The Marks of a Master Tactician

I am coaching a group of directors who all want to become vice presidents in their companies. These men and women are sharp, gifted individuals. Already they are making a significant impact where they are. They are master tacticians, skilled at executing the strategic initiatives set by those over them.

There used to be a day when vice presidents could be either tactical or strategic. However, those days are gone. More and more companies are wanting to see that prospective VP’s can do both.

The group I'm coaching already shows great signs of being able to flex their strategic muscles, but they've been in roles that are heavily tactical.

Moreover, they are so busy implementing what they are tasked to do that they have little room for what it takes to practice the art of strategy.

In this multi-part blog series we are going to discuss:

  • The Marks of a Master Tactician
  • The Marks of a Master Strategist
  • Combining a Strategic Mindset With Your Tactical Base

As a leader, you may already be identifying in your mind who on your team is more strategic and who is more tactical.

To advance excellence in your team, all members of the team need to understand and implement principles of both--what it takes to be a Master Tactician and what it takes to be a Master Strategist.

The higher up they move in the company, the more they will be working through others, so they will need a strategic mindset to succeed.

However, those who are closest to the front lines, who require a tactical mindset, will also need to understand what you as the leader need in order to make effective decisions for the good of all.

For example, suppose your frontline had a basic training on how to spot trends not yet revealed by the data you are seeing. Imagine what a difference that would make to you and to the company.

If a team were to take this basic training, what might they draw out about what it means to be tactical? Basically, it is “work done below the shoulders.”

Those who are strong at being tactical are strong at executing. So tactical people are operational.

Tactical people’s line of vision is focused on the shorter term.  Sometimes it means being focused in the moment.  As such, they can be reactionary, but must definitely be adaptable and flexible.

Let’s look at what the work life of a master tactician entails:

1. They achieve the strategy for their small part of the business.

While they may have some awareness of the overall strategy for the company, tacticians usually don’t have overall details, but they do have details for their part of the business.

Once they receive the strategy, master tacticians know who on their team needs to do what in order to accomplish the goals.  They put together solid plans and work the plan. This gives them a great deal of control in the day-to-day operations, as long as higher ups trust them to execute.

2. They are resource management oriented.

Master tacticians directly use the resources of the company to accomplish the strategy.  As such, masterful ones are wise with how they allocate the resources, and they are accountable for how they use them.

3. They are project-oriented.

Tacticians go from project to project, often working a few different ones at the same time.  They get the benefit of seeing the fruit of their labors in shorter term bursts than the strategists do.  This can be incredibly rewarding.

4. They are fast-moving and always busy.

There is never a break.  There is always a ton of work. There are always decisions to be made as to what gets dropped. There is a constant need to filter all that they have through Julie Morgenstern’s 4 D’s - Delegate, Delete, Delay, and Diminish.

Many have at least double digit unread messages -- if not triple.  Their work is such that they can’t stop.  There are always more meetings, or stakeholder calls to make, in addition to the projects they are on.

However, those who are master tacticians thrive in that type of fast-paced environment.  If they are in the right tactical role, they are never bored.  There is always something to do.

5. Typically, the only time they think about the business is when they are on vacation, or about to fall asleep.

As you can infer from above, the thought of being able to stop and really think about the business seems like a luxury to them.  Many say that the only time they do is when they are on vacation or about to fall asleep.

For some personality types, that could be a gift.  Yes, it could be frustrating not to have more of a say in the strategy, but those who love to execute thrive here.

It is easy to see why some people would never want to leave the tactical realm.  If they are wired for it, they can get into their comfort zone and never leave.

However, as I said earlier, the days are now here that in order to move to higher levels in a company, there has to be a strategic mindset as well as a tactical one.

Chew On This:

  • Who on your team is more tactically oriented?
  • Who is more strategic?
  • Who seems to balance both really well?
  • Who are you thinking of promoting? :-)

 

Ryan C. Bailey is President and CEO of a company that equips leaders to develop the teams that everyone wants to work for. *This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients.  No one single client is being singled out.

What the FitBit Taught Me about Healthy Competition

When I was younger, I trained to be a professional tennis player.  I had a competitive drive back then, and it served me well.  But as I became established in a helping profession, and being an ENFJ, I found myself working more towards harmony than competition.  I allowed myself to get out of balance and worked an insane number of hours.  I stopped tennis and most other forms of exercise, and gained a lot of weight.

Now I’m committed to getting back in shape.  I joined WeightWatchers, got a weight-loss coach, and got a Fitbit.  I posted on FaceBook that I wanted accountability and competition, and I asked FaceBook friends to connect to me on Fitbit.

I’d barely gotten the post out when a friend invited me to compete on his WorkWeek Hustle Challenge.

I know I must be behind the times a bit, but I had no idea what that was.

So then I read that it was a competition to see who takes the most steps between Monday at 12:00am and Friday at 11:59pm. The winner is the one with the most steps.

Until I was invited to join the WorkWeek Challenge, I had no idea how much of a competitive spirit was still in me.

When the WorkWeek Hustle started, I pushed myself hard and spent the first two weeks physically sore.  Like, so sore that my wife laughed when she heard how slowly I was walking down the stairs.

However, by the end of the second week, I could see that the number of steps I took had increased by a huge percentage over the first week.  My friends encouraged me and even gave me some tips as to how to improve.

