Hard Choice Ahead

Hard Choice Ahead

(Images created on roadtrafficsigns.com)

The interview went well. They answered the questions. They were hired. After a few months their performance begins to fade.

You hear from a few people around the office that deadlines are missed. Others are covering the work that is not getting done.

RESENTMENT IS BUILDING

A few of your peers come and talk to you about the issues and what you are doing to correct the problems.

YOU ARE BEING QUESTIONED

Your boss sends you an email asking about your department’s performance.

YOUR TEAM IS UNDER SCRUTINY

There were signs.

Looking back you may be able to see them.

Unfortunately, signs don’t always show up along our journey with bright colors and with enough repetition so they cannot go unnoticed. Failing to see the earlier signs prevented corrective action.

Maybe it was a relationship. Maybe it was a project that has not taken off. The specifics are yours to fill in.

Missing the earlier signs tends to result in one final sign: Hard Choice Ahead.

The choice won’t be easy.

But it needs to be done.

The choice will have consequences.

But it will bring the resolution.

Maybe next time we will become more attuned to watching for those earlier signs.

 

The Decade of Training

Wander Tag(Image Courtesy of Etsy.com)

Through a combination of coaching conversations, and reflections on my own life I have noticed a pattern. Many of us wish we were further along in our lives, careers, or relationships. We speak as if there is some place we should be, but we are behind in the race. We speak with regret and sadness as if we are currently missing out and life would be somehow different.

“I have been in this job for 6 years now and am in a rut and it feels wasted.”

“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, and moved from job to job and didn’t make progress.”

“School was not a focus for me, and I wasted those years.  Now I have to go back again.”

“Just imagine where I would have been if I didn’t squander those years.”

These conversations made me think of that quote from J.R.R. Tolkien. Maybe it is okay to wander for a little while, because those years are not always lost.

Instead of seeing those years (however long it has been) as a waste, maybe a perspective change would help. Perhaps we could view that time as the Decade of Training.

The Decade of Training helped form who we are today.

The Decade of Training helped us create goals and start to pursue them.

The Decade of Training helped us try different things.

The Decade of Training helped us know that failure is part of the journey.

The Decade of Training helped us learn to get back up and keep moving.

Those years in the Decade of Training are not necessarily lost, unless you give up and assume that it is too late to pursue the goals for your life, career (or second career, or third career), or relationships.

Most of us today will live into our 90s. To put that in perspective, when we reach 60, we will still have 1/3 of our lives ahead of us.

The real question is now that you have been trained, what will you do with it?

Inspired Vision or Dictated Standard?

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(Image courtesy of my daughter who loves to snap photos while we drive.)

While working with a group of senior leaders they described some compliance issues especially with those further down within the organization. Procedures were not being followed, routine issues were on the rise, along with a rise in negative attitudes.

Many of these leaders have a behavioral bent towards adherence to and creation of rules, so I pushed in a little with some questions.

Were these particular procedures and rules important?

Yes. This is a high risk endeavor with lives on the line.

Okay, then why is there such pushback on these rules, procedures, and policies?

The culture below us seems to create this tension.

How do you communicate these procedures and rules?

Memos and operating procedures.

With a few more questions, a few additional clues were revealed. The memos, and operating procedures were then implemented by middle or front-line supervisors who didn’t always agree with or embrace the policies. 

Instead of seeing the importance of these procedures, the policies were viewed as a dictated standard instead of part of a larger inspired vision of keeping everyone safe.

Out of context, the constant emphasis on procedures can feed a negative culture. Those leaders needed to inspire a larger vision and continually explain why these small changes added to that overall vision.

As with all leaders, they needed to tell their own story and not always rely on others to explain their inspired vision.

Imagine how many times we try to get our employees, our organizations, our families, our kids, or our friends to follow some rule or procedure, yet it doesn’t resonate or create action. Instead we are left with the grumbling culture around us despite the fact that those rules would help keep everyone safe, ease some difficulty, or just make things run more smoothly.

Maybe we can all learn from these leaders.

Inspire a vision and provide the context for changes and rules. Stay on message about how these changes are important to the organization, the family or the relationship.

If not, simply dictating a standard may not be enough.

Their Own Role In Their Story

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(Image Courtesy of soulseeds.com)

During the final session of a five-part series with leaders, we asked them to create an intentional leadership plan and present it to the rest of the group. Each leader tackled the greatest challenge before them in the next year, and described how they were going to make progress.

This can be an intimidating group. They are the top in their field. They have accomplished a lot. They are all viewed by each other as very successful.

Many outlined how knowing themselves helped lay the foundation for this project. Some had slides and handouts. Others simply stood up and talked. All were open about their own weaknesses.

It was the weaknesses that resonated with me the most. These leaders were pretty hard on themselves. At times, the group would interrupt the presenter, just to encourage them and remind them how incredible they really were, despite those weaknesses.

