Things You Wish You’d Have Known

At home and in business are there times you’d wished you’d known some hidden information? Throughout my life and career, I’ve resented having information kept from me. One of my earliest memories of such a time happened before I was old enough to go to school.

“I’d like them to call me Uncle Hank, but they won’t do that.” Apparently, that’s what Mr. Carroll told dad. I was already calling Mrs. Carroll, Auntie Ethel. I remember the day she gave me a dime if I’d call her Auntie Ethel. For a little guy, in those days, a dime was a lot of money, but I’d have used Auntie Ethel without the bribe. If I’d known, I’d have used Uncle Hank as well.

Why do adults shelter children from the real world? I guess my dad wasn’t thinking Mr. Carroll had shared the Uncle Hank wish because maybe, just maybe, he wanted dad to get me to use Uncle Hank.

That’s not the only time, as a child, I was “sheltered” from information. Now I do believe some things should be kept from children; however, kids are far more aware of the world than adults tend to believe.

Treat Adults Like Adults

Move forward to life as an adult. Can you think of times you’ve been denied information? You know the excuses:

  • not the appropriate time to share,
  • it’s only on the need to know basis,
  • it’s unwelcome news, so let’s not share it yet.

In leadership, not sharing information is just plain dumb. Good news or bad news is better shared than kept secret. Give us credit. We like to know what’s happening and while we may be upset, or happy, with the news, we do want to know. You’re obviously familiar with the much-maligned or loved rumor mill. If you don’t share, the rumor mill will run at full speed. Okay, it will run at full speed anyway but with the full information, it has far less fuel to keep it going.

Share information. Understand a few things about information:

  • it can stifle insecurity in employees,
  • it can calm nervous waters,
  • and, more importantly, information can spark great ideas.

A solution to a problem may come from your employee. Make them part of the solution. Turn them into entrepreneurs who feel like owners and you will get committed, dedicated, high-performing employees who want the company to succeed.

Gallup’s New Poll

The Gallup organization has run polls for years which measure the percentage of employees who are actively engaged, not engaged or actively disengaged. In 2018 Gallup’s poll says that 69.5% of employees are still disengaged or actively disengaged. Gallup reported that only 34% of U.S. employees more engaged.

The good news in the statistics, the percentage of engaged employees is rising. According to Gallup, the changes didn’t happen by accident. “… successful organizations built a culture of high development experiences that led to high achievement. The culture shift was CEO- and board-supported and included continuous company-wide communication. Importantly, these companies educated team leaders on a new way of managing —relying on high development and strengths-based competencies. And they held managers accountable for these competencies.”

Communication Works

Notice, communication played a huge part in raising employee engagement. How well are you communicating within your company? How are you holding everyone, not just the managers, accountable for effective communication? And, how well are you communicating at home?

Comment below and read the full Gallup article at: https://news.gallup.com/poll/241649/employee-engagement-rise.aspx

3 STEPS TO PRODUCTIVITY: PLAN, COMMUNICATE, FOLLOW-UP

There are only three steps to being more effective as a manager, supervisor, and leader. Try them and see what happens.

Plan

Most of us plan our vacations better than we plan our lives or our daily work routine.  Think about it, when going on a vacation you probably do some of the following:

  • get the maps, travel guides, and all the other information for your destination,
  • sit down and collaborate with family or friends,
  • get on the telephone or the Internet and do some research,
  • engage a competent travel agent,
  • have a thorough plan in place before the first day of your trip.

Stop and look at the last project you completed. 

  • Did you do adequate research? 
  • Did you include the appropriate colleagues or consultants to assist you?
  • Did you take adequate time to plan?

I once had a client, only half joking, say, “But Garth, you don’t understand, we don’t have time to plan today … but we have lots of time to do it over tomorrow!”

One statistic suggests that approximately one-third of what’s done every day is being done over because it wasn’t done correctly the first time!

Your first step, plan. As Steven Covey says, begin with the end in mind. I’m a huge plan of backward planning, or, if you prefer, reverse engineering.

