Wednesday Apr 16, 2014

Start-Stop-Continue in Transitions

What do Sigma, a Leadership class and a webcast have in common? They’ve all created ideas that are swirling around in my head! Let me start from the beginning. I was sitting in on a leadership class for midlevel leaders, listening to a conversation about competing priorities and how to address them. Last week I listened to a web-cast that suggested leaders should create a “Do Not Do” list. I’m also exploring some ideas around transitioning to a leadership role and what an individual needs to do differently.

I struggled a bit with a “Do Not Do” list because it just seems a bit negative, and then my Sigma training kicked in and I thought of a great exercise we used to do…and I think it might work for new leaders, or really anyone who’s taking on a new role. It’s a simple Start-Stop-Continue exercise to identify behaviors and actions that you need to address.

Here’s how you do it. Take a piece of paper and draw three columns on it. At the top of one column, write Start; in the next column write Stop and in the last column write Continue. Then, close your eyes and really think about your new role - imagine what it will look like if done very successfully. If you’re a first time leader, you’ll want to think about how your leadership role is going to be different from your individual contributor role. If you’re a midlevel leader, you’ll want to consider the difference between managing people and managing managers. And if you’re an individual contributor, you might want to review your development plan and think about what your goals are for the future.

Now, open your eyes and write down those behaviors or actions that you need to Start doing in your new role. Continue to write down behaviors and actions that you need to Stop doing and then Continue doing. Now, take a good look at your list. Will your role or development be negatively impacted if you stop anything on the Stop list? Will your role or development be positively impacted by those things on the Start or Continue list?

If you have so many things on each list that you feel overwhelmed, try prioritizing the list. This may require a conversation with your manager!! You might ask questions like:

  • When choosing to continue a behavior/activity, what can I do to be more effective in that behavior/activity?

  • What behaviors or activities do the best leaders I know exhibit? Are those on my list?

  • What have I said I would never do as a leader? Are those on my Stop list?

This list could end up being your friend – it can feed into your development plans; it can help you prioritize your work; it can help clarify your role. If you choose to do this, I would make two suggestions. First, share your list with your manager to get his or her input. He or she might have some ideas that could provide a clearer focus for you. Second, keep your list and pull it out every quarter to review. This is a great way to determine if you’re modifying your actions and behaviors the way you want or intended.

Hopefully something like this can help keep you on track when changing roles!

Monday Mar 04, 2013

Be Mindful of...Well, Everything

When I was about five or six years old, I spent a lot of time in the summer practicing cartwheels in our yard. When I was seven, I entered a gymnastics gym for the first time, and it was love at first tumble. More than 20 years of my life have been spent with the sport of gymnastics, and I’m finding out that the sport has served me well – even in the area of business.

As I started to compete, we used a technique called “visualization.” With over 48M hits on Google today, “visualization” was new back then. The concept is simple – use mental imagery to “see” yourself going through your routine perfectly. You’re called…you present to the judge…you mount the balance beam…your toes are pointed…you do you first tumbling element…perfect stick… full turn…perfect stop at the end…getting ready for your dismount…deep breath…relaxed…push off the beam…great height…twist…turn…land…stay tight…no steps…perfect...present to judges…smile…walk off the floor with shoulders squared.

The concept of visualization is so powerful because during the process, your brain directs your muscles to work in a desired manner, creating neural patterns in your brain that are identical to the actual physical performance of the movements. This mental rehearsal allows you to train your mind and body to actually perform the skills. Visualization allows an athlete to improve self-awareness, increase concentration, focus on purpose, reduce pressures, and manage his response to a situation.

The same concepts are a growing trend in many business related fields, but it has morphed into the term “mindfulness.” Mindfulness originates from Buddhist teachings and is now commonly incorporated into aspects of western psychology. At its core, mindfulness can be described as a state of nonjudgemental, present-centered awareness – basically, “being in the moment.”

Mindfulness is huge in the leadership field – a Google search will return over 6 million hits! Mindful leadership simply means giving your full attention to the moment without. According to Harvard professor Bill George, mindful leaders “tend to be more effective in understanding and relating to others, and motivating them toward shared goals. Hence, they become more effective in leadership roles.”

