Tag Archives: diy executive development

Who Are You And How Did You Get That Way?

In the mirror

Understand Yourself

One of the most important tasks of becoming a great leader and a successful Executive (and those things are not necessarily the same thing) is to REALLY understand yourself.  You need to understand what makes you tick–what motivates you, what slows you down, what scares you and what gets in your way.  You need to understand how others see you.  You also need to understand that what goes on in your head is absolutely invisible to those around you.  They don’t know why you do what you do and they certainly don’t know what you are thinking.  You need to understand your strengths and your weaknesses, your learning style and your interpersonal style.  And then you need to show enough of your internal workings and motivations to help others understand you.

We all think we know ourselves.  We are mostly wrong.  That is why it is really good to get feedback from others.  I highly recommend getting 360 assessments done–pretty regularly.  These are assessments that get feedback from you, your boss and your subordinates.  When you look at your opinion of yourself against that of your boss and your subordinates, you frequently get a surprise.   If your boss doesn’t agree with your opinion of yourself, then it’s important to note the differences.  If your subordinates don’t agree with you and your boss about your strengths–another important factor.  These instruments just measure behaviors, though–what can actually be seen.  When you get feedback that indicates behaviors that can derail your career, it is important that you CHANGE that behavior.  It is possible for you to change your behavior without understanding how and why you do what you do.  You just change.  Right?  Most of us can’t do that.

The Why of Your Behavior

When I identify that I need to change a behavior–interpersonal interactions, eating, exercising, time management–it really helps me to understand WHY I do (or don’t do) what I do.  For example, I used to get feedback that I was “unreadable.”  As I tried to figure out why people thought that, I also tried to figure out WHY I was unreadable.  What did they mean that I was unreadable?  I started asking people (not the one’s who had given the feedback, but others):  “What does it mean when people say I’m unreadable?  Why do they care? What could I do differently?”  The answers surprised me.  It turns out that I used few happy facial expressions.  I wasn’t aware of this.  Whether I was happy, pissed or someplace in between, I was using the same facial expressions. I had very neutral (or so I thought) facial expressions.   I really wasn’t aware of this.  When I thought long and hard about it,  I realized that some things had happened in my childhood that made me very guarded about my thoughts and feelings.  OK.  That was legitimate.  Then.  Those things no longer existed.  And not only that, it was interfering with my effectiveness as a leader because when left to their own imagination, people frequently assume the worse (that I’m pissed AT THEM).  I was able to (deliberately) change this because I was made aware of it, I asked about it to understand it, and then I could persuade myself that the coping behavior from my childhood was no longer necessary.  I was able to change more easily with this realization.

Some of the things that can impact the way your are and can shape your behaviors as a leader are:

  • Your birth order and your relationships with your siblings
  • Your relationships with your parents
  • Your beliefs about how things work (your mental models)
  • Your beliefs about the “rules” of organizations
  • What you believe about hierarchy and how that fits with your organization, your boss and your subordinates
  • Your beliefs about what makes people tick (Theory X, Theory Y)
  • What you believe about people’s responsibility to the organization and the organization’s responsibility to people

Start With Feedback

It all starts with feedback, though.  You can’t know what behaviors are really working and not working unless people tell you.  They probably won’t tell you unless you ask them.  Once you know the behaviors that you should address, think long and hard about where those behaviors come from.  Then do something about it.

Then Change

Sooner rather than later.

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Filed under Career Development, Career Goals, Derailment, Executive Development, Feedback, Personal Change

Does Aggressive Leadership Work?

BadBossThe Rutgers Coach

I had breakfast with a group of friends this morning, evenly divided male/female.  The topic of the Rutgers coach who got fired came up.  I don’t think anyone in the discussion had seen more than a brief clip of the video that detailed the coach’s aggressive behavior toward his athletes.  “Like Bobby Knight” was a quick comparison that came up in the discussion.  Then someone said, “That aggressive style works.”  Participants (all male) in the discussion cited their own experiences with aggressive coaches or bosses and defended that style as effective.  (Since none of these folks had seen the video, they were not defending this coach’s behavior specifically, but an aggressive coaching/leadership style generally).

