Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

“Future-Proof” Employee

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

In IBM’s report from interviewing over 1700 CEOs around the world three main themes emerged for the most successful organizations. At the highest level, none are news to us. But going deeper there are some critical nuggets worth exploring. I’m focusing on “Build future-proof employees.”

Because emerging capabilities are hard to define, hiring and equipping employees with the skills to close the gap becomes a guessing game. CEOs look for people  who are collaborative, communicative, creative and flexible.  They create an environment where these traits develop more naturally through:
•     Create unconventional teams.Intentionally mix specialties and expertise
•     Broaden the range of situations and experiences that employees are exposed to in their normal work. Incorporate external influences — like customers and partners — wherever possible.
•     Encourage employees to develop a diverse and extensive network of contacts as both potential
collaborators and prospective customers.

How do you demonstrate that you are collaborative, communicative, creative and flexible?  What do you do as an individual to become ‘future proof?”

Critical Skills for our Future

Friday, September 30th, 2011

The more I learn, the more I need to learn.  And it doesn’t all take place in a formal educational setting.  As I watch our global economy and read Freidman’s latest book, “That Used To Be Us,”    it is clear that the Knowledge Sets are shifting.  Employers need people with the technical skills to get the work done. They also need these people to have communication and innovation abilities. The “AMA Critical Skills Survey” shows that executives had begun placing emphasis on a new set of skills that is neither intuitive for most people nor taught in school. “The Four Cs,” and they consist of:

Critical thinking and problem solving-the ability to make decisions, solve problems, and take actions as appropriate;
Effective communication-the ability to synthesize and transmit your ideas both in written and oral forms;
Collaboration and team building-the ability to work effectively with others, including those from diverse groups and with opposing points of view;
Creativity and innovation-the ability to see what’s NOT there and make something happen

In yet another survey, “Critical Skills for Workforce 2020,” the Institute for Future teamed up with University of Phoenix Research Institute finding the following similar categories:

Sense-making – Determining deeper meaning or significance of what’s being expressed
Social intelligence – connecting to others and sensing and stimulation reactions
Novel and adaptive thinking – thinking and coming up with creative solutions
Cross-cultural competency – operating in different cultural settings
Computational thinking – translating vast amounts of data into abstract conceepts and understanding data-based reasoning
New media literacy – leveraging, critically assessing and developing content using new media forms
Transdisciplinarity – understanding concepts across multiple disciplines

Each of these is a topic of discussion for identifying examples, how to learn (teach) it and then how to demonstrate it.

Career Skills for Today – Mindreading

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Recently a GovLoop forum asked: “What one skill do you wish you had?”  The very first response was “Mind Reading.” In my July 14, 2010  blog, I wrote on the career skill Trend Spotting, or Foresight. So I just have to respond.

Indeed Mind Reading seems to be a Competency all by itself. Not to be confused with “second guessing,” I would define it in our work settings as finely tuned perception and communication skills to draw out the other person; to make explicit the expectations, desired outcomes and emotions. It may also include deadlines, resources available, along with consequences for errors. Other definitions call into play all five senses.  We all learn at an early age to read others expressions to know if they are happy, sad, angry, etc. We then modify our own behavior based on their mood.  Scientists at Stanford have new data on Mind Reading: Comparing  brain images to the “maps” from the first set of participants, the researchers were able to predict with 85% accuracy the correct mental state of the second set of study participants.

We all communicate through our own filters. These filters are built on our previous experiences, fundamental values, emotions and motives.  We often project our feelings and values on to others thus attributing a motive to them that is really our own motive. If they hold the same motive, we feel like we are “on the same page.”  If it isn’t, then we often walk away from the conversation with different outcomes!  The big mistake here is to assume we know the other person’s motive. So the ‘Mind Reading’ challenge is to first, become aware of the motive and second, to verify it by asking clarifying questions.

