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.

 

 


You Might Need A "Managed By Me" Operator's Manual in 2018...

Quick thought for you today.  If you're looking to refresh the working relationship you have with the people who work for you in 2018, it might be time to publish an "operator's manual" for those that report to you.  What's a "Managed By Me" Operator's Manual look like?

Managed by Me Operator's Manual - a guide put together by a manager of people to let his/her direct reports understand the best way to operate the complex machinery/algorithm that represents them as a manager. Hit me

Wondering what could be included in that?

1--Behavioral strengths and weaknesses.  Don't forget that most extreme scores in any behavioral category serve as both strength and weakness.  Depends on the circumstances.

2--For Best Results, please ___ and ___.   You're human, so it stands to reason that there is a "most effective" way to deal with you.  This could easily be broken up into guidance on how to maximize results related to communication style, level of information you want, etc.

3--Common Issues.  Yes, people have had problems with you before.  You've been manufactured in a six sigma facility, but given the number of reps you've been used, there's bound to have been some problems.  You tell people about those problems and tell them how to fix/who to call/what the warranty period is.

4--Some Maintenance Required.   That's right!  You don't just run a car for 20,000 miles without doing some routine things to make sure you're good to go.  The same holds true with you.  Tell them what maintenance is required to maximize their time with you.  If you expect rundowns of major projects, tell them what you need, how often, etc.

The point of the "Managed by Me Operator's Manual" is to refresh.  You've been around your people for awhile, and things might seem flat.  You can change it up by providing this doc to you people and perhaps have some fun on the way.

You think they know how to work with you.  I guarantee they don't know everything you think they know about you.  In addition, we're trained as managers of people to believe that it's up to us to manage our teams.  

Truth is that managing teams is a two-way street.  They're as responsible for managing up to you as you are directly managing them - if you want the best results.  The Operator's Manual on you as a manager is a fun way to refresh the relationship and put some of that burden back where it belongs - on them.

 


Forcing Managers to Interview Minority Candidates - Necessary or Pure Bureaucracy?

Capitalist Note - If you follow sports, you may have heard that the Oakland Raiders (soon to be the Las Vegas Raiders) are set to hire Jon Gruden, current ABC/ESPN commentator, past head coach in the NFL and yes, a white guy.  It's said at this writing to be a done deal, but the Raiders have to interview other candidates as required by the NFL's Rooney Rule.  I'm re-running this post to explore the merits of forcing managers to interview minority candidates in searches.

If you follow sports, you're probably aware that Pete Carroll, head football coach at the University of Southern California (USC), is leaving USC to become the head coach of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks.  On the surface, this is pretty pedestrian stuff - head coach wins national titles in college, gets a chance at a big payday in the NFL.  Yawn...

What you probably don't know is this: before the Seahawks and Carroll could sign an contract that had already been agreed to verbally, the Seahawks had to interview at least one minority candidate as part of their process.  It's required in the NFL, and here's how the rule (known as the Rooney Rule) is positioned:

"Under the NFL's Rooney Rule, any team in the National Football League offering a head coaching position must interview at least one minority candidate. Named after the Pittsburgh Steelers' owner Dan Rooney, chairman of theMike_tomlin league's diversity committee, the rule was created in the hopes of increasing the number of minority head coaches in the league.  

How do you feel about that?  Here's how I feel about that.  Stop talking about Affirmative Action and start talking about how the world works as you consider this one. On many occasions, hiring managers have a candidate in mind that they think they want to plug into a job.  When this happens, they're usually so set on the decision that they think any other interviews may be a waste of time.  The tough part about that is that your company still has a process, and the hiring manager needs to put forth a little more effort.  So, let's take the focus off of minorities and plug another group of candidates in to discuss the wisdom of forcing your hiring managers to interview candidates they don't think have a chance - internal applicants.

Let's say your hiring manager has an external candidate they think would be great for the job, but you've also got 3 internal candidates for the position who have applied.  Your company has a process that says all internal candidates are, at the very least, going to get a brief conversation/interview with the hiring manager in question.  Your hiring manager doesn't want to do it, and he's bitching about it.  You're faced with the classic catch-22 - you either force the process and risk looking like a bureaucrat, or you let the hiring manager do his thing without interviewing the internals, which is decidedly bad for your culture and employee relations environment.

