Tag Archives: Information-Sharing

Monday Morning Moment – 6 Basic Elements of Leading Well – Dave Mills

Leadership is a process that has been a great interest all my adult life. There’s this man I know well who actually spends concentrated time studying about leadership, both through books and observing it in practice. He has had the experience of being a leader of few and many. He has managed teams, budgets, and action plans. Other times, he has led only by influence, without authority. He is my go-to person on what is good leadership – which is never a finished product. Leadership changes as organizations and cultures change.

Yet, the basic elements of leadership that builds leaders and, at the same time, gets the job done are foundational.

The man is my husband. He, from time to time, has also been my boss in the workplace. Dave Mills wears many hats. He most recently applies himself to risk/crisis management, security processes, and strategic partnerships. Making leadership development happen is his professional happy place.

In the training he does on Leading From the Heart, he lays out these 6 Basic Elements of Leading Well. With permission, they are excerpted in brief below:

  • Be clear about what you want personnel to do (What)
  • Make sure they know why it is important (Why)
  • Make sure they have what they need to do the job (How)
  • Give them a way to know how they are doing
  • Follow up regularly on priorities and progress (accountability)
  • Make sure they know you care about them

This is intended to help leaders understand what they need to provide for people to thrive in their work. This doesn’t address vision or strategy; it focuses on the people part of the process – the interaction between leaders and those we are responsible to lead.

For someone to thrive in a job, they need all six of these in place.

6 Basic elements of leading people:

1. What:  Be clear about what you want them to do.

People tend to underestimate the amount of communication effort required to achieve clarity.  This requires repeated communication to hammer home a clear understanding of the task. A feedback loop where you ask the team member to explain the assignment back to you is essential.  Even when they can do that, you still need to revisit it regularly.  Do not short-change the work involved to achieve clarity.

[This is very different from micro-managing. This is empowering through comprehensive, understandable information-sharing.]

2. Why:  Make sure they know why it is important.

Do not assume that employees understand why the task is important.  Make sure that is clearly communicated.  If they already know the importance, it helps them to hear it so they know their leader understands the importance.

This is often neglected.  Sometimes it is because it is assumed that the person knows why the task is important.  Sometimes it may be obvious why it is important.  However, it is worth unpacking that together to reinforce the importance of the task and your confidence in the person to successfully carry out the assignment.  The most common scenario is probably just to ignore the issue and never bother to help the person understand why their work is important.  This is one of the points in Lencioni’s three characteristics of a miserable job.  He calls it irrelevance.

3. How:  Make sure they have what they need to do the job.

When you assign a task you must be sure that the person has what is needed to do it.  This may involve resources, like access to equipment or funding.  It may be knowledge.  It may be connections to other people.  There may be a training need.  Or it may be capacity.  Do they have the capacity to take on the task you are assigning to them?  Make sure they have capacity, or free them up from something else, or give them someone to help them with the task.  Also recognize that sometimes at the beginning it may not be clear where the gaps are.  This is something that should be regularly revisited with people – Don’t forget to ask them if they have everything they need.

[This is another area where micro-managing would stifle rather than empower employees. Give team members the authority to get what they need to get the job done.]

4. Give them a way to know how they are doing.

People need to know what a good job looks like.  At the end of a day they need to be able to assess whether or not they did a good job that day.  What are the most important outcomes that you are expecting from them?  Have you expressed these in ways that can be quantified?

5. Accountability: Follow up regularly on priorities and progress.

Check in with them regularly, with intentionality, about progress and priorities.  The leader must take responsibility for driving this.  The frequency depends on the employee and situation, but there should be a regularly set time.  This needs to be a one-on-one conversation with each direct report to discuss what progress has been made since the last check-in and what are the priorities to be focused on until the next check-in.

Not only do you give them a way to assess their own performance, you regularly review their progress and provide feedback on how they are doing.  This is a good opportunity to revisit whether or not they have everything they need to accomplish the assigned work.  This is where coaching and accountability happen.

6. Heart level connections: Make sure they know you care about them.

Relationships are key to leadership.  You need to be intentional and deliberate about building heart level connections with those you lead.  There is an enormous amount of research indicating the importance of this.  If you do all the other parts of the process well and fail on this one, your people may endure your leadership but they will not thrive.  On the other hand, if you are not so great on some of the other parts but do this one well, people will cut you a lot of slack if they know you care about them.  Relationships are the oil that keeps the work machinery going.  Like having something with a lot of moving parts – as long as the oil is there, it runs smoothly.  If you throw some sand in the works, it doesn’t run so well and over time it will grind down to a point where it doesn’t work at all.

Caring about our employees (direct reports, in particular) involves investing in their development. Proactively looking for ways to help someone improve and grow in their work is a very caring and practical thing to do.

[Be careful that you, as a leader, don’t presume a relationship exists. This is only effective when the employee experiences the relationship as positive and caring.]