  1. Visualize the completed project. What does it look like?
  2. Identify all the streams or sequences in the project.
  3. Identify all the steps in each stream.
  4. Identify what must be done to complete each step.
  5. Set timelines.
  6. Act.
  7. Celebrate your success when you take each step.

This process can take a long time for a major project or you can do it quickly for simpler tasks. The challenge is, do not skip steps.

What happens if you don’t have a process like this? You lose focus, get frustrated, and get lost before you get to the end. Saying “lost” may be kind. Too often we just slip into procrastination or some bright, shiny idea comes and takes us away from the task.

Communicate

It’s all about communication and most of us don’t plan it.  We say we need to talk to George and jump up, run down the hall into George’s office and start talking.  Shortly after that our brain engages.  Take 30 seconds to plan your next conversation and you’ll be amazed at how well it goes. 

When I plan, I fall back on my days in broadcast news and answer my own W5 and how questions.

  1. Who am I going to talk with? Am I going to talk with the correct person to get the information I need or to pass along information?
  2. Why this person?
  3. What information do I need to collect or give? Why?
  4. Where should I have this conversation? The location does make a difference in how effective the conversation can be. Should it be in your office, their office, a neutral boardroom, or even over coffee?
  5. When is the best time to have the conversation? Just because it’s important to you right now it may not be the right time to talk to the other person or persons.
  6. How should I communicate with the other person? Emails and texting are frequently the easiest way, but face-to-face communication is still the best. Think effectiveness and efficiency before you make a phone call, go down the hall to the office, or set up a meeting. If you set up a meeting, make sure you provide the agenda in advance and take notes to record who is going to do what at the end of the meeting.

Follow-up

This is the forgotten art in the corporate world.  We start projects; we might even plan those projects, but we rarely follow-up with adequate attention to detail. 

Far too many times during my career I have had someone come into my office and suggest we start a team or a new project to solve a problem that probably already had six teams and seven projects connected with it.  No one with authority or clout followed up the first time. No one was held accountable.

Follow-up tips

  1. When you are planning your activity, make sure you know how you’re going to follow-up or who will follow-up, if it’s not you.
  2. Schedule your follow-up in your calendar. If there is a due date, ask the person how the project is going sometime before the project is due. If the individual hasn’t had a chance to get to the project or forgot about it, this can be a reminder there is a deadline and you believe in accountability.
  3. Report the results or progress of a project to those connected to it. Even those only remotely connected to a project deserve to be kept “in the loop” on the progression. Many times, I have had people come to me with great suggestions when they saw follow-up on a project. The outsider’s viewpoint can be the most relevant.

How many projects or assignments can you count, right now, that would have been completed the very first time if someone, anyone, had followed up and did everything that was planned and suggested?

Make this your time to act when it comes to this great trio: plan, communicate, and follow-up!

Garth Roberts © 2019

Replace Yourself At Work

If you think you’re indispensable at work, imagine you got hit by a bus at lunchtime. Not a pleasant thought, of course, but consider what would happen back at work. In most cases, work would go on. In rare cases, the company would collapse. To ensure your company goes on, consider replacing yourself. How? Let’s look at three steps to help replace you and make you an asset to your company.

  1. Have great up-to-date processes and procedures. Most companies have processes and procedures and a good portion are out of date. I once worked for an organization where we kept quoting a policy. One day the boss asked to see what the policy said. No policy existed. We couldn’t even find the policy book. The policy was an office myth. We had lived long enough with the myth that we believed it.
  2. Have an update definition of your job. Make sure that someone else knows what you do and how you do it. A definition on paper will help but nothing will help replace you better than the knowledge of someone else. If you’re paranoid someone is going to take your job because they know too much, that’s a personal problem you need to deal with on your own. If you’re truly worth the salary you are being paid, no one wants to replace you and you can share information with qualified persons.
  3. Communicate well and delegate well. Everything about your job that’s in your head is a tremendous resource for your company. If you’ve kept good records, held productive meetings, delegated to your team, and communicated well on a daily basis, you set the scene to replace yourself. Even if your team doesn’t have all the information that’s in your head, they will know you well enough to make a very educated, calculated decision as to what should be done in any situation.

