Think Growth! Blog

Overconfidence – Good or Bad?

21 Aug
by Bridget DiCello

Today, I read an interesting article on overconfidence.  The author, Jessie States, references  studies on the connection between overconfidence and the high social status it brings.  He appears to be concerned about people’s confidence which leads them to believe, “they are more physically talented, socially adept and skilled at their jobs than they actually are,” which is unsubstantiated by actual skills and abilities.

I don’t disagree that most people feel they are above average, (which is impossible, statistically speaking).

However, I do strongly believe that 95% of people never come anywhere near their potential for greatness.  And often, it’s our heads that get in the way.  Not necessarily our intelligence, but our willingness to settle for less, not push ourselves and stay in our comfort zone.

Belief in your ability to accomplish great things, and the corresponding desire to participate without fear is very valuable.  The problem comes in when the overconfidence is not sincere, and is hiding fears about oneself, and leads to a feeling of entitlement instead of desire to work hard.

The overconfident person who truly has a positive self-image and a determination and persistence to work hard, will thrive in an environment where their performance is objectively measured, which is what can take that overconfidence and use it proactively to improve actual performance.

The author found that overconfident people who “believed they were better than others, even when they weren’t, were given a higher place in the social ladder.”  They were well liked people, and not considered pompous.  And, I’m not surprised.  Don’t we want to be around people who think positively about themselves and others?  I guess the “and others” part is the big difference.  If that confidence translates to a confidence about people overall, and enables them to encourage greatness in others, that is an attractive trait.

What does this tell us about ourselves as leaders?

  1. If you have a confidence about the work you do, where you are headed and the bright future ahead, and share that vision, that is contagious and people will like to follow you.
  2. Confidence is a great thing if it leads you to continual development of yourself, personally and professionally, and especially if you provide the same opportunities for your team.
  3. There is incredible potential out there to be discovered in yourself and others, and if the confidence you possess can lead you to jump in and try things, with your eyes open, and develop your skills along the way, your team will benefit – and they’ll like working for you!

The author felt it would be difficult to determine how to “de-emphasiz[e] the natural tendency toward overconfidence,” but I say, let’s not squash it, let’s channel and coach it to create greatness!

No “Buts”

14 Aug
by Bridget DiCello

For the most part, when you are speaking with another individual, it is a good idea to remove the word, “but” entirely from your vocabulary.

You may be complimenting:

That is a great idea, but… [it’s really not a good idea, my way is better].

You may be concerned:

You’re doing a good job, but… [you stink! You are nowhere near good enough.]

You may be angry:

I told you to do this, but… [I wasn’t clear, but I don’t plan to admit it’s my fault].

You may be busy:

I’d love to spend time talking to you, but… [I do not consider what you have to say important].

“But” sends the message that the first half of your statement is insincere. We all say the word, “but” much more than we consciously know.

What to do?

Pause or use the word, “and”. It can make all the difference in the world. Don’t replace “but” with “however.” It softens the blow, but conveys the same harsh message.

When you pause, it also gives you an Opportunity SpaceTM to decide what you will say next, and how best to convey the message to you hope to convey.

The word “and” is inclusive, and while it provides you the opportunity to express your main point, it also allows you to acknowledge the current situation in the first half of your phrase.

You can also add small phrases to soften the delivery of your message such as “I’m wondering…” or “I may be wrong…” or “If I understand you correctly…”

For example,

“That’s a great idea, but what’s it going to cost?”

Instead, try:

“That’s a great idea, and I’m wondering what the cost will be.”

Another example,

You’re doing a good job, but your times are still way off.

Instead, try:

You’re doing a good job at [specific task], and I’m confident you can continue to improve your times.

Just for a day, track how many times you say, “but”. In a factual sentence, it may be very useful. However, in discussions with another person and about another person, it is rarely constructive. Replace “but” with a pause or “and”.

Navigating Difficult Conversations

31 Jul
by Bridget DiCello

A difficult conversation has a history, the beginning, the discussion, the discovery, the closing and the follow up.  In order to navigate these conversations well, you must move through each of the steps purposefully and successfully.

The History – It cannot be ignored.  People don’t easily forget if they’ve felt ignored, insulted, frustrated, demeaned, or pushed around.  Consider what the history looks like from their point of view.

The Beginning – How a conversation starts sets the tone.  Plan for the conversation.  Put a time on the calendar, share expectations and agree upon an agenda.  Then begin purposefully.

The Discussion -   Listen more than you speak.  Ask clarifying questions to get them talking in a focused manner.  Avoid exhibiting emotional reactions – you lose credibility.  Keep your focus on the goals of the conversation and speak about what needs to be done, not who is to blame or how they lack ‘initiative’ or ‘focus’.