– Dave Mills, Leading From the Heart

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What do you think? Any element you could use as a leader or team member? In our work (both together and in work independent of each other), Dave and I also believe that leadership development – intentional and proactive – should begin at orientation. The tendency in the workplace is to load development on those already in authority. Entry level and mid-level employees don’t always have benefit of the care needed to provide opportunity to grow and develop in their areas of expertise. It is something to consider on the order of company core values.

Lastly, I just wanted to give a shout-out to some of the folks who have demonstrated excellent leadership to Dave…as well as those in relationship with him who have developed as excellent leaders themselves during the time they worked together. These make for long and rewarding relationships across a lifetime of work.

[Just a few of those remarkable ones are in the following images]

Monday Morning Moment – What You Think of Others Matters – Workplace Wisdom – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Chuck Lawless on Executing Positive Change

Photo Credit: Maxpixel

A conference room table is much more winsome than rows of chairs facing the front of the room. At least for me. Chairs facing each other give the impression that all those at the table have a voice. Enlarge that to an organizational level. Especially related to change. When employees understand some sort of change is necessary for the growth of the organization, then having the opportunity to speak into that change has tremendous value.

Not just for embracing the change but for the execution of the best change possible.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to be on a board of directors of a private international school in another country. Also a parent of students in that school, it was easy and satisfying to engage in the various problems and challenges the board faced for the sake of the school. Initiating change was always a part of that. Early on during my tenure on the board, I saw how difficult it was for the average parent to get the ear of the board. This was grievous to me that I had more influence than most of the parents on decisions affecting all our children’s school situation.

Out of this personal pressure point, a parents’ organization was birthed. It was a difficult labor, but worth all the effort in terms of trust-building and overall outcomes. Photo Credit: Better Together, Balcony People, Deb Mills Writer

Theologian Chuck Lawless has written an article on executing change. His focus is the church but his succinct 10 thoughts are relevant to any organization. See what you think:

  1. The healthiest organizations are always in a state of change.
  2. All generations can be opposed to change.
  3. People want to know the “why” behind the change.
  4. Their opposition to change isn’t always a personal attack on the leader.
  5. They might oppose change (in the church, on their team or subset of their organization) simply because that’s the only place they have a voice about change.
  6. Some aren’t opposed to the change; they’re opposed to the process.
  7. The best change agents take their time to secure support.
  8. Our assessment of opposition could be overly optimistic.
  9. A vote for change is not a guarantee of support for that change.
  10. Often, any immediate chaos caused by a change settles down after that change is done.

Photo Credit: Flickr

Thinking back on the formation of that parents’ organization, we learned the wisdom of securing feedback early from those most affected by the change. Feedback well before the roll-out of the change. We also gained an understanding of how “knowledge is power”.  Parents who had access to the knowledge of looming change as well as an avenue to speak into that change became advocates and influencers for the change.

Who are your critical thinkers? Those folks on your team who think deeply about work and the processes at work that affect personnel. Not all of them are the greatest cheerleaders and definitely not just the isolated inner circle of leadership.

Are we willing to value and seek out the critics, skeptics, naysayers, contrarians? If our ideas are so fragile that we can’t bear the input of these folks, how can we press these ideas on a whole organization? If we only take the input of those consummately agreeable with our ideas, then do we avoid, even lack, the feedback that could launch our ideas toward the most favorable change?

Business writer Oliver Staley gives organizational psychologist Adam Grant‘s take on the positive impact of the disagreeable giver – in regards to change:

Cheerful and helpful workers are beloved by their bosses, and just about everyone else, really. Enthusiastic optimists make for great colleagues, rarely cause problems, and can always be counted on.

But they may not necessarily make the best employees, says Adam Grant, the organizational psychologist and Wharton professor.

The agreeable giver may seem like the ideal employee, but Grant says their sunny disposition can make them averse to conflict and too eager to agree. Disagreeable givers, on the other hand, can be a pain…, but valuable to an organization, Grant says.

They’re more likely to fight for what they believe in, challenge the status quo, and push the organization to make painful but necessary changes, he says. And because they’re stingy with praise, when it’s offered, it generally can be trusted.

Disagreeable givers “can get more joy out of an argument than a friendly conversation” and be tough to work with, Grant says. But for organizations eager to avoid complacency and determined to improve, they also can be invaluable. – Oliver Staley

In Chuck Lawless’ 10 Thoughts, he doesn’t speak outright about disagreeable givers, but they are present and valued. One of Lawless’ readers, Jerry Watts, commented with this insight: “One time, in a culture far-far away, I heard a pastor say, ‘People aren’t afraid of change, they’re afraid of loss.’ – I thought those were good words to remember. After 40+ years, I have discovered that change is okay as LONG AS you don’t mess with me.