I was having a conversation with one of them afterwards.

“It’s funny, we see others strengths, and our own weaknesses filtered through some insecurity.”

They replied with something that stuck with me.

“Totally, though I was surprised at some people’s inability to see their own role in their story, including me.”

Their own role in their story. It is so easy to see others as strong, courageous, determined and successful, while discounting yourself.

We see their strengths, but know our weaknesses.

We see their success, but see our failures.

We hear their words, but hear our inner voice.

Where have you discounted your own role in your story? Where have you focused on your weaknesses, while forgetting the strengths?

You have an important role to play in your story and your life.

If you could only see yourself the way we see you. You’d be surprised at how strong and courageous you really look.

Internal Customers

Customer Service Word CloudA few weeks ago, I was teaching a customer service class. One of the exercises split the group into small teams and they were asked to identify all of their customers. The lists grew, and the flip charts filled.

As I walked from group to group, I began to notice something. All of the lists were outwardly focused. I stayed quiet, but kept walking around the room. The lists continued and so did the focus outside of their organization.

Focusing on the outside customer is not a bad thing. We all need the customers outside of our organization. However, once the teams got up to present their lists to the rest of the room, they realized that there was an entire customer base they had missed. They missed their internal customers.

The teams went back to their lists. The lists rapidly grew and so did the realization. These various organizations or departments didn’t exist by themselves. Each team had an array of departments, individuals, or people that they provide customer service within their own operation. Some realized that a majority of their work is providing service to internal customers.

One team in particular had an interesting observation.

“We wonder if our continued focus outside, and essentially ignoring our internal customers, is a major reason why our external customers are not completely satisfied.”

That observation hit home with all of the teams. As we set customer service goals later in the session, each team began with goals to increase their internal customers’ satisfaction first, before tackling the other customers.

As I drove home from this session, I began to make my list of internal customers. The list included my co-workers, other departments, my wife, my kids, my family, and my friends. As I set goals for my external customer’s satisfaction, I also wrote down a few goals for my internal customers.

We all have internal customers. Do we focus on them? Spend a few minutes today making a list of your internal customers. A little focus internally may be just what we need to be better externally.

Finding Your Voice

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(Image Courtesy of Autoblog.com)

When working with a fairly large team of leaders one dominant trait was clear. This team drove hard for results, and wanted to accomplish numerous projects and tasks. The intensity manifested itself during their meetings. In between numerous cross-conversations and interruptions, ideas were discussed, challenged, and hashed out.

If you had an idea, you had to defend it.

If you had a suggestion, you had to sell it.

If you had an objection, you had to voice it.

But, there were other members of this team. Team members who did not share the same dominant drive. In meetings, these team members remained silent. They had no voice at the table.

One of the “silent ones” pulled me aside after the session. We talked about finding their voice amongst the team and the challenges associated with speaking up.

“Your voice is important on this team, and you need to find ways to speak up, especially if you have concerns.”

“That is great for you to say, but I think this team just views me as a speed bump on their road to progress.”

After a few moments of stunned silence, a plan developed. We agreed that during the next meeting, this “silent one” would find their voice, stand up, and speak (shout) out the following statement:

“Speed bumps save lives!”

And they did.

After the initial disruption, a brief explanation, and a few laughs, the dominant team members stopped and listened. The “silent one” found their voice, and offered their insight into the project.

Months later, the team dynamic has shifted. More members have found their voices, and the dominant ones are learning to slow down, listen, and even occasionally ask:

“Are there any speed bumps we should know about?”

Finding your voice, in your organization, meeting, or workplace may require a bold step, but being heard is well worth the effort.

Learning to Lose

Learning to Lose

 

(image courtesy of my daughter: thanks kiddo!)

There are some things that come easy to us. It may be a task, a sport, a relationship, a job that we are either naturally gifted at, or has just gone well for us. Nothing about this was particularly hard or required a lot from us, but we had success.

The success can lull us into thinking that if we continue the same level of effort, the same level of accomplishment will be ours. As if success is a simple machine and as long as we keep feeding it the same parts, the product just pops out the other side.

Something happens.

The other team wins.

Our relationship fails.

We get fired.

We lose.

The loss hits us hard and we scramble to figure out why.

We blame ourselves. Sometimes we blame others.

We struggle and get back up.

We play more games, and don’t always win.

We meet more people, and don’t always find the one.

We apply for more jobs, and they don’t call us or they pick someone else.

The old stuff that made us a success is no longer enough.

So…

We train harder.

We work on our stuff.

We refine our skills.

After some time passes, we begin to win again.

We become better players.

We develop deeper relationships.

We discover better careers.

Learning to lose reminded us that what was good enough for yesterday won’t get you through tomorrow. Success can get you pretty far, but learning to lose challenges you to become great.