Lead Change is a leadership media destination with a unique editorial focus on driving change within organizations, teams, and individuals. Lead Change, a division of Weaving Influence, publishes twice monthly with SmartBrief. Today's post is by Alex Vorobieff.
Growing your business and leading your organization often feel like climbing a mountain. If you know you are not making progress, that sinking feeling sets in.
I felt that way in 2006, when I was running an aviation services company for one of my clients who had recently purchased it. Two of our large customers went bankrupt on the same day, and we were experiencing huge losses. I was ready to tear out my hair in frustration. I needed some help to transform the company. I needed a guide.
In my process of finding and working with a coach -- my guide -- I learned many valuable lessons. I also learned that many other CEOs have relied on a coach to successfully help them develop plans, review progress and realign their organizations to create companywide change.
These CEOs didn’t try to climb a mountain by themselves. Transforming and even just growing your business is a big mountain to climb. Deciding who can help you implement alignment to ensure your entire organization is on the same page is as important as deciding which tools to use.
The same starting line
There are different types of coaches and systems out there, each with different styles. You need a guide who understands and can work with where you are on your starting line.
If you have the right guide on your journey, he or she can reduce the amount of time you need to climb the mountain. An experienced guide -- who has climbed in the conditions you are facing -- has seen what can go wrong and will prepare you to keep striving forward. A good guide watches your progress and provides objective feedback, helping you to confront reality.
Remember, your guide is not going to do the work for you. You can’t outsource the thinking and dialogue necessary to make the tough decisions. The goal here is to find the coach who is going to successfully work his or her way out of a job.
Once you have gathered a few names from your trusted advisors like your CPA or peers (not just the last consultant you heard speak at an event), it’s time to evaluate the candidates.
To do so, check out their toolboxes, and take note of the questions they ask and how they answer your questions.
To get a sense of how much a coach relies on a set style or is open to the right tool for your specific needs, ask what tools and processes he or she uses and why. These questions provide insight into how the coach handles different issues. You want to get behind the coach’s presentation and see how the person thinks and how much he or she has absorbed through trial and error.
The other key thing when evaluating a coach is determining if he or she has dealt with the challenges you and your team are likely to face. Look for the right kind of experience by asking prospective coaches about their past challenging projects. Here are examples of questions to ask:
Can you give an example of team challenges you have helped other clients navigate?
How did they deal with challenges?
What did they learn?
How have they adapted their styles based on challenges and feedback?
How have they evolved their process over the years?
Be wary if your questions are answered only with how great their system is and how it can solve all your problems. If it starts to sound like the system is unsinkable, it reminds me of a quote from Capt. Edward Smith of the Titanic: “I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that.”
The right guide can make all the difference. Take the time to select the right one for you.
Once you have selected the best coach with the best tools, you are ready to set out on your journey to transform your company from the inside-out.
High school was not easy for me. I never cared for the teenage wasteland parties. An exciting Friday night in my little Wyoming town was going to the main drag and turning up the volume on our car radios. Girls got married and guys got drunk.
I wanted to be somewhere else. I wasn’t the only one. Most of us made the decision to leave sometime in middle school, years before the idea hit consciousness in our senior year. Those who didn’t leave also knew by middle school that they’d never make the one-way trip out of town.
An interesting pattern started to develop among my classmates. Those who had a low opinion of their own worth chose new friends that confirmed it. Maybe they didn’t believe they deserved any better. Perhaps they were too lazy to look for something better. Even worse, if they surrounded themselves with loser friends, they started to look like the winner of the bunch.
Not everyone who chooses to stay behind is a loser, so let’s define loser friends. They are people who:
Are not supportive of you.
Not there when you need them.
Tend to be negative about everything.
Agree with everything you say.
Only show up when they need you.
Have no desire to make their life better.
Expect you to drop everything when they have a crisis.
Tend to think everything that relates to them is a crisis.
Most of us have loser friends -- toxic people who disrupt our world as soon as they come onto the scene. Wimps are people who are too lazy and too timid to cut ties from loser friends and move on so they can improve their lives.
"You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with." -- Jim Rohn
We are influenced by the people with whom we spend the most time. They create the environment that influences the way we think, our self-esteem and our decisions. We will interact with many people over the course of our life, but the few who are closest to us have the greatest impact on our way of thinking and our decisions.
“People are like dirt. They can either nourish you and help you grow as a person or they can stunt your growth and make you wilt and die.” -- Plato
Pick the people you spend time with care -- they create the environment in which you will either thrive or wilt. While we need different types of personalities in our life to bring out the best in us, only share your dreams and goals with people who value them as much as you do.
