Many people expect their boss and company culture will bring them along and help them integrate well into the inner workings of their new organization. Not so fast.
Everyone has a manager/boss. Even if you are in business on your own, someone is out there plucking the puppet strings of your career. I work with a myriad of people who have incredible success and terrible issues with their manager. Some bosses are insane, some are saints, some are psychotic, and some are surprisingly normal.
One area I find where most people begin to see the cracks appear in their relationship concerns how they communicate with their manager.
Healthy, regular communication will always ameliorate any potential situation, ensure problems are addressed, and steps are taken in a reasonable amount of time.
Things go wrong when people forget two-way communication resembles a tug-of-war with a huge rope. When one side doesn’t communicate and pulls away, the other side needs to fill the void, take up the slack, and increase their communication.
So how do you do it? Here are some simple rules:
- Regular — schedule it on their calendar; meet with them (face to face) to discuss what’s happening.
- Short — make it a 10-15 minute meeting; the shorter, the better — focus on the tactical.
- Stick to business — cover what you’re working on and discuss next steps. Use an update sheet (1 page) to document what is discussed.
Here’s a great email/paper template I offer to my clients (Rule: Only 1 Page):
1. Accomplishments (from last week):
- Accomplishment 1 (keep each bullet point short)
- Accomplishment 2 (keep it less than 5-7 words)
- Accomplishment 3 (easy to scan)
2. Activities for this week:
- Project 1 (projects to be completed this week)
- Project 2
- Project 3
3. Long-Term Projects (in the near future):
- Project – Due Date (must have due dates)
- Project – Due Date
- Project – Due Date
4. Concerns & Issues:
- Issue 1 (talk about obstacles)
- Issue 2 (come with solutions)
- Issue 3
This template allows you to document your progress and ensure there are no crossed expectations about what you do and what your manager wants you to do. In addition, when you have 52 of these sheets in a binder, reviews go so much easier because you have a syllabus of accomplishments to choose from.
If you meet regularly with your manager (say weekly) for 10-15 minutes and use the recommended template, your relationship will strengthen and soar.
I've even suggested this template for attorneys to keep their clients up-to-date on their progress. It actually helps when their retainer runs out and the client asks 'what have you been doing?' — you now have a weekly documented process to bypass these uncomfortable conversations (and ultimately when you discount your fees because they're angry).
What do you use to update your manager/client on your progress?
Okay, 'Complexify' is not a real word. But it should be. Because we all complexify our careers, our business, and our lives with excess baggage.
Most of my time in corporate and coaching is spent wading through this morass of baggage to get to that shiny nugget of an idea.
For years, I was the one in the meeting trying to understand a needlessly complex presentation or product. All because the presenter was trying to impress their audience by making the communication more complex. They used lots of big words. Volumes of charts. Slide upon slide of bullets.
So here are my commandments:
1. Complex communication is lazy. Usually, if people complexify their presentation, it's because they haven't thought the entire presentation through. They haven't put themselves in the audience's seat to view the presentation. In fact they add slides, graphs, bullets, and garbage to their communication because they are afraid of missing anything — so they just add everything. It's like going on a trip — you're afraid of not having the right clothes — so you bring them all.
Easy Fix: Edit, edit, edit. You need to revise constantly with an eye to shortening your communication - make it more concise - keep it clean and simple.
2. Complex communication doesn't make you look smarter. So many executives and business owners try to be clever with their communication. They feel their college and grad school education is best portrayed with a complex and mellifluous vocabulary. The more the better. They will happily drop a report or presentation with 75 slides to give the effect they are a hard worker — just like in school when they dropped a 20 page paper on the teacher's desk. I'm not advocating 'dumbing it down' — just simplifying it a bit. By the way, the teacher hated you for it.
Easy Fix: Keep your self esteem in check — people will appreciate direct, simple language and direction over complex and fuzzy information. Today, most people recognize and admire people who keep things simple and straightforward. Remember, the Gettysburg Address (263 words in length) was delivered in two minutes. That's your goal.
