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Monthly Archives: July 2013

Are You Engaged? (special guest post!!)

Fret not.  I’ll be posting an article of my own shortly.  I thought this (engagement and finding your happy place) was a good topic for those of you out there trying to survive leadership in one way or another.

Today’s post is brought to you by Dr. Daniel Crosby (@suitedjobs), creator of SuitedJobs.com.  Suited is an easy-to-use online tool that provides “fit scores” for folks who are curious about their company culture and/or job, and it provides suggestions for work that might better suit them. Give it a try!  (And if you don’t know Dr. Daniel Crosby, you really should.  He’s smart and stuff.)

Take it away, Dr. Crosby!

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Those who came to this post expecting to see pictures of cakes, gowns, and tuxedos, keep surfing. For the rest of you…get back to work!

Sadly, if you do not find work to be engaging, involving, and satisfying, you are among the majority. According to the Gallup Organization, less than 30 percent of working Americans are fully engaged at work. As it turns out, your employer isn’t the only one who loses. In this case, being a part of the majority isn’t such a great thing. Employees who are not engaged not only perform worse, but are less satisfied in their work.

I_heart_my_job

Effectively managing your level of engagement on the job starts before you even receive a job offer.

Setting aside your own self-interest is easy when work is interesting and rewarding. Far too many of us justify our investment to a job with the “It pays the bills” attitude. Determining whether your own values and interests align with those of an organization is an integral step in ensuring your own capacity for engagement.

1.       Know your own values.
If the ghost of your job history’s past kidnapped you in the middle of the night, what would you see? Try it out! Imagine yourself at every job you’ve ever had. Yes, every job – even the ones you deleted from your resume years ago. Which job made you feel the most meaningful? Involved? Satisfied? Energized? Counted on? Brainstorm what it was about the job which made you feel a particular way when you worked.

Keep in mind that the job market today is not always conducive to helping job seekers get in touch with their own values. How many times have you squeezed buzz words into your resume or cover letter to try to catch the eye of a prospective employer? Don’t get me wrong: strategically couching your experience can be very important to help a company see the value you could add. But it shouldn’t come at the expense of your sense of self.

2.       Know the company of interest.
Do your homework on a prospective employer to get a feel for the culture. Browsing a company’s website is not enough to learn what you need to know. A website may help you know about the image the company is trying to portray, but it may tell you little about what it would be like to be a part of the organization.

Identify individuals who currently work for the company of interest. If possible, find employees in a similar role and in the office that you would potentially be working in. Then ask away! If you have already done your homework, employment interviews offer you a chance to supplement what you already know. Capitalize on opportunities to ask questions in interviews to learn more about the organizational culture.

As you can see, setting yourself up to be engaged in your work takes a lot of work itself.

Speaking of work…break’s over!  Get back to it!

 

Got some thoughts on Dr. Crosby’s point of view?  Think he’s on to something?  Do you believe he stole my writing style?  Leave a comment, give him a shout-out on Twitter (@suitedjobs), or shoot me a note and I’ll pass it along!

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2013 in Authenticity

 

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10 (really!) things leaders do that make me happy…or at least not cry

In my last post(s), I shared a number of things that leaders do that make me cry.  I figured it would only be fair for me to spread a little love into the universe and share some of the good things that leaders do (believe it or not, good things DO happen in the workplace).

I’ll admit…it was tough to not just write the opposite of the last list.  So I tried to think of some unique behaviors that positively impact the business and its people.  Don’t agree with them?  Think I’m missing a few?  Let me know in the comments!!