Here are five reasons you need to dump your loser friends so you can:
1. Surround yourself with friends who will give you honest feedback
The Journal of Consumer Research recently published a study that summarizes the difference between amateurs and experts. Amateurs focus on positive feedback and want to hear what they’re doing right so they can continue on the same path.
Experts do not care about what they’ve done right. Instead, they’re more interested in how they can make progress. They don’t surround themselves with sycophants and other bootlickers who don’t have the backbone to be honest in their feedback.
As entrepreneurs and business owners, your focus shifts as you become more of an expert in your field. Your confidence is not affected by negative feedback, just as long as it’s constructive and honest.
How to make it work for you: It’s important to be surrounded by people who want the best for you and will be there when you need them. But, it’s also necessary to keep people around you who will provide you with constructive criticism and not just vacuous positivity.
The author of the study above believes the onus is on the person who provides the feedback. Often negative feedback is buried and not very specific. Encourage your circle of friends to be specific and straightforward with their critique.
2. Establish a benchmark for your inner circle
We all have different friends for different seasons in our life. It’s been said that the way we do anything is the way we do everything. So, be intentional about the people you select to be in your inner circle.
If you have a friend you wouldn’t recommend to a close family member, why do you spend time with them yourself? Remember, a wimp is someone who settles for loser friends because it’s the easiest path.
Choose friends who are dependable and honest. Select people you admire, show you love and respect, and reciprocate your kindness.
How to make it work for you: Ask yourself whether spending time with this person will lift you up or drag you down? If you spend time with this person, will they help you to become your best self? Will you be happier after spending time with them? Will they help you achieve your most important goals? If not, find friends who will.
3. Make room for a mentor or two
Loser friends are not known for or respected for their knowledge and skill sets. They do not champion your success, nor have they expressed a great deal of confidence in your abilities. Turn that upside down, and you have the perfect description of what you should look for in a mentor.
You deserve to surround yourself with people who believe in you and are willing to build a relationship with you. Above all, good mentors will always challenge you and encourage you to take risks.
One of the best moves you can make in life is to surround yourself with friends who see the potential in you, that you might not even see in yourself. These are the people who give you permission to follow your dreams.
Enthusiasm is contagious. The best mentors are enthusiastic about what they do and believe their work provides value and meaning. They want to share that excitement with you. Most of all, they encourage you to have the same goals.
How to make it work for you: In your career, you will meet people who are both younger and older. Don’t always assume a mentor should always be someone who is older. While older friends can be a beacon of wisdom, younger friends can keep you from getting too jaded in your work. It’s often refreshing to see the world through the eyes of those who are still anxious to learn rather than teach.
4. Recognize narcissists for what they are
Loser friends suck life out of your aspirations because they always shift attention and energy back to themselves. They may listen as you voice your concerns, but notice how they manage to inject their own situations into the conversation. Suddenly, it becomes about them and their life experiences.
Narcissists are loser friends who belittle your problems. They may offer some level of sympathy and understanding at first, but they’ll soon shift the conversation back to the scope of their problems and what great things they've done to solve them. On top of that, narcissists expect you to show appreciation for their assistance and presence in your life. All that’s important to them is what they want and what they need to do to get it.
How to make it work for you: Set boundaries. It’s difficult to reason or argue with a narcissist because they won’t listen or change. One of the easiest ways to get rid of loser friends is to limit meeting times. Limit contact with them. " Everyone pretty much knows that when someone complains about being 'too busy' to catch up, it is code for 'you’re off my A-list,'" as Suzanne Degges-White writes.
5. Walk away from weasels
Another type of loser friend is the weasel -- the one who is sneaky, conniving and always has a scheme. Weasels can adapt to almost any situation and manipulate it to suit their own needs. Not sure one of your loser friends is a weasel? Here are some characteristics.
Weasels can appear as harmless to your face, which is why you need to watch your back. They love to take credit even when it’s not warranted and do not like to collaborate with others. Weasels also tend to be guarded about their intentions and plans. They are not trustworthy and love to meddle in the business of others.
How to make it work for you: While narcissists are selfish; weasels are mean-spirited little people. Run away from them if possible. They cannot be redeemed as friends, so you waste your time if you plan to rehabilitate them. When you remove a weasel from your life, it’s not a sign of weakness or wimpiness; it takes mental toughness to kick these malignant people out of your life.
Some of the best leaders that I ever had were not my direct managers. One such individual was an executive vice president and chief legal counsel at the first company I worked for.
Because I was single at the time and didn’t really know anyone, I frequently stayed late in the evenings to catch up on my work. Noticing I was often there after hours, this executive would frequently visit my office, pull up a chair, ask me questions and offer advice for dealing with challenging situations. Late one evening before I left the company, he visited my office to wish me well and offer encouragement in my next assignment.
