Archive for the ‘talent’ Category

Crystal Clear

August 8, 2017

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Recall the most important conversations you’ve had in the past year?

I bet you were very honest and maybe very careful. Because you and others knew the matter under discussion had serious implications, it’s easy to imagine them as intense.

Radical transparency is a tough topic because both employing it and avoiding it can have very significant consequences.

Levi Strauss & Company CEO Chip Bergh says he got an early leadership lesson when his own performance review required him to develop his people. With an important hire, he sidestepped honest feedback. This hurt the employee and the team. It translated to multiple costs: no capacity or expertise and substantial time. Bergh’s reflection:  “You have to be really transparent and straight with people.” He says being extremely transparent builds trust. Bergh aims for the best results by working together.

Bergh’s comfort with tough conversations comes from two factors: recognizing individuals do make a difference and valuing different skills on a team. For him and other effective executives, a constant sensing for ways to build a strong team is a high priority.

If we face accountabilities with some urgency, there’s rarely a better choice than transparency. A false culture and its opportunity costs are just too big to tolerate. In the workplace, practicing candor may be referred to as dynamic dialogues, tough, crucial or fierce conversations.

What is a “fierce conversation?” Susan Scott’s book by that name defines it as: “One in which we come out from behind ourselves, into the conversation and make it real.” She suggests every conversation affects a relationship: for better or worse.

A no risk sugar-sweet norm emphasizes the hyper-polite. In this context, few accountabilities with no urgency translate to a greater reliance on political currency of deference. In these cultures results will never be what they could because there’s slack in the space. When nobody wants to “rock the boat,” people generally aren’t in high performance mode.

While our interactions with colleagues, clients, customers and others need not be fiery in temperature they can be richly focused and clear. Candor has huge yield. Why not make the many hours we and others invest worth the effort?

-Lisa Wyatt Knowlton, Ed.D., leads Wyatt Advisors, a resource for effective people and organizations. See:www.wyattadvisors.com. Lisa is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. She has cross-sector and international experience.

Got Bullies?

August 31, 2015

MeanPeople

Are there secrets about mean behavior in your workplace?

The Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) receives calls about nurses and educators more than any others…In a recent book focused on the culture nurses commonly experience, hundreds were interviewed with surprising results. The norm was a culture of bullying, hazing and sabotage. The author profiles tragic behavior patterns: withholding information or help, spreading rumors, name-calling, playing favorites, and intimidating or berating peers until they quit.

Wherever people interact, bad actors appear. The  social and private sectors have plenty of  “anything goes.” Some organizations (and communities)  foster this rough and tumble context by feeding politics.

Abuse of Power

Although it impedes stellar performance, this destructive “underground” behavior happens too often in many organizations. This type of culture makes it very difficult to retain capable people. How individuals use power is key. Workplace bullying is defined as repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct driven by a perpetrator’s need to “assassinate” the targeted individual(s). These behaviors often escalate or spread to involve others who “side” with the bully. It’s similar to domestic violence but  it occurs in a specific workplace or industry. Bullies are insecure and use interpersonal aggression to cope.

Talent are Targets

Research indicates the targets of bullying are:

  • Independent…they refuse to be subservient,
  • More technically skilled than their bullies,
  • Go-to veteran workers,
  • Socially graceful, display greater emotional intelligence and are better liked, as well as
  • Ethical and honest.

Sadly, those most easily exploited targets are people with a prosocial orientation, meaning  those with a desire to help, heal, teach, develop and nurture others. If you’re a target, what actions do you take? The WBI recommends a 3-step action plan: (1) Recognize and name what’s happening (2) Get some supportive care for healing, and (3) Expose the bullies. Most human resource experts say you should also plan to exit.

Witnesses should document actions and speak up. Manager-leaders should always seriously consider their intuition, hints or explicit reports as legitimate. Capable people welcome “whistleblowers.” It takes huge courage to report misbehavior because it puts the target in a place of considerable vulnerability. Consider attributes of those reporting. How do they rate on the characteristics cited here? Are they typically reliable and competent professionals?

