AMBITION WEEK: Coaching Your Ambitious Direct Report to Not Be Hated...

Capitalist Note:  I'm tagging this week "Ambition Week", celebrating the people in your organization that want to dominate the world.  You know these people - they are the ones that often do great things, and occasionally put tire tracks across a teammates back in the process.  Are you better off with or without these people? Let's dig in and decide together...

Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.
--Bill Bradley

If you're like me, you love a direct report with ambition.  People with Ambition get shit done. Do they get shit done because they believe in you as a leader or they believe in themselves?

If you're asking that question, you're concerned with the wrong things.  Just celebrate the execution that comes with ambition and stop thinking so much. (the answer, btw, is that they believe in themselves and are motivated by moving their careers forward)

One problem that is universal related to direct reports with high ambition levels is that they can become hated by their peers - the folks they work with.  It's pretty simple to see why.  The folks with ambition treat life like a scoreboard and more often than not are low team (on a behavioral assessment).  Their peers want to do good work for the most part but don't have designs to rule the world.  Friction ensues. The team views the high ambition direct report like an opportunistic freak. A brown-noser. Someone that would run over his own mother for the next promotion.

So how do you coach your high ambition direct report to play nice with the lower ambition locals?

The key in my experience is to confront the reality with the high ambition direct report - you're looking to do great things.  You're driven.  You want to go places and you're willing to compete with anyone you need to in order to get there.  Start with that level set.

Then tell them they have to get purposeful with recognition of their peers.

If a high ambition direct report starts a weekly, informal pattern of recognition of their peers, a funny thing happens.  They start to look human to those around them.

But in order to make it work, you have to confront them and convince them that work life is not a zero sum game - just because you give kudos doesn't mean a high ambition FTE won't get the promotion or the sweet project assignment.  It actually makes them stronger, because in addition to all the great individual work they do, they start to be perceived as a good to great teammate, which unlocks some doors to management/leadership roles in a way that great individual work can't.

But that doesn't happen for the high ambition direct report unless you are honest with them about this:

1.  You're high ambition and would run over grandpa to win/survive/advance.

2. You're peers think you're a dick, and that's going to limit you.

3.  You're going to fix it by recognizing those around you on a weekly basis for great work, and you're going to reinforce that recognition by sharing your thoughts informally beyond the email you send, the shout out you make in a meeting, etc.

Don't be a dick, high ambition direct report.  Share the love and you'll actually get to where you want to go sooner.

Signed - KD

 


Lesson #3 From #MarchMadness: Unique Talent Helps Cinderella Hang With The Big Boys...

Capitalist Note: Throwing a couple of talent/business lessons I was reminded of as I watched the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament this year.  March Madness has something for all of us.  I think this is the last one - enjoy!

My job would be great if it weren't for the people.

I kid.  HR people think that from time to time, but actually, people are our most valuable resource.  Who just groaned?  I heard that! Cinderella-bracket

I'm going to change that last quote a little bit.  The right people are our most valuable resource.  Which brings me to the third lesson I heard loud and clear from the first weekend of March Madness:

Talent Lesson #3 from March Madness - Great individual talent can overcome huge disadvantages in company size and resources when it comes to your competitors.  If you ever find yourself going up against Microsoft, Google or whoever the 800-pound gorilla is inside your industry, never forget that a key hire with high talent can help you win more than your share regardless of the product or service you're providing.  This is shown to be true time and time again in March Madness as well.  Whether it's UMBC beating Virginia or Buffalo taking down Arizona, once you step onto the court, only five players can play. Get yourself some great talent and unbelievable things can happen.

The right time to pay more for talent isn't when someone asks for more money.  The right time to pay more for talent is when that talent allows you to play above your weight as a company.

Make the right hire, and all the sudden you can hang on a limited basis with Microsoft, Google or whoever the 800-pound gorilla is inside your industry.  Of course, paying more doesn't mean the candidate in question is going to help you do that.  You might find the most powerful candidate at a level below what you're looking for, just waiting for the promotion that gives them the opportunity to shine.

