Anamcgary's Blog

Leadership thoughts from PeopleFirst HR

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Move beyond your current circumstances

As an entrepreneur life can sometimes be a roller coaster with lots of uncertainty and chaos. When you’re struggling it can be tough to see a clear path to success, but it’s crucial to let your vision guide you and NOT your current circumstances. You must embrace those challenges, because that’s where your hunger for a better life is developed.  No one wants to be broke and certainly no one wants to struggle, but according to Peter Voogd the author of the best-selling book “6 Months to 6 Figures”, asking the right questions, and taking the right action while in the struggle is what can change everything. At Peter’s toughest spot he was dead broke, yet six months later he earned a six figure income.  Many successful people who I speak with today experienced similar desperate situations before they were able rise to success.

What it took to make the change is available to everyone. What he realized to make the changes necessary to succeed:

Absolute clarity. 

It’s easy to make decisions once you determine what your real values are.

Reflecting back on the lowest points of my life, I have realized I didn’t take responsibility for anything. I was playing the victim role. I was blaming the economy, my company, lack of resources and my location. I soon realized my focus was jaded and what I needed to change was myself. The moment I got clear on that, my life shifted from complexity to simplicity.

Clarity is the ultimate power, and if you want results you’ve never had you need to get 100 percent clear on what you want. Only when you take full responsibility for your current reality can you change it. Minimalism is a great way to run your business, and a great way to run your life. Get rid of the messes and noise in your head and figure out who you are, what you want and what you must give up to get there.

Your Confidence Account.

Insecurities will destroy you, while real confidence will take you to a level very few attain.

An interesting thing happens when you start to gain clarity. Your confidence follows. If you don’t have confidence, you will always find a way to lose. Everything you accomplish is based on the confidence you have in yourself and your ability to “make it happen.” The bigger the goals, the bigger the challenges.

You must realize the moment you go after your biggest goals, obstacles will show up. They are there to test your character and faith, and to see if you are serious about your goals. The person with the most confidence always wins. When I got clear on the actions needed to start thriving, I felt my motivation and energy elevate. These days, the only security you have is the confidence in yourself and your ability to make things happen.

Shifting your circle of influence.

There comes a point in your life when you realize who really matters, who never did and who always will.

Once you get clear on who you are and what you want, you must re-evaluate your Circle of Influence. Who you associate with is who you become. The term “role model” is not used enough in our society. It’s extremely important to have role models. A role model will raise your standards. A role model will not let you get complacent. Finding a role model or mentor will spark your mind because they are playing the game at a higher level than you are.

  • If you hang around five confident people, you will be the sixth.
  • If you hang around five intelligent people, you will be the sixth.
  • If you hang around five millionaires, you will be the sixth.
  • If you hang around five idiots, you will be the sixth.
  • If you hang around five broke people, you will be the sixth.

It’s inevitable.

Such a simple concept, but what a difference it can make on your performance and business. There’s no faster way to advance into the top 5 percent of your industry than this. Yet, most people don’t do it. I challenge you to find those people, because you’ll become a lot like the people you spend the most time with. Their belief systems, their ways of being and their attitudes are contagious. Once you elevate your peer group, your standards will follow.

Crafting your ideal result rituals.

The amount of stress you have in your life is in direct correlation to the lack of rituals you have in place!

Without the right rituals and habits, your long-term growth will be stunted. Once I learned where my results were coming from, I created “result rituals” that moved my business forward. Intentional action is the only thing that will get you out of the struggle. I had been working 60 to 70 hours a week, but nothing seemed to change until I started asking myself what are the 20 percent of activities that I needed to focus on that created 80 percent of my results. Then I organized my schedule around those priorities.

The greatest wisdom of all time is in astutely choosing what not to do with your time. Say “no” more than you say ”yes”. Don’t be a slave to your phone. Design everything around the lifestyle you want, not for the convenience of other people.

There has never been a better time in the history of our economy to create your ideal life. Whether you’re in the midst of struggle or thriving, I encourage you to continue challenging yourself. When you make a definite decision on what kind of person you will be, on an everyday basis, you start to gain control of your financial destiny. If you continue to choose growth in the moment, and show up better than you were yesterday, you will astound yourself at what you can accomplish. You’re a lot closer to your success than you think.




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Leadership Trait Often Overlooked

In succession planning the biggest question a committees asks is “who’s next?”  It’s a question that senior executives should consider with regularity. Amid the debate about who can succeed as a VP of sales or even who will become the next C-suite officer, one factor sometimes gets overlooked: Toughness!

I am not referring to what’s on the outside (gruff and ready), but rather what is inside the individual (character and resilience).

