Tag Executive coaching

Make Virtual Coaching Better

Of all the jobs a manager/leader has, one that we often feel we could do better, is coaching.

Experience shows that it is the part of the role we often feel gets ignored or isn’t done as well as we’d like. Your employees, especially those who work remotely, most likely agree with you.

So, what can we do about it?

Here are some things you can do to make your coaching more effective when you can’t be face-to-face.

Decide to have a real coaching conversation.

A coaching call is not a “check-in.” Good coaching requires focus on both ends of the line, planning, and attention to detail. Look at it this way: if you were going to coach someone in the office, you’d take them somewhere private. You’d sit down, maybe have a moment of casual conversation and demonstrate relaxed, positive body language.

When coaching virtually, the same things apply.  Be somewhere you both can relax and not be distracted. Take enough time that you’re able to engage in some social conversation before you dive in. Any conversation that starts with, “Let’s not waste time, let’s get down to business,” is probably going to restrict real conversation and the chance to explore what’s going on with the other person.

Read How Silence Is Critical To Good Conversations

Make coaching conversations as rich as possible.

Coaching can be an emotional experience. When we are face to face, we can hear the tone of the person’s response as well as their facial expressions and body language. The best results happen when you’re having rich, real-time conversations. For that reason, you want to have as “rich” a conversation as possible.

You want to make sure you are communicating effectively, and are understood, and any unspoken objections or questions get surfaced. This is almost impossible to do over the telephone alone, so use your webcams. Get both parties used to the idea of being on camera when the stakes are low and the conversations casual, so you’ll both be less self-conscious when your discussions get deeper and more important.

Read How Coaching Is More About the Person Than The Problem

Have a list—but not a checkbox.

A rich, constructive coaching conversation has a lot going on. You need to know what you’re going to discuss, have supporting evidence or questions you need to ask, and there’s a process to a well-run coaching call. Most of us can’t keep everything clear in our head and wind up hanging up and then thinking of all the things we forgot about or could have said or done differently.

So having a list of topics and reminders is a good thing. On the other hand, if we treat it like a checklist, with the goal just to tick off boxes, we often focus on that, rather than listening to the other person for clues that we should probe deeper, or some things aren’t being said. It’s a fine line, but an important one.

Open the call to possibilities.

Coaching means you must actively listen to the other person. One of the challenges for a lot of us is that people will answer the questions they’re asked. Many of us start with well-meaning requests for information that prematurely focus the discussion and don’t always open the door to more productive conversations. For example, there is a difference between “What’s going on with the Jackson account?” and “What are you spending most of your time on?” 

Get Our 27 Open-ended Questions

Here are some open-ended questions to kickstart coaching conversations:

What’s up?

How’s it going?

What’s working?

Where are you stuck?

How can I help?

Notice that you’re leaving the responses up to the other person.

You may want to get to the problem at hand, but if there are other priorities, or challenges or the person has something they need to discuss first, you’ll have a better talk when you get to it.

 

For more information on coaching at a distance, consider our Coaching Services.

Better Coaching is a critical skill development that we offer to help you become a Better Leader!

 

 

5 Steps To Calming The Waters When A New Boss Enters The Pool

… of all the things that can cause ripples in our ‘pond,’ changing leaders should be considered the equivalent of doing a cannonball dive into the water …

A quick note from Steve:

This article focuses on the new manager or leader, but the discussion can apply to anyone taking on the role of ‘New Boss.’

Enjoy.

 

As leaders, we often consider organizational changes that impact our culture or progress toward successfully achieving our goals.

The change could be a location change, IT changes, new strategic plans, economic downturns or a myriad of organizational changes that can cause ripples in our corporate waters.

In my experience, one of the least managed organizational changes is a leadership change.

And of all the things that can cause ripples in our ‘pond,’ changing leaders or managers should be considered the equivalent of doing a cannonball dive into the water.

An additional complication is that boards of directors increasingly seek leaders from outside their organization. 

In 2017, 44% of US companies & organizations searching for new leadership hire from outside the organization.

Often, outsiders are chosen to deliver strategic course corrections, restructures, mergers, culture change, or digital transformation, and under short timelines, incoming leaders or managers need to have a deep understanding of their leadership competencies and effectiveness. 

 

The new leaders or managers as an organizational change challenge.

Most incoming leaders or managers, internal or external, get off to a rocky start. 

Society for Human Resource Management research shows that 58% of senior leadership hires struggle in their new positions after 18 months. 

