In a new column for Fast Company, Scott and Ken Blanchard share some of the best thinking from their recent leadership livecast on Doing Still More With Less where over 40 different thought leaders shared tips and strategies for getting work done during a time of limited resources.
Feeling a little overworked and under-resourced yourself? Check out what the experts recommend.
Make time to think. Mark Sanborn, president of Sanborn and Associates and best-selling author of eight books including The Fred Factor and You Don’t Need a Title to be a Leader, suggests a simple ritual.
Whenever Sanborn is in his office in Denver, he’ll schedule some time to visit his favorite coffeehouse with one intention in mind–some quiet time to think. In Sanborn’s experience, most executives don’t think as much as they react to their environment.
It’s harder than you think, says Sanborn. “Within the first 10 seconds, you’ll think of a phone call you need to make or a meeting you need to attend or something else you need to do. You will find, as I do, that proactive thinking about your business and your life is far more difficult than it seems.”
In Sanborn’s experience, taking the time to think and evaluate your progress will almost always turn up a couple of areas where you are spending time on projects and activities that are not generating much in the way of return. The question now is what to do about it.
Learn to say no. Charlene Li, author of the New York Times best seller Open Leadership and founder of Altimeter Group, says that achieving focus means knowing what you will do and also what you won’t do to achieve a particular strategy.
As Li explains, “In so many ways, it’s the very first and most important thing. In order to get more done, you actually have to do less things but–very importantly–the most important things.”
Leadership coach, speaker, and writer Tanveer Naseer shared that this can be tough, especially when there are so many seemingly important tasks in front of today’s leaders.
For Naseer, the answer to maintaining his focus is to discipline his attention. In addition to getting more done, Naseer has also noticed a great side benefit: consistency, because everything he does is centered around a common objective instead of a reactionary response.
Communicate efficiently. Elliott Masie, an internationally recognized futurist, analyst, researcher, and organizer who heads The MASIE Center think tank recommends frequent—but shorter meetings. Masie believes that leaders often default into 30 or 60 minute meetings when something much shorter would suffice.
“When was the last time you scheduled a five-minute–or better yet, four-minute–meeting with a colleague or direct report? At first it might feel as if there’s not enough time to collaborate, but in a busy organization, five-minute conversations might work well. Used correctly, that five minutes could focus on working on a theme or a title for a new product, or talking about the upcoming meeting you are going to.”
Avoid organizational anorexia. Finally, consultant, speaker, and multimedia designer Steve Roesler recommends that leaders take a closer look at the whole concept of doing more with less to make sure they haven’t slipped into a distorted view of what’s normal. Roesler believes that many organizations have reached a stage of organizational anorexia—basing their success on just being as lean as possible. That might make them appealing to Wall Street, but it’s shortsighted and potentially dangerous to their long-term health.
Roesler’s advice? If you’re a manager, next time the phrase “do more with less” pops into your head as you begin a meeting or make a speech, pause for a moment. Consider what your objective is. Then, instead of simply reacting with a doing more with less shrug, say:
“Here’s our situation. This is what our strategy is all about and here’s what our company is all about. How can we achieve the goal that goes along with this strategy and be as satisfying to our customers as we possibly can, make this as profitable for ourselves as we possibly can, and [yet] keep our costs down?
“While we’re doing all of this, who can be included and what can we do with this particular situation or project so we’re building talent at the same time?”
As Roesler sums up, “If you’re the person in the room who stands up and does that instead of using the [doing more with less] phrase, people are going to know that you’re the one who is the leader.”
To read Scott and Ken Blanchard’s complete column for Fast Company (and their archived columns also) check out Doing More With Less: 4 Ways to Cope (and Even Succeed) in a Downsized World.
In a new article for Fast Company, columnists Scott Blanchard and Ken Blanchard take a look at why some companies are successful in implementing change while others struggle.
They also look at why some leaders inspire people to work together effectively, while others cannot.
The pivotal ingredient in both cases? Trust
Drawing from Ken Blanchard’s latest and brand new book, Trust Works! Four Keys to Building Lasting Relationships (co-authored with Cynthia Olmstead and Martha Lawrence) Blanchard identifies four components that either build—or bust—trust with people.
