leadership · life lessons · management · mindfulness · motivation · training · work life

Shoop Shoop Shoop – Are You With Me?

Driving home from yesterday’s 4th training session, the “Shoop Shoop Song” from “Waiting To Exhale” was playing in my head.  In many ways it’s also the perfect Friday song, and given some of the posts I’ve read this week, it’s appropriate for the end of what appeared to be a tough week.  Seems like a lot of us spent much of the week just waiting to let it go…

“And sometimes you’ll laugh, and sometimes you’ll cry

Life never tells us the whens and whys

But when you’ve got friends to wish you well

You’ll find your point when you exhale…”

You can add the ‘shoop shoops’ yourself – there are a lot of them.

Yesterday, I facilitated the last training session with the remarkable group of people of whom I’ve written before.  Next week, a colleague will join me for the last part of the program.  So in some ways, I had to say good-bye to a dynamic which has fueled, inspired and challenged me once a week for the month.  We’ll have a great time next week, and the team united as we know will morph naturally by the presence of a new person.  The thought of the upcoming farewells has my stomach more than just a little knotted.

Our topic yesterday was Performance Management – with emphasis placed on the fluidity of the process – the need for it to be a constant loop of communication, not the culmination of twelve silent months with no conversation about a person’s performance.  We addressed some of the real issues managers grapple with – the star employees who don’t receive enough feedback because ‘they know’ they’re terrific and other people require more attention; the poor performers who supervisors avoid because ultimately the anticipated hostility/tears/aggressive/defensive reaction (pick your adjective) is just too painful to endure.  The challenge of actively listening when studies show that adults really attend for about five minutes within a twenty-minute conversation.  How commentary is far more critical than a ‘score’ and how to move a firm and its people away from the numbers and in to substantive feedback.  Including the employee in establishing goals, and how to build those goals effectively.  We went straight through, with a quick break to bring in some lunch, and just kept going until we could go no longer.  They crushed it – figuratively and in a good way.  The examples provided, support given to those with a tough situation to handle, enthusiasm and trust in each other – all were so impressive.  They inspired me more than I can adequately describe.  Do you sense a ‘but’ in all of this?  Good – I’m so glad you picked that up.

When our sessions end, they go back to work.  At best their supervisors ask them if they’re enjoying the program, if they’re getting anything out of  it,etc..  That’s it – the curiousity and interest in the manager and his/her development stops there.   They are coming away from these meetings with new ideas, a renewed sense of purpose, some thoughts about bettering themselves and their department.  There wasn’t one person who affirmed that his/her boss would be interested in pursuing anything other than things as they are.  The most frustrating aspect of this reality, is that I just know what will happen to their enthusiasm, focus and intention.  Worse still, they do too.  I’m committed to being available to them should they need me,  but let’s be real –  as time passes everyone gets caught up in the rhythm of their days, and without someone encouraging movement and effort from their supervisors, there is an inevitable return to the norm.

If you are a director or C-level officer, are you really giving your direct reports the room, support and mentorship they need?  Are you working with them to formulate opportunities to practice that which they’ve learned once training programs end?  What’s your stake in their growth and how do you show that commitment?  I’m just wondering, because from where I stand this seems to be the most important part of your responsibilities and the easiest one for you to minimize or disregard.  I’m just sayin’…I know there are some exceptional senior executives who read this blog – it would be great to know what you do with and for those managers you send for professional development training once they’ve completed the program or class?

I will miss these Thursdays, yet that doesn’t diminish the value they have held for me.  I have met outstanding people, forged a bond that is predicated upon a shared desire to do the right thing for those they supervise and for their firms.  I wish them all the success, growth and all the happiness their hearts can hold.

So it’s Friday morning, and the sun is slowly rising.  The week ends with some exhausted by the emotional toll that the last few days have exacted; others are thrilled that the week has gone so well.  For everyone,  I hope the time arrives sometime today when you get to exhale.  Happy weekend all.

leadership · life lessons · management · motivation · training · work life

Schadenfreude? In This Economy?

Funny how I think I’m going to write about one thing, and end up going in another direction entirely.  Upon further reflection, if you knew how I drive this is probably not so surprising at all.  I adamantly believe that whatever direction I’m heading is north, think I’m going over underpasses and have been known to turn a map upside down when navigating a return trip from wherever.  I get lost a lot, though I’m perfectly comfortable asking for directions.  But, I digress….

A very dear friend of mine quit her job on Friday.  She enjoys a successful career, working at the senior levels of management.  On Friday she reached a limit that no one should have to push, so she packed up her office, provided her resignation and walked out the door.  I’m not going to spend too much time extolling my friend’s impressive qualifications and talents – her success is evident in the tenure, promotions and stellar reputation she has earned.  Besides, this isn’t a paean to her (though she deserves one), this is a cautionary tale.

Why’d she resign?  Because her boss – a V.P. who should have known better – was a bully.  This woman focused her energies on making other people feel really lousy.  For months she badgered, verbally lashed and demeaned her direct report – a senior manager.  Do I believe the karma truck is going to roll up this person’s driveway?  Oh yeah..I do.  It’s already in ‘drive’, for she can’t fill the vacancies she has, and now has one more opening in a critical space.  My hunch is that ultimately she will be ‘outed’ and invited to leave.  One has to have pretty strong ego needs to diminish the people you most need to build up – the ones who have your back and are carrying a  heavy workload on your behalf.  Greater is the pity that she will undoubtedly be packaged out with an impressive amount of money.