3. Complex communication works against you. You might not know it, but many people probably walk out of your presentations with more questions they came in with. Are many of your email directions followed up with multiple questions? Do people on your team go in the wrong direction frequently with their duties? It might be time for you to review HOW you speak to them — they might not totally understand your intentions.
Easy Fix: At the end of a presentation or meeting with staff, ask: "Any questions? Is there anything you want me to go over again? Is everyone clear?" Be earnest and push them for questions — and don't give them a mental demerit if they do ask a question. That's your job — to clearly inform, direct and motivate your troops.
POST YOUR QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS BELOW
P.S. Do you need to de-complexify your life? Let’s talk. I’ve worked with people from all over the world who wanted to take aggressive steps in their life — contact me to schedule a complimentary session.
You’re moving on up.
Making your way up the ladder, dodging bullets, using every last bit of your intellect and motivation to deftly ingratiate yourself with key decision-makers.
It’s a high-wire balancing act many executives go through to grab the golden ring. What are some of the techniques used? Based upon many hours of advisory with C-Level clients, here are the two major tenets that bubble to the top:
IQ – Intelligence Quotient (or Tactical Intelligence)
You have to have the chops, the intellect, the experience, and knowledge to make it through the first hurdle. It’s that simple. Many executives whine and complain when they hit a very real glass ceiling, but in the end, it’s their fault. They haven’t done the requisite homework and they’re trying to bribe the teacher with an apple. Bottom line, you have to put in the hours, the sweat and tears to adequately build a firm foundation of tools to leverage in the myriad of situations that arise. Some are:
- Financial – This is all-important – I can’t tell you how many executives I would watch sit in meeting and clearly see they had no idea what was in front of them on our financial projections. Know this area cold.
- Operational – Know how the organization works inside and out. Sit at home and map out your operational chain from start to finish. Where are the dependencies? What past decisions are holding the company behind? What areas might take the company to the next level? If you are unsure or unclear about one or more of these connections, talk to your people and LEARN.
- Marketplace – What’s happening in the outside world? Who are the key players? What are the market forces at work – are they playing fair or are they slowly (and possibly illegally) undermining your position. Think holistically. Get out there and mix with your peers, understand the levers that make the world go round. What is the competition doing and how do you master the game of chess with them every day?
EQ – Emotional Quotient (or Emotional Intelligence)
This is where most C-Level executives fail. What got them to this position (IQ) is now failing them. For some positions (CFO, CIO), all their hard work to make it to the table is now useless when they need to use skills other than IQ:
- Communication – Communicate clearly and concisely. But communication is a two-way street, you need to listen too. Listening is an art – shutting your mouth (and mind) to focus your full attention to those who are giving you critical information.
- Motivation – Every word, every order, every instruction must be nicely wrapped to motivate your people. Of course, sometimes you have to bark, but if you find yourself barking most of the time, step back and see how to manipulate your direct report’s levers so they want to make things happen and not undermine you. How do you grow your direct reports, your staff, and your organization through motivation?
- Empathy – The hardest one of all – in addition to communication (which is overt), understand those signals to allow you to ‘listen in’ and help your people with their problems and obstacles. Ferret out those signals and dive into what is holding them back and help them. You also have to be patient to allow the natural flow of the company to run it’s course. Too many executives forget there are forces you cannot control.
- Sales – You have to have the ability to mix all three of these areas together and move people into action inside your organization and outside too (prospects into clients, retention and extension of current clients).
Here’s a great book to read on this topic.
What other elements do you feel play a key role in defining you as CEO material?
Great leaders translate vision into decisive action — a skill that's especially vital in tough times. But what are those skills? Do you have a blind spot? Should you be doing more? First off — great leaders do three things — no more, no less:
- They motivate their people.
- They deliver information when required.
- They help their people with obstacles.
That's it. As a leader, if you find yourself doing anything else, you're doing too much. Now let's look at each one:
They motivate their people.
