Lead people the best way for them!

I had a conversation with a client the other day about how they were dealing with different personalities in their business. I knew it was one of those chats where I had to get a specific message across.

Thinking about it afterwards reminded me of how I like to be communicated with. This is at times different to how others like to be treated. I’m the kind of person who likes the straight-shooting approach. Coming originally from New Zealand where there are fewer people and the “Fishpond” is much smaller, I’ve grown up with the greater tendency over there to be told exactly what is needed in black & white.

When I’m being mentored or led by someone else, what works is for me to be told what the specific tasks are and results needed. Then, if you leave me to my own devices, I’ll do the research, set up the plan and roll it out with only a small amount of help or encouragement. Keeping an eye on me and/or having a coffee with me is useful at times, more for the social and innovative ideas that come from it than for any need for “help”.

This person I was speaking with was not like that at all. They needed to be spoken to with gentle gloves and much encouragement. It was one of those conversations where I needed to be very supportive and enabling.

It really got me thinking about a model I have used personally for many years. It is a simple reminder to us all to think about what the other person needs from us prior to rushing in and the telling them what we want or must have.

The model is the Situational Leadership Model. Please note I’m not saying you should only ever communicate with people using one of the four steps outlined below. However, personally I’ve found them to be a real help when thinking through tough conversations where results need to occur in short timeframes.

This model looks at the world of leadership inside of 4 simple styles as follows:

Style 1 – Directing

The person leading provides a specific direction & closely monitors task accomplishment.

Style 2 – Coaching

The leader makes sure they direct & closely monitor things, but also explains decisions, elicits suggestions, and provides support where needed.

Style 3 – Supporting

The leader uses a facilitative & supportive approach toward the achievement of tasks using the shared-responsibility decision-making principle.

Style 4 – Delegating

The leader turns over the responsibility for decision-making and problem-solving to the person and/or team in question.

Here’s a short presentation by Ken & Scott Blanchard about how using Situational Leadership II can make a huge difference to the conversations you have with your people. If you get your leadership working with their direct reports in a powerful way that encourages talent-management processes and continuously increases performance, then you tend to keep your people for longer periods.


Have a think about your own business unit and or company. Do you use a variety of styles when working with your people, or just one over and over? Who are the people you find tougher to work with and why do you think this is? How flexible are you with regard to communicating and getting results in your own teams? Consider changing your leadership style when you are working with certain team members.

Have a think about your own business unit and or company. Do you use a variety of styles when working with your people, or just one over and over? Who are the people you find tougher to work with and why do you think this is? How flexible are you with regard to communicating and getting results in your own teams? Consider changing your leadership style when you are working with certain team members.

Have a think about your own business unit and or company. Do you use a variety of styles when working with your people, or just one over and over? Who are the people you find tougher to work with and why do you think this is? How flexible are you with regard to communicating and getting results in your own teams? Consider changing your leadership style when you are working with certain team members.

Technology Rollouts & Performance

Good technology rollouts really count. Many people I have worked with over the past few years often face the tough experience of having to make decisions around new technology that will fundamentally affect business results. In the past 18 months, I have noticed many clients have been pushed into situations where things must be upgraded urgently (due often to a merger).

Often this technology is something like a new platform, a best-of-class project management system or a set of core capabilities the business has never had. At times, these needs arise from a system that was put into the business 20 years ago and since then the IT team have been building bolt-on solutions. Eventually it reaches the point where there are so many workarounds for the users that everyone just considers the system a massive handbrake. Organisational change has to occur, as the focus for increased performance is greater than ever.

A good example of this kind of new technology is Oracle’s Seibel CRM product. AFG Group, one of Australia’s largest brokers, used this product with great success. They use it to source products, lodge applications, generate leads & manage clients, all from a single point of entry. Check out the video below – at 3 mins 9 secs, it shows how they are now using this technology to manage their teams and other overseas business development activities. This project has enabled AFG to stay ahead of the game in an extremely tough market.

The general solution is to spend up to hundreds of millions of dollars on new technology to consolidate workflows, reduce time taken to get information, or find the right information etc.

