It would be nice to always be the customer in Intracompany relationships because then we would get the kind of service we want from our internal departments. While sounding right and having some level of appeal, this belief is what creates cultures with sour relationships and turf wars. The truth is, unless some sort of a standalone revenue-generating entity, all internal departments are more like monopolies that have limited resources and in need of help to meet objectives—that “help” includes a reasonable budget and the teamwork from staff members who seek their services. A customer mindset waits to be served, while team members roll up their sleeves and assist to produce needed results. If I’m the type of husband who expects my wife to serve me hand and foot, chances are I’ll soon be watching Monday night football alone in a small apartment. If on the other hand I see her as my complement, and I serve and help her, focusing on her needs, we will have a real marriage. Mismatches in relationships cause dysfunction. Coaching questions: Where in your organization might you see yourself as a customer? How can you adjust to become more like a team member?
Dean Harbry’s Leadership Influence Blog
System irrationalities reveal themselves when we think, plan and build processes one way, then get unexpected outcomes as a result. One clear and predictable example is the way in which we incentivize people. If we hope, for example, to engage directors who will develop next generation leaders through a deliberate mentoring approach as part of a succession process, but only incentivize them with financial reward for increasing business, then we shouldn’t be surprised when no leaders emerge to replace them. It’s human nature. We will reap what we reward. Imagine Navy Seals who are trained to guard and protect themselves only, when under attack. How effective will they be at achieving complex missions? They are rather shaped with engrained thinking to protect their companions first and worry about themselves last. They accomplish almost superhuman feats as a result. As professional leaders, we can have access to similar results by utilizing the appropriate human incentives. When organizational leaders understand and employ the secrets of selflessness, true teamwork will occur that will have lasting, sustainable corporate impact. Coaching questions: Where are you experiencing system irrationalities and getting less than desirable results? What inspirationally-based human incentives can you apply to cultivate hoped-for outcomes?
Managing people is a profession, not simply a position one holds. It’s an awesome and fearful responsibility that will leave a lasting impact on the lives and families of staff members. Managers will help, hurt, or harm others as a function of their behavior. Understanding this truth should make us think twice before accepting a job that oversees people. Unfortunately, becoming proficient in the use of inspirationally-based, human incentives is not something we learn in school—it’s usually acquired through mentors (usually poor examples themselves) and on-the-job experimentation. The responsibilities of a seasoned, professional manager include: creating and administering an internal justice system (team covenants), developing staff members’ unrealized potential (delegation), and leveraging the output of the team to achieve corporate goals. Viewing and treating people as mere utilities is evidence that a manager is falling short in his professional responsibilities, negatively impacting staff members. Professional managers employ relationship-building, human incentives to cultivate people and grow companies using wholesome influence skills. Anything less is amateur in nature and will create undesirable results on company performance. Coaching questions: How seriously do you take the managing role? What shifts in mindset may be important for you to become a better manager?
There are different types of relationships in the work setting: manager, peer, vendor, direct reports, etc. And, each relationship has a specific context that creates a unique way of relating. Some people hesitate to engage in friendships at work as they believe it confuses the managerial role. If one’s view of friendship means being nice, never confronting, and maintaining peace at all costs, then perhaps it’s true. If friendship rather means clear communication, speaking the truth in love, and disagreeing when necessary to maintain unity and alignment, then this is transferrable. Relationship defined is an expression of human connection that can look different depending on role, without having artificial constraints. Just because someone is married doesn’t mean they can’t have wholesome relationships with other members of the opposite sex. All business-related relationships should be characterized by love (willing the highest good for another), compassion (even when discipline is required), communication (speaking openly and directly), to be wholesome, fruitful, and productive. Humans have the same needs regardless of the context. Old-school thinking that blocks out friendship at work is missing the mark. Coaching questions: How would you characterize your relationships at work? How might you bring more humanity into the equation?
In client service, it’s important to realize that there will always be challenges to convention, including requests that are outside of the box, even with basic products and services. In these situations a blind conformist, led by rules alone, will tell you what can’t be done. A flexible conformist however, will always try to find ways to accommodate customer needs using principles, intuition and creativity to satisfy customer requests. They will gravitate towards the spirit of the law using their own judgment and insight, versus defaulting to the letter of the law, which will reliably communicate negative and demeaning messages. Those engaged with a blind conformist will likely experience disappointment and lose brand loyalty. Sadly, bad news travels faster than good news when people feel mistreated. The fruits of a flexible conformist are loyalty and customer satisfaction, even if some degree of denial is ultimately required. Any attempt to help is always appreciated. Professionals who understand humanity and value customer relationships are strong in empathy, putting themselves in other’s shoes to gain needed insight to relate. Coaching questions: Do you trend toward blind conformity or flexible conformity when dealing with customers? What changes would help to build your brand loyalty?
