Friday, February 12, 2016

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Building "emotional buoyancy"

Edward Creagan, M.D., an oncologist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. says, "People who are more resilient have the ability to say to themselves, "OK, this bad thing happened, and I can either dwell on it or I can learn from it." Resilient individuals have cultivated a sense of forgiveness, and regardless of the setback or slight, they're able to box it up, put it in a package and let go of it. Think of resiliency as emotional buoyancy."

Have you experienced a truly awful moment recently?  Are you going to make your worst moment the defining moment of your life, or are you going to bounce back? Successful people aren't defined by their avoidance of negative circumstances - rather they are revealed in their responses to whatever circumstances they face. Successful people make mistakes - and some of their boo-boos are big ones. Sometimes uncontrollable life circumstances create potholes, or even caverns, of negative emotion. But ultimately, regardless of circumstances, mistakes, and limitations, successful people are resilient - they bounce back.

Merriam-Webster online defines resilience in this way:
"1: the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress 2 : an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change."

Fortunately, this characteristic is not a "you have it or you don't" proposition. Resilience is a capacity that can be developed - you can help yourself and others become more able to withstand hardship and change. The American Psychological Association lists ten steps toward greater resilience on its help center page:
  1. Make connections.
  2. Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems.
  3. Accept that change is a part of living.
  4. Move toward your goals.
  5. Take decisive actions.
  6. Look for opportunities for self-discovery.
  7. Nurture a positive view of yourself.
  8. Keep things in perspective.
  9. Maintain a hopeful outlook.
  10. Take care of yourself.
You don't have to live in that awful moment or that upsetting period of your life day after day.  You can train yourself to be able to bounce back, to be the buoyant individual that attracts success and notices the blessings in your life.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

7 ways to tap into motivation

Nearly all leaders understand that their job is to generate productivity and performance to achieve results.  Fewer realize that they can't motivate performance - they can only create the environment in which it is most likely to happen.

There are many languages in which we can talk about motivation. Maslow has his hierarchy that places biological needs in front of anything and everything else. We're going to talk about 7 values/motivators in just a moment. But regardless of your terminology, you can't motivate anyone. You can attempt to apply external carrots or sticks, but unless they tap into an individual's internal motivators your rewards and/or consequences are going to have short-lived impact.

The Values Index that Summit uses to help clients gain understanding of their own motivators contains seven categories:

  1. Aesthetic - When a person has a strong aesthetic value, they look for balance and harmony.  This can be in a literal sense of beauty, like an inviting work space, or it can be more subtle, like a focus on reducing negative environmental impact. Desire for life balance is aesthetic.
  2. Economic - Money talks, but to some people more than others.  If an individual is not motivated by money you can dangle financial incentives in front of them and not change performance.  Economics may no longer drive people who have ample reserves, and they may never motivate people whose lifestyle wants are simple.
  3. Individualistic - This value relates to a desire to do things "my way". Some individualistic people do things differently in order to stand out from the crowd.  You can tap into this motivation when you give the team member space to create his or her own path to a result.
  4. Political - Most people with political values aren't going to run for elected office.  They seek to have authority and influence, and they are ready for the accountability that goes along with it. They like to be team and project leaders.
  5. Altruistic - Some people are driven by looking out for the benefit of other people. They look for opportunities, to help, to give, even when it creates no advantage for themselves.
  6. Regulatory - People motivated by regulatory like to create compliance with rules.  If there isn't already a regulatory structure they will create one. They are motivated by bringing their own work and/or that of others in conformance with standards.
  7. Theoretical - These folks enjoy learning for its own sake, regardless of whether the knowledge has immediate and direct application.  Research is pleasurable and motivating to theoretical people.
The challenge in creating a climate for motivation is that every individual's motivational profile is different.  One person might be in the mainstream for certain values, and either overvalue or undervalue certain motivators that are integral to the company's culture.  An effective leader needs to get to know individual employees in order to identify what their motivators are.  Or a diagnostic like Values Index can be employed to provide a profile without the guessing and time investment that a leader would have to do on his or her own.

Contact if you would like to see how the Values Index might help you create an environment for motivation in your business.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Annual Review - not only about where you've been

First, for some background:  In my role as District Director for SCORE, a business mentoring nonprofit fueled by volunteers, part of my job is to visit each of the chapters in my district to do a performance review.  The standards come from the SCORE national office, and chapter performance is important not only because of the quality of service provided to clients, but also because chapters are accountable for the wise stewardship of funding from the Small Business Administration.  That means that a part of SCORE's funding comes from U.S. Taxpayers. You. And any part of the country in which you receive SCORE services is held to the same single set of standards.

We establish a schedule for the Annual Review sessions (11 in our case) in the first half of our fiscal year and we distribute a form that the leadership of each respective chapter completes before we visit.  They include supporting data and send us an advance copy so we have an opportunity to digest the information and develop discussion questions.  The process of gathering the information for the review form is a great learning experience for the chapter leadership.  In the trenches every day, they might be taking time to stop and find out their customer satisfaction scores, or to measure the engagement of their volunteers.  The data is there, but they sometimes don't see it - or they don't see the connections between it and their performance results until they see it all in one place on the review form.