At the end of each week, we “Cheered” the winner of that WorkWeek Hustle.

That got me thinking....  Is there a way to create a similar type of healthy peer-to-peer competition in the business world?  I believe that there is.

Here is what I learned from Fitbit WorkWeek Challenges and how it can apply to competition among peers who want the best for each other:

1. Healthy competition ends excuse making.

As implied above, when I was invited to compete, I felt an incredible drive to start.  No hesitation, no resistance. I did not care about having to wake up a little earlier, and I found I could workout when I would otherwise be somewhat brain dead. Even going to the gym after a long day was suddenly doable.  In other words, excuses went away.

How many times have we let excuses get in the way of what we know we need to accomplish?

What do you need to improve?

What if you got a small group of peers who were willing to compete with you in that area?  Make sure it is an area that is tangible. For example, a tangible area could be a specific sales number or percentage, the number of calls made, number of minutes spent thinking and brainstorming, number of ways you can encourage team members to excel, etc. Also, make sure it is something that can be done in a short amount of time (a week or so).  The idea is to push yourself, and one another, to really grow.

2. You can play to win even when you really like your competitors and want their good.

When I trained to be a professional tennis player, unless I was playing my tennis partner or someone from my team, I viewed my competitors as neutral “other” figures.  I did not hate them, but neither did I really want their good.  I just wanted to win.

When my doubles partner and I played matches against each other, it was different. Even during the match we would share how each other could improve.  The result was that it would make the matches even better.  We loved the challenge of beating each other at our best.  It was exhilarating.

During the Fitbit challenges, some of my friends have given me tips on how to take more steps.  It has been so encouraging and helpful.

Could you imagine what it would be like if your small competitive group wanted to make the improvements so badly that they pushed each other to improve and grow, even risking losing just to gain mastery in an area?

3. Increased fun.

It has been so much fun busting out a bunch of steps--only to see one of my Fitbit friends blow me out of the water. I can’t help but laugh and realize how much further I have to grow.  What is even more fun is when I outdo them the next time :-)

The same could be true for you and your small group.  Think of how much fun you will have as you each outdo each other.

4. Increased creativity.

When I first started these challenges, I was using strictly the elliptical.  I love the elliptical, but then I discovered I can take more steps per minute on the treadmill, and now the elliptical is a weekend thing, or a short alternative when my left shin feels like it is going to explode.

Being a creature of habit, I never would have come to enjoy the treadmill the way I do, had it not been for the Fitbit WorkWeek Hustle Challenge.

Anticipate that you will get creative in order to beat your peers.  Think of how much productivity that will bring to you.

5. Push myself above what I perceived was a limit.

I work long hours, having back-to-back sessions (face-to-face, Skype, FaceTime, or phone), so the thought of getting to 10k steps per day seemed like a fantasy.

Then I saw that most of my Fitbit friends were nailing their 10k steps, and I knew some of them worked long hours in back-to-back meetings as well.  In fact, some of them were consistently over 15k steps per day.

So I looked for ways to increase it.  Every little bit counted.

Then it happened.  I passed 10k.

So I went for 15k steps per day.  Nailed it the next day when I realized that if I pace during phone calls, it actually helps me to focus and coach better.

Then I wanted to see how far I can go.... I figured I could reach 18k if I went to the gym twice per day and went for a walk with my wife when I got home from work.  I was completely wrong.  I hit 21k steps in a day.

This would not have happened had I not seen Fitbit friends hit 18k-20k steps in a day.

So just think of how you will reach new limits through competing with your peers.  It is incredibly encouraging when you see your peers reach limits that you did not think you would reach.  And it is exhilarating when you blaze the trail by hitting the new limit first.

6. Chance to compete again next time.

With the WorkWeek Hustle lasting only 5 days, you have the chance to compete again next week.  This is a great opportunity to see how you can refine and improve your strategy.

If you are competing against your peers, make sure that the time of each competition is short, to give you plenty of opportunities to refine and implement a new strategy for the next time.

7. Competitors can celebrate together.

What has also been encouraging is to have fellow competitors “Cheer” each other on.  The winner of the week often gets showered with “Cheers.”  Yet, as much as we can be happy for one another, there is naturally a deep desire to beat them next week.

How often do peers cheer you on when you accomplish something?  How often do you cheer peers on?  I am not talking the short bravos that may take place on a team call.  I mean a heartfelt cheer.

Your small group of peers can do that for one another.

Developing a peer group to compete with will create a team of people who want one another’s best, who give each other tips to improve, who cheer one another on, and want to maximize their own abilities.

Chew On This:

  • Who are the peers that you will ask to join your company WorkWeek challenge?
  • What are the options for tangible areas in which you can compete?

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.

7 Tips To Be Fully Present When You Have A Lot On Your Mind

I recently did a "Getting Things Done" workshop where the first exercise I had the team do was to list on a piece of paper all the things that were on their mind at that moment.... I asked them to be thorough. Then I asked them to think not just about work, but also what was going through their minds about home, family, hobbies, entertainment, etc. If it was on their mind, they needed to get it down on paper. They had only 10mins to do this brain dump.

The number of items each team member listed was between 13-28.

That’s a lot swirling in the head.  But these people were not unusual.  I bet if you took 10mins right now to do the same exercise, you would be in the same range.

How do you think all of those things swirling in the head impacts your ability to be fully present with a direct report, or fully present in a meeting?

