In addition to regular traffic signs, drivers often encounter other types of signs. For example, have you ever been surprised by a key route that has recently been designated one-way, or that there’s a temporary detour? In those instances, you have to follow the signs, adjust plans, and adapt to all of these new inputs to get to the destination.
Here’s the bad news about looking for signs in business. There usually aren’t any. Sure, you have market studies, and feasibility studies, and cost-benefit studies, and compliance studies, and studies of other studies, but very rarely do they clearly tell you when and where to turn.
In business, you are on your own most of the time. And when you’re on the business road you’ve got to keep going—even when you are in uncertain territory. And sometimes you have to fix the bicycle while you’re riding on it.
But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Here are three action items to help you reach your destination successfully.
- Make it clear to everybody on your team that it is part of their job to look for the clues that it is time to make a turn. And tell them that sometimes that turn isn’t even on the current agenda. You need gutsy people out there where the rubber meets the road. They’ve got to deal with reality.
- Make it safe for people to communicate with you. Very few trips come off exactly as planned. But how many times have people followed along with a driver obviously going the wrong way until everyone’s completely lost, and then said, “I had a feeling we weren’t going in the right direction.” There are always going to be glitches in the plan, and even times when the original plan should be downright scrapped.
- Do what you can to improve the signal-to-noise ratio. Protect people’s time. They can’t be nimble and ready for change if they are buried in bureaucratic distraction and static. They can’t do every last thing that somebody dreams up in a “perfect world.” There is no such thing as a perfect world. Don’t just keep adding to their to-do list; you need to add to their not-to-do list.
Seeing and reporting signs is challenging. Dealing with them successfully depends on having the information in the first place and the initiative to share it in the second place. This stuff isn’t easy. But it’s the stuff that business is made of.
About the author
Dr. Dick Ruhe is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies. You can read his posts here on LeaderChat the fourth Saturday of each month.
Nearly 5,000 people joined dozens of leadership experts yesterday for the Doing <Still> More With Less Leadership Livecast. Over the course of 2 ½ hours there were video presentations and online discussions about strategies to deal with today’s stressed, overworked, and overextended workplace.
The Doing More With Less challenge was explored from several angles. Several speakers encouraged us to stop and think about our work before rushing headlong into the fray while others reminded us of the power we have to redefine our view of what doing more with less really means. Tips on preventing burnout, time management, communication, and employee relations were offered as well.
Here’s just a few of the thoughts that stood out to me:
- Busyness doesn’t equal productivity. Take time to think and plan. (Mark Sanborn on the importance of taking time to think, focus, and learn)
- You have a finite amount of time and energy. Prioritize what you want to do and relentlessly focus on high value work. (Mike Alpert on disciplined planning spells success)
- Work-life balance assumes one suffers at the expense of the other. We need to integrate the two and find ways that one supports the other. (Fons Trompenaars on integrate, don’t balance)
- Don’t suffer from “brain lard” – wasting your mental energy by focusing on unimportant stuff. (Dick Ruhe)
- Get the right people with the right motivation in the right place with the right tools. (Jack – 13 year old student)
- Your work isn’t just a job. Your work is a series of promises you make. (Susan Mazza on delegating less and negotiating more)
- Leaders need to focus on providing daily inspiration, breeding accountability instead of blame, and balancing self-confidence with humility. (Kate Nasser on being a buoy of inspiration and balance)
- Don’t let what gets your attention drive your focus. Focus on what needs your attention. (Tanveer Nasseer on the power of focus)
- Lean times require a lean approach. Work less and focus on the most important and highest ROI tasks. (Jason Diamond Arnold on the lean approach to working)
- Shift your mentality from “I have to do this” to “I get to do this.” (Margie Blanchard on I have to versus I get to)
I shared that leaders need to eliminate the phrase “do more with less” from our vocabularies. It erodes trust whenever we tell our people they have to do more with less. They feel like we “just don’t get it.” Instead, we need to communicate the reality of our business situation with our team, solicit their involvement in creating strategies to deal with the challenges we’re facing, and dial-up the amount and type of support we offer our folks.
Did you attend the Doing <Still> More With Less Leadership Livecast? If so, what were the nuggets of trust you discovered? If you happened to miss it, you can purchase access to the recording and/or program notes here.
Randy Conley is the Trust Practice Leader at The Ken Blanchard Companies and his LeaderChat posts appear the last Thursday of every month. For more insights on trust and leadership, visit Randy at his Leading with Trust blog or follow him on Twitter @RandyConley.
Most virtual leaders struggle with managing the performance of those they can’t see. Would they be more effective managers if they had “super-vision”? Some organizations install software so leaders can randomly check the screens of their employees. Some leaders even whisper that they want remote video cameras at employee’s desks.
Here’s the reality. If you need super-vision, you are not leading, you are babysitting.
How to really lead remote employees? Start by shifting your mindset.
- Know your role. You are not an Olympic judge holding up signs to rate a performance. Your job is to help employees contribute to your organization’s success today and develop them to contribute more tomorrow.
- Recognize that over monitoring leads to malicious compliance, not enthusiasm and extra effort.