I don’t need to remind any of you about the potential legal implications of such behavior.  That’s a discussion for another day.  Apparently the V.P. enjoys this reputation she has earned and savours the unhappiness and unease that she engenders in others.  The sad irony is that she was vetted after joining the organization and people began wondering why such a hire was made.  What makes this even worse in my mind is that in the male-dominated environment where they both worked, this woman found her key to the executive washroom by belittling the efforts of another woman.  The examples of the daily exchanges, meetings and unrelenting personal criticisms could fill a very long tome describing various types of professional hell.

At the end of the day, my friend is fortunate.  She isn’t shackled by golden handcuffs and isn’t beholden to anyone.  She is taking some well-deserved time to restore, and ultimately wherever she goes, she’ll hit it out of the park.  This organization, however?  It’s too large to fold because of one really bad apple in its highest ranks (or two or three), and it would be naive to think so.  But the cost of irresponsible vetting, questionable accountability at the top and a weak professional value system will be high.  Whether it is realized in turnover, legal claims or diminished productivity – the impact of self-centered oversight is profound, expensive and long-lasting.  It’s too bad there isn’t a Hippocratic oath for supervisors at every level – “first, do no harm”.  It’s too bad that in some organizations, a person can thrive while fomenting unhappiness among those for whom she’s responsible, and climb the ladder in her Laboutins by stepping on toes and heads instead of the proper rungs.

 

anxiety · inspiration · leadership · management · work life

The ‘ShootingMyMouthOff’ & The ‘ShouldaCoulda’ Flu

I hope the title evokes thoughts of  Johnny Rivers or Aerosmith – that’s what was playing in my head this morning.

How many times have you said to yourself, “I shoulda said”, “I coulda said” or “I woulda said something, but….”.  It’s a common malady, the ‘should-woulda-coulda’ flu.  I’ve been infected more times than I can count – at work certainly, and in other areas of my life as well.  Its onset is so rapid you don’t even know you’ve got it until you try to open your mouth to counter a comment or action with which you take issue, and then rationalize why you shouldn’t say a word.

There is of course a corollary to this bug, which manifests itself with almost uncontrolled verbal expressions which are provided with or without invitation.  It’s also common in the workplace – the ‘shooting-my-mouth-off’ syndrome.  Again, there are no early symptoms, other than the overwhelming urge to say whatever is in your head without filter or forethought.

Although neither is recognized by the AMA, the effects of both can be lingering and negatively impact your relationships and your career.  The good news?  Both are controllable – and with a little exercise and a change in your emotional diet, you should feel pretty good about the prognosis.

There are times when we all feel the need or desire to speak truth to power – or at least what we perceive the truth to be.  You see an issue or problem that is being overlooked, diminished or ignored by those above you in the management hourglass.  In the first instance, you say nothing at all – you don’t want to be seen as negative, maybe you anticipate an angry or dismissive response or feel resigned that your perspective isn’t going to affect the outcome anyway.  In the latter, you tell your supervisor everything you see and hear, rationalizing that you want to keep your boss ‘in the know’,  assigning an ‘urgent’ rating to each conversation and feeling strongly that it’s your job to put it out there, and your supervisor’s job to remedy the situation.

Neither is absolutely right, neither can feel all that good and neither is reflective of your best professional aspect.  I believe that timing is everything – and though certainly I don’t always get it right by a long shot – I have learned to wait until I feel the odds are best for my audience to be attentive to what I’m saying.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I am undoubtedly also driven by my disdain for confrontation and will do what I can to minimize the likelihood of a conversation becoming hostile.)  No one controls what you say and how you say it other than you.  For those who feel your comments are futile – consider that you are in a position where there is an expectation for to you provide your insights, recommendations and perspective.  Although it may easier for you to ‘go along to get along’, if you can improve a situation you have a responsibility to do so.  And if any of you out there have a tendency to speak before thinking about the content and manner of your delivery – the expectations are the same for you too.  Impulsive, ill-conceived comments will sabotage your success with equal speed and force.

Take ten – ten minutes to stop and think about the problem that you see.  Evaluate its urgency, where your audience is at the moment and how to best disseminate the information.  Presuming the situation is not an emergency, think about the possible solutions you can recommend.  ‘Initiative’ is more than bringing an issue to someone’s attention – it also references your ability to provide some potential resolutions as well.  You need to take time to consider problem-solving alternatives before elevating the concern.  And for those who hesitate to say anything – you need some time too – to accept that this is part of your responsibilities and determine the approach that will be most comfortable to you.  Doing nothing is not an option, so don’t even go there.  The goal of the conversation is the same regardless of which ailment you may have – to identify a concern, assess its accuracy and provide objective recommendations for cure.

I realize that when you’re under the weather with symptoms of  either virus, such counsel may be unwelcome.  Yet the bottom line is – real business concerns need to be brought forward – and your professional stock will rise if you do so in the right way and at the right time.  Walk around the block, take some Vitamin C and if you need to,  practice your comments before you make them.  I speak with many managers all the time who feel there is no point in bringing issues out in the open.  I feel their sense of resignation and I ache at their feelings of futility.  I have to say that there are some conditions far worse than the two I’ve mentioned today.  Giving up and giving in to indifference is a far more dangerous and intransigent bug – one which spreads with impressive virulence.  Your views do matter, your recommendations are important and valuable – just make sure your outlook is healthy before you speak.

friendship · humor · inspiration · life lessons · mindfulness

Sunday Morning

It’s the perfect Sunday morning – good coffee, gentle rain, the New York Times, my husband and me.  All in my family are well.  My friends and I may not always be skipping through life, but we’re old enough to know that there is far more to be grateful for, than envious of.  We’re made stronger by paying it forward and most of us are trying to figure out how to do that more and more.  And for all that – I would re-affirm that it is just the perfect Sunday morning.  I just wanted to wish you the same – and a smile.