Getting Action From Your Team: COLLABORATION

Tom Peter’s book, “In Search of Excellence,” recognized Hewlett Packard Co for emphasizing teamwork, delegation, and collaboration. HP created a brand synonymous with quality by requiring product teams to understand and exceed all expectations a customer might have regarding product performance. HP introduced an acronym to their employees, called FLURPS (functionality, localization, use-ability, reliability, performance, and supportability), to aid evaluation and review of requirements documents for their robustness and completeness.

For HP to obtain these robust designs, multiple departments in the organization had to lend their expertise. Collaboration is the cooperation among multiple parties with diverse perspectives to achieve a common goal. Product development, process design, and Kanban quality improvement are business examples where collaboration can deliver a solution greater than the sum of the parts. Achieving collaboration requires a manager to master the management skills that create a culture with a high value on leadership and accountability.

The greatest inhibitors to collaboration are inadequate communication and lack of trust. A “smokestack” organization is one where the departments or functional areas are managed independently with communication channeled through management or data structures. These organizations develop by managers limiting the interactions between departments to reduce the complexity of management. Significant performance improvements can be made by these managers ceasing to manage complexity alone and starting to involve their teams. Clear communication of expectations and status will sustain trust and allow collaboration to flourish.

Clear goals, willingness to share data and recognition, and the ability to negotiate timely decisions that self-direct a team are other key elements that encourage collaboration. Goals need to be clear, tangible, results-oriented, and preferably SMART. Teams that do not share a common view of the end goal tend to generate more meetings and distraction than results. A perceived scarcity of opportunity and confusion about their value can cause workers to hide information and knowledge. A possible solution is deploying technology that improves access to information while keeping data secure. Technology is no replacement, however, for making employees feel valued. One caution: imposing security barriers that separate people from information they need is just another way to hide information.

Achieving effective negotiation within a team is perhaps management’s greatest challenge.  It’s rare that a corporate culture emerges that is truly egalitarian. During my years in information technology, designers held disproportionate power over production engineers, field support, and technical writers. Teaching appreciation of other players’ roles and structuring incentives and performance measures to reward cooperation will boost collaboration. I observe when designers have too much sway, the product usually flops.

Developing a collaborative culture is a complex topic. If you want to learn more, let’s talk and get your questions answered.

Results-Based Leadership Video

Getting Action: Motivation

I remember Dan Reeves, coach of the Denver Broncos back in the 80’s, making a comment back then that caught me by surprise. Dan was being asked by the press how he was getting his team “up” for the next game. He said, more or less, “It’s not my job to motivate the players.” I can also remember running track in high school and hearing the sprint coach, who was also the football coach, joke that he thought coaching track is so much easier than football because all he had to say was, “Run fast.” In both cases, the coach insinuated that their athletes were self-motivated. The one thing leaders need to understand about motivation is that all effective motivation is self-motivation.

There are three types of motivation: negative, positive, and attitudinal. Negative is fear-based and, as any parent knows, brings the strongest short-term response. Negative incentives are threats of dire consequence if tasks are not completed. The problem with threats is that they lose effectiveness if they are too heavily relied upon and can result in retaliatory actions. Positive incentives are most often cash incentives. The problem with cash incentives is that the motivation lasts only as long as the payment remains in employees’ short-term memory. Attitudinal are intrinsic rewards that play to employees’ deeper needs; where the needs and incentive last in long duration. Examples of these needs are achievement, recognition, prestige, or familial responsibilities. Attitudinal motivation is most desirable because of its lasting effectiveness and ability to build employee loyalty.

The easiest way to build attitudinal motivation in a business is to make the business a desirable place to work. Companies that hire the best employees have the best chance of an engaged workforce. From my experience, companies that have developed a strong brand attract good employees. However, having a recognized brand is a luxury many businesses have not come to afford. Having a leader that is passionate about their business, able to articulate strong values, and able select employees that are committed to those values will create an attractive workplace. Recalling the last post on attitude, a leader with a positive attitude will attract employees with like attitude. The last piece to developing motivation is developing employee relationships where the leader understands what is most important to employees and helping them find a way to get what they want. Employees’ desire for opportunities to advance, ability to provide for their families, contributions to their community, and ability to adventure on their time off creates tremendous loyalty and motivation if satisfied. I offer a motivational value survey that scores interest in seven value areas. Anyone interested in trying it with a “comp”, please drop me an email. Developing a highly motivated team often entails culture change for organizations. Culture change is a big deal and help is valuable. Feel free to email questions or request information on how Accelerated Achievements can help.