Mindfulness can be an invaluable tool for leaders, engaging the part of the brain responsible for building and sustaining relationships, defining purpose, improving self-awareness and managing stressful situations. Let’s say that you buy into the concept of mindfulness and think it can be helpful – how can you practice mindfulness? WikiHow provides five steps to get you started:

1) Learn more about mindfulness. Being aware of what mindfulness is can help you understand how you might incorporate it into your daily activities. With a big thanks to my colleagues, here are some resources that you might want to check out:
  • Book: The Mindful Leader: Awakening Your Natural Management Skills Through Mindful Meditation
  • Mindful.org, especially the “at Work” link
  • Mindfulnet.org – follow the links on the right for Mindful Leadership

2) Start practicing mindful meditation. No, you don’t need to sit in a dark room and chant “ummm.” Instead, find a quiet spot each day and spend five minutes focusing on clearing your mind. Pretend all your thoughts are on a blackboard, and your job is to clean the blackboard so you can start fresh.


3) Practice mindfulness outside of meditation. Be aware of yourself and your emotions, but practice removing distractions so you can focus on the moment at hand.

4) Have gratitude. Recognize those things that you might have taken for granted. Acknowledge the foundations that have been established that you can build upon.

5) Analyze. When faced with any situation, take into account those things that can color your judgments – consider your physical body, your feelings, and your state of mind. Try to remove these things from the situation so you can make better (i.e. non-biased) decisions.

For me, it started with visualization to be more aware of my body and my reaction to stressful situations (e.g. a gymnastics meet). Mindfulness extends this practice to be fully aware of my environment, including myself and those around me.

General Mills has introduced mindfulness into their organization, and, as a result, 80% of participating leaders say that they are able to make better decisions with more clarity; 89% say that they have become better listeners. Genentech based a training program on the principles of mindfulness and experienced a 50% increase in employee collaboration, conflict management and communication and went from “rock bottom” employee satisfaction scores to one of the best places to work in the IT world.

Is mindfulness the newest “magic bullet?” Highly doubtful, but practicing mindfulness does offer the opportunity to think with clarity, engage in the moment, make better decisions and improve your performance. And if you’re a leader, those are not bad traits to model to your team.

Monday Feb 18, 2013

What is the Return on You?

In the corporate learning industry, there’s a lot of talk about who is responsible for employee development. If you’ve read any of my posts, I’m pretty sure that you can tell I think each individual is responsible for his or her development. The resources offered in one’s work environment (managers, classes, mentors, etc.) are simply tools to help you achieve your goals. With that in mind, I’d like to challenge whoever is reading this to think about the Return on You (ROY).

I was first introduced to ROY about eight years ago when I read Fred Nickols’ article “Forget the ROI of Training: What’s the Return on You (ROY)? ROY started me thinking about how I approach work. Is work just a job where I’m entitled to certain things, or is work my contract with my employer about what we will provide to one another? Your answer to this question, I think, determines your approach to work and your satisfaction with what you do.

So, what is ROY? ROY is defined as “the return on your company’s investment in you.” Simply put, ROY is the benefit you provide your company after subtracting your wages and benefits. What is your economic value to your company? Are you a good investment for your company? Do you provide a net worth, or are you an expense? Kind of scary to think about, isn’t it?

In my last post, I questioned who your CEO was. I’ll give you a hint, your CEO is reading this right now. So, if you are the CEO of yourself, what does that make you when you’re at work? I think that it makes you an independent consultant. Whoa!! An independent consultant, you say? But that means I have to be really serious about my work. Umm…yea. You do.

Think about it. We grumble because our manger/VP/company (you pick) doesn’t provide us the opportunities that we think we need. What if, instead, we approached our work like a consultant and our employer like our customer? You still need to work, but now you need to figure out what your end goal is. You now need to figure out how your work meets the goals of your client and the goals you’ve set for yourself. You need to figure out where your skills are lacking and how you’re going to meet those gaps in order to meet your client’s needs.

If you’re not scared yet, take a look at Nickols’ work on ROY – at the end of the paper, you’ll find a worksheet on calculating the Return on You. Take out your learning notebook, because here’s your assignment: after reviewing the ROY worksheet, identify the value(s) that you bring to your company. Step two: think about your current job role and document the benefits that you think your company expects from you and the benefits/growth you would like to receive from this job role.

