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17 Blockages to Being a Great Executive

“First remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:5

All humans have their baggage, blind spots and blockages. Unless we recognize and work on them, they can sabotage our careers and relationships. Having been an employment lawyer, investigator and executive coach I’ve experienced…and been guilty of…some of the following.

  1. Acting out of integrity – It is difficult to salvage an executive who acts out of integrity. I usually advise employers to fire those executives. Because you cannot trust them. Trust is a delicate fabric. When you act out of integrity, you lose it.
  2. Inability to motivate and engage employees – This has become a “hot topic Data shows two-thirds of employees are disengaged. My experience is that leaders and managers do more to disengage employees than engage them.
  3. Not communicating the big picture – I’ll never forget an employee stating one time in a survey “How should I know what the vision is? I’m treated like a mushroom.” Do employees know the long-term vision and goals? Are you assuming they do?
  4. Inability to develop talent – I remember a Jim Collins discussion where they asked him what he considered the most important thing for building great companies. His answer was to make sure your managers hire great people. As a leader and manager, do you understand the most important thing you’ll ever do is hire great employees and then develop that talent?
  5. Handling pressure/stress/emotions – When we run 75 mph, it becomes all about our doingness. Our beingness gets left behind. We lose the emotional capacity to manage with grace and instead overreact, micromanage, criticize and even yell. What are you doing as a manager to steady yourself under this pressure?
  6. Inability to delegate functions and authority – I’ve coached many executives who claimed they are on “overwhelm.” It was their resistance to being coached . “I don’t have time for this they would tell me.” Then when I worked with them, I realized that they were six-figure executives doing $30/hr work. When you build a good team around you, constantly be delegating – not just functions but authority . Ask yourself this question – how well would my team run if I was absent for a month? Would my people have the confidence to step up and take over the functions and authorities I cannot address?
  7. Inability to stay focused – Many of us have so much on the plate we become scatter-brained. When scattered, our energy is dispersed. However when focused our energy is like a laser beam and powerful. The easiest way to stay focused is to plan activities and not get distracted by those “squirrels” running by.
  8. Non-inclusive – If you are a “my way or the highway” executive you will eventually get kicked to the curb. You are leading or managing adults, and they want to be included in decisions that affect their work or career. Remember – none of us is as smart as all of us. How are you including others in your decision making?
  9. Lack of transparency – Many leaders and managers still don’t like to share information. “None of your business, just do what I tell you to do” is their mantra. That might have worked 30 years ago before the explosion of transparency , but it won’t work now. When you are not transparent, your employees will think you’re hiding things from them. And they won’t give you their best.
  10. Poor listening skills – Are you a good listener? Can you listen to somebody for five minutes straight without judging them, nit-picking them, providing your comments, or do anything other than ask clarifying questions? Try it sometime; they’ll wonder what happened to you.
  11. No sense of humor – Who wants to work for deadbeat? Do people enjoy being around you? Are you a fun guy or fun gal, or has life become so serious for you that you haven’t laughed with anyone at work in ages? If you are no fun, I suggest you try to bring an appropriate sense of humor to the workplace.
  12. Out of alignment with the company vision, mission, value or goals – Are you aligned with the company vision, mission, value, and goals? If I sat you down in front of your CEO and asked both of you “what’s the most important work being done here?”… would your answers be in alignment? In my experience when people are not aligned they tend to vector off, and it gets worse . It’s the job of leadership and management to continually bring both themselves and the people they manage into alignment.
  13. Plays favorites – When I managed, I had my favorite employees. Those got their jobs done on time and without drama. However, I have met plenty of leaders and managers with favorites, and they are not necessarily the best employees, but perhaps their best friends. When you play favorites, and it’s not related to results, you cause dissension. You can also find yourself accused of discrimination.
  14. Failure to recognize and reward – Again, when we run 75 mph we can forget the importance of stopping to recognize and reward when people do good work. Sooner or later if you don’t provide recognition and reward, your top performers will leave for a job where they appreciated. Note: I will be recording training for Lynda.com on Rewarding Employee Performance. Should be out by the Spring of 2018.
  15. Won’t or can’t think strategically – Many managers are great tacticians. They are often elevated to their roles because they did their jobs better than anyone else. This does not mean they are strategic thinkers. When we think strategically, we work on our business and not just in the business.
  16. Unwillingness to take responsibility – This is big. The buck stops with you. The beauty of taking responsibility in a situation is it does not open you up to guilt, remorse, and regret. That’s what happens when we know we’ve been less than responsible. While responsibility feels like a burden, (since we were teenagers) it is liberation.
  17. Doesn’t value diversity – While many companies talk about valuing diversity, many of their executives do not. Many would rather work with people in their own image. It makes them feel safer. They feel they can trust these people more. A lack of diversity can lead to myopia. We can get caught up in our little safe world without realizing the greater one outside .

There are other factors that influence the ability to be great leaders and managers including physical or mental health problems, personal relationship problems, financial problems, and upset with company leadership.

As I state in my workshops “If it doesn’t make sense, don’t try to make sense out of it.” These are not logical problems leaders, and managers face, they are emotional ones. One reason executive coaching has become so popular.