Being fully present is an easy way to show someone, or a group, that you value them.  It is also a fantastic way to create impact.

But how can you be present when you have 13-28 big things on your mind?  How can you push them aside for a bit and focus on what is before you?

1. Brain dump.

Try the brain dump exercise I described above.  Just dump everything in your head onto a piece of paper.

Next to each item, quickly jot down the ideal outcome you want for that item.  Then write down the next action step that needs to be taken to achieve that outcome.

For more on this, check out Productivity Made Simple.

2. Schedule time to worry.

Maybe you don’t have time to list everything.  An impromptu meeting is about to happen and you need to be fully present.  A technique that has helped some people is to schedule a time to worry about the things that are on your mind.  Literally, put it on the calendar. (You can create a code phrase for it in case others look at your calendar.)  Don’t be surprised if, after you set the appointment, you find you can fully focus.

3. All distractions out of sight.

What distracts you when you are in a meeting?  Often it is a smartphone alerting you to a text or email.  Sometimes it is a call, or someone knocking on the door.

Make a list of the things that have prevented you from being fully present, then find a way to radically deal with them.

So for example, if your phone is the culprit, turn it off and put it in a desk drawer. Don’t let the smartphone run you.

Look at the other things that distract you.  What do you need to do to radically deal with them?

4. Set an alarm for the end of the meeting, or ask someone to knock on the door when five minutes are left.

Since your smartphone is away, have some sort of alarm that can go off 5mins before the meeting is scheduled to be over.

Another way to do that is to ask your assistant, or the next person who is meeting with you, to knock on the door five minutes before the meeting is scheduled to wrap up.

Five minutes should be sufficient time to capture the action steps from that meeting and close things up.

If you need more time and you choose to run late, let those who need to know how much time you think you’ll need, with some small buffer.

5. Deep breathing.

Now it’s time to take five deep breaths.  Get some oxygen to your brain.  Let yourself be present to your own breathing on the way in, and out.  This type of focusing will help you get into the right mind-space so that you can be fully present.

6. Look them in the eye.

When you get in front of the stakeholder or group, really focus on their eyes.  Make a connection with those who are before you.  See if you can pick up their emotions.  Allow yourself to mirror it for a moment.  Let yourself be with the person/group you are with.

7. Active listening.

Active listening techniques help you to be fully present.

Those who are masters at being present are those whom you want to spend more time with.  They lead you to feel motivated, engaged, and liked.  Learning to be fully present is also a great way to make sure you are communicating clearly with the person meeting with you, which can be a huge time saver. Being fully present is a gift, but by using these seven tips, you will find it is also a skill that can be developed.

Chew On This:

  • How many things are swirling in your head right now?

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.

8 Ways to Own Your Senior Leadership Presentation

If you are going to present to senior leaders, you need to understand that it is different from doing a presentation to your team or to peers. Senior leaders are focused on high-level decision making.  Consequently, your presentation needs to support them as they make these decisions.

Below are some tips that can be useful when presenting to senior leadership:

1. Over-Prepare.

When presenting to senior leaders, it is really important that you over-prepare.  Make sure you know not only the materials pertaining to the stated topic, but be prepared with any insights you have gained from looking at all the materials.

Make sure you anticipate their questions.  Think in terms of how the material they are presenting will help them make good high-level decisions.

Develop some thought leadership on the topic.  This can come in the form of insights that may not show up in the data you are presenting (personal insights you have gained from being closer to the front lines).   These are insights that they would not otherwise be exposed to.  A key insight would be what you foresee may be coming, based on the data and your connection to those closest to the front line.

2. Have one key message that you want to make sure they walk away with, and start with that message.

This can be the thought leadership point that we discussed above, especially if it answers the central question that senior leaders are asking.

If your presentation is based more on something you want from them, then the key message could be your request, tailored to what they value, so they can see the benefit of saying yes to your request.

Be sure to repeat this key message directly, or in a paraphrased version, during the presentation, and end with it.

3. Assume you have only half the time you were allotted. Oftentimes, presentations run long.  If you can do your presentation in half the time and still leave a lot of room for engagement, you will be seen as a winner.  You will notice senior leaders breathe a sigh of relief as you helped them get back on track.

Higher ups will look forward to your future presentations because they know you will be efficient with your words, and be able to convey a message in a fraction of the time.  This is a skill to be practiced and developed.

Be sure to have supplemental slides that you can access quickly in case they want more details from your shortened presentation.

4. Own the process.

How do the content, engagement format, and your co-presenters help move the discussion to simple, practical actions that won’t add to senior leaders’ workload?

You are responsible for all parts of your presentation.  You are responsible to move engagement towards action.  Just be certain the actions you want are simple and practical.  Senior leaders are highly busy.

You will need to be prepared for senior leaders to interrupt you and ask questions.  At other times, they will patiently hear all the details, and even ask for more.  You may not know ahead of time which way they will lean, so be prepared for either.

5. Start with a summary of the key points you have developed to meet their particular request for help.

This first slide could contain the key message you want them to walk away with, then short phrases to capture the bullet points.

Since I cannot share data about a specific company, I will give you the summary slide that I use when I do a workshop on Greg McKeown’s Essentialism.  You can adjust it for your presentations.

Some senior leaders like pithy or catchy quotes like the above; others will not.  It is really important that you tailor your deck to your audience.

