Friday, 28 November 2014

Do you fear the "Big C"

Many years ago my boss, a SVP, asked me to have lunch to discuss my annual performance review.  He also suggested that I bring along a self evaluation for comparative purposes.  When we sat down he asked for my paper and after a short read he declared '...ya', I guess that about covers it...what do you want to eat...'

In a later role, on my first day on the job, my VP called me to his office and after closing the door he peered out his window and pointed at one of my new associates.  "He's no good" my boss declared.  "You must fire him"

Still later I inherited a group that was highly dysfunctional.  One employee with over 25 years service did not seem to do much and when I asked, no one really knew what he did.  Upon further investigation, I determined that no one really knew what he had done for some time.  But no one questioned his role in the company because of his seniority.  Hell, after that long with the company, surely he must be irreplaceable. 

I suspect that you have similar stories as well.  All are great examples of 'leaders' who are afraid of the BIG C...confrontation.  The situation is one that requires the leader to make a personal investment that makes them uncomfortable and so they simply ignore it and hope that it goes away.


Why is it that otherwise competent individuals so often shirk this important responsibility?  And what are the consequences to their actions? I can think of several responses to both questions.

As to why these people fail to act, I submit the following:
  1. They are hiding personal shortcomings that they don't want to have exposed and so failing to address a difficult decision allows them to subconsciously keep their own issue from coming to light.
  2. They have never been trained on how to professionally confront another person in the workplace.
  3. They fail to recognize the impact of their lack of action.
And as to the consequences, consider:
  1. Allowing a substandard performance to continue essentially means that you have lowered the level of acceptable performance for everyone.  You cannot hold others accountable to a higher level of expectation until you yourself have done so.
  2. You deny the individual in question the opportunity - and the need - to improve.  In many instances, the potential exists to deliver more but it has not been drawn out because of the ineffectiveness of the leader.  So by making that commitment to address an issue the leader positively impacts the individual, the company and themselves...a 3:1 return.
  3. The lower level of expectation can be communicated outside the company to both suppliers and to clients.  This often gives them pause to consider the value of the relationship, particularly when their companies are high performance workplaces.  Consider it guilt by association.  Most enterprises want to be gauged by the company that they keep and they willingly allow those firms with obvious shortcomings to become someone else`s problem.
(Send along your thoughts as well.)

If you self identify with some of these examples, stop looking at the issue as one of  `C`for confrontation.  Rather, change the meaning `C` for constructive criticism.  See the situation for what it is, an opportunity for improvement and not as an obstacle to be avoided. 

Everyone - not the least, yourself -  benefits from your willingness to see the difference!


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Maximize ≠ Maximum

In my last blog I stated that the best effort that you can expect from any employee is 100% and that any comment suggesting that there is more to give is a sign that the leader is failing to properly inspire that person to achieve their best.

I want to clarify though that there is a real and tangible difference between maximizing potential and the maximum potential.

Maximum will always be 100%.  But to expect that you can achieve this level on a consistent basis is foolhardy and potentially dangerous. 

Foolhardy, because to base expectations on achieving maximum potential every day in every circumstance will only lead to disappointment and frustration.

Dangerous, because failure to achieve unrealistic expectations is demoralizing and creates a toxic environment.  A downward spiral is more difficult to correct that it is to maintain an upward move.

As the leader, your role is to maximize potential for each person, every day.  Sometimes that potential will only be 75% - or even less - of maximum.  But if you are able to maximize that potential, you and your employee have done their jobs.

So many factors impact potential.  They range from systems breakdowns to equipment failures to a lack of information needed to perform a function.  Perhaps it is the absence of a co-worker or a personal illness or family issue.  There is a myriad of legitimate factors which individually or collectively mitigate against one's maximum efforts.  A leader who is properly engaged and committed to the employee's welfare will recognize these factors and adjust expectations accordingly. 

No amount of leadership 'inspiration' is going to change these realities. As you mature in your role you will gain the wisdom necessary to quickly evaluate the situation each day and respond accordingly.  What inspires one day will be different from the next.

When you understand that inspiring others to maximize their potential requires that YOU ADAPT , you will have reached a significant milestone in your development and that will be played out by improved performances from your team.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

What's in a number?

How often have you heard someone say that they will '...give it 110%...'?  On the surface this sounds like the speaker is really determined to succeed.  And if 110%, why not 150%...200% or more.

From my perspective, these words are code for '...I have not really been trying; you have not had my best...'  or in some instances it might imply '...I think that I am capable of more but I don't know how to reach my potential...'

Either way, a warning flag has been raised that demands your full attention.

Regardless of which implication is true, the simple fact remains that as a leader you have not been doing your job.  If the first response is accurate then you have not connected with this individual on the level necessary to inspire them to be as productive as possible.  It may also be that you have not shown sufficient oversight to recognize the latent potential that exists.

If the latter is true, have you done all those things that are expected from the leader?  Have you properly trained and equipped the person?  Have you provided sufficient guidance?  Have you properly monitored their progress by showing interest and recognizing their contributions?

Your role as leader is to ensure that every member of your team has the same opportunity as everyone else to work at 100% of their abilities.  I recognize that this often means different levels of results as no two people are gifted equally. 

But when you hear that 110% refrain, hit the brakes and look into the mirror.  Something is amiss...100% of the time!