18 months!

Therefore, carefully planning a new chief executive’s integration is crucial. 

 

What is the key to success? 

Your success must be gained by building momentum across the whole organization.

Not by acting frenetically but by thoughtfully choosing the speed to help the organization mobilize, execute, and transform effectively. 

The incoming leader or manager must need to:

  • gain knowledge of board expectations,
  • understand the bench strength of the leadership team, and,
  • appreciate the organization’s culture.

This will help leaders or managers understand when to gather insights when to make fact-based decisions, and when to execute quickly.

 

Five steps to speed up new leaders or managers’ integration

In my experience, new leaders or managers who take the following five steps have the best chance at successful acceleration.

 

  1. What are your unique strengths?

The characteristics that have served you well so far may not lead to success in a new role as a leader or manager. 

Success in your new role depends on navigating the organization’s current cultural context and quickly understanding the roadblocks to performance. 

Self-awareness is crucial. The ability to reflect upon and assess one’s strengths, weaknesses, and leadership style will enable proper planning on how to change the culture and increase performance.

Consider the following questions to help align your and the organization’s unique strengths: 

  • Why was I hired for this role; what is my differentiation?
  • What is my vision for this organization? 
  • What distinctive strengths can I leverage in this context? 
  • What might derail me within this organization?
  • How do I become more self-aware and plan for my blind spots? 
  • What do I hope my legacy will be?

 Read the seven career-saving questions you should ask before starting a new project.

  1. Build an adequate influence base.

External leaders or managers are typically brought in to drive transformational change.

Everyone expects change, so every move of the new leader or manager is evaluated and scrutinized for meaning. 

Understanding the formal and informal sources of influence within an organization takes time.

You need to talk to your people to get a clear view of what they love and hate, what they see as most broken, and what excites them. 

As a new leader or manager, you will be under a lot of pressure—from the board, your leadership team, and the culture itself—to show up and make change happen quickly. 

Don’t fall into the trap of making big decisions too quickly—you don’t know enough to know whether they are the right decisions. 

Getting to know the key stakeholders will help new leaders or managers develop a plan to build relationships that can quickly transform influencers into advocates.

Addressing the following questions is a significant next step: 

  • How do I identify the key influencers? 
  • Where are the real influencers within the organization below my leadership team?
  • What questions should I ask key constituents to build my knowledge base?
  • How do I effectively structure a listening tour?
  • How will I structure my story and share my vision for the organization?

Want To Explore This Topic Further?

Join the Better Leader Inner Circle On Thursday, May 23 at 11:00MT/1:00ET

Click Here To Register And Get A Recording If You Can’t Attend 

  1. Define success and priorities.

Incoming leaders or managers typically align highly with the board and other senior executives regarding what constitutes success and what the priorities are. 

The new leaders or managers need a detailed definition of success and what needs to be addressed first. 

It is essential to take the time to define the high-impact opportunities that will impact customers, products, systems, and people. 

Careful management of the first 100 days is critical to the success of the new leaders or managers. 

This is the time when the stakes are high for both the organization and the reputation of the incoming leaders or managers. 

Ideally, the 100-day playbook will accelerate the integration of new executives into their new environment while prioritizing quick wins and longer-term strategic capabilities.

Addressing the following questions will get leaders or managers started on this step: 

  • What are the performance indicators for this role?
  • How will my performance be evaluated in six months and a year? 
  • How (and from whom) will I receive feedback?
  • How will I get oriented to our markets, customers, and organization?
  • How will I get clarity on and manage board expectations? 

Read more about managing competing priorities.

  1. Mobilize the top team quickly.

Most often, a new leader or manager makes changes to the senior team. 

In 2017, 91% of S&P 500 companies indicated that changes in leaders or managers would accompany changes at the director or senior executive levels.

Given the change agenda, new external leaders or managers need to develop an understanding of the senior team’s performance and quickly make decisions on how to bolster the team’s effectiveness.

Addressing the following questions will help new leaders or managers shape and mobilize their top teams: 

  • How will I assess my team’s baseline level of performance?
  • What are the business goals or outcomes for which my team members are mutually accountable?
  • How will I determine membership on my top team?
  • What operating norms do I think are needed on this team?
  • Who will support me in developing my team to accelerate performance?

 

  1. Shape the culture

Organizational culture is a crucial driver of change and a barrier to execution. 

