Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hire and Higher

One of the true measures of the growth of any leader comes from a good, hard look at the people they are hiring. Whole books have been written about how to hire, when to hire, and even who to hire. But not nearly enough has been written about the importance of leaders growing themselves through the people they hire.

When managers are new they are hiring people to work “under them”. And in most cases, they really do mean “under them”. As a new manager they are looking for people they can control and who will do things the way that they, the new manager, want them to. They look at the requirements for the job, and then through the endless stacks of resumes that have been handed to them and try and find the right person to fill the position. In other words, they are looking for the correct person to fill a specific need in their department. What these managers don’t understand is that their personal success as a manager is tied directly to the quality of people they hire. And not just how that person will perform today, but how they will perform in the future as well.

You’re only as good as the people you hire. - Ray Kroc

In the back of their minds, these new managers are often afraid that the person they hire will somehow outshine them and take away some of the luster of the manager's new found success. After all, a new face might mean a new hero, someone that the others in the department will turn to for solutions to their problems. But they are not looking for a new hero. After all, the new manager IS the new hero.

As managers grow and turn into leaders many of them begin to realize the value of having talented people working for them because hiring smart, talented people means less work for the manager. This is a big step in the development of the leader as they begin to look more and more outside of themselves for the answers to key questions.

But there is still a bigger step involved. It happens when the leader starts to look for people who are not just smart and talented, but people who are smarter and more talented than they are. This is a level that many leaders never reach. They are ok hiring smart, talented people, but people who are smarter than they are?

Wow… that’s a stretch.

Insecurities, usually unacknowledged, often stop a leader from making this leap. But the realization that they can take their career and their company to new heights by hiring people who are smarter and more talented than they are can propel them to that next level. Learning to listen to these smart, talented people means that the sky is now the limit.

It’s a tough lesson for most leaders to learn. But it’s a lesson that truly separates the great leader from the average leader.

If you found this message helpful, I would encourage to you pass it along to your friends and co-workers and encourage them to subscribe to the Fusion™ Blog as well.

Until next time…..

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Monday, September 21, 2009

Lights! Camera! Action!

“Actions speak louder than words.”

I’ll bet you’ve heard that statement a million times before. And while it may be a classic clichĂ©, it also happens to be very true.

Growing up we quickly learned that people’s actions and their words did not always match. People would say one thing to us and then do something entirely different. Perhaps it was a parent telling us to eat our vegetables while theirs sat untouched on their plate. Maybe it was the Little League Coach who would tell us to always use two hands to catch the ball, all while holding a beer in his right hand and fielding ground balls with his left.

We looked to our “teachers” to provide a good example for us, yet so often we found that their words and actions didn’t quite synch up. We want our teachers to model the correct behavior for us, but somehow they often fall short. We expect the dance to match the music, but somehow the dance is slightly off the beat.

Flash forward 25 years and we find ourselves in the business world. We are now the boss, the “teacher” if you will, and we work with those around us to create a successful workplace environment. To do this we create a vision of what we want our employees to do. We communicate this vision to them regularly through stimulating verbal communications, exciting emails, pointed newsletters, and motivational posters with beautiful pictures and pithy sayings like “Soar with the eagles!”

But as we look into the mirror of leadership we must ask ourselves the question, “Are we modeling the behaviors that we want to see from our team? Is the dance we are doing in time with the music?"

When there is a consistency between our words and our actions we strengthen the impact of our message. Going beyond the words, we are able to demonstrate clearly for all around us that we truly believe in the message we are delivering. And just as we were able to discern the mismatches between people's words and actions as kids, so it is today with our employees.

Our employees are tuned in with laser-like focus on our actions and how they match our words. When we preach creativity but stifle differences, they know that variances are not welcomed. When we advocate customer satisfaction but focus on our own needs first, they clearly get the message that the business, not the customer, is king. And when we urge our employees to develop themselves but give them no outlet for doing so, they get the message that they are really not that important to the business.

The surprising thing here is that most of us are all too aware of the inconsistencies of others around us. But we sometimes look right past our own challenges.

When our actions match our words and we use those actions to advance our company or organizational mission, we create a synergy that our employees acknowledge and can work towards. This synergy then translates into a consistency of words and actions in their daily activities and advances your mission and your profitability.

Actions speak louder than words!

And a few simple actions will advance your organization much faster than thousands of words.

If you found this article helpful, I would encourage you to forward it on to friends and co-workers as well.

Until next time…..

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Empathy and Accountability – Can They Co-exist?

The issue of empathy versus accountability has been on my mind a lot lately. You see, my natural behavioral style (my DISC style) is that of a High D – Driver. That means that I have a heavy task orientation, driven to get results with little thought to the impact on the people around me. So empathy is not all that natural to me. Accountability though is something that I am very familiar with and was a huge component of my management style.

