Anamcgary's Blog

Leadership thoughts from PeopleFirst HR


Establishing Trust, Why it Matters

Ideally trust is achieved in a relationship.  Absent a relationship, employees will observe leader traits to determine whether they are trustworthy or not. For example, a leader that holds an elevator for people conveys that they are willing to serve others and not just be served.  Employees will likely watch for other leadership traits as well, such as: Approachability, Listening; do they listen well? Follow-through; do they do what they say they are going to do? Accountability; do they apologize if they say something wrong?  Executives have to remember that the workforce scrutinizes what they do.  Your deeds have to match your words, because everyone is watching.  Any misstep between words and actions will be noted and will ‘go viral’ inside—and even outside—the organization’s walls.

More importantly, the level of trust employees have for senior leaders impacts engagement.  According to The Employee Engagement Report 2011, released Dec. 15, 2010, by BlessingWhite. The survey of nearly 10,914 employees on four continents revealed that employees who trust their organization’s executives are more likely to be engaged at work than those who only trust their direct supervisor.

Employees who don’t trust leaders may jump ship because they’re not confident in the organization’s direction or aren’t certain of the leaders’ motives. A lack of trust breeds distractions and side conversations about hidden agendas, which damages productivity.  Discretionary effort suffers, because employees aren’t willing to go above and beyond for leaders they don’t know or trust.

But it is more important for trust to be present in closer working relationships, particularly with those leaders within “arm’s reach” of an employee. The level of trust an employee has for a supervisor influences how the employee perceives those who are farther up the chain. For example, if a supervisor talks about a workplace issue in a way that is degrading of a senior leader, it can impact the level of trust employees have toward the senior leader and color their perception of the immediate supervisor. There’s a way that the supervisor can communicate in order to remain trustworthy, such as explaining the facts without added commentary. Yet what often happens is that a supervisor’s frustration seeps out with badmouthing and backbiting and gossiping.

Leaders have to observe and acknowledge what their people have experienced and be very careful about their tendency to gloss things over and sweep them under the carpet.  When trust has been broken, it is emotional. People can feel devalued, discounted. There must be permission to express these feelings and emotions.  Ideally, such feelings will be conveyed in a constructive way. Get and give support to others in the process. Reframe the experience and shift from being a victim to taking a look at options and choices. It’s not necessarily what happens to us that’s important, it’s how we respond.  (Attitude! Ah but that’s another topic) Take responsibility. Ask: What did I do or not do that caused this to happen?  Forgive yourself and others.  Let go and move on.

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Transitioning from peer to boss

Why, for most that enter it, does management present so many surprising hurdles and frustrate so many presumptions and expectations?

First, management is different from anything you’ve done before. Becoming an effective manager is difficult because of the great variance that separates the work of management from the work of individual contributor.

Many managers think at first that managing others will be an extension of managing themselves. They assume they will be doing what they did previously, except they will exercise more control over their work and the work of others. Instead, they find they must make a great leap into a new and strange universe unlike anything they’ve encountered before.

This is especially true if you’re a producing manager who must combine the roles of individual contributor and manager. At first, you naturally tend to think the managerial role is simply a broader version of managing yourself. Only with time and painful experience will you discover it’s totally different.  Becoming an effective manager requires that you not only acquire new skills and knowledge but also undergo difficult personal change.

Those who become managers must learn to see themselves and their work differently. They must develop new values, deeper self-awareness, increased emotional maturity, and the ability to exercise wise judgment.

Many managers, for example, are accused of being control freaks because they don’t delegate. But a desire for control often isn’t the problem.  Instead, it’s an issue of identity. They haven’t yet changed how they think about themselves and their contribution, the value they add as managers. They resist giving up the role of doer because they believe, if only unconsciously, that’s who they are. They have not learned to see themselves as the leader.

In fact, becoming a manager requires so much personal learning and change that it is truly a transformation, similar to the transformations required by such life events as leaving home, finishing school and beginning a career, getting married, or having a child.