These types of individuals seem to take an interest in those around them. They have a knack for connecting with people no matter who they are. People end up gravitating to them and seek them out whenever they have concerns and challenges. They have the ability to make everyone feel important and valued. I have been lucky over the years to have known many of these types of individuals.
Here are 12 tips for supercharging your leadership and improving your relationships with your people.
1. Be a super human, not superhuman. Being kind, considerate, and polite to people will help build respect and improve your relationships. People who are cold, terse, sarcastic, cynical, aloof, and demeaning to others do not inspire engagement or trust in people. Likewise, always having the last word on every idea, solution, or plan does not inspire the participation of others. You may think you are too busy to notice other people, but being oblivious to others will undermine your credibility as a person and a leader.
2. Get to know people. I worked for a major aerospace company as a consultant for a number of years. I once had the opportunity to run into the CEO of the company. He introduced himself and asked who I was and what I did for the company. From then on, whenever he saw me he always called me by name and asked how I was doing.
Over time, I noticed he did this with everyone. He spoke to each individual by name and he always asked them how they were doing. Everyone felt that he had their best interest at heart.
3. Identify individuals’ strengths. Take the time to identify and recognize individuals’ strengths including those that may go beyond their job. Look for opportunities to help people use their strengths and talents in a way that brings out the best in them and their contributions. This will reduce turnover and create a sense of satisfaction in the work that people are doing.
4. Ask for and give feedback. People like to know how they are doing. Giving them feedback allows people to make immediate adjustments and meet your expectations. Asking for feedback from your people signals that you are serious about your leadership and making changes that will help you improve. This requires humility and a desire to learn from those you lead. This also allows you to give people more of what they want and eliminate any unwanted behaviors that may be affecting your effectiveness.
5. Ask people for their ideas. The CEO I mentioned earlier often asked, “What one thing have you learned about the company that you think I should know?”
If you ask a person for their ideas or if you ask them to help you solve a problem, you are sending the message that you value their ideas and experience, and you are also creating a learning opportunity to hear something you need to know.
6. Listen to what people say. If you ask questions, it’s important to truly listen to the responses or you will undermine your credibility as a leader. Ask questions that are deliberately framed to help you gain insight on a particular topic. Notice what people say in response, and equally as important, what they are not saying. After identifying what’s going unsaid, formulate and ask additional questions to help you understand what matters most to them.
For example, you might ask, “How respectful are people in our department?” Suppose the person says, “It could be better.” Notice that the person didn’t address what disrespectful behaviors were occurring. You might follow with the question, “How are people being disrespectful to one another?”
7. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Connections are established by communicating with people. Receiving and providing feedback, establishing expectations, celebrating successes, identifying concerns or fears, making process improvements and fostering a culture of candor and openness is all done through communication.
You can greatly enhance the engagement of your team by being thoughtful and deliberate in your messaging, rather than letting people try and figure it out on their own.
8. Recognize people for their accomplishments. This requires that you catch people doing the right things, otherwise you will have nothing to say. Observing others’ performance or behavior and then saying something about it will help people recognize that you are appreciative of their efforts while establishing the value you place on their contributions.
I once had an employee tell me that after working for a certain telecommunications company for 19 years, not once did anyone ever say, “Thank you.” Hopefully, this is not the norm at your company. Recognizing and acknowledging people’s contributions makes them feel valued and will motivate them to continue to provide their best efforts.
9. Speak victory into people. After providing constructive feedback, we sometimes forget to speak victory or to encourage others to continue in their efforts. Saying something like, “I know that you can do this. Don’t give up. Just keep trying and learning and making adjustments. You can achieve the results you want.”
Encouraging words from a leader when a person doubts themselves or their abilities will make a huge difference to people. Such encouragement gives them hope and confidence to continue along the course they have chosen.
10. Allow autonomy. Once you have given clear directions, allow people to do their work. If they can’t complete the task assigned in the required way, perhaps they need more training before they can measure up to the appropriate standards. Setting clear expectations and providing feedback will allow the person to learn and take responsibility for their results.
Micromanaging people sends the message that you don’t trust them and their abilities. After a while, people will get discouraged and give up. Give people what they need to be successful then let them do their job.
11. Be visible and available. Set appropriate times when people can ask for your assistance or instruction. Being an absentee leader may hinder your results if people cannot get the direction or information they need to proceed when challenges arise.
12. Be supportive. Frequently ask people what they need in order to complete their projects on time. Consider asking them about any additional resources, manpower, time, money, equipment, or training they may need. Check in with your people regularly and offer your support as you ask for regular updates about their progress.
On the occasions that things don’t turn out as planned, stand behind your people. One of the worst things you can do is to throw people under the bus to save your reputation. There is nothing that will erode trust and devalue your leadership faster.
