just might become a success!