Toughness matters because you need a leader who has the wherewithal to stand up for what she/he believes in, as well as stand up to others to achieve team and organizational goals. More important, toughness matters when things are not going well, when the economy’s tanking, when the industry is struggling, or a brand-new competitor’s appeared on the horizon. Toughness also matters when heads are being counted and everyone is wondering if the next head to roll may be theirs. Tough times demand tough leadership. Some of the ways leaders demonstrate toughness:

They defuse tension. Performing under pressure is a prerequisite for leadership, but too much pressure can be a prescription for disaster. It falls to the leader to maintain the sense of urgency and momentum but also to give people some breathing room. This is not an excuse to slack off; it is an invitation to be careful and deliberate. Also, keep in mind that tension that comes from interpersonal conflicts is seldom positive; leaders need to eradicate it by making some hard decisions about who works with whom and why.

They get up off the floor. There’s no shame in getting knocked down; sports teaches that lesson very well. What matters is what you do next. Strategies will miss the mark; wrong skills will be applied; and projects will fail. Such is life in the organization. It’s a leader’s job to get back into the game and keep slogging. That requires resilience, an ability to flex with adversity as well as persevere when the going gets rough.

They let off some steam. If you are a team leader, and someone on your team makes a big mistake, one that he was obviously warned about, it’s natural to become annoyed. It is also acceptable to focus some heat on the person who made a mistake. The challenge is to focus your irritation on the action, not the person. He needs to know your displeasure; it may help him pay more attention the next time.

There is another aspect of toughness that sometimes seldom appears in a discussion of the topic. Humility. A leader who can admit he was mistaken is a leader who has the right kind of inner toughness. Owning up to failure is not a weakness; it’s a measure of strength. First, it demonstrates a willingness to accept consequences. Second, it demonstrates humanness; human beings make mistakes. It also creates opportunity to move forward. Rolling over in despair is not what leaders do; they acknowledge their misstep, learn from it and resolve to move forward. Toughness gives backbone to a leader’s purpose, and gives one the strength to continue.


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New Year’s Resolutions for Leaders

New Year

Here’s a quick list of ideas for leaders.  The list includes a few of the standards, but aims to inspire some new ideas for each of us:

  1. Listen More – Find yourself speaking more than you listen?  Commit to listening a greater percentage of the time.
  2. Succession Planning – Too many leaders let real succession planning wait too long, if they do it at all.  Why not start the New Year right with specific steps to ensure strong succession planning throughout the organization?
  3. Serve More – This year, why not commit to asking yourself regularly, “how will this decision / action / message serve the organization better?”
  4. Development Planning – Does everyone reporting to you have a strong, specific and measurable professional development plan?  If you’re not growing the organization, who is?  Perhaps this is the year to really tackle the matter.
  5. Multi-Channel Communication – Often, as leaders, we forget that people benefit from different methods of communication.  Perhaps this year is a good time to ensure your messages are spoken, written and broadcast.
  6. Open Door Policy – Were you “too busy” to maintain that open door policy last year?  Try opening it again.  If not all day every day, perhaps hold open door office hours and stick to them this year.
  7. Responsiveness – Is your inbox volume out of control?  Haven’t cleared that voicemail in a long time?  Try setting aside an hour a week or a daily block to review and respond to your messages regularly.
  8. Strengthen Relationships – How well do you really know your coworkers, or staff?  We want to help those we care for and support.  This year, maybe we need to make more time to understand colleagues and building relationships.
  9. Emphasize Credit – (and Minimize blame).  It’s too easy to give blame out as “accountability”.  This year, maybe we need to ensure for each accountability message, we provide at least 10 praise / credit messages.
  10. Physical Fitness (This one always need to be included) Whether it’s weight loss, increased exercise or dropping a bad habit, this standard is important for leaders to maintain stress levels.  You may also find increased productivity.

What is your leadership resolution?

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Committment to leadership development, starts at the top!

In my experience one of the biggest differentiators of companies that excel in succession planning and senior leadership development is the commitment and ownership of the CEO or top executive.

However, it isn’t easy.  There are no quick or magic solutions. All companies struggle with this challenge, but some handle it better than others.  Why, well mostly because they pay attention to it.  I’ve worked with a number of senior executives – and have experienced the differences between those that really “get it” and those that don’t. A lot of them only pay it lip service, and have no results to show for it.

So…. what should you do if you “get it”?

Focus on results and don’t let the process be the tail wagging the dog.
I’ve seen way too many organizations get caught up in the process and lose sight of the results. They have a wonderful annual planning meeting with great ideas and tools to implement, but once the meeting is over, nothing really happens until the next year. VPs and senior managers soon catch on that it’s nothing but an exercise, and focus on “looking good instead of being good”.  This doesn’t mean that annual planning and business reviews are not important.  Events, like annual check-ups, force things to happen that otherwise get pushed aside because they are not urgent.  Treat succession planning and leadership development like just client satisfaction or revenue and insist that your HR team provide you with world-class processes and tools.

