What am I? Just a teacher – a member of one of the great professions in the world.
John Wooden, Wooden on Leadership
“For a lot of employees, Starbucks is their first professional experience… So we try to figure out how to give our employees the self-discipline they didn’t learn in high school.”
Quoted in The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
So, let’s state the problem simply. Many employees are not equipped to do the actual jobs that they are hired to do. Even if an employee has the “skills,” or at least the “knowledge” to do some jobs, they have to grow into these jobs in a lot of ways. (Learning to make the right mixture and temperature of the coffee drink is a different skill than knowing how to successfully interact with a customer the “Starbucks way”).
In other words, developing employees is one of the critical needs of the era.
So, what do we do about it?
My colleague Karl Krayer, in his Team-Building workshops, talks about the two kinds of roles every team member fills. The first kind is the “official/formal” role. Captain; secretary; leader; foreman; “member” (every team member is always, officially a “member”). But there are other roles, the “unofficial/informal” roles that are never officially assigned. These are roles that people just seem to step into based partly on the power of their personality. These are roles such as the team “cheerleader;” the team “mother;” the team “counselor.” People have natural gifts, and tendencies , and they fill these roles just because that is who they are. These roles are “good,” and helpful to every group. Encourage folks to fill these roles. (There are also some “bad” unofficial roles, such as “slacker;” “pain-in-the-rear.” These are not good roles, and must be guarded against constantly).
Well, in the realm of employee development, I think there is this same official-unofficial (formal-informal) reality at work. Some people have a job title that represents some form of “leadership.” Here’s a representative list:
But for an employee who needs to be developed (and, don’t we all?!), there is also a great need for someone(s) to fill another set of roles; “unofficial” roles, but roles that are critical. Here’s one list of such roles:
Vice Principal (a disciplinarian role).
I think that in this under-managed, under-led era, there is also an under-coached, under-taught, under-mentored problem that must be addressed if we want to develop our employees.
Some of these roles can be filled (should be filled) by the people with the official titles. But there is also a need for “everyone” to start letting their natural gifts help build others.
Consider: in the movie Moneyball, there is a terrific scene when Billy Bean asks David Justice, now in the last days of his playing career, to step up and help the younger players know how to play this game. He had no title for this role. But Justice “got it,” and agreed to step up for this challenge. ”Coach; mentor; teacher.” There is an element to each of these in the challenge that David Justice accepted.
So, here is what a good manager/supervisor needs to spend some time on. Look carefully at each employee. Does this particular employee need some teaching, or coaching, or some discipline, or some soft-skills development? Once the need is clearly identified, then the pairing begins to put the right coach or mentor or teacher with the employee.
Because, when the hiring is done, the employee does not usually arrive fully developed. With the right management, and the right teaching/coaching/mentoring, that employee just might rise to meet and exceed all of your high expectations.
Without such attention and help, we should not be surprised when employees cease to develop.
“Forgive us our sins of omission and our sins of commission.”
…sins of commission: the things we did and shouldn’t have.
…sins of omission: the sins of not doing what we should have.
So, I was sitting in church on Sunday, and my mind kept making connections from my thoughts in church to my work in the business arena. (Once you start blogging, it seems like you are always thinking about your next new blog post).
So, here is one of my mind connections.
Good employees seldom arrive at a job fully developed. Good employees need to be grown; to be built.
It seems to me that there are two ways to fail to “build” an employee. One way is the path of the sins of commission. To overtly mistreat an employee. To take advantage, to abuse, to discriminate, to belittle. I still like Tom Peters’ tweet about a consultant’s counsel to a leadership team:
Consultant called in for exec retreat. Enters, goes to white board, writes “DON’T BELITTLE;” turns and walks out. (YES!!!)
There are things that a leader, and/or a company does to an employee that are harmful – harmful to that employee, and ultimately harmful to the leader and to the company. These fall under those “bad boss, “the no asshole rule” practices. (The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t by Robert Sutton).
But there is another kind of failure. This is the path of the sins of omission. It happens when a company hires an employee, and fails to give that employee the training, the resources, the encouragement, the mentoring and coaching needed to do the job effectively. And it is this “sin” that might be the one that slips by so easily. Generally, a boss/manager knows when he or she is mistreating an employee. (Not always – but generally). But the lack of encouragement, the lack of training, the lack of coaching… This is one of those “I should have, but I was too busy to think about it” failures.