My position was that aggressive leadership styles work as long as the leader is physically present or likely to be in the vicinity, but that “when the cat is away” the style stops working.  In fact, it is my experience that aggressive (or worse, abusive) styles are more destructive than constructive because they create negative reactive behaviors, damage employee/leader  (or coach/athlete) relationships, and are short term effective, long term destructive.  They rely on bullying rather than inspiring.

So, I throw this out to you.  What do you think.  Does the aggressive style used by some coaches and lots of managers work?  Is it ok?  Is it productive or destructive?  Is it more acceptable for those who have experienced it in their lives than for those who have not, but have only watched it from afar?

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

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Are You Stuck?

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Have you noticed that you’re not moving up in your organization any more?  Have your last couple of job changes been laterals?  Have your last couple of reviews been ho-hum? Are you starting to get the message that you’re stuck in your career trajectory?  There are some common causes and, believe it or not, some things that YOU can do about it.

Are You Bored?

Do you find yourself finding other things to do (other than your job) at work?  Are you consistently late for work and early to leave? Do you think you can do your job in your sleep? Have you done it and done it and done it and don’t want to do it anymore? Do you remember when you were challenged by the tasks of your job, but that was a long time ago?  Boredom is a common cause of burnout and demotivation in a job.  And it shows.  You may be the most experienced, the one with the longest tenure, but if you aren’t engaged with your job, it shows.  People who aren’t engaged don’t get promoted.  People who are bored are obvious about being bored.  People who are bored don’t get promoted.

Are You Under-Performing?

Have you noticed that people are passing you up?  Are they getting promoted (or appreciated and recognized) when you sit there like chopped liver?  This is the time to be really honest with yourself.  Are you really performing as well as them?  I know you’ve been telling yourself that you are, but are you really?  Are you making deadlines?  Are you over-delivering?  Are you looking for ways to improve what you do?  Are you looking at what you boss (and her boss) needs and trying to figure out how to get that done in addition to what you’re supposed to work on?  If your peers are over-performing, then you aren’t making the cut if you are merely performing.

Do You Have an “Attitude”?  That Shows?

Are you pissed?  Are you aware that you’ve been treated unfairly, badly, been ‘wronged’?  If so it shows.  No matter how much you try to keep it under wraps, it shows.  If it shows, people back off from you.  They can ‘feel’ your anger.  They certainly don’t promote angry people-even people who are out-performing others.

Are You Falling Behind?

We are constantly barraged by new systems, new tools, new processes at work.  Are you up-to-date on all of them?  Even the ones that you don’t need to use very often?  These tools, systems and processes change the way our minds work.  If you’re not keeping up, then you mind is not in sync with your co-workers’ minds.  Or your bosses.  People who can’t do the latest systems and tools rationalize it–I can do the same thing–the old way.  That may be true.  For a while.  Then others can take it to the next level and then the level beyond that.  And you can’t go there with the old way.  You may not even know what you can’t do if you don’t understand the new way.  Think about the things that you don’t do.  Texting?  Excel Pivot tables? Macs? Photoshop? Prezi? Dropbox?  Get with it. Do it.  Keep up.

Are You Being Rigid?

This is somewhat related to the item above, but that is more about tools and systems.  This is more about the way you think.  Are you open to new ideas?  I do organizational change management for major organizational changes.  I do a lot of ‘readiness’ workshops.  I see the rigid ones.  They are hard to get to the sessions.  They sit in the back and glare.  They bring up all the ways/reasons/causes that this won’t work.  My personal favorite, “We tried this before.”  Everyone resists some changes–that is completely normal.  If you resist all changes, if you are the one who knows all the ways and reasons this won’t work, then you aren’t fun to have around.  You certainly aren’t likely to be promoted.