Second, look for ways to improve the measurement and tracking of contributions.
- Make sure you are monitoring outcomes and results instead of activities.
- Consider setting targeted, shorter goals. Explore work planning concepts like Agile Strategy. Use two to four week goal sprints to provide prompt recognition and spur innovation to increase productivity and results.
- Seek out data sources where employees can monitor their own results. Try to model the automated school zone boards that report your speed as 34 in a 25 mph zone. Build in systems so both you and your employees receive automatic feedback for recognition and improvement. Don’t make them wait for their quarterly review to get feedback.
- Develop your measures collaboratively. Even if you previously performed an employee’s job, some aspects of the role have probably changed. Work together to identify what real success looks like. It builds commitment and increases the accuracy of performance measures.
Work—particularly virtual work—requires us to re-think our notion of leadership and re-imagine our performance management systems. None of the recommendations provided here are easy to implement. The alternative, though, is for our leaders to struggle and our employees to be hampered by that struggling. In the long run, relying on super-vision gets us nowhere.
About the author
Carmela Sperlazza Southers is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies. Her posts on increasing organizational, team, and leader effectiveness in the virtual work world appear on the fourth Monday of every month.
My team and I have been working on a new motivation program that shows leaders how to foster an environment in which employees experience high quality, or optimal, motivation—as opposed to suboptimal motivation based on stress, relentless pressure, aggressive competition, harsh deadlines, and fear.
The program explains the link between three basic psychological needs for autonomy, relatedness, and competence and what we call Motivational Outlooks—the actual motivational experience someone develops around a particular task, goal, or situation. And it teaches people how to shift from suboptimal motivation to optimal motivation anytime they want.
And that’s what I need right now.
As I write this, it is the end of a very long Sunday—a day, some say, for rest. But I worked fifteen hours today after working six yesterday. It is now 12:53 a.m. on Monday morning. I have hardly eaten. I missed phone calls from my dad and from my friends Emily, Alison, and Anthony. I have a meeting 90 miles from home tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m., which means being up at 5:30. I am exhausted.
Low Quality Motivation
The aggravation I feel is akin to one of the six Motivational Outlooks—the Imposed Motivational Outlook. It is a feeling of resentment that the deadline is so tight, that I feel as if we are in a fire drill, and that it is seen as unreasonable to ask for a weekend free of work and have that reasonable request honored. The Imposed Motivational Outlook tonight comes with a sound track. It plays Noooobody knoooows the troubles I’ve seen…
High Quality Motivation
But, I also feel exhilaration knowing this program is onto something big and important. We are not only tapping a vein—we are shaping the conversation about how motivation in the workplace could be experienced and how the conversation among leaders in HR and business ought to operationalize motivation in everyday programs, systems, and conversations. This is the Integrated Motivational Outlook because all of this vast work is linked to my deepest values and sense that we are making a real difference.
I’m thinking about how my sense of relatedness has been both undermined and supported today. I have felt pressured to get this work done, but I also have felt free to do it using my personal flair and creativity. My sense of competence is soaring because something that used to seem daunting now just seems like any other big project that takes a lot of time, focus, and skill—a project that pretty much anyone could master given the right skill, mindset—or Motivational Outlook—and environment.
Now at nearly 1:00 a.m., writing, expressing, and sharing requires a great deal of self-regulation—to remain focused, to remain sanguine, and to remain awake!
Shift if You Want To
Through it all, I have an incredible tool to help me monitor and manage my Motivational Outlook—and shift it if I want to. Which experience will win this very late night? With what perspective will I color this very long day? Will it be aggravation and exhaustion, or exhilaration from the knowledge that I, as well as the program, have taken strides today toward a higher level of performance and contribution? Will I choose Imposed or Integrated around the time requirements, values, and purpose of this work?
With the last flickers of my synapses, with the final shallow breaths of my groggy self, with the last blinks of my bloodshot and bleary eyes, on the roller coaster of well-being, I choose Integrated and I think to myself, “Physician—heal thyself!”
About the author:
The Motivation Guy (also known as Dr. David Facer) is one of the principal authors—together with Susan Fowler and Drea Zigarmi—of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ new Optimal Motivation process and workshop.
The quick answer is: It’s about both you and your team. There are two ways to look at your new role.
First, it’s about you. It’s about you in terms of your ability to show the way, provide hope, stay optimistic, and be a positive role model. It’s about your willingness to listen well to your people and hear their concerns and new ideas. It’s about you having the courage to say what needs to be said—to your people, your peers or your boss—on behalf of your team. It’s about you using your corporate machete to create career paths for your people through your company’s jungle. It’s about teaching and explaining (again) and supporting and encouraging (always). It’s about noticing the true condition of your most valuable corporate resource—the people under your care.
Second, it’s about them. Are your people’s roles and goals clear? Do they have a voice and a forum with you to express themselves? Your direct reports are ambitious. They want to know they can trust you with their careers and that you have their best interests at heart. They want to know their time with you is well spent. They want to know the vision and the plan. They want to learn and grow. It’s about them and whether they stay—stay working for your company, stay with you in your department, stay loyal, stay engaged, stay positive, stay current, and stay successful.
