Decisions, Teams and Planning are all parts of whole. Picking up where I left off in my last blog post, here are several recent articles that make great points better than I can.
From a great article about a theme that I repeat frequently during strategic planning engagements To Move Ahead You Have to Know What to Leave Behind
“Decisions are the most fundamental building blocks of successful change in our organizations, our teams, and our careers…Avoid Changing By Addition. The Latin root of the word "decide" is caidere which means "to kill or to cut." (Think homicide, suicide, genocide.) Technically, deciding to do something new without killing something old is not a decision at all. It is merely an addition…When team leaders fail to decide which old directions are going to be sacrificed in service of the new direction, the tradeoff doesn't magically disappear. It simply slides down the ladder…” To Lead Is To Decide. The one thing great leaders have in common is their willingness to decide when others could
From How to Make Good Decisions ... Faster
“Specifically, here's how you might apply the 80/20 Rule to your next decision. First, identify the top five pieces of information you need to make the decision. Then select which four of these five are highest in priority. Once you've gathered this information, you will have roughly 80 percent of the information you need. The last 20 percent is less important. Now harness all of your experience and your intuition to fill in the blanks and make a great decision--faster than before.”
From: Three Qualities Every Leader Needs to Succeed on a Team by favorite author Peter Bregman
"In some ways, a leadership team is no different than any long-term relationship. If you want to be a good partner — personally or professionally — you need to be three things:
1. Gifted. Simply put, leaders need to be good at what they do…need to be gifted communicators and
gifted learners, mastering conflict without being offensive, and adapting to their own changing roles as the organization grows.
2. Game. They need to have the courage to take risks…The kind of confidence that allows them to be
questioned by others — even take blame and feel threatened — without becoming defensive...
3. Generous. They need to put the good of the company above their own department, team, or agenda. They must be good-hearted, mutually respectful, and gracious, resisting the urge to dominate, take the upper hand, or shine at the expense of others..."
From: 10 Research-Backed Steps To Building A Great Team
Great post from a new Favorite Blog, and I can’t do it justice here, so please read. But my favorite of the 10 is “Research shows a team really is only as strong as its weakest link. Team trust is not determined by an average of the members, it’s at the level of the least trusted member”
We are presenting a workshop on Creating a Strategic Plan that Works! on September 9 at the Foundation Center at the Carnegie Library in Oakland (Pittsburgh). Come and learn about:
• The real benefits of doing a strategic plan
• When you shouldn’t do a strategic plan and what you might need instead
• The 5 things you need to do to create a plan that you can actually execute
• The planning process and when you should or shouldn’t hire a consultant
$20, call 412-622-6277 to register
Life got a little hectic and it has been a while since I have posted. There are many great resources I meant to share with you - so here is a mixed Spring Bouquet of ideas and articles. My next post will be the promised, “How to Engage and Develop the Board You Have” the follow up to my last blog on “Recruiting Board Members.”
Linked In Endorsements and Advice
I love LinkedIn. I was one of the very first early adopters and have found it to be a valuable networking, recruiting and information-sharing tool. Lest you think that I am social media butterfly, you need to know that I just joined Facebook last year with a Business Page, and I do not tweet, pin or poke. I am also proud to say that of my almost 600 contacts, I have met, been referred to, or have a good reason to accept the invitation for most of them. I admit there are a few strangers who I agreed to connect to because they are obviously part of my network, or because I feel like it the right thing to do (e.g. The young, just starting out person who is looking for a nonprofit career). But I have a few pet peeves that I must express and some advice to pass along.
The first is the invitation to connect that comes to me from someone I don’t know that includes only the standard LinkedIn phrase “I’d like to add you to my professional network.” This forces me to wrack my memory if I have met them in one of my past jobs, search to see who we know in common, look for some connection to nonprofits that are the majority of my clients, or guess at their true motivation for wanting to link to me (candidly, financial planners and salespeople, please know that I assume the worst). My advice? If you want me to accept your invitation, tell me why – and please know that I am one of the people on LinkedIn who is selective about exposing my network to strangers so the reason must be honest and compelling.
