Don’t Just Sit There, Say Something!

Managers typically react to the performance of their direct reports with one of three responses: positive, negative, or no response at all. It isn’t hard to guess which one works best for increasing good performance—the positive response.

A person who does something correctly and receives a positive response will most likely continue to perform using that desired behavior in the future. By the same token, a person who receives a negative response for doing something wrong will most likely not repeat the behavior. So, in effect, even performance that gets a negative response can improve if the manager coaches the person and encourages them to improve.

The most dangerous response a leader can offer is no response at all. Think about it. If someone performs tasks and completes projects correctly and receives no response from their manager, how do you think they will perform in the future? The good performance might continue for awhile, but eventually it will decline. Why? Because no one seems to care.

What about the person who makes mistakes but is never corrected? It seems logical that if a person is left to fail again and again with no support or direction, their performance will get even worse. It is the leader’s responsibility to help everyone succeed. Ignoring bad behavior hurts not only the individual, but also their manager and the organization as a whole. It’s just bad business.

Even though leaders are busier than ever these days, most still notice when their people are doing great or when they need coaching. The big mistake happens when the manager doesn’t say it out loud. I often say “Good thoughts in your head, not delivered, mean squat!”

If you want your people to achieve and maintain high performance, let them know that you notice and care about the things they do right—and that you want to help them when they are off track. Share your thoughts. No one can read your mind.

Be consistent with your communication and you will build a consistently high performing team.

We Need to Talk: A 5-Step Process for Leaders

man wearing a suit sitting in a table with clasped handsHave you ever heard the words, “we need to talk” and not felt a little uncomfortable?

In a fast-paced work environment, communication challenges come up every day.  It’s natural for conflict to arise and disagreement to occur, so leaders need the skills to successfully manage emotionally charged conversations and help resolve issues between team members.

To help improve their skills in dealing with challenging conversations, Eryn Kalish, the co-creator of our Challenging Conversations program teaches leaders how to speak up without alienating the other person and how to listen even if they are “triggered” by what they are hearing.

The concepts are easily understandable, explains Kalish, but it is something that’s challenging emotionally to practice. For leaders just getting started, there are five skills represented by the acronym SPEAK that Kalish recommends as a way of becoming comfortable with, and open to, others’ feelings.

S. Stating concerns directly. Speak up in a way that doesn’t alienate other people. Understand how to get at the essence of what’s important.

P. Probing for more information to gain a deeper understanding. Learn how to get more information from someone who might be hesitant to talk. Learn how to gently, but firmly, probe and get somebody to speak out when it is going to serve them and the situation.

E. Engaging others through whole-hearted listening. Be able to listen even when it is uncomfortable. Learn how to work with your reactions so that you can focus and understand what the other person is saying.

A. Attending to body language. Pay attention to body language and be able to spot discrepancies between what you are hearing and what you are seeing. How many times have you been sitting in a meeting when somebody said everything was fine but his or her body language was saying that it is clearly not? Avoid the temptation to say, “Oh, good, everything is ok. Let’s move on.”

K. Keeping forward focused, but only when everybody is ready to move forward. This can be a challenge for leaders with a natural bias for action. Learn to resist the urge to move forward prematurely. In challenging conversations the real issues often don’t come to light at first.

Perhaps the most important thing about using a process like this is teaching a common language and approach that can be used by everyone in your company. Remember to address the issues directly—ignoring them will only make things worse. But using the SPEAK approach will improve communication, trust, and employee engagement. I encourage you to try it out soon to see the positive impact it will have.

5 Keys to Connecting With Your People

bigstock-Different-46099117I was talking with some friends at a recent morning men’s group. Our focus was on the importance of being connected to other people and what it means. We came up with five things we think help you really get connected to others—at work, and in all aspects of life. How would you rate yourself in these five areas?

  1. Listen more than you speak.  We talked about listening a lot. If God wanted you to speak more than listen, he would have given you two mouths!
  2. Praise other people’s efforts.  This one has always been so important to me. Catch people doing things right.  That really helps you get connected with people.
  3. Show interest in others.  It’s not all about you. Find out about people and their families and learn about what’s happening in their lives.
  4. Be willing to share about yourself.  In our book Lead with LUV, my coauthor and former Southwest Airlines president Colleen Barrett said that people admire your skills but they really love your vulnerability. Are you willing to share about yourself?  I think being vulnerable with people is really important.
  5. Ask for input from others—ask people to help you.  People really feel connected if they can be of help to you. Continue reading

Trust Works!

I’ve written more than a few books over the years, but I still get excited when a new one comes out. We’ve just released a new book I coauthored with Cynthia Olmstead and Martha Lawrence called Trust Works! Four Keys to Building Lasting Relationships. We think it will make a difference in people’s lives while giving them a smile.

trust-works-book-coverThe first part of the book is written as a parable about a dog and a cat and how they learn to trust each other. It’s interesting—we asked people for feedback on one of our first drafts, and some dog lovers were offended because it seemed as if the dog had to do all the work to get the trust from the cat. We realized that we needed to emphasize that trust is a two-way street. So in our finished story, not only is the dog trying to get the cat to trust him, but the cat has to get the dog to trust her too. Of course, the story is a metaphor for any relationship where people need to create and build trust with one another. Readers will be able to apply it to their working relationships as well as their relationships with family and friends.

Cindy Olmstead spent years developing the wonderful ABCD Trust Model™ we use in the second part of the book to highlight the four behaviors that need to be present in order to build trust. If even one of these behaviors is absent, trust erodes.

First, you have to prove that you’re Able. You are competent to solve problems and get results. You strive to be the best at what you do and you use your skills to help others.

Next, you have to be Believable. You act with integrity and honesty. You show respect for others, admit your mistakes, keep confidences, and avoid talking behind others’ backs.

You also have to be Connected. You care about others, which includes showing interest, asking for input, and listening.  You praise the efforts of others and share information about yourself.

Finally, you need to be Dependable. You do what you say you will do. You are organized and responsive. People know you will follow up and be accountable.

How would you assess your trustworthiness in these four key areas? Go to http://www.trustworksbook.com and take the self-assessment. While you’re at it, ask the people you work with to evaluate you as well.

That’s how I learned that my lowest score in these four areas was in the Dependable category. What an eye opener! I never thought of myself as undependable but since my executive team and I understood the four factors, we were able to have that conversation and zero in on the problem. Turns out that my desire to please everyone showed up in real life as a tendency to over-commit myself—which resulted in people ultimately being disappointed because I couldn’t meet their expectations.

Using the ABCD Trust Model™, my team came up with a great solution for me. Now when opportunities come up, instead of saying yes without thinking, I hand out my executive assistant’s card so she can make sure I have the time and resources to follow through.  As a result, my Dependable score has soared!

In most organizations, trust issues are simply avoided until they reach a breaking point. You can’t just assume that trust will grow over time—sometimes the exact opposite happens.

Trust is hard to define. You can tell when it’s absent—but how do you create it and build it when it doesn’t exist? Trust Works! provides a common language for trust—and essential skills for building, repairing, and sustaining it. Building trust is one of the most needed skills for leaders today. Don’t leave trust to chance in your organization.

Great Leaders Open Their World

If you are a regular reader of my blogs, you’ll know that I’m highlighting the four major areas where great leaders need to grow continuously, taken from my new book with Mark Miller called Great Leaders Grow.  I’ve already covered the first two parts of our GROW model—Gain Knowledge and Reach Out to Others. Continue reading