People Leave Managers Not Organizations

My many years of experience as a workplace relations/leadership expert have proved to me the wisdom of the adage, “People leave managers not organizations.” I hear the behind the door frustrations and challenges of those who report into a bad boss. The economy is improving and I predict there will be a lot of talented individuals that will leave organizations due to their frustration with a bad boss.

I am an optimist at heart. I personally haven’t met, at least not in my coaching practice, a boss who truly wants to be known as the “bad boss.” Most are mere mortal humans that have some or a combination of these challenges:
• They are blind (or arrogant) to their problematic behaviors that promote distrust or a lack of engagement
• They lack the emotional and interpersonal intelligence to succeed in the role
• They were never been taught simple but practical effective techniques for handling dicey workplace scenarios like how to deliver challenging feedback, intervene with conflict, lead change effectively or lead a high performing team.

The good news is I can help. But the recipe isn’t a quick fix. It takes focus, support, best practice modeling, appropriate challenge, continual feedback and learning new behaviors to replace problematic behaviors.

If you know someone who needs help at improving their boss skills— kindly pass my information on! I am currently accepting a few new clients. I now offer my one on one coaching sessions via Skype to help those super busy professionals with limited time challenges.

4 Tips To Be A Better Boss:
1) Be open and welcoming of input, feedback, ideas and suggestions from staff.
2) Work continually to help people clarify their roles, goals, responsibilities, expectations (what does success look like?) and priorities.
3) Avoid bulldozing change
4) Choose your change chits wisely. Most leaders underestimate the time and attention of THEIRS it will take to effectively sponsor change initiatives.

I pride myself on never having a client that wasn’t willing to provide me a recommendation or reference. Thank you for your continued support.

Maureen Moriarty, aka Workplace Coach

360 682 5807

Coaches Increase Your Skills

Coaching in the workplace has increased dramatically in popularity in recent years as more organizations and leaders understand the power behind the approach. Coaching isn’t a “flavor of the month” business fad — it’s here to stay, and for good reasons. The business case for coaching is backed by solid research, data and results.

This column begins a series on coaching in the workplace and will review coaching concepts, techniques and examples of how coaching can dramatically affect performance and bottom-line results.

Simply stated, coaching is a leadership method and style centered on the development of the person (or team) being coached. At its core, coaching is about helping the person or team being coached change behaviors that affect their business goals.

Comparing workplace coaching to the sports field provides some valuable insights and similarities. Who can argue the value of coaches in the business of professional sports? Just as every major football team has a head coach, it also leverages a field of specialized experts to help develop specific skills sets — in individuals and for the team to optimize team dynamics and performance. Similarly, the purpose of workplace coaching is to champion, challenge and support. Workplace coaches, just like sports coaches, leverage skill development (practice, practice, practice!) and feedback (roll the game video), and provide insight (have you considered or did you know this behavior is having this effect?). The common theme, in both business and sports, is that effective coaching is a proven method to help individuals, teams and entire organizations rise to their performance potential.

Effective workplace coaching typically is:

  • An interpersonal relationship built on trust.
  • The leveraging of personal, interpersonal, leadership and business experience. In coaching, these skills are combined with techniques and activities designed to develop specific skills, new understandings and behaviors.
  • A method that recognizes that learning (including from failure) is an expected benefit of trying new behaviors.
  • A sounding board for the workplace “worried well.”

What coaching isn’t:

  • Being “touchy feely.”
  • Simply providing a pat on the back or being a “cheerleader.”
  • A substitute for personal therapy.

When and for what reasons are coaches typically used? Here are a few typical workplace scenarios:

  • To help new or inexperienced leaders with a potential for leadership who may lack specific leadership skills or experience.
  • Supporting “fast trackers” or high achievers.
  • To help valued employees with specific performance or emotional intelligence issues (such as an interpersonal, self-awareness or reactivity problem) or those individuals or groups that are simply “stuck.”

For senior level managers, executive coaches are frequently utilized for:

  • Individuals being groomed for senior leadership positions, including those who have demonstrated business success but may have identified emotional intelligence challenges.
  • The role of the impartial third-party “outsider,” one that can provide an unbiased or unemotional perspective on complex and difficult issues. Senior managers often find great benefit in having an objective sounding board (with no political or internal bias) to vocalize, rationalize and work through difficult situations.
  • Support during major organizational transitions, including helping the organization to develop top-to-bottom skills and programs for managing change effectively.
  • Helping leaders develop feedback mechanisms to help answer and address the question, “Why isn’t this working?”

The need for improved leadership, performance and results has never been greater. Our business reality today is one of constant change and global competition. Being successful in today’s workplace requires a never-ending development of new leaders with new skills — including the ability to build effective teams and a culture of organizational collaboration.

In a recent study conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership, 91 percent of leaders surveyed said the challenges they face as leaders are more complex than in the past. This same study identified the ability to effectively collaborate as a top skill that leaders must develop, while only 30 percent identified themselves as skilled collaborators! The good news — there is help!  Call me today- 360 682 5807.

Leaders can make change easier

THE CURRENT ECONOMY has created an unprecedented need for companies to adapt and change. From the big automotive companies to Wall Street to small Main Street businesses, this is no time for “business as usual.”

To succeed, companies big or small will need leaders who can support and manage the necessary change successfully. Resilient teams get through tough times because they have leaders who are effective in getting their teams off the dime with focus, creativity, commitment and alignment (everyone rowing in the same direction), and actively engaged in problem solving and “making it happen.”

Harvard change management guru John Kotter, in his book, “A Sense of Urgency”,  equates leading successful change with the ability to establish a sense of urgency with employees. As a coach I know by experience that behavior change doesn’t happen easily. Most humans resist change unless they have a compelling reason to change, or put another way, until the pain of not changing exceeds the pain of changing. Leaders who establish urgency around workplace changes provide an incentive for people to act now versus acting when it’s convenient or “when I can get to it.” In this economy, embracing and acting on this urgency may well define the difference between success and failure.

Here are some coaching tips to help bosses manage change:

Let your team know what’s at stake. Being candid and straightforward about current challenges will help you to maintain loyalty, trust and commitment — people both deserve and appreciate honesty. Be forthcoming about where things stand and what will happen if the change doesn’t happen. Communicate the vision, focus and plan for how the business will move forward. Let employees know a) they are an important part of that plan, b) what their part is, and c) that success depends on everyone doing their part.

As the boss, behave like you mean it. In other words, walk your urgency talk and be the model for what you are asking others to do. Your people will be watching you closely to see if your actions are aligned with your words. How you spend your day-to-day activities must be congruent with what you have asked of your team. If you are asking your team to work extra hours, expect skepticism and resistance if you aren’t in there with them.

Bring your team together for a problem-solving session. People are naturally more supportive of change they were involved in developing. Harness their collective wisdom, skills and experience. Re-emphasize the fundamentals or core values of what your team (or company) does best. When identifying who will be doing what, capitalize on and leverage the strengths of your team members. Identify and prioritize projects that will generate the most value and benefit to the company. Have the team also identify any broken, costly or inept procedures and processes so these can be eliminated.

Rally your key influencers (those who can bring people together to get it done) and don’t put up with those who put up roadblocks to the necessary change. Successful change requires all hands on deck to win; deal with naysayers directly.

Engage their hearts and minds. Sadly, according to a Gallup poll, a mere 29 percent of the U.S. workforce is engaged (i.e., loyal, enthusiastic and productive), while 55 percent are passively disengaged. Don’t rely on the numbers or the business case to move people. Humans have emotional needs. While people need to see and understand the need for change to be inspired and moved, they also need to feel the need for the change. As the leader, how you show up emotionally matters.

Help your team see how to make lemonade from all those lemons! It’s easy to get sucked into the negativity, doom and gloom. Help your team reframe the current scenario by identifying strengths to capitalize on and market opportunities that can be taken advantage of (vs. business as usual or continuing to ignore market opportunities due to bureaucracy). Encourage out-of-the-box thinking. Putting everyone’s head in the game often can lead to creative and winning solutions.

Recognize achievement and short-term wins to build momentum. Find a way to measure and acknowledge even the small successes. Don’t overlook the importance of verbal recognition. Tell your people that you recognize how hard they are working and that you appreciate what they do.  My executive coaching services are available to help you manage change more effectively.  Invest in yourself with my services by calling 360 682 5807.  I regularly coach via Skype anywhere in the world.

Business Crisis Strategy

Many senior leaders are under extraordinary pressure. It’s lonely at the top, and employees are looking to their leaders for inspiration, direction and protection.

The stakes are high. How senior managers lead in these difficult times can be the difference between the organization failing, surviving or thriving.

C-level executives are the final decision makers; they have ultimate authority and responsibility for meeting internal and external challenges. Strategy — what businesses (and their people) put their attention on — will define success or failure.

As an executive coach, I observe many leaders. The best “strategic” leaders stand out because they:

  • Anticipate the future, keeping the organization agile and “nimble” and effectively adapting and sponsoring change to meet shifting challenges/ opportunities.
  • Develop strategy that balances long-term goals with immediate organization needs.
  • Leverage, engage and empower (not inhibit!) human capital to operate at its full potential.
  • Develop and communicate a clear plan with priorities and course of action (providing a “rudder” for navigating stormy seas).

Here are some of my coaching suggestions to help senior leaders successfully chart the course ahead:

  • Develop strategy to maximize and support your existing resources. Identify key internal resources (those with a track record in meeting challenges, with the necessary leadership and critical skill sets) and external resources (customers, consultants and supplier/service relationships). What would the impact be if you lose your top salesperson, your largest customer or if your key supplier goes out of business next week? Your plan should address how you will retain and build credibility with key staff and customers. Deliver clear messages to help you stand out in the marketplace (and keep customers loyal). Make sure to include contingencies in your plan.
  • Provide focus. Make sure your people are working on the “right” priorities. As a coach, it astonishes me how many bosses are unaware of what their employees spend their day-to-day time on. Find out. Have your reports define what they do, including what and how they prioritize their work. Make sure they are aligned with current strategy, then support them in achieving prioritized goals.
  • Help staff deal appropriately with escalating stress levels. Consider tactics such as a “state of the union” company meeting or offering professional conflict resolution training. Many competent managers I coach confide in me they are ill-equipped to deal with the trauma/drama involved with today’s emotional, stressed-out employees and customers. They need tools and techniques to “de-escalate” themselves and upset customers or coworkers.
  • Avoid knee-jerk reactions. Think strategically; cut back smartly and continue to invest wisely. Strategic leaders understand the importance and impact of continued investment in critical areas such as IT, R&D, motivating employees and effective leadership/employee development. These are still (and will always be) key success drivers. Broad-brush layoffs should be a last resort as most companies have a significant investment in their human resource capital. Layoffs are often counterproductive. While they may appear to solve short-term financial problems they often create a climate of uncertainty for remaining staff and customers.
  • Respond to new business opportunities as a result of current market conditions. The present crisis is an extraordinary opportunity for those well-positioned to capitalize on opportunities — but only for those who have their eye on the big picture.
  • Reward and motivate your best; view them as a resource to be leveraged vs. a “cost” to be reduced. Keep talent engaged, inspired, supported and appropriately rewarded, or risk losing them. My coaching phone is ringing with uninspired and unsupported talent (most who haven’t told their bosses they are leaving) because they feel unappreciated, “hung out to dry” or underutilized. Times like these present a unique opportunity to either “poach” talent away or to secure talent that isn’t typically available. The best are rarely (if ever) “out in the streets,” even during tough times like these. Top performers understand their value and will find an environment where they can succeed. Recognize that losing talent often equates to losing key company knowledge and customer relationships.
  • Clarify for those worried about “job security” how you measure success. In the end, the best job protection is generating value in excess of the expense you carry. These days organizations can’t afford to carry “dead wood,” “coasters” or “pretenders.”
  • Get support. Find someone to talk to about doubts, fears and overcoming challenges. Executive coaches can provide support, an objective perspective and insight to help increase the probability for success. The best will help you figure out how to focus strategically and get out of your own way.

Wise leaders use external executive coaches as an objective sounding board and for competent guidance with the people challenges they face–I  help leaders anywhere in the world via Skype – call me  360 682 5807.

Managing With Sensitivity

Managing and leading during tough times can be very difficult (and, let’s face it — at times, downright awful).

During these hard times, the “heart” in leadership matters greatly.

Emotions are running high; fear, anxiety and anger are a given with layoffs. Rumors are flying. Telling an employee he or she no longer has a job is gut-wrenching — no matter the reason or circumstances.

Though there is no perfect way or words to use, there are ways to make this daunting task both intentional and considerate. Here are a few:

Communicate: Proactive, consistent and genuine communication during tough times and potential layoffs is imperative — do it early, often and with candor.

Avoid sugarcoating the truth. Whenever possible deliver difficult messages in person.

Prepare for a difficult conversation: Choose a location that offers privacy and avoid distractions (no cell phones, PDAs or computer screens).

Be prepared to answer questions such as:

  • Who made the decision and how was it made?
  • Who else will be let go?
  • What are my options at this point (i.e., are there other jobs or outplacement resources available)?

Share with those being laid off how much you have appreciated working with them and acknowledge them for their contributions. Offer positive suggestions for moving forward, including detailing outplacement resources available to them.

Be empathetic: Deliver the message calmly with compassion and sensitivity. Be straightforward and clear while being sensitive to the employee’s emotions and reactions.

Acknowledge the obvious — that this is difficult news to hear and give. Convey empathy around the employee’s feelings and situation.

If the employee loses control of his or her emotions during the meeting, suggest a break, offer him or her the rest of the day off or see if you can call someone to come pick him or her up. Use self-soothing strategies (taking deep breaths can help) to calm yourself.

Provide emotionally intelligent leadership for the “survivors”: Don’t be emotionally tone deaf to the anguish or stress of your people.

Layoffs, or downsizing, has a dramatic impact throughout the organization. It’s easy to forget that “survivors” are affected as well. They are saying goodbye to friends and trusted colleagues whom they respect and care about and often have feelings of guilt or anxiety about their futures. Losing staff typically also means big changes in how survivors will do their work.

Bring your team together to talk about how they feel (be respectful to those who may not want to talk about it) and be accessible for people to come to you about their concerns. Be sensitive and allow them time, space and support they need to heal.

Expect productivity to go down for a while: Be conscientious around setting reasonable expectations and pace in light of the changes made.

Refocus resources and redefine priorities — and where possible streamline processes and work flow. The survivors will be justifiably concerned about a) how much work there is to do, b) are they up to new tasks they may need to absorb and c) will they have the time/energy to complete them. Reclarify expectations moving forward and your commitment to supporting their efforts moving ahead.

Focus on rebuilding trust: Trust has been lost during a layoff — count on it. As a leader, you will need to put extra emphasis on building it back up again.

Go back to basics: Reconfirm the vision and core values as a constant that has not changed. Be a truth teller and an adult — don’t ignore reality nor make promises you can’t keep. Be visible and available (don’t hide out in your office!) and understand that every behavior you do and words that you say will be scrutinized.

People in extreme situations need leadership and confidence more than ever. They look to their leaders for cues about how they should be responding. True leaders will differentiate from the pretenders during difficult circumstances — they will create safety and demonstrate that they are calm, sensitive and affirming with others even under great stress.

Practice extreme self-care: Managing the pain of others will take a toll on you — both emotionally and physically.

It is during tough times that your people need you the most and you will be no good to them if you are depleted. Find extra support.  As an executive coach, I can help you so you don’t have to “go it alone” (360 682 5807).  I Skype with clients anywhere in the world.