MVP Seminars Blogs

I attended a business meeting today for which I was the facilitator and observed one individual I’ll call Michael, exhibit poor leadership skills. He had a lot to say about everything discussed and was a poor listener to other attendees who asked clarifying questions or had contrary viewpoints. Twice in the meeting he mentioned that he had been rebuffed by the group and did not care whether his views were shared by all members of the group. Quietly the chair and a few others began to try to summarize Michael’s concerns into coherent statements. This was difficult to do because his statements were somewhat inconsistent and he rambled on about a myriad of issues. He attacked some people personally who did not agree with his ideas. To advance the discussion and to end the discomfort someone made the motion for a change which captured some of the issues Michael wanted. The vote carried unanimously. While Michael believed his actions displayed leadership because he vocal and willing to risk unpopularity, others saw his behavior differently. Many viewed his comments to group members as disrespectful and because of that they were closed to the ideas he tried to share. It was not what he was saying, but how he was saying it. Outside of the meeting people commented about how important it is to be coherent in communicating and to show respect for others. In prolonged conversations attendees stated that leadership is about effective communication, demonstrating caring for others of the groups to which you belong. Most importantly, one must listen to be thought of as a leader by others. Effective leaders listen with the right approach and respond appropriately to the person who is talking. They are able to express themselves clearly and professionally. They listen for understanding. When there is a match in the communication, successful interactions are the result and conflict is minimized. Asking questions and paraphrasing what is heard ensures two-way communications. Lastly, respectful dialogue creates a supportive environment for the thoughtful expression of differing viewpoints and the exchange of ideas. As shown in this real life example, forcing individual perspectives, verbal attacks and poor listening, can lead to hasty decisions in organizations simply to “ease the pain”. Have you ever found yourself behaving like Michael? If so, people may have commented about you, too, after the fact beyond your earshot. To be an effective leader: Express your ideas in a positive way Talk less, listen more Handle objections to your ideas professionally, not personally
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My colleagues and I are often brought into corporations to do teambuilding. Whether the audience is executive management or employees that work on the manufacturing line, the purpose for hiring my organization is to help teams strategize how to be more cohesive and productive. Early in my career it was theory, structure and small group exercises that illustrated effective teambuilding, but that has all changed. Talk is out the window: taste, touch, feel and experience are in.

I recently read an article in a popular business magazine that suggested video games and online gaming are responsible for the change in what organizations are looking for to help increase teambuilding. I have also heard that Millennials are more action-oriented and need to experience business strategy rather than read or talk about it. Regardless of the origin of change, training in teambuilding is now an out-of-your-seat, participatory experience that reveals vulnerabilities, leadership styles, communication and problem-solving skills, and a myriad of other strengths and deficiencies of all parties involved. The learning is in real time with adequate time built in for feedback, reflection and application in the workplace.

In response to the need for a new delivery style, the training industry has responded with training approaches that can be divided into three categories: simulation, real escape and theme adventure. Simulation exercises have a written adventure scenario, background information, maps, and usually a pressure-sensitive scoring form. There is a group task, individual task and a problem to solve. The timed activity is done on-site and concludes with reflection on how effective the team was, how they could improve team performance, what insights they gained about each other individually and as a team, and how they could transfer the experience to their daily work.

Real escape teambuilding has its roots in gaming, and some give credit to real escape games that began in Japan in 2007. There are many variations of real escape teambuilding, but basically it requires that groups be put into an off-site room specifically designed for the task of finding a way out. The group has to work together using clues within the room to gain their freedom. It is a timed escape at a minimum of an hour. Participants apply communication skills, critical thinking, problem solving, and leadership skills to escape. Companies such as FedEx, Frito Lay and 7Eleven have used real escape teambuilding with their employees.

My favorite theme adventure is from a company called Recipe for Success. All of their teambuilding exercises revolve around preparing food. Their exercises are held off site and run for a minimum of two hours. Themes such as Team Breakfast, Chili Cook-Off, and Ultimate Pizza Challenge can be adapted for groups of 10 to 250.The benefits include building skills in negotiation, prioritization, communication, innovation and problem solving. When the task is complete, the team has an enhanced sense of teamwork because they have completed a project that they can see, touch and eat. It is important to note that the skill sets used in theme adventure teambuilding exercises, such as Recipe for Success, are immediate and transferable.