Accurately reading facial expressions and body language is a core component of Mind Reading. But Mind Reading taps our sixth sense, intuition.  Just as “The Mentalist” isn’t psychic, he’s  highly observant.  A good Mind Reader is attuned to both the present and past situations. In observing the current facts, she will draw upon her previous encounters with the person or a similar situation and see if there are connections.  Other connections may be drawn from putting the current facts into a larger context – even projecting into the future.  For example, you’ve used your Mind Reading abilities when you hear your colleague boss take a stand on an issue and you know it is based on her desire for early retirement.

We can enhance our capacity for accurate Mind Reading by becoming more self-aware of our own emotions and motives as we draw on our observations, our memories, our powers of reason, and our deep pools of emotion to  make educated guesses about what another person is thinking and feeling. By being more attentive to the subtle and overt expressions of others, we get outside of ourselves and are able to help others express what they may not be able to say.  Mind Reading requires knowing when to probe and when to leave well enough alone, an old-fashioned virtue: discretion.

Change at Work – Bring a friend

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Its  so much easier to do something different or scary if someone else does it too.  We used to dare each other to do something “dangerous.” But it wasn’t so bad if someone else did it first. Courage comes in many forms. Even as adults we often prefer to go somewhere new when we take a friend to explore with us.

When it comes to Change in the workplace, we often feel like we are alone in our fears. Leaders can encourage people to bring a colleague to the informational meetings, the training, and other change related events. Team up people for the training. Provide fun incentives for enrolling their friends.  When the going gets rough, encourage them to help each other, not compete, so everyone can get up the hill. As they see each others’ successes, a wedge of success is created. We reduce resistance the change when we experience success together. As others begin to see the success, they will be less resistant and join their friends.

How else can we build success in our Change projects?

WIIFM? First, Listen

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

People are so overwhelmed by things changing in their lives and their work that we can count on them begin distracted while we are trying to communicate. Whether you are leading a training session or a meeting, over half the people are preoccupied with other thoughts.  Some are already gearing up to argue with you.

Our tendency is to talk more and to talk louder to get their attention. We need to deliver our message realizing they hear it through their “What’s In It For Me?” filter.  Anything that will touch my wallet will elicit an emotional response.  We need to talk just enough to deliver your message, and then stop talking so we can listen.

Listen for the concerns behind the blunt or badly phrased question.  Listen for what they fear behind the sarcastic tone in their voice. Respond first by ensuring that you heard their question by summarizing and asking them to confirm that your summary is correct.  Then offer the  clarification or additional information they requested.  If the answer is unknown, say so and ask for their help in finding the best solution. Too many of us launch into a rebuttal which may add further anxiety rather than address their concern.

It takes courage to listen when Change impacts our comfort zones.  We stand a greater chance of reducing the resistance when we communicate honestly and encourage the dialogue.

More on encouraging the conversations in the next blog.

What are your thoughts?

Change is tough – Stop being miserable.

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

One of my favorite bloggers has offered us this lovely gift of not only his wisdom but also his poetic talent. In this Seussical tale Kerry Patterson draws from his own experience (and all of us have similar ones!) to stop  perpetuating much of our own misery. You can download this story for yourself or your children:

“It’s Never Too Late to be Nice – A Parable from the Kingdom of Yabbit,” by Kerry Patterson

Are Your Management Skills Up to Date?

Monday, June 28th, 2010

I’m not talking about knowing the latest ‘flavor’ of management or the buzzwords. “Retention” is the battle cry once again. Many organizations are now using engagement survey stats for managerial performance measures. Your management skills along with to your technical credibility keep you viewed as a valuable contributor, not just a place holder, by your peers and execs.

Here are 5 things that may give you a clue to your people-management success:
1) As your organizations upgrades its systems and processes, are you self-sufficient with your own technology? Can you create and print your own reports? Can you map drives to the printer from your laptop? Set up and run an effective teleconference? Do you use e-mail and IM productively? Can you create effective power point decks, graphs and other frequently used documents? Constantly asking for help can drive your staff nuts.