You know the solution to such sins, don’t you? In church terms, it requires some old fashioned repentance. In other words, you change your behavior.
So, are you mistreating your employees? Then it’s time to stop.
So, are you failing to give your employees the encouragement, the training, the coaching, the resources they need to do their best work? It’s time to start.
After all, what’s the use of hiring employees and then setting them up to fail? That’s just bad business.
Also, check out Bob Morris’ blog post The Set-Up-To-Fail Syndrome: A book review by Bob Morris. Her’s a key excerpt:
…supervisors are often unaware of the fact that they are “complicit in an employee’s lack of success. How? By creating and reinforcing a dynamic that essentially sets up perceived weaker performers to fail.” Hence the title of the book.
Manzoni and Barsoux assert that the set-up-to-fail syndrome is “both self-fulfilling and self-reinforcing, which obscures the boss’s responsibility in the process as well as some of the key psychological and social mechanisms involved.” My own experience suggests an often great discrepancy exists between modes of behavior determined by conscious and unconscious mindsets. That is to say, many supervisors would vehemently deny that they are “complicit in an employee’s lack of success….[by] creating and reinforcing a dynamic that essentially sets up perceived weaker performers to fail.” Nonetheless they are. Were they to read this book, they would probably agree that there is such a syndrome and then lament how unfair it is to subordinates who are victimized by it.
On February 5, 2012 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, a Super Bowl Champion will be crowned. I do not know which team will win, although, though I am a Cowboys fan, you almost have to root for Manning and the Colts at their home field.
But I know that every team in the league will follow pretty much the same disciplines to try to win the prize.
Here’s what no team will do: the supervisors of each department (the coaches over each area) will not gather their players together and say, “ok guys – our goal is to win the Super Bowl. Here’s your assignments – We’ll check back with you in December to see how you are doing.”
You get it, don’t you?! Such an approach would be ridiculous.
Each team will have countless meetings. The entire team will meet, and then, each player meets with the other players and the coach over his area, over and over and over again, throughout the season. They have mid-course corrections every week, every day, every game. If the defensive coach sees a problem, he will call an “emergency” meeting in the middle of the game, on the sidelines, and give corrective instructions. And player after player receives one-on-one coaching constantly, throughout each game
These guys take it seriously.
And yet, as seriously as every team, every player, every coach takes it, only one team can come out on top. It really is a competitive world out there.
So – what’s the point of this short blog post? It is this. The ridiculous scenario, the “here’s your assignment, I’ll check back in five months” approach, is exactly how too many people “try to succeed” in their business. People are given assignments, and then left on their own. No meetings, no mid-course-correctives – just “Here’s your assignment – I’ll check back in five months.” So many leave it all to an “annual performance review” to “check in, and offer needed coaching and correctives.” This is a guaranteed scenario for failure.
You may not win the Super Bowl, but without regular meetings, constant coaching, mid-course correctives, constant attention, and constant encouragement when the job is well done, you won’t even be able to play on the same field as the big boys.
As I have said and written often, “you accomplish what you meet about!”
After having read and reviewed so many business books, I now share brief comments about what I consider to be the 25 most valuable business insights and identify the books in which they are either introduced or (one man’s opinion) best explained. Here are the first five:
1. Analytics: With rare exception, you cannot manage what you cannot measure. It is imperative to select criteria (metrics) that are relevant, inclusive, comprehensive, etc. and then apply them consistently. It is critically important to be alert to variances and, when they occur, to what caused them.
Best Source: Competing of Analytics: The New Science of Winning co-authored by Tom Davenport and Jeanne Harris.
2. Branding: Over time a brand has evolved from what is burned into the hide of cattle to a name, then to a logo, later to a positive association and now to an experience. Today, marketing creates or increases demand with the promise of what (preferably) a multi-sensory, pleasurable experience.
Best Source: Bern Schmidt’s Experiential Marketing: How to Get Customers to Sense, Feel, Think, Act, and Relate to Your Company and Brands
3. Business Narrative (Storytelling): The powder and value of this genre has only recently been recognized. Basically, the business narrative focuses on a specific situation in which various “characters” proceed through a sequence of events (plot). Issues are raised, conflicts develop, and eventually there is a resolution (climax). Most of the best business presentations are in the form of a narrative. Why? Because they entertain as well as inform and thus are more convincing. More to the point, they anchor the material in hum an experience with which an audience can identify/
Best Source: Stephen Denning’s The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative
4. Coaching: Like ice cream, coaches come in a wide variety of flavors. The most effective are those who have highly-developed expertise in the given subject(s) as well as emotional intelligence (i.e. people skills), communicate clearly, and (like gardeners) are masters at “growing” human development.
