Are You Malicious?

Are you malicious? I would put good money on your answer being a resounding “NO” if you are reading blogs about leadership and teamwork. You might Look at it a little differently, however, after reading this, and I hope it will change you at least a little bit.

I have recently been a “victim” (for lack of a better word) to piecemealed data. What does that mean? Well, it means that when I ask other resources for data, I get bits and pieces of the data based on the specific question I asked. If I don’t ask the right question, I don’t get the right data. It can be very frustrating, at times, especially when that data is critical. I have also notice this over the years from other colleagues as well that just don’t want to paint the full picture. It is almost like they are wanting to leave things a bit mysterious.

Sure, I understand that management is often times bound by the constraints of “I can’t tell you yet” and I’m not talking about those instances even though they can be very frustrating at times as well. What I am really talking about are the silos of information that exist in corporations all across the world. Silos can be dangerous to a company. Why dangerous? Well, I believe that giving little bits of information can cause other teams to be counterproductive. It can cause them to go down a path of data mining to get the information that someone already has but is not sharing, or it can cause them to spend additional cycles thinking of the “best way” to ask questions so they get the right answers. Within the same company, a full picture should always be painted when the full picture is what is being asked for. Don’t make it sound as if you’re giving all of the information when you aren’t.

So, I ask you again, are you malicious? If you are holding pertinent information back just because it wasn’t specifically asked for, I say, yes you are. If you are not meaning to be so, then you might take a closer look at how you deliver information. If you DO intend to hold on to information for your own power play (remember, knowledge is power) then I urge you to change your ways because you are causing your company more harm than you can really imagine.

Here are a couple of things you can try:

  1. Ask questions to make sure you fully understand what is being asked of you.
  2. Be more open with the information that you have. Remember, good leaders help build others.
  3. If you do not have time to tell the whole story, give an overview and tell the person that you are only giving them a small piece of the puzzle they are asking for and schedule some time to give them the whole picture.

Thank you for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you been a “victim” of of someone holding on to knowledge that cause you do go down the wrong path?

Have a great day!!  ~Jim

Leadership: Are you Strong Enough?

I was reading a blog this morning on making mistakes, written by the Leadership Freak, Dan Rockwell (So You Screwed Up …). The whole post was great as usual, but one point stuck out to me very clearly. Not only did it make perfect sense, but it is also a point within my own leadership that I struggle with.

By the way, if you don’t follow Leadership Freak, I highly recommend you do so. He is a great read and a top blogger. He is looked up to by many, including myself. (Leadershipfreak.wordpress.com)

As I mentioned, I was reading his blog and his first reason for making a mistake slapped me like a cold fish: 1.) [Trying to] please others while ignoring your gut.

Ouch! For a self-professed people pleaser, this is a very pointed bullet item and it was pointed right at me. It is no mystery why he has that item at the top of his list. Of course, it causes my wheels to turn faster trying to find out why I had such an issue with the statement. I can tell you I didn’t have to think very long, I already knew the answer.

People pleasers do not make good leaders!

There, I said it! Now, let me explain what I mean. Mr. Rockwell’s first point is right on the money. As leaders, we have responsibilities to do what is right, not only for our companies but for our teams as well as ourselves. Our educated gut feelings can provide us with amazing discoveries and decisions. Ignoring that “gut feeling” can mean we miss out on a good decision that can keep a project on track or even turn it around.

So, can you be a people pleaser and an effective leader? Yes, but it will probably take some work. You need to analyze each decision to make sure it is being made for the right reason. Keep in mind, you don’t have to make a decision that goes against your people pleasing tendencies with a tone of harshness. You can, and should, communicate that decision with a servant leader’s heart and be sensitive to those that are affected by the decision.

Are you a “people pleaser”? How do you get past that to make better decisions?

Do you agree or disagree with me?

Heated Conversations: Do you Engage?

How do you, as a leader handle heated conversations in your team? Are YOU engaging?

Differing opinions are a part of our daily lives. In fact, in leadership roles, they are essential to the survival of the teams we are tasked with leading. By this, I mean that utilizing different opinions or even different world views will allow us to avoid the damaging and often destructive results of groupthink. While we might think that life is great if everyone agrees with us, it all too often means that something is about to go horribly wrong.

The problem is that differing opinions can sometimes create tense moments during a meeting or even just during an otherwise calm part of the day. Let’s face it, there are many people out there passionate about their work and about their opinions. It is our job, as leaders, to keep that passion somewhat controlled and pointed in a positive direction. If the argument gets heated, or worse, the meeting, whether formal or informal, it needs to stop right then with encouraging words that all disputes can and will be resolved amicably. It is critical that all of our team members feel safe coming to work (emotionally or physically).

In the end, it is important for teams to have differing opinions but in a controlled environment. The biggest thing I can leave you with as a leader is to not engage in such heated discussions. If you get into a strong disagreement with a team member, you either need to take it to another, closed-door room or just table the discussion for another time when you both have had a chance to calm down and reset your passions. Keep in mind that it is possible that you DON’T have the best idea, be sure to set your ego aside too.

Different opinions are essential to business. Without them, we would all wear white shirts with blue pants, regardless of gender, age, race, or nationality. All cars would be white 4-door sedans with gray interior and all houses would be white with blue trim. We don’t live in any such society, not even the ones with the harshest of homeowner restrictions. That doesn’t mean we have to box our neighbor’s ears when we want to paint our house a different color.