2-Minute or So Video: Motivation Case Study

Getting Action: Attitude

Do you consider all telephone calls from sales people a waste of time or do you examine calls for merit? Do you get defensive or impatient when an employee complains about an assignment or do you see an opportunity to improve the work environment? We all have beliefs and attitudes and they all have at least some impact on success.

Positive attitudes begin with a leader understanding their role in the organization. Leaders see the people and resources around them as the source of their power and only use the authority of their position to maintain discipline. A positive attitude is invaluable for setting direction, clarifying roles, decision making, and both encouraging and recognizing performance from the team. Strong leaders hold themselves accountable for the clarity of their communication, unbiased judgement, and development of personnel.

Leaders improve attitude by making themselves aware of the habitual responses they have brought to their role and focusing on what is happening in the present. Discouragement, blaming, worry, frustration are all rooted in a leader’s past experience or anticipation of the future. A leader’s best communication with employees happens when that leader is fully focused on what is happening right now (I.e. reality). Managing risk and discovery of new possibilities happen only when firmly rooted in reality.  Style assessments can give a leader insight on whether their natural tendency is to focus on the past, present, or future. Anyone interested taking a complimentary assessment can click here or send me an email.

Good attitude management includes regular review of your goals. When disappointed with the results from an effort, I do the following exercise: draw a large square on a piece of paper and bisect each side of the square so that it is divided into four squares. Label the upper left box “facts” and list observable details surrounding the effort. In the upper right, label it “beliefs” and list all details you think or imagine to be true.

Label the lower box “feelings” and list the emotions you are experiencing after the effort. Note that there is a one-to-one correspondence between your beliefs and feelings. After you identify those relationships, the next steps you need to take are

clear and you will execute them with appropriate emotion. List the action you want to take in the lower right box and label it “actions.”

Finally, being a strong leader requires courage and persistence. The current literature might call this emotional intelligence. Not infecting a team with the leader’s negative emotions is the greatest challenge of leadership. A great way to accelerate discovery of attitudes that are holding you back is to work with a coach. Contact me if you want to learn more and I wish you every success.

Blind Spots Challenge Attitude Self-Awareness

Getting More Action from Your Team

I confess I am a sports fan and probably spend too many hours watching professional sports. Have you ever wondered why some teams that spend top-dollar on athletes only deliver mediocre results? Or, why some teams are habitual winners or losers? I believe coaching and leadership play a big role in raising performance in both sports and business. This is the first of four posts dealing with getting action from your team.

My last series dealt with overcoming indecision. Indecision is rooted in confusion about what you do and how you do it. Whereas leaders looking to get more action are clear on what they want. These leaders want to master influencing their team to perform better. This series will look at three key areas that leaders can employ to raise results: Attitude, Motivation, and Collaboration.

Attitude is a habit of thought and a leader’s attitude has enormous impact on team performance. Going back to the sports analogy, losing (and winning) can become a habit. The most important attitude for a team leader is openness to change; and specifically the leader’s openness to personal change. It’s folly to think that a team is going to change and the team leader doesn’t have to.

Gen. Dwight Eisenhower described leadership as asking a group of people to do what you want and they do it because they want to. If a leader has an aspiration for the organization that offers benefit to team members, getting members’ engagement is much easier. For example, wanting improvement because you’re worried the seasonality of the business is going to get you in trouble with the bank, is not motivating to the team. Building the resources to keep a team in place year-round is abundance-based and far more attractive. The self-motivation of the leader does influence the morale of the team.

Everybody wants to have a sense of belonging at their job and that their work is valued. Building a collaborative culture is the best way to assure your team achieves that end. Including team members’ input to decisions that impact how they do their jobs moves a culture to be more collaborative. A leader’s authority can specify what the job is. The team decides how they go about the job. For many leaders this is a test in listening and keeping their ego in check.