The other, and newer, pet peeve is the inappropriate use of endorsements. As someone who was initially happy with how easy it was to endorse those people I felt deserved it, I now consider it one of the most poorly thought out ideas of a company who has rarely made bad decisions. Now I get questions all the times from friends about endorsement etiquette. The biggest question, “if someone endorses me do I have to endorse them back?” (The answer IMHO is absolutely not). Here is an article that describes the problem and predicts how the overuse of endorsements has devalued them: Why LinkedIn Endorsements Will Vanish. And here is an article that provides advice on how to manage and give endorsements: How To Make The Most Of LinkedIn Endorsements.
Criticism, Praise, and Performance
While conducting management training and coaching I often find myself responding to questions about how to handle employee feedback with, “it depends.” It seems like such an unhelpful answer, but it really does depend. For instance giving constructive critical feedback depends on the situation, the employee’s style, whether this is the first time the behavior has happened, the impact of the problem, and/or the employee’s willingness to accept criticism. Here are three recent articles that all offer different perspectives on criticism and praise.
In the The Ideal Praise-to-Criticism Ratio we learn that we need to use both positive feedback to let people know when they're doing well, and offer constructive comments to help them when they're off track if we want to improve performance But even more interesting is that there is an ideal ration of praise to criticism:
“The factor that made the greatest difference between the most and least successful teams, Heaphy and Losada found, was the ratio of positive comments ("I agree with that," for instance, or "That's a terrific idea") to negative comments ("I don't agree with you" "We shouldn't even consider doing that") that the participants made to one another. (Negative comments, we should point out, could go as far as sarcastic or disparaging remarks.) The average ratio for the highest-performing teams was 5.6 (that is, nearly six positive comments for every negative one). The medium-performance teams averaged 1.9 (almost twice as many positive comments than negative ones.) But the average for the low-performing teams, at 0.36 to 1, was almost three negative comments for every positive one.”
The Delicate Art of Giving Feedback starts with this idea, “To be an effective manager, you need to be skilled at giving out both praise and criticism. While praise is easy to give, it is far more challenging and unpleasant to criticize your employees. Yet the practice of management requires you to occasionally show employees where they need to improve. Thus, it is vital for managers to learn how and when to give negative feedback.” Then the Author warns that criticism should always be given in private, preferably beginning with the phrase, ‘I’d like to give you some feedback.”
The reverse of this argument is made in How Criticizing in Private Undermines Your Team. The author suggests that in a team setting limiting criticism to private conversation undermines accountability.
“Is your leadership team a real team — one in which members are interdependent with each other for meeting team goals? If so, they should also be accountable to each other for working together to achieve those goals,including how they rely on, work with, and make decisions together. Yet when you "criticize in private" for behavior that occurred in a team meeting or affects the team, you undermine team members' accountability to each other. You send the message that team members are accountable only to you, not to the team. You also send the entire team the message that they don't need to hold each other accountable — you'll do it for them. In short, you shift accountability from the team to you.”
All 3 articles make compelling arguments, so I guess when it comes to criticism… it depends.
Adam Grant’s Research on Giving describes a way to increase employee productivity, increase your Board’s ability to fundraise, and can help you get ahead in your career.
I am someone who believes is karma, paying-it-forward, that the best way to get business is to first do good work, and that refusing to meet with a job-seeker will bring bad luck resulting in some future career catastrophe. I also believe that when meeting with people or networking, I am more successful in the long run, if I focus on help them versus how they can help me.
So, I accept the request to meet with job seekers, even if it means I have to use precious client development time to do it. In this great (but really long) New York Times article: Is Giving the Secret to Getting Ahead? I learned research shows that I am right to do so. I’m also reminded why employees are motivated by work that has a meaningful, positive impact on others. These employees are not just happier than those who don't see their jobs as impactful; they are vastly more productive, too. Here is a shorter article on that topic from the same author: The Open Secret To Motivating Employees.
Of interest to my nonprofit readers who frequently ask how to better motivate their Boards and Staff to do more fundraising, consider this research from the same author: Thinking About Giving, Not Receiving, Motivates People to Help Others. Even better listen to this podcast from Stanford’s Center Social for Innovation: Philanthropy and Fundraisers' Motivation that allows Grant to describe his research.
Do you have a question on leadership, management, teams or any aspect of Nonprofit Management? Send it to me and I promise I’ll answer it to the best of my ability.
In this last post of the year we gather up some great resources to help you and your organization forge goals and plans for the new year. We wish you all a peaceful and warm holiday season and we look forward to working with you in 2013.