Let the rest of the PowerPoint slides support this first key slide.  If your first slide is good, you may find that most of the time will be spent discussing the key points of this slide.  Take that as a positive sign.

Make sure that you lead with what is most important to senior leaders.  Since many of them will be Sensors on the MBTI, they typically will get heavily into the details of the first item and thus spend a considerably less time with the rest.  (So in the example slide above, senior leaders typically spend 40% of the time on the first quote.)

6. Focus on simple practical actions that don’t add to their already-heavy workload.

If the primary purpose of your presentation is to encourage senior leaders to take the specific actions you want them to take, then please lead with those simple action items. You can then build the rest of the presentation around those actions.

If your presentation is about relaying data and providing thought leadership from your perspective, then facilitate discussion around the simple action items they need to take to achieve the best results.  If you think about how much money is spent in everyone’s compensation package per presentation, the amount is staggering.  Senior leaders are often very busy, so it is hard to have them all in the room at one time. Your presentation time will be their time to brainstorm and make decisions.

7. Include a buffer of time for the unexpected 10%-25%, depending on your history for going over with that audience.  If it is a new audience, then focus on the overall time.

8. Once you complete the PowerPoint deck, prepare for the presentation by going through the slides with objective outsiders, not just with your co-presenters.

Have them not only give you feedback, but also ask you the toughest questions they can think of to help you prepare.

Presenting to senior leaders is different from presenting to peers and your team.  The focus for senior leaders is on high-level decision making.  The key is to orient the presentation so that it is efficient and facilitates brainstorming which will lead to simple action items.

Chew On This:

  • What is the main message you want senior leaders to walk away with from your next presentation to them?

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.

 

*This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients.  No one single client is being singled out.

 

How to Lead Your Team Through Personal Change

A client, let’s call her Liz, made a huge transformation.  Putting it mildly, she used to have an anger management issue.  She was the executive that you never wanted as a boss.  At times, she would be super nice and seem like she was your best friend, but if you crossed her or screwed something up that embarrassed her, she could be brutal. After we worked together for about a year, everyone began noticing a remarkable change.  Frankly, it was a change that happened faster than most.  To be clear, she made the change. She took the change process very seriously. She had great desire and she really embraced the coaching process.

After the year was up, she noticed that some people with whom she had not had much contact were still walking on eggshells around her.  They were unaware of her change.

Here is what I saw her do that helped others to trust the change:

1. Explain the change.

When she saw people were walking on eggshells with her, she would explain that she had gone through a change because she had worked on the anger issue.  She would not go into a lot of details, but a simple acknowledgement went far.

2. Apologize for the previous behaviors.

She then apologized for the role she had played in leading the person to walk on eggshells.  She said things like, “At times I was out of control, overly brutal, and completely unempathetic.  I was like a bull seeing red.  I am sorry for the impact I had on you.”

3. Be patient as they speak while they are still on guard.

As she noticed that people were still on edge, even after her explanation and apology, she showed a great deal of patience.  She shared with me, “Eventually they will know that the change is real.  In the meantime, I just need to stay the course.”

4. Slightly soften tone to convey that you are going to be calm.

When she noticed that they were getting on edge, especially if they made a mistake, she softened up more by adjusting her tone and body language.

When you soften your tone and relax, people start to reflect that posture. That helps them to lose the edge.  She also did a great job assuring them that she would remain calm and that they were going to fix the problem together.

5. Take them out to lunch or coffee so they can experience the new you.

She took a few key people out to lunch or coffee outside of the office.  This helped them to experience her in a different setting.  It was really important for them to see that she was authentic.  If something happened that she felt angry about, she expressed it; but she also shared what she does with the anger to bring it down.

What is hard to remember when you make a real transformation is that other people have to adjust to your change.

Unfortunately, when you make a real change, others can become uncomfortable around you, especially when the change is a positive one.

Positive change can bring about a level of conviction in others, if they are not growing.  It can also bring doubt that the change is real which impacts the level of trust.

It is important to stay the course. It's also important to have people around you who will encourage you to stay the course, and even grow more.

Eventually people will adjust and, hopefully, enjoy the new you.

Chew On This:

  • If you are working towards transforming yourself, how can you prepare your team for the change?

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams. *This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients.  No one single client is being singled out.

Establishing An Ownership Culture Within Your Team

I was in a meeting with my client (let’s call her Jane), one of her direct reports (let’s call her Martha), Martha’s coach, and someone from HR. As you have probably already guessed, it was one of those meetings. Weeks earlier, Jane had learned that Martha was gossiping about her to other people on the team.  How did she learn about it?  Not one, not two, but three people on Martha’s team had gone to Jane and shared how uncomfortable they felt around Martha.  All three shared how raw and wounded Martha seemed to them.  Two out of the three stated that the ongoing gossip was having a negative effect on the team.

Jane had tried to talk to Martha one-on-one.  She listened carefully, paraphrased what she heard, owned what she could own, but held firm on areas that were Martha’s responsibility. However, Martha refused to accept responsibility. Later, Jane shared with me that all she had gotten during that one-on-one was “defensiveness and political posturing.”  When the gossiping continued, Jane tried a couple of different ways to help mend the relationship between herself and Martha, but nothing worked.