Make sure your HR VP knows how to do this.
Your HR partner not only needs to know all of the best practices and processes or how to get them, but they must have the ability to influence and be trusted by the executive team, as well as be your own trusted advisor on talent. It’s a tough balance – they may be coaching a struggling VP one day, and recommending to you the same VP be replaced the next day. They have to be able to play match-maker and broker job changes, and manage all of the ego and politics involved.

Practice what you preach.
In this article by Marshall Goldsmith

He focuses on one of the best ways top executives can get their leaders to improve is to work on improving themselves. Leading by example can mean a lot more than leading by public-relations hype. Your actions are powerful, more now than ever before – if you do it, they are more likely to do it with their reports and the behavior cascades down through the organization. If you don’t then the opposite occurs.

Don’t over complicate it

Think back on your own career – where and how did you learn your most valuable lessons? It was probably

  1. New jobs
  2. Challenging assignments
  3. From other people (good and bad bosses, a coach, mentors, etc…)
  4. Courses, books, articles, etc.

Too many companies spend too much time on #4 – and although effective, it doesn’t work without constant reinforcement. Well designed programs can be effective, when they incorporate #2, #3, and #4.  The principle of leadership development applies to all levels of management. All good leaders want their people to grow and develop on the job. If we work hard to improve ourselves, we might encourage the people around us to do the same thing.

Tell us how you influence the leadership development in your organization?


Rewards of Delegation

I have been forced to learn over the years that I cannot do everything myself.  This is especially true when you are building a team, department or organization.  I have always prided myself in learning everything there is to know about my current initiative, job, life event etc.  Even when I was pregnant with my first child, I was bound and determined to read and understand everything there was to know about delivering a baby so I could guide the doctor if he ran into trouble.  Some would say I like to be in control.  I would rather believe that if I learn enough about things I can at least ask the right questions.  But seriously, when you have developed a process or anything else for that matter and give it to someone else only to get it back later in a shambles, it makes you a little jaded.  Typically this is when people begin to juggle everything themselves.  However, this not only sets unrealistic expectations of others but especially of yourself.  There is a much bigger risk with holding on to all the bits and pieces rather than acknowledging you need some help.  It’s been proven over and over that the more effective managers are better at delegating than those who try to “be in control.” The keys  are setting priorities, providing help and support, and designing the right work flows—not your personal effort.

So, if we know it is an important key for our success, why don’t we delegate? Here are some of the excuses I routinely hear:

  • No Time – I have no time to teach a team member the tasks.
  • No Energy – It takes a lot of energy to follow-up and keep team members on task for success.
  • I Can Do It Better – I know what needs to be done and can do it better and faster so I’ll just do it.

Why Should I? – Why should I train someone to do my job?        

Why? If you are in a leadership position, your job is to take the time and the energy to train others to do more so that the you, your team, and your organization are more successful.
So let’s remind ourselves of the benefits of quality delegation.

  1. You multiply yourself – The more you delegate, the more you create team members that can accomplish much more in much less time. You are known as someone who gets things done with self-directed teams.
  2. You create a motivated group – The more you delegate, the more your team members are motivated because they see you as someone who trusts them and their abilities to get things accomplished. Because your team is motivated, they take more initiative to create solutions, be more creative, and are willing to take on more responsibilities.
  3. You master stress and time management skills – You are forced to prioritize your tasks and realize that there are tasks that you do not need to do, yet would be perfect tasks to develop your team members. By learning how to prioritize your tasks for delegation, you will be less stressed during the workday and go home at the end of the day satisfied that you accomplished more. 
  4. You are known as a person who develops people – The more you delegate, the more you will be known within the organization as a person who develops people. Remember, even when you think no one is watching, someone is always watching the way you achieve success by developing your people. Whether it’s management, other teams, departments or divisions, someone is watching. The word will spread about how well you develop people. The results, management will see you as a developer of people; and other employees, both inside and outside of your organization, will fight to work for you because they know you have a motivated, creative working environment. 
  5. You create opportunities for yourself and others – By delegating tasks to others, you can then take on more advanced tasks that will prepare you for future opportunities when they become available. This is the main reason why the excuse “if I delegate my tasks to my employees, then they can take my job” doesn’t fly in my book. Another reason why you delegate tasks is so that you can develop yourself for future promotions, monetary, and career opportunities. For example, if you want to become vice president for your organization and you know that skills C, D, and Z are required by all vice presidents, then delegate any management tasks that you have already mastered to your team members so that you can then ask for more “vice presidential” tasks. When that position is available within or outside of the organization, who do you think will have the inside track? You will! Because you can say you already have the skills of a vice president, while developing the people behind you to fill the void when you are promoted. Also, as a leader, you never want your team members to be with you in the same position forever. Thus, delegating tasks continuously prepares them for opportunities that may come their way.

