Managing Employee Relationships: Leading for Mastery

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

Early in my career I had a leader emphatically state that most people just want to do their job and go home with the least amount of effort. While I agree that human nature is inclined to do what we WANT to do rather than what we NEED to do, the belief that members of the workforce want only the “easy” way out may translate into leadership behaviors that can pose a barrier to promoting mastery.  If you think your staff doesn’t want a challenge, you don’t create challenges for them.  If you don’t believe they care about achieving the goals, you may stop asking their opinions or ideas on how to improve.

Why is this important to do anyway?

Another primary need that every human has inside of them at some level is the need for mastery.   Mastery is described as our desire to overcome a challenge, and in doing so find meaning or purpose in the work we do every day.  It is not a leader’s responsibility, nor is it practical, to light every employee’s flame every single day.  A leader’s job is to create an environment and support a set of circumstances that creates the tension for challenge and potential for achievement.

How can you do it? 

  1. Set clear goals and expectations.  People you serve need to see the challenges ahead clearly if you want them to have a chance to overcome them.  Our job as leaders is to make clear what outcome the team is striving for, why it is important and when the team needs to achieve the outcome. This provides the path, or opportunity to achieve a meaningful outcome.
  2. Create an optimal challenge.  Hard, “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” (BHAGs) are great to fire up those you work with who live for an underdog challenge, but no one wants to feel hopeless.  A leader’s job is to strike a balance between challenging and over-the-top hard.   Break the bigger goal into smaller goals that have a possibility of being achieved in the circumstances.
  3. Give consistent feedback.  Are we there yet? While the need for mastery is met by achieving a goal, no one wants to feel lost along the way. Leaders need to give regular feedback on your team’s performance toward the goal, reminding them of “why” the goal is important (the light at the end of the tunnel) to help get them through the challenging path toward achievement.

Question? What are some strategies you use to give consistent feedback about goal achievement to those you serve? 

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

 

Managing Employee Relationships: Leading with Care

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

I had a manager say to me once that this “caring” stuff wasn’t necessary as his employees were getting paid for their work and that should be enough. This view of the connection between those he serves and the organization as merely transactional limits the possibilities a more balanced relationship can yield.  As referenced last week, everyone has needs that are prioritized differently.  A leader may not personally have a need to know that they are more than the work they are producing, which may be a barrier for extending care to others in the workplace.

Why is this important to do anyway?

Because leadership relies on your ability to influence others to achieve results, it is important to consider what you can do to build trust.  If your employees do not trust you, they may only follow you so far.  Most every human has a primary need for care – the need to be more than a number or a resource to be used.  When employees feel that they count, that their organization cares about them as individuals, they are more likely to invest or engage more of themselves in their job.

How can you do it? 

  1. Make a genuine effort to “know” those you work with.  Your goal here is to learn some “vital statistics” of those you serve.  The more colleagues you interact with the harder this can be, but it is worth it.  Develop a system, or log, for keeping track of a few vital basics – what their job is and key results they participate in, names of family, life events, hobbies, etc.
  2. Regularly round with those you serve.  Now that you may know more, show some interest in those you serve – in the work they are doing and in them as a person.  Go to their place of work and interact with your direct report 1-1 regularly.  (At SOMC we ask leaders to do this at least quarterly.)  While you may follow-up on operational issues during this time, make sure to genuinely check-in with them on a personal level (not like a telemarketer! Ha!).
  3. Be willing to lift a load.  Plato is quoted with “Be kind, for everyone you meet is carrying a heavy load.”  In your interaction, you may learn of a particular issue (personal or professional) that is getting in the way of them being able to perform.  A simple inquiry, offer of encouragement or unexpectedly helping your colleague through a tough situation will not be forgotten.
  4. Show an interest in their future.  Ask those you serve “what’s next” in their career. Try to learn what long-term goals they have (even if it is not in your department).  Be supportive and look for ways that they can work toward their goals while in your care.  This support shows that you do not wish them to be indentured and will be appreciated.

Question? What are some other behaviors you can demonstrate to show you care for those you serve?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

Managing Employee Relationships: Leading with Awareness of Needs

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

The amazing, and incredibly frustrating, aspect of relationships is that each of us looks at situations differently, through lenses shaped by our experiences and our needs. Sometimes actions and decisions have to be made too quickly to fully appreciate different perspectives.  Leaders can get too busy or too focused on putting out fires to step back and consider the thoughts of others.  And, sometimes leaders care only about their own needs and achieving the ends, with disregard for the means and the people who produce them.

Why is this important to do anyway?

