This time of the year, most businesses tend to power down a bit (not all mind you) and it give us time to plan for 2018. Bad idea.
Who's a hugger out there? Many years ago (25 to be exact), my best friend's sister and her husband came over for dinner one night. At the end of the night, when we were saying our goodbyes, instead of handshakes, we got hugs from both of them. Not just the quick hug — but a deep hug with a real squeeze that meant something.
I managed large teams for over 20 years in corporate and have been coaching C-Level clients for 14 more. During this time, I've probably run into every scenario a manager can experience. Here are my top 30 hacks to make you a better leader (in no special order): 1. Motivate people, don't command them. It's a lot harder, but you will like the results a lot more.
2. Identify your key employees and reward them so they know they're valued. Don't worry about losing poor talent.
3. Translate upper management's vague directives into things your team can understand and take action on.
4. Never bullshit your staff. If something requires secrecy for the good of the company, just be clear on 'I cannot discuss that’.
5. When things go well, don't tout yourself to upper management, tout your team. You'll get the credit as well.
6. Don't worry about losing poor talent. In addition, the best thing you can do for your best people is to get rid of the worst people.
7. Remove any obstacles in the way of them accomplishing their tasks.
8. Elevate the individual and team as a whole when someone does great work. Let them take the limelight.
9. When someone on my team screws up, be the responsible "buck stops here" person as the manager. Act as the umbrella to ensure the wrath of senior management does not rain down from above, and it's your responsibility to discipline them after you catch shit from on high. In addition to that, any discipline effort should be an opportunity to learn from mistakes. Help them to help themselves when they need to recover from a mistake.
10. Don’t be their friend. It's not worth it. You are no longer "One of the guys/girls" You can have fun, don't be a jerk, but you will never be one of them again. Don't try to be. Be cool, but not that cool, otherwise you will get walked on.
11. The more you make your employees feel like they're working with you, and not for you, the smoother the sailing. That being said, make sure boundaries are clear.
12. Make sure each area is covered in the case of a family emergency or vacations and have them matrix-train their co-workers in their respective responsibilities.
13. It's better to be a just, unkind manager than a kind, unjust one, in more ways than you can imagine.
14. Always remain calm. The way you react to and handle situations will have a profound and lasting effect on your staff.
15. Criticize in private, praise in public. Praise often, punish seldom.
16. Never promise something you cannot deliver on.
17. Learn everyone’s first names.
18. Figure out the intricacies of discipline and HR at your organization. Be careful how you treat different cultures and people with different (dis)abilities. A fellow supervisor hired a woman without really verifying her abilities and background. When it became apparent that she didn't know anything, and could not produce any useful code, the supervisor started the whole termination procedure: Tell the employee she's at risk of being fired, start a test period - she has to do this exact work by this date, etc. At the end, the supervisor told the employee she had failed and would be fired shortly. The employee cried and wailed. It turns out the supervisor had missed one of the steps in the termination procedure, so he had to start it AGAIN. Any serious disciplinary action has to be absolutely by-the-book. Get help and a buddy in HR.
19. Learn to listen. Especially to the new hires. And the quiet ones.
20. Be loyal to your employees and they will be ten times loyal right back.
21. Have a few bucks squirreled away so those that really, REALLY need it can get a lunch.
22. Don't go nuts when one rule is broken.
23. Command respect, do not demand respect.
24. Learn to delegate. It creates some frustration in the short term, but saves you huge amounts of time and makes people feel more important in the long term.
25. Be an advocate for your good workers.
26. Get everyone comfortable chairs. Trust me.
27. Create an environment that people want to work in. I find people work harder and are more motivated if they're happy. Don't micromanage, treat people with respect, and create a sense of joining a team rather than a top-down approach.
28. Always be fair. Everyone talks to each other and compares the slightest things whether you like it or not. If you have favorites or treat someone differently, eventually people will find out. This will definitely effect how they see you.
29. Create an open door policy. My favorite policy is that I never mind when people ask questions about the situation or what they need to do. I'd rather someone mess up rather than doing noting. Of course, I'd rather someone ask me questions so they can figure out how to do things on their own, effectively, and efficiently too. Similarly, this also helps with building respect, creating a sense of team, and having more motivated and happy people.
30. MOST IMPORTANT: Take care of your people and they'll take care of you.
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.
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!
Take a moment and reflect about the each person on your team and the skills and strengths they exhibit. Where do they excel? What do they like doing?
Fact: We don't regularly acknowledge the people who make our career machine run. Everyone who works so hard to make us look good to our clients and management. So here's a little tool to help you remember. It's called R E W A R D S.
What’s torque? It’s a measure of the turning force on an object such as the pushing or pulling of a wrench handle connected to a nut or bolt. It produces a torque (turning force) that loosens or tightens the bolt.
I'm a coach. I've been working with executives and business owners for over 10 years. Prior to that, I managed large teams in Fortune 500 companies throughout the nation. I found early in my career that it was easier to motivate my staff with carrots rather than the stick. Get them to see the big picture, how they are contributing to it, and how together, we can best leverage their strengths and talents.