Instigating Men

Leading men to be better leaders in business and in life.

The List

See if you can answer these questions.

  1. What team won the last Super Bowl?  Name the last 5 Super Bowl winning teams.
  2. Who won on last season’s Survivor reality TV show?  Who were the last 5 winners?
  3. What team won the World Series this year?  Name the last 5 World Series winners.
  4. Who won the Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance in 2011?  Who were the last 5 winners?
  5. Which TV Comedy Series won the Golden Globe Award earlier this year for that category?  What shows won for the last 5 years?
  6. Who were/are the 5 people who most impacted your professional life?

My guess is you may have been able to get some answers to questions 1 thru 5, especially the most recent winner, but you were likely challenged with remembering the last 5 winners.  But how did you do with question #6?  Most people can quickly come up with 5 people who had a direct and substantial impact on their professional lives.  The mentoring, guidance, patience, support, wisdom provided were the building blocks to how you act and behave in your leadership role.  What they told you, and more importantly how they acted and behaved, taught you how you can be successful.

Take Action

Quickly, make a list of those 5 people.  Invest one minute on each person capturing what you learned from each.  Take 2 minutes in a power pose (feet up on desk, hands behind the head) and ponder the value of the wisdom you have gained from those folks on your list.

Now, ask yourself. . .  if your employees were asked the same series of questions above would your name be on their list in #6?


Curious on the answers to the questions?  Follow these links to see the answers.

Audio Book Short List for Holiday Weekend

Leverage that driving time or flying time this holiday weekend with a good audio book.  Here are some books I’ve recently listened to on my iTouch.

  • Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding the Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty by Patrick Lencioni. 4 hours and 17 minutes. Take Lencioni’s perspective to your leadership role and consider how well are you leading with your talents versus leading from scripts and methodologies.
  •  1776 by David McCullough.  6 hours for abridged version.  Our country was built on cunningness, determination and great vision.  Think you’re leading through a difficult transition?  Compare notes with some of our early patriots.
  • Poke the Box by Seth Godin.  2 hours 14 minutes.  Rings true with the theme of this Leadership Learning Moment. . . get started, do something, try it, stop waiting for permission.

Have You Jumped the Shark?

From the Urban Dictionary, the phrase “jumped the shark” is defined as: the moment when something that was once great has reached a point where it will now decline in quality and popularity.  The idiom’s source is from an episode of a TV show that went way too far in trying to keep it’s audience.

So, how do you know if you, as a leader, have jumped the shark? How would you know you are approaching the point at which you will jump the shark?

Signs that you may have jumped the shark as a leader. . .

  • You are handing out the 58th Employee of the Month Award
  • You don’t notice that your employees are simply copying their annual goals from previous appraisals
  • Employees consistently arrive late to your weekly staff meeting or simply don’t bother to come
  • You are way too comfortable handling employee terminations
  • You are overly supportive of the across the board raises
  • The last business book you read was Good to Great . . . in 2001 when it was released.
  • Your motivational corporate speak is becoming punch lines at off-site employee gatherings
  • Your employees have setup and consistently update a # on Twitter in your name
  • You don’t know what a # is or means or how to find out

Take a moment and think this through.  Are you engaged and leading your employees?  Are they following you?

Huddle Up

Far too many staff meetings are drudgery for attendees yet these meetings do provide some valuable information.  Spice up your staff meetings by changing the dynamics of the meeting through Huddles, a simple, fast and effective meeting format that requires attendees to communicate time critical information efficiently.

Here are some rules for the Huddle Up meeting:

  • Huddles last for 9 minutes.
  • Huddles are run standing up.  ALL attendees must remain standing for the meeting.
  • Pick a unique time of the day that works well with the flow of your team’s work.  Try one of these times to get started.
    • Start of day:  8:56 am
    • Morning Break: 9:21 am
    • Before Lunch: 11:51 am
    • End of day: 4:41
  • Huddle agendas require just  2 items for each participant:
    • what’s going on today in your world which will impact others in the room
    • is there something specific you need to be successful today
  • Muzzle all electronic devices; everyone – including you – can wait up to 9 minutes to get to that voicemail.
  • There’s no room for food at the huddle.

