“Good managers have a bias for action.”
No one ever said it was easy being the boss. In addition to being the point person you are also the fall guy (or gal). People expect a lot from you and whether you are dealing with employees, clients or higher-ups’ they all tend to come from a place of take-take-take. Overall it can be an exhausting position to handle…but are certain factors wearing you out more than others?
While you may be a manager, you need to keep in mind that you are human too. Even if you are not consciously aware of them, hidden biases can affect your decision-making and leadership ability. This is why it is important to be aware of situations where your personal (sometimes even hidden) biases try to take over. Read on to learn how to discover your professional biases and more important, how to overcome them.
Lay Your Biases On The Table
Chances are you hired people onto you team because they shared similar ideals and fostered an attitude that matched your work place. This is common, people tend to gravitate toward people they can relate to; the tendency to act this way actually reinforces your natural biases. The same thing might happen when dealing with clients or higher-ups’, you want those people to get along with you and might not even realize that your compliance is causing you to adopt their own preferences.
The first step in uncovering your biases is to discover the emotion(s) behind them. Say for example, that you hate pitching new clients; your bias requires you to avoid the pitch process at all costs. Now, try to think back to when that “hate” first started. Perhaps in the past you were publicly embarrassed and ridiculed by a client who did not like your pitch.
If you can come to terms with those emotions (embarrassment, shame) that are connected to your prejudice, then you have a better chance of overcoming it. Just because you had a bad pitch experience in the past, does not mean that history is going to repeat itself. Strive to actively work on the professional biases that are holding you and business back.
Refresh Your Leadership Perspective
While you may be able to pinpoint how your biases are holding you back, it may be a little bit more difficult to see how they are holding your team members back too. Say for example, your distaste for gossip causes you to glaze over the office chatterbox. Just because you do not like the talkative attribute, does not mean that that employee does not have great qualities to offer. For example, your office’s social butterfly could be the perfect person to head up your social media accounts.
Flip the example; say as a talkative person, you never really connected with the shy person on your team. Without really noticing, you might pass pet projects onto people you know better because your shy co-worker never seems to come to mind. You can see here how personal biases can make you a bad boss. Just because you don’t like a quality about someone or you don’t necessarily connect to it, does not mean you should pass those people the short end of the stick.
Ask yourself, what are my natural leadership tendencies? What motivations drive those tendencies? What emotions are attached to them? With some introspective thought and exploration, your biases can come to light, and from there you can work on changing them.
It’s only natural to foster some personal biases, however you have the power to eliminate them for the better. Throughout this process, don’t undervalue the power of your team. Because of the distance, they might be able to spot those tendencies with greater ease than you can.
Share with your team that you’re trying to freshen up your leadership style. Ask them if they would be willing to share their thoughts on policies and procedures they think would benefit from being changed.
Understand that not everyone will be comfortable critiquing their boss so do your best to provide anonymity with blind feedback. By asking them what things they might like to see a change in, you could open yourself up to other biases and new opportunities for fair improvement.
Talkback: What career and leadership biases have you uncovered? Share your ideas below.
Image courtesy of cartoon11 / Fotolia.com
“Why do I need succession planning? I’m very alert. I’m very vibrant. I have no intention to retire.”
~ Sheldon Adelson ~
Marshall, the CEO of a large IT firm, will turn 65 this year. Lately he’s been hearing some rather pointed comments from several of his C-level managers about “succession planning.” He’s beginning to feel rather sensitive and more than a little defensive about his age. Until one day his HR director, Maria, gives him a wake-up call that shifts his thinking.
“Look, Marshall,” Maria says. “This is not about you. It’s about the company and giving some thought to our future. There’s a book title I love—Hope Is Not a Strategy. The smart farmer hopes for sunshine but he plans for rain. That’s what we need to do—not just for your position but for all of us that our stockholders count on to keep the business running.”
After sleeping on it, Marshall gives Maria the go-ahead to come up with some tools they can use to put a succession plan in place for the company’s top-level executive and management positions. After a few weeks, she reports back to the executive committee with recommendations for a three-step process that could be implemented by almost any company.
• Evaluate your situation
• Create a talent pool
• Asses and train
1. Evaluate your situation. First, of course, the company needs to consider the key positions in its current structure. Ask yourself, “If Joe got struck by a meteor tomorrow, what would we do?” But it doesn’t stop there. You also need to look into the future and brainstorm about new challenges and opportunities that will demand new leadership.
2. Create a talent pool. Once you’ve isolated key present and future positions, see who’s there now and where holes or vacancies may exist. For each of these functions or roles, identify the core competencies, knowledge and skills they require. Then look throughout the company for potential superstars. Look for high performing and high potential employees, people who have the skills you need, or who may be overlooked or underutilized in their present positions.
3. Assess and train. Start by having two-part conversations with your high potentials and high performers. The first conversation should focus on comprehensive self-development. Find out what kinds of training they might need to prepare them for moving up. This could be anything from working with an executive coach to enrolling in an MBA program. Begin a mentoring program designed to expose high potential employees to the positions they might hold in the future.