In one of my positions, I had the luxury eight weeks off. Because I had delegated to my team, communicated to them what needed to be done, and provided them with resources that would help replace me, they did a beautiful job during those eight weeks. I came back refreshed and ready to get back to work and there wasn’t a lot of catching up to do. I had replaced myself in advance.

Are you robbing someone of the opportunity to grow?

Delegation is one of the toughest things for most people to do. Why, well?

  • I can do it faster,
  • I can do it quicker,
  • I don’t have time to train someone else how to do it, and
  • I know it will be done my way.

I learned a long time ago, as a television producer, is I had to delegate to be effective. It took me a while to learn proper delegation because initially, I had to do everything myself.

It was very easy for me to do it my way and make sure it was right and take my time or hurry up, depending on the situation.

When I was 1st given an assistant, I actually had one of my colleagues say to me, “you know, if you don’t leave her alone, you’re going to lose her.” I was having a hard time delegating, giving stuff up and I was always checking and looking over his shoulder to make sure she did it my way or correctly.

Well, guess what, I knew she was talented. I knew she had lots of skills. I also learned very quickly that my way wasn’t the only way. The hard part is sometimes when they do it their way, it’s better. We like to think ours is the only “right way”.

Here’s how to delegate.

1. Plan. What are you going to delegate? Why are you delegating it? Who are you delegating to and what results do you expect and by when? It’s that old W5 thing. You’ve got to figure out what needs to happen, by when, by who and how are you going to find out of it it’s done to the proper level.

2. Hold people accountable, including yourself. One of the worst things I’ve seen, and I see it continually in companies I work with and with folks I see in my workshops, is nobody’s held accountable. Ah, well they didn’t do it right … well, I’ll let it slide this time.

3. Have the difficult conversations when somebody doesn’t do something correctly.

When it comes to delegation … plan … what I’m going to delegate, who am I going to delegate it to, how am I going to delegate it, why am I delegating, what results do I expect?

If you plan properly before you ever have that conversation with your individual, you’re going to have it all organized and you will be able to answer questions because questions are there.

Remember, if you are communicating with someone, it’s two-way. They must be able to ask you questions. You can’t just walk in and dump something on someone’s lap and walk away. That’s not communication and all you’re doing is setting someone else up for failure. So, plan and have that conversation … make time for the conversation.

Is it going to take more time to delegate initially … yes, so get over it. You’ll just have to put up with taking a little more time.

Is it going to take some training and coaching … possibly … you’re going to have to do that as well. Build that into your plan so you know that you can help someone else grow, because when you don’t delegate, what you’re doing is robbing someone else of the opportunity to grow.

Plus, you’re also ensuring that 6 months from now you’ll have a whole bunch of new things on your plate and all the stuff you didn’t delegate.

Add your comments and share how you effectively delegate.

 

3 Steps to Stop The Blame Game

It’s IT’s fault. The CEO doesn’t really know what’s happening. That department isn’t doing what they’re supposed to do.

Have you ever heard any of these types of comments at your work? Of course, you have. Unfortunately, most of us have uttered those types of comments. They are all part of the blame game. It’s the one game played in all companies too often.

Psychologists can give you specific reasons why we play the blame game. At the bottom of this piece is a link to an article in Psychology Today. It gives you five reasons why we play the blame game. In this post, I want to give you three steps to stop the blame game.

  1. Be the First to Stop Blaming

This sounds simple, but we’ve all grown up in societies where it’s human to blame someone else for your problems. Maybe you blamed a sibling, a classmate, or a workmate. It took the pressure off you for whatever was going wrong. As a leader, the buck stops with you. If there’s a problem, you need to help solve the problem. Passing the problem along means you’re not a leader. Of course, you can’t solve all the problems that come to you, but you certainly can take the lead in finding the solution.

One way to stop the blame game is to deal with problems when they arise, even if they aren’t your problems. I once looked after four programs in a department where we had many calls from customers. It was standard procedure for whoever took the call to ensure that we answered the questions, referred the caller to a specific person or department that would have the answer, or took the person’s number so we could call back with the information requested. Yes, it took time, but we satisfied our customers and, in the process, learned more about our organization.

By following this procedure, we were proactive, had answers, learned more about our organization, and, in doing so, replaced negativity with positivity. When you have answers, you don’t have to blame anybody else or lack the information you need.

  1. Challenge Others When They Blame

Very few people like conflict. Consequently, when someone else makes an error or blames someone else we are reluctant to challenge them. If it’s your peer blaming someone or a direct report, it’s up to you to challenge that person and question why they’re blaming someone. How? Ask good questions.

I learned a long time ago that asking good questions can solve many problems. Who, what, why, when, where, and how questions can get you to the bottom of many problems. When someone says that management doesn’t know what they’re doing. Start asking questions. What do you think they should’ve done in this situation? How would they handle this differently? What processes could be put in place to make this better for us?

The person who is in the middle of blaming management will have to pause and formulate an answer. Usually, they aren’t going to have an answer. If they don’t get the point that blaming someone else is not helping the problem, you want to take the opportunity to suggest if they don’t have an answer, don’t blame someone else.

  1. Be a Problem Solver

Many people blame when they don’t have an answer or when their emotions get in the way of their logic. Blaming is a defence mechanism. We don’t want to be wrong. We don’t want to look foolish. If those two reasons, or many others, are what’s keeping the blame game active in your workplace, change the culture.

You change the culture by being the problem solver. If you continually demonstrate that it’s okay not to have all the answers. It’s okay to ask for assistance. It’s okay to give credit to someone else for solving a problem. You’ll soon be recognized as a problem solver and how you function will begin to be emulated by others.

Stopping the blame game in any situation, be it work, community or family is going to take time. It’s going to take leadership. It means you will hold people accountable to do what they’re supposed to do. It means you will make people responsible for their job or their position in life.

Like anything else in leadership, eliminating the blame game in your workplace or in your team takes planning, communication, and follow-up.

What have you done to stop the blame game? Comment below.

Garth

Psychology Today Article

Have You Ever Replaced Yourself?

For an hour today, I coached one of my clients on how to onboard a new hire. This isn’t just any new hire, it’s the one who will take over a good portion of my client’s job.

Have you ever replaced yourself?

My client, let’s call him George, needed some assistance with deciding what to tackle first. Here’s my advice to George.

  1. Take an inventory. What’s working? What’s not working? If it’s not working, figure out why it’s not working so you don’t pass “it” along, be it a process or system.
  2. Find a quiet time and place to brainstorm all the tasks that eventually go to the new hire.
  3. Prioritize all those tasks into a sequence as to when they’re given. What’s immediate, what’s mid-training and what’s longterm.
  4. Plan how to introduce the new hire to your team. You’ve gone outside to find the candidate so be aware some already on the team may feel like they were passed over. Put your communication plan in place and have group and individual conversations, as required. Don’t skip this step or you will regret it later.
  5. Plan, based on the new hire’s credentials,  how much training, coaching and mentoring the new hire will probably need.
  6. Put your plan in place to train, coach or mentor. Determining which technique to use in any situation will be a challenge. Give the new hire the benefit of the doubt and allow the person to demonstrate personal skills before you step in.
  7. Ask good questions to determine the skill set of the new hire as tasks are tackled. Good questions will help you determine whether it’s training, coaching or mentoring.
  8. Be prepared to change your plan once the new hire in on board.
  9. Plan your own schedule as to how you’re going to use the free time you’ll have once the new hire is here. What projects have been waiting to be tackled? Do a brainstorming exercise to plan your future. If you’re busy with your own projects you’ll be less likely to micro-manage your new hire.

George and I had a good conversation and now it’s up to him to execute the plan.

My question, what steps have we missed? I look forward to your feedback.

Garth