Best Source: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful, written by Marshall Goldsmith with Mark Reiter, and Verne Hornish’s Mastering the Rockefeller Habits: What You Must Do to Increase the Value of Your Growing Firm
5. Creativity: The general viewpoint is that innovation makes something better whereas creativity makes something new. However, in my opinion, developing a creative mindset that is always active is far more important than the occasional “something” it produces. The mindset is “open” in that it is receptive to what is unfamiliar as well as to what emerges from an unexpected source; it challenges assumptions and premises (especially those that result from what James O’Toole characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of comfort”); and it has highly-developed integrative thinking. It is worth noting that all of the greatest inventions throughout history were first envisioned before they were constructed.
Best Sources: Guy Claxton, Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind: How Intelligence Increases When You Think Less, Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats, and Roger Martin’s Opposable Mind: Winning Through Integrative Thinking
Note: You may also wish to check out Most Valuable Business Insights: 6-10.
Coach Ron Washington-Bringing Out The Best, But Never Pretentious (Insight From Michael Lewis, Moneyball)
Quoted without comment, about Ron Washington, while he was the infield coach of the Oakland A’s:
Ron Washington was the infield coach because he had a gift for making players want to be better than they were — though he would never allow himself such a pretentious thought.
Michael Lewis, Moneyball, (p. 165).
Sara here: I have gotten some response to the post I offered about coaching. I’ve offended some and for that, I apologize. That is why this is titled “apology/apologia.” It is to say that I am sorry for causing reaction – and I would offer my argument to support what I believe about coaching with all sincerity.
I used the term “judgement” and that was a poor choice of words. Let me be clear that I didn’t mean that anyone was “judgmental” in working with other people. Language is a tricky thing. I suspect we often don’t communicate by speaking the same language.
Let me take another run at this. I was talking about the relationship that should exist between a coach and a client. I firmly believe that a coach has the responsibility to remain neutral toward client and client’s situation. A coach’s responsibility is to assess rather than vote. I substitute vote for judgement because I mean taking a position (rather than being judgmental). By refusing to take a position, the coach can be curious about the effectiveness of a client in ways that are outside the coach’s experience. Language does make creating the distinction challenging.
By the way – there are weaknesses in the world and in people, no denying. However, the job of the coach is not in the area of weakness. What differentiates a coach from other helping professions is that they to assess how the client sees themselves, help them expand their perspectives and open clients up to their own blind spots. Ergo, the difference between fixing what’s broken vs discovering new paths. In fact, in the world of neuropsychology: the work of Daniel Goleman, David Rock and others is reinforcing this understanding of coaching and its effectiveness in helping people change…creating new neuropathways rather than trying to redirect old ones.
Legendary is not a strong enough word. Here in Dallas, whatever punch the word “legendary” carries, it is not enough to describe the name Roger Staubach. The winner of two Super Bowls for the Dallas Cowboys, Roger Staubach is simply the man. And his success on the field carried over into a vast Real Estate success. When I moved to Dallas in 1987, it seemed that the name Roger Staubach was always staring at me from one corner or another.
We have always known that athletic contests build some kind of inner something that carries over into life in ways that are almost too numerous to mention, or even fully grasp. Now researchers are trying to find those ways.
And it is true for women as well as men. In a fascinating article on the Daily Beast, Female Jocks Rule the World by Danielle Friedman, we learn quite a bit about this. Here are a number of excerpts. (I will follow with a few observations of my own).
Athletic women make more money and hold more upper-management positions than those who shun sports—and their numbers are growing. Danielle Friedman on why it pays to play.
But the young entrepreneurs have undoubtedly carried lessons from their days as varsity athletes into the boardroom, attributing many of their managerial skills to their sporty pasts.