As a side note, this profile is fairly common among leaders, which is one explanation for the number of “bosses” out there that don’t seem to care about their people, push their teams for results without regard to the impact on their people, and generally burn out their staff shortly before they wear out their own welcome in their organizations.

But a number of years ago I figured out that I could “catch more flies with honey than I could with vinegar” and began to develop more meaningful relationships with my employees and coworkers. The impact of this change was better personal relationships with both my peers and my team members and more productivity from my department. Oh, it wasn’t instantaneous, but I saw that when I needed my staff to go the extra mile, they willingly did it. When I needed that extra 20% to get us over a hump, I could count on them to come through.

Clearly my empathy for my employees had a dramatic payoff both personally and professionally. This directly impacted the company’s bottom line and helped catapult my career as well.

But the question that keeps coming up for me has to do with being too empathetic; with being too understanding. Where is the balance between being understanding and allowing others to shirk their responsibility? Is it possible that when we are too empathetic we undercut the need for responsibility and accountability?

Here is the question.

When Should Empathy Stop and Accountability Start?

In the past few weeks I have been hearing about situation after situation where people just seemed to blow off their commitments, missing deadlines, and skipping meetings, knowing that the other person would “understand” their situation. Sometimes they would get a cursory “sorry” but nothing sincere and no sense that the person involved felt any sense of responsibility for missing their commitment. It appears as though people have adjusted to the concept of empathy from those around them, and are taking full advantage of it to shirk their responsibilities.

If this pattern were to continue, we could well end up with a society of people who lack the belief in both accountability and responsibility for their actions. And that would mean a society where our word was no longer our bond, but rather a meaningless gesture.

But does that mean that empathy is bad?

Of course not.

But we cannot let empathy overtake the need for personal responsibility. And empathy must stop where the lack of personal commitment begins. If things happen that are out of someone’s immediate control, I believe empathy is appropriate. But let’s draw the line where people use empathy as a way to avoid personal responsibility.

What will this look like for you? How will you continue to show empathy but draw a clear line for personal responsibility?

I would be interested in your thoughts on this topic. Please feel free to share them here.

If you enjoyed this entry, please forward it on to your friends and co-workers.

Until next time …..

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Monday, September 7, 2009

Leadership for the New Guy (or Girl)

I recently met with a client who was very nervous because he was moving into a management role in a brand new company. He had been a manager in his previous company, but had been promoted from within. This was going to be different and he knew it.

His goals for the session were pretty simple. He wanted to make a good impression, get off to a quick start and most importantly, not stick his foot in his mouth in his first week on the job.

This is actually a much more common concern than you might realize. In fact, there have been whole books written about what to do in your first 30 days on the job. Of course, most people don’t spend the time preparing for a new job, and they especially don’t go to the library to get a book on what to do. Instead, they just show up and wing it.

It is surprising how many managers and leaders in organizations make a whole series of mistakes in those first few weeks on the job, especially when they are young. They come in and try and make a big splash. They change things that may or may not need changing. They make decisions without understanding the consequences. And they alienate some of the very same people that they will later come to discover that they desperately need.

Sometimes these decisions haunt them for a long time. In some cases, the damage is so severe that the “long time” never happens. They end up with a short, but colorful career before heading off to a new organization. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Joining a new organization can be a tremendous experience for all involved. And when you do it right, it can set your career off on a very positive setting.

With my client's permission, I'd like to share a few of the things we discussed. I’m also interested to hear your thoughts on this, especially if you have either been that new manager or have been the employee with that brand new manager.

1. Don’t talk about your old company and how they did things. No one cares how XYZ Corp did things, and trying to draw comparisons is not going to help things.
2. Spend your first week listening. While it is always good advice to listen more than you talk, for the first week it is absolutely critical that you listen without judgment to everything being said.
3. Meet your new team. They are going to be as nervous as you are about a new boss. This is a good place to practice that listening I mentioned above. Don’t make commitments to fix whatever they say is wrong because you are likely to hear a lot of contradictory information in that first week.
4. Show that you care. When it comes to following a new leader, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. The reality is that you won’t know very much in those first few weeks on the job, so this is a great time to let them know how much you care. You are more likely to be forgiven for not knowing the details if they know that you are sincere.
5. Learn the basics of what your new department does and how it fits into the big picture. You want to get this knowledge from a variety of sources. Ask your people, ask your boss, ask your customers whether they be internal or external. Once again, listen more than you talk.
6. Meet your customers. Understand what they really need from your new department. Ask them what they like about how your department performs. Ask them what they don’t like. Promise to meet with them on a regular basis and then keep that promise.

There you have it. Our quick list of things to do when you first take over a new organization. Feel free to comment about those things that you think should definitely be done, or not be done. We’d love to hear about your experiences and what you discovered the hard way.

I hope that you enjoyed this posting. If you did, please feel free to forward it to a friend, or twenty.

Until next time…..

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC