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May 2012 Archives

Evidence of Buy-in

Published on: May 29, 2012 | Tags: General, Team Work, Team Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Productivity, Strategy, Organizations

Buy-in Help

Leaders value buy-in to their team or organization’s direction. The assurance that those you lead have bought-in brings a leader reassurance. It gives hope to the leader that he or she actually influences the direction of the team or organization towards success. To know that those you lead have bought-in, you have to know what buy-in looks like. 

If you want to evaluate whether those you lead have bought-in, there are three observations that will provide insight. 

  1. Team members share responsibility 

Assuming responsibility for results that support the defined direction is a key indicator that team members have bought-in. Shared responsibility can be observed in individual and group decision making. When individuals make decisions that support the direction of the team or organization without requiring feedback from a leader or co-worker, they are expressing buy-in. The team has bought in when discussions, reports, and group decisions intentionally drive for results that direct movement down the defined path. 

  1. Team members support one another 

When a people buy-into a direction that results in shared responsibility, they support one another in getting there. Individualism goes “out the window.” When you, as a leader, observe people supporting one another because they recognize the cumulative result of their work, they have bought into the direction of the team as well as the organization. 

  1. Team members contributing resources 

Contributing the minimum or the basic requirements does not reflect buy-in. People express buy-in with contribution beyond the basic expectations.  When a leader observes people exceeding expectations, and at times acting sacrificially, they are bought-in. Resources can include time, expertise, budget, or space. 

Buy-in’s benefits are not difficult to measure short or long-term. In the short-term strategies are successful as measured by goal achievement at all levels. In the long term, vision becomes reality by creating value, the visible evidence of sustainability. The leaders challenge becomes defining direction and communicating it in an organization designed to engender buy-in. Do the people in your organization and on your team have a clear direction to buy into?

Management Favoritism

Published on: May 21, 2012 | Tags: General, Team Work, Team Leadership, Management, Productivity, Feedback

Favoritism is perceived when a manager appears to offer more opportunity to an employee or employees than he does to others in his work group. This same manager may not recognize that he practices favoritism, or he may justify his favoritism. Either way, if those who work with him perceive that he practices favoritism the result is ongoing conflict and turbulence in the work group. Perception is reality to those that perceive it. The negative work environment costs in morale and productivity. 

Actual favoritism occurs when a manager allows a person rights and privileges based on relationship or personal benefit to the manager. This practice is easy to identify and cannot be justified. There is a simple solution in this scenario. Stop it! Stop it

Perceived favoritism develops with less intention and may not be understood as favoritism by the manager. When a manager relies on his most productive employees it can appear to be favoritism. From his perspective, it takes less energy and time to give them more opportunity and therefore more reward than those who are not as productive. In this scenario, “low performers” question why they do not get better assignments and more opportunity. It appears, from their perspective, that the manager has favorites. 

The manager justifies the practice based on his perception of the people on the team. That is his reality, or is it? There is another perspective a manager can take. He can see the developmental opportunities in the team. Then he will be practicing the leadership capacity of development. 

While it is unrealistic to believe everyone can perform at the same level, it is reasonable to believe people can improve. There are always exceptions, but does that make the exception the rule.  If the disparity of capability in a work group results in a manager who ignores some and relies on others, he is enjoying the results of that practice. Actually, it may not be very enjoyable. If a person is not meeting expectations, and the manager’s approach is to give more work to someone else he is missing a developmental opportunity. Two practices build the leadership capacity of development. 

Focus on Fairness 

The perception of favoritism will disappear if you are fair. Fair is setting expectations and giving everyone the opportunity to meet them. Invest in the growth of those you lead. If everyone shares the same opportunity to develop skills that prepare him or her for opportunity no one should appear to be a favorite. If someone does not want to grow in skills required for success, then be fair to those who are preforming at a high level and address the issue. Hig performers should not have to carry someone else’s responsibility because of poor managment. 

Challenge people to recognize what they are capable of plus a little. 

It is important for you to know the capabilities of those you lead or manage. The risk is that you accept current capabilities as all the capacity a person will ever possess. If you carefully observe those you lead, you will probably see more capability than they acknowledge. This may be your frustration, but it is also your opportunity. With this information, you can challenge people beyond where they are while limiting your risk. Push them a little past what you determine they are capable of without putting yourself or fulfillment of expectations at significant risk. Give them the same chance to learn and grow someone has probably given you. When they succeed everyone wins, when they fail they learn. Leaning becomes growth. 

Take a fresh look at the potential of those you lead. Make sure the lens you use for observation seeks potential. That potential clarifies the opportunity to develop people who want to succeed. 