No relationship should be one-sided. Hopefully by thinking about the benefits you and your company provide to each other, you feel that you have a little more ownership in the relationship between you and your company

Tuesday Mar 06, 2012

Will Employees Go Above and Beyond? Depends on You!

Sometimes, the stars align and point you in a direction that you just can’t avoid - and so it is with me and employee engagement. What made me think it was time to write about employee engagement?

  • I was asked to review Employee Engagement 2.0 by Kevin Kruse. This is a great little eBook that addresses engagement in easy-to-understand terminology and even provides a six step action plan to start integrating employee engagement into your thinking
  • I received another fortune cookie (see my last post) that read “Nothing motivates a man more than to see his boss put in an honest day’s work.” To me, that simply means that if you, as a leader, are not willing to engage in your work, your people won’t either. And with regard to the fortune cookie, yes, I probably do go out for Chinese food too often.
  • I watched an episode of Undercover Boss in which a CEO of a fast food company visited a store, disguised as a potential employee. The manager of the store was condescending to employees, and one employee was crying as he admitted it made him “feel worthless.” The CEO broke his disguise and shut down the store until all employees could be trained and the store could meet the principles and values that the CEO had for the company.

When I entered “employee engagement” in Amazon’s search engine, I found that 119 books on the topic have been published in the last 90 days. A Google search on “employee engagement articles” returns over 8 million hits. Restricting this to just blog entries still gives a person over 800,000 reading opportunities. Employee engagement is huge, obviously, but you may be asking yourself why all the fuss? Probably because recent reports are bringing to light some (kind of scary) facts:

  • Only 31% of the world-wide workforce is engaged. Nearly 17% are actually disengaged to the point where they are effectively working against their company. (BlessingWhite)
  • The lost productivity of actively disengaged employees costs the U.S. economy $370 Billion annually. (Gallup)
  • 1in 4 employees are actively looking for a new job – including employees considered high performers. This could impact company performance and create retention challenge as we move through 2012. (Corporate Executive Board)
  • Trust in executives can have more than twice the impact on engagement levels than trust in an immediate manager. Employees are more likely, however, to trust their managers than their executives. This places a huge burden of proof on the executive levels of a company. (BlessingWhite)
  • Highly engaged organizations had a shareholder return 19% higher than average (in 2009); low engaged organizations had a shareholder return 44% below average. (Hewitt Associates)

If you’re still reading, maybe I’ve convinced you that employee engagement is important. But what IS it, and what can you do about it? From the readings that I’ve done, I’ll define employee engagement as the degree to which someone is committed to their company and willing to put in discretionary effort to help the company meet its goals. We all know the people who put in minimal effort (they’re not engaged); but an engaged employee will go above and beyond what is expected. As a leader, there are some simple steps you can take toward engaging your team members.

Make the Connection Between Work and Organization Strategy. According to a Corporate Leadership Council report, this is the number one driver of employee engagement. Take time to communicate the business strategy to your team and explain how the work your team accomplishes impacts that strategy. If you’re complimenting someone on a job well done, be sure to tie it back to the strategy. For example, someone does a great job satisfying the customer – you might say “Brenda, the customer was really pleased with how you handled their fire drill yesterday. Work like that will definitely help us realize our customer retention goal. Thank you.”

Be mindful; Walk the Walk. The fortune cookie said it – your employees are watching you. Employee Engagement 2.0 says “First and foremost we need you to be engaged.” Many different surveys of employees show that employees don’t leave companies – they leave managers. Engagement needs to be a priority. If you can make choices every day that show you are interested in communicating, growing and recognizing your team members, your team will put their trust in you.

Provide Opportunities to Grow. In the BlessingWhite report, only 52% of employees surveyed felt they had opportunities to grow or advance in their careers. We all know that money is tight in today’s economy, but have conversations with your people about what they would like to do – you might be surprised that many of your people are not interested in a standard “career” that moves up the management ladder. Once you know this information, it’s easier to see unique career possibilities that come up – lateral moves, special assignments, “in place” development, presenting at a conference, etc.

Have a Stay Interview. Unlike an exist interview, a “stay interview” is conducted when your employee is still your employee. The goal of a “stay interview” is to find out what motivates a person to stay with a company, what they value in their job, what they might need to learn to be better at their job, what you can do to make their job easier. There are a variety of resources on the internet listing “stay interview” questions – I liked this one. Give it a try – take an employee to coffee and have a conversation around what motivates that employee. I’m pretty certain that you’ve got nothing to lose.

For me, employee engagement can be boiled down to one simple rule – the golden rule – treat others the way you would like to be treated. You probably want to be valued for the work you do; you probably want to do work that is intellectually stimulating; you probably want to be in a position that uses the best of your skills. Not surprisingly, your team members probably want these same things. Have those conversations with your employees, and chances are pretty good that if they know you genuinely care about them, they’ll go the extra mile for you.

Friday Jan 13, 2012

7 Ways to be a Better Leader in 2012

The past couple of weeks, I’ve received a lot of newsletter emails about resolutions – I guess the beginning of the year is a good time for that! Most of these newsletters have an article or two about improving your leadership skills in 2012. Rather than send you to all the web site to sift through loads of content, I thought I might summarize for you some of the tips on being a better leader in 2012.

1. Take time to reflect. By being reflective, you give yourself time to think about what is going well and what needs to be changed – this time gives you a chance to learn from your experiences. Some questions you might ask (both for yourself and for your team) are:
  • What are you most proud of in 2011?
  • What are you most looking forward to in 2012?
  • What are the goals/steps that you are dedicated to moving toward in 2012?

2. Re-focus your team. Everyone is more excited about the job that they’re doing when they understand how their work ties into business goals. Take time in a team meeting to ask questions like: Where are we going? What do we believe in? Why do we exist? Don’t have those team meeting? Start scheduling them.

3. Ban “To Do” lists. Yes, getting things done is important, but I also have things on a “to-do” list that don’t really matter if they get done or not. Instead, start tracking an “Accomplishments” list to differentiate between the mundane (checking Facebook) and the truly important.

4. Paint Your Legacy. What do you want to look like in 10 or 20 years? What do you want your team members to say about you when they talk about the manager they had in 2012? Imagine what you want this future to look like and make the choices today that will get you there tomorrow.

5. Be social. “Social” is here to stay. Learn how you can use social media/activity to your advantage. You can use it to build your brand, engage team members, interact with peers, etc. The old advice was to “manage by walking around” – social activity is how you do this in the digital age.

6. Work your network. This does not mean “use people to your advantage;” this means being conscientious of your relationships. Work at building relationships and making them better. Don’t forget that part of networking is giving back to the other person – make sure that when you’re requesting help, you can offer help in return.

7. Engage your people. Engagement doesn’t equate to money (don’t get me wrong, money is nice, too). Engagement is your ability to get your team excited about the work they’re doing; it’s the level of motivation one has for his or her job; it’s the team’s ability to solve problems with you removing roadblocks. If your team is engaged, chances are pretty good that you’re excited about going to work as well.

Probably most important in these seven tips is how you’re going to change. Instead of saying “I want to develop my network,” decide the specific actions or behaviors that you are going to start or stop this year to mark your accomplishment. If you want to “develop your network,” maybe you’ll join a professional organization and attend meetings, or maybe you’ll start tweeting. Maybe you’ll stop working 18 hours on Thursdays so you can attend those meetings. By outlining those things to stop and start, you’re likely to see actual changes throughout the year

Here's to a great start in 2012!

Friday Aug 12, 2011

Dancing Around Development Plans

It’s no surprise that for most employees, creating a development plan ranks right up there with getting a root canal. Did you ever think about it from a manager’s perspective, though? A manager not only has to create their own development plan, but they have to help create meaningful plans for everyone working for them as well. So, if you’re a manager, how can you come up with meaningful development options for all of your employees? Maybe take a look at the ideas below!

Last year I wrote a blog entry called “30 Ways to Foil Development Plan Dread.” This year, I’m updating it with some different ideas and some hints for moving forward with these ideas.

Employee development isn’t just attending a class and checking that box at the end of the year. Employee development is a continual process in which a manager and employee both need to be actively involved. The list below provides some ideas for development opportunities beyond the “attend a class” option.

  1. Attend a local, regional or national conference. Be sure to bring your findings back to your team. MANAGERS: Make sure you provide the opportunity for your employee to share with the team.

  2. Present at a local, regional or national conference. Ask your manager, peers or mentor about opportunities that exist. Don’t forget about the possibility of presenting at virtual conferences.