How good are you at evaluating talent?  Do you know the difference between the candidate who will help you take on the world vs the candidate who wants more money but doesn't help you transcend ###t?

That's why talent selection is part art and part science.  Every low seed left in the NCAA Basketball Tournament has a player that they didn't deserve on paper, but ended up at the school in question.

The more of this type of talent you find and sign, the more you win.  The more you hang with the big boys and girls. 

#survive_and_advance 

 

 

 


Lesson #1 From #MarchMadness - Uniqueness Is Always an Advantage...

Capitalist Note: Throwing a couple of talent/business lessons I was reminded of as I watched the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament this year.  March Madness has something for all of us.
 
Sometimes it's better to zig when others are zagging from a strategy perspective.  Here's Syracuse23zonedefense-768x511something I was reminded of via March Madness:
 
--Uniqueness wins because it's hard to prepare for. Whether it's hoops or business, being different from others means you're hard to prepare for.  Syracuse deploys a defensive scheme called the 2-3 zone while most other schools use a man-to-man approach.  That means they are hard to prepare for, which was a key in them knocking off one of the tourney favorites in Michigan State.  When you have a strategic or tactical plan that's different than your competitors and the talent to pull it off, your organization will get unexpected wins - simply because you look and feel different from others.
 
Of course, the decision to look and feel different from your competitors isn't an easy one.  It's much easier and safer from a career perspective to be a "fast-follower", which means you go with the crowd and try to be acceptable to the largest percentage of clients/prospects/whoever you're trying to gain the interest of. 
 
The old saying that my bosses had back in the day was that "no one ever got fired for buying IBM".   No one ever got fired fast for looking like everyone else either - because looking like everyone else is the acceptable thing to do.  Of course, the key there is no one ever got fired fast.  You'll get fired for being a fast follower if results ultimately don't follow.  
 
So the big question is - how are you going to get results?  By looking like everyone else or doing something differently?
 
Syracuse uses a freaky 2-3 zone to be different.  It rose up at the right time and provided the advantage needed to take down a March Madness favorite.
 
Are you like everyone else or do you have a differentiator up your sleeve when you need it most?
 
#survive_and_advance

HBR Research on Complexity of Promoting High-Performers to Management Roles...

The best widget-maker becomes the widget-maker manager.  Which means we promote the people who are best in the functional area role, right?

And sometimes it's an absolute disaster.  We've all been there.  We promoted someone because they were strong as an individual contributor, then they became a manager and it turned into an absolute dumpster fire.  That's when we pledge to look at manager competencies differently.  Then we get busy and forget about it.

It's widely accepted that we promote strong individual performers into manager roles.  But there's little data to actual prove it - but HBR recently took a look and the results are interesting.

More data on the Peter Principle from the Harvard Business Review:

While the Peter Principle may sound intuitively plausible, it has never been empirically tested using data from many firms. To test whether firms really are passing over the 220px-Horrible_Bossesbest potential managers by promoting the top performers in their old roles, we examined data on the performance of salespeople and their managers at 214 firms. Sales is an ideal setting to test for the Peter Principle because, unlike other professional settings, it’s easy to identify high performing salespeople and managers—for salespeople, we know their sales records, and for the sales managers, we can measure their managerial ability as the extent to which they help improve the performance of their subordinates. The data, which come from a company that administers sales performance management software over the cloud, allow us to track the sales performance of a large number of salespeople and managers in a large number of firms. Armed with these data, we asked: Do organizations really pass over the best potential managers by promoting the best individual contributors? And if so, how do organizations manage around the Peter Principle?

First, we found that sales performance is highly correlated with promotion to management. For salespeople, each higher sales rank corresponds to about a 15% higher probability of being promoted to sales management.

Second, sales performance is actually negatively correlated with performance as a sales manager: when a salesperson is promoted, each higher sales rank is correlated with a 7.5% decline in the performance of each of the manager’s subordinates following the promotion. We found similar results regardless of whether salespeople were promoted to their own team or to new teams. In other words, firms tend to promote top sales workers into management, even though they become the worst managers.