The Discovery – Find areas of agreement.  Compliment their areas of strength.  Notice their skills.  Discover what is important to them.  Identify many possible outcomes and options – not just the best option.

The Closing – Decide what to DO next.  What will you do?  What will they do?  Identify specific items that can be completed in a matter of two to four weeks.  These may be small steps toward a larger goal.  Movement is good.

The Follow-up – Decide when you will continue the conversation.  Even if it is for a very brief, “All good?” conversation, acknowledge the need for that to happen to follow up on loose ends, ensure everyone involved feels the matter is resolved, and create a good history for the next conversation.

Which step do you dread?

Test Understanding – The Secret to Accountability

16 Jul
by Bridget DiCello

If you want to be able to hold others’ accountable, you must have something concrete to hold them accountable to.  Most of the time, people are held accountable to what you expect them to do or how you expect them to act.

This requires that your explanation of your expectations is very clear in the first place.  You can plan what you will say, outline your expectations and speak clearly and concisely, but you will not know if your message has been understood unless you test understanding.

The best way to test understanding is to get the other person to talk about what you believe they agree.  You could ask them to just repeat it back to you, but that is demeaning and doesn’t necessarily mean they really understand it.

Instead, ask open ended questions in a curious and nurturing way to get them talking so you can see what they are thinking:

  • What do you think is the best way to approach this?
  • What is the first piece you are going to tackle?  What is the first step you will take?  The next step?
  • What is your biggest concern about that?
  • When would you expect to have that part completed?
  • What do you need from me?
  • It needs to be done in 30 days; can you map out how you plan to schedule the work?
  • What is it that I can do to help/support you?
  • Why don’t you email me with your status update on Friday?
  • Is Tuesday after lunch a good time to stop into my office to share a progress report.
  • What do you expect to be the hardest/most difficult part?
  • What questions do you have?
  • If… then questions:  We can realistically expect [obstacle] to be an obstacle.  If that happens, what is your plan to address it?
  • What will you need to do differently than what you have been doing?
  • How will you approach this differently than the last project like this?
  • How do you feel we can do this even better/more successfully?

This does not mean that we fail to allow our employees to make intelligent decisions or have some freedom in how they operate. It does however, mean that if they are not doing what we expect, when we expect it, we must first go back and audit our own style of delivering the message in the first place.

By asking even just a few of these questions, you may either be pleasantly surprised with the plan in their head or shocked at how little they really understood the urgency, important milestones and timeline.

90 Day Reviews – Too Late!

05 Jul
by Bridget DiCello

A 90 day probationary period and review is customary in many companies.  And it may be company policy, so go ahead and follow it.  But, don’t expect it to be effective in the orientation or development of your new team members.

Ninety days is an incredibly long time to a new employee:

  • Many of their routines have been set,
  • their place in office politics has been initialized,
  • their best face is still on but they’ve figured out how things work and where they can cut corners (not necessarily to be lazy, just to get everything done)
  • they’ve accepted where they believe they can excel and what will be stumbling blocks
  • they’ve learned your style and what they think you expect, and
  • they are waiting to pass that 90 day mark, so they can let their guard down a little.

What’s so magical about 90 days?

Instead, the dialog needs to start during the hiring process, continue during orientation and turn into concrete, usable feedback very early in their employment.

What dialog? 

The conversation that communicates to an employee that we are excited to have you here, we’re energized about our ambitious company goals, we wish to help you best use and build upon your strengths, develop in your areas of weakness, access your potential and help you to continually contribute in new and exciting ways to this organization.

You do not want an employee to try their best, fail in several areas, hear at 90 days whether or not they still have a job, and if they do, worry about their review in a year, and hope they get a raise at that time.

At two weeks after their start date, every employee should receive written feedback about their progress.  This does not mean you expect them to know every task or be proficient at this time.  It is as simple as:

  • Here are three areas in which you have done particularly well in your first two weeks.
  • And here are three areas where I would like you to focus most in the next two weeks.

At four weeks of employment, they should again receive very similar written feedback.

This should continue monthly for 90 days.  This is an incredibly important time to build a foundation and set the tone.  Create the positive, determined and forward-looking dialog!

Making Progress on Goals Important to You

26 Jun
by Bridget DiCello

You can verbally communicate a goal to some employees and they will get it done.  Others need to see a goal in writing.  Others feel that goals are out there somewhere, but do not direct their daily work.  Ambitious employees feel that working hard today will lead to accomplishing the goal, but don’t see the pathway.  Big picture thinkers can hear your company goal and set their own goals for their team or themselves.

The best thing you can do as the leader is have clear goals communicated in writing to your team.

Yearly  – It is important they understand where the company and team is headed in the longer term.  They may not know what they need to do today to accomplish that goal, but realize that the discussion will continue on progress made towards the yearly goal.