  3. If your company has an internal conference (user groups, engineering conference, etc), apply to present at that.  Actually present if accepted.

  4. Complete a course at your local university or at an online university. Make sure the university is accredited if you’re planning to use your company’s tuition reimbursement program.

  5. If you want to “dip your toes” into virtual learning, Google free online course <insert topic> to see if anything is offered.

  6. Finish your undergraduate or Master’s degree.

  7. Write an article for a professional publication or organization.  Be sure to check the submission requirements for the publication!

  8. Join a professional organization and attend a local chapter meeting or seminar. If possible, serve in a leadership position at the local level.

  9. Attend a seminar or workshop offered outside of your company. These are often advertised through professional organizations. Oracle sponsors the Professional Business Womens Conference, and their webinars are free to Oracle employees as advertised in “In the Know.”

  10. Teach a TOI (transfer of information), Lunch & Learn or something similar for your team or another team in your organization.

  11. Create a video on a topic of your expertise and post it to your internal platform (Oracle employees can use OTube, create podcast or a webcast)

  12. Review 2-3 journals or magazines every month to monitor industry trends.  You can access many journals through EBSCOHost - commonly available in public libraries with your library card. Oracle employees can access EBSCOHost here).

  13. Read Harvard Business Review or California Management Review to understand business trends.  Both of these can be accessed through EBSCO Host as well.

  14. Pick out a top business book - read it and discuss it with your manager.  This would be a great opportunity to take your manager out for a cup of coffee to get his or her undivided attention.

  15. MANAGERS: Provide a copy of your favorite business book to each member of your team. Use 15 minutes of your staff meeting to discuss a chapter, idea or something else about the book.

  16. Select a technical book to review.  Discuss it with your team, your manager, or your mentor.

  17. Mentor another person.

  18. Ask someone to be your mentor.

  19. Volunteer on the board or a committee of a professional organization

  20. Google free webinar <insert topic> and see if there's a free webinar that interests you.  Attend and share what you learned with your team.

  21. Start a blog to share your thoughts with others.

  22. Participate in an online community - respond to a blog, start a group on LinkedIn or Facebook, etc.

  23. For Oracle employees, participate in a Social Chat. This is a great tool for hearing grassroots ideas and sharing possibilities.

  24. Attend an instructor led class offered through your company.

  25. Attend a web-based class offered through your company.

  26. Engage with local colleges to be a guest speaker or host a workshop on campus.

  27. Look for volunteer opportunities with state and local government agencies to provide IT help (if you’re an IT type of person). Many agencies need help in all sorts of areas outside of IT, so if you’re interested, ask if they need help in your area.

  28. Plan a technology fair, science fair or something similar for your company.  Recruit people to present and share ideas.

  29. Join an open source project and get involved in the product development, forums, or aliases.

  30. If you have a Masters degree, check with a local university or college about becoming an adjunct professor (sometimes called a contract or network instructor).

  31. Volunteer to teach computer skills (or your area of expertise) at a Senior Citizens Center.

  32. Ask your local school districts if they offer any kind of special event around kids and technology.  Volunteer at that event.

  33. Coordinate an internal conference where best practices can be shared for a team within your company - a sales conference for sales people; an IT conference for your technical team, etc.

  34. Volunteer to teach a class at a local Recreation Center or Community Center.

  35. Apply to teach classes for a continuing education program (typically offered through local universities or community colleges). These programs sometimes don’t have the same instructor requirements as becoming an adjunct professor.

  36. For Oracle employees, use Oracle Alchemy to present a problem or idea and collaborate with others around the globe.

A word of warning about this list: this is just a list. It requires human input to determine how to effectively incorporate one of these ideas into a personal development plan. If one of these options looks intriguing, a manager and employee should work together to determine what, exactly, is expected from the activity and how, exactly, an employee will grow as a result of an activity. Any of the ideas on this list should be used simply as a seed to start a manager/employee discussion.

As you can see, there are many more options for "development" than just attending a class.  If you have other ideas that should be added to this list, please leave a comment in order to share with everyone else.  Hey, then you can add #22 to your plan!

Happy planning! 

About

Sandy's ideas about learning, organizational & personal improvement and other stuff.

I work on Oracle's Leadership Development team, but all thoughts and opinions expressed here are solely my own!

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