No one says becoming a good manager is easy. But it’s not so tricky if you believe at your core that your job is to help others succeed and that, by so doing, you too will succeed. Ken Blanchard asks this question to those who aspire to leadership: “Are you here to serve or to be served?” Your response to Ken’s question will set the tone for your new management career.
For new managers, there are many ways to leave a positive mark. Look at what your people need from you and look inside yourself for ways to meet their needs. Ironically, meeting their needs will, in turn, meet your needs as a new manager.
About the author:
Cathy Huett is Director, Professional Services at The Ken Blanchard Companies. This is the second in a series of posts specifically geared toward new and emerging leaders.
In a two-part series on The Tougher Workplace, Los Angeles Times reporter Alana Semuels takes a look at how the recession has negatively impacted working conditions for both hourly and salaried employees.
One of the main themes of her story is that businesses are asking employees to work harder without providing the kinds of rewards—financial and psychological—that were once routine. As Semuels explains, “Employers figure that if some people quit, there are plenty of others looking for jobs.”
Paul Osterman, co-director of the MIT Sloan Institute for Work and Employment Research, who was quoted in the story, agrees. He says, “Wages are stagnant, jobs are less secure, work is more intense — it’s a much tougher world.”
For example, Semuels quotes Matt Taibi of Providence, Rhode Island, who routinely works twelve-hour days as a driver for UPS. “There’s more and more push toward doing more with less workers,” says Taibi. “There are more stops, more packages, more pickups. What’s happening is that we’re stretched to our limits and beyond.”
All workers are being impacted
Semuels reports that salaried workers are also experiencing the harsher work environment. While an over-forty-hour work week has routinely been a part of salaried positions, workers often enjoyed a measure of autonomy in their schedules.
That’s increasingly rare, says David Tayar, who spent a decade on salary as an associate attorney at a Manhattan law firm. He says that the demands of his job grew so much in that time, he eventually felt that he could never take a break.
When he started, Tayar says, “I checked my voice mail every few hours. Today, lawyers must check their BlackBerrys every few minutes — and be prepared to cancel a dinner, a weekend trip, or a vacation at a moment’s notice.” Tayar says he took just one day of vacation in a five-year stretch.
“You could never totally relax — you could be called at any time, unless you were officially on vacation,” Tayar says. “And even if you were, there were times when you would be called in to work.”
In defense of the common tactic of reducing headcount, cutting costs, and driving higher levels of productivity, Tim Meyer, an executive with private equity firm Gores Group of Los Angeles, explains, “Sometimes you have to make dramatic changes to save the jobs that you can.”
But it’s come at a cost, says HR Specialist Donna Prewoznik . “The relationship between employers and employees has changed,” she says. “Employees haven’t had raises. They’re tired. Their hours are reduced. They feel a little bit betrayed.”
What’s your experience doing more with less in today’s work environment? Share your comments below—or check out the hundreds that have been posted online in response to Semuels’ article. You can read more by checking out The Tougher Workplace series here.
Two years ago I was in Kenya doing some volunteer work when our van got stuck in the mud on the way to visit one of the local schools. We tried everything to get unstuck but nothing worked. We needed help.
In the workplace as well as other areas of our lives, we sometimes encounter people who apparently are stuck in the mode of complaining and unwilling to move toward resolution. I have discovered a simple process to help complainers move from whining to action.
1. Hear them out. First, hear them out one more time. When they complain again—and you know they will—take the time to listen to them, giving them your full attention and energy. It is best to do this in a private setting where neither of you will be distracted.
2. Summarize their issue. Next, when you are sure that you understand the problem at hand and the other person feels heard, interrupt them if necessary and gently say, “Let me make sure I fully understand.” Restate the situation and their frustration as you see it. For example, if they have been complaining about being micromanaged, you might say, “What I’m hearing is that you are frustrated because your boss is micromanaging you.” Get their agreement to your summary—but do not let them continue with their rant.
3. Help them consider their options. Now ask this magic question: “Understanding that this is the situation, what are your options?” In a best-case scenario, they will have some ideas and you can help them come up with an action plan. Chances are, however, that they are too stuck to think of any options. If so, lead with some ideas of your own and solicit their feedback. Either way, help them consider their options and decide on their next steps.
4. Make them accountable for next steps. To add an element of accountability, at the end of the conversation summarize the agreed-upon action plan. Ask the person when they plan to take the first step and set up a date and time to check in with them
What do you do if, despite all your efforts, the other person refuses to move on and seems as if they want to stay stuck?
At this point, I suggest a few options:
- Try to help them understand the effect being stuck is having on them and on those around them. Hopefully, you can stir them to action.
- Refer them to someone else for counseling. Perhaps the HR department has some options for them.
- Remember to take care of yourself. It may be time to ask yourself: Is this relationship worth the emotional drain I experience each time we are together?
I hope these thoughts help you to move others to action. Let me know any other ideas you have to help others get unstuck.
About the author:
John Hester is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies who specializes in performance and self-leadership. You can read John’s posts on the second Thursday of each month.