Confessions of a Perfectionist

I haven’t written a blog post in over two months. I want to write something from my heart - something that will grab your attention and lead you to share this blog with all of your friends. If I’m honest, I want more than that. I want you and your friends to hire my team and I.

So it feels like I have to be authentic, relevant, and insightful. I’ve filled myself with a perfectionistic pressure, creating a level of expectation that I cannot meet. So, yes. It’s been two months. I hid behind busyness when I needed to just be vulnerable, real, and let you in.

What is perfectionism?

Perfectionism is an attempt to control or manage ourselves, others, and others' perceptions of us - and it often thrives on intangible goals. In the workplace, perfectionism can be a chronic source of stress that actually leads to procrastination and a lack of productivity. When we are worried about accomplishing intangible goals, we tend to bypass or dismiss the attainable ones that lead to progress. In an attempt to be perceived as productive and successful, we then mask our procrastination with busyness. The hardest part of perfectionism is the drive to stay hidden instead of risk being vulnerable and seen.

The first goal, then, is to recognize the presence of perfectionism in our lives and become aware of its' impact on ourselves, our work, and our relationships.

  • As a leader, how often have you hid behind busyness instead of letting your team or others in?
  • How much have you let perfectionism get in the way of connection?

Next, we can choose to be vulnerable, let our flaws be seen, and let trusted people into our perfectionism and the fear that drives it.

  • What would happen if you let your team into the insecure places of your heart?
  • What if they joined you and felt a freedom to be real with you as well?

Finally, we can choose to see it as an opportunity for growth, shared human experience, and connection with our team.

  • What would it be like to see your team come alive, engage, and accept you right where you are?
  • What would it be like to become an agent for real change where your team knows they can be human at work?

No need for them to hide, manipulate or front that they have it together. No need to live in fear of being exposed. Every team member will know that they can be who they are and be accepted, wanted and pushed to be their best self.

Ultimately, cultivating authentic relationships is the key to building healthy teams and organizational cultures.

In authentic relationships, trust soars and people can easily see your strengths and know how to leverage them for the good of all. In teams that value authenticity, politics are at a minimum, engagement is high, turnover is low, people produce more and go about their work with far less confusion.

It feels risky to be real. Yet when someone in the room risks being real, the rest of us admire them and feel a pull to be real as well.

Someone has to start that. You as the leader are the best one to start.

Chew On This:

  • What step will you take to be real today?

 

Ryan C. Bailey is President and CEO of an organizational effectiveness company that supports leaders in developing in-demand high performing teams

 

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

 

Lessons I Learned in 2017

It’s the last blog of 2017 for me.  It was a fantastic year, filled with many huge changes (to be discussed in a future blog post), and some valuable lessons for my team and me. At the end of a year, we take time to reflect on what has worked well, where there is room to grow, and what lessons we hope to carry over into the new year. Here are four valuable lessons from 2017: 1. Ask what your team expects of you regularly.

This year we’ve grown to a team of six (part-time and full-time) and are probably going to add a seventh in the next couple of months.  The growth has felt organic, more focused on the relationship than revenue.  We genuinely like being around each other and working together.

Recently, we outlined ways in which our work relationship would go.  We defined in a general way what the expectation for each member’s role is.  However, I wished I had asked each of them what they expected of me.

The team has shown great appreciation for what I have given, but I also learned that some of how I was trying to help were not as useful.  It was incredibly freeing to hear that I did not have to do as much.

I also saw that as time went on and we engaged different projects, I needed consistently to ask, “What do you expect from me as you engage this project?” I had tended to assume (and you know what happens when you ass-u-me), and I needed a clear understanding of expectations.

2. Sharpen the interpersonal dynamics as you go.

Another lesson learned is to actively clear any issues in interpersonal team dynamics as you go.  Since our team gets along so well with each other, what we needed to clear were tweaks, not major issues.  But even these tweaks were valuable.

Talking about how we experience one another has helped us to make personal shifts.  Capturing things in the moment helped us to notice that the dynamic of what was happening in ourselves was at play.  That awareness created great personal growth for us.

Also, it has been helpful to share what things, when we do them, really foster better relational dynamics.  So saying “When you did X, I felt engaged and alive” is the kind of statement that helped us understand what to do more for each other.

3. Diversify client base sooner.

Our largest client had crept up to 35% of revenue.  While we love working with them, 35% felt uncomfortable.  This year we took more active strides to diversify the client base than we ever had.  Carving out time to get out there and network has helped us to grow and to learn things from companies that have benefited all our clients.  I wish I had not sacrificed business development as much as I have for the immediate work that was presented.  Moreover, I wish I had hired faster so that I could spend more time developing the business.

4. Allow myself to be me, sooner, and not try to do it like everyone else.

Typically, coaching meetings are 1 hour long.  Early in 2017, a client had only 30 minutes, but we found that we did as much work in that 30min meeting as we had done in 60mins.  So I started experimenting with other clients and found the same thing.  Consistently they told me that they loved the “laser coaching” better than the 60min meetings.

There are plenty of coaches who use the laser coaching style.  I am built for it. I am more focused, think faster, ask better questions, and am not afraid to say hard things.  My clients are also more focused, come in prepared, can process what’s going on, and are much quicker to develop great plans for the issues they came to the meeting to resolve. They leave empowered, engaged, and eager to implement.  Moreover, the cost of laser sessions is less to them.  Win-Win all the way around.

As more and more clients chose the laser style of coaching, I wondered what had stopped me from doing this sooner?  Then it hit me: without realizing it, I had been following the example of some coaches whom I greatly admired.  They would never even consider having 30min meetings rather than 60min meetings.

They are great at what they do, but I needed to set myself up to do my best work, even if it is not in their style.

