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  • 7 Ways to Transform Company Information Into Team Learning

    Often, when it comes to learning, less is more – especially when it is in the context of our work, our company, and our already full list of priorities and expectations. Companies need to find ways to create learning opportunities that don’t just feel like more noise, more dumped information, more stuff we have no idea when or how to process. We need to create learning opportunities that feel relevant, consumable, and actionable . In other words, we need to think about identifying and teaching key concepts the way a marketer thinks about marketing a new product. Marketers don’t - and typically can’t - tell you every feature of every option of every product or service. If they did, you would undoubtedly tune out. They don’t tell you exactly how to use it or where to use it or when to use it. They trust if you have it that you’ll figure that part out for yourself. In other words, marketers prioritize their messages to show that they understand you, your needs, and the problems you are trying to solve. It’s really no different in effective teaching and learning inside a company. Here are a few ideas to consider: 1.    Consider your audience. What do they really need to know and do? Do they see your company content as immediately relevant to their role and actionable given their current reality? What do they really care about given their role (i.e. not just what would be convenient to know, or what you want them to know)? What are their immediate needs and what is competing for their bandwidth when they get your file, deck, email, newsletter or otherwise?   2.    Identify or predict your audience’s misaligned assumptions – and counter those first. Do they think they already know? If so, lead with something you know  they don’t know. Do they think it’s not for them? If so, lead with an example that directly relates to them and their role. Do they think it’s not a priority? If so, lead with why it’s so important – not because you think it’s important but with a story of how doing it, or not, will impact something meaningful to them.   3.    Focus on the high-leverage concepts (i.e. don’t overwhelm with detail). Don’t overlook the fundamentals and foundational information. We often assume people already know things that they either don’t or have forgotten. Target, assess, and redefine big, blur words where people think they agree but have never really thought about meanings or implications of the concepts (ex: Trust, Communication, Collaboration, Engagement, Culture, Performance). Show the audience they know more than they realize. Allow the audience to bring examples and detail through reflection on the high-leverage concepts rather than always pushing your own example or case studies.   4.    Be deliberate about medium, dose, and frequency. Everything can’t be learned through Powerpoint, just like everything can’t be learned through video. What is the right medium for the concept or concepts you are trying to convey? Few of us can process and learn from massive file folders, hundred-page case studies, or endless slide decks. These may be chock full of information, but it’s too much. So, we need to think our high-leverage concepts and what it takes to convey those, no more, no less. Rarely, do we learn something new with only one exposure to it. How often and in how many different ways do we need to introduce a topic, talk about it, practice it, reflect on it, and so forth. This is how learning really happens.   5.    Get people reflecting and talking – together. The high-leverage concepts are like a stone dropped in water. Prompt and listen to how the concepts ripple through the minds and experiences of the audience. Use participant reflections to surface additional assumptions, disconnect on definitions, or otherwise. Focus on how people’s experiences are often very common across a lot of different settings and help normalize those so we can more clearly understand them.   6.    Focus on action. Consuming content is useless if it doesn’t lead to action. Help people identify the thing they can do tomorrow to get better. Lower the risk of action. Encourage people to start where they are. Meaningful action could be as simple as a conversation or a change in their calendar or making time for personal planning. Reduce the abstraction. Use their action to help them see and feel progress so they don’t get lost in big concepts or return to blur words.   7.    Turn learners into teachers and teachers into learners. Learning shouldn’t just happen from the top down in organizations. We can and should learn from all directions. So, we must create forums and opportunities to let learners step up to be teachers. Learning can happen on the fly but needs to be supported by intentional investments in time, conversations, and content. We will show we are committed to learning by prioritizing and dedicating time to do it. Practicing deliberate reflection across all levels of a company enables learning to surface that can do so in any other way. We don’t learn just by being busy. We learn by stepping out of that busyness and reflecting on what is working and what we could do differently.