There are certain principles of the human condition that appear to remain true regardless of race, generation, culture, etc.  These principles, or basic needs, are present in all of us, and are part of what shapes our thoughts and behaviors.  When a leader acknowledges the different needs of those he serves, he communicates to his team that he “knows” them and that they are accepted and their perspectives matter.  This basic human respect is at the core of trust and can impact the amount of engagement your team is willing to give in order to produce the desired result.  Leaders who do this well are those supervisors, teachers, coaches that you would follow anywhere…that you do not want to let down.

How can you do it? 

  1. Be clear about your priorities.  This is such a simple to-do that is so easy to stray from in our day-to-day tasks.   Identify the high-level priorities for your organization/department.  Then, rough out the high-level “how’s” to achieve these “what’s”.  No matter what curve balls that will get thrown in the course of a busy week, the team you serve are counting on you to stay focused on what is really important to achieve these results.
  2. Be aware of your needs and those of the colleagues you serve.  Each leader serves a team of people who will then execute these “how’s”.  Be willing to get input from your team and understand that each person’s perspective (including your own) comes in part from needs that we have.  Accept that we are all mixed bags of strengths and weaknesses and do your part to capitalize on the strengths each brings.
  3. Balance your energy between being “present” and focusing on tasks.  Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying “The absent are never without fault, nor the present without excuse.”  There is a delicate balance between how much energy you place on people vs tasks.  You cannot invest your time completely in meeting everyone’s needs at the expense of results.  And…you can’t ignore the needs of those you serve and expect to achieve results (at least in the environment we prefer at SOMC).

Question? What are some strategies you have used to balance your focus on people and results?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

Managing Employee Relationships: Leading with “Weighted” Relationships

Vicki Noel

What are the barriers to doing this?

Leading others is a heavy burden.  This responsibility “weight” can be overwhelming to some leaders and paralyze their actions.  That people’s lives are affected by the heaviness of leadership decisions can be more than what some signed on for when they became a manager. This weight also has power and the potential to arouse in some leaders their desire to control others.  The fact that a leader is now “in charge” can be an intoxication that fuels a person’s need to dominate.

Why is this important to do anyway?

And…this weight has the potential to inspire.  A leader, a teacher, a parent has the potential to truly make a difference in the world, in their organizations, through the influence they have with others.  Leaders who understand the principle of “weighted relationships” take the responsibility of leading others seriously and understand that they have the power to add to someone’s quality of life or take away from it.  A Saratoga Institute study found that a manager’s behavior was the number one factor in determining an employee’s satisfaction at work, and a Gallup study found that and employee’s relationship with their manager has a strong correlation with an employee’s turnover with an organization.  Leadership is a heavy responsibility and we need to be aware of ourselves in order to most effectively leverage this weight to help those we lead achieve results.

How can you do it? 

  1. Be aware of “your way”.  Everyone has a certain way of doing things.  This “way” can be referred to as a culture or brand, or simply the certain style in which you behave shaped by your beliefs, values and past experiences.  You “way” spills over into your team and helps shape the micro-culture within your organization.  AND…people care more about what happens in their local communities than at the state level.  Choose your “way” intentionally.
  2. Be aware of your words.  Your words carry weight.  Those you serve want to hear from you – expectations, praise and correction.  What you say means more to your direct reports than the same words from the CEO.  So be careful – mean what you say and say what you mean.  Language shapes perception.  If you regularly use phrases like “they work under me or for me” then be aware of the stage that sets for your workplace culture.
  3. Be aware of your actions.  You are always on stage and your actions carry weight.  Those you serve are not only listening to your words, but also watching your behavior.  When words and behavior are incongruent, our colleagues will believe behavior every time.  Make sure YOUR behavior matches what you expect in others.  You must be the change you wish to see in the world. – Mahatma Gandhi

What other suggestions would you share with a leader in effectively managing the weight of their influence on others?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

Managing Employee Relationships: Achieving Results Through Others

Vicki Noel

(12/21/14)

What are the barriers to doing this?

Have you ever heard or uttered the phrase “if you want something done right, you might as well do it yourself?”  At some point in every leader’s journey this kind of thinking has been our cop out.  Many leaders get promoted to their roles because they are excellent performers on the front-line.  We’ve gained confidence from this and in some cases have defined ourselves by our competence and our ability to produce individual results. This self-importance view can block from our minds the need to share with others what result we are seeking and from translating into action what we expect.

Why is this important to do anyway?

Leadership exists to produce results.  Period.  Some of those results can be achieved by you as an individual.  But it is neither practical nor possible to do it all and achieve sustainable results.  You need your team of people and other connected stakeholders to work with you to achieve results.

