Monday, August 17, 2009

Building Trust

It is interesting as I work with more Executives the difficulty we have with "trusting" each other. A lot of misunderstandings, confusion and conflict results from the fact that we don't trust each other. One of my favorite books is entitled "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team" by Patrick Lencioni.

Lencioni builds the foundation of eliminating team dysfunction by building trust. Easy to say but often very difficult for individuals and teams to accomplish. One of the critical aspects of building trust is the willingness of leaders to accept feedback openly and honestly, to make themselves "vulnerable" to each other.

One of the best leaders I was ever fortunate enough to work with created this "vulnerability" in every coaching session I had with him, as he continually asked "How are we doing?" By this he was asking me very directly - was he giving me enough direction, enough support and encouragement? Was there anything that he had done that had created an uncomfortable situation for me? And he meant it, because he asked this same question every time we met. When I did provide feedback on a situation that I felt could have been handled differently, he thanked me and made a note of it. He asked me to bring it to his attention again should he ever make the same mistake.

Through this simple act he earned my unwavering trust. There was nothing that he could have asked me to do that I wouldn't have given him my very best. He didn't have to tell me how to build trust, he demonstrated it in his every action.

Lencioni states that "No quality or characteristic is more important than trust." This is truly the foundation for all other leadership characteristics. Without a foundation of trust, all the leadership models and practices will not influence one person to make a difference in their behavior or their contributions.

How are you building trust with your team members?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Managing Conflict

Interestingly in one of my recent leadership sessions the discussion centered around managers inability to deal with conflict. I must admit, early in my career, the process I used was not very effective. I would tell the other individual(s) why they were wrong and what they should do differently. Understandably, that approach didn't work so well. I didn't understand why they wouldn't follow my advice.

Fortunately, I soon learned that my approach was all wrong. I came across an model that dramatically changed how I helped others solve problems and more effectively manage conflict. This approach uses the acronym A.C.E.S. Easy enough for even me to remember.

This approach showed me how to get others involved in solving their own problems and effectively dealing with conflict. No matter what the problem or misunderstanding the ACES model provides the right questions to ask that allowed others to feel they had the power to solve their own situation. Interestedly enough, they even started to take action, because after all, it was their own solution.

This model helps in so many ways but most importantly, the first step ACCESS the Situation deals with not only the specifics of "what happened," but also the individuals feelings regarding what happened.

The second step of CLARIFY takes the time to consider other extenuating circumstances, or factors, that may have caused the problem. It also asks the question "What was the intent?" This is a powerful question because most often our emotions don't allow us to take the time to consider this question.

The third step EVALUATE asks the individual(s) with the problem or conflict, to determine what options THEY have to resolve or eliminate the problem. Many times, individuals don't want to take the time and effort to solve their own problems or resolve their own conflicts. They want to take the easy way out and so they respond "I don't know what I can do". Here is where we need to resist the urge to again tell them what they need to do. Most importantly, make them go through the process themselves by suggesting they take the time to think about what options they have, and then agree to get back with them later to discuss what options they have come up with. Remind them of the consequences if they don't resolve this problem or conflict. Show them the value in spending the time and effort to think about their options.

Lastly, SOLVE the problem. Ask them which option they will try first, and when will you get back together with them to review their progress. The ACES model is a powerful tool to help managers and leaders at all levels learn to help people solve their own problems. As the old proverb says "Give them a fish and they will eat for a day. Teach them to fish and they will eat for a lifetime." The ACES model teaches managers how to solve day-to-day problems and conflicts by engaging others in the process of resolving them.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Setting Expectations

I'm preparing for an upcoming session for some Senior Managers and one of the topics of discussion is a common management process for their organization. One of the critical management practices in this process, is the ability to set expectations. This is a difficult task for many managers, because it is time consuming and really challenges the manager to think about what is important and how they will evaluate the accomplishments of the employee.

Consequently many managers don't do it. They assume the employee knows what is expected of them, and then wonder why they don't get the results they are looking for. It all starts with understanding the power and value of expectations. Managers today are so rushed with their own priorities and "to do lists" that they don't put the time and effort into ensuring that their employees understand what the priorities for them are.

