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

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  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?

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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

4 tips to Keep it Together And Avoid Crying at Work

Based on articles by Stav Ziv and  Melody Wilding

Have you ever felt an ominous lump in your throat during a meeting? Maybe you’ve noticed tears forming and then slowly gathering, giving the office a slight blur as you pretend to cough them away.

I have.

When my last job ended, I felt a massive relief as I was very unhappy with what was happening around me. At the same time, emotions were running close to the surface as I loved my work and the people I worked with, and my ego was getting beat up because I felt like I was failing.

I felt my breath catching and prayed no one would look at me, let alone ask me a question, because, at times, I felt the moment I tried to speak, I’d break down.

If you’ve been there, you might also have wondered how to stop crying or how to avoid or delay getting there in the first place.

You’re certainly not alone. A recent survey from the staffing firm Robert Half found that 45% of respondents, all workers in the U.S., had cried in an office environment.

Read about me and being an Ass

Is it okay to cry at work?

The short answer is that it depends—on what kind of situation you’re in when the tears come, how frequently, who’s around when it does, and your work environment.

I come from a military background, where If you cried, you had better have a bone sticking out of you. Most people believe crying can have negative consequences. According to the Robert Half survey, roughly 70% of workers and CFOs agreed that it “can undermine career prospects” or that “crying at work is perceived as weak or immature.”

Only 30% thought that “crying has no negative effect—it shows you’re human.”

There are situations where it’s best not to cry, like when you’re an employee talking to a supervisor (especially if you have a complicated relationship), a woman in a group of men, a presenter standing in front of others in power in a tense situation, or at odds with a colleague.

Read more about wearing your Heart on Your Sleeve

Kimberly D. Elsbach (Ph.D. Stanford University) is a Professor of Management; she adds, “The dangerous part of crying is it repositions us farther down the power position,” Dudley says. “In any situation when we cry, we risk losing our power, credibility, and believability.”

What’s Gender Got to Do With It? Men who cry at work are often judged harshly. Sadly, women who cry may reinforce stereotypical attitudes toward gender in the workplace.

4 Ways to Stop Crying (or at Least Avoid or Delay It)

Depending on the situation, you don’t necessarily have to consider crying at work a career killer.

But here are a few things you can do to tamp down oncoming tears, delay them long enough to find a safe place to let them out or make you less likely to cry in the first place.

1. Take a Deep Breath

A common suggestion for avoiding tears is to practice deep breathing when you feel the waterworks coming on.

Take a Break and Get Away From the Situation

If you think you might start crying and you’re in a setting where you don’t want that to happen, the best thing you can do is remove yourself from the situation. If you’re leading a meeting, you can tell everyone to take a 10-minute break and reconvene. Otherwise, you can quietly step out—people always go to the bathroom.

3. Stop the Thoughts That Are Making You Cry (This’ll Take Some Practice)

If you can’t physically escape the situation, that doesn’t mean you can’t mentally get away. Whatever provokes your crying response, try to put that out of your mind and think about something unrelated instead.

4. Eliminate or Reduce Stressors in Your Life, if You Can

You can avoid crying well before you find yourself in a tear-inducing situation. Ensure you’re getting enough sleep, adequately fed, and hydrated. Try to reduce or eliminate other stressors in your life, too.

The Argument for Not Avoiding Tears at Work

Next time you think about how to stop crying, consider that it might not always be such a terrible thing, and you can help make it just one more normal response in the spectrum of what’s acceptable at work.

And don’t forget that you can play a role when you’re crying and when you notice someone else in the office call. “We can only start changing this if we start to change how we think about it with others,”

So don’t be so hard on yourself if you occasionally feel the tears coming at work.

And don’t be so hard on your colleagues if and when they cry at work.

Crying is a sign of our humanity, and we want to see the society in our colleagues and leaders.”

Want To Lose Your Job … Manage Your Boss! Learn the 6 Actions To Partner With Them Instead

This article was originally published on May 17, 2018, and has been updated. 

How often have you heard “managing your boss” or “managing up?”

I don’t know who decided this would make your life easier, and there are plenty of reasons “managing your boss” isn’t the right way to go.

    1. As someone who has been the Boss, I find it quite disrespectful.
    2. Regardless of your relationship with them, there is a vast power differential tilting toward your Boss.
    3. Most employees don’t realize the relentless pressure their Boss deals with, and you are just one more pressure—get over yourself!

That might sound harsh, but hear me out.

There are ways to build a better relationship with your Boss that doesn’t involve managing them.

So, what can you do?

Partner with your Boss!

You and your Boss are involved in a dynamic alliance which calls on both of you to partner in achieving your goals.