How about you?  What were the lessons you learned in 2017? I encourage you to sit with your team and explore these questions:

  • What has worked in 2017?
  • What are growth areas for 2018?
  • How will you measure this growth?
  • What are specific goals for each member within your team?
  • How can you help each other in reaching those goals?

I would love to hear from you and compare.

Have a fantastic holiday season! Looking forward to connecting in the new year.

Chew On This:

  • How can you perform your role in a way that is most you?
  • How can your team learn from this year and encourage each other in the new year?

Ryan C. Bailey is President and CEO of an organizational effectiveness company that supports leaders in developing in-demand high performing teams.

The Surprising Difference Gratitude Makes for Business Performance

It’s that time of the year.... As we enter the month of November, Thanksgiving is upon us and many of us bloggers write about gratitude. I am no exception to that.  One thing that I want to stress this year is that gratitude makes a surprising difference to business performance.

Look at these stats....

  • Gratitude actually improves our quality of sleep. In one study, people who kept a gratitude journal slept about 30 minutes more per night, woke up feeling more refreshed, and had an easier time staying awake during the day compared to those who didn’t practice gratitude.
  • The practice of gratitude is linked to lower levels of hostility and aggression. Consistently practicing gratitude can decrease aggression by 20-30%.
  • The National Institute of Health (NIH) conducted a study on blood flow in certain brain regions when feelings of gratitude are present. The study showed an increase in hypothalamic activity, which has a positive influence on metabolism and stress levels.

For some of us, these stats make sense.  We’ve led lives that have a good deal of gratitude in them.  But for the majority of us, we have not led such lives.

Gratitude seems elusive.  It seems to happen without our control.  What if I told you there was a way you could become grateful right now, no matter what mood you are in? It's possible!

Where Does Gratitude Come In

First, we will look at how gratitude comes and then we will use a tool that will shift us into a state of gratitude.

Gratitude comes when:

  • A hard time is resolved.
  • We receive a gift that hit home.
  • We focus on what’s beautiful regardless of whatever hard circumstances we are facing.
  • Someone shares their gratitude story, and through being empathetic, we feel grateful as well.
  • We remember times in the past when we felt grateful.

What we need to do is have one place we can turn to that chronicles the times in the past when we were grateful and repeatedly turn to that tool whenever we sense we’ve become entitled, arrogant, down or just know we need to experience more gratitude.

I've developed a Gratitude Chronicle to help us track our gratefulness.

  1. In column A, write the date in which the event happened.
  2. Column B assumes that there was a really tough time you went through before you felt grateful. You want to detail the facts and what you felt about the facts to such a degree that you start to feel those dark emotions again. Please don't move to the next column until you start to feel those darker emotions.
  3. In column C, you want to detail the facts and what you felt about the facts as to how it was resolved. You should describe these so well that you lift out of the dark emotions into a state of gratitude.
  4. Column D involves listing times when you felt grateful for other reasons such as you receiving a gift, joyful moments throughout the day, or intentionally seeking gratitude in mundane life. Finally, you can also list times that you felt grateful through someone else’s gratitude story.

Do you want a template for what that can look like?

My Experience with Gratitude

Here is one of my entries for each of the gratitude categories we discussed above:

Hard Time Lifted

When I was first starting my practice, I had a bunch of referral sources tell me that they were going to send me clients. With all of the anticipated revenues, I rented a small office, developed marketing materials, and began to take other referral sources to lunches. The first month, only one new client showed. The next month another showed. Then for the next three months, there weren't any new clients.

I wondered what happened. Referral sources said they were surprised that none of their referrals had contacted me.

I was feeling really anxious.  My wife was a stay-at-home mom, and we had three kids under three. I was starting to doubt if we were going to make it.

We even considered moving in with her parents, who are the best in-laws anyone could hope for, but we did not want to burden them or wreck their pristinely-organized home with three kids’ worth of toys.

As things seemed desperate and when it felt like something needed to give, I sent out tons of resumes and got no responses. The country was in a bad recession, and it was hard for a veteran of self-employment to be seen as an attractive prospect.

Then it happened. In one week, 15 new clients showed up, and within six weeks several training gigs had landed.

I remembered when I complained to my wife about the pace at which I was working she turned to me and said, “I'm just grateful we don't just have a handful of clients.”

Then the gratitude hit me. In the busyness of serving, I had not taken the time to dig into gratitude.

Received a Gift

For a year, I lived with a really talented artist. I was particularly drawn to one of his paintings. So, he gave me a print of his work. I moved a few times after that year to be closer to work, then to grad school, then into the new place my wife and I chose after we married.

In the process of all of these moves, I thought I lost the print and was bummed about it.

Unbeknownst to me, my wife hunted high and low in our basement, found it, and had it framed. She then wrapped it in a beautiful Christmas wrapping and presented it to me on Christmas morning.

It was the best Christmas gift she had ever given me. I was incredibly grateful.

Someone Else's Gratitude Story

Four years ago, a client was placed at the helm of a stagnant team. The division that he was now heading was viewed as insignificant. Within three years, he and the team tripled the revenue of that division. They were seen as the golden team. Then, through an unforeseen event, they started the new year severely down. It looked like the golden team was going to bronze over as there were no ideas as to how to turn the revenues around.

Instead of lowering the bar, he kept the goal the same and had a team meeting to talk about how they were handling the downturn.

Then, as high performing teams do, they got creative and worked smart.

A few months later, he let me know that their smart work paid off. They had turned the situation around and were going to exceed the original goal.

Sensing his gratitude for the turnaround, I started smiling from ear to ear. I felt so grateful. It is such a great turnaround that when I think of the details of what he and his team did, I immediately feel grateful.

What are Three Things You Are Grateful For Today?

When I was struggling to see good in life, my wife bought a bunch of plaques with gratitude messages on them and strategically placed them around the house where I could see them from my usual places to sit.

If she saw I was down, she would come up to me and ask me, "What are three things that you are grateful for?" This simple question asked with frequency was extremely helpful.

Now, from time to time, I ask myself that question, and I capture it in the Gratitude Chronicle.

Gratitude is an amazing gift that does wonders for our spirit. It can change the perspective on a dark time. Taking it seriously will pay dividends.

Chew On This:

  • What’s going to be your first gratitude entry?

 

Ryan C. Bailey is President and CEO of an organizational effectiveness company.

 

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

How Can You Hold Effective One-On-One Meetings with Direct Reports?

As a leader, your time is tight. If you have more than 4 or 5 direct reports, then time is even more crunched. One-on-one meetings may feel counter-productive when you have limited time and the option to meet virtually. However, these meetings are a key opportunity you have to develop each of those direct reports.

Elizabeth Grace Saunders, the author of How to Invest Your Time Like Money, says "One-on-ones are one of the most important productivity tools you have as a manager."

These are times when they can learn from you what it takes to get to the next level, and you can learn from them what is happening closer to the front-line and gain more practice developing a flexible management style.

Do your directs look forward to their one-on-one times with you?  Do you look forward to them?

The higher up you are, the more structure you will need to have since you will have fewer one-on-one times per month.

Here are a few tips that should help in establishing effective one-on-ones:

1. Come prepared.

One of the first one-on-one conversations you should have with your directs is how to have a one-on-one.

Is there a structure that you want to follow?  How about them?  What would make that time most valuable to them?

There is probably going to be a lot of overlap between the two of you but for clarity’s sake, encourage them to share their expectations, and you share yours.

After you’ve established what one-on-one’s are going to look like, you will know how to prepare for those meetings (see below).

Send an agenda for the one-on-one a couple of days in advance.  Be sure you have learned what it is they most want to talk about during their one-on-one.  Ideally, agenda items should be phrased as questions since questions get people thinking about answers.

This will help you both to prepare or at least start thinking about the topics.

2. Determine how often you will have one-on-ones and where.

Some direct reports may need more time than others, especially those who are newer to their role.  It is important to determine the pace of the meetings and stick to it.

3. Create an environment of focus.

One of the keys to effective one-on-one's is to create an environment where both of you can be fully present and focused.

Silencing or turning off phones completely helps.  But so does making sure there are no interruptions.

Another way to create a high level of focus is to shorten the meetings.  This forces both of you to be sharp.

4. Create a dialogue.

One-on-one meetings should feel more like a dialogue and less like a monologue.  One way to accomplish this is to start personally (see below).  Another is by starting with what the direct wants to talk about.  A third is by asking open-ended questions.  This limits the amount you speak and encourages your directs to say a lot more.

5. Start personally.

What is meaningful to them in life in general?  For many, it is going to be their families or another significant relationship.  For some, it is going to be favorite hobbies, restaurants, or adventures.  Show them that you care by remembering what matters to them.

Moving this way helps both you and your direct to be positive, open and vulnerable, ready to engage the meeting in a spirit of trust and collaboration.

Use your humor.  Laughing bonds people together.  Having a team that is tight with one another and with you will go far in developing the high performing team you’ve always wanted.

6. Start with a Win.

If each of you can share a win that you’ve had since the last time you met, that will go a long way in making the conversation positive.

7. Move to the core - discover what your report is doing in the most important area of their role.

Since time is usually tight, many clients have found it helpful to start with the most important area of their direct report’s role.  This is the point where you especially want to have influence.  It can help set them up for success.  Moreover, their best results will come by focusing on what is essential (cue Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism).

As part of your preparation, know what you want to know about the core.  Brainstorm here so that they can see how you process.  Also, they can sense how much you believe in them through this collaboration.

8. Update on project.

There is probably a project that you especially want to keep an eye on.  Typically, you do that by receiving email updates ahead of the meeting, then the update during your one-on-one is more about moving the project further.

This could also be a brainstorming time.  It could be an opportunity to discover the obstacles that your direct is facing, which you could help them remove.

Here is where you want to know how you could be of most value to them as they work on this key project.

9. Find ways to increase engagement.

You want to get a feel for what their overall engagement is like.  Do they love their role? Company? Their team? You?  What would help increase their engagement?

Getting a pulse on engagement is really important with your higher-performing directs.  Throughout the meeting find ways to increase their engagement by giving them opportunities to do the things that generate engagement for that specific direct report.

10. Feedback.

Feedback doesn’t need to be limited to formal reviews.  Start by sharing something you are grateful for concerning their performance since the last meeting.  Then give them some positive affirmations about their work, and one thing to focus on improving.  This kind of interaction can go a long way.

Hopefully, the more this becomes part of the dynamic between you and them, the more you will see how to help them grow and build upon their strengths.

11. Ask, “What can I do better?”

Asking for feedback is your chance to grow further.  You might not be able to accomplish everything all your directs want, but it is likely that gaining their feedback and modeling change and growth will go far for everyone on the team.

12. Both sides should send an email to one another with next steps

At the end of the meeting, it would be helpful to talk through next steps for each of you.  Get buy-in, and then each of you should send an email with those next steps to each other to make sure that you both are on the same page and know what each of you is empowered to do.

Chew On This:

  • What has been your experience with effective one-on-one meetings?

 

Ryan C. Bailey is President and CEO of an organizational effectiveness company.

 

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

How To Effectively Deal With Anxiety In 15 Minutes or Less

One of the top struggles for leaders is learning how to manage their anxiety. As a leader, you carry an incredible amount of responsibility. You have people counting on you. You want to continue to grow and excel, and you want to have an impact. Given the complexity of the obstacles before a leader, their anxiety can often go through the roof.  However, they know that they are being watched carefully, by those who report to them, peers, and those they themselves are accountable to.  Consequently, many try to stuff their anxiety. They “act as if” everything is okay, finding the silver lining in whatever it is they are going through, and waiting till no one is around to allow themselves to fully feel the anxiety that is just under the surface.

