Best Consulting/Coaching/Mentoring/Meeting Question

13 Sep

Last week as I was perusing the aisles of my local supermarket (I went for rye bread, perusing was for cake), I bumped into a former colleague of mine, a really talented couples therapist. We started talking about couples therapy and various styles, mine is pretty distinct (strategic therapy). She mentioned that she had recently been to a workshop by Terrence Real and he brought up the key question he starts each session with and she thought it was right up my alley.

It was. Here’s how it goes, “What would you like to have accomplished by the end of this session?” In an advanced form (maybe after the relationship with the client is established)  this can be asked as, “What will be different at the end of this session?”

Think about it. Setting the expectations that way from the start of the session removes all the need for exploration as to what the issues are. In fact, it removes the need for negative reinforcement typical in therapy that requires the parties to complain about each other. (ok, it’s not required, but that’s what happens). It starts the session off on an optimistic note and allows for positive potential outcomes to be imagined.

When mentoring or coaching an employee, using this type of questioning at the outset can expedite the process by beginning with the end in mind. What are you hoping tot get out of this relationship/meeting? The onus is now on the employee to make the most of the session by providing a well thought out answer.  It may even be best to send the question to the employee prior to the session so they know what to expect and are not thrown off.

In meeting settings this type of questioning can lay the ground work for a mutually beneficial outcome. Parties have the opportunity to share what’s important to them prior to getting down to work.

I think one of the most important implications this question has is that it pushes for a results orientation. Once hopes have been established it is up to the parties involved to make it happen.


Dealing with Millenials in the Workplace

8 Sep
This is a copy of an email I sent to my executive team a few weeks ago. The goal was to help them better understand a majority of our workforce and what makes them tick.
  • Millenials don’t see themselves as needing money in a traditional sense. For many; food, rent and basic necessities are not as important as the opportunity to focus on personal goals. They are willing to live at home or crash with friends to pursue dreams. Money is a sign of progression, but not an end all.
    • Manifestation: Will leave a job for not getting the raise they wanted, and potentially even take a lower paying job, on principle. May go back to school if education is what interests them.
  • Have many friends who are successful in non-traditional ways (start ups), therefore do not see a need to follow a traditional career path. Many of their friend’s will not start careers until they are in their 30’s. Are likely to make a complete pivot career-wise if they feel that personal success will come through a different avenue.
    • Manifestation: Unpredictable behavior in terms of thinking about their careers. See requests as “need to haves”.
  • Expect rapid career advancement, this is non-negotiable. In elementary schools today, children advance levels within a grade multiple times a year (a 4th grade student is expected to advance 4-5 reading levels within the year).  Our current interns were in 4thgrade when Undertone started.
    • Manifestation: Will leave for a title change even if it means less money. Expect career change or advancement at least every 2 years.  Expect to be at the executive level by early 30’s.
  • Expect recognition for each success, not just the end result (remember, they are part of the “everyone’s a winner generation”). Need to hear praise weekly if not daily. Lesser failures are also considered successes in their eyes.
    • Manifestation: Performance reviews or bonuses paid bi-annually are not enough, they need to see/feel something much more regularly. Will leave or performance will drop if they don’t feel recognition.
  • Their respect is earned and lost easily. They are not easily impressed by others and value their own opinions as much as the opinion of someone with many more years of experience.
    • Manifestation: Don’t assume that they accept what you say just because of who you are. They will accept if they believe. Sincerity and empathy often outweigh facts. They expect to be listened to and responded to immediately. They hear “I’ll get back to you soon” as “I’ll get back to you within the hour”.
  • Are comfortable with failure. They grew up in a generation where failure was acceptable. Have a high level of comfort with risk.
    • Manifestation: Never want to be told they did not do a good job, but are ok with being told they can do better. Want the bar set high, but want their efforts to be recognized even if they do not achieve the top level.
  • Are incredibly dedicated to things they believe in. Emotional connection is a critical part of working for or staying with a company or manager.
    • Manifestation: Always want to know about strategy and direction so that they can decide whether or not they are on board. Being “on board” is a key motivational factor.
  • Expect communication in real time, particularly when it affects them personally. And everything affects them personally.
    • Manifestation: Will always complain about lack of communication. This will continue until executive communication flows in a twitteresque fashion. It doesn’t have to, that’s just the expectation.
  • Are overly socially aware. Are constantly looking at others and comparing themselves to others. Very little is kept private between millennial’s.
    • Manifestation: Will ask for career advancement or compensation based on the fact that someone else got it. Know everyone else’s compensation information. Follow each other’s careers and decisions on LinkedIn and Facebook.