 Does that mean we are promoting the wrong people?  Maybe.  Or maybe the performance of the team comes up as a new manager gains experience and understands what's required in the role.  

In our data, among people who were actually promoted, better salespeople ended up being worse managers. But if we could observe the managerial potential of all salespeople, and not just those who were promoted, would we still find a negative correlation between sales performance and managerial performance?

Answering this question is difficult because the promoted managers we observed in the data weren’t promoted at random. For example, if firms promoted by flipping a coin, then poor salespeople could get promoted because they were lucky, rather than being promoted because their employer observed qualities that overcame their deficiencies as salespeople. Although people aren’t getting promoted by coin flips, they are more likely to be promoted if they happen to be in the right place at the right time: using variation in the promotion rates across industry over time to act as our coin flips, we still find that better salespeople tend to be worse managers.

We also found that firms underweight other indicators that a salesperson would be a good manager. In particular, we found that salespeople whose sales credits were shared among a large number of collaborators become very effective managers. Credit sharing for enterprise sales is typically a mark that the salesperson was involved in large, complex deals requiring collaboration. This type of collaboration experience positively predicts managerial quality.

What do you do with all that?  I think the choices are pretty simple.  You can:

1--Do a better job assessing who in your company has the DNA of a manager.  There's a set of skills - much like the collaboration element cited above - that can tell you who is naturally inclined to the do the job.  Find a great provider like Caliper to help you dive in.

2--You can actual train your managers of people to get better in the most important conversations that drive business results.  If you're looking for that type of training series, don't forget about the BOSS Leadership Series I've put together at Kinetix.

3--You can keep doing what you're doing.  Godspeed.

Hit me in the comments with what you think about the research from HBR.

 


The Dysfunction of Running Teams Where Everyone Has a Voice...

Somebody's got to be in charge.

--Quote from random assertive people everywhere

------------------------------

My good friend Tim Sackett had a post earlier this week on The Cancer of Speaking Up.  Go check out that post, because I immediately had flashbacks to grad school where we worked in teams on business cases.  A big part of those business cases was creating position papers and presentations as work product.  Because it's grad school, it's the educational sector and because we were all equals on that team, we had some hiccups.

The primary hiccup is this: We sat around the laptop, creating slides and papers on the fly.   Laptop

Imagine 5 people huddled around a laptop, all with an equal voice.  The problem wasn't so much that everyone had ideas, it was that differing personalities valued different things as part of the process.  That meant that at times we got derailed by little details that we didn't have time to debate.

Yep - you guessed it!  The high details person wanted to talk about comma placement (which is opinion-based, you high detail freaks!) and conjunctions. 

Which made me want to address that person in the following way the next day - "What's up, freak?"

We were editing grammar in real time rather than dealing with big ideas and doing the grammar/punctuation scrub later on.

The biggest lie the devil ever told us is that everyone should have an equal voice.  Feedback and idea generation is great, but there comes a tipping point when you have to get shit done.  At that point, someone has to be in charge.

Our goal as leaders should be to involve people enough to be inclusive, but have a process where we don't get paralyzed by the very average ideas or focus points of others.

If you need help with involving everyone but protecting yourself vs the time it takes to deal with bad ideas, I've got three things for you:

1--Never create work product with people huddled around a laptop or looking at a screen.  Put someone in charge to create the first round, then send it out for feedback.  I'm still amazed how many teams are create work product in the aforementioned way.

2--If you have a need to do idea generation/brainstorming but want to run the session in an efficient way, see these tools I've written about in the past as a part of Change Agile.

3--If you're goal setting with a team member and you want them to give you ideas on what their goals should be, use this 3-step process I've done videos on in the past.

Remember - the concept of every voice matters is a good one.  But don't let that participation prevent you from getting things done.

 


LEADERSHIP: How The 1998 Chicago Bulls Eliminated Dissension and Reached Their Goal....

I'm not a big gimmick/team-building exercise guy.  I find most team-building stuff to be a little forced, although I will say that I always dread it and emerge from it with some type of positive.  The positive I get is usually empathy towards a team member that I didn't necessarily like or feel close to.

I ran across a team building/unity exercise yesterday and wanted to share.  It's from the the 1998 Chicago Bulls, who had won 5 titles and where getting ready to start the playoffs for what everyone was sure would be their final run. Jackson

Their season was full of distraction, arguments and distrust.  Here what Phil Jackson, the legendary coach, did to quiet the noise and circle the wagons one last time.   More from Bill Simmons at The Ringer:

Jackson gathered players, coaches and trainers for a special meeting before the 1998 playoffs, asking everyone to write a message about what that final season meant to them. A poem, a sentence, a song, whatever. It had to be 50 words or fewer. Everyone obliged. They went around the room reading their messages, even Jordan, and when they finished, Jackson burned them in a coffee can. All the chaos and dissension burned away with it. They banded together for eight weeks and prevailed again, for a lot of reasons, but mainly because they employed the greatest player ever.

Before you kill me - I get it - this exercise doesn't work for most of the team building needs you have.

But I like this one a lot for teams who are getting ready to have to come together for a big challenge, teams that maybe could be fired if the next month or two doesn't go well, and especially if those teams are generally bitchy towards each other.

50 words or less.  Maybe you frame it as what your job means to you.  Who knows what comes out of these people's heads, right?  Could be stupid stuff, or it could be fascinating.

One thing's for sure - no one is going to try and look stupid if they have the floor and they've had some time to think about it.

What I love about this exercise is that it gets you into the head of your teammate.  Maybe it's someone you don't like very much.  What happens when they try and have a serious moment is what I mentioned before - empathy from others.

Ahhhh.  That's who you are.  Got it.  With empathy and understanding comes a couple of other things.  Patience.  A little bit of trust.

Can you use this exercise today?  Probably not. Should you be looking for ways to make your team more empathetic to each other?  Absolutely.

The Bulls won their 6th title in 1998, primary because they had Michael Jordan.

But a little bit of that title belongs to Jackson, who kept the lid on long enough to make the last title run with Jordan.

Don't forgot to burn the paper your people bring in.


Want to Be a Great People Manager? Don't Watch The Ball...

I've got a simple post today.  It starts with sports and rapidly moves off that.  Hang in there.

You know what separates good and great coaches in team sports from average ones?  They don't watch ESPN_Gruden_ the ball.  Regardless of the sport, the best coaches are the ones who spend 80% of their time watching the activity off the ball.  They figure the guy with the ball is going to react to what's going on and do what's necessary.  But the people without the ball?  That's where the action is.

Off the ball is where you have people reacting to what's going on in front of them, behind them, to what they hear - all in an effort to be prepared and be in position to make a play when the opportunity presents itself.  There's a world of activity going on off the ball, but almost all fans and many average coaches focus almost exclusively on the ball.  

You want to be a great manager of people?  A great coach in your organization?  Find the equivalent of "off the ball" for the people you manage and coach.

Examples:

  • A direct report's prep (or lack thereof) to talk to an influential person in another department at your company.
  • Abruptness in email communication that doesn't fit the culture of your company.
  • Giving "gifts" of time and effort in an organization that your direct report doesn't have to - because it's good for them, you and the company - and almost always gets repaid.
  • A direct report's ability to give feedback to people up and down the organization in a way that makes everyone feel like she's looking out for them rather than telling them they suck.

There are a million examples, so let your mind flow.  

Real coaches don't watch the ball.  They coach off the ball.  In sports and in companies.

Be a better manager.  Don't watch the ball.   


When Your Boss Acts Like a Dinosaur and You Just Serve Up The Brontosaurus...

In case you missed it, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is the latest leader VP level FTE of the free world to espouse the benefits of having his underlings print stuff out for him to chew on.  Damn kids!  Where's my digital information printed out on something I can take notes on?  Or use to throw away my gum?  BTW, I'm almost out of Big Red - send the intern to the store. 

