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

Great leaders learn how to coach

While most managers have the skills required to “get work done,” many lack the skills required to effectively coach others. But increasingly, managers are being asked to use coaching as a preferred management style and, as a result, are being required to develop entirely new skill sets.

Learning coaching skills is a process — it requires role-modeling, training, practice and feedback. It often involves “unlearning” old methods and styles that are no longer effective in today’s workplace.

In trying to define what makes a great coach, think about the last time someone coached (or helped) you to achieve something important to you. What did he or she do that helped? Most people might list qualities such as the following:

  • Listening well.
  • Believing in me.
  • Providing feedback to help me improve my skills.
  • Being willing to show me the way.
  • Giving me a new task or responsibility that was a learning opportunity.

The list is always long as there are many components of effective coaching. That’s because coaching is an art — a balance between the softer relationship skills (empathy, caring, listening and interpersonal competence) and business skills (process expertise, setting clear expectations, giving direction and offering constructive feedback).

Here are a few of the traits and skills of great leaders with coaching skills:

The ability to build genuine trust, respect and rapport. This is the foundation for coaching success — it’s what fuels the coaching partnership. Employees who distrust or are uncomfortable with their coach find it easy to dismiss the coach’s message. Effective coaches convey sincere interest and concern for workers’ well-being and growth. They are credible; their audio matches their video; and they demonstrate integrity and personal respect.

They are active listeners (versus passive observers). The leader-as-coach is in tune with the person’s story, intentions and feelings (the emotions behind the words). If you have ever had someone listen to truly understand you, you have no doubt experienced the difference. This interaction can be truly profound and inspirational.

They demonstrate genuine empathy. While not everyone is naturally empathetic, empathy is a skill that can be developed. Empathy means trying to understand how an experience affects the other person — what it’s like to walk in their shoes. An important distinction: Empathy is not agreement; it’s understanding and acknowledging the feelings and experience of the other.

They have personal authority and credibility. Great coaches are adept at challenging and suggesting or demonstrating new behaviors. Their personal authority, confidence and competence allows them to challenge, reward success in a meaningful way and treat errors as learning opportunities while employees learn new skills.

The best leader/coaches establish clear direction and protection, and create a motivating environment. They are persistent regarding the need for follow-through on commitments.

They ask powerful questions. They encourage learning by asking questions to raise the employee’s awareness, level of performance and accountability. The questions are open-ended (i.e., those that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no).

This approach is very different from “telling” employees what to do or giving them the answers to their problems. Here are a few examples:

  • What resources are needed?
  • What obstacles might get in the way?
  • What has not been tried?
  • What will you commit to doing and when?

They set clear goals and expectations. Have you ever seen the words “Vince Lombardi” and “wishy-washy” in the same sentence (until now)? A key to effective coaching is the ability to clearly communicate goals, define specific action plans and foster ownership of or commitment to the attainment of these goals.

They are realists who can hold others accountable for activity, action and results. The SMART acronym is a useful guide for coaching — it defines setting goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

Coaching is an activity that always involves the question, “What’s the next step?” Great leaders with coaching skills hold people accountable for taking action and achieving results.

They provide clear, effective and challenging feedback. This coaching skill is so critical that it deserves its own column (see next week).

The challenge for many organizations is how to establish an effective program for managers to learn and master these skills. Most organizations require outside expertise to accomplish this.

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.

Onboarding New Hires

IT’S IMPORTANT FOR bosses to get off on the right foot with any new hire. When an employee’s orientation and training for a new job are done well, it can lead to improved employee job satisfaction, morale, performance and retention.

Hiring someone is the first step, but it’s what a boss does from that point forward that matters.

I cringe when I hear stories of new hires who arrive on their first day only to find their new boss and workplaces totally unprepared for them. For example, a receptionist looking perplexed at the new arrival, saying, “No one told me you were coming.” As a result, the new person’s first impression can range from, “I’m not important,” to, “Uh oh, this company doesn’t have its act together.” These initial judgments can turn into self-fulfilling prophecies, which most companies can’t afford with new talent.

Here are a few tips to help you get off on the right foot with a new hire.

Communicate. Send out an advance e-mail notice informing staff of the new hire’s arrival date and the requested “to do” actions. These include typical detail items such as setting up the new hire’s workplace station (computers, phones, etc.) and laying out expectations for communication. Offer some background information about the new hire so staff will be better prepared to offer a sincere, “Welcome, we’re glad you’re here.” The hiring manager should personally escort and enthusiastically introduce the new person to staff.

Coach’s tip: An intranet photo board listing names and positions can help new employees understand how the organization is structured and learn all those new faces.

Provide all new employees with a company orientation covering your unique workplace HR policies and procedures. Consider creating an FAQ, or “frequently asked questions,” intranet Web page as a resource. Include details such as casual Fridays. (You don’t want the new person embarrassed having shown up in a suit on a casual Friday.) Orientation should address employee basics, such as insurance and holidays. There are Web-based options available to provide a “hub” for accessing, navigating and completing required paperwork. Standardizing this can facilitate a smoother entry process.

Plan. Bosses and key staff should set aside designated time to sit with the new hire during the first week to answer questions and explain processes. Bosses particularly need to be available to support the new hire — avoid scheduling vacations or outside office commitments.