Cultivating these essential leadership behaviors will not only improve your results, but connect you with your people and inspire them now and for the rest of their lives. They will remember you and what they were able to accomplish under your guidance. Don’t we all want that kind of legacy?
John R. Stoker is the author of “Overcoming Fake Talk” and the president of DialogueWORKS, Inc. His organization helps clients and their teams improve leadership engagement in order to achieve superior results. He is an expert in the fields of leadership, change, dialogue, critical thinking, conflict resolution, and emotional intelligence, and has worked and spoken to such companies as Cox Communications, Lockheed Martin, Honeywell and AbbVie. Connect with him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.
SmartPulse -- our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership -- tracks feedback from over 240,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.
How well does your organization anticipate and influence regulatory changes?
Very well. We see them coming and help shape them: 27.7%
Well. We see them but could do more to shape them: 37.1%
Not well. We’re sometimes surprised and don’t shape much:27.7%
Not at all. We’re always caught off guard: 7.5%
Staying ahead of the rules. All businesses are impacted by new laws, rules, and regulations. Ignore their development at your own risk. It can be a terrible outcome to be unaware of a rule change until it’s announced. Doing so can cause massive disruptions to your business and lead you to incur significant costs. On top of that, you’ll be at a competitive disadvantage if you’re remediating regulatory issues while your competitors are attacking you since they’ve already remediated their issues before the rule was finalized. Even better than staying apprised of pending regulations, see if you can influence their development. There are many opportunities to provide input into the regulatory process. Don’t miss the opportunity to shape the rules you’ll compete under in the future.
Effective communication is more a journey than a destination, said Gary Mills, cofounder and chief operations officer at Pinnacle Performance, a communications-skills training company in Chicago.
"Great speakers are made, not born," said Mills during a fast-moving 75-minute session at SHRM 2018. "We're all trying to get better."
And for good reason. Today's knowledge-based economy has created new demand for communication skills. Findings from a Pew Research study found an 83% increase, since 1980, in hiring for jobs that require strong social skills, including interpersonal and communication. Employers want people who can listen, convey information clearly, and engage with others in a way that fosters productivity and morale.
So how do we get there? Mills outlined a three-step method developed by him and his Pinnacle Performance cofounder and CEO David Lewis. Mills and Lewis are both professional actors who worked in television, film and theater prior to launching their company. Their approach, known as the Pinnacle Method, is based on skills they learned during their acting careers. The pair discuss the model in depth in their new book The Bullseye Principle, which launched in April. Mills outlined the approach during his presentation at SHRM.
There are three steps to influential communication, said Mills; they are:
analyze your audience
understand what action your message should compel
modify your delivery to drive the desired outcome
The model revolves around two components: intention and objective. Objective is what the speaker wants—the goal—and intention is how he or she is going to get it, explained Mills. The two concepts work together in something Mills and Lewis call the persuasion equation: "I want to [intention] my audience so that my audience will [objective]."
"These are the communicator's secret weapon," said Mills.
But what does this look like in practice? Mills and Lewis detail the full suite of tools in their book (and it's refreshingly uncomplicated) but here are a few practical takeaways from Mills' session.
Stand up straight. Remember when Mom said not to slouch? Turns out she was right. A tall, straight posture helps project confidence, said Mills. He calls this home base position. "From here I can do anything," Mills said. "[T]his body language is confident, open and relaxed. Anything I do as a communicator that deviates from a strong home base is going to change what you make of it."
Keep it short. Don't lose your message in a wordy delivery. The longer you go on, the more likely you are to bury your point, say the wrong thing, repeat yourself or bore your audience. How do you avoid this? "Stop talking," said Mills. "Keep it concise. Say less. Don't be afraid of silence."
Slow down. Do you get nervous speaking in meetings or presenting information? Slow down, said Mills. A deliberate pace, with intermittent pauses, helps demonstrate confidence and poise. "The faster you go, it just seems like you want to get it over with and get out of there," Mills explained. "So slow down."
Don't point. Gestures help you connect with your audience. When gesturing to a person, use an open hand, said Mills. "It's okay to point at things; it's not okay to point at people," he explained. Avoid gestures below the waist; they can make you appear weak or small. Above all, be natural. "As long as your gesture is supporting whatever it is you're saying, you should be in good shape," Mills said.
Ditch verbal viruses. Get rid of words like "ah" or "um" that sneak into your communication and clutter your message. These verbal viruses, as Mills called them, are distracting, annoying and damaging to a confident presence. The worst place to have a verbal virus? The beginning of an answer to a question. (Your client: "Can you fill this order in three weeks?" You: "Um, yes.") "You can't come across as credible if you have verbal viruses," Mills said.