Growing New Types of Teams
In this article, and new book, on Teaming in the 21st Century, the author makes several interesting points about teams and accountability. The nature of teams and teamwork in changing and requires a more fluid approach. “"We've seen fewer stable, well-designed, well-composed teams, simply because of the nature of the work, which is more uncertain and dynamic than before. As a means for getting the work done, we've got to focus on the interpersonal processes and dynamics that occur among people working together for shorter durations.". Because of this, “people have to get good at teaming"—reaching out, getting up to speed, establishing quickly who they are and what they bring, and trying to make progress without a blueprint. The skill set involves interpersonal awareness, skillful inquiry, and an ability to teach others what you know.”
Leaders of team must make sure that people involved in collaboration understand the importance of interdependency and communication. Leaders must also be careful not to penalize the well-intentioned failure of the group. However, accountability must be present for the team to perform, “But not coming down hard doesn't mean coming down soft. "Psychological safety is not about being nice; it's not about letting people off easy and being comfortable. It's about the courage to be direct and holding high expectations of each other, understanding that uncertainty and risk are part of the work, as is the occasional failure. A leader's challenge is to set a climate where psychological safety, accountability, and pressure to do the best possible work exist together.”
Growing Leaders and Managers
Today’s mailbox brought this great summation from the American Management Association of how we move through the roles of Doer, Manager, and Leader in our Career (and sometimes by the hour). I think not recognizing these changing roles gets us in the most trouble. I’d suggest you read the article, but here are a few highlights:
Doers are the PRODUCERS of work. Managers create a positive ENVIRONMENT. Managers exist in a political, competitive universe that is concerned with relationships as much as the work. Leaders invent the FUTURE. Leaders often find themselves alone, going out ahead of the crowd to see what’s coming, to greet the new. Doers coordinate. Managers collaborate. Leaders originate. Once you get the distinction between the three roles it is important to understand what’s required from each role.
“One: You need to know which cycle you’re in, for you can experience them all throughout your career. Two: All day long, in any one position, you may need to follow, then manage people and projects, and, more rarely, lead. One moment we dig in and work . . . the follower. The next, we direct and motivate .. . the manager. Sometimes we initiate and persuade . . . the leader. Three: No one is a leader all the time. Trying to spend all your time in the leader mode is not much better than missing it altogether. Leadership is not a full-time role for anyone—not even CEOs or presidents. A leader initiates and then propels change forward. Change has an expiration date. No one wants to live in such flux, and no one wants the burden of leading all the time; leaders are happy to revert to managing when they can. Though there are always overlapping duties, each cycle determines what others expect of you and how they rate you.”
While we are on the topic of Management, check out this article Lessons from a Reluctant Manager from Fortune. Where a 20-something provides some excellent lessons she’s learned, the hard way, about being a manager
A new study from the Center for Creative leadership, Emerging Leadership in Nonprofit Organizations: Myths, Meaning and Motivations, tackles a topic near and dear to me. “The demands of the nonprofit sector have not been matched by investment in leadership talent. Equipping people to lead through change and challenge has been largely overlooked. Nonprofits rarely have the structures or funding for providing development opportunities for employees. Long-established leaders often hold tightly to their roles, and most funders don't place a high priority on building a leadership pipeline.” Because of this, "The sector is beginning to see the implications of this neglect," says Karen Dyer, director of CCL's Education and Nonprofit sector. "We have a capacity gap that will require significant investments and new approaches to attract, keep and grow effective, creative nonprofit leaders." The study provides suggestions for leaders and funders on how to close the gap.
And from the Nonprofit Quarterly we get this article: Beyond Financial Oversight: Expanding the Board’s Role in the Pursuit of Sustainability. The article includes some key questions to help your board move from the role of oversight to dealing with your financial sustainability. This is a must read for Executive Directors, Board Chairs and all Board members.
Faith In Humanity
So much heartbreaking news in the last few weeks has left me sad and helpless; fearful that there is so little I can do to tackle such huge issues as gun control, mental illness, poverty, and social justice. And then I viewed this (warning get out your tissue box): 26 Moments That Restored Our Faith In Humanity This Year.
Peace to all of you.
This post is a roundup of some recent articles that didn’t fit into any of my other themes. Hopefully there is a little something here for all of my diverse readers. I am grateful to you all for your readership and support this last year. Have a great Thanksgiving and stay tuned after the Holiday for some exciting news for Bonner Consulting.