The four attributes are:
- Able—does the leader Demonstrate Competence
- Believable—does the leader Act with Integrity
- Connected—does the leader Care about Others
- Dependable—does the leader Maintain Reliability
Blanchard identifies that, “The ability to build trust is a defining competency,” and he recommends that leaders take a two-step approach to evaluating their trustworthiness—beginning with a self assessment. To make this easier, Blanchard provides a link to a free online tool www.trustworksbook.com
The self-assessment gives leaders a chance to see if their actions might be contributing to low-trust relationships through behaviors that are seen as less than Able, Believable, Connected, and Dependable.”
Second, Blanchard recommends that leaders ask colleagues and direct reports to evaluate their behavior as well.
“What you learn about yourself can be eye-opening,” says Blanchard. “Many of us are unaware when our behavior is eroding the trust of others around us. What seems like acceptable behavior to us may be causing a friend, spouse, boss, employee, or significant other to feel downright wary.”
As a case in point, Blanchard shares a story about his own experience using the assessment and how he discovered that his staff scored him low on being Dependable.
While Blanchard knew he had trouble saying “no” to requests and liked to say yes to others as much as possible, he didn’t realize it was a problem until he learned that, because he said “yes” to so many things and overcommitted himself, he was sometimes regarded as undependable.
Using the assessment and the Able, Believable, Connected, and Dependable framework, Blanchard and his team were able to discuss Ken’s “trust buster” trait. Together the team was able to develop solutions. As a result, today—in addition to being careful about not over-committing himself—when Ken goes on trips he doesn’t take his own business cards. Instead, he gives out the cards of his executive assistant, who can make sure Ken has the time and resources to follow through before he makes commitments.
How are you doing on trust? Are your behaviors consistent with your intentions? To read more about Ken and Scott Blanchard’s thinking on this topic, be sure to check out, Do Your Employees Trust You?
In their latest post for Fast Company online, management experts Scott and Ken Blanchard share that, “One of the big mistakes we see among otherwise promising managers is the self-limiting belief that they have to choose between results and people, or between their own goals and the goals of others. We often hear these people say, ‘I’m not into relationships. I just like to get things done.’”
“Cutting yourself off, or choosing not to focus on the people side of the equation, can—and will—be a problem that will impact your development as a leader.”
Have you inadvertently cut yourself off from your people? Many leaders have. It’s usually because of time pressures, or a single-minded focus on results—but sometimes it’s also a conscious choice to create “professional distance” that allows you the emotional room to make tough choices.
That’s a mistake say the Blanchards. “The best working relationships are partnerships. For leaders, this means maintaining a focus on results along with high levels of demonstrated caring.”
They go on to caution that, “The relationship foundation has to be in place first. It’s only when leaders and managers take the time to build the foundation that they earn the permission to be aggressive in asking people to produce results. The best managers combine high support with high levels of focus, urgency, and criticality. As a result, they get more things done, more quickly, than managers who do not have this double skill base.”
Don’t limit yourself—or others
Don’t limit yourself, or others, by focusing on just one half of the leadership equation. You don’t have to choose. In this case you can have it all. Create strong relationships focused on jointly achieving results. To read the complete article—including some tips on getting started—be sure to check out Getting Your Team Emotionally Engaged Is Half The Leadership Battle. Here’s How To Do It
It’s that time of year when we get together, give gifts, and rekindle relationships with people we haven’t seen since last year. No, no—not the holidays—I’m talking about the ongoing performance review season.
For the past several weeks (and several weeks ahead for procrastinators) managers around the world have been meeting with their direct reports to review last year’s goals, measure performance, and determine pay increases.
If you are in the middle of performance reviews with your people, here are two radical ideas inspired by a recent article Scott and Ken Blanchard wrote for Fast Company, The Best Gift Managers Can Give Their Employees This Season.
In the article, Scott and Ken identified that two of the most important ingredients missing in today’s manager-direct report conversations are growth and considering the employee’s agenda.
In some ways, that’s not surprising considering the cautious way most companies have been operating during our slow, tepid economic recovery. “Just lucky to have a job,” has become institutionalized after four years of a weak employment picture and little or no growth in many industries.
But 2013 feels different. There’s a small, but flickering sense of optimism in the air. (Maybe it’s because that Mayan calendar scare is over—it is, isn’t it?)
Are you ready to move forward? Here are three new ways of thinking. How could you add these components into your next performance management or goal setting conversation either as a manager or direct report?
- Think growth. Yes, GROWTH! It’s time. People can only tread water for so long. Eventually, you have to start swimming somewhere. Developing new skills in your present job—and seeing the next step on your career path are both important factors that lead to happiness, well-being and better performance at work. What can you add to your list of skills during the coming year? What move can you make (even a small one) that will get you one step closer to your next career objectives?
- Think connection. Who can help you along the way? There is only so much that you can do on your own and left to your own devices. We all need some help.
- Think helping others. The late Zig Ziglar (who passed away earlier this year) was famous for identifying that, “You can get just about anything you want out of life as long as you are willing to help others get what they want.” But it has to begin with you. Who can you reach out to this week or next? Who can you help take the next step toward their career plans?
In their article for Fast Company Scott and Ken Blanchard share an important paradox for anyone in business to remember. The more you give, the more that comes back to you.
Add a little bit of giving into your work conversations in 2013. Talk about growth issues with your direct reports. Find out how you can help. You’ll be surprised at how much comes back to you during the course of the year.
Taking the time to reflect on what you really want out of your career and creating a plan is important. In a new column for Fast Company online, Scott Blanchard shares an exercise he uses with career planning.
It’s called “backward planning” and it begins by imagining where you would like to be in 10 years. Where do you see yourself? From there, you move backward to identify where you need to be in nine years, eight years, etc., to ultimately reach that 10-year goal. In Blanchard’s experience, taking a minute to stop, look around, and think about where you are going can help you identify the moves you need to make right now that will get you one step closer to where you want to be.
In addition to taking a “backward” approach to future career growth, Blanchard also recommends that you think through a four-step checklist to make sure that you have the resources you need to set yourself up for success. He uses the acronym PLAN to help make it memorable.
Where are you headed?
When was the last time you took a break from the day-to-day to see what direction you are headed in? Do you have a plan in place for your career success? If it has been awhile, here are four ways to get back on track.
P stands for People and Praise. Find people you can discuss your career with. Reach out and surround yourself with people who will give you support, honest feedback, and encouragement along the way. Who can you add to your career development team?
L stands for Learning. Open your world and identify resources that will keep you growing. Look inside your work world by exploring online courses and other training and development opportunities. Look outside work for special experiences that can broaden your horizons. What’s a new experience you can add to your resume?
A stands for Assessment. Assess your current strengths, weaknesses, and value in relation to your career possibilities. Are there gaps in your current skills or experience that need to be addressed?
N stands for getting past No. Design strategies for dealing with negative situations such as rejection, obstacles, or failures. Few careers proceed exactly as planned. Failure isn’t fatal and setbacks will occur. How can you build resiliency into your plan to help you learn from negative experiences and move forward?
Take some time to evaluate where you are right now. The most successful people maintain a focus on the present and on the future. To read more of Blanchard’s thinking, check out the Fast Company online article, The Wisdom Of The Two Steps Forward, One Step Back Career Plan
The way an organization responds to mistakes tells you a lot about its corporate culture. In an article on innovation for Fast Company, Scott and Ken Blanchard look at the different responses they’ve seen in working with organizations.
Some organizations see mistakes as opportunities to learn. These are the organizations that create innovative environments where people grow, develop, and improve.
Other organizations respond to mistakes by finding fault and assigning blame. As the Blanchard’s explain, “It’s a negative approach that assumes neglect or malfeasance that requires punishment. This type of attitude produces a risk-averse organization where people play it safe instead of stepping out and trying new ideas.
“Now your organization takes on a culture similar to the classic arcade game, Whac-A-Mole, where most employees keep their head down except for the unsuspecting novice who pops his head up only to have the oversized mallet pound him or her back down if their initiative fails. Once an organization develops that type of culture, it is very difficult for innovation to take hold.”
What type of culture do you have?
For organizations looking to improve, the Blanchard’s recommend a three-step process:
1. Examine your current attitude toward mistakes. As a company, what’s your typical reaction to mistakes and failures? Are they seen as an opportunity to learn or to assign blame?
2. Consider your impact as a leader. What you are personally doing to encourage people to take risks and try something truly innovative? Keeping new ideas alive is hard work. Are you recognizing the efforts of people who take risks in spite of the threat of failure?
3. Find ways to engage in positive practices as a discipline. It’s so easy for things to turn negative—both internally, inside your own head—and externally as a corporate culture. As a leader, it’s important to shift from a backwards looking attitude of fault and blame to a more forward-focused approach of identifying cause and responsibility.
Give your people the benefit of the doubt. Assume the best intentions. Instead of assigning blame, look to assign responsibility for moving the organization forward given what was just learned. Leaders who take this more constructive approach can begin eliminating the fear and negative inertia that plagues many organizations. With practice, you’ll see the difference you can make in the creation and adoption of new ideas.
To read the complete article, check out To Encourage Innovation, Eradicate Blame at Fast Company
As Scott and Ken Blanchard identify in a new post for Fast Company online, “When you run an idea up the chain of command, you almost never get the permission or the resources to innovate well.
“It’s very hard for people who are invested in the current business to truly embrace disruptive new ideas.
“People at the top of the organizational pyramid are usually running the business using lagging indicators. In general, their focus is on defending present revenue streams. More often than not they are nervous about anything that might cannibalize, compete with, or distract from the company’s core business.”
It’s understandable, say the Blanchards. In many ways, this is exactly what top executives should be concerned about. But that’s also why true innovation usually happens in the corners of the business and works its way up.
How to proceed with your next new idea
Instead of trying to sell an idea to top leadership before it’s ready, the two Blanchards suggest starting off with just enough permission to experiment. This gives the idea a chance to develop and gain momentum. It also gives the innovation a chance to generate tangible results that can be used later in making the business case to senior leaders.
They also recommend identifying the different levels of readiness and capacity to understand change that might be present among members of an executive team.
Highlighting the work of Robert Marshak, the senior scholar in residence at American University, they share Marshak’s descriptions of four different mindsets, represented by different metaphors, which affect how people view innovation.
- Fix and maintain
- Build and develop
What is your relationship to innovation?
Finally, the Blanchards remind readers that an “organization is only as innovative as the people who work within it—which brings up a good question. What is your organization’s mindset when it comes to innovation?
To read the complete post, see The Number One Killer of Corporate Innovation.
PS: Scott and Ken Blanchard will be featured speakers—along with best-selling author Jackie Freiberg and innovation expert Jim Carroll, at this year’s 2012 Blanchard Summit. This year’s theme is Fast Forward: Lead, Innovate and Cultivate. Use this link to learn more about this event (and request an invitation).
It’s easy to lose sight of where you are going when you’ve had your nose to the grindstone for an extended period of time. You get focused on your task and you don’t take the time to lift your head and see where you are headed in the long term.
Sometimes it’s just the opposite. The long term looks so confusing and unclear you decide that maybe it’s best to just focus on something you know and can control.
Both of these approaches are damaging long term for individuals and the organizations they work in. When people become so task-oriented that they lose sight of the bigger picture the result is misaligned work, the creation of individual and departmental silos, and poor teamwork and collaboration.
This is especially true with long-time employees. Business authors Scott and Ken Blanchard highlight this in their most recent leadership post for Fast Company. As they explain, “Leaders and organizations generally do a good job of clarifying goals as they are getting new people up to speed. With long-time employees, however, leaders often assume that the employee instinctively knows what’s important. As a result, leaders generally don’t spend the same amount of time and energy communicating clear objectives to seasoned employees that they do with new hires.”
The result? A high level of misalignment in most organizations.
“We did a study a number of years ago with a large petroleum company in North America that shows how rarely this clarity occurs. We asked more than 2,000 employees and their managers to share their goal expectations with us. To begin, we asked the employees to rank the top five things they felt they were responsible for. Then we asked the managers to list and prioritize the five things they were actually holding each of their direct reports accountable for. We saw only a 19% agreement across the population of 2,000 people!”
Is misalignment holding you back? Here are three strategies for creating more alignment in your organization:
- Make sure clear agreements are in place. All good performance starts with clear goals. It’s a process of creating clarity about why we’re here, what we’re doing, and how we’re going to work together.
- Make sure everyone’s eyes stay on the ball. This includes regular one-on-one conversations with direct reports that include feedback and evaluation of how each person is doing against established targets.