Studies have shown that some amount of anxiety can actually help performance.  However, many times anxiety can get so strong that it works against us.  We are not able to generate solutions. We may find ourselves unable to fall asleep, or we wake up in the middle of the night and are unable to fall back asleep. Or we may start stress-eating, or stress-fasting.  Perhaps we are not fully present in meetings, or are not hearing our direct reports when they really need us.  Anxiety can take different guises.

I want to offer a simple, tangible tool to decrease your anxiety in the workplace (and in your personal life!).

Do you want to deal effectively with your anxiety in 15 minutes or less?

Download this Excel spreadsheet and I will walk you through a way to do just that. Afterwards, I will give you an example of how I used it to overcome one of my worst recurring anxieties.

Looking at the worksheet, follow me along. You need to be detailed in columns B-F.  The more details, the more you should feel your anxiety being impacted as you go from column to column.

Column A: The date when you are doing this exercise for the anxiety you are currently facing (no details here :-)

Column B: Write in detail the absolute worst case scenario that could arise from the situation that is currently making you anxious.  Describe the factors that make this the worst case scenario, and write what you would feel if that scenario arose.  Do not hold back on details in this column.  You know you are doing a great job if your anxiety picks up, or you can clearly recognize that your anxiety would be horribly higher if that worst case scenario were to happen.  Once you feel that, immediately go to column C.

Column C: Write what good options can come if the absolute worst case scenario happened.  If you did a good job in column B, it should be hard to think of more than one good thing that could come from that worst case scenario.  This is where you have to break down the question by relating it to specific parts of life.  In other words, what good could come....

  • Vocationally
  • Relationally
  • Emotionally
  • Mentally
  • Financially
  • Spiritually
  • Physically
  • For each person directly impacted from the scenario
  • For loved ones
  • For your team
  • For your overall organization
  • Etc.

You know you can stop thinking of options when the edge has been taken off the anxiety and you are starting to feel hope.  You probably still feel anxious, but it has gone down a couple of notches and you can begin to see a way forward.  Then go to Column D.

Column D: Describe the actual scenario you find yourself in.  Once again, you want to state the facts of what you feel along with what you would feel about the facts.  You need to be detailed here.  Really describe it until you can taste it.

Column E: Generate options for what good things can come from Column D.  Since you have found options through the worst case scenario, you should see options for column E.  Literally, you can copy and paste many of the ones from Column C, but here you will get more specific about what you’re actually facing.  You need to keep generating options until you feel hope and your anxiety has gone down tremendously.

My Personal Success Story

Here is a template for what this exercise could look like.  It is a bit embarrassing for me to share this, but it proves how well this tool works.

I used to write business plans for a living and, with the exception of two years of my life, I have always run my own business.  I went to business school and studied business cycles.  So you would think that I would not get overly anxious about the down side of the business cycle in a calendar year.

Yet, despite all of the evidence that shows how predictable the down time is, and even more, the clear evidence that things pick up at about the same time every year, I used to get really anxious during the downtime of the business cycle.

My wife would always look at me and say, “It was like this last year” or “This year is not as bad as last year." And sure enough, things would start to turn around. But year after year, I lived with anxiety.

So if you have the What Good Could Come From This? spreadsheet up, let me walk you through what has put a permanent stop to this recurring anxiety.

A few years ago, I wrote the date in Column A.

Then in Column B, I wrote out the absolute worst case scenario that could come from the downtime in the business cycle.  Here is what I wrote:

During a down business cycle, not just 20-25% of clients drop, but all drop.  As much as I try to generate income for my family, we wind up losing all of our assets, including our house.  Then my wife, my kids, and my in-laws are forced to live under a bridge.  I would see them suffering and feel guilty, ashamed, desperate, isolated.  I would believe it was all my fault that this scenario happened and I would feel crushed by it.

When I got to Column C, I could hardly think of one good thing that could come from the worst case scenario.  So I focused on what good could come in different parts of my life.  Here is what I saw, and I wrote:

Any time I have gone through a career change, a better option has emerged. It could happen again in just the same way. My wife and I have always been tight during hard times - this one could be the same.  I could get more time with my kids.  My in-laws are incredibly gracious and resourceful.  They would help brainstorm ideas. I would be walking a lot more so I would be in better shape.  If I lost all my assets, then anything that gets added would be better financially.  I would have more time to think and get creative.  I could even get positive about this situation if I saw good things come.  It would teach me to be mentally resilient.  I could see people at my church help us in unexpected ways.  God and I could get tighter and I could see Him act in unexpected ways.  Those on my team could find other opportunities.  They are gifted and resourceful as well.  Or they would brainstorm options with me and our company could emerge better than ever.

At that point, I started to feel a little better and had a little hope, so I jumped to Column D.  I described the actual scenario as follows:

There are only two times of the year when the business cycle is lower.  Just as summer is starting there is a brief 10-15% drop. It lasts a couple of weeks and then picks up again, especially with more training gigs.  Then, a week before Thanksgiving through the second or third week in January, there is a 20-25% drop.  Although I get really anxious during this time, all that happens is that we eat out less and we dip into savings a little.  But I get really anxious and believe that it is going to dry up.  I get clouded, don't make the most of the time I have, stay down despite others noting that we experience this drop every year. The holidays help but I am still somewhat distracted.

Then when I got to Column E, it was much easier to generate options for what good could come from the actual scenario.  Here is what I wrote:

  • Vocationally - I have time to do what I don't get enough time to do (i.e. business development, train the team, get ahead on blogs, get trained on the things that will advance clients, take a longer vacation, etc.)
  • Relationally - I can take advantage of the situation and spend more time with my wife and kids.  It would be great to hang more with friends.
  • Emotionally - I can rest up more and do a better job at processing my own emotions.
  • Physically - I can work out more--go after more FitBit Workweek Hustles and beat top competitors.
  • Financially - I can review how my company and family spend money, and eliminate where we are wasting money or find better, more economical ways to accomplish what we want to accomplish.
  • Mentally - I can dream more, focus on gratitude more, do more brain games, even get unplugged more.
  • Spiritually - I can up the times I spend connecting to God in ways that have been meaningful.  My wife and I can take an extra weekend away right in the middle of the holiday rushes.  The kids and I can do more fun things.  The team and I could also do a fun holiday party.  Our company can volunteer and help others.

By the time I was done, I felt great.

I’ve found that in order to experience what I did, you have to give Columns B-E lots of detail, especially in the emotional description of what you could feel (if the worst case scenario happened) or what you are currently feeling (from the actual case scenario).  Then you have to generate lots of options in Column E.

You are going to feel so much hope if you do a good job of generating options.  Capture that hope in Column F.  So I wrote:

I feel hopeful and alive.  I feel free.

The very next year, not only did I not have fear going into the biggest drop in the cycle, but I was looking forward to all the things I would do that would move the needle forward.

Clients who have used this tool share that after they have used it a few times, when they face the next anxious moment and open up the spreadsheet, in the process of scrolling down to the next free row, they don’t even have to write anything because the reminder of how they felt hope when using this tool has led them to feel hope about the current situation.

Moreover, clients have shared that eventually, they begin to feel hope when they just see the spreadsheet in their Finder window.

What’s been freaky to hear is that some clients who were diagnosed with an Anxiety Disorder and were being medicated for it, have had their meds reduced, and a few have even gotten off anxiety meds completely.

Genuinely hoping this tool pays as many dividends for you as it has for them and for me.

Chew On This:

  • What would remind you to use the What Good Could Come From This tool the next time you feel anxious?

 

Ryan C. Bailey is President and CEO of an organizational effectiveness company that equips leaders to develop in-demand high performing teams.

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

 

What To Do When Joining a Pre-Existing Team as the New Leader

You just got promoted, or maybe you just took a leadership position in a new company. Regardless, you will probably find yourself leading a pre-existing team. Team members know each other well, but you are the new one on the team.

Here are a few tips that clients have found to be universal principles of success for this scenario.

Building Rapport and Establishing Trust

1. Get to know your team well.

The faster you can build a connection with each member of the team, the more you will understand each other. You will build trust. You and your team members will discover how to leverage each other's strengths and contain one another's weaknesses.  More than that, you will be building a foundation for bringing the team to the next level.

2. Learn who the influencers in the company are.

In whatever organization you are in, there are certain people who have tremendous influence. Many times it is the leaders, but often you may discover that there is an administrative assistant who seems to hold a lot of influence.  Don't forget that each team has a member who is not the leader, but who wields a lot of sway over the others on the team.  As early as you can, you want to be actively building relationships with those people. Influencers can help you bust through obstacles. They can catalyze other relationships for you. Influencers also help with that next promotion. But even more than that, they will help you master the role you are in. Get to know who they are and build relationships with them.

3. Go through Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism, for yourself, your team, and if possible, with your boss.

One of the first things you will need to understand is what is the most important part of your role, your team’s role, and your boss’ role. This book will help you do just that.  The more you, your team, and your boss are focused on the most important part of your roles, the more you all will move to the next level.

4. Find a base hit that is at the core of your role, your team’s role, or your boss’ role and fulfill it within 90 days.

Many start in a new role and just want to observe.  Others start, but they want to make a big grand slam home run right away.

In most cases, I've discovered that the clients who deliver base hits are the ones who win over their stakeholders and fellow associates.

Look for something that’s important in your role, your team’s overall role, or your boss’ role, where a base hit can be created.

If you can consistently deliver base hits, you will achieve remarkable results for you and your team.

Be sure to have one completed within the first 90 days so that it influences the perception people have of you.

5. Observe, observe, observe.

You will probably need to become a student for awhile, learning from your team members, peers, and boss how to accomplish meaningful actions.

You need to get the lay of the land first. If you try to make big bold moves right away, you may not realize until it’s too late that the big bold move was a colossal mistake because it did not fit the way the team or department works.

People tend to struggle with change. They want to build trust with you before things become massively different. Give them a chance to do that, and you will see how much more buy-in you will get.

Congratulations on landing the new position. You have the competence to pull off what you were hired to do. Now it is time to apply some principles and emotional intelligence to build relationships and set a foundation for major impact.

Enjoy the ride.

Chew On This:

  • What can you do to know your team better?

Ryan C. Bailey is President and CEO of an organizational effectiveness company

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

What I Learned About Being A Great Direct Report From An 18-Year-Old Intern

On Thursday of last week, I said goodbye to the youngest intern RCBA has ever had. She only worked with us for about six weeks, but she made such an impact that it was really hard to see her leave.

Megan is sharp, mega-talented, and has a keen strategic mind, but beyond all of that competence, she knows how to connect to people’s hearts, really commit, and fight hard to do what she does with excellence and love.

Let me give you an example. As my team is growing, I wanted to learn more about how I can lead them better. (Yes, I see the irony of the leadership coach wanting more insight on how to lead his own team.)

So I asked Megan to do some research on best practices, hoping to learn new ways to improve my leadership, which I could then pass on to clients.  Not only did she do precisely what I asked her to do, but without my asking her, she tailored her research to my personality type (ENFJ) and, more specifically, to what she had already learned about me.

When I read what she wrote, I was speechless.

I then gave her more responsibilities, which she mastered just as deftly. Then, with clients’ permission, she listened in on meetings and helped improve our trainings.

She has all the marks of someone who will go far in anything she decides to do.

If I take what I learned from her and add what I've learned from the other super talented team members we have at RCBA, I can see there are traits or practices that could lead to excelling in any role in virtually any company.

7 Traits of an Excellent Direct Report

1. Give your heart to what you do.

Are you just existing? Do you come alive when you are working? Is work just a paycheck? What if it were possible for you to come alive at work if you gave yourself to it?

I don't mean you should make work the number one priority in your life. That's not it. I mean fully commit to doing whatever is necessary to produce excellence during the hours that you are there. Invest, make sacrifices, find ways to make it fun, get to know those you work with, leverage their strengths, etc.

If you are in a toxic environment or doing something that really isn't you, then consider making a change. We spend so much time at work we might as well be fully engaged while we’re there. You have the power to increase your own engagement: just commit, invest, and sacrifice for it.

2. Set boundaries.

Megan and I could really enable each other to reach workaholic levels, but one thing Michael and Haley taught me was to set limits according to priorities.

For example, my wife and kids are a higher priority than work.  Intentionally blocking off time during the week, rarely working on Saturday and not working at all on Sundays has helped to cherish and grow my relationships with them. Having non-negotiable blocks for my wife and kids has helped me to make the most of my time at work and has helped me to enjoy work more.

3. Improve core competencies.

If you want to have a high impact at work, look for the most important thing which your role, your boss’ role and/or your team’s role requires, and start there. You will feel a ton of gratitude come your way.

4. Know yourself and your team well.

Megan is a self-professed Myers-Briggs geek. She leverages her ENTJ strengths and adapts to other personality types to foster greater communication and reduce the chance of conflict.

Ask each team member:

  • How to work successfully with them
  • How to energize them
  • What frustrates them
  • What stresses them out
  • What they are looking to improve about themselves
  • What they look like when they are chronically stressed, and how to best help them if they are there. (Often it is providing them with something that energizes them.)

Be sure to give them your answers to the bullet points above. We created templates for each personality type that you can use. You can find them here.

5. Manage up well.

Your boss does some things really well.  Other things could use improvement.

Megan was great at being able to see what I needed help with, and to fill in that gap.  She also gave some tips in passing that were very helpful.

If your boss wants to grow, that would be helpful.

6. Go beyond what you were asked to do.

If you always look for a way you can go beyond what you were asked to do, this will show your boss that you want to exceed expectations.  Don’t be surprised if your reviews and bonuses reflect that.

Make sure you complete what you were asked to do and then, in a separate part, show how you went beyond.

7. Risk sharing how things can be improved.

Ask how and when you can share some things that you believe could be improved.  Make sure that you are asking from a place of humility, not know-it-all arrogance.

Once you are given permission, say I’ve noticed X.  I wonder if Y could be a way to improve X.

Then let the brainstorming begin.

Becoming a valued resource for your boss, team, or company starts by committing not just your head but your heart to the role.  Looking for ways to go beyond sets you up for promotion and for leaving a lasting legacy in your role.

Chew On This:

  • What would help you to commit both your head and your heart to what you do?

Ryan C. Bailey is President and CEO of an organizational effectiveness company.

 

8 Tools to Help You Manage a Layoff

I am currently working with two different companies that are going through significant changes. They are outsourcing some of their work, eliminating the roles of some employees. The leaders want to handle these situations really well.  They care about the displaced employees and want to ensure a proper fit for them moving forward. Laying off an employee is no easy task. Confusion, anger, and even denial are some of the reactions that often greet a layoff. Working with these companies, I began thinking through tools that can aid in the lay off process. Here are 8 helpful tips to help you manage layoffs:

1. Have a Clear Mindset

  • Know that all eyes are watching how this is done, and it is important to have a clear mindset as you approach the layoff process.

2. Establish Healthy Principles

  • Communicate transparently and often:
    • People know when things are not going well. We often don’t give them enough credit, and attempt to hide the full picture. Instead, it’s important to be honest with the people who will be impacted.
    • Next, set clear goals with the given resources. Share market data and competitive information.
    • Don’t lie or be unrealistically upbeat before the layoff.
    • Answer the most critical question right away, then offer support.
      • People first, and most critically, want to know if there is bad news ahead. Answer that first. They will not be able to think clearly and listen through options with that question looming over their minds.
      • Then, support them with a discussion of the competition, market forces, or the financial environment. Take the time to talk through options with them.

3. Never delegate the pain:

  • Most people are loyal to their manager first, then to their companies.
    • The news needs to come from the manager directly.
    • The manager needs to be prepared to be there for the dismissed employee.

4. “Dismiss others as you would have them dismiss you.”

  • Practice empathy towards your employee. Empathy involves sitting with others in their current emotions and letting them feel understood.
    • Some common emotions felt during a layoff include:
      • Humiliation, anxiety, fear, and anger
      • An underlying emotion is the experience of shame: where they doubt that they are good enough.
    • Major concerns in the midst of a layoff are:
      • How do I leave the premises with some semblance of self-respect and with the information and materials I may need to help me in my job search?
      • What will I tell my significant other/family/friends etc.?
      • How will I afford to stay afloat now that I am unemployed?
  • Dismiss with dignity.
    • Deliver the message in private and face-to-face:
      • Do the dismissal before or after work so they don’t feel paraded around.
      • For most, avoid letting someone go on Friday because they will stew and could get worse. Also they will want to be able to reach out for advice or effectively start the job hunting process
      • For others, Friday is great because they need to decompress and can use the free time to do so.
      • Make the termination meeting quick and humane.
        • It should be done with the manager leading the conversation but it is also important to have another person in the room, such as HR.
        • If there is any concern, for safety make sure security is close by.
        • Within the first 30 seconds, state that their position has been eliminated.
          • “Sales have been down at the company and tough staffing choices had to be made.  It is with great regret that I must tell you that the company has decided to eliminate your position.”
        • Don’t get into messy personal discussions or say anything that can haunt you later.
      • Along with empathy, active listening is key. Give them a space to voice their emotions, concerns, and frustrations. Connect with them through the use of empathy statements, such as, “I hear you saying that you feel shocked and afraid, and I imagine that this is really hard for you.”
      • Along those lines, give them time to react in safe environment.
        • Some may need to vent
        • Some may need time to think
        • Some need facts and explanations
        • Your role in this is to provide a space free of judgment, where they can feel safe to express themselves.
      • Give them what they need to move to a stable, emotional keel.
      • Then as quickly as possible, move them towards thinking about their own future and not about the company.
        • They should feel that you want to help them succeed in the future.

5. Give them practical tools moving forward. Severance Package must be vetted by an employment lawyer. An appropriate severance package is:

  • Clear on what it offers
  • Includes the date it must be signed off by
  • Provides conditions on which it can be revoked
    • Provide outplacement consulting as part of the severance which helps to mitigate potential liability.
      • Most people who are in the process of getting laid off are thinking, what do I do now? Few have resumes at hand.
      • Providing outplacement consulting sends a message to the dismissed employee and the remaining employees that you are treating the ex-employee as a human being, not a line item on the budget.
      • Then, direct them to the outplacement immediately.
    • Allow them to come back to the office on a weekend or evening to get their valuables and/or return company property like laptop and smartphone to minimize embarrassment.

6. Give them the best chance to transition successfully by focusing on the person’s needs.

7. Have an exit interview with the terminated employee so you can grow.

  • Assess how will they represent the firm after they’ve been let go.

8. Have a town hall meeting for those who survive the cut.

  • Know that you are going to lose a lot productivity the day the layoff happens (and possibly more days).
  • Address the core questions of: What is the company’s future? Are there more layoffs coming? How will their jobs change? What are the expectations/goals now? Will they have to do two jobs?
  • The doubts start with their role and then expand outward to their team and then the company overall. Be honest, clear, and available to your employees.

 

Chew On This:

  • What areas of a layoff seem particularly challenging to you?
  • How can you improve your layoff strategy?

 

Ryan C. Bailey is President and CEO of a company that catalyzes the transformation of leaders’ lives.

 

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

A Path To Real Clarity for Your Business

Chris Kisley, President and CEO of Life Long Leadership, recently came to my office and sat with me as we answered the Six Core Questions for Organizational Clarity from Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage for my company.

  1. Why do we exist? (Core purpose)
  2. How do we behave? (What are our values?)
  3. What do we do? (Business definition)
  4. How will we succeed? (A collection of intentional, purposeful and unique decisions a company or team makes to give itself the best chance to maximize success)
  5.    What is most important right now? (Thematic Goal – every organization, if it wants to create a sense of alignment and focus, must have a single top priority within a given period of time.)
  6. Who must do what?

Mind you, we’ve been working on these for several weeks, but now it was time to nail the answers down.

I can’t say enough about how much I appreciate Chris and her incredible gifts for combining the core of who I am with corporate business wisdom in order to help me steer my company in the right direction.

Whether you are running a company or a department in a company, answering the six questions will bring a level of clarity that you and your team have not seen yet.

I’d like to share some of the general takeaways from my time with her that I think might be valuable for you.

  1. Really understand who you are, using insights from those who are discerning and can articulate their perceptions of you.

Turning the windows in my office into writing boards, the first thing she wrote was my Myers-Briggs type (ENFJ) and my top five strengths from StrengthsFinder (1. Communication 2. Strategy 3. Empathy 4. Achiever 5. Developer).

She then turned to me and said, “As I have experienced you, you are a strong J.”  I was floored.  I had not seen myself that way at all.  As she explained the ways in which I come across as a strong J, I gained invaluable insight and understanding as to how I am coming across to others.

More than that, I started realizing that I was “trying to be” a low J because I love some of the qualities of P’s.

Feedback can feel intimadating and exposing, but when it comes from a trusted source who knows you and is for you, it can be paramount to your success.

  1. Know how you work best and get rid of the last vestiges of who you think you “should” be.

The insight from that first point above, coupled with my answers to Lencioni’s first three questions, showed her that I try to super-specialize.  “You keep trying to box yourself in,” she said.  “You need to be broader so you can have multiple avenues to get to what you want to do most. It makes sense that you want to box yourself in because, as a J, you want to know what box you fit in.”  Man, those words rang so, so true.

My mom is a strong P.  I admire her so much.  The way things come together for her, with her ability to put out fires quickly, and seamlessly adjust to change is almost magical.  It’s part of what makes her a top surgeon.

Growing up, I wanted to be like that.  However, that’s not how I was wired.  Consequently, like many of you, several years ago I had to make concerted efforts to be who I am and stop trying to be someone I wasn’t.  I had to embrace the fact that unless I am discussing something I am very familiar with, things just don’t fall in place for me like they do for her.

I kept holding on to being a low J.  But a shift has occurred.  I may not be as strong of a J as Chris shared with me, but her words have helped me to just be, and enjoy my own wiring.

How can you start to operate out of your more authentic self?

  1. Lead with your desires.

I am really fortunate in that I absolutely love what I do.  I love coaching individuals, groups and teams, but even more, I love delivering trainings.

When we were coming up with a list of the conferences where I should do my trainings, Chris asked me what I am passionate about.  “I’ve always loved innovation and technology,” I replied. “I might not know how the latest gadgets work, but I do love using them so much that usually I am an early adopter.”

Consequently, it turns out that my passion for innovation and for the leadership development trainings that I do are a natural fit for technology conferences.  Our new intern, Megan Koh, is already at work applying on my behalf to different tech conferences where I can train leaders.