I'm tagged as a capitalist.  You might think I would allow the hiring manager to skip the internal interviews with a name like that, right?  But I don't, and here's why.  I've learned that for every 10 internal interviews you make a hiring manager do against their will, they are going to get 2-3 pleasant surprises, meaning they're impressed enough by the candidate in question that they'll change their mind and offer them the job, or they'll put the memory on reserve and as a result, hire them for a future role.

My stance on internal interviews is easily carried over to the Rooney Rule. By forcing interviews of minority candidates, you've got a shot to make the hiring managers go HMMMMM....

Need proof? That logic is documented when Mike Tomlin became the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers at the young age of 34 (and later led them to a NFL Championship):

"Mike Tomlin wouldn't have gotten this opportunity without this rule," said Shell, the first modern black NFL head coach. "He never would have sat down with Dan Rooney."

Said Rooney: "To be honest with you, before the interview he was just another guy who was an assistant coach. Once we interviewed him the first time, he just came through and we thought it was great. And we brought him back and talked to him on the phone and went through the process that we do, and he ended up winning the job."

The Rooney Rule is the same thing as your rules regarding how internal candidates are handled. You don't put rules on interviewing minorities or internal candidates in place because it's the right thing to do.  You do it because the exposure gives strong talent an opportunity to surprise hiring managers who wouldn't otherwise be exposed. 

And that, my friends, should be our main objective in the Talent game.


The Self-Sabotaging Nature of Loving Drama In the Workplace...

"Some men just want to watch the world burn"

--Alfred in Batman

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

Short post today as you go into the holidays, shut it down and think about 2018.

You've got people in your professional life who love drama.  They're wired to create angst, conflict, infighting and many times, they're not even aware Batmanthey're doing it.  It's how they are genetically wired behaviorally.  Rather than observing, learning and maximizing themselves in any situation, they create chaos by inviting others to react to their presentation of facts - which are usually drawn to create a reaction - otherwise known as drama.  They do this even if it hurts them long term.

If you think about all the players in your life, you can probably identify who these people are.

I'm here today with a new year's resolution for you - don't allow people who love drama to draw a reaction from you in 2018.

What these people hate most is not getting the reaction.  There's also learning that goes on as you deny them the combustion they seek.  After the 2nd or 3rd time you deny the drama queens and kings the reaction they seek, they'll stop trying to get it from you, and your life will improve.  

So that's the resolution.  Stop letting the drama people stoke you up.  Try giving them a "hmmm" when they stoke you, and instead of participating in a communal rant, try saying the following:

"I'm going to think about that"

"That's interesting. I'm going to ponder that a bit"

"Get the #### out of my office"

That last one is a joke, because that actually creates drama.  You should avoid reacting when they try to suck you in at all costs.

Measured response is a good leadership technique, both for the drama lovers and also for people who are bringing you bad news, observations and gossip.  Don't get sucked in.  Stay calm.

Of course, if you're a leader, of the things you'll have to deal with is drama kings/queens spinning up other drama kings/queens as a normal course of business.

But that's for another day.  For today and moving into 2018, the thought is this - don't allow people who love drama to draw a reaction from you in 2018.


Publicly Shaming Good People Removes Them From the Conversation on Change...

Look - I get it - there's a lot of stuff going on in the world that's been a long time coming for society in general:

--Protests against police brutality and the impact of that on minorities - check. Duncan

--the #metoo movement and shining a light on the pig-like behavior and conduct of way too many men in our society - check.

--Equal rights for the GLBTQ community - check.

There's more, but I'll stop there.  Us talking about those things and hopefully course correcting are good things on all levels.  But what's become a by-product of that process is going after people with good intentions by a form of public shaming, and that shaming is focused on calling out people as being non-friendly to any or all of the groups in question.

Of course, social media makes the shaming easy to do.  And the shaming is subtle - it rarely calls someone a racist, a harasser or a bigot in general directly - it simply accuses you of not being as sensitive as you should, which implies that the target of the shaming is any or all of the things I just mentioned.