Whatever method your organization uses to promote teambuilding, the desired result is better communication, a more cohesive unit and increased productivity. Talking about teambuilding no longer produces the desired results in today’s interactive market. The employee of today needs to experience in order to learn.

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Several years ago, I was facilitating a talent review meeting with a room full of executives.  

After hours of great dialogue, we all settled on where their people fit on the 9 box talent grid.  

The leaders were engaged in the process and were excited to be able to make more informed talent decisions to match the organization’s strategies.

And then came the moment of truth:  

What do we say to those being reviewed?
  • Do we tell them which talent box they were placed in?
  • Do we tell them which position we pictured them filling, in 1-3 years?
  • Do we leave it up to each manager to decide?
  • Or, do we not say anything to them at all?

After much dialogue, the eventual decision was to tell everyone how much the organization valued them… and that was it!  

This approach worked well for the leaders in the room, but it was not very helpful, or engaging, for the people being reviewed.

So what is the best approach in having talent conversations? 

Each organization chooses to answer this question differently. Yet there are best practices that, when followed, can build the credibility and effectiveness of the talent process. They can help you inspire and motivate and also increase the engagement and commitment of the employees being reviewed.  

This will require courage of you as the leader, but it can pay off massively for your talent, team, and organization.

Below are the three talent conversations that you must have to help inspire, engage, and retain great talent.

We've also included a complimentary printable Leadership Conversation Guide at the end for your convenience. 

What’s the key message for me to convey?

“We want to invest in you and your growth.”

Who should I have this conversation with?

This is the conversation with highly talented individuals who deliver beyond expectations and have great potential.  They want to be challenged and expect greater expectations to come to them.  

How can I best convey this message?

Your discussion points could include:

  • You have a long runway and you add tremendous benefit to the organization.
  • We like what we see and we want to see more in the future.
  • We as a company want to provide opportunities, resources, and support to develop and hone your leadership ability.
  • I want to meet with you regularly, identify and discuss your career goals, and work through a personal individual action plan.
  • Senior leaders will be cheering you on and paying attention to your current and future successes.

A Word of Caution:  The caution with this conversation is not to promise, directly or indirectly, any specific position.  Do not mention specific titles for future jobs. This will create expectations that are beyond anyone’s ability to keep.

What’s the key message for me to convey?

“You are a valuable and solid contributor!”

Who should I have this conversation with?

This is for the steady performers, those with longer tenure, and/or those with great knowledge of the organization’s history and practices.  They are often the glue that holds teams together during the ups and downs.  They know their position and specific function well.  They are subject matter experts and can have strong relationships with others throughout the organization.   

How can I best convey this message?

Your discussion points could include:

  • You are greatly appreciated for all of your contributions.
  • You are a strong performer.
  • You provide great stability for the department and team.
  • You have strong expertise in your field and the organization recognizes and values your knowledge and abilities.
  • I want to make sure you feel supported and engaged.
  • You are in the right place to optimize your value to the team and organization.
  • I want to help you feel challenged within your current position.

A Word of Caution: Do not lead them to think they are getting ready for a promotion. Clarify with them that they will be able to add value in their current or similar position for the near future. Questions about future positions can be addressed case by case.

What’s the key message for me to convey?

“Your performance needs to be better.”

Who should I have this conversation with?

This is for the underperforming individuals who are not delivering what the organization needs.  They are not consistently hitting the expected bar for quality, cost, or timeliness. 

The conversation does not address potential; it is all about performance.

How can I best convey this message?

Your discussion points could include:

  • I want to help you be successful.
  • Your performance is not where it needs to be.
  • We will focus on the short-term, the next 1-6 months.
  • Let’s inventory your skills, strengths, and motivation to make sure it is a good match for the position.
  • Let’s write down very clear expectations and set very specific and measurable performance goals.
  • We can identify logical check-in points to assess improvement.

A Word of Caution:  Avoiding this kind of conversation can negatively impact the high performers because poor performance can pull down others’ engagement and their confidence in leadership.

Final Note:

Employees who have been in the organization or in their position for less than 6 months are typically too new to be put into any of these conversations.  After 6 months, you will have a much better idea which of the three conversations you need to have with them.

The best thing for you to focus on with new employees is to ensure that they have the resources, expectation clarity, and leadership support to achieve quick wins.  

 

Our Gift to You

We've created a complimentary Leadership Talent Conversation Guide for you to download and use, absolutely free!

Click here now to download the guide now.