  • Coaching Concepts: From Burning Out to Burning Back In

    I was on a coaching call recently with someone who was struggling with burnout. She had communicated her challenges with her supervisors who were understanding and supportive. The company was even working on a reorganization that would theoretically help alleviate some pressure from her position. She was obviously a highly respected and valued team member. But, the more she talked and I just listened, the more it was clear that her burnout was not about work and no amount of change at work would make any meaningful difference. She actually loves her work. She loves the people she works with. They had even told her to stop working so much on nights and weekends. Most of the time, she didn’t really need to. And yet, she kept doing it with full recognition that she was burning herself out, but with no idea how to stop. It felt too big. It cut a little too deep. There was inertia in overworking and a kind of perverse comfort. There was a sense of value creation and purpose. There was a sense that if she didn’t have anything else to do then she ought to be working. It was a sort of work ethic gone slightly haywire. And alternately, there was no sense that taking time off, reading a book, going for a walk, taking a needed nap, spending time at home with a kid are all “doing something” and they all have their own role and value. There’s a lot here but she was open and honest and recognized that her choices were what was driving her burnout. Not work. She recognized that all of the talk about the changes on the horizon at work actually weren’t going to do anything for the burnout problem at hand. But, what was she supposed to do with that when she had allowed herself and her life for so long to be defined by those choices? Work was concrete. This other reality felt very abstract. So, as I always try to do, I wanted to get to something that felt really practical and tactical so that any change she made in prioritizing her time, she would feel an immediate sense of positive reinforcement – a sort of instant gratification to try and disrupt the work inertia and illuminate another source of personal value creation. I helped her reframe and think about the “long game” and her own sustainability and ability to perform over time, as the company grows, for her supervisors and coworkers she so loves and values so much. Burning out is the one sure-fire way to let them down. And, I asked her to think in terms of the opportunity cost of her working nights and weekends. What was she not doing? What was she missing? And, that’s where we got some traction and made a plan. We are going to connect in about 6 weeks and see how she’s doing on these commitments: 1. She committed to not missing any of her son’s basketball games, which she had missed previously and for work that wasn’t even necessarily pressing. 2. She committed to going back to church, which was very important to her. She had started just viewing it online so she didn’t waste any time and so she could multi-task while doing it. 3. She committed to working no more than one night per week. She knew she really didn’t need to do more even if she had been choosing to do more. 4. She committed on Saturdays to disrupt those moments where she felt the urge to pick up her laptop because she “didn’t have anything better to do” by going for a walk or going to the grocery store or finding something else to get past the urge. All of these commitments are tactical and measurable and very personal and meaningful to her. They aren’t about unpacking the underlying psychology of the situation. There may be a time for that, but it’s not now. Now is the time to go to a ballgame, to go to church, to prove to herself that she can make those choices and commitments and to feel the positivity she gets in return. For her, getting over burnout must start by redirecting her flame, re-igniting value and joy and meaning in other parts of her life. If she makes these commitments and finds these things, I have no doubt she can burn back in to her work.