Here's what happens when you call out a normal, good person with good intent and try to shame them - You push them away from the conversation.  They'll leave the arena, usually never to reengage. And if it's change you seek, that's not a good thing.

Quick story - was doing a webinar a couple of weeks ago for about 400 people.  Going through some slides, and had a shamer hijack the Q&A section by suggesting that my slides didn't have enough diversity.  That's fair on the surface (my slides did include diversity, with about 25% of the slides including non-white people as one form of measuring diversity, and my case study featured a woman), but the intent was clear - the commenter felt one way and tried to hijack the show.

Meanwhile - and I can't make this stuff up - the webinar was slides plus video of the presenter and the following is true....

Behind me on my wall (I'm the presenter) was a canvas oil painting of Tim Duncan (that painting is pictured to the right of this post).  Tim Duncan happens to be black, and he was in my video frame and visible to all participants for 55 MINUTES OF THE WEBINAR.

Translation - my webinar had diversity visible for the entire show.  But the shamers came out.  Lucky for me my skin is thicker than a rhino.

But most people in our workplace don't have my skin thickness and haven't put themselves out there for criticism like I have.  Most of the good faith/good effort people we know will withdraw from any type of risk - and therefore meaningful conversation - as soon as they are shamed.

Shaming shines a light on the obvious bigots.  But when you shame normal people, I'm here to tell you that you're reducing the level of conversation - and probably guaranteeing we don't progress as quickly as we could in our society.

Change is good in the all the areas listed. Be careful you aren't eliminating great people from the conversation by attempting to publicly shame.

 


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!!! 


COMPETITION IS NOT A DIRTY WORD: You Want Employees Who Want to Stick It to the Other Guy/Gal...

Yesterday I pinged you about the change in corporate values at Uber.  They have always had a Viking culture, and that works when you're trying to conquer new land/metro areas vs. groups that don't want to be conquered.  Hell, that might even be necessary.  

Uber is making the right pivot and is probably two years late.  Once the majority of the conquering is done, the Viking culture doesn't work so well.  

But don't mistake having a positive set of corporate values with the assumption you don't want people to compete hard vs. the competition, and yes, at times each other (teammates).

You want people in your company who want to compete, and at times, stick it to the other guy/gal.  You just need them to do it with the cloak of professionalism.  With that in mind, I give you this picture of Mark Dantonio, who in this picture had just been informed that his team, Michigan State, is a 16-point underdog on the road at Ohio State.  If you can't see the picture below, enable photos or click through to the site for this gem (analysis below the picture):

Dantonio

This picture says everything you need to know about competition in the workplace and why you have to nurture it as a Talent Leader.

Mark Dantonio is a positive leader in the sports world.  He's soft spoken and generally has teams that overachieve.

But look at the face.  For all the professionalism, the look says it all.  Underneath the talking points, the corporate haircut and the conservative Nike attire, MARK DANTONIO WANTS TO ROLL INTO OHIO STATE AND MAKE KIDS WEARING BUCKEYE GEAR CRY. HE WANTS TO HURT URBAN MEYER'S CAREER.  IF HE COULD GET AWAY WITH IT, HE WOULD HAVE HIS TEAM TRASH THEIR HOTEL ROOMS AND KNOCK OFF A COUPLE OF LIQUOR STORES IN COLUMBUS JUST TO GET READY FOR THE GAME.

But Mark Dantonio is too smart to give you more than this look.  This is all you'll get. You'll quickly become bored by listening to him.  He's not going to give you reason to think that he's anything but a fine, upstanding citizen.

Underneath, he's a lot like the Viking version of Uber.  He's rolling into a city that doesn't want him or respect him, and he's just been told he's a huge underdog.  He's got a history of rolling into big games as an underdog and making people pay.

He's a Viking.  But he's a smart Viking. You'll never get him on record with anything that can be used against him.

But the look says it all.  HE'S COMING TO TAKE YOUR MOTHER ####### LIVELIHOOD FOR DISRESPECTING HIM.