Before we move on to ways you can be a better partner to your Boss, let’s find out how well you’re partnering right now.

How well do you partner with your Boss?

Answer “Yes” or “No” to the following questions:

      1. Do you and your Boss share information, stories and tasks? (Y/N)
      2. Do you feel you’re playing on the same team? (Y/N)
      3. Do you have a joint interest in the goals you are trying to achieve? (Y/N)
      4. Are you and your Boss strongly aligned in the pursual of goals? (Y/N)
      5. Do you associate comfortably in an informal setting? (Y/N)
      6. Do you know where you stand? (Y/N)
      7. Would you say you work well together? (Y/N)
      8. Do you trust your Boss? (Y/N)
      9. Does your Boss trust you? (Y/N)
      10. Would you say you are currently “partnering with your boss”? (Y/N)

Total # of “Yes” answers ____

How did you do?

8–10 “Yes” answers: You have a solid partnership with your Boss. Focus your attention on ways to improve it.

5–7 “Yes” answers: Working together could be more productive and pleasant. Focus on deficits in skills, differences in work styles or management approaches. Then find answers to help improve them.

1–4 “Yes” answers: Your partnership with your Boss needs work. Focus your attention on issues of work style, trust, skills, and ethics. You will probably want to build a plan to approach your Boss about resolving some problems together.

6 Tips for Partnering With Your Boss

If your partnership with your Boss could be improved (and let’s face it, there’s always room for improvement), you won’t want to miss these tips for partnering with your Boss.

1. Try to understand your Boss.

You need to understand your Boss and their working context:

    • Goals and objectives
    • Pressures and issues
    • Strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots
    • Preferred work style

Then, you need to do the same for yourself!

2. Don’t try to reform your Boss.

Your Boss is human with strengths and limitations, so it’s a far more productive approach to build on strengths rather than trying to remedy limitations.

3. Build on strengths.

One effective way to support your Boss is by keeping them doing what they are good at.

4. Focus strengths on things that matter.

Strengths matter, but their real value only comes when applied to the things that matter.

Start by asking, “what do they need from me to perform?”

5. Find what works.

This is not about “crawling” to the Boss.

It would be best to start with what you consider the right thing to do. Find ways to communicate these to your Boss and have them accepted.

6. Build your relationship.

Build your relationship based on regular, open communication built on trust, respect, and understanding.

When taking these steps to build a better relationship with your Boss, you will also want to deal with your frustrations about being overloaded.

How to Avoid Being Overloaded or Having Your Time Wasted

Your Boss is paying your cheque; asking you to do work shouldn’t be a surprise or considered illegitimate.

What is not legitimate is an overload or waste of your time.

If you feel it’s come to that point, here’s what to do next:

    • Tell your Boss when you are reaching the saturation point.
    • Make her aware of the consequences if she tries to overload you, “Yes, I could get that done by then, but that would delay this….”
    • Don’t say “yes” to everything your Boss asks. Negotiate!
    • Ask your Boss to prioritize when they give you a list of tasks.
    • When asked to do something, get details and, if possible, say you’ll get back to her or take a look at it.

Then:

    • Work out what the job involves.
    • Find out who else could be affected.
    • Go back with an answer, “Here’s what I can do.”

Something to remember.

Your Boss is your Boss, and you will never win in a power struggle with them. If you think you can do better: get qualified, apply for the job, and give it a shot!

But in the meantime, building a better relationship with your Boss and partnering with them instead of managing them is a great place to start.

LEARN MORE

Join the Free First Session of the Better Leader Inner Circle

and

Discover the eight tips to building a better partnership with your #1 stakeholder

… your Boss

 

 

8 Tips On How You Can Avoid My 4:00AM Regrets

You are not your 2 AM conversations;

not your 3 AM nightmares;

not your 4 AM regrets

Mark Dimaisip

I don’t mind telling you that business could always be better.

Or I miss the energies created by surrounding myself with a powerful team.

Or that I am often awake at 4:00.

So maybe that is why Mark Dimaisip’s poem resonated with me, as did the Hidden Brain podcast episode on regret.

Everyone has regrets.

Some say regret is the most common emotion.

Amy Summerville, who runs the Regret Lab at Miami University in Ohio, says:

‘we ruminate thoughts that spring unwanted to mind, and we chew them over without getting anything new out of them, they’re just repeatedly, intrusively, becoming part of our mental landscape.’

We don’t have time for all of my regrets; besides, that is why they invented rye.

But I would like to touch on my three leadership regrets that run rampant in my mind at 4:00 AM

1. Anger

Given the right set of triggers, I have a temper that can flash and lash out.