Train. New employee training should be provided by someone with the necessary people, training and specific job knowledge/experience to train effectively. I hear too many tales from frustrated employees who never received adequate training (and who inevitably don’t meet their employer’s expectations). The best trainers adapt to people’s preferred learning styles. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to learning. Some people learn best by doing (driving rather than hearing someone describe the process or reading it in a manual). Simply throwing a new hire a thick employee handbook rarely works.

Coach’s tip: Don’t let your naysayers or company downers conduct new employee training. The last thing you want is your new employee getting brainwashed by a disgruntled or unhappy staff member.

Keep it simple in the beginning. Flooding new employees with minute details or noncritical paperwork is a common mistake. Focus and explain the “big picture.” Remember, for a new hire, everything is new and overwhelming. Try to keep the first day more personal than paperwork or process driven. You want it to be a positive experience. Like the first day at school, it leaves a lasting impression.

Keep checking in often. Take him or her out to lunch the first day. Use this time to get to know the new employee better and ask how things are going. Encourage the employee to bounce questions, concerns and observations off you, and listen carefully. A simple, “How are you feeling?” can shed light on how you should proceed.

Don’t kid yourself thinking the “sink or swim” approach for a new hire will work. Be realistic with your expectations around how quickly he or she should be assimilating information, processes and procedures. Learning takes time and repetition. One standard rule of thumb — don’t expect a new hire to be fully functioning in a new role until at least three to six months.

Be specific describing responsibilities. Communicating clear expectations around behavior and tasks is important for any successful boss/employee relationship.

Have a discussion about preferred communication styles; yours as the boss and theirs. For example, are you OK with yelling over the cubicle wall or do you want them to schedule an appointment? Should they address issues as they come up or in regular one-on-one meetings? Do you prefer text, e-mail or IM-ing, and what level of detail do you desire? How will you work out differences?

Bosses should do everything in their power to set an expectation for open communication. The wisest bosses assure new people that their mistakes will be viewed as “learning opportunities.”

Hire me as a coach to help you with identify, leverage and growing your most important resource -your people!  Phone me: 360 682 5807 or email:  I coach clients all over the world with Skype!


Leadership is about skill, not talent

How did your boss get to be a great boss?

While some believe that leaders are “born, not made,” research shows that great leaders are, in fact, made. They gradually acquire effective leadership competencies throughout their careers through experience, training, mentoring and typically a lot of hard work.

Perhaps as important are the natural gifts, talents and traits that help a potential leader realize his or her leadership potential. Personal traits like integrity and character are more on the born, not made, side, as well as drive and cognitive/problem-solving ability. However, without experience, training and mentoring, personal traits are not enough. No one is born with a natural ability to effectively lead. Traits like business acumen, coaching/mentoring skills, persuasiveness and emotional intelligence are learned and developed, often over a lifetime.

So how did your great boss develop leadership competencies? Here are a few of the common characteristics we find in most successful leaders today.

They had great leadership role models. Most great bosses identified someone along the way whose skills and behaviors they wanted to emulate. They found or made opportunities to learn and grow from them, even changing jobs so they could work with a great boss (or leave a bad boss). These “great bosses” helped them see their potential greatness. They cared about and supported their development, providing focus, challenge and reinforcement.

They took on new and challenging job assignments. Research on thousands of top executives (by the Center for Creative Leadership) directly links leadership success to learning from critical on-the-job experiences. Most of us learn best by experience, rather than simply reading or hearing it taught in a course.

They learned from critical hardships and events. Experiences like turning around an organization in trouble or starting a new project, product or team from scratch are often instrumental in leadership development. Most successful leaders will tell you they learned the most from their greatest mistakes. Effective leaders set an expectation that mistakes will happen; what is important is how mistakes are resolved and what we can learn from them.

They are adaptable. Great bosses aren’t rigid. They got to be “great bosses” by being self-aware, reflecting on behavioral choices, learning from mistakes and modifying behaviors to positively impact relationships and organizational performance.

They encouraged feedback. The best bosses continually seek feedback and develop systems to make it safe for people to give it to them. When told what they are (or are not) doing well, they genuinely reflect and, as required, make behavioral changes.

They understand the value of continual learning. John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” To climb the corporate ladder in today’s dynamic workplace requires a commitment to continual learning. Great bosses actively encourage ongoing training and education in their organization and for themselves. They participate in and support higher education as well as recognize the value in specialized training in the “soft” leadership skills (i.e., personnel management, facilitation, conflict resolution and team leadership skills). They utilize the various tools and applicable theories and behaviors that translate to more effective leadership.

They have stayed connected — to themselves and to those they lead. Great leaders can stay connected to others even in conflict or difference (i.e., they have high emotional intelligence). They are authentic, true to themselves and models for what they believe in (and ask for from others). They are clear about their core values, avoid pretense and own their truth without blaming.

They have developed personal authority and integrity. These are the leaders that you will “go to the line” for without hesitation. For those of us lucky to have worked with one of them, we understand the value of their leadership is immeasurable.

The greatest waste of all is not to realize your full potential.

What to do?

  • Invest by hiring a coach (I can help!).
  • Expand your horizons (go back to school, go to a training or seminar).
  • Take on a new job assignment.
  • Ask your management, “What can I do?” as a step toward being the next great leader.

Leadership development is a continuous process, not a one-time event. It’s a lifelong journey.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and coaching abilities.  I coach leaders all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: