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

 


AMBITION WEEK: Value The Folks In Your Organization Who Are Dissatisfied (In a Good Way)...

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...

"You go out to eat, can't pay, y'all can't leave
There's dishes in the back, he gotta roll up his sleeves
But while y'all washin', watch him
He gon' make it to a Benz out of that Datsun
He got that ambition, baby look in his eyes
This week he's moppin' floors, next week it's the fries.."

--Golddigger, Kanye West

Ambition.  As much as many of us are uncomfortable saying it's a value/feeling/potential factor we Ambition want in our organization, ambition is needed in your company in order to get good stuff done.

Here's the golden nugett from a few years back from Paul Hebert over at Fistful of Talent:

"Mad Men Season 5 started this past week.

Full disclosure, before this past week’s episode, I’ve watched a total of 6 minutes of Mad Men.  But the hype was too much for me to bear, so I DVR’d it and sat and watched it the other night.  It’s awright.

But… I liked it a lot more when I heard this line…

“Dissatisfaction is a symptom of ambition. It’s the coal that fuels the fire.”

The more I thought about it, the more I liked it and the more I figured there was a lesson in it.

And here’s the lesson IMHO:

If you work too hard to make every employee happy and satisfied, you create a group of people who never want anything to change."

Interesting and true in my eyes.  If everyone's satisfied with how things are going, who pushes the envelope and tries to change things for the good at your company?

Backstory: A few years back, I was doing a classic "section 2" in performance management for the company I was with.  As part of that exercise, we were trying to change the traditional company values we were rating people on (hard to do and pretty ineffective) to "potential factors", which are more like "DNA" strands you want to evaluate all your people on.  The things you value most across all employees, regardless of role.  

As part of that exercise, we did broad brainstorming as a leadership team - coming up with 37 potential factors to whittle down to the 5 or 6 we would eventually go live with.  The ones you would expect were there - innovative, driven, etc.

2 members of the leadership team came up with - and were adamant about including - ambition in that list.

You would have thought that they did something unmentionable to the American flag.

As it turns out, the rest of the team couldn't get past the fact that ambition comes with some negative baggage - sometimes people act in self-serving ways, a zero-sum game mentality can be rewarded, etc. No matter how the 2 leadership team members came back to the positives associated with ambition, the others couldn't get over the negative attributes associated with its use as a potential factor.

But ambition is real and gets results, just like Mad Men and Paul outline above.  

It takes a gutsy company to include ambition in a performance system.  But, whether you put it on paper or not, you're likely rewarding ambition behind the scences in your company.


Does Drama at Work Cost the Average Worker 2.5 Hours Per Day? #workhuman

Capitalist Note:  I'm spending the first couple of days of this week at WorkHuman in Austin.  Put on by Globoforce, WorkHuman is the most progressive HR Conference available, with past shows focused on emerging trends like mindfulness, meditation and more - the leading edge of people practices and how HR can build them.  It's also hard to get a free Diet Coke at WorkHuman, because that stuff is bad for you - but healthy options are available and free.  One of the best shows I attend, highly recommended.

Stop me when you've heard this before.  

You're a manager of people/leader.  You're walking in one day and you get stopped dead in your tracks.  Allison wants to talk with you.  Allison has been known to get wound up and need some vent Tonytime with you on a periodic basis.

You've been trained by the world that you need to be a good listener as a manager.  So you invite Allison into your office and let her unload- you let her vent.

45 minutes later, you don't feel like you've really done anything to help.  You're concerned about a couple of things that Allison has said, but when you try to talk about some actions you can take, Allison says the following:

"I don't want you to do anything with this - I just needed someone to talk to"

F###. You walked in at 8am - it's now 8:50.  Allison feels better - at least for today.  You don't.

Did you do the right thing by allowing Allison to vent?

I had the chance to listen to Cy Wakeman talk Monday afternoon at WorkHuman in Austin.  For those of you that don't know her, here's the 411 on Cy via her own site:

What if you could diffuse workplace drama and be happier at work and in life? The great news is...now, you can!

Cy's research shows that the average worker spends 2.5 hours per day on drama.  Either interacting with others or just being worked up on their own.  She feels activities like the one described by me above with "Allison", while well intentioned by you and me, are actually net negative to the workplace.

Cy believes that rather than engaging in that vent sessions to let someone unload, you need to hold them accountable for what they can control.  One of the ways she recommends you do that to an individual that wants to b*tch is to diffuse the drama and ask “what does great look like” to get the person in front of you back to action.

"What does great look like?"

The concept is that someone wants to complain to you.  Many times they're wanting to complain about things they can't control, or realities they've made up in their own mind.  The question "what does great look like?" is designed to get them back to action.

Thus,"What does great look like?" is followed by "what part of that can you control?", then followed by the guidance "go do some of that.  Now.  You'll feel better"

My description of the technique provided by Cy is from 30,000 feet.  Go to her site at the link above and there's books with much more detail, tools and process to cut through the drama, take on fewer vent sessions and just 180 people back into action.

