Anamcgary's Blog

Leadership thoughts from PeopleFirst HR

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More on Coaching vs. Management

This article was written for the Atlanta Society of Human Resources by Jules Ciotta, Motivation Communications Associates

Since it goes along with my philosophy I thought I would share it with my readers.

“Be a coach, not a manager” may sound like good advice, but what does it mean in terms of your day-to-day interactions with people? Take a look at this checklist of coaching behaviors to see which technique you already practice, and which you can add to your coaching skills toolbox:

  • Don’t give answers. Ask questions that encourage creative thinking but don’t do your employees’ thinking for them by telling them what to do.
  • Focus on great performance. Don’t let employees stay satisfied with average results. Help them get to know what great performance looks like and feels like through personal examples and experience.
  • Focus on customers. Talk to customers (internal or external) to find out what great performance looks like from their point of view.
  • Raise expectations. When someone achieves a victory, celebrate it. Then raise the bar a little higher. Always look ahead to how much better the person can perform.
  • Link the present with the future. Help your people see the connection between their current tasks and their long-term personal and professional goals.
  • Create internal measures. Don’t be the sole judge of success or failure. Work with employees to develop standards that will help them measure and recognize their own success.
  • Identify areas for improvement. Help employees target and strengthen skills they need to improve.
  • Remember the human factor. Help employees identify and strive for their own personal and professional goals. Your goal isn’t to turn employees into efficient machines, but to help them realize their potential.
  • Go through the process yourself. Work with a coach of your own to get a full understanding of what good coaching feels like.

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Be alongside, in front of, or close behind…..But never absent.

One of the benefits experienced by new managers is having a group of people to call on to get things done.

One of the challenges experienced by new managers is having a group of people to call on to get things done.

There is no role that is more challenging than managing people, at any level. One of the traps, though, is a mistaken sense of what delegation is all about.

Helping people perform means you have to spend time focusing on the people who do the task, not just the task.

  • Who needs help?
  • How much?
  • How much is too much?
  • How often do you need to follow up to see how things are going?
  • When you follow up, what do you really need to do to be helpful? (It may be to get out of the way, explain how to do something in detail, or something in between).

Invest in your people, don’t just use them.

We agonize over how to invest our earnings so that we reap personal financial growth.

When we delegate are we asking, “How can I invest in this person during this task in order to benefit all of us over the long run?”

Or is the question “What can this person do for me?”

Each question leads to very different outcomes. One is personal and organizational growth. The other is a sense of using and being used.

Be alongside, in front of, or close behind…..But never absent.

No one is successful alone. However, it’s really easy and incredibly common to fail by thinking we can do it alone.

So the best managers I know live out a model that clearly shares responsibility. They provide direction and support; their people ask questions easily as a result of the “we’re in this together” atmosphere.

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Exit interview downside, What to do?

Exit interviews are a helpful tool to understand more about why employees leave your company.  However, too often employees are not candid during the exit interview.  The major reason is they do not trust that the information will not get back to their direct boss, especially if the boss is the reason they are leaving.  Employees enjoy good benefits, and competitive wages, but often give that up to get away from an overbearing or ineffective manager.   Exit Interviews become mini survey’s and employees only provide the information they need to.

Senior leaders should consider two processes.  The first is to have exit interviews conducted by an impartial entity.  Your HR person may be the best in the industry, but if poor management goes unnoticed or excuses have been made for a certain managers style or approach,  employees lose confidence in HR, management and the process.  Separating employees may view an outsider more trust worthy and provide information they otherwise wouldn’t.  If provided with specific information and suggestions senior managers can begin to look into issues that may be unseen in a busy daily operation.  This process may also identify areas where management training is needed. 

The second recommendation and to me the more important one is for senior managers to engage employees through “skip level” one on one’s or roundtable meetings.  These are performed on a regular basis and not just when someone is resigning or there is an issue.  If designed and executed properly these types of communication processes can offer a wealth of knowledge about your organization as well as alert you to possible issues and training needs, before they become a problem.  Warning: These types of meetings can  never become  a form of punishment for employees or managers.  It also can’t be a session for the CEO or senior leader to become defensive.  This is about gathering information and determining what the needs of the organization are from someone other than your direct reports.  As you gather this information on a regular basis and act upon those areas you can, the process gains credibility and positive ideas become the focus.

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Boss or Leader?

Although your position as a manager, supervisor, team lead, etc. gives you the authority to accomplish certain tasks and objectives in the organization, this power does not make you a leader, it simply makes you the boss. Leadership differs in that it makes the followers want to achieve high goals.  Thus you get Assigned Leadership by your position or role and you develop Leadership by influencing people to do great things.

Leadership is a process by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective and directs the organization in a way that makes it more cohesive and coherent. This definition of Leadership is stated as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.”  Definitions more inclusive of followers have also emerged. Alan Keith stated that, “Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen.”