In my experience, everyday cultural strengths and liabilities have become so ingrained and automatic that they are not questioned. 

If the cultural fit between the new leaders or managers and the organization is off, execution can feel like pushing a rope.

This challenge has been defined as the Culture Eating Strategy’s lunch because dysfunctional cultural habits can chew up any improvement the new leaders or managers try to make. 

A major study shows that 70% of all change efforts fail to achieve their objectives. 

The new leaders or managers must quickly become familiar with the cultural values, unwritten rules, and practices of their new organization. 

Addressing the following questions will give new leaders or managers a cultural grounding:

  • What are the strengths and liabilities of the current culture?
  • How do I shape the culture to align with our new strategic direction?
  • How do I improve high-performing behaviours such as accountability and collaboration?
  • How can I better understand the shadow of my leadership team?
  • What is the execution effectiveness of my organization?

 Read more about culture.

Conclusion

Newly appointed leaders risk failure unless they address the obstacles to their organizational and personal success. 

If poorly made, a new leader or manager’s initial set of decisions and actions will create unintended consequences that will be difficult to reverse. 

Therefore, initial actions and decisions must be carefully planned.

An acceleration requires new leaders or managers to:

  • assess and develop themselves to be most effective in the new context; 
  • understand their organization’s influencers and culture, 
  • how to leverage both for success; 
  • develop a detailed and shared understanding of success and priorities, and 
  • mobilize their top team. 

Those who take the time to do so put themselves on the best path toward lasting success.

Want To Explore This Topic Further?

Join the Better Leader Inner Circle On Thursday, May 23 at 11:00MT/1:00ET

Click Here To Register And Get A Recording If You Can’t Attend 

The 7 Hidden Reasons Your Employees Leave You

In The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave, employee-retention expert Leigh Branham discusses how companies can tackle employee disengagement and retain their best and brightest people.

Nearly 90% of bosses think their employees quit to make more money.

That means nearly 90% of bosses are wrong.

Studies show these are the seven “real” reasons that retention isn’t better:

Ask HR people about their top issue, which will likely be retention. That’s no surprise. The cost in dollars and disruption of replacing a trained employee is enormous.

What is surprising is how much employers misunderstand why their people leave; author Leigh Branham, SPHR, explains that this misunderstanding is evident in one astonishing statistical comparison:

–Employers who think their people leave for more money: 89%

–Employees who do leave for more money: 12%

The latter result, says Branham, founder of retention consultant KeepingthePeople, Inc., comes from a study of 19,700 post-exit interviews done by the Saratoga Institute, an independent research group. The data identified seven “hidden reasons” employees resign. Here are those reasons, along with Branham’s antidote for each:

1) Job not as expected. This is a prime reason for early departures. Branham’s answer: “Give a realistic job preview to every candidate.”

2) The job doesn’t fit my talents and interests. Branham attributes this to hiring too quickly and advises employers to “hire for fit. Match their talents to your needs.”

3) Little or no feedback/coaching. Today’s employees, especially younger workers, want “feedback whenever I want it, at the touch of a button.” Give it honestly and often, says Branham, and you’ll get job commitment, not just compliance.

Read to get six great coaching questions.

4) No hope for career growth. The antidote: Provide self-management tools and training.

5) Feel devalued and unrecognized. Money issues appear here, says Branham, but the category also includes even more employees who complained that no one ever said ‘thanks’ on the job or listened to what they had to say. Address the compensation issue with a fair and understandable system, says Branham. Then listen – and respond – to employee input. “Also, ask yourself ‘how many of my employees get too much recognition?'” 

Read about Attila The Hun & Recognition

6) Feel overworked and stressed out. Branham says this comes from insufficient respect in the organization for employees’ life/work balance. Recommended: Institute a “culture of giving” that meets employees’ total needs.

7) Lack of trust or confidence in leaders. Leaders have to understand that they’re there to serve employees’ needs, says Branham, not the other way around. Develop leaders who care about and nurture their workers; trust and confidence will also develop.

Read about trust and high performance.

How significant is the payoff for companies that follow these guidelines?

Branham looks to Fortune’s “Great Places to Work” list, where, he says, companies apply these principles: “While the average S&P 500 company grew 25 percent,” he reports, “these companies grew an average of 133 percent. It pays to treat people right.”

Why not join us on March 28th for a fantastic Better Leader session?

We will be joined by a Guest Speaker who is a great friend of StevenArmstrong.ca and a professional leadership recruiter to answer all your questions.