Tell us, how do you delegate tasks successfully?

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Empowering HR drives business success

Cover of "Strategic Business Partner: Ali...

Cover via Amazon

A recent research study released by Bersin & Associates in January confirmed for me something I have believed and lived by throughout my career.  It’s not the quantity of your HR team; it truly is the knowledge and skills they bring to the table and the empowerment and support given by the organizations CEO and other senior leaders that makes it successful.  You can say I have been lucky enough to work for extremely dynamic CEO’s.  In some cases it’s true, I have worked with great leaders, but I have also had my share of the closed mindset CEO who doesn’t know or care what HR does as long as people get paid and have benefits.  It was up to me and my staff to demonstrate the value they were missing out on.  

This study looked at 720 organizations globally and found that the days of bloated HR organizations focused on administrative tasks is over.  This is great news for HR Leaders, who are often so tied to all those administrative tasks that they can’t look at technology and other options that will enable them to get to the business and people needs.  It proves that lean, technology-enabled, well-trained HR teams are able to take advantage of modern talent practices and partner with business leaders to drive impact.

These findings emerged from a two-year global benchmarking study that looked at 14 talent management and HR effectiveness measures across global businesses.  Among the measures examined include a company’s ability to:

  • Source the best talent.
  • Hire and onboard top candidates.
  • Identify and develop leaders.
  • Build a culture of learning.
  • Allocate compensation effectively.
  • Drive high performance through coaching and feedback. 

The research determined that Companies that empower key HR professionals to take on a strategic business partner role create HR teams that outperform the average HR organization by 25 percent or more.  This means these HR leaders are working closely with line executives on hiring the right people, coaching, leadership, succession planning and yes process improvement.  

HR still needs to continue to excel at the basics. Payroll, benefits, and administration are still critical factors in business success, and today these functions must be modified to be able to deal with a highly contingent workforce.

The report, The High-Impact HR Organization: Top 10 Best Practices on the Road to Excellence, includes benchmarks, tools, case studies, operational frameworks and proven service models that define best-practice human resources organizations.

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Delegating for Growth

When my children were younger they often asked me what I did at work.  As my career advanced my answer changed.  This particular time it was my son asking and I explained that my job was to help set the company’s strategy, help make people the best they can be, and ensure that our organization had the right resources and skills sets to execute our business plan.   My son’s response was, “So, you don’t really do any actual work.”

After my husband stopped laughing, I assured my son that I worked very hard and the work I was doing was critical to the success of the business. But in a way, my son was picking up on something important: I had gotten to a point in my career where my contribution to the company was better served by teaching others, rather than doing it myself.

A lot of leaders can’t get to this point because they either don’t know how to or they’re afraid of delegating. Maybe they think it will take too long to train someone effectively, or if they delegate too much, they’ll have nothing left to do. And often the more competent they are, the harder it is to delegate. They’re afraid the work won’t get done at all, or more likely, it won’t be done according to their high standards. It’s difficult to give up control, especially when you won’t tolerate anything less than the perfectionism and the high-level of performance you expect of yourself.

Trust me, I know because I am definitely one of those control freaks.  I am trying to reform, but sometimes I slip.  However, I have learned that I can’t do everything myself. The only way your career – and your business – will grow is by assuming increasingly higher levels of responsibility; the only way you’ll have time to do that, without spending your life at work, is to delegate. You have to work on your business and let everyone else work in it.

Below are some tips that may help you delegate with more ease:

Create a culture where mistakes are tolerated. All senior leaders must understand that mistakes are acceptable — as long as people learn from them. No one will accept more responsibility, try new things, or risk making a mistake if they get yelled at or penalized. This is essential.

In formal reviews, include a specific rating for delegation. Do not just mention delegation in passing. It should merit a specific grade. Discuss with managers how they can delegate one-third of their job to one or more of their direct reports. Ask them to develop a specific timeline with the peoples’ names to which they’ll delegate.

Communicate to your staff that pay increases come only with increased value provided. Increased value comes not only with increased effort, but also with a higher-level responsibilities and duties — some of those duties that you might be doing now.

It’s so easy to solve others’ problems by giving quick solutions, but that makes people dependent on you. Tell all your direct reports, and have them tell theirs, that when people want to know how to solve something, they must come with suggested solutions. They should be ready to discuss the factors that should be considered, and provide reasons why one solution seems better than another. Pretty soon people will become more autonomous, feel more empowered, need less supervision, and get people in the habit of thinking critically. That’s good input for determining succession planning and promotions.