The second conversation is designed to determine what will motivate employees to stay with you. Find out about their long-range career plans. Get their perspective on the company as it is. Find out where they think it’s headed and if they want to go along for the ride. Make sure they see the big company picture and have a clear vision of their place in it.
It took several months, but Marshall and Maria, along with the company’s other C-level managers, used these tools to develop a workable plan that they could implement in the event of both planned and unplanned vacancies in key positions.
“I think the company is on a much more solid footing now,” Marshall told Maria. “I may live to be a hundred, but just in case I don’t, I’m confident that our future is in good hands.”
If your company needs to create or update its succession plan, email Joel to find out exactly what steps you should take.
Talkback: Do you have some succession planning strategies that have worked for you? We’d love to hear your ideas, so share your story here.
Image courtesy of James Thew / Fotolia.com
“The ladder of success is best climbed by stepping on the rungs of opportunity.”
~ Ayn Rand ~
Client Trisha Asks: “Attrition is costing my company a fortune. We seem to have a particular problem keeping our new hires from jumping ship. Turnover in the first 90 days is the main area of concern. As the HR manager, it’s my responsibility to solve this problem before any more damage is done. Any suggestions?”
Coach Joel Answers: You’re absolutely right about the high cost of turnover. The Saratoga Institute says that losing a single employee can cost you 50% of his or her annual compensation. The numbers are even higher when you get into the executive ranks. So let’s talk about three steps you can start taking right away to turn your situation around.
• Plan for success
• Get on board
• Follow through
1. Plan for success. Your employee retention efforts need to start long before the first resumé hits your inbox. There are a number of reasons for the early turnover syndrome. By setting up a structure to avoid these stumbling blocks, you are creating an environment for success.
Employees most often leave because of a flaw in the recruiting and orientation process. On your end of things, you need to make sure the position and the company’s expectations are thoroughly explained during the hiring process. You need to screen and test carefully to be sure that both the employee’s skills and personality are right for the job. For example, if the employee is an introvert, you should not hire him for a front desk or customer service position, no matter how well he sells himself during the interview. Intensive background checks with former employers and other references may uncover poor work history or truth-stretching on the resumé.
2. Get on board. The first few days and weeks are critical to cement the relationship. Keep the schedule full with not much downtime, but it doesn’t need to be all work. Plan to take your new employee to lunch. Let her get acquainted with her co-workers and start to feel comfortable. Stay close and be available, but don’t smother. The first month or so should be fairly structured. You want to do a lot of training, but you also want to get her started working on projects. She’s probably on an emotional high about her new position, so take advantage of all that enthusiasm and let her show what she can do. Set up training and project goals for the first 90 days.
Don’t waste a lot of time getting bogged down in logistics during the first week or so. Take care of details in advance—have business cards already printed, the computer set up, phone working, ID badge ready. Make sure existing staff members know she’s arriving and are ready to make her feel at home.
3. Follow through. As the HR manager, you should have a clear structure, in writing, set up with the new employee’s manager for how to handle communication during the critical 90-day onboarding process. Start by debriefing the new employee at the end of the first day. How did things go? Any questions? What’s missing?
At the end of the first week, spend an hour or so with the whole team or department. Make it casual and semi-social with drinks, pizza, cake or whatever fits your company protocol. Let everyone have a chance to ask questions and encourage the new employee to talk about what went well and what could be changed or improved.
At 15 and 30 days, schedule a one-on-one with the new employee. Review goals that were set in the first week, chart progress, and make any mid-course corrections that are needed. Continue this process at 45, 60 and 90 days. Although formal appointments are on the calendar, make sure the employee understands that any job-critical questions or issues need to be raised immediately and that you’re always available for that purpose. Be sure you have a mentorship program set up to support the employee through the onboarding process.
Good employee retention doesn’t just happen. It takes planning and plenty of personal attention. But it’s worth it, because you’ll see your investment drop straight to the bottom line.
Are you experiencing a turnover problem? Joel has some ideas that can help you resolve this issue. Email him today.
Talkback: Do you have a recruiting or retention idea that’s working for you? Share your experience here.
Image courtesy of Doc Rabe Media / Fotolia.com
“The biggest tragedy in America is not the waste of natural resources, though this is tragic. The biggest tragedy is the waste of human resources.”
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes ~
Patrick is facing a major challenge. As the HR director of a mid-sized manufacturing company, the recession has hit him hard. Attrition is high and hard to rein in. Management is pressuring him to make some major policy changes in the way the company manages and retains talent. But he doesn’t even know where to start.
According to estimates, the service sector is witnessing an attrition rate of 40 per cent, pharmaceuticals about 30-35 per cent and manufacturing more than 20 per cent.
Do you identify with Patrick’s dilemma? How is your company dealing with the recession? Are you compromising on talent? Do you have enough leaders to fuel future growth?