How to Really Use Social Networks to Promote Your Business

3 Aug

Let me start with the end result and work backwards.

The goal of your social network is not to allow others within your network to find out about your business or opportunity. It is to promote the opportunity to those not in your network, but who are in their network.

Let me explain.

Let’s face it, your no Coke or The_Real_Shaq. You don’t have millions of followers and you never will. Maybe you have a couple of hundred. And most of them know enough about you and your business that they don’t need to follow you on Facebook or Twitter to really learn what’s going on with you. So your goal on Facebook or Twitter is not to promote your opportunity to them, it’s to get them to promote your opportunity to their followers and friends. The people you are not connected to.

Think of it as a simple numbers game. We’ll use 50 followers or friends as a base. You can get your message out to your 50 friends or followers. If you can get just 10% to retweet or share you are now reaching 250 people you may not even know. That’s social networking.

The question is, how do you get others to share or retweet? The best way is through reciprocity. Social networks are all about having a mutually beneficial, reciprocal relationship. I heard an HR pro call this “networthing”. Make sure that your followers understand that you are willing to do the same for them if need be. Show others how you think about the relationship by retweeting and sharing when it benefits them.

So the measure of success in a social networking campaign is not “How many people do I reach directly?” but, “How many retweets and shares did I get?”. Want to have the biggest impact on your social networking efforts? Grow your shares and retweets, not your followers and friends.

Amelia Bedelia and Managerial Power

13 May

Just to clarify,  I am not breaking my rule about sensationalistic blog post titles, there’s a good connection here.

In a communications class for managers I facilitated yesterday we had a great discussion about how your communication changes when you go from being an individual contributor to becoming a manager. Whether you like it or not your communication is more authoritative when your a manager.

Case in point:

As Bill returned to his office, he overheard Judy, the accounting department assistant, comment to a supplier on the telephone.

“Yes Mr. Goodwin,” Judy said, “Lucy will definitely call you early next week.  I know how important that financial report is to you.”

“What’s going on?” interrupted Bill.  “Where is Lucy?  I gave her last Monday off, not the entire week!”

“That’s strange,” replied Judy.  “Lucy told me you gave her the week off.  And because of your suggestion, she was going to Jamaica with her boyfriend.”

“You’ve got to be kidding,” said Bill, annoyed.  “Last week she asked for Monday off.  I felt she had taken enough vacation time in the last few months and sarcastically told her ‘Why not take the entire week off and go to Jamaica with your boyfriend.’”

“Well, Bill, I guess she took your advice literally and did just that,” said Judy, laughing.

When you are a manager, your direct reports and others take what you say much more literally. As we were discussing this yesterday the Amelia Bedelia books by Peggy Parish came to mind. (Peggy died in 1988, but my kids still love her books today. I actually just ordered a bunch after my 7 year old read the original book and loved it). If you remember the character, Amelia Bedelia takes instructions literally, extremely literally. Dress the chicken, draw the drapes, steal home etc. My kids get a crack out of seeing how Amelia will misinterpret all of the instructions and come up with her own interpretation.

This is ok in a kids book, not at work. Managers need to recognize that what they say now carries weight and is taken literally. If you make a flippant, sarcastic comment like “forget about it” the odds are now greater that it will actually be forgotten. You can’t expect to then follow up the next week and say “what are we doing about ABC?”

As Uncle Ben told Peter Parker, “With great power comes great responsibility”.

Blog Post Pet Peeves

11 May

I blog because I need to become a better writer  so that I can eventually write a book worthy of me getting on Oprah, make a ton of money and reach my ultimate dream of just being able to hang out at the gym all day. Therefore, I blog so that I can gym.