Careful the sucker punch. Tough questions go with the territory in HR but the ones we're not expecting can land like a punch in the mouth. A connector statement can help you stay on your feet. These statements connect your answer to the person's question, explained Mills, giving the example of "Good question; let's discuss that." Connector statements buy you time so you can formulate your response. "[O]nce the words come out, you own them," said Mills. "You're going to be judged on that. Be careful what comes out."
Shift gears. You have about five minutes to capture people's attention before they get distracted and tune out, said Mills, citing a study by Lloyd's Bank of London. Combat distractibility with a pattern interrupt. "[A pattern interrupt] is anything you can do to shift gears and buy another five minutes," Mills explained, offering ideas such as changing speakers, showing a video or telling a story, among others.
These tools, and others found in the book, will help you make your message stick and keep listeners engaged, said Mills. And it is your job to make sure your audience is engaged, he emphasized.
"If your audience is bored during your presentation, who's to blame? The speaker. The burden of engagement, in what we call The Pinnacle Methodology, always lies with the speaker," said Mills.
Kanoe Namahoe is an editor with SmartBrief in Washington DC. She covers issues related to education technology and the workforce.
Many of us have had to battle the specter of arrogance at one time or another. No one is perfect, and the particularly intelligent must be especially careful about slipping into egotistical behavior.
If you worry about being perceived as arrogant at work, read on to check your tendencies and learn about the alternative habits you should be perfecting. Even the most humble have to be wary of any action that can seem arrogant -- it’s the wrong way to get noticed, especially when you’re working to climb the corporate ladder.
Arrogant habit: Acting entitled
Think about your everyday behavior and decide whether you would find it acceptable if it were coming from someone who worked for you, instead of someone at your level. Do you hog the conversation, interrupt people or expect the whole meeting to be rehashed for you because you arrived late? If you use your title as an excuse to demand others accommodate your habits and schedule, you could be driving people away with your sense of entitlement.
Instead: Be the team captain. Rather than use your title to lord over others and demand special treatment, use your role to guide the group to be better, do more and achieve superior results as a team. Genuinely engage in communication with the group and listen to their thoughts. Team captains aren’t always the best players -- they’re the players who are best at motivating everyone to work together. Use your role to empower and unite.
Arrogant habit: Belittling others
Dressing down someone in an open forum not only embarrasses and demotivates the person in questions, it makes others fear displeasing you. Since all humans eventually make mistakes, people will find opportunities elsewhere rather than stick around and risk being the next person you humiliate in public. Managers should also be careful when engaging in teasing or ribbing -- what’s acceptable between co-workers may seem hurtful from a superior.
The higher you rise in your organization, the more lightly you must tread with humor that might seem to be at someone’s expense.
Instead: Build up, don't tear down. The adage "praise in public, correct in private" should always hold true. Even when you have critical feedback to deliver, be sure to do it constructively, respectfully and away from other ears. Don’t hesitate to inject some humor into day-to-day life -- just be sure it’s light-hearted and positive instead of cutting. If you must poke fun at someone, poke fun at yourself, but keep self-deprecation to a minimum so people don’t feel uncomfortable or obligated to come to your defense.
Arrogant habit: Being hierarchical
Be wary of appearing to value only the work and the opinions of those higher up. If you seek advice strictly from colleagues and superiors, you risk not only missing out on a great idea but also alienating those who work below you. If you regularly pull rank and demonstrate that you think title matters more than good input, the team will see no point in going the extra mile to bring you exceptional work.
Everyone wants to feel their work has value and meaning; if you only recognize those around and above you, the team will feel unappreciated and move on to better pastures.
Instead: Be inclusive. Forget titles and rank, and concentrate on cultivating good ideas and great work. Make meetings more like a roundtable workshop, and less like a one-way information briefing. Instead of telling the team how things are going to be, make an effort to create a level playing field. Take the time to explain company vision, philosophy and direction, but make more room for different ways of getting there and be prepared to compromise. You’ll be rewarded with a loyal group eager to bring you great ideas and work hard to execute them.
Arrogant habit: Being inconsiderate
Do you pay attention when someone is talking at work, no matter the subject or the speaker? Do you arrive on time to meetings? Do you fully engage in the conversation? Do you meet commitments you made to your team?
Being inconsiderate is more about demonstrating, rather than verbalizing, that you think you are better or more important than others. Reading your phone during a presentation, interjecting when someone is talking, blowing off meetings without notice: These all say, “I think my time and opinions are more valuable than yours.”
Instead: Be gracious. Focus on the task or the conversation at hand, no matter what the topic. Give your full attention to each person and their presentation. Treat them with equal respect and consideration for their time and input. Be someone who notices and praises the efforts of others, no matter their level. Not only will you learn more and improve your own understanding of the organization’s strengths and challenges, you’ll draw the best talent to you with the best ideas because they know you’re listening and appreciative.