Monthly – Based on what you want to accomplish in 12 months, and therefore, what you expect to accomplish this quarter, departments and individuals need to clearly understand their top priorities for the month.  To some people, this is intuitive, for others it is not.

Company/Department Monthly Goals – Do you know your company’s/department’s top goals for the month?  Are they way too ambitious for even a team twice the size of yours to achieve in 30 days?  Is the list lengthy?  Overly ambitious goals that are routinely not reached will become a demotivator and employees will lose their focus and drive.

Write 3-5 monthly goals that are the most important things your team needs to accomplish within the next 30 days.  This is in addition to routine work.  This is not all that you and your team will do.  You may make much more progress than this.  But, if you were to narrow it down, these are the most important things to get done.

Examples:

  1.  Hire a salesperson.
  2. Evaluate and make a decision on the new software program.
  3. Establish key company metrics and a method to measure them routinely.  (It’s amazing how many companies or departments don’t have them.)
  4. Complete 50% (8 of 16) of current backlog of projects.

Individual Monthly Goals – Does each employee know the top 3 to 5 goals they need to accomplish this month?  “Keep working really hard on everything on my plate, stay focused and make some progress.”  That’s a scary statement to a leader, but may be the answer from much of your team.  This ambitious employee, who means well, may still frustrate the manager and hold the team back.

Have each individual draft their own 3 to 5 goals for the month, based on your company’s monthly goals.  Ensure they know this is a draft and you will add your input and may make changes.  If you feel the employee does not have a grasp of what they need to do, skip their draft at first, and write the monthly goals for them.

Examples:

  1. Complete the tutorials for three software programs and evaluate them based on the following criteria (end user ease of use, inclusion of our main data points, compatibility with our accounting software and outputs).
  2. Complete performance evaluations on your three direct reports, including obtaining their self-assessment and drafting goals for each.
  3. Schedule time in your calendar each day and work on the backlog of projects, based on an agreed upon priority list, completing four projects by month end, while adding no new projects to the overdue list.

You will not see the results your team is capable of achieving if they are not focused and directed in their efforts.  Their daily efforts need to be focused on monthly goals they are striving to achieve, which are created in order to reach your company’s monthly goals.  Remember, to some employees, setting their individual monthly goals is intuitive and to some it is not.

Build an Expectation of Accountability

15 Jun
by Bridget DiCello

Without a strong expectation of accountability:

  • Performance is mediocre
  • Fire fighting takes a lot of time
  • Lack of ownership
  • Constant follow-up
  • Recreating the wheel
  • Missed deadlines
  • Lackluster results
  • Repeated mistakes

Building an expectation of accountability is no easy task.  You must:

  1. Say It – Communicate Accountability
    1. Share expectations in a written form and discuss these expectations in a forum where everyone is speaking and contributing
    2. Continue to reinforce expectations with ongoing conversations ‘on the go’ as well as in structured interactions or coaching sessions.
    3. Include an expectation of individual professional and company growth in all you write, say and do.
  2. Plan It – Realistic Accountability Roadmap
    1. Create a written plan based on clear goals and objectives, documenting how things will get done.  Testing reality is a necessity and everyone’s input is required.
    2. Literally plot the plan on a calendar or chart and assign responsibilities and deadlines.
  3. Act on It – Do What You Said You Would Do
    1. Identify your problem solving process clearly, and follow that process when it becomes a challenge to do what you had planned or you get off track.
    2. Utilize each person’s skills, strengths and focus on the goals and objectives.
    3. Use the Opportunity Space™ (the moment between when someone does or says something and you respond) to respond purposefully and create stronger relationships within your team.
  4. Report It – Critical to Accountability
    1. Set expected, routine times and venues for each person to report their own successes and challenges.  Create agendas that lead the meeting and hold people accountable.
    2. Identify key metrics, measure and discuss them routinely, and involve others in the gathering of information and reporting, especially their own, results.
    3. Celebrate success and address shortcomings through curious conversations and asking good questions to get others to talk – when they are talking is when they are thinking, committing and engaging.

You lose credibility when what you promise, what you expect or what you set as a goal, does not happen.  Your credibility is very difficult to rebuild.  However, many work environments do not have the components of accountability in place and therefore experience repeated issues, mistakes, frustrations and negative results.

Each individual should demand accountability.  It is an opportunity to celebrate your success, ask for help if you need it, and proactively prepare for others’ changing expectations or disapproval.

Do you work in an organization that focuses on accountability?  What will YOU do TODAY to begin to create that focus?

How to Say “No”

07 Jun
by Bridget DiCello

What to Say?