- Catch people doing things right. Help people notice and experience the incremental successes they are having. It’s easy to slip back into old habits. Provide clarity and encouragement on a regular basis.
Don’t let a short term focus keep you—or your organization—from long-term success. Take a minute this week to lift your head, look around and check for clarity and alignment. Also, to learn more about the impact that misalignment can have on performance, be sure to check out Scott and Ken Blanchard’s post at Fast Company, If Your Employees Are Squabbling, Your Company’s Probably Standing Still.
We all know the saying “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.” It’s sound advice—but it’s also a dangerous habit unless you step back occasionally to see what impact it might be having on the busy person’s experience at work. For most managers, having a “go to” person is a great asset. Just make sure you don’t overdo it by going to the same person again and again.
This is a dilemma for most managers according to Scott Blanchard in a recent blog post for Fast Company magazine. Blanchard explains that it is only natural to assign tasks to the most accomplished people on your team. The challenge is to balance a short-term need for immediate results with a long-term view for the growth and development of your people.
Finding the perfect balance
Drawing on some of the core concepts from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Blanchard explains that managers need to balance routine work that is easily accomplished with challenging new tasks that provide variety.
How can managers find the right balance? Here are three strategies that Blanchard recommends:
- Become more aware of your goal-setting habits. Have you optimized the challenge inherent in each person’s goals or tasks, or have you fallen into the habit of overusing and under-challenging your best people? Have you focused more on your own needs instead of theirs by giving them routine work you know they can accomplish successfully with little intervention on your part?
- Focus on both the long and short term. Manage the urge to assign a task to a proven winner to ensure quick completion versus assigning the same task to someone who is brand new and may require some direction and support. But don’t go overboard. You don’t want to focus solely on employee development and compromise organizational effectiveness. Balance is the key.
- Create variety for yourself and others. According to Warren Bennis, the most effective managers are the ones who actively engage in clear periods of reflection as well as action. Balancing task variety is one of those projects that requires some discipline and awareness to think through.
Blanchard also reminds readers that most people become bored because they’re doing boring tasks—not because of a character flaw. Instead of moving away from a person you might see as a complainer, see that person instead as someone who is not really “in flow” and work with him or her to find out what the right mix could be. It’s a management basic that creates the long and short term impact that works best.
PS: To read more of Blanchard’s thinking on creating the right mix in your work environment, check out, Helping Your Employees Find Their “Flow” at Fast Company.
The way you reward and recognize your people may be promoting some unwanted behaviors. That’s because the use of extrinsic motivators (like money, perks, bonuses, and promotions) may change an employee’s focus at work and can also lead to a never-ending cycle of unfulfilled needs, unrealistic expectations, or an overdeveloped sense of entitlement.
The bad news is that you may have brought the problem on yourself by the way you structured compensation, rewards and bonuses.
Once you set people on a path of extrinsic rewards, you will need to prepare to keep increasing the pay, bonus, or promotions every year, or be prepared to disappoint people when you are not able to do so. (A situation many companies find themselves in today.)
Here are a couple of ways to minimize the downside when using these traditional forms of extrinsic motivation.
Keep things in perspective. You want to reward and encourage people who attain the goal—but you don’t want it to become the goal. You don’t want to hear people saying, “I’m just here for the money.”
Make sure the goal is self attainable. If you are going to use extrinsic motivators, make sure that attainment is completely self controlled by the employee. You don’t want a manager or supervisor dangling the reward in front of an employee like a carrot on a stick. This is a coercive strategy that just encourages boss-watching and brown-nosing with people spending half their time making sure the boss notices what they are doing.
Deepen the experience. The tough economic times of the last two years have shown how shallow the employer—employee relationship has become in many organizations. As Warren Buffet reminds us, “It’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who’s been swimming naked.”
Look beyond money (but still provide it) and then shift the discussion to linking individual work goals into larger organizational goals. The task is to move people away from short-term transactional thinking and into something larger and more sustainable.
For specific strategies on how to make this happen in your organization, be sure to check out the following articles by Scott and Ken Blanchard at Fast Company
PS: On January 25, The Ken Blanchard Companies will be hosting a Leadership Livecast on the problem of Quitting and Staying. Have you successfully addressed quitting and staying in your organization? Can you share it in five minutes or less? Videotape yourself and send it to us. You could be a featured speaker! Click here for details.