In Career Transition, Follow Your Heart

The sad news of Apple CEO Steve Jobs passing hit me hard. He was a poster man for living a life based on passion and following your dreams. He inspires us to hang on to our dreams despite critics. My favorite quote from Jobs is from a commencement speech Jobs gave, “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Powerful. In my work as a career coach, my intention is to help my clients identify their heart calling and proactively create that life. We spend much of our lives working. For most adults, a satisfying life includes work that engages and allows us to bring the best of ourselves to achieve meaningful goals. For many professionals, it can be difficult to figure out this life equation.

Follow Your Heart tip #1. Find a quiet place and start journaling your own voice. Many of us have been leading a life marching to the drum of other’s voices. When is the last time you heard YOUR voice? Can you recognize your voice when you hear it?

Follow Your Heart tip #2. Identify your talents and gifts. Create a list of what you believe are your innate strengths.

If you (or someone you know) is in career transition or contemplating a career move —call me. Unlike many coaches I don’t make you sign up for a program. My coaching philosophy is simple. I meet clients where they are at –and no two are alike. I come from a genuine intention to understand and help my clients in any way that I can which includes support, asking powerful questions and providing a safe relationship to work through difficult challenges as a third party objective thinking partner. I am an accountability partner with continued focus towards your goals. I help clients identify how to “get out of their own way” and develop new effective behaviors vs. being stuck in old harmful patterns.

Contact Info: 425 736 5691(cell) or 360 682 5807 (office) or pinelakemo@comcast.net

Referrals are greatly appreciated Please pass this email on to any others you think would benefit from my practical Workplace Coach tips.

Workers Leave Bad Bosses!

As an executive coach, I am frequently reminded that people leave bad bosses (not bad companies). I am frequently privy to the real story behind why talented people exit. In my experience, it’s not typically about the commute, the pay, the company or the work. More often, its because the employee just couldn’t stand to continue working under their current boss.

What makes for a bad boss? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but my top ten list would include any of the following:

  1. Fails to give credit where it is due or plays favorites
  2. Fails to either promote/support direct reports with higher ups (doesn’t have the team’s backs)
  3. Fails to offer structure, direction and “order” for the team (clarifying expectations or what success looks like with work tasks)
  4. Decision making averse or wishy washy (often combined with #3 above)
  5. Fails to demonstrate a caring heart, sensitivity, compassion and attitude (no positive feedback, encouragement etc)
  6. Reacts negatively to critical feedback or bad news (i.e. retaliates, gets defensive, blaming or withdrawn)
  7. Rules with an iron fist (i.e. punitive, demeaning, condescending, passive aggressive or back biting)
  8. Micromanages (i.e. looking over shoulders, “control freak”, nit picks, can’t delegate)
  9. Isn’t open to influence
  10. Doesn’t support/coach or help direct reports advance, improve or develop

Here are this week’s coaching tips towards improving if you are a boss:

  • Demonstrate warmth with a smile or kind word. Greet your people like you are glad to see them in the morning! Offer them something to drink when they come to your office. Simply put-the golden rule.
  • Don’t be stingy with credit! Be generous with praise, recognition, Atta boys and thank you’s. The research is clear on this- humans are motivated by recognition and appreciation. Pay attention to what your people are doing well and let them know that a) you notice and b) appreciate. Good behavior unnoticed may not be continued.
  • Deliver constructive feedback regularly –not just once a year during a performance review! Accurately describe and communicate what behaviors you want continued and those you want changed or extinguished. It’s your job to make expectations clear for your employees.
  • Choose your words carefully. Loaded words that sting with sarcasm (always a double message) should be avoided. One word or action from a boss has the potential to make or break an employee’s day—this is particularly so with young or new employees. They are often starving for positive recognition and many are anxious to know how you are judging their work.
  • Noticing your team has a bad attitude? Look first to see that their attitude isn’t merely a reflection of yours. Boss moodiness is catchy and perpetual boss negativity can be deadly to morale. How you respond to a problem is a choice. Challenge yourself to deliver messages in a way that inspires vs. deflates. The most admired bosses inspire unity and loyalty with hope, optimism and workable solutions. Leaders have tremendous influence on the emotional fields of workplaces and their people. Positive emotions and words from a boss are fuel to increase morale and performance. Generosity of spirit, support and acknowledgement is also catchy. When people see the boss modeling it, they follow suit. Which would you rather have perpetuated in your workplace?
  • Be mindful about how you respond to someone bringing you bad news or critical/challenging feedback. People aren’t likely to be truth tellers a second time if they got shot down the first time. Make it safe for your people to communicate their concerns to you.
  • Earn respect and trust with these fundamentals: be transparent (explain decision making), acknowledge your own limitations (its ok to say “I don’t know the answer”), be authentic, don’t play favorites, get input from your people and maybe most importantly model the behavior you want from your people.

In my experience, most of those perceived as being a “bad” boss aren’t intentional about treating people poorly. More often it’s a lack of awareness coupled with a need for management/leadership skill development (often in the emotional intelligence arena). The good news is these are learnable skills (I teach/coach them daily).

Companies pay a high price when they lose talent under those who lack leadership skill. Bringing in a professional coach to help an otherwise valued manager learn better boss behaviors can be a solid business investment.

Employee Engagement

Figuring out how to motivate employees is no easy challenge. Business has typically equated motivation with money (the carrot and stick approach), and it seems this formula is wrong!

Take a look at Dan Pink’s popular 18 minute internet video from the TED conference in Oxford. His science of motivation makes a case for how business has it all wrong when it comes to incentives. I found it fascinating, intuitive and congruent with what I have experienced for many years as an executive coach. What really motivates talented, smart workers are factors including autonomy, mastery, and purpose (not more money). Pink cites over four decades of scientific studies enlightening us that the carrot and stick approach can actually significantly reduce the ability of workers to produce creative solutions to problems. His formula for work satisfaction and motivation is to connect our human need to direct our lives, to learn and create and to improve our world and ourselves.

What motivates us (once our basic survival needs are met) is the ability to grow and realize our fullest potential. Wise leaders create workplace environments and cultures that support autonomy, creativity and bringing the best of their human talent to meet company goals. Google reports that 50% of their successful products originate from employee’s 20% “innovation time”—Google employees devote 20% of their work time (one day), creatively innovating on projects of their choosing.

Additionally, Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi helps us comprehend motivation with his human state of “flow” theory. Flow is a human state of high engagement and satisfaction that occurs when we bring the best of ourselves forward to meet a challenging task or goal. If an employee has a high degree of skill and ability to do something with low challenge, they are typically apathetic or bored. Conversely, if an employee is given a highly challenging task or role with little skill, ability or talent to succeed-they will likely be in a state of anxiety, worry or stress. Neither is conducive to performance.

Flow is what happens when we have a high degree of challenge (with a clear goal) while we also have a high capability of skills, experience and talent to succeed with that goal. Akin to an athlete being in the “zone”, being in flow requires three conditions: 1) an activity with a clear set of goals, 2) the confidence that one is capable of doing the task at hand and 3) clear and immediate feedback.

Given all this theory, here are my coaching tips for how to motivate your employees:

  • Provide your people clear goals and expectations. Identify what success looks like. Make sure that before assigning tasks and roles that you are reasonably confident the individual has both the competence and the commitment to succeed. Then keep providing ongoing clear feedback. Feedback should be specific to behavior not the person or their intentions.
  • Identify your employee’s natural gifts and talents. For the price of a book, you can utilize the Strength finder 2.0 assessment. This easy to use and inexpensive internet based tool can help participants identify their top 5 strengths. Also, ask your employees how they think they can bring their best potential to the needs of the business?
  • Give people a sense of purpose. Identify and communicate how their job matters to larger organizational or business goals. People want to be a part of something that is bigger than they are. Help them identify their sense of “purpose” with the work they do.
  • Delegate more and give competent committed workers autonomy. People want to have control over their work. I have never met a client who enjoyed being micromanaged! When I hear talent looking for an exit strategy, its often due to their feeling they have no autonomy in the job or their talents and strengths are being underutilized
  • Offer employees continuing educational training opportunities. Mastery motivates! People want to get better at what they do. And the good news is once they do, they will perform at a higher level for your business. It’s a win win.
  • Praise and promote. Say thank you, recognize good work and catch people doing something well. Promote from within. Its sound strategy. Dedicated employees who have already proved their value deserve more autonomy and having a culture of promoting from within motivates other employees.

Facilitation Helps Teams

One of the greatest challenges facing most leaders today is how to maximize the creativity, quality, productivity and performance of their team. In my experience as an executive and team facilitation coach, not all leaders have an innate ability to bring the best of their people forward and even fewer know how to deal with a team mired in conflict.

A workplace team stuck in conflict, silence or frustration often lacks effective leadership. Effective leaders know how to facilitate a team in conflict towards healthy safe debate and new solutions that allow a team move forward. Without these skills, teams often waste their valuable human talent and potential. Team members become disengaged and morale plummets. In the worse cases, organizations lose talented performers. Many HR exit interviews reveal the real reason for a talented employee leaving is their frustration with a boss’s lack of leadership and team building ability.

The good news — help is available. There are professional team coaches and meeting facilitators that can bring in skills and tools to help people work together more creatively and productively.

A facilitator’s role is to improve the way the team identifies challenges, solves complex problems and moves forward with a successful action plan. The best facilitators can help meetings run more effectively so teams can accomplish more with less work hours. They develop customized exercises to increase safety and team skills to make dialogue and honest candid feedback possible.

Diversity of opinions, perspectives and experiences combine to make a team powerful. Complex team workplace problems are often best resolved with more than one head in the game. Good facilitators help team’s tackle difficult conversations in a way that increases trust and performance. They engage everyone so that all team members have an opportunity to have their input considered. Team meetings that are facilitated by professionals are rarely boring or frustrating.