Are You Not A Good Fit For Your Organization Anymore?

Organizations change.  People change.  Just like with marriages, sometimes you’ve grown apart.  Sometimes it’s time to move on.  The hard part is knowing when.  I used to work for an organization that was fairly small when I started and very large when I left.  It was a midwestern company when I started and an European conglomerate when I left.  It had one kind of product when I started and lots of kinds of products when I left.  Over the course of time from when I started and when I left there was an ebb and flow to the ‘fit’ for me.  Some management changes made it worse and some made it better.  Some positions were good fits for me and some were lousy.  In the end, it was me who had changed the most.  It was me who figured out what I liked about the work I had done for this company and figured out that I could find more of that kind of work as a consultant than as an employee at that company. It was a gradual evolutionary change in the relationship.  It happens.  It takes considerable thought and analysis to figure out whether it is a normal ebb and flow in the relationship or time to move on.  When it is time, either for you or the organization, then it isn’t likely that you will keep moving up.

What Do You Do?

Even if you decide that the fit isn’t right, there are things you can do in the mean time.  You have to really be honest with yourself.

  • If you’re bored, figure out how you can start to out-perform your peers.
  • Figure out how you can over-deliver.  Figure out how, in addition to your normal responsibilities, how to deliver something that your boss really needs.
  • If you’re angry, get some professional help to understand where it is coming from and to decide what to do about it.
  • If you are behind on the technology or systems or processes in your organization, then dedicate yourself to catching up and becoming an expert.
  • If you’re rigid, start to experiment with loosening up.  If you find yourself having a negative reaction to an idea, explore–privately at first–what would actually be the worst thing that could happen if the event took place.  Little steps can take you a long way to letting go of your rigidity.  Once you’re comfortable with letting go a little, then start to be more vocal about that openness.
  • If you are not a good fit for your organization, figure out why not, what you need in an organization and then GO FIND IT.
  • Any and all of these will relieve your boredom.  When you are experimenting with new behavior and thinking, it is really hard to be bored.

When your boss and peers see changes in you, it is highly likely that your upward trajectory will restart.

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Filed under Career Development, Career Goals, Derailment, Personal Change, Success, Uncategorized

Stick with Your New Year’s Resolutions: Find Your Gateway Habits

new years resolutions

Another Year, Another List

Do you make the same New Year’s Resolutions year after year?  Save money.  Lose weight. Get a new job. Get a promotion.  Spend more time with the family.  Do you ever get your resolutions done?  How about trying something new this year.

Look at your resolutions.  What is the one key thing that you could do that would make a difference on all of them?  What behavior could you change that would help you achieve your goals for the year?  For example, if this were your list of resolutions:

  • Lose weight
  • Start a blog
  • Spend more time with the kids

What behavior change could you make that would help achieve all of them?  What about if you increased your weekly and daily planning?  What about if each week–let’s say on Sunday–you planned your meals for the week, calendared exercise and writing and time with the kids-and then followed up each morning (or evening if that works better for you) with specifics re:  food you’re going to eat, review of what you have eaten, when/where you’re going to exercise and activities with the kids?  If you put weekly/daily planning into your life, then your success with your yearly goals is much more likely.  If you add a “gateway” habit into your life that serves your goals, then you are much more likely to be able to stick to achieving your goals.In this case, the weekly/daily planning would be a gateway habit.  If you want to increase your exercise, parking far from the door or walking up the stairs could be a gateway habit.   If you eliminate an existing gateway habit—eating in the car, starting your day with the Internet–then you can impact the follow on unconscious habits.

Gateway Habits

A gateway habit is a habit that leads to other behaviors and habits.  According to research done at Duke University, more than 40% of the actions people take each day are unconscious habits.  Autopilot.  We’re aren’t thinking about it.  We just do it.  Like what we eat for lunch.  Like the snacks we grab as we walk through the kitchen.  Like the TV in the background.    One of these unconscious habits leads to the next–drinking and smoking, watching TV and eating–and at the end of the year, we’ve made no progress.  The secret to making changes is to identify key gateway habits that will lead to other changes that get you to your goals.  Changing gateway habits helps make all the related habits conscious and puts us more in control.

