Leaders- Caution! Choose Change Chits Wisely

If you are a workplace leader or manager, change is part of the job.  How you manage change with your staff matters to the leadership success equation.

What do staff expect from their leaders?  Research claims primarily – order, direction and protection.  Staff wants leaders to maintain fair and consistent norms. Yet effective leadership often means changing norms and even mandating change to meet objectives.  This can be a paradox and clearly a challenge for leaders.

I regularly coach leaders with their day to day “people” challenges – helping them manage change is a part of my daily coaching conversations.

Tips from the Coach:

  • Too much change is bad.  People do not have an infinite capacity to absorb change.  Choose your change chits wisely, strategically and frugally.  We mere humans have a finite amount of energy chits each day.  What do you want staff to spend their precious time and energy on?  If you are going to create a policy or process change—make sure its relevant and worthy of the challenges creating it may cause.
  • Don’t hold onto the past or deny inevitable change.  If the company change train has left the station without you on it—you keeping staff stuck.  Staff watches the boss to see how the boss responds or “reacts” to change.
  • Deal with problems!  Complaints regarding the boss avoiding problems and not dealing with them effectively–is the #1 complaint I hear from staff.  Staff count on the boss to resolve conflict and take care of obstacles to success.
  • Don’t put your direct report in the uncomfortable position of having to fend for themselves when it comes to answering unreasonable demands from your peers or theirs.  It’s a boss’s role to deal with problematic obstacles and challenges that impede staff success.
  • Don’t add to the drama factor.  Regulate your emotional reactivity to bad news.  If the boss gets upset, so does staff.  No one can spread the negative emotional “flu” virus like a boss!

Help is available for the people challenges of leadership—invest in yourself this year with leadership development.  Contact me:  360 682 5807 or info@pathtochange.com

 

 

 

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.

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.

Hire A Facilitator to Increase Team Engagement

Teams are everywhere in business today. When managed well, teams can increase quality, innovation, productivity, employee commitment, creativity and bottom line results. When teams are managed poorly, however, morale and commitment can deteriorate, resulting in frustration and deadlock.

One way to improve how your team functions is to use an outside facilitator. A facilitator’s role is to improve how the team identifies challenges, solves complex problems and ultimately makes decisions. Facilitators help teams clarify their scope, goals, task roles and action plans — resulting in faster and better decision-making.

Everyone’s unique perspective and input on a team is valuable — it’s this diversity that makes teams so powerful (bringing the best minds together to address complex situations). Yet one of the great challenges managing teams is dealing with all those varying points of view. Facilitators add structure and process to foster maximum input and engagement of team members while still helping teams end meetings with members clear about “who will do what by when.” Team members are naturally more committed and buy into decisions in which their input was heard and considered. They are also more satisfied leaving meetings knowing what they are responsible for. Meetings that are well facilitated are typically energizing, vs. boring or frustrating.

Here are some common challenges that facilitators can help teams overcome:

  • Long meetings with few (or no) actionable decisions or outcomes.
  • Lack of engagement, contribution or accountability.
  • Inability to effectively review divergent viewpoints.
  • Pressure to conform to dominant members’ ideas.
  • Ineffective or dysfunctional conflict patterns.
  • Surfacing “stuck” team issues (often long underground).
  • Unclear roles, task expectations and goals/objectives.

Effective facilitators do not participate as a “member” or “manager” of the work team. In contrast, they are an impartial, neutral resource, without an agenda. In fact, team facilitators should have no decision-making power or authority over the team — it’s from this nonthreatening “outside” position that they can help the team facilitate productive change.

There is science and art behind good facilitation. Facilitators help teams learn and follow effective group process. Skilled facilitators have a unique lens and can help a team see the “forest through the trees.” They often help teams identify alternatives to their traditional (and frequently ineffective) patterns.

What do facilitators do?

  • They help the team build (and frequently rebuild) the structure for effective team process.
  • They help teams establish their own “rules of conduct/ engagement” (ground rules for issues such as electronic interruptions, handling disagreements, etc.).
  • They provide a process to foster a climate for maximum participation and engagement — including helping the team listen effectively and acknowledge others’ viewpoints.
  • They help the team learn how to engage in healthy, creative debate.
  • They help keep the team on track and deal with “disruptive” behaviors. They know when and how to intervene and redirect on behaviors that hinder team performance.
  • They have tools to guide teams through solid discovery, planning, problem-solving and decision-making processes.
  • They promote accountability and follow-through.

Facilitators are also called in when teams have reached a point of total ineffectiveness — or worse. In these cases, facilitators can bring safety to a team in which emotions are running high. Skilled facilitators can help team members communicate their emotions in ways that contribute to the group’s effectiveness vs. harm it. Teams that can work through these tough situations often come out on the other side more bonded and better equipped to deal with future sticky situations.

Effective facilitators often bring value to even the best-run teams. A fresh set of eyes, ears, perspective and solid team development skills can help teams achieve an even higher level of performance.  I can help!  mmoriarty@pathtochange.com or 360 682 5807.

 

Team Development

Simply throwing people together and asking them to operate as a team doesn’t guarantee success. There is a difference between a group of people who work together and those who work effectively as a team. A big difference. High-performing teams, though rare, are a tremendous competitive advantage. Developing them is frequently cited as the No. 1 challenge of leaders.

As an organizational consultant, I am often asked to help teams that are “stuck” or not meeting their potential. I identify team challenges and opportunities and help them increase collaboration and performance. While there are many factors that affect team performance, these are some that guide my work with teams:

  • Trust. This is critical to all great teams (and organizations). Team synergy, innovation, risk-taking and constructive challenge can’t happen without trust. It allows highly driven individuals to embrace difference and conflict and to challenge the status quo in a positive, powerful way. Without trust, teams get bogged down trying to deal with dysfunctional behaviors, including low team “EQ,” or emotional intelligence, “misrepresentations” and personal egos, insecurities and agendas. People who don’t feel safe will naturally hold back questions, opinions and ideas — any of which could be vital to the team’s success.
  • Clarity in purpose, goals/objectives, roles, responsibilities and expectations. Members of high-performing teams are clear about their target — what they are working together to achieve and their individual responsibilities to help the team get there. Without clarity and purpose people are reluctant to genuinely engage, and become complacent. Most professionals are energized by compelling and challenging goals. If your team has no sense of urgency, odds are it isn’t functioning at a high level.

Frustrated teams often include those who “don’t see the point” or can’t agree “who is on first and who is on second,” which often leads to ugly turf wars. This is usually the result of unclear task and role responsibility. Team leaders need to make sure everyone is clear about their responsibility in achieving the goal and why their contribution is important.

  • The necessary skills/ resources/protection to meet objectives. Teams that face large skill gaps or resource requirements relative to their objectives are doomed to fail. Wise team leaders selectively fit members into appropriate roles based on the individual’s skills, experience, motivation and talent.

To be successful, most workplace teams require a combination of leadership, technical, interpersonal, problem-solving, decisionmaking and teamwork skills. Team leaders need to support the resource needs of the team, leveraging individual skills and providing the protection needed for team success.

  • Healthy conflict. Conflict can result in creativity, learning and better solutions to today’s complex and ever-changing workplace problems. High-performing teams foster an environment that supports open, healthy debate around ideas and different perspectives. In these teams, disagreements are not suppressed, reasons are carefully examined, members feel safe to speak their truth and give each other constructive feedback.

In contrast, dysfunctional teams are hindered by indirect, disguised and guarded discussions. In these teams, conflict is either avoided (usually due to fear of retaliation or hurting others feelings) or dealt with destructively (hostility, passive aggression, finger pointing, shooting the messenger or scapegoating). No one enjoys being a part of this game.

  • Clear decision-making. High-performing teams are clear about how and when decisions will be made and who has the authority to make them. In these teams, members believe their opinion is valued — and that it has the potential to affect the decision under consideration. In contrast, members of dysfunctional teams often leave team meetings without anyone considering their ideas or unclear if a decision was made.
  • Accountability. In high-performing teams, members hold each other accountable and share the rewards of victory and pain of defeat. Individual expectations and commitments to support team objectives are clear and realistic. These teams focus on and measure performance and establish feedback mechanisms that clearly identify achievements and shortfalls.

In dysfunctional teams, mediocrity or nonperformance is tolerated and ultimately establishes itself as the norm. Different “rules” apply to different members. This lack of accountability frustrates performers and creates a team environment of inequity and disappointment. Sadly, many workplace teams place a value on harmony over truth, accountability and what is best for the business — and expend great effort and resources to avoid difficult challenges.

  • Finding ways to work better together. The best teams regularly examine their working process. They evaluate and renegotiate what needs to improve. They “debrief” after projects to identify what went well and what could be improved.

Reward and recognize. Great teams take time to celebrate and share in their achievements and successes.  I offer coaching (anywhere in the world) and team facilitation help:  mmoriarty@pathtochange.com or 360 682 5807.