A Time and Place for Vital Conversation

Avoiding Vital ConversationNow is Not the Time.

You ever hear that from someone when you want to have a vital conversation? You want to talk about where the relationship is going.

I am not ready to talk about that.

You want to discuss your future in the organization.

This is not a good time to have that discussion.

Perhaps you have used this response yourself with others. Maybe even told it to yourself when you are faced with something that had to be addressed in the workplace or on your team. Adam is a gregarious person and has been with the team a few months. Everyone likes Adam. He always makes everyone laugh and he’s always ready to make the party lively. The problem is Adam is consistently not meeting his deadlines for deliverables on projects. It puts the project behind and causes everyone else to have to work longer and harder to make it up. So far, because Adam is so likable, the rest of the team has been good-natured about it but you know it won’t last for long.  You need to have a critical conversation now and it will be unpleasant.

Well, we have a couple of fires we need to put out, we’ve had somewhat of a crisis around here, and we need to meet these deliverables. It’s not a good time to upset the apple cart. Now is not a good time.

Vital Conversations Are Timely

As I write this, we in America are a day away from experiencing what is now being called The Worst Mass Shooting in American History. In Las Vegas, someone with unknown motives (at this time) utilized a number of rifles modified to be fully automatic to rain gunfire down on a crowd at a concert. Fully-automatic means the one pull of the trigger will fire off a lot of bullets within a very short span of time. The result at this moment is over 58 killed and over 517 wounded. It is tragic and horrendous. Across the country, emotions are high on this one.

Predictably, some have seen this as an opportunity to renew discussions of gun control. Others have railed against those people, calling them insensitive and politically opportunistic. They say that now is not the right time to talk about these things. Yet that is precisely why that vital conversation needs to occur.

Timing is Not Easy to Determine

Timing is a tricky game. Those who have mastered a sense of timing have gone far because of the right action at the right time. The rest of us struggle and learn from it (or don’t) every day.

However, because mastering timing is so difficult, many of us fall victim to what John Maxwell calls the Law of Diminishing Intent. In his book, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, Maxwell defines the law as one of increasing inaction. Specifically, John Maxwell says “The longer you wait to do something you should do now, the greater the odds are that you will never do it.” In other words, every time you put it off for later, the less likely it is you will address it ever.

Therefore, the time is now. Or at the very least we should set the time to discuss now. At least that action in the right direction is progress. Life Coach Mel Robbins advances another theory which factors in here that she calls the Five-Second Rule.

No, this is not the one regarding food on the floor. I’ve seen too many floors and the ways that too many people clean floors to buy into that one.

Robbins’ states her rule like this: If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill the idea.

It’s Now

The time for vital conversation is now.So the time for vital conversation is now.

The time to talk about gun control is now because in five seconds our mind will be on something else. Waiting got no results after Sandy Hook School shooting, it got no results after Pulse Nightclub shooting, no results after the Virginia Tech shooting, and nowhere after the University of Texas shooting.

It’s time to have that vital conversation about contributing to the team. Or about your future with the organization. And about where the relationship is going.

Rules of Vital Conversation

Just remember some basic ground rules for vital conversation, because to talk strictly out of emotion is to step back and not forward.

  1. Get Yourself Straight. Make sure you are in the right mode to have the conversation. You need to put aside strong negative emotions and be in a mindset for positive intent. If we start off making the other person the enemy we won’t get positive results.
  2. Eliminate Assumptions. Don’t go into the conversation assuming what the other person will do or say. That’s dangerous because we tend to then create the entire conversation flow around that and develop our mindset accordingly.
  3. Tell Your Story. In the book Crucial Conversations, this is expressed as sharing facts and then sharing the meaning you attach to those facts.
  4. Don’t Accuse. A vital conversation is not a denouement or court. Your role is not to blame but to find a resolution.
  5. Invite Exchange. Hear their story. Use Active Listening skills to find understanding. Look for shared meaning or connection. That’s where real vital conversation can begin.
  6. Agree to Action. That action might be a plan of improvement or an adjustment of roles. Sometimes it is simply another meeting date and time to continue. Other times it could be separation.