Planning allows you to focus on strategic priorities but is the victim of...lack of planning
From Stop Procrastinating & Plan for 2013:“Sadly, as the executives of these companies try to navigate uncertain times, they will wonder the following: Why aren't we hitting our goals? Why aren't we all on the same page? Why can't our people execute without having to ask questions at every turn? Why aren't we more prepared? The answer is simple...procrastination…. It's very difficult to make the transition from working IN the business to working ON the business. But one thing is for sure. If you don't start prioritizing strategic planning you will forever be letting the business run you. The sooner you make your strategy and alignment a priority, the sooner you'll achieve goals effectively and create efficiencies that will free up time and resources in your company… Here are the first three steps. 1. Set a date for a 2-day planning retreat before the end of the year. 2. Hire a facilitator or a coach. 3. Engage your team.
Personal Success Depends on Your Ability to Sell
As someone who consistently claims to not be a great salesperson, I have to admit that no matter what your job or level is, the ability to sell your ideas is a on the top 5 list of personal success competencies. Thankfully, if using the definition of selling below – I’m not as bad as I say! From 8 Things Remarkably Successful People Do: “I once asked a number of business owners and CEOs to name the one skill they felt contributed the most to their success. Each said the ability to sell. Keep in mind selling isn't manipulating, pressuring, or cajoling. Selling is explaining the logic and benefits of a decision or position. Selling is convincing other people to work with you. Selling is overcoming objections and roadblocks. Selling is the foundation of business and personal success: knowing how to negotiate, to deal with "no," to maintain confidence and self-esteem in the face of rejection, to communicate effectively with a wide range of people, to build long-term relationships...”
Importance (and great example) of Nonprofit Storytelling
This weekend I was privileged to hear two very thoughtful Program Officers from a large local Foundation talk about how nonprofits can most effectively make a pitch and receive funding. They began by stating that nonprofits must clearly understand the foundations funding priorities, which is easily done with a visit to the foundation’s website. If the funding proposal is “clearly” within the funding priority then a compelling story is needed. (Big no-no is to make your mission or program "stretch" to fit). The Program Officers acknowledged that for many foundations the trend is to look at outcomes, impacts and measures first and story second. However, for the decision makers at this foundation the emphasis is first on a compelling story – which then must include some sense of current or anticipated outcomes. Similarly for most individual donors research suggests the compelling story is the key to increased donations.
We’ve heard before the importance of a good story. The story doesn’t have to be complex or highly produced but does require a good storyteller (another often overlooked personal success skill) and a clear narrative or storyline. Here is an amazing Nonprofit You Tube Video with a compelling “before and after”storyline: 100kHomesYear2.
I am currently working with 3 different clients on some aspect of setting employee performance or personal development goals and how these will be used to measure and reward employees. While all 3 organizations have slightly different issues they, as well as many of the organizations I have worked with in the past, struggle with setting the right employee performance goals, determining how to measure them, and getting employees to partcipate in setting goals.
It often surprises me how strongly employees at all levels resist setting their goals and resent when goals are set for them. It seems to me that by suggesting and/or participating in your own goal setting you have the opportunity to manage expectations and focus your work or personal development goals on something that is important, relevant, and realistic. If you have one ambitious, career-oriented, bone in your body you do what I describe below already and often unconsciously. Ask yourself: “What is the one really big thing I can do, learn, and show that will get me ____ (a promotion, more money, visibility, or responsibility). Who will I involve in helping me to set or reach this goal? Whose ‘buy-in” do I need? How will I measure the goal and know if I am making progress? How will I make sure my progress and focus is visible to my boss?
Earlier in the year I wrote an article on How to Create an Executable Strategic Plan that described principles from Stephen Covey’s Book, The 4 Disciplines of Execution. Many of the points I made in the article are just as relevant to personal goal setting, such as:
Recently several articles have described the role of confidence in leadership. The articles, excerpted below, detail how too much confidence/assertiveness result in the perception of a leader as an egotistical jerk (men) or aggressive bitch (women) who does not play well with others. Definite career derailers in most organizations! A lack of confidence or aggressiveness, if perceived as shy, fearful, indecisiveness, or overly accommodating, is equally harmful to a leader’s presence and effectiveness.
Discovering the right level of confidence for you requires getting objective feedback and developing your self-awareness. As one of the authors writes, the key to learning how to be more appropriately confident and assertive is to understand the organizational context, assess your behavior, and then make the appropriate adjustments.
