Anamcgary's Blog

Leadership thoughts from PeopleFirst HR

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As a leader, are you stuck in the weeds?

I recently read an article on the importance of delegating authority written by Fred Koury, President and CEO of Smart Business. He uses
an airline pilot analogy that for me having served several years in the airline industry really hit home, so I thought I would share it with you.

Imagine for a moment that you are on a plane flying at 30,000 feet. As you cruise along, suddenly the door to the cockpit opens and
the pilot walks back into the passenger compartment and starts getting drinks ready for the passengers and then leaves to deal with an unruly person in row 23. What would you think? First, who is flying the plane? Second, why in the world is the pilot out dealing with things that are clearly the responsibilities of others?

There are two possibilities to this exaggerated example.  Either the pilot isn’t very good and can’t focus on the task at hand or the
people working with the pilot can’t get the job done on their own, so he has to come out and help. Either way, the plane doesn’t have anyone at the controls and the ramifications of that are very serious for everyone on board.

So as a leader, you can’t keep your business pointed in the right direction and navigate around hazards if you are distracted and forced to
deal with issues that really belong to someone else.  So if you’re dealing with issues and tasks that clearly belong to someone else either the problem is you or the people who work for you. Either case requires you to take action. If the problem is you, then your management style needs to change. The only way you are going to be successful is if you start piloting your plane and leave the details to the people you hired to do those jobs or tasks.
At some point, you have to trust that they will get it done — maybe not the same way you would have done it — but done nevertheless.

If you talk to any successful CEO about what his or her average day looks like, it typically is all about strategic planning, meeting
with investors, advisers or checking in with direct reports on key initiatives.  Successful CEOs will not normally mention things like going on sales calls, troubleshooting a minor project or game planning about how to improve workflow within a department.

Why don’t they mention these types of activities? Because they aren’t doing them.  If they were “down in the weeds,” dealing with details, who would be piloting the company from a strategic perspective? The moment they started getting lost in the details is the moment the company would start to drift off course, because no one was there to steer it.

If the problem is your people, then that’s another issue. If you’re trying to pilot the plane but you have no choice but to go back and
remind someone for the third time that you need some key piece of information or something else that should have long since been taken care of, then you may have a people problem. If you can’t trust the people below you to get the job done and they are doing poorly enough to where it’s a distraction to you, your only choice is to make a change.

That might mean training, it might mean moving someone to a different position better suited to his or her skills, or it might mean parting
ways. But you can’t jeopardize the business by walking out into the weeds while the strategy goes on autopilot.

Being CEO is never easy. It’s up to you to decide whether the problem is the pilot or the crew, but one thing is for sure, you are never
going to be able to pilot a plane if you are stuck in the weeds.

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Are you perceived as a trustworthy boss?

Which character traits do you need to have if you want to work effectively and get ahead? The answer depends, to some extent, on the kind of work you do — but there’s one trait that everyone needs to have if he or she wants to succeed, and that’s trustworthiness. Technically, it’s not so much being trustworthy but being perceived as trustworthy that matters. You can be as honest, fair and reliable as the day is long, but if nobody else sees you that way, it won’t help you.

When your boss doesn’t trust you, you don’t get key assignments, promotions or the latitude to do things your way and take risks. When your employees don’t trust you, you don’t get their best effort or all of the information you need from them to make good decisions.

If you want other people to believe that you are trustworthy, you should be aware that you might be seriously undermining that belief if you appear to lack self-control. Some research has shown that people don’t trust you when you seem to have a willpower problem. If you think about it, this makes a lot of intuitive sense. We trust people because we know that when things get hard, or when it might be tempting for them to put their own interests first, they’ll resist temptation and do what’s right.

Studies show that when you engage in behavior that indicates low self-control, your trustworthiness is diminished. In other words, all of those things you know you shouldn’t do —overeating, procrastinating, tardiness, disorganization, being excessively emotional or having a quick temper — might be even worse for you than you realize because of the collateral damage they are doing to your reputation.

Your capacity for self-control is like muscles in your body. Like biceps or triceps, willpower varies in its strength, not only from person to person but also from moment to moment. Just as well-developed biceps sometimes get tired and jelly like after a strenuous workout, so, too, does your willpower “muscle.”

Even everyday actions such as decision-making and trying to make a good impression can sap this valuable resource. Also coping with the stresses of your career and family. When you tax it too much at once, or for too long, the steadiness of self-control strength weakens, no matter who you are. It is in these moments that the doughnut — or cigarette, or hot temper — wins.

So if you are serious about resisting unwanted impulses, start by making peace with the fact that your willpower is limited. If you spend all of your self-control handling stresses at work, you will not have much left at the end of the day for sticking to your resolutions. Think about when you are most likely to feel drained and vulnerable, and make a plan to keep yourself out of harm’s way. Decide, in advance, what you will do instead when the impulse strikes.

The good news is willpower depletion is only temporary. Give your muscle time to bounce back, and you’ll be back in fighting form. So if you want to build more willpower, start by picking an activity (or avoiding one) that fits with your life and your goals – anything that requires you to override an impulse or desire repeatedly, and add this activity to your daily routine. It will be hard in the beginning, but it will get easier over time if you hang in there, because your capacity for self-control will grow. Other people will notice the change and trust you more. Trust me!☺

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Myth’s About Executives

They make a lot of money. They’ve got power and perks. They jet halfway around the world for a meeting and are back for dinner the next day. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Good work if you can get it, right? Well, I’m not going to lie to you; it’s got it’s benefits.

So why do some give it up? Well for good reasons.

The truth is that executive life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Much of the disparity between perception and reality comes from the fact that only a tiny percentage of executives work for big companies, while the vast majority work for much smaller firms. And that makes one huge difference in lifestyle.

All the compensation surveys you hear about and much of what the media covers is focused on the Fortune or S&P 500. To put this in perspective, there are roughly 9,000 publicly traded companies in the U.S., and perhaps ten times that number of privately held corporations. That means you’re only hearing about less than one percent of the total, and if we’re talking all senior execs versus CEOs, then it’s less than one tenth of that.

Not that we should feel sorry for these people; they’re responsible for the choices they make. I’m just trying to get people to look past the media coverage and the sound bites and understand what life is really like for most executives in the real world. It’s not a winning lottery ticket. It’s hard work, stress, and lot’s of dedication.

Myth #1: Executive pay is out of control

Sure, reading an annual salary survey of S&P 500 CEOs will either give you a heart attack or make you nauseous. But the truth is that most executives work for small and midsized firms where the compensation is much more reasonable and typically not huge multiples above the next level down.

For example, some senior executives, don’t make a lot more money than some managers and individual contributors in their organizations, even at public companies. The big-ticket is usually stock options, but they’re worth zero if the company fails to go public or the stock declines in value. I can attest to both.

Myth #2: Jetting around the world is a great life

Besides working long hours, many executives are away from home at least 25 percent of the time. And while some do get to go first class, that’s the exception, not the rule. Then there’s all the time away from the family, jet lag, sleep deprivation, and the added stress of a hectic, complex life.

So many of those million milers out there live out of a suitcase a majority of the time. And many miss out on the family they are working so hard for.

Myth #3: They don’t really work; they just sit in meetings all day

Sure, top executives spend a great deal of time managing their people and in meetings, but as senior marketing, finance, HR, sales, or any officer of the company, they’re also individual contributors. That’s what accounts for the long hours. I averaged about 60 hours a week, not counting all the travel time away from home. And no, you don’t get overtime.

Bottom line: Especially these days, most executives are on 24-7, sacrifice significant family time, and experience enormous stress. Their dedication is a big part of what’s great about America and free enterprise. Just wanted to provide a different perspective.


Accountability – A desired behavior

When I meet with potential clients I try to better understand the challenges they are facing and how I may or may not be able to help them.  I typically ask a series of questions about their current state, about their desired state, and then about the priorities for addressing identified gaps.

One of the biggest concerns raised is often times the lack of accountability across their organization. Many times organizations implement a training session in an attempt to change behavior.  Something I always bring up is that “skills building alone” does not change behavior.

In my experience, there are some excellent ways skills building (training) can address leader behaviors and practices in a workplace. And, training will result in leaders demonstrating desired behaviors only if the organization’s culture supports leaders modeling those new behaviors.

We have all experienced training participants learning new skills and practicing those skills – quite effectively – in a structured rehearsal setting during the training. Observing those players demonstrate those skills could lead one to believe, “OK, they’ve got it now!” However, until desired behaviors are observed in the workplace, on the job, in real-time, one must believe that the training hasn’t translated into workplace behavior.

SKILLS for holding others accountable are different from ACTIONS for holding others accountable.

If skills have been effectively taught but desired actions are not observed, there are other things getting in the way. Attention must be focused on eliminating any policies, procedures, systems, or dynamics that hurt or hinder the demonstration of desired behaviors.

Four Steps to Consistent Accountability

Accountability is a huge requirement in the high performance, values-aligned culture. Our proven culture change process helps senior leaders be explicitly clear about performance and values expectations, and then hold all organization members, from senior leaders through front line staff, accountable for exceeding those expectations.

Our clients have had tremendous success creating consistent accountability by implementing these four steps:

  1. Process Coaching – senior leaders need guidance on how to proactively champion their desired high performance, values-aligned culture. Experienced consultants coach the senior leadership team on these steps and other vital activities to ensure traction.
  2. Create clarity – Create specific & measurable performance goals. Define values in behavioral terms. Get agreement from all players to embrace both.
  3. Gather & Share Data – Monitor performance progress regularly and provide feedback on the good, the bad, and the ugly. Create a custom values survey which ranks the extent to which leaders demonstrate desired valued behaviors each day. Share these results within three weeks of final data gathering. Run the values survey twice annually. Successive runs of the custom values survey will include staff as well as leaders.
  4. Praise & Redirect – Regularly celebrate high performers and great citizens (those who demonstrate desired values). Promptly redirect leaders and staff to increase performance to standard or better citizenship. If a values-aligned player struggles to meet performance expectations, reassign them into a role where they contribute. If they are unable to contribute in any role, you need to lovingly set them free – let them find employment elsewhere. If a player does not demonstrate desired valued behaviors, you must reaffirm values expectations and observe closely. If they can make the shift to values-alignment (it is rare), celebrate! If not, lovingly set them free.

What accountability systems have you or your organization had success with to increase accountability for performance and values?

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Excellence is a Habit

Excellence is a habit available to anyone regardless of race, color, creed or level of educational attainment. Let no man tell you that you cannot be excellent in all that you do, for that is but the voice of a mediocre person fearing that he will be exposed for what he isn’t and excusing himself from what he could be. 

Below is a link to an excellent analogy of excellence and what we are capable of achieving. Enjoy.