Leadership words to live by:

  • “I admit I made a mistake.”
  •  “You did a good job.”
  •  “What is your opinion.”
  •  “If you please.”
  • “Thank you,”
  • “We”

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Employee Motivation

I am often asked by organizational leaders “How do I keep my employees motivated”.  My answer is always the same.  Sure, I believe having a competitive salary, great benefits  and a few perks helps  keep employees satisfied.  But to truly have an employee feel motivated they need to feel challenged in their jobs.  They need to feel that what they do in their jobs is contributing to the success of the company, the project or the department (depending on the employee level) and most importantly they want to be recognized for their contributions. This doesn’t necessarily mean a reward.  It means the their leadership truly values what they do and demonstrates it in their actions and words.

 There is no standard set of practices and incentives to engage and motivate employees. Each person is an individual with a different set of  motivations and drivers. Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, identifies three broad levers to drive motivation — autonomy, mastery and purpose. Those drivers can be particularly important for top performers.  Leaders first must understand what value means to their employees, then it becomes a little easier to reward.

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The role of coach as a manager

Managers  often ask me how coaching skills can help them as a manager, after all isn’t it more about providing direction and correcting behavior.  Providing direction or correcting behavior is very different from coaching an employee.  Regardless of how experienced a manager is, he or she risks becoming trapped in the same old pattern of responding to issues and behaviors after the fact, especially when employees are experienced, long-term, and effective workers.

The job of a manager as a coach is to help others avoid becoming stuck or too comfortable in the routine aspects of their work and falling into unproductive behaviors.  The manager as a coach can help employees discover how to embrace growth and learning on the job.  To become a coach is to motivate and develop your employees.

But first you have to look at yourself.  Begin to ask yourself questions such as:

–          What are my strengths and weaknesses.  Ask your employees for anonymous feedback, but not if you’re not willing to address the weaknesses. More on this topic later.

–          How can you improve upon your strengths and challenge your weaknesses

–          In what ways have you yourself become too complacent

–          How do you stereotype your employees?  When you do, are you limiting their ability to be better.

Recognizing how you need to grow and develop as a manager opens the door to learning how to take on the role of coach in your organization.

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CEO’s Need to Stay in the loop

I held a roundtable recently with 10 employees from what appeared to be a dynamic, growing, financially stable company.  What I found was that employees were scared.  They felt their direct managers favored only those who agreed with them,  supported their ideas and didn’t rock the boat.  Others felt that if they didn’t go to lunch or join after work events they were held to a different standard than those who did.

In looking further I found that the CEO had started a company that focused on people and service.  He was a good leader and grew the company through his people.  So what happened?

As the company grew the CEO had to hire senior staff so he could continue to concentrate on the growth.  The CEO expected a lot from his people.  He was very heavily involved in moving the company forward, so he left the management to his VP’s.  The VP’s wanting to build a strong organization promoted those individuals who were great at their jobs.  However, they didn’t really take the time to determine how well the employees they were promoting  would do in a leadership position, especially with very little guidance and no management training.  The company morphed into production mode and forgot who made the company successful.

The CEO was so busy he missed all the signs.   Attrition, bad attitudes, everyone left early and didn’t come in a minute before they were required.  You see inexperienced managers were told to produce and improve profits and they did, the only way they knew how.  They did so however at the expense of the original culture and consequently the employees.  Management through intimidation and fear.  It works! For a while, but eventually it does come crumbling down.  And when it does, you may not have the skill set and strength in the remaining team to recover.

If growing your company is key, then employee satisfaction must be your goal.  CEO’s need to keep a pulse on employee morale and what’s really happening in the trenches to be able to take action.

Implementing some strategies can rock the boat for middle managers, and they most certainly require deep collaboration with HR. But since job satisfaction rates are so low these days, CEO’s and senior leaders must explore new ways to improve morale and keep good employees.

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More Employees Jumping Ship

The signs of a better economy are here.  I’ve read several articles in the last 12 hours about the  sharp reversal from the previous 15 months in that more people quit their jobs in the past three months than were laid off. Nearly 2 million people quit their jobs in April, the highest number of resignations in more than a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). By contrast, 1.75 million people were laid off in April, the fewest since January 2007.  Some are leaving for new jobs, but others are confident enough to leave with no offer in hand.  Now is the time for employers to implement the programs, policies and processes necessary to keep their good employees satisfied and productive and to capture the institutional knowledge of employees in case they do leave. 

 The economy has played a huge part in employee retention and has given some employers a false sense of confidence in that employees are staying, working harder and longer and in some cases for less pay or benefits. These same employers are in for a shock as the economy starts to recover.   Employees don’t forget.  They talk to each other, their friends and families.  This is especially true in smaller cities and towns.  You may have no good candidates in your recruiting pool next year because of the reputation you gained when employees really needed to know how valuable they were to you.

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Hello world!

People come from different environments and exposure to leadership.  In my former roles I have been lucky enough to have been exposed to the best and the worst.  I have learned a lot, so I created this blog to share examples of leadership and management we can all learn from and in some cases relate to.