  • 10 Strategies for Excelling as a Young Executive

    Being young and hungry is probably what helped get you where you are. Being self-motivated and highly intelligent have been your tools for educational and early career success. But, when you jump into your first executive-level leadership role, particularly in an entrepreneurial environment, you’re putting your drive, motivation, and intelligence to the test like never before. You’re faced with both massive challenges and, to counter, massive opportunities. If you don’t have clarity, a sense of professional strategy, and you only depend on your historical motivation and smarts, there’s a good chance you are going to feel the burn - but not necessarily the growth - that comes with your new role. So, here are 10 strategies to consider as you grow into your early executive position: 1. Build Expertise: Learn the Business At this point, no one cares what your GPA was or what honors you got in school. What they care about is how you are contributing to and leading the business today. An MBA or other credential may give you some sense of having business expertise but that is not the same in having expertise in your business. Go the extra mile to learn the market. Tap into trade journals. Find influential voices and read their blogs and listen to their podcasts. Your ability to understand not only the business but the market and the customer trends will instill confidence in those around you and give you opportunities to have influence on important strategic and operational decisions beyond your experience. 2. Build Trust: Learn the People High achievers typically spend a lot of time around other high achievers. Specifically, they spend time around other high achievers who achieve in the same areas and ways they do. But, when you join a company, you get to work with people with often wildly different backgrounds and experiences. Your C-Suite has a breadth and depth that not only gives them wisdom but also gave them scars. So, learning where they are coming from and developing empathy can help you navigate how to work with them and to manage up. You also have people below you in the organization - and maybe at multiple layers. You need to do the same for them. You need to learn what their experiences have been and what makes them tick. You need to understand what motivates them and how that may be quite different from what motivates you. You need to understand what success means to them, what growth means, and what they value in their job or want to change. If you will have these conversations, if you will just ask and then listen, you will learn what it means to lead your people well. 3. Lead Learning: Ask Lots of Questions Often, young executives come into a new role with confidence and skill but lacking a bit of humility. They are ready to take on the world but in the process, stop listening to it. Take that motivation and passion and apply it to your continued learning. No one expects you to know how to be an executive perfectly (and there really isn’t such a thing) when you’ve never done it before. Show not only that you are willing to learn but you are as hungry to learn as you are to excel – because they go hand-in-hand for a young executive. 4. Improve Rapidly: Ask for Feedback Building on the above, ask for feedback. Build that network within your company and beyond who you can go to for honest insights and an honest answer, formally and informally. Don’t assume a lack of feedback means you are doing a good job. Alternately, don’t assume it means you are doing a bad job. Proactively seek feedback. We call that “pull” feedback as opposed to waiting on “push” feedback. And, as part of this, be willing to ask for help when you need it. Don’t make the mistake that asking for help highlights weakness or incompetence or anything like that. It may be painful sometimes to ask for help, but it’s a lot less painful than hiding your weakness, failing to deliver, and having something explode. 5. Clarify: Understand What’s in Your Realm of Independence When you do a little bit of everything and each day is a little different and each hour seems to bring a new decision and maybe even a new fire to put out, it’s critical that you understand what’s in the realm of your control and what decisions you can and should make versus those that require others. This is really about sizing your locus of control and making sure you and your boss and colleagues see it roughly as the same size. If you think your locus of control is smaller than they do, you underperform by design. If you think it is bigger than they do, you run the risk of “getting out over your skis” as the saying goes and you’ll eventually fall on your face. 6. Focus: Align Your Priorities When work is dynamic and ever-changing and the list of to-do’s is always more than what you feel you can get done, you have to make sure you have enough context to prioritize. Prioritizing inherently means you are going to do one thing at the expense of the other not getting done – at least for now. So, there is a cost. But, the cost of not being able to prioritize effectively is far greater. It’s all about aligning and communicating expectations with your boss and colleagues. 7. Be Proactive: Try to Answer Before They Ask Now, you will never do this 100% of the time for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that you aren’t a mind reader. But, you can start to pick up patterns of what your boss and your colleagues want and need and when. Send that report before they ask. Send that monthly or quarterly update a day before they said they need it. Provide them an update on your goals before they call for the goals meeting. This is really about a mindset and understanding that if others have asked you for something, they’ve spent energy. They may have even developed stress wondering where it was. They certainly have spent time. Any chance you have to forego any of these expenditures will come back to you in spades as trust, gratitude, and expanded responsibility. 8. No Surprises: Keep Them in the Loop This isn’t just about big decisions or customer issues or reporting or any obvious places we need to communicate. Keeping leadership informed on those things is table stakes. Think ahead. If you have a conversation with a vendor as part of your work, think about whether or not another executive might talk to them too. You don’t want wires to get crossed and you want that vendor to sense your team is working and communicating like a well-oiled machine. So, send a brief update that says “I talked with X about Y today and this is where we left it. I just wanted you to know in case you talk to them too.” Or, it could be something like: “I just wanted you to know I asked X to take a look at the recent market data. So, we already we have that moving.” In this example, you are not only “answering before they ask” but also making sure your boss or others don’t also ask someone which results in confusion and duplicative effort. 9. Edit: Know When Less is More Clearly, I’ve talked a lot here about communication and asking questions and being proactive. But, you also need to learn what you should edit. Bombarding your boss or executive team with details they don’t need can breach trust. It suggests you aren’t totally confident in what you are doing and also don’t have an understanding of what is most important to them – and it’s not your noise. So, learn your people and their roles and your interdependencies so that you can know what they need to know, what they might like to know, and what they definitely don’t need you to bother them with. 10. Overachieve: Exceed Your Goals Now, if you are a young executive reading this, you are already used to overachieving. So, I’m wrapping this up with a bit of a softball for you. That said, in ambiguous situations, in early-stage companies, in new markets, in new roles, you are not only executing but you are setting the standard for what good looks like. Your goals are likely based on some historical perspective of this. Your professional growth will depend on how you execute beyond your goals. Young companies - and generally good companies - tend to promote when you are already doing work that is above your current role. They don’t promote prospectively. See if you can squeeze two years of experience and learning out of every year by nailing your goals and then redefining them.

  • Coaching Concepts: Leading Change by Understanding Transitions

    I was on a coaching call recently with an up-and-coming leader in his organization who had been tasked with implementing some new technologies and systems across several new acquisitions. With every turn, he was finding resistance. People liked their spreadsheets. People defended their practices as if his change was an indictment. People challenged the authority of this leader because of his relative youth. He wasn’t getting anywhere with his implementations, and he was stuck and frustrated. Following a Leadership Academy session I facilitated on leading change, he and I set up a call to talk about where he was and strategize a way out. During my session, I discuss the work of William Bridges and we talk about how change begins with some sort of ending. People often feel a sense of loss. For some, that’s fleeting, but for others that can become a more protracted state. So, we talked about what these new partners might be feeling and what their sense of loss might be about to better understand their resistance. We also talked about the work of John Kotter and his 8-step model for leading change. We focused on step 1 which is around creating a sense of urgency for the change. We talked about what pain points these partners might have, what ideas for improvement that might be obscured by their protection of the status quo and their fear of loss. With these two frameworks in mind, the next steps became clear for this young leader. He needed to go talk to these partners. He needed to go not to tell them about the change he wanted and needed to implement but to hear them talk about their work. What worked well? What seemed sub-optimal? What parts of their work do they wish could be automated? What parts were just annoying? This conversation naturally opened the door to ideas for solutions. It reframed the change this young leader was trying to implement from the imposition of a new technology to the prospect of a new solution to pain points many of them had dealt with and adapted to over years. In short, people were a lot more open to a new solution than to a new technology. Kudos to this leader for being so reflective and empathetic in his desire to be more strategic and effective. He stepped back and reframed his own situation and frustration, reevaluated what he knew and understood about the resistance he was facing, and then returned to his change leadership with a new approach. And, it worked.

  • Thoughts for First Time Leaders

    Congratulations, you've just landed your first leadership role in an organization. It can be an exciting and challenging time. It also comes with a steep learning curve. As a first-time leader, it's important to remember that you're not expected to know everything, and it's okay to ask for help. Common Mistakes to Avoid First-time leaders often make a number of mistakes as they navigate their new role. Here are some of the most common mistakes that I have observed of first-time leaders: 1. Micromanaging: One of the biggest mistakes that first-time leaders make is micromanaging their team. This can lead to team members feeling frustrated and undervalued. Micromanaging also sends a negative message to your team member: I don’t trust you to do your job. 2. Making Decisions without Engaging the Team: Making decisions without consulting the team can lead to a lack of buy-in. Always remember your team likely has more front-line knowledge than you have. They can save you from making costly mistakes if you simply engage them when making decisions. 3. Focusing on Tasks and not on People: First-time leaders tend to focus too much on completing tasks and not enough on building relationships with team members. This can really harm the motivation among team members. It also minimizes critical thinking if you’re simply passing out “to do lists” each day. 4. Being too Rigid: First-time leaders may feel the need to adhere strictly to rules and procedures, but this can prevent them from being adaptable and flexible when the situation calls for it. 5. Failing to Seek Feedback: First-time leaders may be hesitant to seek feedback from their team, but this can prevent them from improving and growing as a leader. Every leader should gather feedback from the team (anonymously is best) asking what is going well and what should be improved. Without feedback, leaders rarely see their blind-side and continue to repeat bad behaviors. Overall, the key to avoiding these mistakes is to be self-aware and to constantly seek to learn and grow as a leader. It's important to be open to feedback, to communicate effectively with team members, and to prioritize building relationships and developing team members' skills. Here are 8 Rules to help you navigate your new role successfully. 1. Listen to Your team: One of the best ways to build a meaningful relationship with your new team is to listen to them. Encourage feedback and suggestions. Take them into consideration when making decisions. Make sure everyone feels heard and valued. 2. Model Desired Behavior: As a leader, you set the tone for your team. Make sure your actions align with your words. If you want your team to work hard and be productive, you need to model that behavior yourself. 3. Invest in Their Development: As a leader, your job is to help your team grow and develop. Provide opportunities for them to learn new skills and take on new challenges. Encourage them to take ownership of their work and give them the support they need to succeed. One of my favorite quotes in this is by Ralph Nader, “The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” 4. Build Meaningful Relationships: Building strong relationships with your team members can help you better understand their strengths and weaknesses. This will allow you to delegate tasks more effectively and create a more cohesive team. 5. Communicate Frequently: Communication is key to any successful team. Make sure you're communicating clearly and regularly with your team. Keep everyone informed about changes or updates that could affect their work. 6. Learn from Your Mistakes: As a first-time leader, you're bound to make mistakes. Don't beat yourself up over them. Instead, use them as an opportunity to learn and grow. Reflect on what went wrong and how you can improve in the future. Leadership is not about being perfect, it's about being honest and humble and creating an environment where people feel supported and encouraged to do their best. 7. Be Adaptable: Things don't always go according to plan. As a leader, it's important to be flexible and adaptable. Be open to change and be willing to pivot when necessary. Albert Einstein said it best: “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change." 8. Celebrate Successes: When your team achieves a goal or completes a project, take the time to celebrate their success. Recognize their hard work and show them that you appreciate their efforts. This will help build morale and motivate your team to continue to work hard. Summary: It can be daunting to step into a leadership role for the first time, Remember that you were chosen for a reason. You have the skills and qualities needed to succeed in this role, and you're not expected to know everything right away. Leadership is a journey, and there will be ups and downs along the way. Don't be afraid to make mistakes, as they can be valuable learning opportunities. Embrace the challenges that come your way, and don't hesitate to ask for help or guidance when you need it. Your team is there to support you, and together you can achieve great things. Remember that your leadership style is unique, and that's a good thing. Don't try to be someone you're not, and instead focus on being authentic and true to yourself. Your team will appreciate your honesty and transparency. As you navigate your new role, prioritize building relationships with your team members. Get to know them on a personal level and understand their strengths and weaknesses. This will allow you to delegate tasks effectively and create a more cohesive team. Finally, remember that you're not alone. There are many resources available to support you on your leadership journey. Seek out mentors, attend training and development opportunities, and connect with other leaders in your industry

  • New Leaders: 7 Pitfalls to Avoid

    Starting a new role is never easy. Often new leaders set themselves up for failure by simply falling into the common traps associated with taking on a new role of leadership. Here are 7 pitfalls to avoid when taking on a leadership role: Setting Unrealistic Expectations The all-too-human desire to impress one’s higher authority often pressures new leaders to create unrealistic expectations. Be sure your work targets and goals are built around the market and the company’s position. ‍ Analysis Paralysis While is very good to be prudent, overly cautious behavior eats up time and sets the example of risk aversion. By the time you find the perfect answer, the problem has likely spiraled out of control or the opportunity may have been missed. ‍ Being the “Know It All” Never believe you have all the answers. In a new role, you likely don’t know what you don’t know… A “know it all” attitude may cause you to alienate your colleagues and employees. New leaders should spend more time listening than talking; observing rather than jumping to conclusions; inviting input. ‍ Living in the Past Don’t keep bringing up the past and dwelling on “what we did at my former company…” Even if you don’t disenfranchise people, you will certainly annoy them if you spend too much time on the past. An occasional example of a concept that might work is fine, just use the examples sparingly. ‍ Lack of the Truth The higher you go in the organization, the less likely other people are to give you honest feedback. Insulation at the top of a company can prevent leaders from seeing a clear reflection in the mirror. Constantly seek honest feedback. ‍ Picking the Wrong Battles Know which battle to invest in for an early “win.” Folks are watching to see how you do. This first problem solving quest will likely label you for quite some time. Choose wisely. ‍ Dissing Your Predecessor Always be respectful and sensitive to your predecessor, their position and tenure. Regardless of how you feel. You do not earn your reputation by tarnishing someone else's. You earn it by your own performance.

  • From Individual Contributor to Manager: The Simple Math of a Difficult Shift

    It can be hard transitioning to manager. It totally shifts the mindset and value-creation principles that so many new managers developed, delivered, and were recognized for in being promoted to manager. The shift isn’t just one of roles. In many ways, it can feel like one of identity. The people we promote to manager typically value what they do, and value the impact what they do has had on the company. When we promote them to manager, we recognize them for what they have done, but we change what they do. We change how they are expected to add value and have impact. And yet, we rarely slow down to help reframe what it means to be a manager and how that’s different from the work they’ve done to get there. I was having this exact conversation with a new manager when it dawned on me that she was actually expressing a sense of loss in becoming a manager. She felt less impactful in this role, less valuable for “passing off” work to someone else that she had always done herself. So, in some attempt to hold onto her historic value, she kept doing what she’d always done - and just layered her new management duties on top. She was burning herself out, her team was flailing, and she was even considering leaving the company. This is a person who had recently been promoted because of her indefatigable energy and commitment to the company! They love her. She loves them! For nearly a decade, she has found life-purpose and meaning in her work there. She is proud to have helped build the company, to have been there to grind it out with the founders and just make stuff happen for their customers. In other words, she knows how to deliver value and how to feel valuable as a hard-working, dedicated, individual contributor. Now, she’s a struggling manager. It dawned on me that to reboot this transition to manager, she has to redefine her value creation equation – from an equation where she creates direct value to one in which she also creates value through others. I explained somewhat off-the-cuff that as an individual contributor, she delivered one unit of value with one unit of work. As a manager, when she enables one of her people to execute on that unit of work, she creates one unit of value out of the fact that it was executed and another unit of value out of the fact that someone else did it. In other words, as a manager, she is creating more value, not less, when someone else does the work and does it successfully. She looked at me puzzled for a moment, and then a sort of liberated smile flashed across her face. “That’s it!” She exclaimed. “I never thought of it that way. But, that’s it. I know I can’t keep doing what I’m doing. My supervisor has been pushing me that it’s not just about me delivering the work. It’s about the team. I’ve got a great team. I know they want more from me. They want to grow. I’ve just been thinking about it wrong.” So, here’s the simple math: Individual Contributor Value = Work Execution Manager Value = Work Execution + Capacity Building Work Execution Variable: Did the work get done? Was it done well? Was it done on time? Capacity Building Quotient: Did someone else get an opportunity to grow and own the work? Did I have the opportunity to work on something else? Are we closer to someone else consistently delivering the work without me? Questions for a new manager to ask yourself: Yes, the work needs to get done, but do I need to be the one to do it? What am I not doing with my time because I am doing this? Which one is more important for me to do? Would our team be better off if someone other than just me knew how to do this? Felt supported to do this? Is this a one-off task or something that will need to happen again? Do I want to keep doing it? Should someone else own it in the future? Is my team ready for more responsibility? Are they looking to grow? Is this an opportunity for them to step up and me to step back?

  • Thoughts On Character

    When do we best see a person’s true colors? Most often, character is most often revealed by two extreme emotions: fear and greed. In times of fear individuals often face great difficulty and disaster. Seeing how they face their fears and deal with life's challenges tells us a lot about the person. When things go really wrong, do they "own" it or look to place blame with someone else? In times of adversity, we see the the person more clearly. ‍ Another time character reveals itself is during opportunities for significant financial wins, power, or other big gains. The most telling of these is usually power. Having power has a caustic effect on people with already questionable character because it gives them unfettered license to act, feel and treat others in ways that completely align with their own goals and self interests. ‍ In a study by Katherine DeCelles, a professor of organizational behavior at the University of Toronto, people who cared less about morality were also more likely to break the rules at work if they had power. ‍ How a person deals with both extremes when the stakes are high, reveals their true character. The choices made during those intense moments of truth exposes the depth of one’s character - that’s when we see what really matters to them, their degree of self-control, how they respond when their buttons are pushed.

  • 5 Questions to Ask About Your Internal Communication Strategy

    1. What do you need your people to know? This is about business strategy and leadership. To lead a safe, productive, growing business, what do your people need to know from you, or from leadership more generally? What information is going to help align and engage them with the company vision and direction? What will make the work environment safer, more engaging, and deliver happier customers? This is all about you knowing from the top of the organization what you need your people to know to stay aligned with the direction, understand priorities, and deliver to your customers. 2. What do your people want to know? Knowing what your people want to know and delivering it is crucial to engagement. It’s different than just what you want or need them to know. It’s about culture-building and empathy – and it starts with listening and knowing your people. What do they want to hear from their manager? From the CEO? Who else do they want to hear from? What questions or concerns do they have? Do they want updates on the market, business strategy, acquisitions? Do they care about overall performance and the success of the business so they feel a part of something bigger? Strategic internal communication must be two-way and engage the wants and needs of both your people and company leadership. 3. What do your people want/need you to know? To reiterate, communication is two-way, not just in the nature and value of the content exchanged but also in who gets to initiate it. So, in your company, who gets to share information? Request information? Seek/give feedback? Report on or provide updates on success stories? Challenges? Who listens? Your people need avenues to communicate with leadership, to know they have been heard, and to know it matters. If they are going to own the vision and mission of the company and the execution of the strategy, your people have to feel like they matter and their perspectives are heard and respected. 4. What are you willing to change? Poor communication leads to low engagement. Low engagement leads to communication problems. It’s a self-reinforcing spiral. So, if that’s what is happening, something has to change. What is it? What are you willing to stop that you know isn’t working? What communication workflows need to be evaluated? What roles and expectations of leaders and managers must change? Communication both creates and is a function of organizational structure and design. So, if you want to change communication, then you should be willing to change these. Another new channel, a new meeting, new FTE, or new piece of technology on top of the same old practices probably won’t do it. 5. Why does it matter? If you are going to invest in change and expend your leadership capital to do so, you need a plan to articulate and promote “why” and then capture and report on the results. Can you reduce the volume of emails? Can you eliminate technologies or practices you know aren’t working anyway? Can you create new feedback channels? Communication impacts everything you do. So, pick short-term metrics that you and your people value and strategically align your communication change efforts to improve them. In the mid and long terms, you can then track lagging metrics like reduced turnover, increased engagement, higher productivity, increased safety and the like.

  • Trust & Leadership

    Trust is an essential ingredient to an optimized workplace—a core part of every relationship we have. When we trust, we feel safe to share our thoughts, our ideas, our worries, and our hopes. When others trust us, they do the same. ‍ Trust doesn’t mean we must always agree. It simply means that we listen with respect and value the other party’s point of view. Trust allows us to debate and challenge one another’s points of view as we seek to solve problems and find solutions.  When trust is present, we get better results with far less stress. ‍ For leaders, trust frames both our obligations and responsibilities to our team because of the authority and power we have within the organization. Our behavior within these 4 domains defines our own trustworthiness. ‍ Trust is the collective of these domains: ‍ Sincerity - The assessment of the one’s honestly. It’s the belief that the other individual means what they say, says what they mean, and their actions align with their words. When we express our intentions, beliefs, values and plans, we aren’t just describing ourselves, we are setting expectations of our future behaviors based in the minds of those who hear our words. The greater the scope of responsibility within the company, the more closely others watch to determine if our actions match our words. If they do not align, we cannot earn trust. ‍ Reliability - The assessment of the other person’s ability to follow through with the commitments they make. If the other individual promises you a report “by Friday” - it will indeed be delivered by Friday (not an excuse on Friday and a report on Tuesday). How we handle requests, make offers and voice commitments will determine if others find us reliable or not. If we are not reliable, we cannot earn trust.\ ‍ Competence - The assessment of the other person’s capacity, skill, insight and knowledge to do a particular task or job. The degree to which they are capable of executing a task well. Being competent does not mean being perfect. It means knowing our limits, acknowledging when we cannot complete a task, and asking for help or guidance. If we lack skill and knowledge but charge ahead anyway without engaging someone with expertise, we cannot earn trust. ‍ Care - the assessment of the other person’s capacity to think of someone other than themselves - that they have considered what is in the best interest of everyone (including the company) when they make a decision. It is virtually impossible for a team to collaborate to solve problems if some members do not believe other members do not care about the collective interest of the group. When we show up for the little things of our co-workers (meeting for coffee, asking about a sick child, staying late to help with a task), we demonstrate that we care about the interest of others. Saying we care without any demonstration of showing up for others is complete hypocrisy - and we cannot earn trust. ‍ Summary: ‍ The degree of the team’s trust in their leader drives employee satisfaction, loyalty, and work commitment. Trust in the leader is directly tied to productivity and profitability. It creates a sense of belonging and purpose for our work. ‍ The absence of trust (distrust) manifests as fear - and fear destroys idea sharing, innovation, and collaboration. Individuals who lack trust in their leader tend to spend more energy on protecting themselves. They engage in strategies to document their decisions should they need “evidence” in the future. ‍ Occasionally, I hear a leaders speak as though their team members should earn their trust. That’s a perverse inversion of the leadership model. ‍ If you are the leader - take a hard look in the mirror. And evaluate the trustworthiness of the person looking back at you. Your own sincerity, reliability, competence and compassion for others defines your own trust quotient. It’s well worth the investment of your time to discover yours. Without it, you cannot lead.

  • Coaching Concepts: Why And How You Need To Have Difficult Conversations With Your Boss

    Having difficult conversations is…well…difficult. This is especially true if you need to have a difficult conversation with a supervisor or someone else at a higher level in your organization. I was recently coaching a young executive who had been struggling with a direct report, who had a history of creating challenges among the team even back to a previous manager. But, this person was also highly valuable because of their skills and experience, and no one wanted to lose them. The young executive with whom I was speaking had sought advice and support from his superior to deal with the issue. In an attempt to help, his boss said that the problem employee could just report directly to him and he would deal with it. Even with the best intentions and that positive sense of collective required in the hustle of a startup, this attempt to help created far bigger problems for the young executive. Now, the rest of his direct reports believed that if they disagreed with him or if they didn’t like what he said then they too could go around him and directly to his superior. The workaround intended to relieve this young executive had accidentally neutered his ability to lead the rest of his team and as a result multiplied his stress. We were talking through how he might have this conversation with his boss. Sparing additional detail, here were some key principles we landed on: Approach with gratitude: We talked about how he could acknowledge the good intent of his supervisor’s move and open the conversation with that appreciation. This would ensure that nothing came across as complaining or personal or ungrateful, which were things he was really worried about. He valued and wanted to protect his positive relationship with his boss. Appeal to common interests: This young executive was hired because of his own skills and the belief that he could lead this team and the company to a new phase of growth and maturity. He knew that he and his boss could agree on this premise. With that out in the open, he needed to describe the unintended consequences of changing the reporting structure. Clearly, neither of them wanted this young executive to not be able to perform the job he was hired to do. Focus on outcomes, not people: We talked about making sure the conversation with his boss never became about the valuable, but problem employee. It couldn’t become personal. It had to be about process and performance. So, this young executive needed to show with examples how his leadership was being undermined with other direct reports and how that was impacting performance. Define an agreeable path forward: This was not a situation that could linger. This young executive was losing authority and credibility by the day and as a result was also developing a lot of frustration and anxiety about his role and the work and so forth. So, he needed to use steps 1-3 to make sure the conversation was primed for: so what do we do now? Within a few hours of our conversation, I got an email back. The young executive and his boss had agreed that an announcement would be made to the team about the change in reporting structure, so it no longer looked like a workaround that others could also take. They also defined specifically when that announcement would be made. This path forward not only would help solve the authority problem but would also relieve the stress valve for the young executive who now knew something would happen. This wouldn’t linger. Perhaps most importantly in the long run, I suspect that this young executive’s approach and willingness to have a difficult conversation with his boss only reinforced why he was hired in the first place. I have a feeling his opportunity and authority will only grow as a result of the experience.