For example, if you need to lose weight, you could cut out eating after 7 pm.  Make your eating after 7 a conscious no-no.  Once you’ve mastered that, all of your eating will be more conscious.  Then focus or what you eat for lunch, or decide to always eat breakfast.  This will make your eating much more conscious.  Before you know it, you are in control of your unconscious eating.  Losing weight is easier when you are focusing on specific eating-related habits, rather than all the deprivations of losing weight.  Add new habits as you succeed with changing and before you know it, you’ve succeeded.  You can have as much success through eliminating existing gateway habits.

Great books to help you with getting control of your unconscious and conscious behavior:

Try Something New This Year.  What Do You Have to Lose (or Gain)?

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Filed under Books, Career Goals, Executive Development, Goal Setting, Personal Change

Should Your Subordinates Like You?

Should you be liked OR respected?

iStock_000019473325XSmallThis post is a follow on to my last post, Underground Relationships.  One of my readers said that he had a boss tell him that people working for you shouldn’t like you, just respect you.  He asked what I thought about that.  I have heard people say this, and in fact I myself have said a variation of that.  I have said that you don’t have to be liked, but you should be respected.  Different, but maybe someone who heard me say that could interpret it the same way.  I think it’s a great question:  How important is it that your subordinates like you?  Should you work to be liked? Is it ok if they like you?

There is a reasonably good argument that if your people respect you, if you do the right things, if you are kind and thoughtful and a clear communicator, then your people will like you.  There are a lot of reasons, though, that this may not be true.  Some people just don’t like managers–no matter who they are or how they act.  Some people react badly to peers being promoted to be their manager.  (See Promoted to Manage Your Peers?  Awkward.)  Whatever the reason, there is no guarantee that subordinates will like their bosses.

So how hard should you work to get your subordinates to like you?

Let’s start with my reader’s boss’ statement: “the people working for you shouldn’t like you, just respect you.”  I have to say that I don’t agree with this statement.  In an ideal world, your subordinates should both respect you and like you.  The quality of work life is significantly better if there is both respect and a level of affection in both directions.  The important thing is to be very clear on where your responsibility as a manager lies.  You are an employee with a fiduciary duty to the organization to deliver strategic results.  As an employee of the organization, managers must do what the organization needs.  Sometimes those things don’t make subordinates happy.  Sometimes those things don’t make managers happy.  On the other hand, managers also have a responsibility to adhere to their own ethical standards.  Those standards include what they are willing to do for the organization and how they must treat employees and co-workers.

Now let’s look at the statement that I’ve made in the past: “you don’t have to be liked, but you should be respected.”  What I meant by this was that you should do the “right” things, things that make you respected, but you shouldn’t do things with a goal of being liked.  The question my reader posed has made me rethink this.  It is my experience that there are some people in management positions who have a really hard time doing things that will impact their likeability.  I believe that this is the wrong thing to use as a guideline when you are a manager.  Your responsibility is first–what is right for the organization, second–what is right for your people, and I don’t see a time when your likeability should be a factor.

Unfortunately, though, it isn’t as easy as that.  It’s really hard to find the lines that divide these things.  What is right for the organization may be bad for the people; what is right for some people may be wrong for others; what is right for your subordinates may be wrong for other parts of the organization.  Finding your way through these  mazes is easier if you have strong relationships with people at work.  If they trust you, and if you communicate clearly as to your reasons and the context, it is easier to find a balance between hard decisions that create unhappiness and sustaining organization performance and relationships.

So what do you do?