2) Do your meetings make good use of your staff’s time and talents? Do you share the information from your manager’s staff meeting that needs to trickle down? Does everyone know why they are in the meeting and what they are to contribute? Everyone should have a meaningful action item that moves your project along after each session. Hopefully you’ve shared a laugh and highlighted some successes (team building). Weekly meetings should be less than an hour, max.

3) Do you share your staff’s good work with your peers and manager, or take just credit for having “a good team?” If someone has been especially helpful or had a pivotal idea that has led to the project success, give them the credit. Don’t be worried about losing your talent. If you don’t share their talent, they’ll leave anyway. Some of the best corporate leaders are known for the talent they grow.

4. Are you proactively reducing or minimizing conflict? What are the issues that continually flare up? We often avoid issues, hoping they will evaporate. Lay a safe groundwork to resolve the issue, then get to the root to find common ground. Don’t jump to a solution until both parties have fully understood the other point of view. More productivity is lost through avoiding conflict, rather than effectively addressing it.

5. Does your staff punch your buttons? Personality style differences can be maddening, for both parties. Schedule time and get assistance so everyone understands individual preferences and expectations. Then help each other to communicate based on that knowledge. At minimum, give them a warning sign if you are in a bad mood.

These tips are based on a few of the items that keep bobbing to the surface in most engagement surveys. They cross all types of workplaces and generations. For each of these five areas there are specific skills you can develop to keep up to date with what your team needs from you.

What other management skills or Competencies for your organization have you seen that need to be updated?

Rethinking Retirement – Boomers and GenX

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Where do you fit into the workforce? Today’s organizations are facing challenges like never before with our current demographics. Check out this article for some interesting thoughts for both managing staff as well as your own career.

Are You a Bad Boss?

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Most of us don’t think we are a bad boss. The really bad bosses aren’t reading this because they don’t care.

Here are 4 clues  of a bad boss.  What would be especially useful would be your ideas on how to help someone be a better boss. (hint: This isn’t always just what the boss needs to do.) I’ll get it started…

1. I do not acknowledge, or refer to staff members by name. Did you forget it? Is it hard to pronounce? Have you made up a nickname that is easier for you to use?  Our names are very personal and we like hearing them, especially when used kindly by those whom we hold in esteem or have authority.  Keep the parental tone way down – you know the one your parent used when you were in trouble.  Shortening or creating a nickname for someone may be like rubbing salt in a wound. Ask them for proper pronunciation and privately check in to ensure you are getting it right.  The best way to remember names is to know something about the person, not just their appearance or voice.

2. Most staff problems are annoying and I have much more important things to do, so I ignore them. Some things need to be talked through for staff to find their own answers. This takes effective listening skills and patience.  Some things need your position power (aka influence) to happen.  Minimize whining by asking what specifically action they want you to do and why. Have facts, not generalizations or assumptions, when you are looking for reasons to make a change.

3. My staff take things way too seriously; they can’t take a joke. As a boss, everything you say has the potential to have more power and influence with your staff than you may realize.  The only person to poke fun at is yourself.

4. My staff are professionals; they should know what to do. Why should I have to explain their jobs to them? We all operate from a set of assumptions and the problem is when they don’t match. Use the 5 W’s when discussing an assignment (Who, What, When, Where, Why) and any boundaries (budget, relationships, etc.) to help make a better match at these assumptions, there by reducing late and wrong work.

What are your clues?

Regaining Trust

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

It’s one of the squishy intangibles that makes all the difference in our work lives. If you cannot trust your manager – if you cannot trust your team – then no one is happy. Trust must be earned and that takes time, consistency and follow-through.
There are some specific things leaders can do to help that process:
1. More face time with staff and customers
2. Be clear about priorities
3. Genuinely ask for, listen, and act upon ideas and suggestions
4. Involve more or different people in high profile projects
Bates Communication has a survey and good article with more actions cited at this link.