The most successful leaders are those with the best people skills, especially during the most difficult circumstances. Poor communication and interpersonal relationships routinely thwart leaders who are otherwise technically competent. In order to succeed, leaders must be fully engaged with the individuals who make up their organization. This means an array of capabilities like coaching, mentoring and how to give constructive feedback which reinforces the behavior and motivation of your peak performers. The best tool to learn how to motivate is Dale Carnegie's: How to Win Friends and Influence People.
They deliver information when required.
What does this really mean? Incredibly efficient two-way communication. And the cruel joke is that most leaders had the chops to make their way up the ladder and succeed — now the skills that got them there (getting things done) have no place in leadership. You now have to communicate to your team to get things done. This is where most C- and VP level executives fail - you need to lead with greater impact by applying emotional intelligence to manage your team. The best tool to effectively communicate is Daniel Goleman's: Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.
They help their people with obstacles.
Here's the mistake all leaders make. When their people come to them with a problem — they spend time helping them brainstorm, choose and sometimes execute a solution. I've seen this happen time and time again. Great leaders ask their people to come to them when they have a problem, but they also require their people to come with a solution too. 80-90% of the time, that solution is usually the best one and the team member is further empowered to make those tough decisions. On the off chance (that 10-20%) that your people might be wrong, you're there to help them investigate other options. For optimal delegation, seek out Michael Abrashoff's: It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy.
At the end of the day, you need to build a leadership style that creates trust, sets a clear vision and guides your entire team toward greater performance and profit.
You work hard and so does your team. Sometimes, a mis-alignment of communication, interpretation, or expectations occurs. It happens. It’s not a bad thing even if it happens once in awhile. But when it becomes a frequent occurrence, you begin to question your team’s ability to execute or your ability to communicate.
John lost his job a few months ago. And for some reason, he has no idea why he was let go instead of someone else. In addition, his interviews are not panning out and he's getting nervous about his available prospects. The clock is ticking. Mary is having a hard time communicating with her new team. For years, she has been an exemplary manager. But for some reason, her new team is not engaging and sometimes petulant. Projects are floundering.
Karen's business is not 8 years old and has been growing year after year. For some reason, it's been hard for Karen to stay focused on key areas of the business. And it's hurting her bottom line. Her bookkeeper is beginning to notice.
I run into clients like John, Mary, and Karen all the time. And I'll be honest, most of the time coaching them WORKS. But every so often, I get a client where there is a major hidden obstacle which eludes us. My coaching is affected and the client is frustrated.
That's where Rich Gee Diagnostic Insight™ comes in.
Rich Gee Diagnostic Insight™ is one of the quickest ways to gain a clear picture into your current and past obstacles, whether they are technical, social, or emotional in nature. This insight can be used to develop appropriate coaching recommendations to Move You Forward.
We Identify YOUR Needs
The combination of proven assessment techniques and live professional evaluations provide a wealth of knowledge about an individual's style of work. What are their values, what drives them, and what are the real obstacles standing in their way. With this understanding, appropriate coaching modifications can be put into place.
We Clarify Barriers To Entry
We will examine your social and professional functioning in light of your current and future milestones and goals. Using this information, we can develop effective strategies for managing people, stress, understanding relationships, controlling impulses, and getting focused at the job at hand.
We Personalize It For You
Rich Gee Diagnostic Insight™ will be tailored to meet the individual needs of your situation. Rich will use a combination of selected assessments, evaluators, and key resources to help you get a better understanding of what drives you and how we can move you forward ASAP.
Good To Great. An incredible book by Jim Collins — relates how certain companies overcame their obstacles and pushed themselves from being just good companies to the stars of their industry. How they made the leap, what they did, and what they didn't do. How can you make the leadership leap with your team and go from just being a good leader (and that isn't bad at all) to a great leader? Here are some basic qualities most leaders use and how to kick each one up a notch to great:
If you pare down your job or business — and take away all the extraneous stuff you do — the most important part is COMMUNICATION. Simple, two-way and CLEAR communication. I give you information and I get your response. You tell me to do something and I tell you when I can get it done. I explain the merits of my products and services and you buy. And on and on and on.
Here's the simple fact — it's not as easy as it looks. In fact, some people tend to screw it up most of the time and wonder why they are being listened to or why their people or clients are not doing what they've been told. Do you find yourself saying:
- "They just aren't listening!"
- "Why are my clients checking out?"
- "Why do I tell my team one thing and they do another?"
If you catch yourself saying these and other choice phrases — you might need to tighten up your communication style.
Communication is a very complex process. When you communicate, you need to keep a sharp eye on the person you are communicating to. Why? There are so many signals where you need to modulate your communication to ensure they are understanding what you're saying.
Communication is made up of two competing spheres:
- Facts & Information (F&I) - this is the 'what' of the conversation. And usually where you do a good job of transmitting.
- Emotions & Feelings (E&F) - this is the 'why' of the conversation. And usually where you do a bad job of transmitting.
To communicate effectively, you need to better balance the two. Most of the time, we spend 80-90% of our efforts in F&I and 10-20% in E&F. Unfortunately, in certain situations, you need to increase your E&F — but you don't — and this is where communication breaks down.
Why does this happen? Because communicating facts and information are easy — you just blabber away. Emotions and feelings take a certain amount of restrain — you have to ask questions, listen, and react to the other person's feelings and emotions. And that's hard for most people. It's the EQ (emotional quotient) of the conversation.
The bottom line — if you take the E&F into account and speak to it — your communication success will increase exponentially.
But how do you bridge that gap? Three steps:
1. Bring Them In.
Bring them into the conversation. If you find you are doing all or most of the talking, STOP. Start asking them questions, get their side of the conversation, issue, or situation. Then paraphrase what they said to ensure you are listening correctly, and then ask more questions. We tend to blabber on without a care about the person we are speaking with. One of my favorite phrases to use is "Tell Me More". If that fails . . .
2. Ask Them A Permission Question.
Pause and then ask one of these permission questions:
- May I offer a suggestion . . . ?
- Can we further explore . . . ?
- Would it be alright if . . . ?
- With your permission, can we . . . ?
These permission questions immediately stop the conversation, reverse it, and allow you to better understand what's going on in the head of the person you're speaking with. If that fails . . .
3. Tell Them A Story.
One of the best ways to bridge the gap between Facts & Information and Emotions & Feelings is to tell a related story, example or scenario. It adds weight to the conversation and allows the person to visualize and mentally illustrate what you're talking about.
Each of these steps allows the speaker — YOU — to better communicate, bring the client or team member into the conversation, and hopefully deliver better, faster and more clear communication to whatever you do.
As a business and career coach, I run into so many different people every day. I attend conferences and events, I run workshops and webinars, and I host team masterminds for all types of professionals. And guess what? When I talk to the unemployed, I've heard all the excuses why you don't have a job. Here are the top ten realities of your job search today:
1. You're waiting for the phone to ring or the limo to pull up to your house and whisk you off to your new position.
This is my #1 pet peeve when I host job-search workshops. People say they are busy, they're sending out resumes, but the reality is they are mentally waiting for a knight in shining armor to whisk them away to a new cushy position. Guest what . . . it's never going to happen. NEVER.
Unless you're a recently fired CEO with massive connections to firms who want to hire you and subsequently ruin their company, no one is going to call and no one is driving up with a black stretch limo. Once you realize you are on your own and only YOU can change your situation, it's time for a mental ass-kick to get your head on straight.
What To Do: You want an mental ass-kick? Start listening to motivational speakers to keep your mental energy level up and constant. Check out Zig Ziglar, Dale Carnegie, Jeffrey Gitomer, and my favorite Bennie Hsu at Get Busy Living Podcast. He's the best!
2. You rarely go out.
You get up at 9 AM, you probably don't take a shower, you get dressed in your old geriatric Adidas sweatsuit, and sit in front of your laptop. WRONG!