What often actually happens though is this:

  • The project goes way over time and budget and the change management process fails
  • Only specific users get the new technology right and they were the high performers anyway
  • The strategic planning done prior to implementation was nowhere near robust enough & so major gaps appear with the implementation & rollout to users
  • The final product offers only 60% of the capability promised and the system workarounds continue

If these were the only blocks faced after implementation, funnily enough the situation would actually not be too much worse. The problem is that this is only the start. What then seems to happen is that while the implementation occurs, sales and/or service levels drop significantly and sales managers start to get punished for their lack of results.

Many users get disillusioned and they start to either leave or look seriously for jobs in competing businesses in the same vertical. This causes increases in staff turnover and a need to then recruit more people at a time when training and reducing the time to competency for new team members is not the highest priority. Finishing the implementation and knowing the systems core capabilities actually collect “all” of the data accurately and can be used to get results is the priority.

So what’€™s the answer? Consider the following:

  • Who is on the rollout project team and why are they there?
  • Who is missing that should be there? E.g. possible managers of users who know what functions have to keep on going not matter what
  • Have you looked at who your absolute best talent is and how they can add value to the project?
  • What kind of mini pilots have you or are you intending to run prior to getting serious about the rollout?
  • If you have gathered groups of high performers to do the testing, have you then ensured these people are trained in knowledge-transfer and work-place training techniques to get your population back to its core results capability ASAP? How is this behaviour change actually going to occur on the ground?
  • What kind of knowledge-capture processes do you have around the more “€œtacit”€ or informal smarts the high performers have? How do these apply in the “€œNew”€ technology platform or world? How are these to be transferred? How is your talent management process taking this into account?

Making sure you have covered off the above at the very least will enable you to keep leveraging your best people to transfer their results across populations. Sometimes you may need to bring in technology providers you have never thought of prior to the project. In fact, this might not become apparent in any of the project design phases and might only be discovered during implementation.

The general solution is to spend up to hundreds of millions of dollars on new technology to consolidate workflows, reduce time taken to get information, or find the right information etc.

What often actually happens though is this:

  • The project goes way over time and budget and the change management process fails
  • Only specific users get the new technology right and they were the high performers anyway
  • The strategic planning done prior to implementation was nowhere near robust enough & so major gaps appear with the implementation & rollout to users
  • The final product offers only 60% of the capability promised and the system workarounds continue

If these were the only blocks faced after implementation, funnily enough the situation would actually not be too much worse. The problem is that this is only the start. What then seems to happen is that while the implementation occurs, team performance levels drop significantly and project managers start to get punished for their lack of results.

Many users get disillusioned and they start to either leave or look seriously for jobs in competing businesses in the same vertical. This causes increases in staff turnover and a need to then recruit more people at a time when training and reducing the time to competency for new team members is not the highest priority. Finishing the implementation and knowing the systems core capabilities in order to actually collect “all” of the data accurately often is the priority.

So what’€™s the answer? Consider the following:

  • Who is on the rollout project team and why are they there?
  • Who is missing that should be there? E.g. possible managers of users who know what functions have to keep on going not matter what
  • Have you looked at who your absolute best talent is and how they can add value to the project?
  • What kind of mini pilots have you or are you intending to run prior to getting serious about the rollout?
  • If you have gathered groups of high performers to do the testing, have you then ensured these people are trained in knowledge-transfer and work-place training techniques to get your population back to its core results capability ASAP? How is this behaviour change actually going to occur on the ground?
  • What kind of knowledge-capture processes do you have around the more “€œtacit”€ or informal smarts the high performers have? How do these apply in the “New”€ technology platform or world? How are these to be transferred? How is your talent management process taking this into account?

Making sure you have covered off the above at the very least will enable you to keep leveraging your best people to transfer their results across populations. Sometimes you may need to bring in technology providers you have never thought of prior to the project. In fact, this might not become apparent in any of the project design phases and might only be discovered during implementation.

The general solution is to spend up to hundreds of millions of dollars on new technology to consolidate workflows, reduce time taken to get information, or find the right information etc.


The Best Work Group Sessions

There is a brilliant new book on Amazon.com called The Talent Code – Daniel Coyle. In this book the author looks into what he calls Talent Hotbeds. For example, how does one tiny Russian tennis club set in a forest surrounded by abandoned cars get more world top-20 ranked tennis players than the entire country of the USA?

Or how did the Brazilians manage to go from winning no soccer/football World Cups to winning several in a relatively short timeframe? He has looked at places that produced more classical music geniuses than should ever be considered possible from one place and asked the question – How do they manage this?”