During the Annual Review, one of our goals is to understand what has happened in the chapter during the past year, By the time we arrive for the actual meeting we have seen enough information that we are in the process of building a "story" about the chapter.  But only the Chapter leadership can help us truly understand what's going on - good or bad - and the factors that have contributed to the chapter's performance.

More important, we talk with each Chapter's leadership about its direction for the future - strengths that they plan to leverage, shortcomings that they seek to improve on, and components they want to add to their mix of services to enhance customer experience and increase the chapter's sustainability. Because the leadership of the typical chapter changes about every 2 years, it becomes important not to dwell too much about "who struck John" in the past.  This meeting is about renewing each leader's commitment to the SCORE mission, and engaging him or her in taking steps for continuous improvement. The Annual Review is as much about motivation as it is about accountability. Motivation and accountability are important in any organization, but with volunteers motivation and its connection to mission is exceedingly important.  They don't have to be there.  They can simply go away without negative personal consequences.

Consider the dynamic in your performance review process.  What is the center of the bulk of the conversation?  Are you litigating history?  Or are you laying the foundation for a better future with this leader as your partner?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

It's no fun if you don't keep score

Would you watch football if they didn't keep score?  Probably not.  You might watch an unscored game for the thrill of the occasional dirty tackle or fabulous passing play, but you wouldn't watch indefinitely.  The gratification (or the frustration) comes from knowing who wins - and who doesn't.

How do you provide (or receive) performance feedback when there are no results?  How do you know whether you're doing a good job as a leader if you never see an outcome?  For some leaders the cycle time for the outcome is so long that a lot of time can pass before the success or failure of a venture becomes evident. And that could mean that too much time and money have been squandered - or not - by the time the full cycle is complete.

Whether you're the player or the coach, the score is the means by which you determine the quality of the job. You can't wait until the end.  You - and your team members - need to see progress.

When you're the coach:

  • Give team members a way to keep score.  It might be volume of product shipped each day, or speed of order fulfillment.  You can keep track of the number of hamburgers served, or the profit margin that each of the members of your commercial sales team is achieving.
  • Make the score visible.  Hang it up so everyone can see how the group is doing.  In sales, a visible tally board with monthly results to date by salesperson, or some sort of top 5 list (measured by volume) can create conversation, motivation, and some healthy competition.
  • Divide the game into quarters.  It's unlikely that you're doing the whole thing badly, or the whole thing perfectly.  Divide the work flow into phases, functions, steps, etc.  Keep track of the data for each segment so you can better identify which is working effectively and which is not.
  • Focus on the process rather than the people.  A broken process will chew up even the best people. Score-keeping data helps you to recognize whether your process works - or not.  You're looking for efficient (fast) and effective (getting the results you want).
  • Determine how you might help the folks actually doing the work to report their own data. The performance data is theirs, not yours, and self-reporting helps to create awareness and ownership of the results.   To supplement the self-reporting, you might have reports in place with more detailed numbers that you share regularly.
  • Establish goals.  How much can your group produce in a day or a week?  How do you know?  If your team has a purpose (a goal) that it is pursuing, the adrenaline flows as the goal and/or the deadline grow closer.

When you're the player:
  • Give the coach a tangible result to point to. The coach doesn't see what you do every moment of every play.  His or her eyes need to be on a lot of things.   It's not enough to say "we're making progress". Help him or her notice progress by working toward visible, observable outcomes.
  • Create a game plan with benchmarks.  The coach wants to see movement, so lay out your plan with Task A scheduled to be completed by Date #1.  Let the coach know how you're progressing with Task A. On Date #1 let the coach know that Task A is complete (if it is!)  If Task A is running behind schedule and won't hit Date #1, let the coach know as soon as possible, with information on why and your best estimate of your actual completion date.  He or she might have to take other actions to compensate for the missing of the benchmark date.
  • Be proactive with communicating upward to the coach. You want autonomy, yes, but you earn it.  It's the coach's team, after all. Establish a standing Friday coffee chat appointment, or a 9:00 a.m. stand-up check-in meeting.  When the coach knows what's going on he or she is less likely to chase you down and "interrogate" or second-guess you.  The boss might not think that's what he's doing, but we know that's how it feels to you.
  • Hit your numbers. Consistently.  That's how you prove to yourself how good you are, and that's how the coach evaluates it too. You might have the best educational credentials or the most experience, and they might be the things that got you hired in the first place.  But the coach wants to see the tackles, the passes completed, and the opponents prevented from advancing. Credentials and past experience be damned.  It's right now that matters.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Us and you, version 3.0

The blog has been mostly dark for a couple of weeks while SummitHRD moves into its next version.  And more is to come.  Over the next couple of weeks we'll be migrating from Blogger (which we've loved as a blogging platform) to Wordpress, which will enable us to be fully integrated with our new, transformed  summithrd website.