Action is Critical for Moving Forward.

Without an action plan of some sort, we are having vital conversations for the sake of conversation and nothing else. Without positive action, resentment grows – on both sides – and productivity fades further away.

What ways have you faced up to vital conversation or avoided it? Which point hit from above hit you the most? What more can you add?

Leave your comments here on this page or email me at psimkins (at) BoldlyLead.com

And be sure to ask for a copy of my eBook 15 Innovative Ways to Show Employees You Care (and Not Break the Bank). It’s yours FREE!

Failure to Engage

Most corporate efforts to solve employee engagement problems is making things worse instead of better. It’s an epic fail.

Here’s why.

The Employee Engagement Dilemma

employee engagement imageFor the last several years now, organizations are becoming more and more aware of the epidemic proportions of employee disengagement. It’s not just in the United States, it is world-wide.

Despite the awareness and the efforts to stem the gushing flow of blood, the problem isn’t getting better.

In fact, there are some signs that it is getting worse.

Updated research from Gallup, OfficeVibe, and others reveals the awful truth.

A whopping 88% of employees don’t have a passion for their work!

An almost equally large 80% of Senior Managers are dispassionate!

The cost to corporations is now OVER $500 Billion annually!

Calculate Your Own Impact

If you want to figure it out for your company, try this ROI Calculator from OfficeVibe.

I did a sample just to give you an idea.

Say you are a small business. If you have

  • 100 Employees
  • $50,000 Average Annual Salary
  • 45% Turnover Rate (one local company I know of actually has this)

Then you could save over

$1, 405, 641 a year

through better engagement.

Let’s take a bigger company.

  • 1,000 Employees
  • $80,000 Annual Average Salary
  • 30% Turnover Rate (better but still high)

Then improved engagement will save you

$17, 666, 485 a year!

So why, then, in the face of the wonderful financial and productivity gains to be made with better engagement; why is it that we can’t seem to make things better?

Let’s start with a little story.

Bacon and Egg Breakfast

It’s an old joke but one of my favorites because it never really loses its relevance.

bacon and eggsA chicken and a pig are walking down a street and walk by a diner. Painted on the plate glass storefront window of the diner is an advertisement for a Bacon and Egg breakfast. Probably with toast but that’s not relevant here.

The chicken proudly perks up and says, “Look! If it wasn’t for my contribution that breakfast would not be possible!”

The pig says, “Yeah, for you it’s a contribution! For me, it’s total commitment!

It’s a great story for the difference between involvement and commitment. It’s also a great reason why our engagement efforts are failing.

Failure to Commit

From researching this, the conclusion I have drawn is that most organizations are failing to resolve employee engagement issues because they have not made it a priority in their strategic plan.

They are INVOLVED in employee engagement but are not fully COMMITTED to it.

In other words, they are the chicken and not the pig.

Here’s some examples of “solutions” to employee engagement that I have seen:

  • Taking the annual employee survey and re-packaging it as an Employee Engagement Survey.
    Incidentally, most companies are taking about the same amount of action from it now as they did when it was just an Employee Survey; that is to say very little if at all.
  • Creating new metrics to study employee engagement
    Don’t misunderstand. Metrics can be a valuable information source – if you know what you actually need to measure and if they can provide guidance to resolve issues. Otherwise, it’s just numbers. The other issue I have here is it is important to remember that with Employee Engagement not everything that counts can be counted.
  • Adding new benefits to the employment package.
    This is related to the old-school thought that all you have to do to make people happy is offer them more money and more bennies. Despite the mounting evidence that is doesn’t work and never did work, people still use it.
  • They focus on improving employee happiness
    On the surface, that seems logical. Where it falls down is that it makes an incorrect assumption. This approach assumes that a happy employee is a productive employee, yet this is NO EVIDENCE to support this.

These and other approaches will likely fail. While there is no one cure-all for employee engagement, the evidence seems to suggest that until Employee Engagement is made a STRATEGIC PRIORITY FROM THE TOP DOWN that anything we try will be a failure.