The author brings to bear fascinating research which by understanding could enable you to change the way you work with upskilling your own business teams. Ironically, one thing he found that stood out more than any other single point was that often the people who became the best in the world at their chosen field were not exceptional when they started.

From Spartak, the tiny tennis club in Russia: see Dinara Safina, World Tennis Champion, and her first time on the court.

YOU KNOW WHAT? ACTUALLY SHE’S NOT A NATURAL!

Daniel speaks a lot about the changes that occur in our brains when we are learning new things. Of equal importance for adults in business who want to learn faster is to understand that when children learn things in a great environment where they are incredibly focused, there is often little or no RUBBISH running around in their heads. Because of this, their heads can take EVERYTHING in.

As adults, when we are being trained, at times we are thinking about other things – the new house purchase, a recent breakup, how hot it is outside, etc.

So how might you use this research? Well, another thing they found at these camps or training centres for the best TALENT IN THE WORLD is that the training was often conducted in very small chunks, and slowly!

If the final result of this method was someone like Dinara Safina, a Russian World Number One tennis player from Spartak, how did she do it and what could you do differently to get World Class results from your team members?

Three things to consider changing about learning and performance in your team:

1)Teach material slowly. Take your time; don’t rush. Now, I mean a 1-hour work group session might cover just one product type, such as the number one seller and what she does. Cover the topic so that every person in the room gains a significant amount.

2)People who don’t want help won’t learn. The faster you accept this, the better off you’ll be. If they don’t want to change, have the tough conversation!

3)Team some of your best people with those on their way up that really want to learn. Give them some serious coaching across three or four days. This may only need to be four to five 10-20 minute sessions with the coach (expert). Also, these sessions need not always be face to face.

Being focused on results is great, but so is being focused on superior learning. Make sure that when you are teaching a specific strategy that your people are focused on learning what’s done by the expert, NOT JUST HOW MUCH THEY HAVE TO PRODUCE. Often managers and leaders set up so much stress in environments that people just stop learning.

Check out http://www.TheTalentCode.com

Time & business results

I have friends you can’t meet for morning tea for 8 weeks because they are booked out. Others, you can consistently book a catch-up with so long as you give them 7 days notice and that’s that, every time. Then there are people who will be available tomorrow at 3pm or Friday at 9am and any further out than that and you can forget it!

TIME – Why is that the case?

Is it true that the person booked up for 8 weeks is more important, successful or has more happening in their lives than those you could get an appointment with tomorrow?

INTERESTINGLY IN OUR EXPERIENCE, NO!

Funnily enough, some of the leaders of the biggest organisations in the country operate very much in the now. If it weren’t for some very smart assistants, things would look very different. How might this information influence you and your team’s ability to get results?

Is everybody different around time? What kinds of people are similar and why? We will deal with only one part of this major body of work that up until now been badly under-researched.

How do I know? Well, all the time I see organisations facing people issues where certain portions of populations are extremely reactive and others are the opposite, far too slow to react. Where do you sit? How about your best people when you are “Managing Your Talent”? Are they reactive or more strategic? What’s needed more in your environment?

“Your interpretation of time is not a right or a wrong one. However, if you are too extreme either way with regard to your specific work context and what’s required, you can really lose out.”

What should you do to ensure your thinking around time fits with your business role? Here are three suggestions to consider with regard to the people in your workplace.

1)In a fast-paced sales or back office production environment, you probably want to be able to move quickly and hence timeframes are almost certain to be shorter.

2)In a strategic planning or IT implementation environment, it might pay to have a medium-term time perspective. However, watch out! Get this to be more a long-term perspective and that $500 million dollar IT rollout can easily blow into costing twice as much.

3)In Strategy & Planning roles in major organisations, the people involved are better to have a really good understanding of time in the long term. But they still need to be able to partner with the people on the floor conducting the rollout.

So what if you’ve got people in completely the wrong place?

What if you have people (even managers) on the floor who think learning a set of specific behaviours will take 3 months when your best manager considers it can easily be learnt in 24 hours? A problem in many IT, HR and L&D departments is that when major rollouts occur, the third parties always talk about giving things some time… until the budget’s blown and the business is locked into making even tougher decisions!

When sick where do you go?

