Monthly Archives: May 2014

The First Step

29 May
by Bridget DiCello

Whether you want to increase sales, become more efficient, improve processes, make better decisions, empower employees, or increase profitability, all these changes include the need for many people to make changes in how they do things. When you want people to change, the first step is to create the plan, and then realize that the specific first step is the most difficult to determine and to take.

As a company leader you might think a change will be easy. But, you can’t just mention it, and assume others will take the ball and run with it. They are busy, just like you are. Too often, as a leader, you will lose credibility if a decision is not made quickly, and a reasonable plan put into place to achieve that change with the input of those involved. The detailed plan is quite often not the fun part of improving company performance for the visionary leader.

Company change happens one person at a time. The leader must talk to team members and learn what challenges they face, what’s important to them and how that connects to the change they wish to make. Notice I did not say to find out what’s important to them to determine the direction the company should take. We each look at our own myopic view and for good reason, determine what we consider to be best for us. The role of the leadership team is to have a view of the company overall, in the long term, and be making decisions that move the company forward – which does benefit each employee – although many will not see that big picture, especially if that is not inherent in their personality.

The ability to see the big picture is often seen as a reflection of intelligence, when really it is more common in those in leadership roles – and is often a reason why they are promoted – but has no correlation to intelligence. It can be very difficult, if you are a big-picture, results-oriented person, to have to paint the picture and outline the steps with an employee without thinking they just don’t get it. You may be tempted to overlook their intelligence and wisdom if you are pushing too hard to achieve an end goal and not engaging them in conversation.

Think of something you’d really like to be different or better in your company. Clarify that goal, and add details of how things will look different in the future. Then create the plan of how to get there, including time frames. As you delegate and involve others in the process, realize that for each person the first step is the most difficult to determine and to take. Hold conversations to connect with the employee and lead them through the change. Their engagement and excitement will be far higher when they have had a chance to weigh in on the role they will play in achieving what is important for company growth.

Finding a Mentor

21 May
by Bridget DiCello

You may have many successful people who inspire you, share insights and who you learn from.  But, how do you find a mentor with whom to build a more concrete relationship?

A mentor is successful – let’s look at what other qualities are important:

1 – They have accomplished what you want to accomplish such as position, certifications, wealth, social stature, and also life balance, spiritual or emotional growth.  In order to identify this person, your goals must be clear.  You must focus on more than just one goal –  we are all much more complicated than that.  Make a list of 50 things you want to accomplish this year and 50 more you want to accomplish in ten years.  Think beyond immediate goals to what you really want  to accomplish.

2 – Have you ever had a successful person offer to help but none of their advice seems to apply to you?  Equally as important as their success, a mentor needs to be someone who has overcome similar obstacles and struggles that you currently face.  To achieve any goal, people take many different paths and you utilize a mentor to successfully navigate your path and overcome your challenges.

3 – An effective mentor is also a coach.  A good coach is interested in helping you access your potential and your greatness – and pushes you to do so.  They care enough about your success to learn about you – your strengths and weaknesses, hopes and dreams.  You build a relationship of trust based on their focus on you and your best interests and your appreciation of them and diligent hard work and putting forth your best efforts.  It goes well beyond getting and giving advice.

As you look for mentors in your life, look for someone who:

1 – embodies the success you want to achieve, both professionally and personally

2 – has overcome the struggles you face

3 – cares about you enough to focus on the success you desire more than the success their believe you should achieve based on their experiences and success

What other qualities do your mentors have?

Missing the Boat on Leadership Skills

16 May
by Bridget DiCello

When you promote your best performer to a leadership position:

  1. Good things happen if they have been ready for the next challenge and maybe even a  little bored or burned out by the routine work they are so good at doing
  2. Bad things happen if they love the work they have been doing and you just added much work (the management) they do not like
  3. Negative repercussions occur when they have no desire to coordinate and lead the efforts of others and/or have no leadership experience, inherent skills or desire to work directly with employees
  4. The biggest challenges occur in the form of company stagnation and mediocrity when they do not possess the inner desire to develop other people and access their potential

Here are some skills that are very often missing as you promote or hire someone to management that you may need to purposefully work to develop:

  1. Communicate expectations effectively.  A manager must clearly formulate their expectations, and verbalize them in a way that makes sense to the employee.  The employee needs to be paying attention, and verbalize back what they have heard.  A head nod means the expectations may not even have made it to their ears, much less their brain to process, voice concerns and in the end – agree to do their best.
  2. Accountability – You can’t hold people accountable to what they didn’t agree to.  You must find a way to measure what you hope to hold people accountable for.  And then you must have the tough, but effective conversations when expectations are not met.
  3. Delegation – In order to effectively delegate, the manager must transfer ownership of the task.  This requires setting the expectation (see above), obtaining genuine agreement from the employee, setting a timetable and following up (see accountability).
  4. Engage in productive conflict –  ‘“Yes” employees’ appear agreeable, yet don’t produce.  Silent employees hope you will go away so they can continue doing things as they always have.  Strong, solid performers honestly believe they know better.  Quiet, undiscovered employees require conversations that push them, and probably the manager, outside their comfort zone.
  5. Setting goals – Managers are often good at accepting the goals set for them.  However, it is never as powerful to work towards something you feel you must do to keep your job than it is to engage the manager in conversation about their goals for their department or area, match those with the company goals, and include goals to help them professionally develop.  And, write them down.  What do your managers see as possibilities in their department?
  6. Project completion – Getting from where you are to where you want to be cannot be accomplished simply by working really hard and wanting to get there.  Ambitious goals require a plan that takes into account where we want to be in three months, and counting back to what we need to do each of the three months, this week and today; and do that daily.
  7. Coaching team members – probably the critical skill most often lacking – but assumed to exist in charismatic and inspirational leaders.  Coaching is having a series of conversations with an individual in order to connect with them, assist them to engage in their professional development, and to be able to discover their potential and accomplish more that they or you thought they could.

What professional development do your managers need from you?

Enthusiasm is not Engagement

05 May
by Bridget DiCello

If your team members are nodding their heads as you speak, and appear to clearly understand what you are saying with their response, “Yes, I understand,” you are very possibly on the road to doing it all yourself.

If you want to get someone to engage, which typically means that they are taking initiative, getting things done, coming up with ideas and playing a key role in reaching goals, you must get them talking and taking action.

There is a definite difference between enthusiasm and engagement. Enthusiasm can be displayed nonverbally, and with words of little substance – and can be a great trait to display at many times in the workplace. However, enthusiasm often includes you speaking and being the center of attention in order to share that excitement and movement and on its own does not get anything done.

Get them to talk. People think, engage and learn when they are talking, not when you ‘explain it again.’ As a leader, you may feel you need to have all the answers and come into a conversation prepared to address a team member’s challenges and objections. When really, what you need to walk into the conversation with is:

1. a clear picture of what you are trying to achieve, coupled with your expertise and experience

2. a strong desire to understand their view of the situation

3. a genuine interest in determining where the holes are in their picture, and

4. a determination to get them talking about the situation to hear their fears, beliefs and planned approach.

Get them to act. Often the first step is the hardest to determine and to take. When you think someone knows what to do, and how to get started, take a moment to test their understanding in a supportive way. You may ask, “What is the first step? What do you think will be the most difficult part? When will you have that first step done?” Then, schedule a time to check in on progress. A definite deadline for the first step will ensure the ball gets rolling, and once it does, it often easier to keep rolling, especially with your assistance as necessary and accountability to agreed upon actions.

Be enthusiastic! And be determined to drive real engagement with the way you engage your team members in conversation where they are thinking, talkingn getting prepared to act and taking action.