Martha’s coach reached out to me and we, with permission from our respective clients, had an open dialogue as to how we could help them reconcile. Although our conversation was enlightening and productive, we closed the conversation realizing that Martha’s lack of desire to own responsibility and work for change would be an ongoing source of trouble.

The team Jane leads is a shining star in her company.  It wasn’t always that way.  When Jane started with the team she earned a 33% engagement score. (For those of you who don’t know, that is a terrible score. It shows how little the team felt motivated and empowered, or how little they enjoyed the work they were doing.)  Within two years that engagement score went up to 88% and in the third year it went up to 97%--a feat no other team in their company had ever accomplished in such a short time span.

Jane was feeling a lot of pressure to maintain the engagement score, and she feared that because of Martha’s clout with the team, the turnaround story of her team was being threatened.

So now we are all together in a room and HR is involved.

What happened?

Martha chose to sit at the head of the table.  Jane was to her left.  Martha’s coach was to her right.  HR was behind Jane.  I was behind Martha’s coach, but because of the angle of the table and the fact that I was sitting a little farther back than the man from HR, I could see everyone’s reactions as the conversation progressed.

Jane opened and tried to set the stage for a constructive conversation. She expressed gratitude to Martha, was humble, real, authentic, vulnerable, and owned the parts that she felt were off.  She also shared the steps she was taking and would be taking to correct those parts.

Martha kept interrupting.  Her voice was raised almost to the point of yelling. I am pretty sure if someone walked by the office, they could have heard, even though the door was closed.

The reactions from the observers in the room were really different.  At times, HR was shocked.  Martha’s coach was noticeably nervous, and at times she tried to interject to help Martha gain some emotional self-control.

I was really surprised that Martha was as brutal and brazen as she was in front of HR.

Despite everyone’s attempts, Martha refused to own any part of what she had done.  She blame shifted, minimized, rationalized and made excuses.

When it finally hit Martha that she may lose the leadership of her team, she offered to stop talking about Jane to her team and to work to mend the relationship.

However, although there were some superficial changes, the relationship between Martha and Jane never improved, and team members noticed that Martha’s decision-making, leadership, and engagement went into the tank.

Jane escalated steps to resolve the tension, but to no avail.  Martha saw the writing on the wall.  Three months later she took a different role in the company, which had nothing to do with Jane’s team.  A year later Martha’s role was eliminated and she started her own company.

The Role of Ownership

In short, Martha formed some destructive beliefs about Jane.  Despite solid evidence to the contrary, Martha became entrenched in those beliefs.

The more entrenched she became, the less she was able to hear Jane or anyone else on her team.

Having witnessed a few other situations like this, I can see one clear difference between those that were successfully reconciled and this one.  In the ones that were reconciled,  there was ownership.

Ownership takes place when you accept responsibility for your role in a problem and express it to those involved without trying to “market” yourself.  That is, there is no blame shifting, excuse making, minimizing, etc.  It can be as uncomplicated as saying, “I did X.”  Simple short sentences are often key.

The first step on the way to change is real ownership.  Ownership leads to humility.  Humility is key to being teachable.  When we are teachable, we can learn how to make the changes we need to make.

When someone owns what they did, they lower their guard and become vulnerable.  This can make ownership feel too risky.

However, when most people hear clear, authentic ownership, they feel hope.  That hope leads to a desire to protect and help the one who owned make the necessary changes.  Moreover, we want to forgive them.

I have seen some people not own and make changes, but I often wonder how deep those changes go. Sometimes the change seems superficial, made only because of the threat of loss.  It is more like a dam that is holding back water.  Once the threat is removed, the dam breaks and all the stored-up wrath floods not only the one who offended them, but their entire team as well.

This level of toxicity kills engagement and productivity, and impacts results.

Chew On This:

 

  • What do you need to own?  What short phrase captures what you need to own?

 

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.

*This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients.  No one single client is being singled out.

How To Turn Around A Bad Performance Review

It was so uncomfortable.  I was sitting in the room while a client I had recently met laid into one of his direct reports during a performance review, and it was painful. I could tell that both the boss and his direct report were nervous.  The boss revealed his nervousness through anger and an attempt to wield power.  The direct report was just nervous.  A couple of times his hands shook. He did not say much, but that only seemed to anger the boss more.  It was horrible to watch.

A few years later, I was asked to sit in on a performance review between another boss (once again my client) and a direct report with whom he wanted me to work. As in the first case, it was not a good review, but this direct report used an entirely different approach as she responded.

Here are 6 things she did really well:

1. Lowered her defenses. She viewed the review as the start of her comeback story.

When the boss came in with lower scores than she expected, she openly said something to the effect of, “These scores (performance review scores) are lower than what I thought.”  Then she leaned in, smiled slightly, and continued.  “I will listen to you so that I can make any and all changes to ensure that the next review is a big step up from here.”

Her boss smiled and said something to the effect of, “I am going to help you get there.”

It was obvious that she did not let the poor review go to her core.  In that is a huge lesson for us.  The truest you is not your performance.  If you can separate yourself from your performance, you can gain a lot of insights that will be effective in raising you to the next level.

When receiving negative feedback, it is easy to get defensive.  We can be so afraid of how an authority figure is perceiving us that we want to make excuses, or deflect the criticisms, in hopes of convincing the person that the perception we fear they have of us is not true.  But defensiveness usually makes things worse.

Instead, view a negative review as the start to your comeback story. (Everyone loves a comeback story.)  If you can see it as the start of your comeback story, then you will probably regulate your emotions well enough that you can gain clarity on what and how to improve.

2. Listened carefully to the feedback and repeated back/paraphrased what she was hearing.

She continued to lean forward slightly as she took notes on what her boss was saying. She used positive body language (i.e. nodding her head up and down) to connote that she wanted to receive the feedback and was taking it in.

She repeated back or paraphrased at times, which had the effect of engaging her boss so that they were aligned together against the problem, instead of her feeling like he was against her.

Anytime she was unclear about something her boss said, she would ask for clarity.

3. Searched for what is true.

It is easy during a bad performance review to pick apart what isn’t true.  However, if you do, you will miss a huge learning opportunity, which will, in turn, hinder you from being the person you were meant to be.

Focus on what parts are true.  Repeat back or paraphrase those parts.

If some aspects are not true, and these are important, ask how you could address these without sounding defensive.  For example, “XYZ is true. I will work on that. There are a couple of aspects of what you said that seem to be important, and I want to address those in a way that doesn’t lead you to believe that I am defensive. Should we set up a time to talk about those?”

4. Developed a plan and asked for a plan feedback time.

When the review ends, don’t forget to thank your boss.  As you probably know from personal experience, giving a negative review is tricky.

Let your boss know that you are going to develop a plan around the areas of concerns.  Inform your boss that you are open to hearing what, if anything, was not included that might be helpful for you to implement in order to grow in the areas you need to grow in.

Also be sure to ask your boss if you could gain feedback on the plan.  This will further align the two of you towards the common goal of helping you reach your potential.

When making the plan, be sure to create small tangible steps that will encourage you and empower you to continue to make the journey towards transformation.

5. Included mentors and coaches in the plan.

Be sure to ask, if you don’t know, who the people are who are excellent in your areas of weakness.  Contact them and see if they are willing to mentor you.  Hiring a coach could also be effective in helping you continue in your turnaround story.

6. Made sure that the feedback time was clear.

When you have the feedback time with your boss, make sure you are completely clear on any points they are making.

Be sure to mention that you are grateful for the opportunity to grow and that you are committed to making the changes.

A poor review doesn’t mean that you are bad.  It can actually be the start of something fantastic.  Having watched a few people get promoted within a year of a poor review has more than convinced me that the sooner we let go of our egos and embrace a humble posture, the faster we can continue the climb.

Chew On This:

  • What will help you to believe at a core level that you are not your performance?

 

 

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.

 

*This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients.  No one single client is being singled out.

Forgiveness At the Executive Level

You give a lot of yourself in order to develop those on your team.  You’ve taken some hits for them, provided cover for them, and you have also shown them a lot of loyalty.  You take leading your team seriously.

So what happens when a team member betrays you?  What happens when you realize that the loyalty you thought was mutual isn’t there?

If you are not careful, you might start to over-lead with self-protection.  That is, you can protect yourself from being hurt again by giving less of yourself to your team.  Without realizing it, your passion, drive, and even desire to make an impact through your team can be crippled.

In order to do your best and develop a high performing team, you need to be fully engaged, willing to risk betrayal for the sake of developing others.

If you find yourself being too defensive or self-protective, and you can see that part of the reason was a betrayal, you need to learn to forgive.

What purpose does forgiveness serve?

Forgiveness satisfies the debt that the offense created.  If you can forgive the offense, you will stop thinking about it.  You will function out of a sense of wholeness and peace, not out of the sense of loss that the offense generated. You will see yourself become stronger than you’ve ever been, and more resilient than you thought you could be.

However, the sad reality is that most of us don’t really know what forgiveness means, much less know how to forgive.

What do you believe would happen if you fully forgave the one who hurt you?  Some believe that a part of forgiving is to treat the offense as if it did not matter.  Others believe that if they forgive, they have to be close to the person they forgave.  Some believe that if they forgive, they are actually enabling the other person to continue to repeat the behaviors that caused so much damage.  What if I told you that none of those things is what forgiveness is about?

According to http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ to forgive is:

1a : to give up resentment of or claim to requital for

1b : to grant relief from payment of

2: to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) : pardon

Notice that forgiveness has nothing to do with reconciliation. Notice that it doesn’t even have to do with whether or not the offender has changed, whether or not they have asked you for forgiveness, or if they even want it.  In fact, the offender does not even need to be part of the process.

  • Forgiveness is not saying that what the offender did is okay.
  • Forgiveness is about you being free from the burden of the offense. It prevents more from being stolen from you than what the offensive act(s) already stole.
  • Forgiveness prevents you from closing off your heart and not letting anything in. When you close off your heart, not even good can come in.
  • Forgiveness prevents bitterness and a life that is utterly unfulfilling and frustrating.

Eventually, those who do not forgive isolate themselves as they perceive that more and more people are like their offender, and systematically remove them all from their lives.

But how do you forgive?

First, you need to know what you are forgiving. There is going to be a part that is obvious. For example, one of your directs, whom you poured yourself into, took a job with a competitor.  There are also going to be parts that are not as obvious. For example, you feel used and discarded.  You need to know both the obvious and the not-so-obvious parts.

Once you know what you need to forgive, we can use one of the following six options or a combination of them. Each one requires that you really chew, or thoroughly think it through, if it is going to help you fully forgive:

1) We can choose to pay down the debt ourselves. When we have not forgiven someone, our hearts often look for ways to get justice that are not appropriate. One way could be gossiping about the offender. Another could be just thinking about the offender in negative ways.