Cy Wakeman is a smart, smart person. The hard part for HR leaders in eliminating ego and drama in the workplace is transferring her techniques to the average manager of people. Possible? Yes. Hard? Yeah....

Allison: "We Need to talk."  <starts ranting about something your manager of people knows will take 45 minutes to diffuse>

Your Manager of People (MOP): " I know what you're talking about.  What does Great Look Like?"

Allison: <taken aback by the interruption> <Thinking>

Allison: "It would be great if you and the other members of the leadership team would smarten up and fire the two people I'm talking about."

Your MOP: <wishing he had read Cy's book - the one you gave him>

The point?  Cy's got some great thoughts and eliminating drama is a great aspirational goal.  The devil is in the details - to get the best results, you'll need to arm your managers with not only the question to regain control of the conversation, but the techniques to overcome all the sidetracks they'll encounter.

What does great look like?

That depends on who you ask.   

 

 

 


Welcome to the Hoops Coaches Absolutely Losing their **** Conference Room...

Capitalist Note - March Madness starts today.  I'm re-running a post from a few years back on a conference room theme I think would absolutely rock.  Survive and advance, people.  Survive and advance.

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

At Kinetix, we have some themed conference and breakout rooms.  There's Boiler Room, Tommy Boy, Moneyball, etc.  I think it's time to have a room - to be named later - which includes portraits of basketball coaches absolutely losing their ****.  Here's some photos that could be turned into portraits to create just the right look and feel for our next remodel.  Take a look and enable pictures if you can't see them on the email.

The working title is "Can We Talk?".  Hit me with your better name for this conference room in the comments.

H to the Izzo:

Tom-izzo-michigan-state

 

Bob Knight:

Knight

 

The always crazy Frank Martin:

Martin

 

Calipari calling "Double Claws Right":

Cal

 

The Bo Ryan "Fake Happiness Pose", also known as the "I dare you to T me up for being happy":

Boryan

 

The Bob Huggins "I don't have to yell, just look at this suit":

Huggins

 

And last, but certainly not least, Kim Mulkey showing her players how to get into a defensive stance - in 3 inch heels:

Mulkey

Do you have any pictures you can lend to my cause?  Now that I think about it, the room should absolutely be named SURVIVE AND ADVANCE.


Would You Rather Have High Trust/Marginal Talent or High Talent/Marginal Trust?

That's a loaded/trick question. 

You probably reacted to that by thinking, "we have nothing if we don't have trust".  To me, I'm not sure - I think it depends on your definition of trust.

Do you think trust is integrity at all times and ethics? How to you measure that? Is trust doing things like you expect them to be done? Do people have to check in with you if they're going to do something that would cause you not to trust them? Have you trained them on what that is?

Of course you haven't. And the definition of trust is different for all of us.

That's why I think I would pick high talent over high trust if given the choice for an organization. Talent gets things done and if an organization has a high talent level, odds are that organization will outperform it's peer group.

An organization full of people you can trust might be a high performing organization - or it might be lame from a performance perspective. Odds are, organizations full of people you can trust will fall along the bell curve.  

Of course, the two factors - talent and trust - aren't mutually exclusive.  You can have both.

The problem is that for all the issues with measurement of performance, we are still much more capable of measuring performance in an individual than we are of measuring how much we can trust that same person.  And our definitions of trust will differ dramatically person by person, which creates unbelievable variability within a single organization.

You don't know you have a problem with trust - until it's gone.  We should always pick talent over intangibles we have trouble measuring.

If you can tell me how you accurately measure trust, I'll change that stance.


How To Show Creatives In Your Workforce That Planning/Communication Is Necessary...

For non-creatives, managing creatives can be tricky business.

I mean, really - you're not creative and you're going to try and tell them how they should run their creative desk?  How dare you!

My experience is that creatives, while organized in their own mind, often don't see a gap related to how others view them and the services they provide.  Creatives are a valuable, rare commodity, so many managers will avoid engaging them to deliver services in a way that the team/company/client can more easily understand - out of fear of losing the resource.

A lot of that gap comes down to planning and/or communication.  What can I expect, when can I expect it?  Many who rely on creative services treat it as a mystical resource.  

Creativity takes time.  Creativity can't be rushed.  It will be done when it's done, but you want high quality, right?

All of which is true.  However, I recently ran across this example of how one creative mind works when it comes to planning and organization.  take a look at the spreadsheet below - it's a planning doc from Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.  Take a look at the picture (email subscribers may have to click through to view, and all can click on the picture below to blow it up) and we'll talk about it after the jump.

Jk-rowlings-phoenix-plot-outline_1457414808

More on this doc from Open Culture:

At the height of the Harry Potter novels' popularity, I asked a number of people why those books in particular enjoyed such a devoted readership. Everyone gave almost the same answer: that author J.K. Rowling "tells a good story." The response at once clarified everything and nothing; of course a "good story" can draw a large, enthusiastic (and, at that time, impatient) readership, but what does it take to actually tell a good story? People have probably made more money attempting, questionably, to pin down, define, and teach the best practices of storytelling, but at the top of this post, we have a revealing scrap of Rowling's own process. And I do, almost literally, mean a scrap: this piece of lined paper contains part of the handwritten plot spreadsheet she used to write the fifth Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

One of the most economically successful creatives (in this case, an author) relies on a spreadsheet to plan and execute story arcs and plots.

A lot of your creatives don't plan like this.  I think it's worth sharing to show the level of detail one famous creative mind includes when planning work product.

In addition, the doc serves to make an additional point.  If J.K. Rowling goes to this extreme to keep her own head straight, might more planning and communication from your creatives to those who are waiting for creative product from make sense within your company and on your team?

It's one thing to have it in your head.  To truly reach the highest level of creative service inside a company, your creatives need to be organized - and then tell the world what their work funnel looks like and when they can expect delivery.   

 


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

VIDEO: Using BHAGs as a Goal Setting Technique for High Performers...

Big, hairy, audacious goals, or BHAGs, are visionary, strategy statements designed to focus a group of people around a common initiative. They traditional differ from our other goal setting techniques because BHAGS are usually positioned toward by a large group (rather than individuals) and they typically span a large amount of time than any of our other goals. They’re huge.

Even though BHAGs are generally goals for companies and collective groups, smart managers are increasingly using them for individuals as well. I explain the merits of using BHAGs in this fashion in the following episode of TalentTalks from Saba Software.

Take a listen (email subscribers click through for video below) and hit me in the comments with a BHAG that's been useful in your career or managing a talented direct report!!! 


Why Limited Feedback Points Are Crucial in Corporate Coaching...

You're a coach in the corporate world.  That means you know a lot - about a lot of things.  

It also means you've been trusted - whether formally or informally - to share your observations, thoughts and wisdom with others about their performance.  With that comes great responsibility.  I'm assuming you're good at what you do and have what it takes from a Subject Matter Expertise perspective to coach effectively.

So allow me to tell you where you're going to #### it up:

You're going to give your coaching recipient 10 things to think about the next time they perform the subject of your coaching.

Maybe 5 things.  The number is important, but also meaningless once you go above 2-3 items you attempt to coach on in a single session.  Let me explain what's out there in business books and then give you my own experience.

If you read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, you'll see the best in any field have 3 things present as they develop into world-class performers:

--They spent the time practicing - the 10,000 hour rule

--They had access to facilities/tools to practice the skill in question

--They had access to a coach/system that could provide immediate feedback

What's most interesting to me these days is the coaching part of that loop.  The older I get and the more coaching I do, the more I'm convinced that coaches have to be very selective in the feedback they give.  As SME's in whatever we do as coaches, it's easy to unload a list of things that a person should do in order to improve they next time they perform a task/service/etc.

You're a common sense person, so when I tell you "don't give the subject of coaching 10 things/points of feedback", you get it.

What if I told you that 3 points of feedback are too many? 

That's harder, right?

In my outside life away from business, I serve as a basketball shooting coach for some good to great players at a variety of ages.  The research Gladwell cited in Outliers certainly hold true for my students - they have to have a desire to put in the hours, they need access to an indoor gym and they need immediate coaching and feedback, which is where someone like me comes in.

In my basketball coaching life, experience rapidly brought me down to a coaching 3 points of feedback - base/feet, hand placement and speed through the zone/finish.  That's all I coach on, because different players have different styles and it's my job to maximize them - not change something that will take them backwards.

But experience as a coach in hoops has taught me something else - while it's OK to have culled my coaching package down to 3 things, when the player is getting reps in, 3 points of feedback is way too many.

What I've learned is that I can go into a coaching session thinking that we need to work on two of the three, but on a rep by rep basis, I can only give feedback on one.

One point of feedback per rep.

If I give feedback on more than one point of my package, it becomes so overwhelming to the recipient - you guessed it - improves on nothing at times during the session.

You're a good coach in the corporate world.  Check yourself before you wreck yourself when it comes to how you give feedback.

Coaching more than one point of feedback in a session?  It's bad for everyone's health.

 


VIDEO: Dealing with Sidetracks In Coaching Conversations...

Featured today - an interview I did with Tim Sackett for Talent Talks (a great series brought to you by Saba Software) on Dealing with Sidetracks in Coaching Conversations...

You know what sidetracks are even if you don't know them by name...  You know you need to coach a direct report on an issue, so you engage, only to get blown back by the employee with all the reasons the current situation (the one you're coaching on) exists.. It's them, it's their tools, hell, it's even you.

Yes, you! Sidetracks are so dynamic your direct reports can use them to throw you under the bus!!

Take a look at the video below (email subscribers may need to click through to see player) for ideas on how to deal with sidetracks.  If you like what you see, make sure to visit Saba Software- and don't forget to like the video or throw us a comment!