How can you do it?

  1. Be crystal clear about the results you are being paid to achieve.  It is so easy to bog your day down with “comfort tasks.”  Like comfort food, doing these tasks give us a nostalgic euphoria that reminds us of a time when we were competent.  The good ole days! Ha!  When you get into this trap ask yourself “is this what I am paid to do?”  Before you can ever clarify expectations to others, you must be clear about the results you are expected to achieve for your organization.
  2. Break down the path to the results into milestones.  At SOMC, we are asked to achieve perfection in all that we do.  That can appear daunting to those we serve.  Be clear about the end result, but take the time to think of the “mini goals” to get from A to Z.  Get input from those you serve on these process changes and milestones and share this lighted path with your team.  Also, be prepared to re-focus your colleagues on the interim goals when they stray or get discouraged.
  3. Hold yourself accountable firstWhen our team does not produce the expected results, it is our fault.  Welcome to leadership.  The sooner we come to this conclusion the faster we can course correct to get back on track.  Acknowledge to your team that you have not communicated your expectations clear enough.  Make them clear and hold yourself and your team accountable for each other’s performance.

What are some other strategies you have used to refocus yourself and your team on the results you are expected to achieve?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.

Managing Employee Relationships: Achieving Results Through Engagement

Vicki Noel

Why is this important?

Recently, while presenting at another organization’s leadership conference, I was asked by a senior leader the following question: “How can you justify spending SO MUCH time on employee engagement when you have so many OTHER important results to achieve?”

That one question has inspired this blog series. Achieving results in our organizations is incredibly difficult, no matter what the industry. Whether as an effect of globalization or increased local competition, achieving the same results for sustainability TODAY is increasingly more challenging than yesterday. Customer expectations continue to rise. The competition for skilled talent has escalated. Yet, many organizations fail to realize that the only true competitive advantage is leadership. Leadership is achieving results through people…through their performance…their expertise…their delivery of service. My answer to the executive above…how can you NOT focus on engagement. An engaged workforce is the means to exceptional organizational results.

How can you do it?

Henry Kissinger was quoted as saying “The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.” Over the next several weeks, we will explore some strategies that when executed can encourage those you lead to be as successful as they can be. We will explore the following concepts and the strategies for making these concepts come alive through your leadership.

  1. Leadership is the art and science of “moving” people. As a leader, we are paid for achieving the results through many others doing the work. This involves a change in our thought processes that we’ll discuss over this series.
  2. Leadership is a great responsibility and one of “weighted relationship”. As a manager you may not be the MOST influential person in your organization…but you are the most influential to your direct reports. Accepting that you have this amount of influence is the key to your effectiveness…or your ineffectiveness. We’ll discuss ways your behavior can lead the way in promoting excellence in others.
  3. Leadership is acknowledging that those you lead have different needs. There are certain principles of the human condition relating to performance excellence that remain true regardless of race, culture, religion or generation. Each person has fundamental needs that lie at the heart of achieving results. During this series we will explore these needs and how when acknowledged, a leader can tap into another’s potential.

Can you share a personal experience of a leader who was able to take you and others to a place, a result, that you didn’t think you could reach? What were some of the ways this leader motivated you to achieve?

Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog. We learn best from each other’s experiences.

Managing Your Anger: Remind Yourself that Everyone Is Watching

Kendall L. Stewart, M.D.

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

This is the first principal of leadership. Everyone is watching. But leaders forget this all the time. Here’s why: they focus on their own feelings, needs and desires instead of the results they are trying to achieve. Once leaders start to view their leadership position as a way to get what they want instead of what others need, exposure as a fraud is the next stop. The leader’s temper tantrums will not save her from disgrace.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Face the truth. A lot of leaders become angry and throw temper tantrums in the workplace. But such behavior is never viewed as a positive leadership trait except by the aspiring bullies who long to behave the same way. Read as many business books about angry leaders as you wish. Yes, some of those leaders succeed. They succeed in spite of their tantrums, not because of them. Everyone is always watching. And no one is inspired by anger.

How can you do it?

  1. Remind yourself and others. This easy lesson is also easy to forget. When you slip and behave badly, the watchers won’t rush in to offer their understanding and support. They will talk about you behind your back and hold it against you forever.
  2. Pretend there is a video camera in every room. There is.
  3. Stay in character. Like it or not, leaders are actors in important plays. The organizations they serve are comprised of people whose lives are powerfully affected by the decisions leaders make every day. Leadership is a humbling responsibility. When you pass your baton to the leader who follows you, your character is the baton you will hand off. Act accordingly.