The Power of Diversity

Published on: May 14, 2012 | Tags: General, Team Work, Team Leadership, Self Leadership, Weakness, Strength, Productivity

The workplace grows increasingly diverse. I define diversity as anything that makes one person different from another. By this definition, some personal characteristics make identifying how we are different from those we work with easy. At the same time, there are more subtle differences. These can be overlooked or ignored. A leader who aspires to bring people together and achieve optimum levels of performance needs the skill to leverage this diversity. 

In some cases, managers either intentionally or unintentionally attempt to move people to conformity. This is essentially an attempt to make everyone the same. I understand this desire as it appears to the manager that her job will be easier if everyone acts and thinks the same way. If this is your expectation as a leader, how realistic is it? The energy expended attempting to get people to act as you want them to act and the frustration you experience when it does not happen can be better spent. 

Diversity presents the integration and differentiation challenge. Your team has to be integrated enough to work together and fit into the organization while differentiated enough to bring individual resources derived from personal uniqueness to the team. Teams that achieve this balance share three characteristics. Diversity

  • Each person understands self in order to contribute out of strengths and manage weaknesses. 

When a person contributes from self-understanding, there is less temptation to let another person define individual contribution. As people understand and lead self well each one fits into the team without losing personal high potential or hindering team productivity. Everyone complements others with confidence in what each one can and cannot contribute to the team.  The expectation is that everyone contributes out of personal strengths and weaknesses. 

  • Acceptance and appreciation of self and others expressed as openness and mutual support. 

Failure to accept and appreciate self and others generates judgment, criticism, relational distance, and misunderstanding. This becomes a negative diversity experience. At best, independence limits group productivity. At worst, everyone lives in constant turbulence.  Alternatively, when everyone accepts what others bring to the group with openness and mutual support, one person’s strengths cover another’s weaknesses. This is diversity’s power. 

  • Collaborative interactions evidenced in collective outcomes. 

Diversity’s power results in collective outcomes. The ability to collaborate derived from acceptance and appreciation engages every resource each person possesses. In the end, the team’s productivity improves as each person’s best synergistically produces what the individuals cannot. Personal achievement excels as well when each person contributes from her strengths. 

Some managers may believe it easier to make everyone the same. Great amounts of energy have been expended to this end. The problem with this approach: it goes against nature. Do we really believe it is easy to make someone become who he is not? It is easier to position a person to be who she is with the expectation of openness and support of others. There will be some turbulence as acceptance is sorted out, but it diminishes in time. Attempting to make people who they are not for conformity’s sake perpetuates turbulence.

Leadership Credibility through Accountability

Published on: May 07, 2012 | Tags: General, Team Work, Team Leadership, Productivity, Management, Organizational Leadership, Organizations, Communication

Accountability, when discussed in organizations, usually focuses on employees as subordinates. Managers expect people to be accountable for the results of their work, as they should. A problem develops when people are not as productive as expected and managers cannot or do not hold people accountable. This occurs in spite of the coaching and counseling training that many organizations rely on as the way for managers to approach their responsibility. When the initial focus of accountability is on the person in the subordinate position, it is difficult for accountability to work. The initial focus of accountability should be on the leader. Account

The leader should be accountable for his or her leadership before he or she expects accountability from others. The way to accountability as a leader is through credibility. People tend to embrace accountability to someone who is equally accountable to them. When you, as a leader, fulfill your role well you become someone to whom others willingly become accountable. Voluntary accountability is much more powerful than relying on authority and power. Becoming credible requires attention and intention to your leadership role. Here are three ways to build your credibility in a way that develops accountability. 

Create ownership by offering opportunity 

I find that leaders value people who take ownership in their work. Ownership increases accountability. If you, as a leader, want to increase ownership, then be accountable to provide people the opportunity to own their work. It must be work worth owning from their perspective. They have little interest in doing your work. Unless you are accountable to provide opportunity, you may find it difficult to hold them accountable as owners. 

See results by positioning people to achieve – 

The fundamental need for accountability develops when one fails to meet expected results. I have worked with managers who believe people do not want to or cannot succeed so they exert control that results in micro-management. In the end, these managers still struggle to find significant productivity. If you want people to deliver results, be accountable to position them to achieve. Most people can achieve more than they realize. An effective leader positions team members to surprise themselves, even though he or she is not surprised. He or she sees the potential in people and believes they want to succeed. 

Experience progress by developing healthy relationships – 

Many times, work groups cannot progress because people do not work well together. Even maintaining the status quo presents a challenge in these cases. Managers get frustrated from endless turbulence. If you want people to progress in the ability to work together, you as a leader must be accountable to develop healthy relationships within the team. If you do not fulfill your accountability to guide people on your team out of relational turbulence, you should not expect them to progress in their ability to work together. 

There are many ways a leader can be accountable to followers at both the team and organizational level. If you want to increase accountability from those in your organization or on you team, first make sure you are credible as a leader. You will find the willingness of people to be accountable to you increases with your credibility.

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