“One way to keep momentum going is to have constantly greater goals.” —Michael Korda
If you want to change something you have to track it. Don't believe me try improving your golf game or your bowling score without tracking the score! Setting goals and rising to a challenge is a key part of our wiring as humans. For example, I am at that stage in life where I am fighting an uphill battle against calories.
Up until the time I turned 30 I never gave a calorie a second thought as my metabolism allowed me to consume as many as I wanted with little impact upon my weight. Now however that is not the case and in my war with calories, I have discovered that if I don't track it - I lose - the battle that is. I don't lose weight I lose the feedback that I need to win the battle where it is most important, in those moment by moment decisions where the data on my calorie intake is crucial to maintain a stranglehold on those little stinkers! I have learned that these calories are important and I need to track them.
Pick Something To Track
The same is true with your team. Each of them has a role to play and things to do that either advance the team's pursuit of its overall goals or inhibit that pursuit. You will have a pretty good idea of what you want each member of your team to set as goals and what to track. Key in this discussion is that each of them has to make that determination on their own and they have to see the need for them. If you run a team of Executive Assistants for example you may want them to be proactive and set as a goal that they should always have their VP or CEO, CFO, COO's fully briefed and ready for each meeting. However, you need them to see the importance of tracking hits and misses on that metric and you need to create the climate for your team to experiment and honestly track those things.
You may guide the conversation but they should own the metric they want to track. Using the above example, the easiest metric would be to simply count the number of successful meeting preps vs the number of unsuccessful meeting preps. If they come up with that idea and decide to track it, they will own it. From there setting goals becomes easy.
Make Failure A Stepping Stone To Success
The key to all of this is to allow your staff to dive into the failed meetings. The failed meetings serve as a platform for them to drill down to discover why they failed and come up with solutions to try for the next meeting. If they are afraid to admit failure to you and hide it, you all lose. You have to give them the comfort to say they failed and also the accountability to come up with a solution. What is wonderful about this process is what amazing things will get discovered in those "post" meeting analysis and the solutions they will come up with to ensure success.
Don't Manage The Process, Let Them Do It!
You have to avoid the temptation to "manage" or engineer the process. In one LNG plant, there were issues with safety around the use of the golf carts that were used to get around the very large site. Golf carts don't go that fast but this site was built in a Louisiana swamp and so all the roadways were raised to alleviate issues around flooding and groundwater levels. Crews were being careless and rolling carts when doing things like backing up and so on. Since this plant was still in construction the upper management, who were engineers (bless them all!), decided to engineer a solution. Seat belts were installed, governors were put on to regulate speed and yellow safety lines were painted on all the roadways that the carts used. Guess what happened? Nothing - incidents continued at the same rate. Finally, one particularly bright engineer suggested they ask the crews what might be done about this issue. Guess what they found out? Most of the safety incidents were the result of two individuals who were notoriously poor drivers. They suggested assigning mentors to drive with those individuals for one month and to implement a policy of one-month suspension of cart use (that’s a lot of walking) for every incident. Because it was "their" idea the crews owned it and safety incidents all but disappeared. This was the crew's goal and they took it on and completed it.
Success Breeds Success
Regardless of what your team does whether it be front line operations or something in the corporate or office setting there are goals that they can be setting and pursuing. Once they do they will succeed and nothing breeds success like success. If it is important to the progress of your team measure it and set some goals. Setting goals and overcoming the challenge is a key human characteristic. Performance Leadership - Think About It!
"The greatest complement that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer." Henry David Thoreau
Ramping up team engagement (a “Hu” element indicator) is one of those activities that many talk about but few know how to start. That is because developing employee engagement is one of those "soft" skills that they don't tell you about when you move into a leadership role. It is a big area of concern because the research and data on this topic are alarming. According to Gallup global employee engagement sits at 18% and North American engagement sits at 33%! Think of it this way, at best you get one to two days’ worth of real engagement from your staff each week. Does that put it in a more tangible context for you? This issue is similar to the research that tells us that as humans we really only use about 10% of our brain's capacity. Decades of study have been put into trying to figure out how to tap into that other 90%. The good news is that with employee engagement there are answers that are fairly straight forward and easy to put into place that will see your team's engagement soar!