OK, let's look at the quote and analyze it after the jump.  More from Newsweek:

"Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said that he prints out President Donald Trump's tweets and uses them to inform decision-making on foreign policy. Tillerson

The Texan was speaking to his predecessor Condeleezza Rice at a Stanford University event on Wednesday, at which he said the president is "world-class at social media," on which he reaches millions of people via Twitter, Instagram and Facebook with messages that sometimes even his own team remain unaware of. 

"The challenge is getting caught up because I don't even have a Twitter account that I can follow what he is tweeting, so my staff usually has to print his tweets out and hand them to me," Tillerson told Rice."

Random and at times, astute thoughts on this:

1.  Condi is pressing her tongue against her teeth - or whatever method she uses - not to laugh out loud at Tillerson thinking he's being cool with this response.

2.  It's hard when you have an otherwise talented boss ask you for something stupid.  Sometimes the caveman just wants to eat, and it's easier to serve him the Brontosaurus than walk him through the issues.

3.  There would be A LOT MORE DINOSAURS in the world receiving this level of service.  But most of us saw administrative assistants go away in the 1990s, never to return.  So while this type of story is rare, it would be more common had the great OD plague of the 1990 not wiped 80% of the admins from the face of the earth.

4.  Tillerson has a legitimate security concern in not having a twitter account.  But I'm pretty sure that there's an analyst at the State Department that can set up autoforwarding to his smart phone via email or even a secure app - let's name it Sexy Rexy - and have it pop the minute Trump tweets.

5.  And yes, someone close to Tillerson has to tell him how bad this makes him look and help him at least have the appearance of looking digital.

It's one thing to have Marge print out the tweets.  It's another thing to tell the world you're on top of twitter and use it for policy by - wait for it - printing stuff from "The Twitter Thing" out.

 

 


How to Involve Employees In Goal Setting - Even If You're 99% Sure Some of Their Ideas Will Suck....

I'm up over at Saba Software talking about goal setting - something that should be on everyone's mind at the start of the year, right?

You must include your direct reports in the goal setting process. I know – sometimes their ideas aren’t great. It’s OK – I'm going to show you how to involve the direct report in the goal setting process without being held hostage by bad ideas about goals. You can include them and maintain control of the process.

The more you can show they had input, the more you win by increased engagement towards the goals. Take a look at this episode of TalentTalks at Saba Software to learn more/how.

Click here to see my video for a 3-step process to including your employees in goal setting - in risk-free, no BS way.

Goal setting

Why "Get Focused/Do Better/Play Harder" is a Horrible Coaching Strategy...

In the business and sports world, there's a huge coaching crutch that's often said, but rarely means anything.

"Get Focused...Do Better...Play Harder" Screaming-coach

You hear the first two (and versions of those two) often in the business world.  Someone is struggling and everyone is frustrated - the manager, the employee in question, the skip level folks watching the show, the teammates impacted by the individual's struggle - everyone.  

When it comes time to coach the person in question - and perhaps help them - only general advice is given.

Get focused. Please.

The same story exists in the sports world.  I have a saying when it comes to coaching in the sports world - "When you hear a coach constantly telling a struggling player or team to play harder, just accept the following fact - he/she doesn't know how to fix the problem."

To be sure, getting focused in business and playing harder in sports is required.  But when performance issues are apparent, the thing that's generally missing is technical advice and coaching on both fronts.

You're overwhelmed by what is in front of you on the job.  Let's break down what you should do first.  You're struggling with a specific part of the job - let me help you find a path to improve in that area since I'm your coach.

You can't stop anyone from scoring in a team sport.  I could scream at you to play harder, but that's probably not going to result in better results.  Instead, I have to dig into your defensive technique and find a way to make you better individually and then show how that fits into the team philosophy.

After I coach you technically, of course I have to hold you accountable to delivering on what we covered, as well as continuing to coach the technique and make you better.

When you hear a manager or coach telling a struggling individual to get focused or play harder, it means they don't know how to fix the problem.

If you want to be a better coach in the business world, focus less on glittering generalities and start coaching technique/approach.