Like these profound inflection points, becoming an effective manager will call on you to act, think, and feel in new ways; discover new sources of satisfaction; and relinquish old, comfortable, but now outmoded roles and self-perceptions. It requires you to consider anew the questions: Who am I? What do I want? What value do I add?  Take some time to answer these questions.

Progress will come more quickly and easily to those who understand the challenges they face.  I coach a lot of new managers and this post and several to follow is dedicated to their successful transition from employee to manager.


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Leadership Roles

I recently attended a conference and several managers were discussing their jobs. They all agreed that the biggest frustration was dealing with the people issues.  One individual stated “Wouldn’t the job be great if we did not have to handle all these people issues?”

Several others agreed and many laughed.  However, one manager stood out and stated, “You know ladies and gentlemen, if we didn’t have the employees, we wouldn’t have a job.”  It was interesting to observe the expressions on several faces in the group.  He went on to say that although sometimes extremely challenging (and we all know that) it is what makes the job so great, he lightened the mood by saying “and that’s also why we get paid the big bucks.” 

But seriously speaking as a leader of employees, we must assume different roles at different times in our interaction with our employees. These roles are coach, mentor, trainer and supervisor. The difference between the successful and the less successful leader is the amount of time spent in each role.

A successful leader will spend 80 percent of his or her time as a coach and/or a mentor while the less successful leader spends 80 percent of his time in supervision and training. As a leader, we understand each employee goes through these four roles with us.

When an employee is new, our role is typically more as a trainer. We have to teach them how to perform the job, what the company policies are, and what our and the company’s expectations are of them.

Once the employee understands the job, our initial training is completed. We then move into supervision to ensure the employee knows and understands his or her job. Based on this supervision, we may have to back up into the training role again to correct weaknesses.

But after a period, as the employee grows, we then become a coach; our final role is mentor, showing the way. As a coach, we are motivating them and helping with the big picture. Finally, as a mentor, we are establishing the path for them to follow.

The successful leader understands these roles and how each employee goes through them. They understand they have to adapt and change roles based on each individual employee they manage.  They may be coaching one employee only to turn around and spend 15 minutes training the next and then become a mentor to a third.  But what a great feeling it is to see someone you trained, coached and mentored move up the ranks and make it in their own right.  That is what makes the job so great!

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Coaching vs. Counseling

When you think about the word coach, many of us get the image of a sports coach leading a team to improve and win the game. This is not unlike how the term is used in the business world. A manager becomes a coach when they not only lead their team but provide an environment that supports constant learning, development, and performance improvement. A coach is interested in the performance of their business and understands that to continue to achieve great results, the development of his/her employees is key.  While a coach is always striving to obtain consistent performance improvement from each employee on their team, there are situations where coaching the right behaviors is not the right approach.  Not all employees are equally skilled or equally motivated. For those employees who choose not to perform a different approach is needed. The key word is choice, because these employees are making a choice not to perform within expectations, our approach also needs to be adjusted to target the behavior that is being seen. This situation is when a manager needs to change their approach from one of a coach to one of a counselor.

While a coach strives to provide tools and resources to help already motivated employees to improve upon their skills and achieve a performance improvement, when a manager must provide counseling there isn’t a skill issue but a will issue. Counseling an employee reflects that the employee is making a choice not to perform or to meet the set expectations and is a more directive conversation in regards to the immediate need for a course correction. In these performance Counseling discussions the manager doesn’t provide resources for the employee to focus on performance improvement, he/she outlines the issue and the expectation of immediate behavior change. For example:

The manager meets with a team member who just finished working on a presentation for a new customer.  Having met with this employee several times the manager recognizes the improvements made with each new presentation.  The manager acknowledges the hard work and improvements.  The manager also asks questions and/or provides thought-provoking comments and suggestions to continue to improve upon a good quality presentation, but also to continue coaching this employee becoming better each time. 

The manager meets with a team member who just finished working on a presentation for a new customer.  Having met with this employee several times the manager recognizes this employee uses the same template each time and during several past meetings the manager has had to address spelling errors and obvious customer related information not changed from the last presentation.  At this point it becomes a counseling session.  The manager must clearly define the expectations related to presentations going forward.  The manager must also detail what happens if the expectations are not met within a specific timeframe.

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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.