Micro Meetings Starting At The End
Micro meetings are really an example of using many of the upcoming engagement tips we are going to discuss, all at once. I am going to take a counter-intuitive approach with this set of articles and start with this rather than end with it. Why? Because it is something that every manager can start doing now without even knowing what the other techniques are. What will become apparent though, is that as you learn some of these techniques you will see how easily they can be inserted into a micro-meeting.
This is also counter-intuitive in that adding another meeting to a schedule that is probably jam-packed with meetings seems like a bad idea. I have consulted in companies where I added up my meeting hours and out of a 40 hour week I had close to 28 hours booked with meetings - and that was the norm! So I get it - adding a meeting seems like a bad idea.
What IS Micro-meeting?
A micro-meeting is not your typical meeting. It is in reality a touchpoint during the day and not much more than that. Many places I have consulted they actually have micro-meetings although they don't call them that and don't even view them as meetings - they are and that this the beauty of it! In one place the operations guys would meet outside the shop first thing in the morning for a "smoke" break. This is a routine they had done for years. They visit, joke, talk about sports or family AND talk about what is happening in the shop. They share problems and discuss solutions, plan for the day, and then go to work. This is not formal, it is not planned and it usually lasts between 3-5 minutes! What is interesting is that the moment someone suggested a formal meeting at the start of each day the team balked at it as a waste of time - lol!
So a micro-meeting is exactly what these guys were doing - informally. Visiting, touching base, providing some social affirmation that they were part of the team (I wanted to throw some psychology in there to give that some weight!) and yes, discussing issues and brainstorming solutions. This should be organic and should flow naturally. Of course, introducing the idea of a micro-meeting to the team is going to sound formal and anything but organic so here are some options.
Looking For The Setting
Look for times during the workday where part or most of your team tends to congregate. It could be a break around the water cooler, or for a smoke break or at the coffee shop/breakroom - you get the picture. If you are already doing this informally and did not realize it then great, if not then start and for the first while at least, just listen. Soon enough you will be invited to provide feedback on something I guarantee it. Again this is not about being sneaky but it is about avoiding "formality" and building a relationship (remember that “Hu” element?). Look for when folks take a break and take a break with them. If you haven't figured this out yet you may need to do this a couple of times during your day just to make sure you have touched base with everyone on your team. In some cases what happens too is that people find out the "boss" is hanging with the group in the coffee room and eventually everyone wants to be there because it is an opportunity to have the "bosses" ear. Taking the time to just visit and listen is valuable on its own merit so if it stays at that level initially don't worry about it.
Take The Direct Approach
If those types of gatherings are not happening or don't lend themselves well to your situation don’t worry. It is okay to take the direct approach. Work with your team to come up with a time that would work for a daily micro-meeting. Give them the biggest say on this as you will need their buy-in and assure them it will never be more than a few minutes, 5-10 tops. Use it as a touchpoint but remember to also let your team visit a bit and do what you can to keep things as organic as possible. What you want from this micro-meeting are two things; first, build relationship and second take the pulse for what is happening on the team. Listen to what they are sharing and facilitate getting them to come up with solutions when issues arise. Where you can, support those decisions. Keep it short, be supportive, and it's okay to provide some direction too when needed.
Keep it Short
I know I keep stressing to keep it short because it can get away on you. With one group when they started their meetings ran usually less than two minutes - I know because I timed them! But as the team and the manager became comfortable and they began to see the value in the meeting it got to the point where it ran almost 45 minutes (their choice). You will be tempted to go longer because everyone is going to be invested but you can now harness that investment at the more formal regular team meetings.