One of the greatest gifts we can give others is to listen deeply, both to what’s being said as well as what’s not being said. Stating back what we’ve heard, in different and more succinct terms, is an indication that we’ve truly listened and will oftentimes create clarity for the one who is sharing their thoughts. Since 80% of communication is nonverbal in nature, we must also pay close attention to body language as it offers more clues about what one is truly thinking even though they may not be able to articulate in words. Listening also offers managerial benefits, as it informs our questioning by providing insights and enhancements to our understanding enabling better and more directed questions as we seek to determine root causes to issues and behavior. Someone who listens well stays in the moment, refuses to be distracted by their own thoughts, and uses the language of the other person to find an even better follow-up question to ask in response. This level of listening promotes depth and intimacy in relationships and provides a foundation for improved communications. Coaching questions: How well do you listen? What one step can you take to improve your listening skills?
Organizational leaders face complex challenges to integrate people, process, systems and resources to deliver firm products and services. Teamwork, collaboration and system-wide thinking are needed, yet many leaders fail here because they are not effectively employing professional management skills. Strong managerial leaders develop system-wide thinking in others when they empower people to think and act. They do so by utilizing appropriate levels of freedom to ensure quality of output, all resulting from a big picture view. It involves inculcating a high-level vantage point so that direct reports “think it and see it,” before they have to be told. Delegation is used as a tool to create system-wide thinking using employees’ brains as “scratch space.” They push the thinking down and insist that their people to do the critical thinking and problem-solving. They will ask intense, penetrating questions rather than simply providing answers when polled by their staff. This process may take more time initially, but will pay huge dividends over time. Coaching questions: What deliberate steps are you taking to develop system-wide thinking in your employees? How can you create a laboratory in their minds by asking questions, running scenarios, and insisting that they process complex issues?
Mistakes can be both helpful and hurtful. The advantage regarding mistakes is that they are a method of learning where we acquire judgment and develop insights to promote good decision-making. If we never make mistakes, we’ll never really learn. This is why scientists have laboratories. Bad mistakes, however, are often characterized by people’s actions that are rooted in neglect or some form of failing to pay attention to an established process. So jumping out of an airplane without properly folding our parachute would be a bad mistake, but to prevent a child from learning how to ride a bike because he’ll skin his knee would be avoiding needed mistakes in order to learn important skills. As organizational leaders we must distinguish between the two and create protected environments or laboratories where mistakes can be made and people can learn. A mistake-free environment may feel safe to the leader, but it will stifle risk-taking and creativity, all important ingredients of innovation. Boundaries and process protects us from bad mistakes, but laboratories and cultural covenants help us to produce good ones. Coaching questions: What are your cultural messages around making mistakes? What can you do to promote learning while avoiding unintended consequences?
Staff Care. We often think of our hired staff simply as the needed resource to accomplish the work, utilizing their skills to achieve corporate goals. All true. But, as it turns out, they are human beings with all kinds of needs, including social, emotional, physical and developmental in order to bring their whole selves to work. If we hope to access their full potential it requires that we, as professional leaders, learn how to meet those needs to whatever degree is contextually appropriate. Imagine your young children being placed in a Kindergarten class where there was no recess, only work. Humans of all ages have the same needs that are demonstrated in young children, only not quite to the same degree. Research shows that people who fail to address life balance and personal self care issues are not long term, sustainable resources. They overspend themselves to everyone’s detriment. Skilled professional leaders know how to mix and serve the three ingredients of staff care: education, inspiration and entertainment. It ranges from wholesome managerial pressure when required, to lighthearted exchanges where relationship and rapport are established. Coaching questions: What’s missing in your environment? Where do you need to adjust to address staff care?
Consistency. Organizational leaders who possess consistency are more likely to produce an enduring, sustainable business. Consistency is the ability to maintain focus on the mission (what Jim Collins calls “the hedgehog”) and to cultivate hoped-for outcomes by refining and retooling the program, and, by providing a stable environment over a long period of time. Those plagued with a constant appetite for change, drifting from core activities, will never grow substantially, and will undermine corporate messaging and branding as well as internal morale. As with agricultural best practices, having good seed is one thing, but if one is lacking mineral-rich soil, fertilizer, appropriate amounts of water, and pest control, the chances for a good crop are slim. The only way to ensure a good crop is to have a good farmer. The internal qualities associated with consistency are emotional balance, determination and perseverance. Leaders with emotional balance produce a steady and predictable culture, absent of drama; determination means that even when it’s popular to try something new, a professional leader will stick to tradition and convention and persevere, applying principles of innovation, not change. Coaching questions: How do you reflect consistency in your domain? What would make you a better “farmer”?
You are currently browsing the archives for the Blog category.