First, gather enough information.  “Mike, I think I understand your request.  Can you share just a few more details of what you need from me?”

Then, frame it.  “Mike, I am hearing that this project is very important to Bob’s department, and to turnaround times.  This month, Mark has asked me to focus all my energy on the successful interactions with customers through our online systems.  I’m very excited about the opportunity to address some long-standing concerns we have heard from our customers.”

What you can do. “It would be early next month before I could start on that work for you, and I would estimate it would take about three weeks.  I know that Mary and Patrick are also experts in this area, and their schedules may be more free this month if you need it sooner than I can complete the work.  (Only say this if you know it to be true.)  What I’d be happy to do is have you circle back with me at the end of the month to revisit this priority.”

And, if you’re Mike, and don’t like that answer, you might say to you:

“Ryan, we all have a lot to do and turnaround time is everyone’s priority.  I really need to get this done and you and I have worked on it in the past!”

You feel Mike’s pain, but have a clear focus and path for the month, and in reality, his priority is not yours at this time. 

“You are right Mike, turnaround time is a priority and I have enjoyed working with you in the past.  The challenge is that this month, I have items that have been identified as higher priority in my calendar.  Would you like me to introduce you to some other members of the team who would be valuable resources for you since I am booked up?”

If you fail to clarify your goals for the month, and fail to say “No” to tasks outside your focus area, you will end up with too much on your plate, people upset with you more than they would of if you had found a way to say, “No” in the first place, and work that is not up to your quality standards.

I Can’t Say “No!”

05 Jun
by Bridget DiCello

Do you take on too much work and accept others’ requests when you really don’t have the time? And are you not able to do your very best work because you are doing too many things at 75%?

Why do you do this? Do you not want to say “No” because you don’t want to miss an opportunity? Or do you not want to let anyone down? Or do you just not know what words to say to communicate, “No!”?

What to do? First, clarify your areas of focus, your goals, and your strategies to get there. Then, consult those resources in order to make the best decision. Use your focus and goals verbiage in your “No” response.

Clear Goals and Focus

If you are very clear about your most important goals and your priorities for the month, and are excited and focused on them, then it is that excitement that causes you to decline or delegate tasks that are not in line with your plan. Your plan is ambitious and exciting, not limiting and holding you back. It guides your conscious choices of how to spend your time and energy.

Put People in their Place

People are important. Your success will require you to work successfully with others, value their contributions and respect their priorities. And you spend time with another person when your goals and focus overlap their goals and focus. Not necessarily when you are asked to take their priorities as your own. You may be asked by your customers or your supervisor to change your goals and plans and may need to do throughout the month. However, a lot of times when you fail to say, “No” it may be because you like the person and don’t want to disappoint them. But, you may disappoint them or another individual when you take on too much, and don’t do anything as well as you could.

What to Say?   First, gather enough information. “Mike, I think I understand your request. Can you share just a few more details of what you need from me?”

Then, frame it. “Mike, I am hearing that this project is very important to Bob’s department, and to turnaround times. This month, Mark has asked me to focus all my energy on the successful interactions with customers through our online systems. I’m very excited about the opportunity to address some long-standing concerns we have heard from our customers.”

What you can do. “It would be early next month before I could start on that work for you, and I would estimate it would take about three weeks. I know that Mary and Patrick are also experts in this area, and their schedules may be more free this month if you need it sooner than I can complete the work. (Only say this if you know it to be true.) What I’d be happy to do is have you circle back with me at the end of the month to revisit this priority.”

And, if you’re Mike, and don’t like that answer, you might say to you:

“Ryan, we all have a lot to do and turnaround time is everyone’s priority. I really need to get this done and you and I have worked on it in the past!”

You feel Mike’s pain, but have a clear focus and path for the month, and in reality, his priority is not yours at this time.

“You are right Mike, turnaround time is a priority and I have enjoyed working with you in the past. The challenge is that this month, I have items that have been identified as higher priority in my calendar. Would you like me to introduce you to some other members of the team who would be valuable resources for you since I am booked up?”

If you fail to clarify your goals for the month, and fail to say “No” to tasks outside your focus area, you will end up with too much on your plate, people upset with you more than they would of if you had found a way to say, “No” in the first place, and work that is not up to your quality standards.

Confidence is…

31 May
by Bridget DiCello

Confidence

The main obstacle to getting things done is often not the processes, obstacles or situational factors.   It is the way the people react to what happens.  Confidence is not an egotistical reaction that ignores reality.  It is a determination and perseverance that we can and we will get it done.  It is not a conversation of if we can, but how we will.  There are plenty of excuses why things do not get done, do not get done completely or do not get done to the level of quality they could have.  The fact is that most of us, given our workload, will accept one of those excuses and let a project stop short of its potential.

 

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