You must manage the quick flow of the huddle.  While encouraging the give and take of information be sure to lead your team to develop a cadence for the level of communication that works well.   If a more lengthy discussion is needed on a topic, park the topic to be dealt with in a separate meeting at a different location than the huddle.

Here are some ideas to make the huddle even more engaging.

  • Use a stuffed animal as the microphone. Have fun passing the stuffed animal around/across the meeting to the next speaker.
  • Pick the speaking spot for the room.  Rotate the whole group in a circle through the spot stopping for each participant to speak as needed.
  • Hold the meeting in a small space to create a comfortable, crowded feeling.
  • Have attendees draw numbers or letters from a hat on the way into the meeting designating their order.

Perception of Performance: Which Lens Are You Using Today?

The successful performance in a role by someone who reports to you is based more on your perception of their performance than the actual work delivered.   Technically you have cognitive bias in the way you see traits, characteristics, behaviors which create a halo of perception with regard to performance.

Practically speaking:  Your perception is driven by the lens which you choose to use.

  • Your positive lens filters your perception of performance with a beam of warmth like a bright spring morning.  Those little problems or mistakes do muck up progress but no-one can be perfect all the time.  And growth comes with learning from mistakes and gaining wisdom.
  • Your negative lens filters your perception of performance with a negative fog that envelopes your view of work being performed.  Every step, every task, every interaction, every project seems to be less than satisfactory.

A difficult wisdom-building step for leaders is gaining the capability to ascertain the exact moment in time when the tipping point occurs in your frustration with an individual’s performance and you decide to change the lens from warmth to fog.  Most leaders just seem to find themselves past the point of no return with fog engulfing the view of performance for an employee and anything she does never quite measures up.  A self-fulfilling prophesy (a declared truth which is actually false but influences/confuses people regarding the behavior that ultimately fulfills the once false prophecy) will undoubtedly play out and the employee will quickly find themselves on the back end of a performance improvement plan.

To Think About

  • Have you been a good leader without bias while perceiving performance of those you are charged to lead?  Were you performing at 100% in your role?  Were you wearing the correct lens?
  • Do you consciously decide when to place on the appropriate lens?
  • Are you truly perceiving performance or is your vision a bit blurry?  Are you nearsighted?  Farsighted?
  • On a personal level, when in your life have you been basking in the sunshine & warmth or the desolation of the fog?  Was the perception of your performance accurate?

Create, Cultivate Your Peer Networks

A leader can often feel quite lonely as the day passes into the evening. The “to do” list is still too long and emails await responses.  A recent employee issue weighs heavily on the mind.  Tomorrow’s calendar is already full with back-to-back meetings.

A network of peer leaders can be tremendously helpful in providing not only keen advice for situational leadership, but a strong sense that you have allies and are not alone in the continual juggle.  Peer insight and advice can prove to be a strong motivating force for you, as you dig deep into your personal energy bucket.

Set up a schedule to meet with one peer – either in your company or at another company – once per week.  Make a rotation of 4 to 5 peers, who you will meet once every 4 to 5 weeks and develop, enrich and cultivate the relationships.  In moments of need, reach out to your network for advice, counsel, affirmation and, ideas on managing through a situation. Gain perspective or simply know that you are not alone.


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Leverage Your Resident Experts

Your employees have resident expertise and knowledge which is likely valuable to others in the organization.  Take some time to inventory the expertise and create a communication to market the expertise to others in the organization. Provide a “who to call list” to your internal customers which will highlight the strengths of your employees allowing them some much desired notoriety and help you to broadly sell your team’s strengths to your peers and the organization as a whole.

This process might also yield insight for you as a leader.

  • Are there gaps in backup coverage for key skill areas?
  • Are any of your employees truly overloaded?
  • Are there opportunities for cross training?

Take advantage of this project by having one of your employees take ownership to develop the list.  Guide them on the process to ensure that the final product meets your quality standards and make sure to give them the credit.

Who’s The Adult in the Room

Managing employees is a lot like raising kids and someone has to be the adult in the room.  Best bet is you’re being paid to be that person.  Employees and kids need the following. . .