The most important single ingredient in the forula of success is knowing how to get along with people.” ~T. Roosevelt

What tricks have you used to stop heated debates at the office? Comment below.

The Project is Done . . . Now What?

It has been 18 long months since this project started, and now it is done with just a few small details waiting to close out. There is only one remaining question, now what?

There is one thing that I’d like to focus on for this post, the closing meeting.

After so many days and weeks and months on this project, it seemed anti-climatic to just end the project by simply stopping work. Besides, I would not be doing my part to really wrap it up the right way. So, I invited all 25 team members and other stakeholders to a long, but not grueling, meeting to finish things up. The agenda looked like this:

  1. Welcome
  2. Project Overview (we also had a pot-luck to break it up a little during this time)
  3. Accomplishments (including value adds)
  4. Lessons Learned
  5. Awards
  6. Final Thanks

Now this meeting lasted all morning, but after 18 months, 3 more hours was not going to hurt anyone and produced a GREAT pay-off. One important note is that I ended the meeting on-time. What was so great about it? Well, for one, everyone got to see what the team accomplished in a relatively short amount of time for the work that we did. Also, they got to see what their “extra” efforts did to produce values added that were unexpected. Lastly, and almost most importantly, was the lessons learned portion of the meeting. Beforehand, I had asked everyone to brainstorm lessons learned, including the good along with the bad. What we found out were some things done very well, and some things that will actually result in some departmental changes.

Lastly, I took a little time and fewer than $30.00 US and created a little momento of my own appreciation to each and every team member for their individual contribution. It was small, but the entire team walked out with their heads held high and a small token to remind them of what they accomplished.

It is important to hold a project closure meeting with the entire team. It is important to recognize the projects celebrations as well as what went wrong and how to avoid it in the future. Most importantly, it is critical that you show your team appreciation for what they’ve accomplished. Your people are the ones who make you and your projects successful. I spent just over a dollar a person and it made them smile. It doesn’t take much, just some thought and a little time.

Congratulations on finishing your project on-time and under budget!! Now go wrap it up and put some closure on it!!

Your Project Team Does Matter! and so does their experience

As a project manager I deal with a diverse set of team members that are not under my immediate supervision. By this I mean that I am a project manager, and not a functional supervisor. When I need team members for a project, I pick from a pool of employees with available time. One of my current projects employs approximately 20 team members. One team member specifically has had a few personal hiccups (extreme life events) causing missed work and on some days poor performance. This particular employee, however, is a 9 year veteran of our organization and a superb performer (normally).

The problem comes in when this individual had a conversation with management about some needs and individual consideration. During the conversation, she was continually denied simple requests that were not out of the ordinary. When inquiries were made after explaining the value she provides, it was stated “it doesn’t matter if you’ve been there 1 year or 9.”

Damaging words!

The truth is, it DOES matter. Losing this employee would cause a backlog in development. Not just a backlog of a single person, but it would take two to three people to develop as much as this employee does. The experience and knowledge she has is not interchangeable with just anyone, let alone a new person or someone here for only a year.

This kind of statement WILL destroy workplace morale. This employee then came out, continued her work as normal, but subsequent conversations quickly turned to that statement. Now many employees have heard it, including veterans of 20 plus years. It is no longer a single employee that feels an “inch tall” but an entire department. With current lay-offs, it has everyone looking over their shoulder, including top performing veterans that should have nothing to worry about.

Words like this kill relationships with top employees. These relationships are hard to build up to begin with and are even harder to rebuild once they’ve been told they do not matter. The truth is, they DO matter and so does the experience they bring in. Take care of your top performers and build up your sub-par performers. Who cares if they’ve had a rough year (medical, death in family, or even other personal matter). Be compassionate at the very least. Take care of them and they will take care of you. Don’t let that experience walk out the door over careless words.

Invest in your relationships.

Employee Satisfaction vs. Team Performance

I read somewhere that a national survey shows 31% of American workers are “happy” with the amount of recognition they are getting at work.

31%

This number is staggeringly low. There is a real opportunity here for leaders and managers to make up some ground here, AND a chance to make up with our teams!

Herb Kelleher believed that if you kept your employees happy, they would keep your customers happy, which would in turn, make your shareholders happy. It appears that Southwest Airlines is doing pretty well so I say his model works. So why is it that very few companies realize that this is the best way to go? Employee satisfaction is a term that seems to be overlooked. It is seen as an expensive, non-productive, waste of money. In fact, it is not necessarily expensive, non-productive, NOR waste of money.

Did you know that an employee wants to feel like they are doing a good job? Sure, some have flaws, but every employee has a strength. Why not capitalize on that strength and let them capitalize on it too? Take a little time to tell them when they do well. I have noticed that a 5-10 minute, positive conversation with an employee can boost their productivity by 10-15% almost immediately. In fact, I have also noticed that weaknesses get better at the same time because the employee puts more emphasis on their overall quality of work and work habits.

Sure, there are other things that employers can do to keep their employees happy which do cost money that can have a serious positive impact on productivity but these things are not really necessary. Reinforce positive traits and behaviors and you will be pleased with the results.

A pat on the back costs absolutely nothing. What have you got to lose?