You may be thinking to yourself can 5 to 10 minutes really make that kind of difference in engagement? It does! We are going to look at how this fits into the other tips for effective engagement in the next few articles. You are going to find that your team is going to blossom with the attention and you are going to start getting information that lets you stay in front of issues rather than chasing them down with a fire hose. You will be amazed at how accounting for the “Hu” element on your team can make such a difference! Performance Leadership - Think About It!
"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." - George Bernard Shaw
What you say matters
One of the biggest challenges that I see business leaders face is the issue of "what" and "how much" information to share with their team and with their clients. For most who move into leadership because of their skills on the team, this is particularly true. Those folks you once complained with and vented with, are now "your" team and suddenly that type of activity could not only be counter-productive but very much a CLM (Career Limiting Move)!
What’s more, is suddenly you may also see what you communicate up the line to be something more problematic than it used to be. Do you share the issues you are dealing with and risk looking like a weak leader? Do you say nothing and hope you can resolve the issues on their own or better yet hope that those issues will simply go away? I always wondered why communication was considered a soft skill - lol!
Who do you emulate?
If you are in a healthy company or organization you will have a good pool of leaders to watch and emulate which in most places is how the art of communication is passed on. Open communication built on trust and vulnerability makes this skill so much easier to master. By that, I mean those types of groups where you can ask your question and not feel awkward. No one expects perfection just improvement and that comes with being transparent about the issues at play.
If you are in a company or group that is not healthy you will still have a pool of leaders to watch and emulate it's just that the things they pass along may not enhance your skills in this area.
These are the leaders who never really transitioned to a full understanding of their new role. They will share information and vent with their team much more than they should. The reason for this will be varied but typically they feel that it keeps the team on side with them. It may be an effective short term solution but upper management may see it as a negative.
Some leaders will be information hoarders who see this as a commodity and use it to advance their career or group goals. They become the informal conduits of information. This can clog up the flow of needed communication and certainly is a performance inhibiter.
Some will be the "keep your head down and mouth shut" type of leader who will strive to stay out of the limelight (good or bad). They take the approach that as long as the team doesn't lag behind the others and doesn't draw attention to themselves they can't get into trouble. Not bad per se just not performance.
And some leaders will be what I call the plumbers; delivering solid waste down and solid waste up. They think that leadership consists of berating and driving performance through threats and criticism. They think too that communicating the deficiencies of certain people on their crew up the line is a great way to demonstrate that they are "on top of things". It is a fear-driven approach to communication that is premised at some deep level upon the idea that as long as they are doing the shoveling of the solid waste none will land on them.
Right Is Not Always Easy
The question I am sure that has crossed your mind is how do you perform as an open and transparent leader in an organization that is not known for that? In one company that I worked with I had a group of young leaders that I was coaching in Operational Excellence. Of that group, a couple had decided they wanted to embrace my approach wholeheartedly. They were the newest leaders in the bunch and were at the bottom of the totem pole so to speak. And yes, this company was not an open and transparent communication type of company.
While some of the older leaders in that group had become practiced at being "plumbers" these two new leaders went the other way. In each case, I saw transformational changes on their teams as they took to the new approach. It garnered a lot of criticism among some of their leadership peers but what could not be argued with was the improved results that they achieved. They upheld the company goals and explained them to the team in terms that related to them and how their work was relevant. They upheld their teams to upper management in terms of how they were striving to meet company goals and advance the bottom line. The result was remarkable and within a short span of time, they were rewarded with more senior positions. It only took two (and often it only takes one) to be willing to step out of their comfort zone to get others to take a new look at how they communicate. It wasn't easy but it was right.
Whether you have been in leadership for a while or are just moving into it examine how your company communicates, how you communicate and make sure you understand how to make your communication work for you and for your team. The need to be in sync with the company and the team and to know you are contributing is at the core of good communication and a key part of the "Human" (Hu) factor for improving workplace culture. Performance Leadership - Think About It!