Arrogant habit: Being condescending
The very smart have to be especially careful of becoming someone who talks down to others. This could be glossing over the details instead of taking the effort to explain properly, or describing things in overly simplistic terms for an audience. Even when you’re the most brilliant person in the room, being patronizing is an ugly habit; not only will you alienate the person you’ve talked down to, but you'll also put a bad taste in the mouths of anyone who witness it.
Instead: Be patient. Remember that often, people are perfectly capable of grasping an idea or a situation, but they haven’t been immersed in the issue like you have been. They lack the background or context, or are processing in their own way. Give space for people to think and evaluate what you are saying and use your communication skills to fully and properly explain. Your patience and good humor in properly conveying information will be noted and remembered by those around you.
Even the most genial people have to guard against appearing arrogant. Work these alternate habits into your daily life and it will become easier and easier to ensure you are presenting an open, inclusive and respectful persona. Note the times you slip into arrogant behavior, such as times of extreme busyness or stress, and be especially mindful when those conditions occur. People will be drawn to your egalitarian ways and help you get ahead.
Joel Garfinkle is an executive coach and recognized as one of the top 50 coaches in the U.S., having worked with many of the world’s leading companies, including Oracle, Google, Amazon, Deloitte, The Ritz-Carlton, Gap and Starbucks. Recently, he worked with an executive who had received a lot of feedback about being arrogant. Garfinkle designed this checklist to help the executive turn his habits around and become a more inclusive leader. Garfinkle has written seven books, including "Executive Presence" and "Getting Ahead." More than 10,000 people receive his Fulfillment@Work newsletter. When you subscribe, you’ll receive his e-book “41 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted No.”.
Executives are hired to make decisions. As such, it’s a topic worthy of study.
Evaluate your assumptions. Before you can move ahead, you need to know where you stand. What is prompting you to make a decision? What is the basis for your thinking?
Consider the alternatives. Knowing your assumptions, what choices do you have? Why would you pursue those choices? Sometimes there are not good alternatives. For example, shutting down a plant or laying off people. Neither is good, but one solution might be better for the health of the organization.
Game-plan the possibilities. When time permits, you can narrow your options to one, two or three choices. Consider what happens in each instance. It’s a bit like stacking dominoes.
Make a decision. Leaders are judged by their decisiveness. When an executive wavers over a major decision, the organization remains in stasis. Nothing happens. Therefore, a leader must choose what do it and why to do it. Next, the leader must communicate that decision widely so everyone knows what happens next.
Only the future will determine if a decision made today was the best choice, but when a leader makes time to think, that is all you can ask.
John Baldoni: Decision Making 101 - YouTube
John Baldoni is an internationally recognized leadership educator and executive coach. In 2018, Trust Across America honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in Trust. Also in 2018, Inc.com named Baldoni a Top 100 Leadership Speaker. Global Gurus ranked him No. 22 on its list of top 30 global experts, a list he has been on since 2007. In 2014, Inc.com named Baldoni to its list of top 50 leadership experts. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including his newest, “MOXIE: The Secret to Bold and Gutsy Leadership.”
Virtual teams -- once a novelty -- have now become the norm. Last year, 43% of American employees reported working at least some time remotely.
Remote work makes good business sense. Removing geographical constraints allows businesses to source the best available talent. That talent is frequently more focused, engaged and productive than their co-located colleagues. And, given the volume of knowledge work to be done, a distributed workforce is often the most agile and cost-effective model available.
Yet, despite the ubiquitous nature of virtual teams, many organizations and leaders continue to struggle with the fundamentals of how to manage this permutation of a workgroup. Too frequently, they focus their efforts exclusively on the technology that enables connectivity and fail to address what’s actually most important to attaining the desired results: the human connection.
Anyone who’s led or been part of one of these teams knows that the virtual setting changes the human dynamics. Distance can breed ambivalence, assumptions, and misunderstandings that can be addressed more naturally and quickly by people who share a workspace day-in and day-out. And not working together in the same space can easily compromise the sense of cohesion, identity and community that flows naturally when a team is co-located.
Virtual leaders who have cracked the code and brought their distributed workers together into high-functioning teams know that connection in this environment doesn’t happen by chance. It’s incumbent upon leaders to intentionally nurture relationships, weave connections and transform mere groups into collective communities. Here are five key priorities for making this happen.
Turn up the trust
Trust -- a cornerstone of positive relationships -- is built over time and based upon the experiences that people have with one another. Unfortunately, there are fewer opportunities for this to happen in a virtual setting.
For a team to operate optimally, members must trust each other’s motives as well as their fundamental competency. Leaders can help make this happen by finding ways for each person to shine and making strategic assignments to ensure that trust builds through the shared experience of work and accomplishment.