 

 

About Stewart Leadership

Stewart Leadership is a talent management and leadership development consulting, coaching, and training company building leaders in start-ups to the Fortune 500.Click here to contact us and discover how we could partner with you.

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My husband and I stopped by a local fast food restaurant after church on Easter Sunday to grab a quick lunch before cooking a special dinner for my family.  The manager asked me about my plans for dinner and went on to explain that the restaurant would close at 4:00 pm and she would be spending Easter dinner there with her employees.  So when I wished her a happy holiday despite the fact that she was working she shared that her Easter dinner with her employees was special, too.

The manager talked about the special dinner she was planning for her employees, all the while beaming with pride and offered her reasons for this effort:

  • The employees are single and don’t have much family so work is like a family for them;
  • To give the employees a way to feel good about working on the holiday and have something to look forward to, and;
  • To recognize, motivate and to show how much they are valued.

We sat down and ate our lunch and I watched as part of the menu started to unfold with the caterer bringing in the beginning of what looked to be a special meal.

Now I know why the workers at this fast food restaurant always make me feel as though I am dining in a full service restaurant.  It is clear that this manager has found a way to lead in little way that has a large impact on her workplace.

What have you done lately to lead in a little way?

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What exactly is self-esteem? An incredible amount of thought and writing have addressed this topic.  "Many years ago Alfred Adler, a European psychiatrist, wrote that everyone has feelings of inferiority.  Sometimes these feelings stimulate us to healthy actions and achievements, but inferiority feelings also can be so overwhelming that they cause us to withdraw from others and develop what Adler called an "inferiority complex" writes Gary P. Collins, Ph.D. in his book 'Christian Counseling.' Dr. Collins further states: "People who feel inadequate and inferior (one estimate suggests that this may include 95 percent of the population) tend to compare themselves unfavorably to others.  Such comparisons can lead to a lot of human misery and feelings of inadequacy.  Adler believed we can only escape this inferiority trap by stopping the comparison of ourselves with others and by giving up the common desire to be superior.  More recent writers have argued that individuals overcome inferiority by developing a positive and healthy self-esteem." Historically,  both Alfred Adler and Abraham Maslow are the distinguished progenitors of the self-esteem movement.  Both men had a genuine concern and a desire to understand why people failed to achieve existential authentication.  Indeed, they both formulated a "hierarchy of needs" in their collective psychoanalytic systems.  According to both Adler and Maslow people have basic needs that must be met in order for them to experience self-authentication. Adler's conclusions were based on findings derived from working with individuals with severe problems and circumstances.  Maslow's conclusions were based upon working with those who were meeting the challenges of life with vitality and authentic determination. Adler's view of an individual's hierarchy of needs was simple and direct.  The hierarchy of needs was or is based upon a pyramid of ascending needs.  In Adler's scheme the most basic need for an individual is security.  After the need for security is met at the lower level an individual is free to move on to find fulfillment at the next level.  Until the needs at a certain point are met the person is not free to be concerned with higher pursuits. Adler's hierarchy of needs system has three steps or interlocking needs which are security, significance, and satisfaction through power.  Whereas the Maslow scheme has five distinct interlocking steps that include physiological needs, safety and security needs, love and belonging needs, self-esteem and self-actualization needs. Interestingly, it is the Maslow scheme that has provided western culture with its doctrine of self-esteem.  What then is self-esteem?  Self-esteem, according to Dr. Collins "refers to the evaluation that an individual makes of his or her worth, competence, and significance.  Whereas self-image and self-concept involve a self-description, self-esteem involves a self-evaluation." Persons within our culture have had local and national heroes stripped from their lives.  Children rarely read about the lives of great people from the past.  They no longer know what heroes are.  They have purposely been trained to become ahistorical creatures.  They have no connection with the past, present, or future.  They are in need of visionary ones who will reintroduce them to themselves as persons embedded in history, and who possess significant value.  Yes, we may define self-esteem, but how to get, where to get it, and how to keep it remains the question.  I believe that it is high time for our culture to return to God, who gives self-esteem through the unscientific medium of love.
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"Undercover Boss" is one of my favorite shows. Every Friday night a CEO “discovers” good people when he cuts through management layers, policies and processes to learn the truth about his organization. By becoming a participating member in these processes, he finds people in problem solving mode every day and managers that show poor leadership by refusing to address the root causes of the problems. Managers frequently refuse to fix problems that hide the potential of assets and people to deliver better results. Why? Because THEY BELIEVE THEY HAVE THE AUTHORITY to do so. If you could change those beliefs, the bottom line and culture would improve, which makes changing management team mindsets about their roles in change worth a lot!  
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Shareholders measure success through share price, debt ratios and other financial measures. For this reason, management teams make decisions that attempt to maximize financial performance - buying equipment, investing in systems, right-sizing the workforce, etc.

What about the subjective decisions that management makes? When anyone is given a management title, they are "crowned" with the ability to make subjective decisions as a privilege of being on the management team. These decisions involve interactions with people and appear to be "optional" - whether to attend meetings, whether to solve problems, whether to encourage feedback, the choice to protect personal power, etc. The connections between these decisions and the bottom line is fuzzy, so little thought is given to their impact to earnings. These decisions are often accepted as part of "the culture" - proactive if they are good decisions and reactive if they bad decisions. They are also often viewed as something that can't be changed.

WHAT IF... the connection between subjective decisions and the bottom line was clarified?

WHAT IF... the subjective choices made by management directly contributed to the bottom line?

WHAT IF... better choices immediately translated into reshigher

WHAT IF... it was easier than most people think to stop making poor subjective choices and begin making great subjective choices - not because management was told to do this but because they saw the value in doing so for themselves.

Well, the connection CAN BE clarified and these choices DO affect the bottom line! The next time you are faced with a subjective management decision, what would your shareholders expect you to do?

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I attended a business meeting today for which I was the facilitator and observed one individual I’ll call Michael, exhibit poor leadership skills. He had a lot to say about everything discussed and was a poor listener to other attendees who asked clarifying questions or had contrary viewpoints. Twice in the meeting he mentioned that he had been rebuffed by the group and did not care whether his views were shared by all members of the group. Quietly the chair and a few others began to try to summarize Michael’s concerns into coherent statements. This was difficult to do because his statements were somewhat inconsistent and he rambled on about a myriad of issues. He attacked some people personally who did not agree with his ideas. To advance the discussion and to end the discomfort someone made the motion for a change which captured some of the issues Michael wanted. The vote carried unanimously. While Michael believed his actions displayed leadership because he vocal and willing to risk unpopularity, others saw his behavior differently. Many viewed his comments to group members as disrespectful and because of that they were closed to the ideas he tried to share.  It was not what he was saying, but how he was saying it. Outside of the meeting people commented about how important it is to be coherent in communicating and to show respect for others. In prolonged conversations attendees stated that leadership is about effective communication, demonstrating caring for others of the groups to which you belong. Most importantly, one must listen to be thought of as a leader by others. Effective leaders listen with the right approach and respond appropriately to the person who is talking. They are able to express themselves clearly and professionally. They listen for understanding. When there is a match in the communication, successful interactions are the result and conflict is minimized. Asking questions and paraphrasing what is heard ensures two-way communications. Lastly, respectful dialogue creates a supportive environment for the thoughtful expression of differing viewpoints and the exchange of ideas.  As shown in this real life example, forcing individual perspectives, verbal attacks and poor listening, can lead to hasty decisions in organizations simply to “ease the pain”. Have you ever found yourself behaving like Michael? If so, people may have commented about you, too, after the fact beyond your earshot.  To be an effective leader:
  1. Express your ideas in a positive way
  2. Talk less, listen more
  3. Handle objections to your ideas professionally, not personally
Read More →