This is what you need in your workforce.  You need to see the look every once in awhile from your best people.  You need them on that edge.  

The best ones never show you more than this look.

 


Is Anonymous Feedback From Employees OK?

Who here is tired of seeing disgruntled employees rip your company on Glassdoor?  Wow..almost everyone.  I can't say I'm surprised.

Anonymous feedback is rapidly being recognized for what it is.  The newspaper industry entered the digital industry with the Trollthought that readers commenting on articles online would unlock a form of community unlike any other.  That happened, but in a negative way, with trolls and racists and every other type of creep posting whatever they wanted under anonymous accounts with zero chance of being outed.

It's so bad that responsible publications online have gone one of two ways - they've either eliminated comments altogether or moved to Facebook comments, where commenters have their thoughts tied to a primary Facebook account.  

Let's move back to the workplace.  A deep thinker, expert on employee opinion and a friend of mine - Jason Laurtisen - did a guest post over at Fistful of Talent last year and called for an end to anonymous employee feedback.  Here's a taste:

"When it comes to feedback, anonymity is less effective, and frankly, out of style in today’s workplace. We expect our leaders to be candid and transparent, particularly about the important stuff.  We expect them to tell us the whole story and to openly share their failures and missteps.  Yet, when it comes to asking employees for feedback about something as important as their work experience, we use completely different standards. Why? We’ve convinced ourselves that employees just aren’t up to the task."

I'd encourage everyone to go read Jason's post - because most of you do employee surveys and he's an expert in that area.

Me?  I'm here to give you some comfort in employees savagely ripping you - either internally in surveys or at company rip sites like Glassdoor.  Here's the dirty little secret that will make you feel better:

Employees and Candidates viewing anonymous feedback are increasingly immune to ultra-negative reviews. They're maturing and giving much greater weight to harsh comments that are found as a part of balanced feedback - outlining the good, the bad and the ugly.

I'm increasingly hearing that candidates viewing rip jobs by the disgruntled on Glassdoor don't take them seriously.  They're increasingly looking for the sane commenters on the rip sites, allowing themselves to only be influenced by the rare bird that gives insightful, balanced feedback on life at a company.

That makes sense.  When you see the rip jobs on reputation sites, take a deep breath. The more extreme, unfair and personal it is - the less likely it is to be taken seriously.

When it comes to employee surveys, here's what you can learn from this.  Instead of letting your employees rip away in the verbatim comments section - force them to be balanced and give you a good thing for every bad thing.  Then show the mixture of feedback as the entire verbatim - rather than splitting up good and bad feedback.  

While most of you don't share open ended employee feedback with the entire company, showing the totality of each employee's feedback will show your leadership team which feedback segments should be taken seriously - and which ones could possibly be ignored as a lunatic fringe.


The HR Capitalist Playbook for Men Avoiding Workplace Harassment Claims...

Harassment claims have been in the news lately, and it's an interesting time for HR leaders.  Whether you're talking about the latest Harvey Weinstein reports or all the crazy stuff that went down at Uber, you've probably never had everyone's attention on the male side of the house like you do today.

What do you do with that attention? Well, it's probably not enough just to email Harvey Weinstein and Uber rundowns to your management team.  While that seems reasonable, a new Cavemanreport from The New York Times shows that all the well-intentioned promises may have resulted in some serious unintended consequences:

"A big chill came across Silicon Valley in the wake of all these stories, and people are hyper-aware and scared of behaving wrongly, so I think they’re drawing all kinds of parameters," an anonymous venture capitalist told the Times.

The anonymous VC told the Times that he's actually cancelled one-on-one meetings with female engineers and potential recruits to protect himself from any "reputational risk."

YEP - THESE ARE ARE MALE MANAGERS.  SIMPLE FOLK.  CAVEMEN.  "SOMEBODY GOT A HARASSMENT CLAIM, SO I'M NOT MEETING ALONE WITH LADIES".

WTF...

As much as I'd like to think this attitude doesn't touch companies like yours and mine, it does.  It's the "let's take our ball and go home" mentality.  Crazy but true.