I also read a number of blogs to get ideas of what or how I should write. Over time I have come to the realization that there are a number of things that bloggers do that get on my nerves, so I figured I would write about it.

1. Relating some current cultural reference to the point your trying to make just because it will get you noticed.

“Oil Spills and How You Can Improve Employee Morale”

“Why Lady Gaga Would Make a Great CEO”

“Recruiting Techniques and Remaking the Karate Kid”

Let’s face it, almost anything in the world can be related to anything else. We all learned that lesson from 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon and learn it everyday through social networking. Just because they can be related doesn’t mean they should be. If you are just relating the two items because they make a good headline is that really a good relationship? Most of these tend to be forced relationships anyway and you realize halfway through that the author is reaching and has lost you somewhere between “What Obama Could Learn from Iron Man 2” and “Why Congress is Like American Idol”.

2. Linking for no reason whatsoever.

This one really grates on my nerves. I am all for linking if it helps me understand a concept that I may not know or introduces me to something novel, but would I not know what a hamburger was without your clever little link to Wikipedia? Or maybe not know where NY is if not for your sending me to Google Maps?

Link if I need it, not to just add some color to your blog entry.

3. Not having an opinion.

Did you really start a blog to just relate the news? You’re competing with CNN?

Have an opinion! Right or wrong, yes or no. This is your little pedestal, use it!

<feeling better already>

Performance Management, A Stamp in Time

4 May

Recently a number of HR professionals have been raising the idea of getting rid of the performance management process and the appraisals that come with them. There argument is that feedback does not happen on an ongoing basis because managers are waiting for mid year or end of the year reviews to provide feedback. They would prefer the focus be on an ongoing basis and not just twice a year.

Of course, I agree with the notion of feedback being an ongoing conversation, but I think the notion of “doing away” with the entire performance management process is throwing out the baby with the bath water. The issue is not with the review process, the issue is that managers are not giving feedback to their employees in a timely, consistent manner. Perhaps they are using mid-year reviews and the performance management process as an excuse for not meeting with their employees more regularly, but that is a separate issue.

One solution is to build “check-ins” into your performance management process. Most software out there will allow you to schedule reviews throughout the year and not just 1-2 times a year. Technology helps if used properly

The reason I like the performance management process is that provides that much needed “stamp in time”. It’s hard to measure performance on an ongoing basis, how will managers see and measure growth and performance? Remember when you were a kid and your mom would measure you and your siblings on the back of a door? There was not point in doing that every day or every week was there? Measured at the right intervals and you could, hopefully, see some significant growth.

I am all for coaching and feedback as a continuous process, but don’t take away my end of the year appraisal. It’s when I learn if and how much I’ve grown this year.

Hey HR, Wanna Influence? Change the Way the Game is Played

3 May

What do Zappos, Netflix and Amazon all have in common? If you guessed cool, new companies you wouldn’t be wrong, but their is something even more fundamentally amazing about them. They have all changed the way the game is played within their respective industries.

Look at Netflix for example. Netflix shares are up 130% (Over $100 now!) over the past year while Blockbuster is down to over 50% (now trading at $0.40). Netflix did not look to just get into the DVD rental business, CEO Reed Hastings set out to change the way the game is played! His company is now worth over $5 Billion while Blockbuster is worth under $100 Million. Netflix continues to focus on innovation by now working on streaming video through multiple platforms.

When you look at most HR organizations, processes and systems today they look a lot like they did 50 years ago. Recruiting looks the same, performance management looks the same and little has changed in the way that training, compensation or benefits. HR, unfortunately still looks a lot like Toby on The Office, outdated and out of touch.

If HR really want to become influencers we need to innovate. We need to come up with a better way to recruit, develop and retain people. We need to find better ways to develop talent. We need to work in real time as the last few years of economic uncertainty have shown that long-term planning has little value.

I love to hear and read about innovation in the workplace, but the last few conferences I have gone to have been disappointing. The presentations I am seeing today the same things I was seeing from HR pros 7-8 years ago. It’s time to innovate.

