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!

Showing Leadership and Practicing Management

Leadership doesn't scream, it speaks.Managers are tough. Managers make the hard decisions. It’s important that a manager be detached and impersonal at all times. They schedule and supervise processes and the human resources allocated to perform tasks. They make the machine work.

That’s what I got from most of the management training I received. Admittedly I put my own little twist on it as I interpreted it but it’s the way it felt.

And it felt wrong. If you have had any management training, perhaps that’s the way it felt to you to.

I then had an opportunity to attend a course on leadership at a large company. Strangely, the title was different but the content was the same.

Leadership is NOT Management

As I studied more about leadership it occurred to me: the biggest challenge we have in creating leaders out of managers is that they don’t know the difference.

[tweetthis]The big challenge creating leaders from managers is few know the difference. #leadership[/tweetthis]

Simple Leadership

Actually the leadership versus management conundrum breaks down into a pretty simple form.  There are a lot of little nuances that go with it but the essence drives most of that. Based on my experiences and my research, here is what I found defines the difference.

♣ Management is About Process

It’s about the systems in place. Procedures matter, the end result matters. Resources matter. People are one of the resources you use to get the job done.

♥ Leadership is About People

A leader focuses on not just the team as a group but on the individuals within in. He knows that for the team to excel individual members have to be able to perform at their best.

♣ Management is Doing Things Right

The rules matter. Gotta have the rules. And you must follow the rules to the letter. They are there for a reason. Implementation is the key.

♥ Leadership is Doing the Right Thing

Values matter. What is best here? If what we are doing is not serving our purpose and taking care of our people, then let’s do something else. Strategy is the key.

[tweetthis]Management is doing things right, leadership is doing the right things. -Peter Drucker[/tweetthis]

♣ Management Directs

The manager is ready to give instructions based on HIS knowledge and experience. “This is what we are going to do and this is how we do it.” The emphasis is on GIT STUFF DONE regardless.

♥ Leadership Guides

The leader provides the vision, the goal, and the expectations. She equips and empowers her people to us their knowledge and experience to accomplish the task at hand.

♣ Management Evaluates

A manager is constantly looking at counting the value of what she is getting. There has to be a number on it. What’s the ROI? How can I measure your actual contribution to our results?

♥ Leadership Adds Value

A leader looks at how he can make things a little better. How do I move our team forward? What can I do to help my employees become a little better today than yesterday?

♣ Management is Bottom Line Focused

What really matters to the manager is a profit was made, or all the goals were met or exceeded. The numbers were made because after all that is what we are all about; nothing else. What have you done for me lately and how has it saved or made me money?

♥ Leadership is Growth Focused

The leader is concerned with more than accomplishment of the task but also where we are going in the future. She thinks about how she can better equip her team to meet the challenges, how she can build them up to accomplish even greater things. She is not just about now but about the future and moving forward to it.

♣ Management Says “Go!”

Quoting from John Maxwell in his book Developing the Leader Within You, “a boss (manager) drives his workers. He depends on authority, utilizes fear if necessary. He fixes the blame.” The manager is content to stand on the sideline watching everything and judging whether it meets his standards.

♥ Leadership Says “Let’s Go!”

Again from John Maxwell, “the leader coaches, he depends on goodwill, he inspires enthusiasm.” The leader rolls up his sleeves and pitches in to help when it is needed and encourage when it is not.

[tweetthis]A manager says “Go” and a leader says “Let’s Go!” -John Maxwell[/tweetthis]

♣ Management is About Control

The manager has to call all the shots. It’s important to her that things are done HER way because it’s the way she learned and therefore must be the right way. Got a better idea? Keep it to yourself. No time, not interested. The problem with control is that it is often an illusion. In the face of outward control and the inability to show initiative, the employee will instead rely on passive-aggressive behaviors and silent sabotage. The sense of control starts to fade, causing panic on the part of the manager who then takes over even more to re-establish their control.

♥ Leadership is About Trust

The leader makes sure that expectations are clear, that people are equipped, and sets his people loose to accomplish their tasks and meet the goals. He depends on his employees to work with the best interest of the organization in mind. To foster that, he works hard to make sure his employees trust him. He builds relationships with each employee, he connects with them. The leader only promises what he can deliver. Consistently he is honest. He shows integrity in both word and deed. The leader knows that mutual trust is essential to team accomplishment.

Some of Both is Good

Now the idea here isn’t to say that management is bad and leadership is good. It’s tempting to do so and many experts today do exactly that. We seem to have moved from the extreme of pure management to the other extreme of pure leadership.