  • Leaders Directly Impact The Well-Being Of Their Team

    Leaders play a crucial role in shaping the mental health and wellbeing of their employees. A positive and supportive work environment can improve job satisfaction, increase productivity and decrease absenteeism. However, a negative or unsupportive work environment can lead to burnout, stress, and even mental health issues. The Workforce Institute at UKG surveyed 3,400 people across 10 countries to spotlight the critical role our jobs, leadership, and, most of all, our managers play in supporting mental health in and outside of work. Key Insights from the Study: Leaders impact employees’ mental health (69%) more than doctors (51%) or therapists (41%) — and even the same as a spouse or partner (69%). 28% of employees believe that their manager has a direct impact on their mental health and wellbeing. More than 80% of employees would rather have good mental health than a high-paying job. Two-thirds of employees would take a pay cut for a job that better supports their mental wellness — and 70% of managers would, too. Work stress negatively impacts employees’ home life (71%), wellbeing (64%), and relationships (62%). 40% of the C-suite says they will likely quit within the year because of work-related stress. Managers are more often stressed out than their team members and senior leadership (42% vs. 40% and 35%, respectively), and 25% say they are “often” or“always” feeling burned out. This “middle layer” is the most at risk in many companies and feel the greatest day-to-day stress. But the C-suite is not immune to challenges, either. A surprising 33% ofC-level leaders say, “I don’t want to work anymore,” and the younger the leader, the more they agree with that statement. In fact, a whopping 40% of theC-suite says they will likely quit in the next 12 months due to work-related stress. Being overwhelmed consumes human energy and impacts retention, performance, innovation, and culture. Employers can be the anchor of stability for their people by giving them the support and resources they need. ‍ 7 Behaviors to Positively Impact theTeam’s Wellbeing: Here are seven good behaviors that managers can exhibit to positively influence the mental health and wellbeing of their team: Lead by example: Managers who take care of their own mental health and wellbeing set a good example for their employees to follow. Communicate effectively: Regular communication with employees can help managers understand their concerns and issues. Encouraging open and honest communication builds trust and promotes a supportive work environment. Provide clear expectations and feedback: Providing clear expectations and feedback can help employees feel more confident and reduce stress levels. Recognize and appreciate employees: Recognizing and appreciating the hard work of employees can boost their confidence and motivation. It can also create a positive work environment where employees feel valued. Support professional development: Providing opportunities for professional development can help employees feel valued and increase job satisfaction. Address conflicts and problems: Addressing conflicts and problems promptly can prevent stress from escalating and creating a toxic work environment. Foster a positive work culture: A positive work culture that promotes respect, inclusion, and collaboration can improve job satisfaction and mental health. Summary: The research makes it clear that many people are suffering in silence. Leaders need to avoid burying their heads in the sand and instead make mental health a global topic of discussion within their teams. Don’t force a discussion, but make it ok for people to have one. Pause to checkin with employees, even if you’re uncomfortable asking how someone is. That’s what leadership is. By exhibiting good behaviors such as leading by example, communicating effectively, recognizing and appreciating employees, and fostering a positive work culture, managers can positively influence the mental health and wellbeing of their employees. It is important for managers to prioritize their employees' mental health and wellbeing to create a supportive work environment that promotes job satisfaction, productivity, and overall wellbeing. References: Workforce Institute. (2023). Mental Health at Work: Managers and Money. Retrieved from: https://workforceinstitute.org/the-impact-of-work-on-mental-health/ Workforce Institute. (2022). 2022 Workplace Predictions. Retrieved from https://workforceinstitute.ck.page/2022predictions American Psychological Association. (2022). Ways to Improve Employee Mental Health. Retrieved from: https://www.apa.org/topics/healthy-workplaces/improve-employee-mental-health

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