If you are innovating or have seen some innovative HR initiatives that work drop me a line, please!

This is Gonna Hurt!

26 Mar

Deere Says New Health Care Reform Law Will Increase 2010 Expense By $150 Million After-Tax

In case anyone was trying to figure out what some of the short term ramifications of Obamacare might be, here you go. John Deere just increased their expense forecast by $150 Million dollars. On my back of an envelope math this could potentially eliminate 2000+ jobs just this year alone. And this is just John Deere. Expect many more similar statements to come out from companies over the next few months as they plan to incorporate various aspects of the law.

We may see some benefit from this in the long term, but in the short term it’s gonna hurt bad!

Just found this now: Caterpillar is going to take a $100 Million hit THIS QUARTER!

Creating Space for People to do Great Things

26 Jan

One of my favorite 360 feedback questions is “To what extent does the individual… Create Space for People to do Great Things”?. A 360 feedback tool gathers up feedback for an individual from multiple sources: supervisor, peers, subordinates, colleagues and other 3rd parties, hence the term 360 (Use hence in a sentence – check). It provides a 360 degree view of the individual’s behaviors, strengths and weaknesses. As I often use 360’s to help leaders develop ther skills, I believe the space question is one of the most important questions. Great leaders create space for others to excel.

In football, almost every single great run by a running back or wide receiver is set up by a key block. Without the block, it’s just a couple of yards. With it, the possibilities are endless, he.could.go.all.the.way… . A great receiver can help a running game by requiring defensive backs or even linebackers to play deeper on the play. This creates space for a running back to tack considerably yardage onto an average play. Wayne Gretzky was so feared by opposing players, their concern for where he was at any given moment cleared up space for Messier, Kurri and others to rack up an amazing number of points when they played with him.  Individuals can create the space for others to do great things.

Too often at work, or even at home, we get so bogged down with the day-to-day things that need to get done that we never provide the significant other people in our lives the opportunity to do great things. I believe that every individual has the know-how to go above and beyond and accomplish greatness, but how often are they really given the chance? Do we let them take the necessary risks? Deviate from the game plan for the potential big score? What is stopping us from letting it happen? What are we afraid of?

I was recently shopping in a local supermarket. 2 friends of my wife commented on how they thought it was great that I (the husband) was doing the shopping. Their message was that their husbands were incapable of doing the grocery shopping (I think?).  I told them that I was sure that their spouses would have no problem doing the shopping, but how would they handle their husbands coming home with the wrong items? Could they manage not commenting or saying anything derogatory. One responded honestly and said, “I know he will get the wrong things, that’s why I don’t even bother letting him go”. There it is, he’ll never even have a chance to develop into a great shopper becasue he will never be given the opportunity. Her loss.

So this year if you make one resolution, may I suggest this one. Create space for others to do great things. Whether they are employees, peers, supervisors, friends, children or spouses. If you give people the space they can do amazing things.

Owning Up Follow Up

29 Dec

Since my last post about a week ago I have been thinking about why is it that “owning up” works as well as I believe it does. What is it about the vendor owning up to their mistake that makes us feel that much better? It just seems to elicit a positive emotional response.

Today I was listening to The BS Report, a podcast by Bill Simmons. His guest was Chuck Klosterman, they were discussing the Tiger Woods saga. Chuck brought up the point that Tiger should come out and own up to everything he has done. He believes that this would not be PR suicide on Tiger’s part because once you’ve owned up the ball is now in the consumers court. The consumers, us, now have the choice to continue to be Tiger fans or not. Until he says something the choice isn’t ours yet, it is still Tiger’s. The longer we wait the more upset we get because we are not in control.

There it is! Makes perfect sense!

As long as the vendor/athlete stays silent we sit there waiting for a response or communication from them. We don’t feel like we can act until they do. Once they make their statement the onus is now on us to make a decision (onus = on us) as to how we want to respond, but it is in our court. At least we feel some sense of ownership for the next steps. We can decide to maintain the relationship or walk, but either way it’s up to us. As long   as we feel like we are in control of the next steps we emotionally feel better. If they do not respond the issue continues to boil up in us and creates even more animosity then the original event.