De-Constructing Executive Presence
Author John Beeson in this HBR article says, “executive presence is ... boils down to your ability to project mature self-confidence, a sense that you can take control of difficult, unpredictable situations; make tough decisions in a timely way and hold your own with other talented and strong-willed members of the executive team.”
Beeson asserts that executive presence can be developed — if you have “a baseline of self-confidence and a willingness to deal with the unpredictable situations that go with the territory at the executive level.” He suggests that you, “start by addressing the basics. Find a couple of trusted people who will give you unvarnished feedback…”
“Most important, find your voice as an executive: that is, identify your assets and leverage them to the hilt. Some people are naturally gregarious and can fill a room with their personality. Others…rely on their listening ability, sense of timing, and ability to maintain their composure when others get emotional.“
How to Be Assertive (Without Losing Yourself)
In another HBR article, author Amy Gallo declares, “Managers need some degree of self-confidence to be effective.” "The right amount of assertiveness, respect for others, and intelligence is what makes a great leader," says Lauren Zander, co-founder and chairman of the Handel Group.
"There's a sweet spot for assertiveness. If you're below the range, you're not going to get your way. If you're above it, you're not getting along with others," says Daniel Ames, a professor of management at Columbia Business School. “Assertiveness is not universally understood to be a positive trait. Before you make changes to your behavior, know the context you are working in. Does the culture — national, regional, or organizational — truly value forcefulness? Or do you work in a situation where a persuasive, quiet approach is sometimes more esteemed?”
Echoing a theme from my recent posts on Women and Negotiation, the article points out that whether your assertiveness will be rewarded also depends on your gender. Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, author of How Women Mean Business warns that women who ask for what they want are often described as "bitchy and aggressive." Ames agrees: "The range of latitude for women is smaller for what they can get away with," he says. Consider the implications of your behavior before you alter it.
Why Every CEO Needs a Coach
Cited in this Psychology Today article, a study published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision, concluded one characteristic of powerful and successful leaders is high levels of self-confidence. “Unfortunately, the researchers say, the higher the self-confidence, the less likely these leaders are open to advice and feedback. They also make the point that powerful leaders seldom get useful feedback in their organizations. Subordinates are loath to give bad news or critical feedback.”
The article’s main point is that lonely and stressed out CEO’s often benefit from a coach that can provide them with objective feedback and perspective. This is especially true because among all of the reasons why CEOs fail, most have to do with hubris, ego, and a lack of emotional intelligence. “Call it overconfidence or ego, but powerful and successful leaders often distrust or feel they don’t need advice from anyone.”
“Good leaders make people around them successful. They are passionate and committed, authentic, courageous, honest and reliable. But in today's high-pressure environment, leaders need a confidante, a mentor, or someone they can trust to tell the truth about their behavior. They rarely get that from employees and infrequently from board members.”
In an excellent article on today’s HBR blog, the Discipline of Less, Greg McKeown points out how both individuals and organizations are more successful when they have clear focus. He describes the 4 phases of what he calls the “clarity paradox”:
1: When we really have clarity of purpose, it leads to success.
2: When we have success, it leads to more options and
3: When we have increased options and opportunities, it leads
to diffused efforts.
4: Diffused efforts undermine the very clarity that led to our
success in the first place.
In my strategic planning work with organizations, I often find myself reminding the participants that Planning is not necessarily a synonym for growth. Scaling down activities (or eliminating them) may often be the most appropriate planning decision. Thus having the discipline to “do less”will lead to greater success.
In my personal career, I have too often been lured toward a job that I knew was not in line with my goals and needs, but the flattery of being asked, or
the money or security offered, outweighed my instincts. A wise counselor once told me that I needed to “beware the seduction of opportunity.” I often think of that advice when coaching individuals or planning with organizations.
In his article, McKeown goes on to make this case for the “disciplined pursuit of less” both in your career as well as in organizational planning. “Not just haphazardly saying no, but purposefully, deliberately, and strategically eliminating the nonessentials. Not just once a year as part of a planning meeting, but constantly reducing, focusing and simplifying. Not just getting rid of the obvious time wasters, but being willing to cut out really terrific opportunities as well. Few appear to have the courage to live this principle, which may be why it differentiates successful people and organizations from the very successful ones.”