What To Do: Get up at 5 AM, go for a walk/run outside, take a shower, and get dressed in real clothes. You don't like it? TOUGH. This is your workday and for the next 8-10 hours, I am your drill sergeant and you will deliver 110% looking for a job every Monday through Friday. Set up a schedule which takes you outside every single day. Meet people for coffee, hit the library, go to the gym, walk around the park. Strike up conversations with people — you never know who you will meet.
3. You check the web for postings, send out a few resumes, and watch Ellen, Rachael, and Jerry the rest of the day.
Unemployment is not a vacation. You have to attack your job search like any project you've ever delivered at work.
What To Do: You have to:
- Focus on the marketplace - What companies are doing well? Where are the growth areas? Who are the movers and shakers?
- Analyze your attributes against your competition - Do a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis on YOU. Figure out how you leverage your strengths and opportunities.
- Develop key targets to go after - Analyze your commuting radius, find out all the potential industries and organizations within your circle, and begin to make a hit list.
- Execute - Go after each one incrementally in a cascade pattern to ensure you are not inundated with tasks, but your search is progressing in a healthy fashion.
4. Your industry has changed.
You actually thought people were going to buy slide-rules FOREVER. Yes, that's right, you're industry is changing. And guess what? Everyone's industry is changing. Some are morphing into other forms, some are merging, many are shrinking, and a lot are just plum going out of business. If you thought you could keep your job or profession for 30 years, I have a DeLorean to sell you.
What To Do: Figure out where your industry is going and either stick around for the very bumpy ride or jump off at the station for the next train. Get to thee library, my dear young minstrel and start understanding what is really happening in the marketplace. Read the WSJ, Medium, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, Inc, and Foundr. Also meeting with industry luminaries doesn't hurt either.
5. You're too old.
Where did the time go? You were having so much fun as an executive in a corner office working on strategy and mergers, you never saw the axe coming for you until it was too late. Now you're 55 and no one wants you. Let me rephrase that — no 20-year old in HR wants you. The minute they do the college graduate math in their head (or on their calculator), your résumé is flying faster than a 767 into the circular file. And the funny thing is you keep doing it.
What To Do: Stop repeating something which doesn't work and expecting something different. You have to get out of the HR/Recruiter trap and move up the ladder and meet/engage/schmooze the hiring managers. Go to industry events, reach out to them via LinkedIn/Twitter, and google their name to get to know them. Then reach out and try to meet them.
6. You're too young.
Where did the time go? You were just in college wowing them with your 4.0 GPA and now no one will take your calls because you have no experience.
What To Do: It's time for you to get some experience! You need to call in every chip on the poker table of life and have them connect you with possible paid intern/entry level positions. Let's get real — you might have a little bit of knowledge, but your don't have the experience to hit deadlines consistently, run a meeting, handle an angry client, manage a boss, or run a complex project. You have to take a small hit position/salary-wise and build up those talents before you really hit the big leagues of life.
7. You're unrealistic about your position and your salary.
"Look, I was Vice President of Strategic Initiatives with a yearly base salary of $275K. Why doesn't anyone want me?"
What To Do: There are a finite number of positions out there which might fit your position/salary requirements, but you will never find them in time. I know, you might run into them, but most likely, NOT. You have to be a bit flexible on the Who/What/Where/How Much in the current marketplace. Try to broaden your scope and see what else is out there. It might not be a VP position, or one drowning in strategy. It might be a bit lower than $275K a year — but then again, it's higher than the $0/year you're pulling in now (great tax benefits though).
8. You have a glass-half-empty mentality.
No one likes a whiner. I just spoke with a prospect this week who could not stop talking about all the bad bosses and decisions they've made in the past 10 years. The first rule of your job search: Never, ever, say bad things about your past. Not only does it cloud anyone's opinion of you, it brings your mental state down into the basement.
What To Do: Start imagining what life would be like if you had that wonderful position RIGHT NOW. Where would you be? Who would you be working with? What would you be doing? How would you get there. Stop thinking and feeling guilty about the past and start preparing for your glorious future. Get your head half-full immediately.