Change does mix loss with gains. When personnel have the opportunity to grieve ahead of time, their problem-solving acumen is sparked to help drive a better change, not just for themselves but for the organization as a whole. Is it messy including more people in the decision-making? Of course…but the process for everyone yields far more meaning and understanding.

The Best Employees Are Not the Agreeable Ones, According to Adam GrantOliver Staley

Changing Company Culture Requires a Movement, Not a Mandate – Bryan Walker and Sarah A. Soule

Negotiating Change – the Key to Survival in the 21st Century – Grande Lum

4 Ways to Face the Challenge of Disruptive Change – Ron Carucci

YouTube Video – Adam Grant and Beth Comstock – How Non-Conformists Change the World – Change Makers Book Club

Monday Morning Moment – On Silos and Tribalism – Taking “Us” and “Them” to a Better “We” – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – On Silos and Tribalism – Taking “Us” and “Them” to a Better “We”

Blog - Silos & TribalismPhoto Credit: Slideshare.net

“Silos”, as a workplace term, is such a fitting description for what we do to distinguish ourselves from each other. It means compartmentalization based on specialization. Now the term “silos” is less used, replaced by the cooler term “tribes”. Unfortunately, because the workplace woes of old are still in operation, “tribes” have deteriorated into “tribalism” or…[Hello] “silos”.

I began thinking about this again this weekend when a retweet came up in my Twitter feed featuring Gianpiero Petriglieri. So much organizational resource – money and time – is spent on specialization and grooming leaders. It’s a pity when the outcome actually draws down the organization ( to small pockets of “tribal buddies”) instead of honing expertise and relationships across departments, across disciplines.Blog - Silos and Tribalism

What if we could break down silos, and reorient and reenergize tribes? What if workplace tribes incorporated a grand plan that nurtured inclusion – creating “a rising tide that lifts all boats” (Adam Grant)?

Years ago, when I was a young instructor at Yale University, I experienced workplace silos. There were bottlenecks through which I had to maneuver, until I figured out how to win those beyond the bottlenecks. Since then silos have been a part of life for me, as I’m sure they are for us all. Oncology nursing had a different prestige than critical care nursing. Was one better than the other? No.

Working in the Middle East had its own set of challenges different from working in Europe. Does that mean one elicits greater respect or benefits than another? Of course not. Right? Communication between those in the field and those in the home office can also become very much an “us” and “them” transaction.  Even within the home office, one department may seem more the “flavor of the month” than another. What are your silo/tribe challenges?

Brilliant business writers can give us great tools and insight with breaking down silos (see fast reads in the links below). If you are anticipating a major change in your organization (buy-out, down-sizing, shift in focus/product line), it makes for a perfect storm to deal with silos. Of course, if management across the organization leads out with a unifying goal (a “battle-cry”), the possibility for success is heightened. I don’t think, however, that this is the only hope for success.

What if one department, a single silo or tribe, decided to tackle the problem? What would that look like? From my work experience and from learning from great leaders, both celebrity and colleague, here’s a bare-bones minimum how-to-get-started list:

  • What is your common goal as an organization? What is the clear unified rallying cry around which you can collaborate?
  • What are your own silo biases? Do you communicate that you think your department, location, specialization should have some sort of favor? Deal with that. It’s the first barrier that has to come down.
  • If trust has been disrupted or destroyed, who can you partner with to begin to rebuild trust? Name them, and begin the process (if you pray, you might begin praying for their success as a department/division – make it NOT about you).
  • What objectives can you establish as a department to guide you in staying focused on high-value collaboration across-specialties?
  • How will you measure the course of your action toward becoming a non-silo, less tribal department? Set a time. 6 months or across whatever acute crisis you see coming. Be as intentional and broad-reaching as you are able, given your own workload. Remember that silos alter the math in a workplace – 1 + 1 + 1 = 2 when teams aren’t sharing information and working at cross-hairs. We can make the math work better, as we work, against the flow, toward creative collaboration. 

My professional life has had various silo experiences, from teaching in an Ivy League university to working on a highly innovative team (recklessly creating its own brilliant unintentional silo, later with personal regret). Silos and workplace tribes never get us where we want to go collectively. Bring ’em down.

I would love to hear about your work experiences…any struggles, breakthroughs, or victories in this area of breaking down silos and building a culture of “Yes, WE can…together.”

Blog - Organizational CUlture - Lencioni book Silos, Politics & Turf WarsPhoto Credit: Amazon.com

Silos, Politics and Turf Wars – A Leadership Fable about Destroying the Barriers that Turn Colleagues into Competitors

Silos and Tribes – Think Different

17 Strategies for Improving Collaboration – from the Freiberg’s – Do Not Miss This One.

How to Build Trust and Fight Tribalism to Stimulate Innovation

Breaking Bad – Squash Silos & Tribalism – Breakthrough Personal Branding

Leadership Axioms: Powerful Leadership Proverbs by Bill Hybels