“Our coach always had us write our goals on the back of our hands to be constantly reminded of them, to give one example,” says Jenny Carter Fleiss, who was captain of her track team in Riverdale, New York. “Today, I still keep a list of my personal goals posted right in front of me—and encourage everyone else at Rent the Runway to do this—as a constant reminder of the bigger-picture things we’re working on.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, Carter Fleiss and Hyman are in good company. Former high school and college athletes of all abilities hold positions of power in an array of arenas, from Sarah Palin (basketball) to Ellen DeGeneres (tennis). Eight-two percent of executive businesswomen played organized sports after elementary school, according to a 2002 study by mutual fund company Oppenheimer, and evidence suggests that figure will likely rise over the next few decades, as more post-Title IX babies enter the workforce.
“There’s a whole lot of anecdotal evidence that disparities between women and men in the workplace are caused by a lack of athletic training and experience,” says Kathryn Kolbert, director of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College. “We’d now like to do the research to prove it.”
In addition to gaining valuable skills, women who played (or passionately follow, for that matter) sports gain unique access to “boys” networks that they’d otherwise be excluded from, experts say. Also compelling: The Oppenheimer study found that one in six adult women identify themselves as athletic—but the figure rises to almost half of women who make more than $75,000.
Stevenson found that ramping up girls’ participation in sports had a direct effect on their education and employment, explaining about 20 percent of the increase in education and about 40 percent of the rise in employment for women ages 25 to 34,
“It’s not just that the people who are going to do well in life play sports, but that sports help people do better in life,” Stevenson told Parker-Pope. “While I only show this for girls, it’s reasonable to believe it’s true for boys as well.”
…evidence suggests that participating in an organized sport can benefit nearly all women, deeply instilling lessons from the value of practice to teamwork, says Kolbert. It provides participants with a peer group, and a feeling of inclusion. And perhaps most importantly, it helps cultivate resilience.
I was a tennis player. (The operative word is “was”). I was ranked fairly high in Texas my Senior year in high school, had a great, great experience on my tennis teams, both in high school and in college, and my college degree was substantially paid for by my tennis scholarship. I was good – not anywhere near great (I could not challenge the best – and in my years, the best was Trinity University), but good.
To this day, when I run into an old tennis buddy or opponent, my heart beats faster, and the conversation just starts flying.
In my years studying business success, the wisdom of a good coach or athlete seems to lift the level of the thought and conversation. On this blog, the single most viewed article we’ve ever had (fueled somewhat by his death) was about John Wooden – simply the greatest coach who ever lived. (Here’s the article: Wisdom from Coach Wooden: “A coach is someone who can give correction without creating resentment”). And blog posts about Peyton Manning, Coach Bear Bryant, Tony Dungy, John Madden, all have brought more than the average number of page views than articles about the other mere mortals in business seem to generate.
And in one area of business endeavor, the illustrations just seem to come in an avalanche: the 10,000 hour rule, and the need for deliberate practice, is simply best explained by athletic discipline success stories (though music stories, dance stories, and many others, could certainly make the point in powerful ways also). Though Malcolm Gladwell includes stories of Bill Gates and the Beatles in his discussion of the 10,000 hour rule in Outliers, he begins it with stories of Canadian Junior Hockey and international junior soccer competition.
And if you want to understand the impact of, the power of, work ethic and discipline and the need for constant improvement, you may as well just bow down to the legendary practices of such athletes as Michael Jordan and Jerry Rice and Peyton Manning and Nolan Ryan and…
And if you want the best cautionary tales, just check into stories of athletes who could have been great, but lacked those qualities that could have kept them on the path to such greatness. (For one such cautionary tale, just consider the tale of one-game-wonder Clint Longley, the “mad bomber.” A great quarterback that never was…)
The article I quoted above offers a lot to help us understand the power of such athletic undergirdings to business success. But here’s something else to throw in the mix. When I read about deliberate practice, the place/role of a good coach, the 10,000 hour rule, I do look back on my athletic successes, but my athletic failures and disappointments are what I really remember. And in remembering those, I feel somewhat driven to do better at this chapter of my life. Maybe the challenge of athletic disappointment drives us to do better at doing better later in life.
I guess all of this is my way of saying that I am not surprised at the evidence that athletic endeavor — practice, teamwork, competition, the role of a good coach — all help lead to success later in life.
And for women to rise as fast as they have after the adoption of Title IX — well, let’s just say we shouldn’t be surprised.