What does that look like?

  • A clear and concise mission statement and corporate value set lived out (and emphasized) from the top.
  • A well-defined leadership development track that focuses less on management technique and more on real leadership skills.
  • A improved system of hiring that focuses on character traits as strongly as skill sets.
  • A structured ongoing program to equip and empower employees to perform with excellence.

It’s time to stop being the chicken and become committed like the pig.

What engagement fails have you seen? What hurdles do you see in implementing real solutions? Share your thoughts here or email me at psimkins@BoldlyLead.com

Influencing Culture

What if…

What you do and what you say in every situation made a difference?

Of course, you know what’s coming next.

It does!

Two things inspired me to write this today.

First, I was reading my morning devotional. It was Esther 4.

Book of Esther pictureIf you are not a person of faith before you stray away: there is a valuable lesson in here for everyone.

In the story, the Jews are facing annihilation at the hands of Haman through his influence on King Xerxes. Mordecai, a Jew, had managed to get his cousin Esther, also a Jew, placed as Queen. Mordecai sends her a message to intervene with the King on behalf of the Jews but doing so could endanger Esther’s life and she hesitates, doubting her influence.

Mordecai’s response moved her: “Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?

How would that hit you?

That one moment where she doubts she has influence and doubts she can make a difference is where she ends up having a huge impact and makes the biggest difference of all!

Secondly, I read a blog post from my mentor John C. Maxwell, also talking about influence

He also says those moments when we don’t think about who or how we influence is where we can have the greatest influence. The chance encounters, the seemingly insignificant.

[tweetthis hidden_hashtags=”#culturecounts” display_mode=”box”]We think about major moments so much that we forget that minor moments count as well.[/tweetthis]

Think about those moments and think about your day so far

Image of Influence Network

Are there moments you miss? What about your family this morning as everyone woke up? The person behind the counter at the coffee shop? The security guard at the front door to the office? The co-worker you walked by this morning?

In every circumstance, our choices help create examples for others to mirror. For example, most people will smile back at you if you smile at them. By making those same choices consistently, we encourage it in others, and that helps build culture.

Therefore, culture is created, it doesn’t just evolve. We help shape culture by our thoughts, our words, and our actions.

[tweetthis hidden_hashtags=”#CultureCounts #Ahhamoment”]Our daily choices influence culture in every circumstance.[/tweetthis]

What if you were in a particular time and place for such a time as this?

What if this person or group was where your influence counted the most?

What will your next choice be?

What thoughts and suggestions do you have to help others shape culture?

Oversimplification Can Be Dangerous

I Can’t Believe They Tried This!

Reading an article in the Huffington Post recently, the author tried to simplify the definition of a popular buzzphrase used in the corporate world.  The term was “Employee Engagement”.  They said simply that it was the new way of saying “Internal Communications”.

Wrong!  Wrong!  Wrong!

Making it simple is not always helpful.  In this case, it could be fatal!

The article was titled The Growing Importance of Managers in Employee Engagement by Gail S. Thornton.  Now Gail is a communications professional, so I can understand her tendency to classify it as a communications issue.

illustration of a Boss talking with employees

Employee Engagement – More Than Communication

And to be sure, excellent communication is a critical part of fostering employee engagement.  But it’s not the only thing.  To focus just on that component of employee engagement is similar to just relying on your belt buckle to hold your pants up; without the belt it’s not going to be very effective at accomplishing the mission.

Communication is the promise ring of employee engagement, but caring is the diamond.  Leaders must communicate, but the communication rings hollow if they don’t truly care for people on their team.  I know lots of great communicators who don’t really care for the people in their organization; communication is just a tool for manipulation.

[snaptweet]Communication is the promise ring of employee engagement, but caring is the diamond. -Paul Simkins[/snaptweet]

When a leader cares and communicates with care, real meaning is brought to the communication.  The communication involves listening a lot more than talking.  It involves open pipelines where people are free to speak up and speak out.  When that happens, people feel they count and are counted on.  That’s when engagement is possible.