Register Here

Does Your Team Have an Accountability Problem?


“We need to hold people more accountable.”

How many times have you said this in the past year? When things aren’t going well — maybe your numbers are down, you haven’t met your goals, or your pipeline is dry — it’s easy to turn to this familiar mantra.

But when you say it, your team members hear: “You are letting me down,” or, “We are failing.” Instead of lighting an inspired fire under people, you can deflate them.

While there will undoubtedly be times when your team could put in a more focused effort, in my experience, a “lack of accountability” often results from an underlying issue, such as unclear roles and responsibilities, limited resources, a poor strategy, or unrealistic goals. This is why leaders who default to a plea for accountability often hit a wall and feel even more frustrated.

Further, verbalizing that there is “a lack of accountability” on your team can quickly come off as threatening or condescending to people on the receiving end. This is hardly productive when trying to inspire change; more importantly, it doesn’t help you get to the root of the problem.

When you need to push those around you to get better results (that’s what you are looking for), a better approach is to tackle the issue with a leadership mindset. Use the following steps to guide yourself on how to start the conversation, identify the real problem, and execute a plan to help you solve it.

Check in with yourself first. 

Instead of asking, “Why aren’t they doing their part?” ask, “Is there anything I can do differently to help?”

While you should avoid feeling compelled to complete someone else’s work, it is beneficial to consider whether gaps in communication, process or other areas are setting you both back.

Before even approaching the other person, consider the following:

  • Have I been transparent about my expectations?
  • Have I asked what I can do to help?
  • Have I taken time to brainstorm and review processes?
  • Have I built a plan of action with my team members?

Self-awareness is a leadership superpower, and reflecting this way may help you recognize any unhelpful patterns you can fall into.

Another tip for increasing self-awareness is to pay attention to what’s happening in your body.

Do you feel tense when considering this discussion with your team member? Do you clench your jaw, fidget, pace, bounce your leg, change your facial affect, talk more, or shut down?

Work to shift your mindset from a place of hostility to a place of curiosity about how you can help.

Create a safe environment for the other person. 

Once you’ve set up time to talk, begin the conversation by asking fact-based questions. For example, if your team member is constantly missing deadlines, you could start by saying, “I’ve noticed that you seem to need a little more time to get the work done lately.”

If a team member has failed to reach their quarterly goals, you could say something as simple as, “How do you feel your work has been going this quarter?” and gauge their initial reaction.

Provide specific examples, then ask, “What can we do to help you get back on track?”

Avoid jumping directly into critical feedback or using judgmental language such as, “Why would you…”, “You should have…” or “That’s wrong.” It helps to assume positive intent in the other person. The goal here is to listen and to remain genuinely open to their “take” on things.

By listening, paying attention, and understanding the needs and motivations of the other person, you may discover that they are not “lazy,” “incapable,” or “unreliable,” but rather, that they are unclear on organizational goals. You may discover that they need more feedback to do their best work or that other obstacles are holding them back. While none entirely excuse a lack of initiative or follow-through, understanding the underlying issues can give you a clear idea about how to move forward.

Ensure there is clarity and a mutual agreement on moving forward. 

Now that you have identified any underlying issues, it’s time to clarify that your intention in starting this conversation is to address the core of the problem and agree upon a path forward (considering any new information you have just been given).

Whether your goal is to help a direct report meet deadlines or to collaborate more effectively with a team member on a project, it’s vital to make sure that you both understand what the issue is, how to address it, what success looks like, what needs to be done, by who, and by when to achieve it.

Next, directly own and express your frustration with what you see to be the problem. For example, you might say, “I know you are not intentionally missing deadlines, and now I have a clearer understanding of everything on your plate. But when you do miss deadlines, the result is that I have to take on your unfinished work, which causes me to get behind on my projects. I often feel frustrated by this.”

Finally, ask if the other person would be open to trying new strategies to address the issue. A better approach may be, “Based on our conversation, let’s try to agree to a mutual set of objectives and then brainstorm how we might develop a strategy to achieving those goals. “

In all cases, seek to demonstrate empathy and work towards a mutual commitment around a goal. From there, you can brainstorm and agree on some concrete next steps.

Regularly track and measure progress. 

You’ve heard of the importance of leaving a paper trail. The lesson is the same, but we don’t use paper often. Ensure you get the agreed-upon plan in writing so it can be revisited if there are any questions about what was initially decided. Don’t just set it and forget it. Determine what communication tools you will use to check in on progress.