Cheryl offers: Have you ever had one of those experiences where you complete something and think “Well, that was OK, but it didn’t quite hit the mark; and I’m not sure why I feel this way?” Well, it happened to me with the blog a few days ago by the same title, only it was part 1 and I didn’t realize it at the time. Something kept bothering me about that blog. I felt like I was missing a point, something really important. Then it hit me out of the blue while I was not really thinking about it at all. What was missing is this. The phrase “Help me understand” is about having the person asking the question understands or learn more. Or as is often the case, it is about them having an idea of what the answer should be and seeing if by talking about it more, you can figure out what they think you should know. The focus of the conversation is on the person stating the phrase. In a true coaching relationship, it’s the opposite! The coach does ask questions, but not for their own education on the topic. In fact, when we train leaders to be coaches, we direct them to avoid the topic and keep the conversation focused on the coachee. True coaching questions are designed to facilitate the learning for the person being asked. This is the direct opposite of the phrase “Help me understand” intent when the learning is asker centered. This is what was tickling me from my unconscious. In a true coaching relationship, the focus of the listening, the questions, and the energy is all on the person being coached. So, when a person says they want to have a coaching conversation and then ask to be educated, just know this is NOT a coaching conversation. Maybe this is why many people are insulted or put off by the phrase.
And you know how that came to me out of the blue? I bet everyone reading this has had this experience. Annie McKee discusses this in Resonant Leadership. Our brains need to rest so they can be truly creative. When we rush about working frantically, then try to think clearly, most of us find it difficult to easily select that best answer. When we allow ourselves down time and rest, our brains have the energy and space for creativity. Rest is essential to great leadership.
Cheryl offers: I’m reading a new book right now titled The Why of Work: How Great Leaders Build Abundant Organizations” by David Ulrich and Wendy Ulrich. This is a great book on a topic that, until now, has not been as clearly described or explained. That topic is why we all work. It’s not about money, although that’s always important. It’s really about meaning. We invest our time and our lives and want something back. Having a sense of purpose, a sense of value about our contributions is important no matter what the line of work. I was reading along in perfect harmony with the authors until I reached page 142 where I read “Help me understand. These words put the leader in a coaching stance.” I stopped reading for a moment. Perhaps for some these words invite dialogue. However, in my experience, more often than not I’ve heard students, employees, and leaders say they come across as condescending and patronizing in the most insincere ways. This does not put a leader in a coaching stance. When leaders are viewed as anything less than authentic, sincere, and trustworthy, they cannot be defined as a coach by my definition or as defined by the International Coach Federation. According to the ICF, coaching is a partnership which requires trust and equality between participants. “Help me understand” can easily be interpreted as a one up and one down relationship; that’s not real coaching. For anyone looking to expand their leadership capabilities and be a more coach-like leader, trade those 3 words for “Tell me more”. It’s definitely a trade up and this book is still a great book!
Recently, I delivered my synopsis on the now classic Encouraging the Heart: A Leaders Guide to Rewarding and Encouraging Others by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Pozner.
From the book, here are the seven essentials of encouraging:
1. Set clear standards
2. Expect the best
3. Pay attention
4. Personalize recognition
5. Tell the story
6. Celebrate together
7. Set the example
Side comment: in Susan Scott’s excellent book, Fierce Leadership, she encourages every leader to intentionally plan, and then initiate, those important conversations they need to have. She suggests that every leader prepare, carry around, and use this sheet of paper:
Conversations I Need To Have:
Name: _____________________________ Topic: _____________________________
Name: _____________________________ Topic: _____________________________
Name: _____________________________ Topic: _____________________________
In the midst of the presentation of the Kouzes and Posner book, I shared this idea. Take a sheet of paper. Turn it sideways. Draw four boxes – one box for each of the four people that you most need to coach/mentor/encourage. (If you have more than four, then use two sides of the sheet of paper).
Assign one of the four names to each of the boxes. Divide each box into two halves. And, constantly update, and use your notes to have those crucial, improant conversations.
Each box will look something like this:
A couple of observations. If you actually want to help people get “better,” and get the best out of people, it is important to do more praising than correcting. A lot more praising.
Second observation: a retired military sergeant told me that the boxes look very similar to an initiative that he followed in the military. The point was the same, but the wording was different. Instead of praise/teach & correct, they used: sustain/improve.
I think this is a practical way to help a coach serve more effectively, and especially more intentionally.
(One footnote: John Wooden used to plan all of his practice sessions, to the minute, on 3×5 cards. And he was very intentional and direct, calling players by name, praising them, and teaching/correcting them).