Monday, June 28, 2010

Leading and Doing: Two Different Things

Good morning and Happy Monday. I’m Monica Wofford and this is your Monday Moment.

Those promoted into leadership were often the very same people who were good at getting the job done on the front line. However, when you get promoted, unless someone tells you otherwise, you might not consciously recognize that you no longer will have the time nor be directly responsible for all that “doing” of the day to day job. But, this is where many managers get stuck.

Leading and doing are two different things to be sure, but how do you transition from doing the actual front line work yourself to a position of teaching others how to do it, sharing the expectations of what you want it to look like when it’s done, and avoiding the temptation to be intimately involved in the process? Well, I think I just mentioned three steps that we need to expand upon.

First, when teaching members of the team you lead how to do something you used to do, it is first necessary to spend some time remembering the steps.

If you were really good at that task, you no longer remember the steps and it then becomes very difficult to teach. Remember, “oh, you know, just do it.” are not detailed instructions and will set an employee up for failure if you meant to be more step by step specific, but weren’t.

Secondly, determine what your expectations are for the completion of the task or project. The truth is that the way you used to do it is likely not the only way for it to be done and the real bottom line important part is that it gets done, right? So once you think of the steps, determine what your final outcome expectations are and then let the employee follow the steps that work well for him or her and focus your efforts and energy on the outcome.

And finally, avoid the temptation to be intimately involved in the process. Another way to say this? Quit micromanaging the living dickens out of HOW something gets done and focus on your new role, which is the leadership of the team and its results. With a team of people to lead, you likely no longer have time to do the day to day logistics of each person’s task, and certainly don’t have time to do it with the same singular focus you had when you were only in charge of you. So, let go of the need to do it all and any given moment and show the employees you have asked to do this project that you trust their ability to do it or learn from any mistakes they might make along the way.

Our behavior, whether in leadership of others or not, is always contagious and if you try to do everything that members of the team you lead are supposed to be doing, this type of mindset and action rubs off on them. You will be breeding a team of future micromanaging leaders. If instead you show them the task, make your expectations known, and back off a little, you will be developing the very initiative, creativity, ambition, and results that you really want. Leadership is a different skill than doing and in fact, it’s a key component of Contagious Leadership training.

I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great Monday and of course, stay contagious!

Monday, June 21, 2010

We Know You’re Contagious… but, Are you Coachable?

Good morning and Happy Monday! I’m Monica Wofford and this is your Monday Moment.

This weekend I had a great opportunity to get some coaching and those of you who were there, know exactly the situation I’m talking about. Like some of the most poignant of coaching moments, it happened off the cuff and out of the blue, but at just the right time. My question to you is are you open to feedback and coachable moments, even in your capacity as a Contagious Leader – and even if all you lead is you?

The situation unfolded something like this: I asked an expert for her opinion in an area that I knew she had more information than I. what I was expecting was guidance and what I got was, well, guidance, but it came in a way that sounded like “funny you should ask.” Now, you and I both know that I had a choice of reactions at that point. As she proceeded to share with me what all I was doing differently than what she thought was best, I could have gotten defensive or retorted with the oh so mature “Nuh uh!”, but instead I listened and asked for more. Now, mind you, hearing that you are the poster child for the way something should not be done which is what she told me, is not the best way to wrap up a Saturday afternoon, but it turned into a fantastic coaching moment from which I learned and grew and now have a new expert partner willing to help me do better.

What do you do when someone says “funny you should ask?” If you’re coachable, or particularly, if you’re not, these guidelines or techniques may help:

1. Remember that those who do, every day, the job you are asking about, are often closer to the problem and solution than you are, meaning they likely know more and are worth listening to. This is mentioned in chapter 4 of Contagious Leadership in which I encourage leaders to ask for help. The key is that when you ask, be open to listening.

2. Know that there is no shortage of opinions out there and that even an expert may not know the right path for you, but still share his or her opinion of the road you “should” take. It is always your choice to listen, nod and smile and consequently ignore, OR consider their intent, their expertise and its value and decide to take their advice. Someone else telling you “you’re doing it wrong” does not make you wrong, it means they have an opinion… and we all have those, some stronger than others on things we’re particularly passionate about.

3. And finally, if you’re self esteem struggles with the fact that you don’t know everything about everything, then work on that first and work on gaining more knowledge second. It’s okay to be a leader and still not know everything. In fact, it helps those you lead feel more valuable and more respected when you take their advice to heart and then even DO something with the advice you asked for. This is not always possible, but when you are coachable, it at a minimum deserves your consideration.