After some research into best practices being implemented by other companies, Patrick developed a three-point strategy to discuss with his CEO:
• Generate recruiting excitement
• Emphasize accountability and rewards
• Create a supportive workplace
1. Generate recruiting excitement. Attracting and retaining key talent takes creativity. In an economic downturn, too many companies are focused on putting out fires and struggling to stay afloat. Instead of buying into the struggle, Patrick focused his energy on rebranding the company’s image by revamping its attitude. He instituted company-wide “conversations” with both internal managers and outside advisors and coaches. He asked his C-level managers to commit to a policy of transparency, sharing openly about where the company stood and where it was headed. Soon people were talking about the company’s possibilities rather than its problems. They were telling their friends that the company was a great place to work.
2. Emphasize accountability and rewards. People need a reasonable level of autonomy and responsibility in order to feel challenged. And with autonomy comes accountability, which leads to rewards. Patrick knew that monetary rewards would be slim in the still-recovering economy so he asked a team of employees to come up with a list of non-monetary rewards. Their recommendations included more public recognition for ideas and accomplishments, as well as small incentives such as extra vacation days and gift certificates to local restaurants.
3. Create a supportive workplace. Patrick recommended that the company focus intensely on creating a work-life balance culture. After agreeing on core working hours, employees were encouraged to set their own schedules. He set aside space in the building for quiet rooms where employees could read, meditate, or even nap during breaks. He set up a cafeteria-style training and development program where employees could choose from a variety of online courses, off-site seminars, and in-house trainings. He set up a quarterly all-hands meeting that featured motivational speakers on a variety of topics.
A study published in CMA Management indicates a strong correlation between the valuing of human capital and creating shareholder value, both short and long term. Over a five-year period, the study showed total return to shareholders was nearly twice as much for high-valuing companies (103%) as for low-valuing companies (53%). What’s it worth to you? Lower turnover, higher productivity and results that show on the bottom line.
If you would like to discuss possibilities for valuing human capital in your company, email Joel today for some suggestions.
Talkback: Have you tried shifting your company’s internal culture in a way that worked? Share your experiences here.
Image courtesy of Rudie / Fotolia.com
“You don’t lead by pointing a finger and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case.”
~ Ken Kesey ~
Sometimes you feel like your mid- and upper- level management are not on board with your views of the company. They lack the “buy in” you expect. Perhaps they aren’t accountable with their time or they spend company money not in keeping with company goals.
Here are three steps to coach your business leaders so they understand and commit to the company in ways that builds success.
1. Vent your frustrations. Not at the management, but on paper or with someone else in the company whose opinion you value. As you consider the weak points, create a policy that will bring the management more in line with your vision.
For example: You are not happy that vice president went on vacation for three weeks and turned off his blackberry. You think a person in that position needs to be accessible—at least on a limited bases—wherever they are. So you develop the principle you want your management to understand and live by. Perhaps you say: management needs to be available for critical contact by phone or email no matter where they are.
Recognize that your management doesn’t get it because they aren’t wired to think this way. They don’t own it. It’s not their money; it’s not their dollar. There’s a disconnect and it’s your responsibility to help them see your vision.
2. Insure your management understands and buys into the principles. Good business leadership coaching does not thrust principles on management and expect eager compliance. You want them to understand and opt in, if possible.
Sometimes it starts with asking your key people questions such as: Where have we failed you in not having you understand the importance of accountability, ownership, and urgency? What can we do now to help you be held accountable for these three things?
Call a seminar or half day event to have your management brainstorm what they can do to build more urgency, ownership and responsibility into their thoughts and actions.
Discuss what those words mean. Ideally, you want your people to drive the meeting and come up with ideas similar to those you created. You may have to correct issues and pull out the points vital to you. But the more they can come up with on their own, the more they own the principles. Your goal is to take these intangibles and quantify or systematize them.
First help them understand the concept. Ask: What does urgency mean to you? What does ownership at your level of the company look like? Then seek to systematize or quantify it: Does urgency mean that your people will work on the project with the greatest priority first? Make that a principle. Does ownership mean that people run expenses through a series of questions such as: does this give value to the company? Would the CEO spend money this way?
3. Review and measure performance. Once you get these values quantified and measured, you can hold your people accountable. Make their performance, evaluation, and bonus based in part on these three things. Maybe once a month as you make time for direct reports, you sit down and spend 20% of the time getting updates on how they are measuring up to these principles.
Then, throughout the year these concepts are getting reinforced.
Business leadership coaching helps your team come up with the principles you value. You help them to learn to think differently. You want your top level management to feel ownership in the company and accept responsibility. Then you will have outstanding management who will act with the same urgency and diligence as the CEO.
Joel Garfinkle guides CEO’s and upper level management to become more productive through business leadership coaching. He finds the solutions for your problems. E-mail Joel now to learn how he can build your team to new levels. Or check out his newest book Getting Ahead.
Talkback: What are some of the things that frustrate you about your management? How have you had success in helping your team accept ownership and responsibility?
Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net