Cultivate effective communication practices
With so many available communication channels, it’s important for leaders and members alike to be thoughtful and intentional in the selection of the best method for the message. And, in a virtual setting, everyone must compensate for the loss of cues that are picked up naturally by those who are co-located. In general, effective virtual leaders tend to overcommunicate and overdocument to keep people on the same page. But this must be balanced with not overwhelming people and further contributing to information overload and communication fatigue. And, of course, the importance of active listening cannot be overstated.
Invest in shared vision
Communities and teams are formed as people rally around common interests. A clear, compelling and engaging vision reminds everyone about what they’re working toward. A shared vision and values contribute to trust, leaving members feeling like "these people are my tribe." However, developing that vision is not enough. Leaders can’t cross that off the list and hide it away; they must refer to it frequently and treat it as a living document, updating as necessary.
Nurture norms and agreements
Shared agreements for how people will work together is important for any team. But, it becomes even more important when teams aren’t co-located. When everyone understands the "terms of engagement" or "rules of the road," they can go about their work confident in the behaviors and performance they can expect from others. Allowing teams to play a role in creating norms and agreements goes a long way toward creating trust. As with shared vision, these can’t be tucked away, either. They must find their way into meetings, conversations and interactions with others to build a culture and connection.
Mine (and mind) your meetings
Meetings are a primary vehicle for bringing virtual teams together and facilitating connections among members. While important in any setting, meetings take on greater significance for virtual teams. Regularly scheduled meetings create a cadence and predictable opportunities for people to connect. And impromptu meetings address evolving business needs and approximate the more casual way people might come together in co-located settings. Whatever the form, good physical meeting practices must be elevated to the next level when operating virtually -- with a clear purpose, outcomes, agenda and roles, as well as exemplary facilitation skills.
Effective virtual leaders focus less on the technology and details of connectivity and more on helping their teams create genuine, authentic connections. And when they do, they can bridge time, space and cultures to unleash unbeatable results.
The rise in retail technology has transformed the global exchange of goods and services. With unprecedented access to new markets, retailers of all sizes can reach customers no matter where they are in the world. The growth of emerging markets, coupled with advancements in mobile, logistics, retail technology and data intelligence have opened the door to cross-border commerce, but as competition increases retailers are pressured to implement a global framework as soon as possible to ensure success.
The cross-border challenge
So what can retailers do to successfully go global and make their way to the top of the international retail rankings? The recently released Retail Internationalization Index report, an analysis of global retail strategies compiled by Planet Retail RNG, Retail Week and Loqate, a leader in location intelligence, leveraged international retail data to determine the most successful retailers in terms of global presence and customer-centricity.
Retailers looking to go international face a host of challenges from rapidly evolving technology, volatile economies and competition from big industry marketplaces like Amazon and Alibaba. Loqate’s report identified the top 30 global retailers based on more than 70 attributes and strategies ranging from digital capabilities and global partnerships to raw numbers like non-domestic sales, international locations and projected global growth. According to the report, some of the most successful retailers struggle to deliver the same seamless journey in international territories as they do domestically. To remedy this, retailers can offer think-global-act-local solutions like flexible payment and foreign currency options that support a positive global purchasing journey. Other globally driven features include foreign language translation, locally responsive web experiences and verification technology to ensure goods and services reach customers everywhere.
While innovations in shipping and logistics have played pivotal roles in global e-commerce, deliverability still remains a major risk when entering new markets. The issue affects about 4.7% of US deliveries, 5.6% of UK deliveries and 4.6% of German deliveries, according to Loqate’s recent Fixing Failed Deliveries report. The consequences of delayed and lost packages not only result in financial burden, but also affect brand loyalty, reputation and customer experience. One of the most frequent causes of delivery failure involves poorly collected location data. Data collected at online checkouts and in-store POS systems is not always reliable – and that’s where tools like address verification come in. By leveraging global location data, retailers can improve operational efficiencies, package deliverability and ultimately customer experience.
At the end of the day, the Internationalization Retail Index found that by combining the right tools and a great customer experience, retailers can tackle these challenges head-on – and succeed.
From challenges to opportunities
Retailers looking to succeed in today’s digital world should strive to establish unified e-commerce strategies that provide customers with a frictionless shopping experience regardless of which channel they use to shop.
Mobile is especially important in regions where smartphone adoption leapfrogged traditional methods of accessing the internet. Regardless of where they are in the world, shoppers want to locate, purchase and return products using the device of their choice. Mobile technology transcends physical and digital shopping environments by enabling customers to make purchases from their devices, locate items using visual search, compare prices from multiple retailers or support in-store shopping with location-based technology, push notifications and barcode scanners. The Internationalization Retail Index found that in order to be successful, mobile apps need to generate additional value for the customer. This comes in the form of loyalty rewards, location-based shopping suggestions, store locators, digital account management and digitized receipts.