The above documents will help you identify what’s working and what’s not over some time, as well as course-correct as needed.

Pleading for more accountability isn’t the answer to your problem.

Anyone can express frustration around an issue, but those who harness self-awareness and empathy find practical solutions and build winning teams and colleagues for life. If you want to be a next-level leader or peer, one that people want to work with, shift your mindset and practice these five steps. You’ll drive better results, more impactful change, and reduce frustration.

Clarity thru the Grace of Pauses And The Hardy Boys

With apologies to Victor Frankl, as leaders, we must learn to embrace the pause between the stimuli we receive from a million sources.

Who has never received a stimulus from our employees, coworkers, bosses, family, or customers?

And who has never responded too quickly?

This week, listen to Steve’s boyhood shoplifting experience and a series of gracious pauses that impacted his life and his leadership style.

And how we can use that moment to be better bosses.

10 Solutions To Stop Good Objectives From Going Bad

So many objectives – so many failures

That’s the refrain of leaders everywhere.

The business objectives they need to meet to be successful in their jobs are taking longer than planned, costing more than budgeted or failing outright.

Why do good objectives go bad?

My clients say the ten most common mistakes that cause their good objectives to go wrong – and the coaching solutions I helped them with to solve these costly problems.

Mistake No. 1: Not Assigning the Right Manager. Typically, more time is spent fighting for resources than finding the right person to lead. Too often, managers get picked based on availability, not necessarily skill set. This is a severe mistake as more projects failed because of the wrong manager than could ever be blamed for lack of resources.

Solution: Choose a manager whose skills best match the requirements of your objectives.

Mistake No. 2: Failing to Get Everyone On Board. Too often, objectives fail because they don’t get enough support from those affected by and involved in the project. Usually, the manager:

  1. It didn’t make clear what everyone’s role was.
  2. It didn’t describe the payoff when the objective was achieved.
  3. It didn’t tell how each person’s contributions would be evaluated.
  4. Failed to generate a sense of urgency.

Solution: The project manager should start by calling the team together and delivering a presentation about the objective and its importance to the broader organization.

Read More: How to Communicate

Mistake No. 3: Not Getting Executive Buy-in.

Solution: A ship without a captain soon runs aground. Somebody at the higher levels of the organization needs to own the objective and be personally vested in its success.

If the objective isn’t crucial to your boss, ask yourself why it should be meaningful.

Mistake No. 4: Putting Too Many Objectives on the table at One time. Most managers think that they can start and work on every objective at the same time. In reality, multitasking slows people down, hurts quality and, worst of all, the delays caused by multitasking cascade and multiply through the organization as people further down the line wait for others.

Solution: A good first step to stop productivity losses is to reduce the objectives you are working on by 25 percent. Though counter-intuitive, reducing the number of open projects increases completion rates.”

Read more about priorities.

Mistake No. 5: Lack of (Regular) Communication. Communication is the most crucial factor of successful objectives; without regularly communicating, the project will fall apart.”

Solution: Schedule time each week to review progress and stick with it. Regularly scheduled meetings and communications processes help to keep everyone on the same page and work flowing.

Mistake No. 6: Not Being Specific with the Scope of the Objective. Any objective that doesn’t have a clear goal is doomed. Mission creep is one of the most dangerous things that can happen to your project. If not handled properly, it can lead to cost and time overrun.

Solution: Define the scope of your project from the outset and monitor the project by continually asking if our work is contributing to the objective’s success.

Mistake No. 7: Providing Overly Optimistic Timelines. The intentions are noble, but missing deadline after deadline will only lead to distrust and aggravation.

Solution: Add a buffer — some extra time and money to your project.

Mistake No. 8: Not Being Flexible. While you may think of your plan as the bible that leads you to your goal, listen to new information and suggestions that come up along the way.

Solution: Step back and take a fresh look at the overall project, review how things have gone so far, and how you can improve.

Mistake No. 9: Micromanaging Projects. New managers commonly treat their job as an enforcer, policing the team for progress and updates.

Solution: Set expectations from the start that there will be regularly scheduled updates to advise the status and progress expected and encourage them to vocalize any issues.

Read more about micromanagement.

Mistake No. 10: Not Having Defined Success.

Solution: The first thing a manager should do is to ensure what will be considered a successful completion of the objective. Understanding what success looks like ensures everyone walks away satisfied at the end.

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