The other day for the first time in my life I could not breath while I was going to sleep, I had been to the swimming pool that day and the chlorine was incredibly strong in the children’s pool where I’d been. My symptoms were almost exactly like that of an Asthmatic shortness of breath and no matter how hard I tried no air was getting in?

At the time I though wow – that’s interesting, then what am I going to do, not wanting to wake my partner I got up and Google’d the symptoms. Amazingly I found at least 5 websites with some really serious detailed and well researched answers.

One of these explained a breathing technique which it said worked wonders, having nothing to loose I tried it and within minutes was back to sleep. A couple of days later I was speaking with a client about this and he said wow so did you go straight to the hospital and or a doctor?

I said no actually, I turned on the Web and did some research found some answers and alls well!

You might be asking so what, how does this relate to me and my team? Well have a think about it, you think the people in your team are either good or bad, average or superb.

But maybe they are just missing some of the crucial links they need in order to perform at their roles. Often we go running to the doctor or the hospital when sometimes the best possible thing to do might actually be to sit down with some of the smartest people in our own business or teams and ask them questions or log into the web and start google’ing for answers. How do you identify and manage talent in your organisation?

By then linking up the answers your team finds to expert knowledge based information systems often you can then deal with the same problems 100’s of times faster.

Ironically often we rush off to places for solutions when they lie right at our fingertips, what’s your organisational change process and who do you have internally to role it out.

Performance Mngmt Why?

Performance Management – Why Get Good At It?

Over the past 10 yeas I’ve experienced many organisations where senior executives shy away from having the “Crucial Conversations”, the reasons are often similar.

“Look I don’t think you really need to “Fire” people, or its not really in our culture, we don’t feel its necessary to force people to change etc”

This entry is about why the better you are at Performance Management the better you’ll be at anything your business throws at you at all, in fact the better you’ll ironically be in your relationships outside the business also. At the end of the day if something in a business or any other relationship is not working if all parties concerned are not wanting to change or pretend they are when they’re not then stop wasting your time. When you consider implementing processes around talent identification and talent management seriously consider how good your best people are around the following areas.

Three Keys to Strong Performance Management

1) Consider a proper format

In some organisations development plans are a waste of breath and hence when someone falls down there is little if anything to benchmark it against other than their peers actual business metrics. This often though may not stack up though, as people often have excuses like, I deal with different clients, products or systems and hence its different for me.

In order for your personal performance development plans to actually be of use, keep them simple make sure you look at things like what are the top three key things to focus on?

  • Why are you falling down on them right now?
  • What knowledge resources or skills do you need to change this by Friday?
  • Are you prepared to make those changes?
  • Can you make them?

Either people can or cant do whats required in a Performance Management setting, lets be honest actually there is little in between. The problem most leaders have is a lack of courage to ask specific enough questions to ensure a proper answer and therefore result from the team member.

2) Ensure its self perpetuating

There is no point spending a whole lot of time working with a person then leaving them to work on themselves around an area only to find that later they go away and on Friday when you check they have done nothing. Performance Management work must be self perpetuating in the eyes of the person receiving the “Coaching” otherwise its nothing more than the kind of serious telling off your parents used to give you years ago at home.

In order to make Performance Management systems self perpetuating consider starting to get better at your own ability to communicate with people over tough things. Look at some managers who are naturally angry people, meet their children you’ll find anger. Then look at how they performance manage and you’ll see it was easy for them, they just had the meeting spoke very loudly and intensely, to the person until they gave in and agreed to everything asked of them. Then they went off and the employee went off to do his/her own thing.

“Problem is they then don’t, and nothing changes”

Many managers in fact believe that people “Cant” change which makes performance management a little tougher. Look at how good you are at your own tougher communication skills, how good are you at telling your best work mate they have screwed up so badly they have almost lost their job?

3) Understand the things that matter

In many cases managers are trying to council a staff member on something they themselves have no idea about.

For example selling 20% more of a product line in an area where the demographic is such that it cant be done. So they coach and coach then find unfortunately that it would have been much better to ask more questions up front, in which case they would have learned more about the problems being faced. The solution may actually be to sell a different product which can often then result in more revenue than that earned prior anyway.

Make sure you get skilled in the use of tough conversations don’t blame your team members, you are the one that needs to be able to coach them, if they are not performing then perhaps you are the one that needs to have a serious look in the mirror first, not them!