How do you regularly remind yourself and others that everyone is watching every leader?

Managing Your Anger: Don’t Allow Others to Exploit Your Anger

Kendall L. Stewart, M.D.

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

Immature leaders fall for this ploy every day, yet they seem to never see it coming. Troublemakers goad leaders for the fun of watching them twitch. When the leader predictably explodes, the agitator seizes the leader’s temper fit as a distraction to advance his cause or criticizes the leader for having gone off the deep end. Leader 0. Troublemaker 1.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

If people can make you mad, they have your number. They are now in control, not you. Those who want to see you fail—and such folks are always around—want to believe they can make you miserable whenever they wish. This notion gives them great pleasure. When they finally realize you do not consider their provocations significant enough to bother with, they are crushed. Here’s what you need to know; they will just redouble their efforts to aggravate you. And the more you remain calm, the more ridiculous they will appear. It is most gratifying.

How can you do it?

  1. Don’t get angry. You can now see why the ability to remain calm and detached is such a valuable leadership skill. As a leader, you have nothing to lose and a good bit to gain by not becoming angry.
  2. Hide your anger. You will never be perfect at not becoming angry. People will get to you sooner or later. But if you become a good actor, they will never know they did. Pulling this off is almost as exciting as not becoming angry in the first place.
  3. Admit your anger. You are human. Sometimes you will fail. When it is clear to you and everyone else that you are about to lose your temper, admit it and take a walk. When you return, calm and in control, you will be able to manage the situation just as if you had never become angry in the first place.

How have you prevented the troublemakers from exploiting your anger?

Managing Your Anger: Decrease Your Sensitivity

Kendall L. Stewart, M.D.

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

It never fails. When you find a leader who gets angry frequently, that leader is thin skinned. While their sensitivity to every perceived slight, criticism or frustration causes them real distress, they remain clueless. Year after painful year, they keep blaming others and expecting people to stop doing the things that annoy them. Their lack of insight would be laughable if it were not so pathetic.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

You have probably realized by now that the most successful and contented leaders grow thick skins. The same annoying things happen to them. They just absorb the nicks and blows and press forward without complaining or even giving the usual aggravations of life much thought. When their thin-skinned colleagues whine, they smile knowingly and think, “Put your big girl panties on,” or some similar leadership pearl.

How can you do it?

  1. Recognize the need. If you find yourself getting your feelings hurt often or becoming angry frequently, you need to toughen up. The sooner you recognize this need, the sooner you will begin to make some progress.
  2. Consult a thick-skin expert. You know who they are. These leaders are happy and content, positive about the challenges they face even when the hits they are taking would send you to the bathroom in tears. Ask them how they toughened themselves up and how they keep themselves in shape.
  3. Practice. Put yourself in the thick of things. Volunteer to take the lead on a project that you know will make you a target. When the hits start landing, act like you are enjoying them. Welcome criticism. Thank people for asking the hard questions. Before you know it, you will have calluses over your heart.

How have you thickened your leadership skin?

Managing Your Anger: Stop Venting

Kendall L. Stewart, M.D.

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

Despite conclusive evidence that venting does not help, most leaders still believe it does. Angry leaders often believe it is their right—indeed their obligation—to express their feelings openly and vigorously without restraint. And they feel other leaders should encourage that! Some angry leaders will agree to vent their spleens privately. While this will diminish the emotional contagion and is an improvement, private venting does not help either. The truth is, angry people keep on venting because they feel like it. And it makes them (and others) feel even worse.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

You now know better. You understand that complaining repetitively and ruminating pointlessly is destructive to you and those in your neighborhood. You have observed that the servant leaders who are most successful in your organization don’t get angry often. When they do, they keep their mouths shut until their anger has died. That’s what happens to the fire of anger when you don’t feed it. It burns itself out quickly.

How can you do it?

  1. Just don’t do it. This is the flip side of the “Just Do It” mantra that advertisers have made a part of our motivational culture. You understand that there are some things that leaders just have to do—in spite of how they feel. And there are some things you must not do no matter how you feel. Ranting in the workplace is one of them.
  2. Review the evidence. Our brains are belief engines. People believe all kinds of stuff that is not true. The notion that venting helps diminish anger is one of them. Show your colleagues the evidence. Ask them to change this belief. Most people don’t change their beliefs easily—even false ones—but it’s a start.
  3. Clarify your expectations. Make it clear that you don’t expect to vent when you become angry and that you expect everyone to behave the same way. Admit that it is better to vent in private, but that it is best not to vent at all.

How have you decreased the angry ranting in your workplace?