When we actively choose not to pursue inappropriate justice, it diminishes our feelings of vengeance.

The more we make that choice, the more we pay down the debt the offense created.

Eventually, we won’t even seek the inappropriate justice because forgiveness has happened.

2) Chew on what it would be like to have forgiven the offender. Dream here. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What would your life look like if I forgave the offender?
  • What would I think about instead of dwelling on the bitter scenes that come into my head?
  • What would my energy level be like if I released myself from the burden of carrying un-forgiveness?
  • What would my moods be like?

The more details you give to the answers to those questions, the more you will desire to forgive. The more you desire to forgive, the more likely you are to forgive.

3) Recognize that, in some cases, the offense is so big that no amount of justice can satisfy it. When the offense is great, nothing the offender can do will ever make up the loss created.  Furthermore, if the offense is great, no amount of vindictive actions on our part will assuage the injustice we feel.

So even if the person spent an entire lifetime trying to make it up, and we spent our entire lifetime being as vindictive as we could be, at the end of life we would feel like we had not begun to mitigate the offense. We would die bitter old people.

The more we chew on that, the more we will sense that our lack of forgiveness is a trap. Therefore, in order to keep ourselves from being trapped, we forgive.

4) Need to make the offender an equal. By refusing to forgive someone, we make ourselves a judge over that person. It leads to a one-up/one-down relationship.

The one-up/one-down relationship leads us to believe that we have the right to judge them, and so we don’t pursue forgiveness.

If, however, we note that there is something in our hearts that, if left unchecked, could cause damage comparable to the damage that was done against us, and if we “chew” by thinking through the logical implications of that, we start to see that the offender is not that much different from us.

It is easier to forgive someone who is “just like us” than someone who is beneath us.

5) Repeat to yourself in many different ways that you forgive the offender. Sometimes we need to say we forgive in different ways for the forgiveness to be released at a heart level. “I forgive Jim.” “I release myself from pursuing the justice I deserve from Jim.” “I choose to no longer try to make Jim pay for what he did to me.”

6) Write a forgiveness letter to the offender (you can choose to mail it or not). First take some time to understand your offender. What led them to do what they did against you?

Doing this will not minimize the harm they have done to you. Nor will it lead to excusing what they did. Instead, it will start to humanize the person.

Writing a letter in which you 1) express all the harm done to you, 2) attempt to understand what may have led to it, and 3) clearly declare that you hold nothing against the offender, can be cathartic and lead to forgiveness.

Some people choose to mail the letter, some save it, some decide to burn it.

I wish we could all forgive as easily as little kids seem to, but we can’t.  Know that forgiveness is going to be a process.

You know that you are done forgiving when you can think about it and it no longer feels raw.  I know that I have forgiven someone when I no longer randomly have an argument in my head with them.

Forgiveness brings about freedom.  It helps you to fully engage your team and do the work that you are best at, with joy.

Chew On This:

  • What would your leadership be like if you fully forgave?

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.

Your Best Self In The New Year

This blog is going to be short. If you followed last week’s blog, we discussed how busy the holiday season can get, and I am discovering that is truer than I realized ;-) Many of us are looking into the new year with a desire to better ourselves.  We may have received some feedback as to what areas need to be improved.  We may also know intuitively of other areas that need improvement.

A helpful question my coach once gave me is, “If you had to replace yourself with an idealized version of yourself, what traits would your replacement have?”

So let me be clear... Since we are talking about ideal traits, we may never reach that idealized version of ourselves, but excellence and mastery can still be achieved.  For a goal to be SMART, it must be achievable.

For me, one skill my replacement would bring would be the ability to apply just the right amount of structure into coaching meetings without losing connection or movement towards the essence of what a client wants resolved.

1. Create SMART Goals

My advice is to make a list of ideal traits then consider creating SMART goals around each of those idealized traits. 

So for me, it is: In January, I will ask clients whom I sense want more structure to describe the structure they want, and I will start a process of trial and error to nail the structure they are looking for within three months.

If you create SMART goals around the idealized traits, then you can set yourself up for success by breaking those goals down into smaller steps.  Given the above goal, my steps can include:

  1. Determine which clients want more structure.
  2. Depending on personality type, phone, Skype, email, or wait until our next meeting to talk about the structure they desire for our meetings.
  3. After they share what they want, repeat what I hear them say until they feel like I’ve nailed it.
  4. Let them know that I want to nail it down as soon as possible, and if there are further tweaks that need to be made along the way, I will be happy to make them.
  5. Implement.
  6. Review and assess how it’s going with the client.

2. Get Accountability

Next step is to have accountability for the change you want to make.  How would you like to be held accountable for the realization of those idealized traits?  In my case, I have my coach. But more importantly, the client will naturally provide accountability.  Accountability would also come from what I am sensing as the structure is implemented.

3. Celebrate Your Victory

Finally, once repeatedly nailed, it will be time to celebrate.  How would you like to see yourself celebrate once you’ve achieved what’s possible to achieve, with respect to that idealized trait?

The celebration could be small, like “I will buy a couple of songs on iTunes that I have saved in my wish list.”  For goals that really impact your leadership or team, you could choose something bigger, like “I will take my wife and kids on a three-day beach vacation.”  The idea is to visualize how you will celebrate so you are further motivated to achieve that goal.