Leadership wisdom: do you have it?   Do you know the difference between experience and time spent on the job?  Wise leaders do.  Read the following story taken from Understanding Your Role As A Leader.   I will not make any conclusions or issue any challenges.  Both of those are up to you.   Early in the 20th century the Campisano family movde from Italy to North America.  Finding himself in a new country and in a new culture, and without the ability to speak English, Al Campisano,   the oldest of the children, at age eleven, began his American           educational experience in the first grade….   I have often wondered what Al Campisano was learning in the first  grade that the other students were not.  When I met Al in the 1970s he and his brother Guy were the owners and operators of a            multi-million dollar business named the AL CAMPISANO FRUIT         COMPANY.  Al and Guy had become highly respected business         and community leaders in Louisville, Kentucky…   Sal Campisano was a brother to Al and Guy and he was employed by the fruit company as a dock worker.  At that time, I was part owner of a small wholesale produce business and a large portion of what I sold came from the Campisano brothers.  One morning  while I was paying my bill, Guy and I were standing in his office from where we could see out onto the sales loading area. Looking in that direction, I saw Sal.  Out of curiosity, I asked Guy, “How  long has Sal been working here?”  “About nine years,” responded Guy. "Then why is he still working on the dock?” I asked.  “He is a family member and has nine years experience.  Why is he not in management?” To which Guy responded in a way that I will never forget.  He            said to me, “Mark, you don’t understand.  Sal doesn’t have            nine years of experience.  He has one year of experience and             has had it, nine times.”*   *Mark T. Sorrels, Understanding Your Role As A Leader, (Bloomington, IN, Xlibris Corporation, 2011),11-12.
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Success happens when you see yourself—your strengths and weaknesses--clearly.   By Beate Chelette, The Women’s Code   If you’ve ever watched American Idol, you’ve seen weekly examples of what I call the denial phenomenon. During auditions, particularly untalented singers seem to firmly believe that they are amazing. Their ill-fated and often horrible auditions are followed by utter disbelief that they are not “going to Hollywood.” That got me thinking. As business owners, what if we say and do things that are unwittingly boycotting our own success?   While things like talent, IQ and, of course, the hard work we put in all factor in to our success, these can all be overridden by one look or comment that we are not even aware we are projecting. In my leadership guide, “The Women’s Code,” I talk about seeing things—and ourselves-- clearly in order to uncover who we are and where that fits into what we are trying to achieve. Among the most important of these principles is honest self-evaluation.   Honest Self-Evaluation   We like to have an image of ourselves as kind, successful, generous, and whatever your desired attributes are. But the reality is that often we are not quite that, but something different.   Let me give you an example from my own life. My daughter once told me that I intimidate some people. I was shocked because I see myself as strong and opinionated, but not overbearing.  But what if I was actually coming across that way and was alienating some clients and friends in the process? Was I that far off in my own self-evaluation?   It required some deep digging and a few painful realizations after observing my own behavior and asking some trusted friends and colleagues for feedback. Finally, I decided that I do need to tone down in some areas. Let’s just say I smile a lot more and think before I speak more often!   Leveraging Your Strengths   On the other hand, ask yourself: What makes you stand out? What do people truly respond to the most? What are your best qualities? To find the answers try these simple steps:
  • Ask your clients what they like about your work the most and why.
  • Listen intently when people talk about you or recommend your services to others. This means not cutting them off when they start to show praise – let them finish and take note of their exact words.
  • Ask friends or close colleagues what they think you are really good at Identify what brings you the most—and least—new clients or repeat business.
  • Finally, which tasks do you love to do and which do you struggle with?
  Chances are that in your business you are not equally as good at everything you do. It’s true for all of us. We like to think that we are the most qualified for every task even if we don’t like to do them. This is where honest self-evaluation comes in. Once you recognize that the reason you don’t like to do something might very well be because you are no good at it, it will be easy to let go of those tasks that others can do better. The good news is, the things you are good at are probably those that make you money, so for the sake of cash flow, do more of what works and less of what doesn’t!   In my case, I like numbers especially when they are positive. And although I’m pretty good at doing my own accounting – I hate doing it. So I found someone who is better and faster at running the numbers so now I’m free to work on the things I like most, such as coaching my clients to build their businesses. Which in turn brings me more money.   What can you let go of so you can focus more on moneymaking tasks? The Power of Work In his bestselling book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell examines in detail a number of so called overnight successes and found that their successes are largely a result of consistent work. These people had incredible opportunity, yes, because they happened to be at the right place at the right time. But they also shared attributes of discipline, passion and hard work. In all cases, they put in more than 10,000 hours before they became “overnight” successes. When you put 10,000 hours into something, you will likely become very good at it, regardless of your talent or IQ. That is when you become, as in my case, a 13-year overnight success. It’s why some make it and others don’t. They give up too soon. Commit to making improvements by being using your time more efficiently to build on your strengths. You can study how-to books, blog articles, or go to conferences to develop skills. Always be learning. In short, be prepared to work on the skills that will get you what you where you want to be.   Excellence will become your lifestyle   Is it enough for you to just to get it done or do you want to leave a mark? If you want to be noticed in a good way, you consistently have to make the extra effort it takes to be not just good, but great.   The best part is, once you go down this road to success, you can't really turn around and go back to just skimming by. Excellence has now become your lifestyle. Regardless of where you are today or how smooth or bumpy your current path may be, if you do an honest self-evaluation, leverage your strengths and put the hours in, you will succeed. Or at least you will better understand why you’re not going to Hollywood.
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