  • Get clear on what your personal ethical belief is about how people should be treated and how those decisions should get made
  • Get clear on what you believe is your responsibility to the organization as a boss
  • Find your personal balance between these (understand that whatever you decide here could cause you problems–with your boss, your organization or your subordinates–but you’ve got to live with your decisions/behavior)
  • Listen to HEAR what your people are thinking and going through
  • Communicate clearly with your subordinates about the context and reasons for why decisions have been made, acknowledging the costs to people who are affected–this is absolutely the most important action in being respected/liked
  • As long as you are comfortable with your personal decisions about how you navigate, live with the consequences

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Undercover Relationships

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Undercover Boss

One of my guilty pleasures is the TV show Undercover Boss.  I know it is probably orchestrated and you only get to see the powerful parts, but I love watching it.  I am constantly amazed at how amazed the bosses are at what goes on in their organization.  It is a regular reminder to me that if people just talk to each other, are “real” with each other, then truly awesome things can happen in organizations.  This is of course a two way street.  The bosses have to actually listen because there are TV cameras watching them listen.  The other side of it, however, is that the employees tell it straight–after all they are talking to a ‘nobody.’  If they knew they were talking to the boss, they wouldn’t tell the truth–or at least not all the truth.  They would be polite.  They would calculate what the boss wanted to hear, and then they would say it.  Even if they didn’t do that, they would be careful in their word choice and the real message wouldn’t necessarily get across.  It is the blend of the boss being put in a position where s/he sees what is happening at all levels of the organization, s/he has to listen and the employees telling it like it is that makes it happen.  Real change and effectiveness can happen with that blend. (And yeah, the bosses give the employees something at the end–but that is peripheral and entertaining, but not critical for making the changes happen.)

Applying the Lessons of Undercover Boss

If you are a manager, a leader, and/or an Executive, you need to:

  • Get to know what the people who work for you (and in the rest of your organization) do.  Repeatedly on  Undercover Boss the ‘old’ executive of the organization is challenged to keep up, to understand the process, to go fast enough.
  • Understand their challenges.  What are the impacts of your policies on how they do their work?  Again, repeatedly executives are confronted on Undercover Boss with the unintended consequences of their well-intentioned policy changes.  Bosses are confronted with the fact that employees have to cut short positive customer interactions to make productivity numbers or that a well-designed productivity tool is unusable by people who are color blind.  What have you done that has increased the difficulty of doing a job rather than improved both productivity and job quality?
  • How do they think of you and the other leaders in your organization.  How many times do people on the show talk about the “corporate clowns.”  Are you a clown or clueless in the eyes of your employees?  Rather than be defensive or mad about it, see it through their eyes.  What do you need to change that perception?
  • Know your people.  Over and over and over on the show, bosses ask personal questions of their employees and are touched and surprised by the answers.  I’m sure the show scripts some of the kinds of questions that the Executives ask, but in every show, the bosses are surprised at what their employees go through outside of work.  Many Executives resist, either consciously or unconscioulsy, getting close to their employees.  How can you make the “hard” decisions about what to do with people if you care about them?  Ask yourself the opposite question:  How do you motivate, inspire and lead people to higher performance if you don’t know and care about them?  If they don’t know and care about you? Work organizations are first and foremost human organizations.  Creating organizations where people care about each other, stand up for each other, and deliver or the whole, is the key to being a great Executive and boss.
  • Ideas come from all levels.  The most ridiculous idea that Executives develop over time is that they know better than others because they are at the top of the organization and have lots of experiences that got them there.  As the interactions on Undercover Boss show over and over, being at the top of an organization makes it more, rather than less, likely that you don’t know your market and customers well enough to have new ideas that can grow your organization.  Create channels for innovative ideas to move up and across the organization and fight to keep those channels open.
  • Being real gets you told.  It is extremely difficult to persuade employees to tell the truth about what they think and know about the organization.  Honest employees are doing you a favor.  Create situations that open and stimulate these conversations.  Be real.  Admit your own failings.  Appreciate feedback.  Show your employees that you will do something about what they tell you.  While the chosen employees on Undercover Boss get trips and vacations and scholarships, the biggest win is if the company creates a feedback loop between the employees and the leadership that identifies and addresses real issues for the company.  One of the best bosses I ever had regularly walked around the organization talking to people at all levels, but especially at the bottom.  He had relationships with people and they told him what they thought.  It didn’t happen day one, but over time we learned that not only was it safe to talk to him, but also that things got fixed when we did.