If the goal is a bigger or long-term one, consider having celebrations each time a milestone is met.

If you dream of the idealized version of yourself, you can achieve your best you.  Make small, steady progress, and you will be surprised by how different you will be by this time in 2017!

Have a fantastic holiday season and very happy new year!

Chew On This:

  • What traits does your idealized self have?

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.

Stay in the Strike Zone by Discovering Your Bent

discovering-your-bent-to-stay-in-theEveryone has something that they are especially gifted in.  It is something that is really them, something they can use to effect the greatest good for the greatest number. Do you know what yours is?

Or, to put it another way, do you know what your “thing” is?

Your thing, or your bent, is something you could apply anywhere in life.  Typically, it transcends arena, but you would especially use it at work, since you spend so many hours there.

Clients have shared things like:

  • “I innovate”
  • “I refine”
  • “I make things right”
  • “I bring order out of chaos”

Do you see how any of those things could apply anywhere in life?  Do you see how someone could be innovative at work but also at home--planning meals, parenting, etc?

That is what you are looking for.

Is there something stirring in you now that you think may be your thing?  Maybe you are still not sure.

I ask my clients three different questions to help them discover their thing:

 

  • What have your greatest accomplishments had in common?  What have you been known for?

 

If you can’t think of what to list as your greatest accomplishments, then start by telling yourself your own story and see what stands out as the greatest accomplishments or something you were known for. Let me tell you a little bit of my story to help you see how I discovered what my thing is, and maybe that will help you discover yours.

I was the little kid who knew everyone’s secrets.  Two friends would be at odds with each other, and both would talk to me without ever knowing that the other was doing the same thing.

I went to the second largest high school in the country, Brooklyn Tech.  There were so many students that when we walked the stage to get our diplomas at graduation, some of my friends and I remarked that we had never seen some of the people on stage before.

Somehow at school my name got around as the guy you talk to if you are having girlfriend/boyfriend problems or “parent issues."

My mother, who is a surgeon but goes by her last name Paoli, used to jokingly answer our home telephone line by saying, “Dr. Bailey’s line," then hand me the phone.

Everyone knew that I was going to be a therapist (no one knew what coaching was back then).

When I started heading in the therapy direction, my parents encouraged me to go into business. I did.

Throughout my time working for a stockbroker (who eventually became a venture capitalist), writing business plans, and being a financial consultant, clients would say things like, “You know you sound like a therapist”;  “You ask questions like a therapist”; “Are you sure you are not a therapist?”

Eventually I became a therapist, but despite really enjoying therapy, I missed the business world.  My wife started saying things like, “It’s a shame you have this expensive business degree but use it only for your business."

Then she read an article on coaching and exclaimed, “Ryan this is you!!!  This is so you!!!  You’ve got to read it!”

Since a lot of my therapist friends at that time pooh-poohed the idea of coaching, I did not read it.

But my wife persisted over the next few days until I finally relented and read it.

I’m glad I did, because she was right again.  It was me.

I immediately bought a book on coaching, then hired my own coach, got trained, and began calling counseling clients whom I had not seen in years.  Since many of them were executives, I added executive coaching to my list of services.

When I looked at my biggest successes in counseling and executive coaching, what they had in common was that I “got to the heart” and worked at that level.

 

  • What have others told you that you did to achieve the greatest home runs?

 

To gain confirmation on the “getting to the heart” thing, I contacted clients who had experienced home runs and asked them, “What did I do that most helped you to have the home run you experienced during our time together?”

The vast majority said some version of, “You got to the heart.”

I could have just started with this step if I would have thought of it.  But the home runs were in seemingly different areas (i.e. porn addiction recovery, marriage counseling, leadership development, high performance team formation, etc.).

What about you?  What’s your story?  What does it reveal about what your “thing” is?

 

  • What natural gifts do you have that have always been better than average and make you feel alive when you use them?

 

A third way you can discover your "thing" is to ask, “What have I always done at a better than average level?”  See if any of those gifts can be applied across your life.

With some of them you may have to look deeper.

For example, I had a client who was in his 50’s, who said, among other things, that he was always able to hit a great forehand.  When we analyzed what he did to hit that great forehand consistently, and what he experienced while hitting the best forehands, he described how he would get into a zone where the court would look huge so it felt like he could not miss.

We then worked on ways for him to get in that zone more often.

The more he got into the flow of that zone in any area of life, the better he did.

So he became intentional about “getting into the zone”.

Once you discover what your thing is, use it intentionally in any and every area of life.  The more you do that, the more you stay in your strike zone.

The more you stay in your strike zone, the more you will see your “thing” as a gift.

The humility that comes from seeing that brings real contentment and a desire to use your gift as much as possible for the greatest ends.

You will also experience more confidence, more meaning, and even taste joy.

Finally, you will also notice that your gift can be improved and grown.  Making small incremental progress brings a sense of true enjoyment.

When team members discover what their thing is and directly apply it to their role, their engagement goes up, camaraderie increases, and they become much more helpful to their fellow team members.

As a final thought, make sure you can explain what your “thing” is in less than seven words (preferably four or less).  You will love the clarity that comes from that exercise.

Chew On This:

 

  • What would be different about your life if you discovered what your “thing” is and constantly used it at work?

 

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.