  • Has the team’s back: A lot of times, all an employee wants to know is that their manager went to bat for them.  When a leader fights for their team (whether it’s to stand up for an idea, speak up against a questionable policy, or push back when someone else tries to throw an employee under the bus), the team notices.  It makes a difference…and it shows that a leader understands the impact he/she can have on the team.
  • Collaborates across departments: So much of climbing the corporate ladder seems to stem from building an empire and then protecting your little fiefdom.  That’s why it’s so refreshing to see leaders who throw all that aside and work for the betterment of the entire company by reaching out across functional lines and work together towards a common goal.  (*sniff* I promised myself I wouldn’t cry!)
  • Challenges their people…the right way: Since a big part of what I do focuses on people development, I am always so happy when I see a leader willing to take a chance and give an employee a stretch assignment with the right amount of support.  It shows the leader believes in the employee, and it also shows that the leader isn’t willing to let an employee settle for “okay”.  Yay, leader!
  • Listens more than they talk: This is so hard for most people.  We like to talk about ourselves and listen to how darn smart we are.  So a leader who has learned how to wait and truly listen is one worth knowing.  When you listen as a leader, you encourage creativity, build morale, and make yourself smarter becausehappy_kitty you’re allowing your brain some time to process the input it’s receiving.  It’s AMAZING how different a team meeting is when the leader shuts up.
  • Hires people smarter than they are: It’s often said that Bill Gates wasn’t the smartest guy in the room…but he was pretty darn smart at surrounding himself with people who were better than he was at certain things.  (Ballmer it NOT this.  Just so we’re clear.)  A leader who hires smart people shows he/she is knowledgable about his/her limitations and is comfortable with them.  It’s about success…not ego.
  • Has a personality: Sometimes it feels like somewhere along the way it was decided that “executive presence” means being boring.  How wonderfully inspiring – you’re going to bore your people to death, but gosh darn it, didn’t you do it professionally?  I like a leader who isn’t afraid to show you who they are.  It gives others the permission to do the same, and helps build an important rapport and trust that will get a team through the tough times.  So fly a little freak flag now and then!
  • Sets boundaries: Showing personality doesn’t mean hitting every happy hour with the crew and posting buddy pics on Instagram.  I have worked with a number of managers who I call my friend…but while we worked together, there were definite boundaries around what was on or off limits in discussions about work and/or liberties taken.  I respected the heck out of these people while I worked for them (and still do) because their ability to set boundaries protected both them AND me – I knew they wouldn’t try to exploit our friendliness for their gain, just as they knew that I would understand why they couldn’t share everything.
  • Knows the difference between ‘fair’ and ‘the same’: Some of the most effective leaders I’ve seen understand this.  ‘Fair’ means considering each situation on its own merits, and acting accordingly.  ‘The Same’ means managing to the lowest common denominator.  Yes – consistency is important (I think about 1000 HR ladies just fainted, so I need to be clear about this).  But is it fair to make some exceptions now and then for an outstanding employee who has always gone above and beyond and works 55 hours a week without complaint?  I think so.  And here’s a hint: smart leaders seem to instinctively know how to set expectations and hold people to them BEFORE making exceptions.  Interesting, don’t you think?
  • Shows humility: Remember when Barry Sanders (RB for Detroit, for those of you who actively avoid sports) would score a touchdown?  He handed the ball to the official and then walked to the sidelines.  He acted like he’d been there before, would probably be there again…and understood that getting a touchdown meant he was doing his job – no more, no less.  (For more on Barry’s approach, here’s a great article from ESPN.)  Leaders can learn a lot from a guy like Barry Sanders.  Yes, celebrate your wins!  You and your team both deserve a moment of rest and reflection.  But the best leaders are ones who thank those who did the leg work, appreciate those who lent support, and acknowledge that sometimes it’s about being in the right place at the right time.  Just be authentic when you do it, okay?  False humility can do more damage than outright boasting.
  • Brings cupcakes and/or other assorted snacks: People like food.  ‘Nuff said.

So there you have it.  An ACTUAL list of 10 things that leaders do that make me happy.  Agree?  Disagree?  Got something to say?  Share it in the comments!

The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.
~Theodore Roosevelt

 
 

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10 (-ish) things leaders do that make me sad: Part 2

As I said in Part 1, I’m sure there are more than what’s on this list. But come on, I already had to break the post up into two articles because of the length – give me a break!

And now, the thrilling conclusion of my list (in no particular order):

  1. Ignore evidence: Sometimes super smart people can’t see the forest for the trees. Or they already have their mind made up and look for confirmatory “facts”. Or they refuse to admit that a pattern of circumstantial evidence trumps a smoking gun. Whatever it is, it can be very frustrating for a team that perceives its leader as someone who ignores what they see as “obvious” – this is how grumbling starts. Yes, I acknowledge that there is often evidence a leader has that can’t be shared with others. So tell them that. I’m more concerned with a leader who explains away evidence because it’s inconvenient to acknowledge it.
  2. Have trust issues: Ah, trust. That oh-so-important-yet-rarely-mastered element of a highly functioning team. When a leader trusts too much or too little, the balance of the organization can be completely thrown off. I tend to think that trusting too little is a bit more damaging as I’ve seen its impact first hand, but trusting too much can lead to a number of the other behaviors on this list and can also damage a leader’s credibility. Trust is a combination of character and competence – once you’ve figured that out, leaders, you can go from there.
  3. Busad-pandally others / allow bullying: Yes – bullies are often insecure and act out because of fear. I don’t care – they’re still jerks who harm others and kill a culture. If you are a bully, stop it. If you know a bully, stop them. I don’t care how great the results this person might bring to the organization – I can tell you that in the long run, it is NEVER worth it. (SHRM members, check out this article on why bullies thrive at work.)
  4. Think “me first”: One of the more difficult aspects of leadership to wrap one’d mind around is that it’s not about you and your abilities any more – it’s about your team and their results. Some leaders aren’t able to make that leap, and it makes me sad because it robs a team of an opportunity to spread its wings, and it limits a leader’s ability to positively impact a greater part of the organization. It should always be about the team and about the company for leaders. (Oh, and guess what – if you’re an executive, your team is the executive team…not your organization.)
  5. Focus too much on who likes them: The reality is that at any given time, there are dozens of people who don’t like you. In fact, it could be in the hundreds or more, depending on your company’s size and industry. Get over it. USA Today recently shared this fantastic quote from Eleanor Roosevelt – “Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway.” You’re never going to get everyone to like you, so focus more on making the right decision and feel confident you can stand by it for the right reasons.
  6. Don’t develop their people: Shame on you. Your people hunger for growth and thirst for knowledge. You’re unwillingness to develop your people is either lazy, petty, or both. I’ve always told leaders that their job is to train their replacement and/or find a way to help their people reach their full potential. If you don’t want to do that, then don’t be a leader. (By the way, read this post by Mike Figliuolo on becoming a talent exporter – great stuff!)
  7. Play favorites: We know…you love all your children equally, blah blah blah. Oh please – we all have a favorite or two. Some employees are special and you want to help develop them. That’s okay. What’s not okay is BLATANT favoritism – especially when it’s unwarranted and/or based on personal friendship. Leaders who blatantly play favorites put the whole organization in jeopardy because the wrong people are sometimes promoted or otherwise rewarded…and the good employees see that and leave. And that makes me sad.