Professional facilitator’s or team coaches can help your team:

  • End meetings with actionable items and clear decisions
  • Increase participation, dialogue, engagement and accountability
  • Work through conflict effectively
  • Surface any “elephants in the room”
  • Test assumptions
  • Drive to solutions vs. getting stuck with whining and blaming
  • Clarify roles, task expectations and goals/objectives

Outside facilitators (meaning they are hired from outside the organization) can be effective because they are impartial and neutral without internal political agendas that are often perceived when using someone on the “inside”. Outside facilitators have no decision-making power or authority over the team. They do not control or dominate but provide opportunities as a “servant” to the team. Their goal is often to empower and help unleash a team’s collective energy and talent.

Good facilitators must remain grounded and have enough personal authority to stay centered in the heat of conflict. To be effective, they also require education and tools in group dynamics and have the skills necessary to foster healthy dialogue and help a team move from destructive patterns to healthy ones. Yes, these are skills are worth investing in!

What do facilitators do?

  • Bring in structure for effective team process — activities and tools to enhance participation, engagement and high performance.
  • Know how to intervene to help a team develop new ways of communication so people can listen and understand each other’s viewpoints and participate in healthy debate
  • Help teams develop their own ground rules to address accountability, attendance, how they handle conflict etc.
  • Help keep meetings and teams on track, dealing with “disruptive” behaviors.
  • They have tools to guide teams through solid planning, decision- making, and problem solving, idea generation and actions.
  • Bring safety to a team where emotions are running high

Like most leadership skills, facilitation skills are learned through education, training, practice, feedback, observation and best practice coaching. They are invaluable to any leader seeking to inspire and influence their workplace teams.  Alternatively, facilitation experts like me are available to help you design and facilitate more effective meetings for engagement, creativity, decision making and buy in.  Call me to arrange:  360 5807!

Increasing Employee Engagement

I am concerned about the lack of engagement that I perceive from many of my clients who work for mid to large sized organizations (by the way non profits aren’t immune). From my vantage, it seems that a disturbing large number of workers these days feel “trapped” by this recession and are desperately looking for an “exit” strategy.

Few organizations can afford a mass exodus of talent. Yet here is a brief list of common complaints I hear daily as a coach: resentment about being micromanaged by a “toxic” boss, feeling under-appreciated and/or undervalued, weighted down by too much work, too few resources, a lack of autonomy and a mountain of processes/minutia that suck the life out of them!

Employee engagement matters greatly to performance and organizational success. One study by the Corporate Leadership Council found an increase in employee engagement can generate an increase of 20% in performance and an 87% reduction in employees’ probability of departure. The same study looked at the top drivers to employee engagement and determined the most important is a connection between the employees’ job and organizational strategy and an understanding (by the employee) of how important their job is to organizational success. Other top drivers were manager characteristics (as well as cultural traits) chiefly, good internal communication, a reputation of integrity, and a culture of innovation.

Most workers leave bad bosses not “bad” companies. Workers who like their boss and who feel their boss cares about them are more productive and less likely to fly the coop. We go the extra mile for bosses who we feel appreciate us and demonstrate respect for us.

My coach’s tips for increasing employee engagement:

  • Conduct an employee survey. Take the temperature of the organization and determine how they feel about morale, culture and management. Get input about what they would change. One suggested survey resource– the Gallup 12 question engagement survey.
  • Assess the strengths and career aspirations of your people. Ask them what they do best—what are they doing when they are in the “zone” or in flow. Find out how they think they can best contribute to the team or business. Help design their day-to-day work to maximize their potential to deliver their best.
  • Assess whether or not your processes/systems are helping or hindering your people’s success and performance. Ask them what they would change and how they would change it. Often manager’s get too far from the action to know what is working or not from the vantage of those on the front lines. Ask them!
  • Delegate and “coach” vs. micromanage. No one likes having someone look over his or her shoulder all day! Talented, committed people want (and deserve) autonomy and decision making authority. If they aren’t growing, improving and allowed to captain some of their own ship, odds are they will bail as soon as they have an opportunity.
  • Appreciate and recognize your people when they deliver for you. Reinforce what you want done again. Call them, send an email or better yet, go shake their hand, look them in the eye and say thank you. Sadly, most American workers report very low levels of workplace recognition (one Gallup survey reported 60% of workers saying they receive no praise or recognition in their workplaces!) If the only time your workers hear from you is when they do something wrong—you qualify as a bad boss.
  • Set clear goals and expectations. Define what success looks like when delegating projects.
  • Give and receive constructive specific feedback. Offer helpful feedback regularly. Most people want to know how they are doing and if they are behaving in a way that is problematic for the business or coworkers. This gives them an opportunity to change and improve. In turn, bosses need to go out of their way to create safe conditions for their people to give them reciprocal feedback (this means the boss should NOT get reactive or defensive when they do!). Ask your people what they want more of or less of from you.
  • Involve your people in creating a culture of innovation. Facilitate brain storming sessions and opportunities for them to contribute to improved ways of delivering for customers/clients.