There are other factors as well; such as knowing when to empower and when not to, refusing to be a rescue boss, providing guidance, making expectations clear, and creating a safe place to fail.

[snaptweet]Saying that employee engagement is simple is to assume your employees are simple.  They’re not. And neither are you by the way. -Paul Simkins[/snaptweet]

Communication is an important factor of employee engagement, but don’t go thinking that it IS employee engagement.

What factors do you consider when you look to create an engaged workplace?  How do you decide what to communicate and when?

Double-Dose of Leadership

John C. MaxwellWe had the benefit at the 2014 L2:Learn-Lead simulcast to hear from John C. Maxwell twice.  He opened the proceedings, which I documented in the post Why Leaders are Learners – Part I, and then closed it with another talk.  This was an excellent close for many, who left raving about what they learned from this.  I did too!

Leaders are Learners By What They Ask Themselves

John emphasized that the first place he looks to ask questions is to ask questions of himself.  The questions we ask ourselves direct us — and sometimes re-direct us — to keep us focused on our vision and goals.  They help us determine if we are improving, if we are making an impact, and if we are truly leading.
Asking yourself questions on a regular basis helps keep the main thing the main thing.  It keeps us from majoring in the minors and getting lost in the details.  It helps us maintain a big picture view.

Three Questions to Ask Yourself

1.  Am I investing in myself?
When we take time, energy, and money to invest in our own growth, we prepare ourselves to lead more effectively, to be a more productive contributor, and primarily to unlock more of the potential in others.
[snaptweet]It doesn’t get any better for my people until it gets better for me.[/snaptweet]
This requires DAILY, INTENTIONAL growth.  I call it being a 1%er.
[snaptweet]Focus on growing yourself by just 1% a day.[/snaptweet]  That seemingly small 1% compounds quickly and soon you find yourself doing great things before you realize it.
Three Investment Indicators
  1. MY SELF-IMAGE – How do I perceive myself?  Do I truly believe in myself?  Quickly gauge yourself on this on a scale of one to ten.  Where are you?
  2. MY DREAMS – Do I have BIG dreams of what I want to achieve?  Are they scary and yet exciting?  Quickly gauge yourself on this on a scale of one to ten.  Where are you?
  3. MY FRIENDS – The Law of Environment kicks in here.  Are the people around you encouraging and uplifting?  Do they challenge you?  Do they add value to you?  Are you able to encourage, uplift, challenge, and add value to them?  Quickly gauge yourself on this on a scale of one to ten.  Where are you?
We will only invest in ourselves if we can honestly rate ourselves high in these areas.
2.  Am I investing in the right people?
  1. Do they influence others?  Who do they influence?  How many do they influence?
  2. Do they have potential to grow?
  3. What is their attitude and competence level?
  4. Chemistry Factor – Do they fit into the formula?  Do I like them?  Do others like them?
  5. Passion Factor – Do they have a genuine passion for what they do?  Are they motivated?
  6. Character Factor – Do their character traits fit in with the character traits I desire for my team?  Are they grounded?  Trustworthy?
  7. Values Factor – Are their values compatible with the team or organization (or my) values?  Critical to have this for the right culture within your team or organization.
[snaptweet]Culture eats vision for lunch![/snaptweet]
  1. Team Work Factor – Are they able to fit in and perform well as part of the whole?  Or are they a lone wolf?
  2. Support Factor – Are they supportive of other team members and organization objectives?  Can they support and complete me?
  3. Creative Factor – Can I count on them to seek out creative solutions to challenges?  Can they find possibilities out of impossibilities?
  4. Options Factor – Can they give me options?
  5. Ten Percent Factor – Can they give me the last 10%?  All the fruit is in the last 10%.  Can they stay for the harvest?
3. Am I genuinely interested in people?
Leaders see more than others see and see before others see.  Do I really care for others?  If so, I can use my advantage to add value to others.  If not, I will only use it to add value to me.

Where did you find yourself on this?  What questions do you ask yourself regularly?  Do you set aside time to think?

Add your thoughts and comments below.