Build Undercover Relationships In Your Organization!

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Recruiters Are Prejudiced

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Recruiters Are People

I know lots of recruiters.  I like lots of recruiters. In fact, maybe I like all the recruiters I know.  Recruiters are regular people.  And like regular people (yes, that means you too), recruiters are prejudiced.  We are all prejudiced.  We don’t necessarily know that we’re prejudiced.  We don’t think or believe that we’re prejudiced, but all humans are.  If this were a geometry problem, I would have just proved that recruiters are prejudiced, because recruiters are people and people are prejudiced.

If recruiters are prejudiced, then why should you care?  You should care because if you’re looking for a job, it has an impact on you. If the recruiter believes negative or positive things about people ‘like’ you–young, old, fat, African-American, Asian, Southern, Republican, Catholic–then it can affect whether they pass you along for a job. Worse, recruiters are frequently under instructions from someone with a different set of prejudices–maybe about education, skills or particular schools.  So you’re up against (or supported by) layered prejudices.

What Can You Do About It?

First of all don’t waste your energy railing against it.  I’m not saying it isn’t wrong or unfair, but sitting around complaining about it is not going to do any good.  Recognize it as a problem that you have to figure out how to overcome.  Just the same as if you need a certification to get a particular job or  you need to know how to use Access.  You HAVE to address it or look for other jobs with other recruiters.  How do you address it?

  • Don’t get paranoid.  I know, I know.  I just told you that recruiters’ prejudices may be keeping you from getting passed along for a job.  But look at it as a matter to be dealt with.  Be strategic.  Don’t take it personally.
  • Understand what may be triggering the prejudice.  Is it your age?  Are you ‘too’ young?  ‘Too’ old.  How can the recruiter see this?  Does your resume tell it?  How can you make it less obvious?  Take the dates off your education.  Leave/put as much work experience on as is necessary for the job.  Show adequate depth of experience, but don’t go overboard.  Don’t put personal things that aren’t necessary and that might be a hook for prejudice (sewing, cooking, gaming, sports).
  • Use the words that the recruiter used in the job description in your resume.  Mirror the job description as much as you can.  A lot of time and effort went into creating that job description.  The words mean something to the person who wrote it.  Use the words to describe your qualifications.
  • Check out your image.  Minimize the prejudice triggers to the extent that you can–dress older or younger, remove the multiple piercings, cover the tattoos, dye your hair, lose weight, dress professionally, stylishly.  (I can hear you objecting through the electrons that separate us.  I am not telling you to not be who you are.  I’m telling you to do things that get you around the things that are in your way.  I’ll bet big bucks that you dress differently when you go to church or to school or to work or camping. Put the foot forward that will help clear roadblocks out of the way.)
  • Form a relationship with the recruiter. Keep working at the relationship.   Humans think in terms of ‘them’ and ‘us.’  Humans like ‘us’ better.  People who we know and like become ‘us,’ even when the new ‘us’ has traits we are prejudiced against.  In other words, if I’m prejudiced against people ‘like’ you, but I like you, I think you are different and I’m not prejudiced against YOU, just those others.  I KNOW that sounds crazy, but go read some psychology research–you’ll find that this craziness is supported by the research.
  • Don’t ever give in and believe these prejudices.  Just because you are young or old or less educated, doesn’t mean that you aren’t capable.

Once You Have The Job

Examine your own hiring prejudices.  You have them.  Challenge yourself, remembering your recent experiences, to act against those prejudices and to hire people based on their individual abilities, not on stereotypes (even if stereotypes  are faster, as George Clooney said in “Up In The Air”).

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