I’ve written about this and don’t understand where it comes from.

When it happens, it diminishes me, my leadership, my organization, and my people.

I have learned to manage it by being more aware of situations that may trigger the flash and trying to excuse myself, walk away, and disengage.

Read More About Not Being An Ass

2. Mediocrity

Far too often, I have allowed people to push me toward mediocrity.

As leaders, we know the right thing to do, yet people and systems cause us to settle.

And when we settle, nobody is happy.

People-pleasing only creates soup sandwiches, a mess where no one is satisfied.

Read More About Soup Sandwiches

3. Kindness

The business decisions I regret the most are those I wish I had acted out with more kindness.

Too often, I made decisions based on what I, our bosses or the mission demanded.

Decisions are made without humanity and care for the people impacted.

I know some of the decisions I have made hurt people.

That doesn’t make them wrong or even bad decisions.

But I wish I could get mulligans on a few where I could have been more honest, kind, and generous.

 

Final Thoughts

My experience tells me that your leadership experience would undoubtedly be happier with less anger, less mediocrity, and more kindness.

Happiness is a choice.

Focus on the positives.

Be self-aware.

Practice deliberate, purposeful, and thoughtful actions.

Understand that ambition and success will not lead to a life of fewer regrets.

Don’t get caught up in what you don’t have.

Be mindful and purposeful of the opportunities right in front of you.

Why I think “#BellLetsTalk” is missing an important point about Mental Health

You may have seen memes of a lion or battle-hardened soldier with the words ‘The Problem With Being Strong Is That Nobody Bothers to Ask.’

I’ve asked

I’ve talked.

I’ve tried.

But it seemed that nobody listened.

It seemed that nobody wanted to hear.

 

I am a big man; I’ve lived a great life, and I come across as hard and strong.

I’ve led soldiers and emergency responders and been hugely successful.

Yet I have failed.

Failed in relationships, struggled in business and made moral mistakes that sit heavy on my heart.

I was a functioning drunk who drank Rye like it was a cure for alcoholism.

I am pretty sure I have been depressed, and I know I have struggled with my mental health.

I grew up in an environment and served in the Army when you were not sick unless a bone was sticking out of your body.  I understood that mental health issues were a sign of weakness. Motivational posters surrounded me saying: ‘Big boys don’t cry,’ ‘Pain is weakness leaving the body,’ and a visit to the Chaplain or a Counsellor was a black mark on your career.

 

Such initiatives like ‘#SickNotWeak’ and ‘#BellLetsTalk’ are excellent in destigmatizing mental health issues.

For a child of the ‘60s, it is remarkable that mental health problems are now considered normal and asking for help is the right thing to do.

But where ‘#BellLetsTalk’ misses the mark is that we need to have a complementary imitative called ‘#LetsListen.’

But for many bringing an emotional problem up is hard to do.

 

In many of my blog posts, I have spoken about my last couple of years at Red Cross. I was struggling in a shifting and changing workplace. I had made a bad hire and was trying to manage an asshole. Years of working in high tension environments were catching up with me. I was leading a giant disaster and working on my Master’s degree.

In short, a lot was going on.

One day I was rushing to a meeting in another city.

While driving, I witnessed a small car get T-boned by a pickup. The vehicle was flipped end for end several times. I stopped to help and saw the driver, a young mother, was dying, the passenger, a Grandmother, was dead.

As bad as the scene was, the worse was finding a toddler in a car seat, not moving and trapped in the back seat. Other good Samaritans and I fought to get into the back seat to help the baby. It seemed to take forever, but we got a door open, the car seat out, and to our giant relief, the baby started crying and was seemingly unharmed.

Police, Fire & EMA came in time and took over the scene, and I carried on as if I were completely normal.

 

But I wasn’t.

Something switched deep inside of me, and I began to struggle even more with work.

One day I told my boss what had happened, and that was bothering me. All I received for my vulnerability was an unblinking stare.

I never felt so exposed or let down.

That one incident changed my entire relationship with her. She was once a trusted friend and confidant, and now she was someone in authority with whom I had lost trust.

The outcome was preordained the moment that trust was lost.

Eventually, I left or maybe was pushed out of a job I loved and left people I cared for.

 

There were many times that I reached out when I struggled with emotions and mental health.

I made myself vulnerable by trying to “#BellLetsTalk,” but no one listened.

A relative who told me that everyone hates their job so quit complaining; A boss who betrayed my vulnerability; or a Pastor who didn’t ask that one more question.

And all that accomplished was a guarded fear of opening up again.

So this year, as part of “#BellLetsTalk” let us try harder to ‘#LetsListen.’

π