It's not only our logo and website that are transforming.  Our practice is evolving too, into a focus on companies with aggressive growth goals. Yes, we still coach individuals, and yes, we still work with teams to help them operate more smoothly.  Yes, we still help teams reinvent key work processes to make them faster, more cost efficient, and meeting customer requirements.

We didn't make this decision lightly.  We took into account the work we like to do, the work our skills are suited to do, and the types of customers who (by their own accounts) we have served the best.  So we're continuing to sharpen our saw (as Covey would say), to up our game, so we can sustain the pace and the quality that will bring our clients value. When you work with SummitHRD, our goal is for you to have an outstanding experience and improved business results, so you will make a point to refer us to others as a beneficial business resource.

You, version 3.0
What's your next version?  To what does your business aspire?  Have you set it down on paper?  Have you shared your intention with your staff?  Have you laid out a plan?

You might not think you have enough information to make hard-core decisions about the future of your company.  You would be right in that assessment.  You never have enough information, just like there's never a good time to plan. But that doesn't mean that it's better to wait and see. By the time you see fully, your competition will already be there, poised and ready to eat your lunch.

In addition, market conditions change.  New presidents are elected.  Blizzards and droughts affect your marketplace.  Key employees join your firm, and some may leave.  You work on version 3.0 anyway.

What's the best next step you could be taking today to invent the future of your business?  Your version 3.0 is waiting.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

7 ingredients to become the best

The obstacles in the struggle to be the best usually don't arise from
the unsuccessful search for a complicated and secret formula. They arise from boredom and impatience over longstanding training routines and “I’ll make my own way, thank you” egotism that tempts you to search for shortcuts to success. Get rich quick, lose fifty pounds in seven days – c’mon, we’ve all felt just a bit titillated by those when the going has seemed long and tough.

The fundamentals of how you go about achieving outstanding performance don’t change all that much – you just get distracted and forget that it’s simple.  It might be hard, but it's simple.  Dan Gable, wrestling and coaching legend, said, “The best become the best because they are always striving for perfection.” You might have your own list of the qualities and/or habits that create excellence, but here are some of mine:
  1. Commitment that comes from a sense of purpose - the “why” behind your plans, thoughts and actions.  This might be interpreted by other people as stubbornness, and maybe it is.  It might be tested when its demand for resources bumps into other priorities and possibilities.  But commitment enables you to continue to choose the path that might not be easiest in order to accomplish your desired level of proficiency.
  2. Comprehensive and continuously expanding knowledge of your area of expertise so that you can build your own style on a solid foundation.  As you learn more and more about your craft you discover that there are entire realms of information that you do not yet know.  You might need to check your ego if you think you already know it all.
  3. Role models upon whom to benchmark and, even better, mentors who can provide educated feedback along your path.  The seeds for many peak performances, many innovations, have been planted before you by someone else.  Learn from their learning, and keep an open mind to their feedback.  They can provide an objective, outside-of-your-own-head view, invaluable when you are working to improve.
  4. Frequent, even daily, practicing of your technique and attention to refining your methods.  You can read every piano book on the planet, but you won't learn to play until you actually sit down at the keyboard and put your fingers on the keys.  At first your eyes and brain know what you need to do but your fingers can't execute it.  Then after practice and more practice your muscle memory lets you know where the right notes are without looking.  With enough repetition you might even learn to play the piece without referring to the music.  Same goes for a golf swing, and for other acquired skills.
  5. Willingness to endure discomfort (or delay gratification) today for an outstanding outcome tomorrow.  It's tough for the ego to withstand a feeling of incompetence.  It's not comfortable to have sore muscles.  If you are willing to look at them as "growth pains" and not as end results in themselves you are more likely to persist.  Your willingness to endure now for the sake of later results is linked to your commitment.  The stronger your commitment is, the more obstacles you'll be willing to struggle through in order to achieve your result.  This is why it's important to define your purpose, your desired result in very specific terms, and to know why you're doing it.
  6. Openness to test new ideas and methods that have the potential to create improvement. The best performers are never satisfied - they are constantly stretching for the next increment of improvement.  Professional athletes use coaches to help them refine their swings.  Actors try new methods to uncover and then communicate the nuances of the characters they play.
  7. Specific ways to measure your progress.  If you assume the perspective that there is always improvement to be made, the journey to be the best has no end zone, no finish line.  Competitive swimming is such an incredible sport, and part of its appeal is its measurability.  No matter who wins this race, the swimmer can look at his or her time and see how they are doing.  There will always be somebody slower and somebody else faster, and while that can be important, more important is whether the swimmer is shaving tenths or even hundredths as the athlete tweaks the training regime, nutrition, equipment and rest.
It always comes down to the extent of your desire to be the best.  Even team-based outstanding performance relies on your individual commitment to do what’s necessary for your piece of the team’s success.