Lucky for you, I'm here as a guy HR leader to give you my straight up Playbook for Men Avoiding Workplace Harassment Claims.  Here we go:

1--Don't have designs on sleeping with someone at work.  Whether you're single or married, don't do it.  I'm not the morality police, but if you target someone for romance at work, you get what you get.  It's just problematic.  Don't do it.  And for the ladies in my family life who read my blog, I should mention this (morality alert!), if you're a guy who's married, don't be a sleaze.  Honor the commitment.  But if you're incapable of that, stay out of the workplace, Jack.

2--When on the road, don't do stupid stuff.  I'm on the road a lot, and things like having a lady hold your bag in her room is just problematic.  Check your bag and handle small stuff on the road without treating a female co-worker like your wife/girlfriend.

3--Be personable in conversation without probing.  Look, it's OK to make small talk about life with your female co-workers, and every once in awhile, it goes to a place of personal information.  It's not uncommon for that to happen, what matters is what happens next.  Don't probe for more, get out and take the conversation back to something rivaling a mundane USA Today article.

4--Hold your one-on-one meetings with females in public or somewhat public places.  The more private the room is, the more you really don't need to be there.  If you meet on the road in a hotel room with a female, you're a moron.

BONUS - and I call this the Harvey Weinstein rule - don't answer the door on the road in a robe.  Who the #### uses a robe in hotel room?

That's what I got.  What do you have to add?


Nick Saban Is a Steve Jobs-Type Control Freak: Exhibit 63

The sports world follows the business world in a lot of ways.  There's talent considerations, managing performance and more.

Oh yeah - the best leaders in sports, just like in business, are a little bit crazy.  They are crazy control freaks with a detailed plan on how domination is going to be achieved.  Think Steve Jobs.  Think the Uber guy before he came crashing down.  

In sports, consider Alabama football coach Nick Saban. IMG_0202

For the uninitiated, Saban is the head football coach at the University of Alabama, who has built a dominating machine in college football. Click on the link to learn more if needed/interested.  Today, I'm here give you one example from the book of Saban:

The last three games, I've noticed a trend.  Check out the picture to the right in this post (click through it you don't see the photo).  Saban has a guy who has the sole job to have a cup of water ready for him when he's thirsty/ready.  The guy is always positioned behind Saban in the manner pictured to the right.

I used to be around college athletics as a player and a coach.  When a guy like Saban dictates that level of control, there's no doubt in my mind that the following happened:

1.  Saban works hard and wants a drink every once in a awhile.  At some point in the past, he got tired of finding said drink and instructed his operations team to have someone around with water for him.  He delegated that and allowed his staff to figure it out.

2.  It went OK for awhile, then one time Saban wanted a drink - in practice or in a game - and the solution that got put in place failed.  The person responsible for being in the general area got called away or lost attention to the task at hand, which was hydrating Saban.

3.  Saban went absolutely ####ing bananas.  To the point where he couldn't be reasoned with.  

4.  Being the control freak many great leaders are, he came up with his own solution.  From the that point forward, an entire FTE of the athletic department will have one job - to be behind Saban with an available cup of water at all times.  I don't know how long this has has been going on, but it's been there for the last 3 games.

TRANSLATION: Somebody f***ed this up, and Nick Saban f***ing fixed it.  Note that this only works if you're a leader who gets unbelievable results.  If you get average results as a leader and try and flex this level of control, you'll be on the way out, because the people you lead will revolt.  If you're Steve Jobs or Nick Saban, it's accepted because you're the best in the world at what you do.  And psycho-level control is a big part of how you built the machine.

BONUS - I know the guy holding the cup of water is black.  I don't think it matters in this case, because my bet is that Nick picked the person who was going to hold the cup of water for him, and he picked the person he trusted the most.  While it's poor optics for the politically correct crowd, my gut tells me whoever got selected from the ops staff - white or black - to hold Saban's cup of water treats as a compliment they were selected.  Hell, this might even be an associate/assistant AD at Alabama, because that's how much power Nick Saban has.

You're playing checkers. Nick Saban is playing chess. And on the Nick Saban chess board, there's no detail to small for control.  

Somebody f***ed this up, and Nick Saban f***ing fixed it.