There is a lot of information out there and it is becoming more and more difficult to know everything about… well, anything. Being coachable helps you improve. If you’re not coachable, it keeps you stuck in the position of needing to know it all while you continue to face the reality that you don’t. That is not a fun place to be. Stay coachable my friend and that, too, just like everything else we do, will be contagious. You want those you lead to be coachable, too, right? Well, it begins with you.

I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great Monday and of course, stay contagious!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Contagious Coaching of Star Performers

Good morning and Happy Monday! I’m Monica Wofford and this is your Monday Moment.

We’ve talked about this topic in other areas: People do what they get paid attention to for doing. Today, let’s apply this topic to leadership and with that, I would encourage you to think about who among those you led do you pay attention to the most? Likely, it is those doing something wrong or in need of improvement. Yes?

Most of the time managers spend their spare time with those messing things up. The message this sends of course, is that in order to get your attention, one must, yep, you guessed it, mess things up. Is that really the message you want to send to your star performers? Likely not. So, how do you spend time with, coach, and ,lead, versus manage, those star performers that you have the privilege of leading, without relying on that old adage of “no news is good news”?

If the star performers on the team you lead have not heard from you in a while, chances are their assumption is not that “no news is good news”. They might like to be left alone due to their own internal drive and high initiative, but they also need a challenge and a direction to go in. If you fail to pay any attention to them or give them that challenge, they are likely to get bored and even … quit, but forget to tell you they’ve done so.

So, the first step when coaching star performers is to give them a challenging assignment. Check in with them more frequently, not to ask “how they are doing”, to which you will almost always here “fine”, but rather to challenge them on reaching that goal.

Secondly, make sure you share you are sharing the resources, authority, and parameters they need to succeed. In other words, don’t tie their hands by not giving them what they need to reach the goal or challenge before them.

And finally, when they do reach their goal or achieve the assignment or produce the results, give them the praise that works for them. Praise comes in many different forms, but the important part is to remember that the star performers need it, too. Assuming they know they’re good and that they know you know they’re good and appreciate their efforts is something like telling your spouse “I love you” on the day you were married and never saying it again until years later, but assuming he or she knows that is how you feel. Do we really need to go over what happens when you assume? Suffice it to say, that too, is contagious!

I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great Monday and of course, stay contagious!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Contagious Competition: Crisis or Catalyst?

If you live in North America, you are surrounded by what our forefathers created: a capitalist society in which competition abounds and impacts industry, price, and products. Marketers will tell you, such as Ries and Trout, the key is to get to the marketplace first so that your idea has little or no competition for a time. Others will tell you there is no such thing as a new idea – they’ve all already been had. I find that sad, personally, but perhaps even worse is the amount of negative energy and effort spent in fending off competition or trying to police the ideas of others who have seemingly honed in on your marketplace.

Competition, quite simply is anything that vies for the same resources, market, or dollars that your particular product or service is targeted toward and some see the slightest of completion as a crisis. If someone else creates a magazine that targets your market, some see it as bad. If someone else uses your tagline or in our case, calls something else contagious, some would say that is trademark infringement, and in some cases it might be, but anytime you see something as a crisis, you successfully slow down your creativity to the speed of cold molasses. What if… instead… you looked at that “competition” or another person’s flattering modification of your own ideas, as a catalyst to create something new, different, bigger, or better. What if… you let go of the crisis feeling and thought “hmmm… what great confirmation that this was a good idea and I need to go with it a bit more and add to it, enhance it, build it, and create something that serves even more?”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not na├»ve in this area and I’ve watched many hone in on a good idea, feeling the same pang of “darn it, I thought that idea would stick and not be copied and now I have to go create something new”, but this is what we do. Human beings have the intellectual capacity to create, intellectualize, think through, and redo. We have an abundance of ideas at our disposal and if we remove the temptation to think of contagious competition as a crisis, we may find that we can use the opportunity as a catalyst for tapping into even more abundant creativity. Hmmm… kind of sounds like being fascinated instead of frustrated, doesn’t it?

How many times have you stopped in your tracks when someone got close to your train of thought? Why did you slow the train down or even screech it to a halt? Why not shift gears, pop the clutch, add more coal and speed up to that intersection where your idea will find a new track and the other person will still be trying to figure out where your train went? I’d much rather be blazing a trail, or new track in this case, then hanging out back where two powerful trains of thought collided, derailed, and created debris. Who’s got time to clean up crud, when there’s new territory on which to lay new track ahead?