What are your desires and how can you see them come to fruition in your business? What topic or problem stirs you the most? Begin brainstorming ways you can lead from your desires.

  1. Understand how your industry and target audience works.

In the leadership development industry, who I hire will influence my target audience.  I’ve dreamed of increasing the amount of trainings (or facilitations) I do to about 50% of my practice, then spending the rest of the time with individuals, groups and teams, and growing and developing my own team.

I thought I should hire more coaches to cover for the time I want to spend facilitating or training, but I learned from Chris that if I do that, I will get more coaching work.  Instead, I should be hiring more people who can train or facilitate.  Then I will get more training and facilitation work.

Make your hiring intentional to the audience you want to reach and the goals you want to pursue within your company.

  1. Know what you will not do.

When we got to the question, “How will we succeed?” we started off by making a list of what we will not do.  Seeing that list confirmed that I need to stay in my strike zone, and not take on things for which I am not best-suited, just to please my clients.

I was already saying, “No” a lot, but I believe I have the clarity now to say “No” to more.

You can start by making a list of “things you do” and “things you do not do” within your company. Talk with your team as you determine what is most essential for your overall productivity.

  1. Know that you will adjust your answers to the six core questions as you get deeper into your work.

When we finished, I felt incredibly clear on who my company is and, more specifically, how I was going to pursue what I want to pursue.  It was so comforting and relieving.  My stress levels dropped.

I felt like one of my twins in a playpen.  When my twin boys were crawling but not yet walking, they would often cry if they were on the floor.  But if my wife or I would put them in the playpen, they would be immediately comforted and begin having fun.

I now have clear direction, focus, and know how to utilize my time and resources.

One last thing Chris mentioned was that I need to remember that the clarity I have now will become even sharper as I get farther into fulfilling the plan.  In other words, I will be further tweaking my responses to the six core questions as I go.

I am really good with that insight.  Even though I prefer routine, I love having options to plug into the routine, especially when the routine starts feeling a little old.

Chew On This:

  • How can you begin walking through Lencioni’s six core questions for organizational clarity with a trusted source?
  • What question feels most challenging to answer and why?

 

Ryan C. Bailey is President and CEO of a company that catalyzes the transformation of leaders’ lives.

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

How To Make The Most Of The Workshop You Attend

I'm on a flight to Los Angeles to deliver a workshop on Myers-Briggs and Emotional Intelligence. I'm thinking back to the training I did to become certified in the EQi-2.0 and how I wish I had taken more notes and spent more time reviewing.

Even though I love EQ work and use it extensively with clients, there are nuances of the EQi-2.0 assessment that I don't remember (already put a coaching meeting with an EQ trainer on my calendar).  This has got me thinking about how many of us attend workshops throughout the year, but don’t retain as much from them as we wish we could. According to Forbes, attendants of a lecture retain only about 50% of what they learn after two weeks.

So many helpful nuggets are given in a workshop that I wish I had a system to retain them all and then implement them well.  If you are still reading this blog, you probably can relate.  Here are some things I have found helpful throughout my years of attending and giving workshops:

1) Before you go into the workshop, perform brain dump.

Brain dumping is a way to get clear and be fully present. I wrote out 7 tips on how to be fully present when you have a lot on your mind in a previous blog. One exercise is called the “Brain Dump.”

This exercise involves listing on a piece of paper all of the things that are on your mind at the present moment. Think not just about work, but also about home, family, hobbies, entertainment, etc. Take 10 minutes to write them out.

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.

This exercise clears your mind and creates space for more information.

2) Take really really clear notes.

I like taking electronic notes during workshops I attend. However, if I'm not careful, as the days, weeks and months go by, I may not fully understand what I wrote down when the time comes to review them.  Make sure you set aside some time to review your notes right away, as close to the end of the workshop as you can. The breaks during a workshop are even more ideal.

3) If the facilitator says anything that is unclear, ask them to clarify.

Don't be afraid to ask the facilitator to clear up a point they made. You will be doing yourself, your fellow participants, and the facilitator a favor. This is often how I get the best refinements to the workshops I conduct.

4) If the facilitator has not done so, see if you can whittle down the workshop to three main points. 

A client, after previewing slides, asked me to come up with five "pithy" phrases that the participants could use as a review slide. That advice alone moved my workshops to the next level. It turned out that senior leaders especially valued that slide.

5) See how you can immediately implement at least three core parts of the workshop - personalize it.

To make the most of the time you invested in participating in a workshop, look for ways you can immediately use what you've learned.

The idea is to start using what you've learned before you forget it.

See number 7 for one of my favorite ways.

6) Set up a few review times.

Typically, when I deliver a workshop, I like to have a group coaching call a month after the workshop, and another one three months after the workshop. This gives participants a chance to implement and develop questions to better utilize what they've learned.

If that feature is not offered to you and your team, request it, because it will dramatically increase retention and use.

If you're met with resistance, do it on your own. Don't feel shy about emailing the workshop facilitator with your brief questions. We'd love to be at further service.

7) Teach others what you've learned.

Before the beginning of the workshop, have in mind that you are going to teach others what you've learned.

This will help you be present, make sure that your notes are clear, and that you yourself understand everything.

Generously share with others what you've learned.  In the process, you will learn and implement much more than you would have otherwise.

Imagine the impact on your team if they got the nuggets that have helped you.

There is a reason you are participating in the workshops you're attending. You’ve invested time and money and energy into this opportunity. Make the most of it for yourself and for your team as you move your team towards higher performance.

Chew On This:

  • What difference would it have made to you if you had been able to remember more of the workshops you attended?
  • What steps can you take to make the most out of future workshops?

Ryan C. Bailey is President and CEO of an organizational effectiveness company.