Well, there you have it. My Top Ten (-ish) Leadership Behaviors that make me sad. Agree? Disagree? Think I missed a few? Let me know! Share in the comments or send me a note.

[Sad Panda graphic respectfully grabbed off the internet because I LOVE that South Park episode!!]

 
 

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10 (-ish) things leaders do that make me sad: Part 1

Okay, this is a list that started out as 10 and then settled somewhere in the vicinity of 14 (I have editing issues), so I apologize for the length. Because it’s so long, I’ve broken it into two separate posts.

There are more of them out there, I’m sure – these are the ones that stand out to me because of the widespread impact they have on an organization.

So here, in no particular order, is the first half of my list:

  1. Fail to acknowledge their impact: Seriously – if you’re a leader, you impact your organization. Pure and simple. No ifs, ands or butts. So when a leader tries to pull the “do as I say, not as I do” crap, it just underscores a certain lack of awareness that leaders need to have to be successful. Don’t be surprised if your team throws each other under the bus when you do the same thing.
  2. Lie: This one’s a pretty obvious no-no, so why do leaders keep doing it? Well, according to research – we ALL lie and cheat…at least a little bit. But some people are LIARS (all caps – I know!) – they misrepresent their skills, their team’s skills, the facts, just about everything. When these lying liars lie, it impacts the business’s ability to make good decisions, destroys trust on all levels, and creates a culture that no one feels good in.
    oh the horror
  3. Avoid conflict: I know. Conflict is icky. People might get upset. Voices might be raised. Eye contact might be made. Here’s the thing – without conflict, there is no debate. With no debate, the wrong decisions might be made because a leader was scared to “rock the boat”. Healthy conflict is ESSENTIAL to innovation and good business. The really annoying bit is that leaders who avoid conflict are often the first ones to say, “I told you so” when something happens that they suspected but didn’t bring up. Boo on them.
  4. Treat “accountability” like a disease: As you know, this is my “thing”. So when I deal with a leader who is unable to embrace accountability, it really puts a little black rain cloud over my head. Lack of accountability comes in many shapes and sizes, but primarily boils down to two big categories – inability to accept accountability for something you did, and inability to hold others accountable for their actions. Both are damaging to the organization. A leader who keeps getting bad outcomes yet doesn’t see how he/she contributed to the situation will forever be blaming outside forces for their issues (unless, of course, it’s a successful outcome – then it’s totally that leader’s skills that did it, the aptly named “self-serving bias”). A leader who doesn’t hold others accountable doesn’t get results, tends to complain about their team a lot, and doesn’t understand why all the A players want to leave.
  5. Talk more than listen: Leaders who listen get amazing results – their employees know they can take anything to their leader and it will be considered. Doesn’t mean it will be implemented, but at least their voice will be heard. Leaders who talk too much are usually GREAT speakers. They are often external processors. All that is well and good, but watch what happens to a team when a leader talks and talks and talks – there’s usually only one voice in meetings, no one is willing to bring things to the leader’s attention, people hesitate when the leader asks for ideas. That’s because people assume the leader’s voice will overrule all others. And that’s not good.
  6. Roll their eyes: Listen, I’m a champion eye-roller. You can hear my eyes rolling from across the country when I think something is ridiculous. And it’s a horrible trait that I’ve worked hard to eliminate. The reality is that eye rolling is the manifestation of contempt – one of the most damaging attitudes. Leaders who roll their eyes are really just treating another person with contempt. They are sending the message that others are inferior to them, that they can’t be bothered to deal with that other person’s issues. It’s often an involuntary movement, but don’t think for a moment the other person didn’t notice.
  7. Gossip: People like gossip. It makes them feel like they are in the “in-crowd” because they have secret information. And even though employees prefer to get their information from their manager, they usually end up getting information through the grapevine, so I get that gossip is a learned habit reinforced by years in the workforce. When leaders gossip, though, it is incredibly damaging. A leader’s words carry weight – speculation and rumor become fact when someone in authority says it. So come on, leaders – show some respect to the absent and stop gossiping.

Want to read more? Continue on to Part 2!

Want to argue my points? Leave a comment.

 

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