And yet somewhere in between is where the sweet spot is. When the leader gathers the right people in the right place and he equips them with the skillsets and tools they need. When he sets expectations and empowers them to do what is necessary to meet the goal within expected behaviors, then he needs also to have processes in place that at least provide a good starting point for getting things done.

All the leadership in the world doesn’t matter if things aren’t getting better. We still need to get things done and management helps keep that a critical element.

Be the Manager and the Leader

Now there are people who are good managers – they are good at the process – but they are not very good at focusing on their people.  But the best managers not only have to be good with process but they also have to be the good leaders.  They have to be good with their people.  So go beyond the process and focus on the people that your work with.  Focus on connecting with your people and that’s what makes the difference.

The real benefit of being both the leader and the manager is that when you get good at the leadership you find that you spend less time having to manage. Think about the long hours you spend doing “management” things. Think of the frustration. Now think about having more clarity, more peace of mind, more confidence in your team, and more time. That’s the promise of the strong leader.

The Leadership of Theodore Roosevelt

Leadership by Theodore RooseveltThere is story from many years ago that one of the things that made President Theodore Roosevelt so well liked was the fact that he connected with everybody; his valet, the white house servants, everybody.  He knew all of them by name.  Roosevelt knew about their histories and he took the time to talk with them and connect with every one of them.  He spent more time being a leader and less time being a manager. As a result,  all his staff loved him and were willing to work with him and go the extra measure for him.

So develop a genuine interest in and focus on others in your group.  Connect with them, communicate with them, and be consistent and you are going to find that the rest of it is going to fall in place for you.

What’s the greatest challenge you face being both a manager and a leader? If you are a leader but not a manager, how does that challenge you? Share your thoughts in the comments or email me at psimkins@BoldlyLead.com

What is something you can do today to add value to an employee? Not all of them once, just pick one. Find a way to add value to them today and then come tell me about it. If that’s challenging to you, drop me a note and let’s see how I can help you.

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.

Rich Leaders and Learners

Tim SandersTim Sanders was the third speaker at the L2:Learn-Lead event on October 10, 2014.  Tim was the “Maverick CEO” of a company called NetMinds and is a former Yahoo executive and a noted author and speaker.
Tim’s emphasis was on People-Centric Tools for Leadership.  Here are some notes from his talk at L2.
  • Talking about purpose, he remembered a book he read titled Working the Room by Nick Morgan.  Nick said that the only reason for giving a speech was to change the world.
If you don’t want to change the world, then get off the stage. -Nick Morgan
  • Success is not a destination, it is a direction: FORWARD.

The Modern Leader Needs to be Able to Lead With

A Clear Mind

To Unclutter and Clear Your Mind

  1. Reduce your sources of information.  Own the first 45 minutes of your day and avoid email and social media.  Spend the time in devotion and reflecting on someone who helped you in the past and think of someone who will help you.
  2. Create a culture in the workplace that is upbeat and hopeful and action-oriented.  Remember that culture is a conversation about how we do things around here.
  3. A Clear Mind is an educated mind.  READ DAILY books and periodicals of significance that help you grow.
  4. Remember if you let your calendar get full you will be an ineffective leader.  You need time to think; to be curious.
Curiosity didn’t kill the cat, it killed the competition. -Sam Walton

A Creative Tendency

  • Most issues in a company are design issues, not people issues and need creative solutions
  • He has found that highly successful salespeople have creative projects within their life.
    • Creativity = Problem Solving
  • Make NEW mistakes
  • Trust people
  • Policy is the scar tissue of an organization.
If you have to rely on policy, you need a corporate cultural change.

A Compassionate Way

  • You can only effectively lead those you love.
  • Treat everyone like family
Mentorship is a program of highly effective leaders, not HR
  • Learn to listen without power – give empathy
What I like about Tim Sanders is that I believe he “gets it”.  Tim has learned that motivating through fear, dismissal, and non-emotional focus just doesn’t work for any extended period of time.  Either people burn out or they become totally disengaged.
Work is personal.
You can’t spend 1/3 or more of your day in one place and not have it be personal.  As a result, the rest of our lives are influenced by what happens at work and what happens at work is influenced by what’s happening in the rest of our lives.
If you want to create sustainable productivity and empowering employee engagement, as a leader you must spend time learning about your people.  Their hopes, their dreams, their fears.  You don’t have to solve their problems, in fact if you do then you are doing them a disservice; but you do have to know where they are and what’s going through their minds.
That’s how a modern leader achieves success.

What do you think?  Is there a “fine line” between relational leading and task-orientation?  What would be your two-word theme for how you lead?