Setting expectations can be a powerful tool to build trust with an employee, when the manager gets the individual involved in setting the expectations. Of course, new employees don't have the knowledge or awareness of what is appropriate, but once they have the knowledge and experience they prefer to be involved in the process.

Often times employees will set even higher expectations for themselves, than the manager and this increases the employees motivation to acheive the expectation. After all they set it. This process also provides a great opportunity for the manager to discuss what the priorities are. In this constantly changing business environment priorities can often change on a daily basis.

One of the critical aspects of expectations is that they need to be in writing. This eliminates the chance for confusion and misunderstandings. Again, due to the managers busy schedule, getting the employee to document the agreed upon expectations can save the manager some valuable time. It also confirms that the employee understood the conversation. It is important, however, that the manager read the documented expectations and provide encouragement and confirmation of the agreed upon standards.

Obviously this is only the first step in an effective management process but without this foundation all the potential feedback is generic and un-inspiring.

What are your thoughts about expectations?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Developing Leaders

One of the biggest challenges for managers is not only in their own development of leadership, but the development of leadership in those that work with them. One of the best models available to assist managers in this responsibility in the model developed by Dr. Paul Hersey which he called "Situational Leadership." I have been privileged to have met and instructed on Situational Leadership by Dr. Hersey in his offices in Escondido, Ca. Dr. Hersey, in my mind, is one of the "sages" of leadership thought and development.

That is Dr. Hersey in the middle, with me on the right and one of my good friends Jeff Schummer on the left.

There are numerous insights that Situational Leadership provides. To both the new and seasoned manager alike, too numerous for this short blog. The one insight that I continually take away from the Situational Leadership model, is that the leader approaches their decisions, actions and communication, always from the perspective of the needs of the follower, and not from their own perspective.

This is a simple concept, but yet so insightful. Most managers look at the problems from their own perspective and often do not consider the needs of the follower in determining what the manager can do to develop them. I was fortunate to have worked with several managers in my career that not only understood the Situational Leadership Model, but demonstrated it everyday in their decision making and in their coaching and counseling. These were the leaders that had the greatest impact on my development.

Situational Leadership has impacted millions of managers around the globe and yet after 50 years, has as much relevance today as it did in the early 60's when Dr. Hersey developed this cornerstone model of modern leadership thought.

I am preparing for a new training session entitled "Situational Leadership Preview" that I will be delivering to a group of Executives for a new thrift in the month of June. I am constantly in awe of the simplicity yet profound application of this leadership model.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Using Behavioral Styles to Improve Management Abilities

I've long been an advocate of understanding behavioral styles ever since I was first exposed to the basic descriptions of "Colors". Colors is a basic awareness of individual tendencies and preferences. Once I became familiar and certified with the DiSC Personality Types and certified in Myers Briggs Type Indicators I've experienced first-hand how these profiles can improve communication and understanding of the managers role of developing those that work with them.

By far MBTI (Myers/Briggs) is the best of the behavioral styles programs, but my experience is that individuals need to be a student of MBTI to really understand it and apply the 16 different temperaments. That is why I find DiSC to be the best in understanding individual preferences and yet, simple enough that with a limited exposure managers can this understanding to improve communication and development strategies for employees that work with them.

This week I'm conducting another session using the DiSC Behavioral Styles as a foundation for team discovery and a process to improve interpersonal relationships. Individuals are constantly amazed in completing the self assessment how the simple selection of words that best describe, and words that least describe oneself, can provide such insight into personal preferences and strengths.

The one facet of DiSC that I constantly stress was a discussion I had with a good friend, Dr. Dennis Deaton, in that as humans we have the remarkable ability to change our thoughts right in the process of thinking them. As this relates to DiSC we can actually identify our initial reactions based upon our natural preferences, yet before we take action, we can analyze these thoughts/reactions and chose if these are the best reactions to the situation at hand.

For managers this is critical, if we ever hope to develop the skill to help others succeed through developing their own strengths and learning to adapt to their weaknesses. DiSC along with our ability to analyze our own thoughts provides the framework for good decision making and communication.