It is very deep trouble when bullies are in a supervisory capacity role without accountability. Sometimes those in charge of complaints and ethics are complicit. They rationalize by “protecting the organization.” This allows the bullies to continue to run roughshod over others.  In effect, it means they can’t or won’t clean up their personnel woes. It also ensures a perpetually hostile and dysfunctional environment. Inept management promotes and mimics bullies, those who are caring and competent purge bullies.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Six Features of Terrific Teams

July 16, 2015

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Why do we so often fail to work together effectively?  

It is clear our capability to respond to problems lags far behind our ability to detect and describe them. It’s a sad paradox when abundant resources exist. We know that solo ventures don’t have the capacity to deliver what collective work can yield. Necessarily, the big and challenging work of change requires attention to teams.

Formal teams occur in our organizations and communities when two or more people are gathered to deliver a performance objective and shared activities are required to achieve it. Regardless of purpose, well-designed teams must include: roles & accountabilities; effective communications; individual performance & feedback; and evidence-based decisions.

A checklist of team essentials is a good start to building an effective team. Research indicates these six features are necessary:

A Clear, Elevating Goal. A high performing team has a shared, clear and specific understanding of what is to be achieved and passionately believes it is worthwhile. When goals are ambiguous, diluted, politicized or individual ambitions take priority then performance lags and dysfunction prevails.

Results-driven. Teams must be structured around their intended goal with explicit accountability. Typically, teams are established to tackle problems, innovate and/or support tactics. Problem-solving teams are often an executive or leadership group where trust is essential. Autonomy is a very significant for  innovation and tactical teams must have task clarity to assure execution. Sometimes teams handle all three purposes.

Competent Members. The right people matter hugely. The “right” people have appropriate technical skills, knowledge, training and experience as well as personal attributes which contribute to the collective. Successful NBA coach Phil Jackson said, “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” One adds, removes individuals to develop a team. Careful thought about the optimal mix of people on a team is time well spent.

Unified Commitment & Collaboration. Loss of self, enthusiasm, loyalty, dedication and identification with a group of people are all features of unified commitment that reflect a physical and mental energy. Collaboration reflects both a safe climate and structure that encourages interdependence.

Standards of Excellence. Urgent pressures to perform with specific behaviors set expectations for team members. Performing to specified standards requires discipline and explicit process improvement. To achieve shared goals, both learning and accountability are present in an effective team.

Principled Leadership. Any effective team includes a capable captain. Team leaders motivate, educate, facilitate and construct a fair environment that engages contributions. When talented people are in charge morale goes up. Principled leaders offer a moral imperative for change. They intensely seek the shared goal. Principled leaders steer past the compromises of politics. They are receptive, accessible and demonstrate a dependable set of internal and public values. They assure team function through: good design, clear goals, a results-focus, member engagement, unity, collaboration and standards.

Team Threats & Multiple Entities

Two common reasons frequently account for weak or dysfunctional teams: politics and individual agendas. They are developmental misfires that torpedo progress and leave the promise of joint efforts unfulfilled. Politics kills both trust and substance. A focus on power precludes collective effort. Individual agendas sabotage shared intentions, interdependence and generate a toxic culture. Sometimes organizational leaders can limit these challenges through their talent selection. Regardless, principled team leaders must respond promptly to politics and selfishness because they cause teams (and organizations) to unravel.

Be aware that complexity gets magnified when coordination is not only inside your organization, but across organizations. The inputs for and implications of creating collective impact are substantial. It means we must understand how to integrate perspectives, engage multiple motives and align energies and skills in effective teams, task forces, networks, coalitions and other structures. Getting our own shop in shape is crucial so that we can constructively reach out to others and generate powerful synergy.

We know what makes great teams. If we have the will, we can do work together far better.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and managing partner at Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

 

 

 

 

 

Red Flags for Managing Better

October 2, 2014

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Managers lead, supervise, mentor and motivate others. Their skills and knowledge have huge influence in your organization’s effectiveness. Minimizing workplace stress, supporting productivity and high performance in your organization requires capable management.

What does poor management look like? To avoid it, and to support talent development, it’s helpful to recognize misbehavior.

This list of seven  general symptoms below isn’t exhaustive, but can signal when feedback, training, further education or changing staff is necessary. In this post and my next, I  describe behaviors and a  “red flag” in bold face copy.

1. When asked about a colleague’s new title and responsibilities eyes roll. An unprompted extensive review of a senior executive’s incompetence. Comments on (or participation in) a workplace romance between staff – one supervising the other. Gossip about or sponsorship of an unqualified friend  who “got in” as a new hire. This behavior kills morale and pollutes culture. Red flag: Focused on and feeds politics.

2. Berating, belittling, threatening and irate stream of consciousness comments to subordinates or colleagues. This way of communicating generates interpersonal friction and resentment. Red flag: Abrasive communication.

3. Unwilling to distribute responsibilities and develop others. Controlling all assignments and micro-managing others is  a sure way to demoralize staff. Red flag: Won’t delegate.

4. Grabs credit and blames others. Rarely shows interest or interaction with staff or colleagues but spends nearly all their time with a boss or those at the top of the organization chart. Red flag: Only manages up.

5. Operating one step from disaster and running from fire to fire is exhausting and unnecessary. Priorities, goals, and time management are crucial to guide others. Red flag: Little or no anticipation.

6. Collects informatin but acts paralyzed. The manager won’t take action or own choices. Wishy-washy avoidance earns little or no respect from team members. Red flag: No ownership and indecisive.

7. Hubris and self-absorption are both  unattractive and toxic to learning. They also preclude managing a team or function that involves others. Few or no questions. Red flag:Knows everything.

If any of these signals are present in  your workplace, take corrective action. Consistently provide explicit instructions on the right attitudes and actions. And, most important, model  expectations daily. (See the following post for more common red flags!)

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

 

 

Smart Measurement

August 4, 2014

If data told you where to improve and whether you’re successful or off-course, would you want it? Would you use it? When talk turns to metrics –people often shut down. Mostly, it’s because relevance and utility are absent. Sometimes it’s because people prefer to avoid accountability.

The sticky and too-common problem: people collect and report a vast range of items that are easy to measure instead of deeply understanding and choosing a vital few metrics.

Key performance indicators (KPIs) should be vital navigation gauges to understand where your work stands compared to planned results. The right data is used to improve both processes and impact. In your selection, make sure data is both  relevant and actionable.

One way to organize indicators is to see your organization in several big parts. A simple four-piece dashboard common to the private sector includes: customers (or participants), financial performance (outcomes), internal processes, and talent. Those noted in parentheses are a social sector comparable.

What do you need to know about each to make decisions?

1.Customers or Participants It makes sense to have information about your customers or participants…without them, the enterprise quickly fails. For both exempt and for-profit organizations, you might want to know what is your participant retention rate? You also might want to know about “reach,” which is closely associated with the effectiveness of your marketing strategy. How well do you translate inquiries, invitations, presentations, web views into new participants? This is a “conversion rate.” To determine growth, the size of your slice of the pie, compared to others in the same market is important to know, too. This is relative market share.

2.Financial Performance or Outcomes The private sector identifies a revenue growth rate or net profit margin. In this context, it’s also relatively simple to calculate return on investment. Although more complex, the social sector can describe outcomes, too. Results often come in the form of reductions or gains, e.g., fewer teens in the criminal justice system or better science scores by 9th grade. It’s important to be able to describe short-, intermediate and long-term outcomes. Specifying those outcome chains in a time sequence  informs smart plans, adaptation and progress. It’s essential to know where you are …to get where you’re going. A social service agency or foundation cites the aggregate of their effort across multiple programs or grantees. For example, Pew Trusts delivers public value from environmental partnerships in several selected priorities.

3.Internal Processes The cost and quality of internal processes are ripe areas for review because these can be directly influenced by capable managers. We know the overall enterprise performance is deeply connected with routine functions. The maturation or relative sophistication in processes is an important measure. So, for example, in planning: Does rigor, discipline and evidence occur in a standard process and cycle? In addition, capacity as well as productivity are areas to assess against standards, as is the value on-going projects contribute to operations.

4.Talent High performing organizations rely on great talent. Organizational leadership as well as human resource practices vary in quality. Both significantly influence workforce and the workplace. “Best in class” human resource practices focus on talent identification, selection, development and retention. The talent domain raises these and many more questions: What competencies and attributes matter most in our staff? Do we have the right people? Will staff recommend their employer as a great place to work? Do staff attitudes and behaviors contribute to the enterprise goals? How do staff rate each other, themselves, their supervisors? What’s the depth of the management bench? Is the prevailing culture healthy or toxic?

Einstein said: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” Steering your ship requires the right information at the right time to inform choices. It is why skillful management measures carefully.

-Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Foster Passion

January 12, 2014

chemistrybeekers

The work we do best is inspired, it touches or wholly embraces some passion we have. This passion provides the energy to continually make effort and progress.

Augusto Odone, a World Bank economist, provides a great example of what passion can produce.

A polyglot Italian Fulbright scholar who specialized in development economics, Odone was posted to Washington, DC with his family. His son, at six, suddenly began stumbling, mumbling, lost hearing and displayed terrible temper. Doctors said the illness was hopeless and to expect certain death. His child, Lorenzo, had a rare and terrible disease (ALD) in which a faulty chromosome let fatty acids accumulate and cripple the body.

Odone had no prior interest or training in biochemistry, only a high-school science education. However, he began scouring the library at the National Institutes of Health to understand how enzymes work. Through his own reasoning, he identified potential in olive and rapeseed oils as a combination that might inhibit the deadly acids which impaired the nervous system. Medical researchers scoffed at an amateur finding an answer that had eluded them.

Although immobile and uncommunicative, Lorenzo lived 30 years. His father’s discovery was effective in delaying additional decline. “The ALD serpent that had brought so much grief to our family had been tamed,” wrote Odone.

Vindication for a stunning accomplishment was slow in coming. A 1992 film, “Lorenzo’s Oil,” portrays this story. In 2005, a rigorous study showed Odone’s science was sound: while the oil could not reverse effects of ALD, in 75% of the cases it prevented development of the symptoms. Grudging foes acknowledged the discovery.  Lorenzo died in 2008. The charity founded in his name, the Myelin Project, now pursues gene therapy and stem-cell research.

In the face of incalculable odds, a father’s passion had yield for his son and many others worldwide.

What inspires you? What do you know about your team or colleagues that can inspire them? How do you frame challenges to capture their passion? People who love what they do get after it every day. Some, at long odds, deliver amazing results.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Growing Leaders

November 24, 2013

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We live in a world where leadership is essential but in short supply. And, says Gary Hamel, once named the “world’s most influential business thinker” and a professor at the London Business School,  hierarchies get in the way.Regrettably, organizations and communities are not well served by pyramids. It’s because there is a lot of energy and competition spent managing up rather than collaborating.

Stalls & Lags Are Costly

In our complex world, change is constant and competition is ferocious. But, Hamel says, progress is often belated, infrequent, stalled or convulsive. Structures and cultures that rely on just a few individuals in a hierarchy take a long time to recognize both problems and opportunities. The scale of those problems and opportunities has to become huge before they secure any attention. Unfortunately, too late is often the same as failing. Concentrating lots of authority in a top few is problematic.

Structural Constipation

What minimizes the structural constipation? Build a culture that that supports those who add value, not competition for a “top spot.” In other words, create and incent a culture that rewards merit, competence, and accountability. These are fundamental features of a performance system in contrast to a political system. A performance system seeks progress; a political system seeks control.   Intentionally pushing authority and responsibility down can distribute it more broadly.

Hamel counsels:

  • Give people leadership skills that let them get things done – even when they don’t have formal, positional authority.
  • Train people to make the right kind of choices and hold them accountable for their choices.
  • Shorten the feedback cycle between decisions and rewards.
  • Seek peer-based feedback on what people really know and do.

These actions can grow our leadership capital. As challenges grow and persist, our organizations and communities desperately need more, better leaders – fast.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: www.pwkinc.com

Dare To Be Different

April 15, 2013

fish

At 21, he worked at a poultry processing plan during college. After experience in nearly every role in operations, he was named general manager and supervised 500 people. Knowing what people did gave him a platform to understand their routines, challenges and risks.

“Leadership is getting people to exceed their own expectations,” says G.J. Hart, CEO, California Pizza Kitchen.The high-performing CPK chief focuses lots of attention on talent development. Earlier this year, he shared six leadership steps he relies on with the New York Times.

(1) Be the best you can be. You can’t lead anybody if you can’t lead yourself. Know what you need to work on.

(2) Dream big. Identify big possibilities and get started, now.

(3) Lead with your heart first. People respond to authenticity.

(4) Trust your team and help them grow.

(5) Do the right thing – always. Integrity will prevail.

(6) Serve the people on your team. Put the cause before yourself.

Hart, a Dutch immigrant, says his own style has evolved. Today, he’s more patient and tolerant. His most important tip? Courage.
“Any leadership role is about stepping out…having the courage to be different, because you have to be different to be a leader.”

-Lisa Wyatt, Ed.D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: http://www.pwkinc.com

Provoking Progress

March 7, 2013

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Goal success relies on some critical attributes and practices. Research suggests discipline, strategy, adaptation, decisiveness, and will matters. To deliver breakthroughs and be “out front,” leaders need to be agile, creative risk-takers. All of these factors can contribute to progress or innovation.

Innovation can be understood in three types: evolutionary, revolutionary and disruptive.

Evolutionary refers to improvement in a current market that can be expected. For example, in health care more nurse-delivered care is evolutionary.

Revolutionary refers to improvement that’s not expected. For example in dentistry, dental therapists may be certified and licensed to replace dentists in some care settings.

Disruptive refers to improvement that is unexpected and lots more. It can create new customers, competitors, value and a marketplace previously unidentified. For example, the application of networking and information technology to healthcare has (and will) generate new enterprise. Sensors or robotics that assist patients in specific ways can prevent new costs and complications.

Some change can be replication with “tweaks” or evolutionary. But, there’s lots of room for both revolution and disruption as you (with others) imagine, plan and deliver results. Generating innovation requires new attitudes, thinking and processes.

Gary Shapiro’s latest book, “Ninja Innovation” calls out some important qualities associated with success. Ninjas were spies for the Japanese noble class and valued for skills and training. They were smart and adept professionals. A contemporary US counterpart might be Special Forces personnel.

A few of Shapiro’s ninja innovation characteristics are:
• A ruthless dedication to secure the goal.
• Building the right, great team.
• A disciplined attitude with unwavering focus on the goal.
• Environmental sensing and adjustments to plan.
• Both risk-taking and rule breaking with ethics.

As an agent for change, your choices and actions catalyze others. The factors that can influence individual and organization success are intertwined. We each have direct control of our own attitudes, knowledge, skill and behavior. Where’s the ninja in you?

-Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillips Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See: http://www.pwkinc.com.

Five Growth Factors

November 12, 2012

In Pablo Casals’ later years, a young reporter asked: “Mr. Casals, you’re 95 years old and the greatest cellist that ever lived. Why do you still practice six hours every day?” Casals replied: “Because I think I’m making progress.”

Intentional efforts to develop our own potential are important precursors to success. Capable, mature leaders are reflective, self aware and intentional about their own preparation. Consider what these five c-words mean for your growth:

Character. Over the long haul, people inevitably fail when integrity wavers. Ethics in leadership are an essential basic. For nearly 30 years, researchers have surveyed over 75,000 people on 6 continents to determine what they admire in leaders. The overwhelming attribute that always matters most? Honesty. Effective people are clear about principles. They’re integral to great potential. Character is ambition with internal guidance. Stand rock-strong on values.

Consistency. Choosing constructive routines requires self discipline. Good habits assure productive activity and are part of both efficiency and effectiveness. Small, smart choices are consistent bits of progress. In our office, we often say “DIN” and “Eat the frog.” DIN translates to “do it now.” And, “eat the frog” signals that we ought to tackle the least desirable work first. Once we get past the “hard part,” everything else feels easy. Both maxims support a habit of urgency which helps us accomplish lots each day. Build great habits.

Challenge. Rubber bands, like people, fulfill their potential when stretched. While choices to pursue challenges can be uncomfortable they are essential to growth. Renowned pastor Robert Schuller asked: “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” Discovering your capabilities requires risk and change. Choose stretch goals.

Curiosity. People who spend lots of energy learning – ask questions – both  direct and rhetorical. A passionate, abundant curiosity fuels growth and development. This means you are willing to be vulnerable. Be sure to welcome questions from others, too. Exploration, imagination and discovery all require curiosity. Ask “why?” often.

Contribution. John Maxwell, a leadership coach and author says, “Be a river.” He explains that a river flows…what it receives it gives away. This perspective means you must give time, expertise, and resources to others without expectation of anything in return. The attitudes and actions of a contributor are generous. Be other-centered; foster the development of people through creating opportunities, your example, coaching, and feedback. If you are a leader, your actions impact others. Helping others grow should be part of your plan. Live usefully.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com.


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