In the coming weeks, I’ll explore these three topics more fully and will do my best to make the content actionable. Please keep an eye out for the coming posts.

Power vs Authority

Authority vs Power

Overcoming Inaction Through Leadership

When I was first promoted to a supervisor, my reports suffered through my zest to do work quickly and perfectly. Through commitment and years of scattered workshops, I changed what came natural. I learned to communicate and collaborate with people different than me. I learned to keep my eye on the goal and not be distracted by good or bad news. I truly know we can choose to be more motivating, constructive, and personable. Without making that choice, you can see the following:

  • Conflict goes unresolved or even festers
  • Lack of collaboration and critical communication among employees; leading to missteps
  • Absenteeism and tardiness is an issue
  • Employees lack initiative out of boredom or fear of rejection

Effective management is always backing up work assignments with communication of a larger view of what the work is to accomplish. Success, in my mind, requires a balance of empathy, concise articulation, and wise use of time. At the end of this post is an opportunity to download a tool to assess how well you manage that balance. But here’s a questionnaire to assess your leadership habits. Each “No” should be regarded as an opportunity to improve.

  • Most of your employees have a healthy level of ambition and seek to grow their responsibilities in the organization
  • When circumstances change, I refrain from directing and invite my employees to collaborate on a way forward.
  • I am approachable and make time on a daily basis to understand employee challenges and recognize accomplishments.
  • I have clear goals and plans for changing my management style and being more productive.

If you answered yes to all the questions, you likely have an energetic and productive work environment. Regardless of how you answered, you can download a download a self-assessment of your management style. You’ll gain insight into how well you control employees and encourage them. Accelerated Achievements has helped both new and experienced managers change their management style score in months and not years; like it did my self-directed improvement. If any of my comments leave triggered questions, let’s talk it over.

OVERCOMING INACTION: SUCCESS THOUGH GOALS

Nobody plans to fail; but of those that fail, 97% fail to plan. Is the statement trite? Its impact is greatly dependent on the listener’s desire to succeed. Goals and planning is a critical area most prone to inaction. This can be due to a strong ego that believes intuition can solve problems more quickly than planning, a complacency to keep things just the way they are, or simply being stuck on how to proceed with the challenge in front of you. Not acting on the change around you carries a big cost. So, what happens when there is over-reliance on intuition?

  • Managers are getting stressed from taking on too many low-priority tasks at the cost of missing an important goal. You might recognize these folks by their complaints about being too busy.
  • Managers are pursuing projects without budgeting time and dollars and then being surprised by the cost of the project and dogged with rework and disappointing returns.
  • Managers fail to assign names and due dates to tasks and have little recourse to correct employees’ late work.
  • People work chronic overtime because they don’t see an activity with enough attraction to draw them home.

Experts agree that goal setting is the most critical skill for an executive to perfect. Assignment of work, monitoring progress, performance evaluation, and recognition are all impossible without solid goals. Thus, one of the best cost reduction schemes for a business is to do more planning. Here’s a yes/no questionaire to help you assess your goal setting expertise. Each “No” should be regarded as a caution.

  • Are goals not completed or completed late with some frequency?
  • Do you have work and personal goals that motivate you to keep a healthy life balance?
  • Do your employees know what your goals are and have goals to support the accomplishment of your goals?
  • Do you have a regular review of both yours and your employees’ goals to update status and identify new obstacles that need to be addressed?
  • Do you have a process to plan and research key growth initiatives, such as capital investments, market expansions, mergers/acquisitions, etc. that supports sound investment and staffing decisions?

If you answered “Yes” to all the questions, you are a planner extraordinaire.  If not, take heart in knowing that you are in good company and sound planning skills can be readily mastered.  For taking the time to review this post, I’m making The Life Balance Worksheet available as a free download.  If your assessment has left you with lingering questions and you want to kick around ideas about how to strengthen your planning process, drop me a line.

Overcoming Inaction: Creating Value

How do you set prices? Do you put a markup on your direct costs? Do you estimate the tangible product benefit for your customers and price for a fair return? Or does your accountant keep an Ouija board under their desk? Successful companies focus on perceived value; which is defined as the premium a buyer is willing to pay for your product over that of a competitor’s comparable product. Understanding customer wants and needs with a precision that captures more profit than competitors is fundamental to sustainability. Thus, the best pricing insights are always on the other side of the office windows and managers of action crave facetime with their key customers. Here’s what you might see if a business is casting their gaze inward:

  • Dialog with customers cannot get past bids, price, and transactions.
  • Upper management is obsessed on the strength of products and services and does not search for customer opportunities.
  • A company receives feedback it’s “too rigid” and difficult to do business with.
  • Employees have little interest in the company’s success or the commercial and competitive aspects of the business
  • Sales representatives don’t waste time understanding clients’ current and future needs and resign themselves to being the “lowest bid.”

With even a minimal attempt to explain a competitive strategy to their employees, active managers see an immediate jump in productivity. Active managers understand they need empathy and sincere appreciation of customer businesses to discover the real things customers want. Let’s take a quiz to help assess your value-building expertise. These are Yes/No questions and each “No” should be regarded as an opportunity to improve. Viewers that complete the questions will receive a gift from Accelerated Achievements.

  1. I have a written business plan that is available to my employees.
  2. I have direct feedback from key customers on the top two issues facing their organizations and have a plan for addressing their issues.
  3. Our leadership team convenes at least once per quarter to identify if new competition and technology may pose threats to our plans.
  4. I have secondary research that keeps me apprised on the size of my market and key changes.
  5. I have a plan to obtain the cash, capital, and employee skills to achieve my goals
  6. My leadership team has the interview and listening skills to discover the vital needs and issues from customers and suppliers.
  7. I actively measure customer satisfaction and take input on new product ideas.

If you answered yes to all the questions, you have the framework to offer superior value to your customers. Regardless of how you answered, you can download a white paper titled, “Measures and Improving Strategy Development.” Accelerated Achievements has helped all kinds of companies refine their business plans and sharpen skills to strengthen customer relationships. Contact us if you have questions or concerns about your assessment or would simply like to talk.

Overcoming Inaction: Driving Your Success

If I were to declare to this audience that it is the role of every manager to capitalize on strengths and shore up weakness, I would no doubt see and hear much indifference. But what distinguishes successful managers is the skill to identify which weaknesses are important to address. Organizations stagnate or even fail when managers resist changes that really need to be taken.

So, why do managers so often choose inaction? If left unchecked, any decision to take inaction can overwhelm a manager over time. Unable to envision a structured approach to a solution, the manager will continue to choose inaction.  This post is the first of a five-part series titled “Discovering Your Success.” The series is designed to make managers more aware of impediments and, more important, help identify a course of action to resolve them.

Let’s consider the recurring characters in the center of inaction:

  • Process Paul: It’s too risky to change the process. In some cases processes are tightly-tuned and careful consideration must be given to change. More often, a business has just figured out how to make things “kinda” work and changing it sounds tiring. In either case, the focus is on failure rather than improvement.
  • Marvelous Melvin: It is believed that if Melvin decides to leave the business, the world as we know it will end. So everyone is extra careful not to do anything that would put Melvin in a tizzy. Melvin understands his status and uses it to manipulate the group to his advantage
  • Sweet Sam: Is a supervisor that has learned that managing conflict requires him or her to make decisions that can be unpopular and that life is easier if you let the employees figure it out; regardless of the result. Like Melvin, this supervisor usually has 20 years of experience and you don’t want that walking out the door! So people let it ride with Sam…
  • Blissful Bob: Managers that refuse to publish goals or performance measurements for their organization are blissful. Blissful managers often fail to observe changes customer behavior and their consequences. When they do respond it’s late and attacks symptoms of the problem; rather than the root problem.

Protecting these characters will greatly hinder the business’ ability to evolve and adapt. Inaction builds vulnerability to agile competitors, weakens market position, and creates a permissive work environment. Even with a simple organization, the loss in productivity can easily run into five figures.

Subsequent blogs will look at four areas of working smarter: creating customer value, goals, process, and communication/leadership. I chose these four areas because they are essential to sustaining a business. These posts will boost awareness of the consequences when weak in an area. And, each post includes a questionnaire to help identify actions you can take to move forward. This series is all about self-assessment.  You can get started by taking a moment to write down the weakness in your organization you see most in need of shoring up.

 

Developing Your Successor

Whether the issue is preparing a business for sale or enabling the next generation to take over, managers increasingly find themselves wondering where the future leadership for an organization will come from. They may wonder, “When will Jim finally step up and take some leadership around here?” or “Will Susan be willing and able to assume control when I’m ready to retire six years from now?” The more appropriate question is, “When will this manager execute a plan to prepare new leadership to take over this company?” It is ironic that for a leader to find a successor, they must take the lead in developing leaders.

The reasons for employees not pursuing leadership are fairly predictable. These reasons are based on preconceptions regarding their ability to do the job or perceived satisfaction of taking on such a job. The list of reasons can include:

  • Complacency – liking things just the way they are
  • Lack recognition of the key skills necessary for leadership
  • Lack of confidence
  • Intimidated with how the culture treats leaders
  • Do not see incentives for taking on additional responsibility

All of these reasons will require the employee to undergo personal, positive change before they can be ready to lead. For this change to happen in a timely fashion, four elements need to be present in the management culture: Goals, Rewards, Instruction, and Process. To remember them, I refer to them as GRIP; as in “get a grip”.

 

Goals: An effective goal set is multi-dimensional. They address both long and short terms and both tangible and intangible changes. To grow leaders, there needs to be a clear link between organizational and individual goals and management needs to teach members to hold themselves accountable for their goal success.

Rewards: The best rewards are win-win. A win for the company is a reward that gains the desired result without stunting the growth of the company. A win for the employee is being able to achieve the goal and receive a reward that supports a valued, personal goal. Win-win rewards are far more effective than cash rewards.

Instruction: To grow leadership, instruction and coaching need to be available to develop the key soft skills of communication, persuasion, time management, and productivity.

Process: The owner of a small business often personally directs how work is to be done. Businesses take a leap forward when they document roles and process. When members clearly understand how the operation operates, there is hope they will step up and lead the operation.

Many business owners need to undergo their own changes before they can get a GRIP. Change can be sped up with a good guide that understands their challenges. Please talk to me if you would like to explore how I might be able to support the development of your organization.

 

Executives Bonding with Sales

Perhaps, there is a reason that so many corporate CEOs come from the Sales organization. I have observed that successful businesses have strong teamwork between the Executive Staff and the Sales group. Everybody in a business understands that they are dependent on Sales to provide a predictable, profitable stream of orders. Yet, a surprising number of executives are unaware of what they need to provide to the Sales group to support their success. There are three elements that executives can provide that will support Sales.

Provide a clear two-year outlook for the companySome business owners have the attitude that if you give a sales force a good product, they should be able to sell it. A product needs to be really good and a bit disruptive to sell itself. In most sales situations, the product falls behind the sales representative and company reputation in importance to the buyer. Sales people need to describe to their prospects how the company’s investments and strategies align with the prospects’ anticipated needs. A lot has been written lately about how stories are powerful sales tools. A good story describes how a company came to their current mission and how customers can depend on the company to protect their future.

Accept responsibility for sales resultsQuality models suggest that sales people are accountable for sales and that managers are responsible for them. A company that enforces accountability, but shirks their responsibilities will have a sales force with high turnover. I have always believed that every employee’s performance impacts sales and that it is the executive’s job to assure at the company is responsive to potential and existing customers.

Lead positive change – When a sales person walks into a customer’s office for a visit, it’s common for the customer to ask, “What’s new?” Customers want their suppliers to be dynamic and not static. Sales people need current information that gives an interesting reply to the customer’s question. Once a customer becomes concerned that your business is not keeping up with change in technology and markets, the door is open for competitors to grab the account.

I would enjoy hearing reader’s opinions and practices regarding how they maintain marketing quality. I am scheduled to give two presentations on the topic in the Connecticut area and encourage you to attend and learn more.