While many retailers looking to offer a seamless mobile experience still struggle with security, payment processing and localized internet issues, optimizing websites for mobile devices in lieu of a native app, in addition to leveraging mobile security tools, can help offset risks while engaging mobile shoppers in new markets.
Tapping into scalable technology is important – it can help retailers cut costs and avoid regulatory issues that come with expanding physical store counts, franchising, acquisitions and other traditional methods of international expansion.
Gaining a deeper understanding of global customer locations is a vital part of successful internationalization. By collecting accurate location data during checkout and onboarding, retailers can leverage the data to power personalized shopping experiences and localized services.
Adding to logistics networks by establishing distribution centers in foreign markets can also put retailers ahead of the competition. International distribution not only expands their reach for online deliveries, but can also increase retailers’ abilities to offer premium delivery services including click-and-collect or free returns. German retailer Zalando has invested in a strategy that pairs large automated facilities in its domestic market with smaller distribution centers throughout the rest of Europe in a bid to offer same-day delivery to as many locations as possible.
“The lesson here is that focusing on international distribution and creating a strong global presence pays off,” according to the report. “However, retailers must carefully select the expansion method most appropriate for their business to achieve strong results.”
To learn more about the strategies featured in Loqate’s Internationalization Retail Index report, don’t miss the International Retail Index webinar on July 18 featuring a panel of retail experts including Ian McGariggle, chairman of World Retail Congress and co-founder of Retail Week; Robert Gregory, global research director at PlanetRetail RNG; and David Green, managing director of location intelligence at Loqate, a GBG solution.
In an earlier post, I shared some reasons that so many leaders do not delegate more often and presented arguments why they should. I also spelled out seven steps to more effective delegation. In this article, I will delve into who to consider when seeking to delegate tasks and projects.
“The way you delegate is that first you have to hire people that you really have confidence in. You won't truly let those people feel a sense of autonomy if you don't have confidence in them," Robert Pozen said.
Though the term delegation may be defined consistently as the shifting of responsibility for a task or project from one person (usually a leader or manager) to another, the situations in which it is applied can vary greatly. And in many cases, the leader is doing something very different than delegating.
Here are two factors that can greatly impact the nature of what is being delegated.
Experience and expertise: What degrees of experience and expertise do the subordinate bring to the project?
Environment: How stable is the environment in which this task is occurring?
Let’s take a closer look at each.
The term “Situational Leadership” was coined by leadership experts Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey to describe how different situations demand different types of engagement between leaders and their people. In essence, they offer four scenarios along a continuum of employee experience and expertise.
Directing. This approach is for subordinates who are least experienced in completing the desired task and may suffer from low self-confidence. Leaders in these situations need to do a lot of directing to ensure that the team member is clear on what needs to happen and in what way. The leader must also help the subordinate work through any deficits in self-confidence or other barriers to success.
Coaching. Coaching is appropriate for subordinates that are a bit more advanced but still need a lot of direction. Through coaching, a leader can bring him/her more into the conversation about how to do things and helps push things along when the subordinate’s initial enthusiasm for the project invariably starts to wane. At this stage, the leader still decides.
Supporting. Over time, the subordinate becomes more comfortable and takes on added responsibility and leadership. The leader’s role is to continue to support the subordinate through conversation but allows the subordinate increased decision-making authority.
Delegating. In this final stage, the subordinate “owns” the project and is largely left alone to achieve the necessary outcome.
Notice that in this model, delegating only occurs after the subordinate has been directed and/or supported, often deeply, for a period of time.
(Note: The Situational Leadership Model does not require the process detailed above be repeated in the exact same way when new, similar projects are introduced. As subordinates build capacity and efficacy, they can be delegated to more directly earlier on.)
Environment also plays a critical role in determining whether one should direct, collaborate with or delegate to a subordinate. Let’s analyze these along the continuum of crisis to stable environments.
Crisis. Leaders who are dealing with crises have neither the time not the bandwidth to work with subordinates through the process detailed above. In most cases, the leader will need to assume an authoritarian or directive role in mobilizing others toward desired outcomes. When dealing with very experienced, expert subordinates, a more participative approach is recommended.
Changing/High-growth. In fluid environments that are active but not crisis-ridden, leaders should seek to use a more collaborative approach so long as the subordinate possesses at least moderate levels of capacity and know-how.
Stable. This is the kind of environment in which the Situational Leadership model is most effective.
As I noted in my earlier post, there are many strong reasons to delegate, and it’s important to not be short-sighted in this area. Leaders who understand what delegation is, what it isn’t and which approaches to use in each situation will be better served to advance projects, build capacity and dramatically increase productivity and workplace engagement.