9. You're afraid of Thinking Big and reaching out to the real power-brokers.
No one is going to think big for you (except me). You hamstring your search and actions by being risk-averse. You're afraid of rejection and will never put yourself in a position of actually touching key movers and shakers in your industry. No . . . you will continue to interview with 20-year-old HR reps who text more than they think and wonder why you don't have a killer position.
What To Do: Get a piece of paper and write down what would be your PERFECT job. Now actualize it in your universe — find those companies who fit the bill and reach out to the key people who run those positions. The funny thing is . . . these same people are always on the lookout for new talent. You're just not putting yourself onto their radar.
10. You've given up.
You've tried again and again to get a job offer, an interview or even a solid connection and it seems the cards are stacked against you. It's been years since you've worked and you're draining your savings account to keep your household afloat.
What To Do: You can always try again. Take a different tack, work on an alternate strategy, reach out to new people. In fact, I just worked with a client who was unemployed for two years and within three months, he had a number of offers and took an incredible job. You never know where your next break will occur.
Free image provided by iStockPhoto.
Getting clients is easy, hard, fun, frustrating, energizing and enervating. Most of all, you never know what to expect — one day no one is saying yes and the next, you close five clients. Here are my ten top strategies I use every day to make clients knock on my door:
Time to be Columbo at work.
What do you do every day to deliver the best customer service to your clients?
Last week, I covered why communication is so important to business. Speaking with your clients, team, peers and boss are all critical to your success and are usually the nexus of problems when things go awry. See Part One here. If you break down the structure of communication, it really is the transmission of information. You say something, I respond. I say something, you respond.
It's a 'Give & Take' relationship, but sometimes the signal lines can be bad. The wires are compromised. Emotions get in the way.
And this can happen in a millisecond. It's probably happened to you — you are speaking with someone and suddenly — they shut down, they get an angry look on their face, or they bite back with venom. It's all happened to all of us — we chose the wrong word, or focused on the wrong example — and BAM! We get hit right in the nose. And it hurts.
Especially when communicating information. When selling to a prospect, instructing a team member, or speaking with a superior, one needs to be SO careful — here is the architecture of the conversation.
On one end is IDU — I Don't Understand. On the other is YDU — You Don't Understand.
IDU is the state where the person begins to shut down because you are speaking about a subject they don't know or understand. You are talking OVER their head. When it happens, the person starts to feel inferior or incompetent and they shut down.
YDU is the state where the person begins to get angry because YOU don't know or understand their situation. You are talking PAST them. When it happens, the person starts to feel angry or contempt for you — they begin to interrupt or sit and stew with anger.
IDU is on one end of the spectrum and YDU is on the other end. Your job is to remain in the middle with your communication, giving them info while ensuring you don't venture in IDU or YDU territory.
And the way to ensure this doesn't happen is to:
- Watch for physical signals. They might start looking away or looking angry or impatient. They might not respond immediately or come back with a response that sounds frustrated or angry. On the phone, listen for typing or clicking — they are not listening, they are multi-tasking.
- Ask questions along the way. Like: "Are you with me so far?" or "Am I speaking too quickly?" or " Do you want me to review any aspect of what I just covered?" or "Do you know this already?" This gives the receiver a chance to better understand the information and will quickly take you out of the IDU/YDU area.
- Paraphrase their response. When they do respond, paraphrase what you just heard. This will quickly take you out of the YDU end of the spectrum.
Communication is so critical for your success — make sure it is TWO-WAY!
Here are five reasons why you're probably going to be FIRED.
"All coaching is, is taking a player where he can't take himself." - Bill McCartney When executives coach, they commonly make the mistake of downplaying their role as the boss. Confusion occurs with the associate and coaching fails.
To be clear, a boss is the one who holds people accountable for results. A coach helps people increase their skills to achieve the results.
"To succeed in business, you need to know WHO you work with." Sounds pretty simple and straightforward — but the reality is most people don't subscribe to this tenet.
Many business clients ask me how they can review their business and develop a simple marketing plan. There are many great books and gurus out there who will help you do this - unfortunately it takes a lot of time and effort. Not any more.