  • Boundaries of appropriate performance and behavior
  • Guiding advice and latitude to make character building mistakes
  • Care and feeding
  • Deadlines and curfews
  • Follow up to see if they accomplished what they said they’d accomplish
  • Affection, recognition, counsel and every now and then a hug

A good leader will develop wisdom through time that will allow them to provide just the right amount of freedom and restriction to motivate and inspire their employees as each employee grows and develops.  A key insight is to know the “work age” of your employees and subsequently the appropriate levels of freedom and restriction.  Here’s a start to a list describing the age of employees.

  • Toddler – curious, desires immediate feedback, will work until they drop, temper tantrum when they don’t get their way, desires love and affection to know you care
  • Tweener – intrigued, works diligently but easily distracted with technology, trying to fit in to the culture, likes attention but maybe not in public
  • Teenager – work independently but wants to know there are some restrictions , rebellious to autocratic power, can be lazy at times, inclusion, caring though not reciprocated
  • College Aged – passion for causes, work odd hours and work endlessly if motivated, out of the box thinking as knowledge and wisdom converge, seek equal but separate relationships

List your employees and label their current age.  Now, think through various transactions and events with each employee assuming their work age and the success or struggles you’re having with each.  How are you performing?  Are you building up your employees to be successful in society?  And most importantly, are you being a “parent” or attempting to be a friend?

We’re interested in your thoughts.  Provide us with your own definitions on the above labels and/or these additional ones.

  • Infants
  • ADHDer
  • College Dropout
  • Boomerang Kid (moving back home)
  • Doogie Howser, MD (fast tracker, Hi-Potential)

Why Do They Stay? What Do They Want?

Most managers think that employees can only be satisfied by getting more money and that, as managers, they have little control over how much is doled out at annual review time. Wrong! Studies continue to show that once an employee’s basic monetary needs are met, their satisfaction is no longer tied to their paychecks. Instead they are looking for exciting and challenging work, opportunities to learn and grow, the chance to make a difference through their work and the opportunity to work with great people. As a manager you can impact most of these things through your management of the work and the team. Are you talking with each person about what they enjoy doing and what else they’d like to do? Are you offering opportunities for your employees to learn more? Do you provide opportunities for the team to interact and develop positive work relationships? All of these items directly impact an employee’s satisfaction well beyond the paycheck.

Hit your local or virtual book store and order the book “1st Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently” by Marcus Buckingham.  Too much trouble to buy and read the book?  Here are the 12 key employee questions from their survey.

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
  9. Do I have a best friend at work?
  10. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
  11. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

HR – Friend or Foe

Human Resources professionals are there to help you.  Though it might not look that way at all times, HR knows that the relative strength of their leaders corresponds directly to the number of people problems they will or won’t have.  The primary function of HR is to build the talent capacity within the organization through the acquisition of talented new hires and the internal development of talented employees.  Unfortunately, HR is also responsible for cleaning up the messes that so many less-than-talented leaders create.

Most of your interactions with HR will revolve around employee-specific events:  hiring, reviews, promotions, salary actions, firings.  In some ways HR is like your auto mechanic.  You usually visit the mechanic only when there’s a problem with your car.  You’re not happy about the inconvenience and the need to juggle your schedule to deal with the situation.  When you get the call from the mechanic regarding their analysis of the situation, it’s usually bad/painful news which will cost you money, time and energy.

The mechanic will likely tell you that if you had been bringing your car in for oil changes and routine maintenance, then this problem would likely not have surfaced.  Or, he could have caught the problem earlier and fixed it at a lower cost and/or impact to you.

So how can you better work with the HR staff on preventive maintenance of your staff?

  • Ask for a meeting to discuss your current analysis of your team and your development plans for your employees.
  • Every quarter, meet with HR regarding your views of the interactions of your team and their performance levels, as well as your ongoing performance discussions.
  • Seek a meeting with the highest level HR person with whom you could meet.  Ask for informal feedback from the HR leader on how he/she perceives your leadership capability in the organization.
  • Ask HR to shadow several of your staff meetings and then debrief you regarding their observations.
  • Send an email or voice mail to HR regarding something good which happened with an employee.  The positive news will be much appreciated.

Take some time to walk in the shoes of the HR professional.  The perspective might help you to strengthen your leadership wisdom and improve your relationship with HR.

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