My invitation to you is to look at this as a checklist and see which of these factors may be a weakness in your game. Then just focus on improving one item at a time. Perhaps you can spend the week showing employees how you care about them. Or think of what five hours of low-value work you can delegate. Or even better…get a coach to support you in the process!

Interested in learning more about coaching? Contact me to experience it first hand as my gift to you!

PS what follows is a doc you can use to check your head!

17 Virtues of the Great Executive

Every one of these virtues matters. Focus on one or two at a time you want to improve on. You’ll become a better and more desirable executive when you do!

  1. Act with integrity – is there any place you feel “uncertain about the “right” thing to do?
  2. Motivate and engage employees- control won’t cut it.
  3. Be transparent – don’t make people intentions.
  4. Communicate the big picture- share vision, mission, values, BHAGs. reports.
  5. Delegate tasks and authority – let them do it 80% you.
  6. Develop talent – hire and keep great employees.
  7. Don’t play favorites- except based on performance and attitude.
  8. Find the value in diversity – and the commonality in all of us.
  9. Get aligned- are your actions in alignment with the , mission, goals?
  10. Handle pressure/stress/emotions with grace – any drama only make things worse.
  11. Have a laugh – life’s too short to work for a stick in the mud.
  12. Listen, be present – it’s the best way to show care!
  13. Be inclusive – , none of us is as smart as all of us!
  14. Recognize and reward performance – or they will take their performance elsewhere.
  15. Stay focused – like a beam. Avoid “gotta minutes.”
  16. Take 100% responsibility – and avoid guilt,
  17. Think strategically, not just tactically – be creative.

Getting the Blockages Out of the Way of Great HR

For years I have been preaching the opportunity in Great HR. When I do my CEO workshops, I show the financial logic behind the opportunity. I have business owners understand that every HR problem becomes a sales problem. And yet HR still has difficulty getting traction.

In this article, I will talk about where the real opportunity lies… and that is getting the blockages out of the way. I have heard executive after executive tell me how to have a difficulty finding talent, and then I go to their website, and there’s not a word about finding talent. When we talk about performance management many business owners will agree with me that the one to five rating approach doesn’t seem to improve performance and, yet they are unwilling to experiment to find a way that does. So, let’s talk about some blockages and slay those beasts so we can actualize the HR opportunity.

Overwhelm

It seems as if most every executive I speak to is on overwhelm. From the CEO on down. And that includes HR. This overwhelm is a symptom of poor time management. It’s a symptom of not defining and focusing on what is truly important. Here are a few ideas to battle the time/overwhelm obstacle:

  • Stop spending any time doing low-value work. This is true whether you are the CEO or the HR executive. Outsource it, delegate it or eliminate it.
  • Know where your time goes. Peter Drucker advised us in The Effective Executive to track your time and not assume where it goes. I find that once executives do they are amazed by how much of their time is spent on lower value work.
  • Draw a line for total hours worked and don’t work past it. As Parkinson’s Rule states “People get things done in a time allotted for it.” . Give yourself less time to get things done. You’ll work with greater urgency and focus as a result.
  • Stick it on a calendar. You must calendar working on strategic objectives. It is just as important to work on the business, as it is in the business.
  • Understand that overwhelm is neither healthy, productive, nor job security.

Money, money, money

Having spoken to more than 400 CEO groups, I have a good sense of how business owners think about money. Plus, I too ran a business. And the bottom line is this: CEO’s are up for spending money anytime it produces a return on investment. Here’s a link to my HR Cost Calculator. It helps to find the financial opportunity in Great HR. For example, if the company bemoans its ability to find talent and therefore rushes to hire,  how much did the last bad hire cost you? When we act out of desperation instead of out of a process, we produce very expensive variances. These variances are a negative ROI on our activities.

The fight between saving money and making money is very emotional. I encourage HR to connect the dots and help executives understand that all poor HR decisions eventually become a sales problem. That poor hire that might have cost $50,000 out of pocket is the equivalent of at least $250,000 in replacement revenue. I find that when executives connect the dots between costs and their revenue equivalents, they will spend time… and money trying to eliminate that waste.

Top Level Executives Who Could Care Less About HR

Vistage, the CEO organization that I speak for, has some 900 speakers in its system. The vast majority focus on marketing and sales- the number one concern of most CEOs. Every year or two they’ll have a speaker like me to come in and talk about HR practices. If you are at a company where leadership could care less about HR (and there are plenty of those companies out there), then find a company where leadership is open to the GreatHR opportunity….and get that blockage out of the way!

Bad HR

Last, it’s a fact that half of all HR executives are more motivated to make a difference at their companies than the other half. Unmotivated HR is Bad HR and has disastrous impacts on the bottom line. Bad HR focuses on excuses as opposed to execution.

  • Great HR takes the time to understand the company’s strategic initiatives. Bad HR does not.
  • Great HR has a strategic plan. Bad HR does not.
  • Great HR understands the math and data of their operations. Bad HR does not.
  • Great HR coordinates with their fellow executives to understand how they better support their needs. Bad HR does not.
  • Great HR stays on top of their game. They watch webinars, go to workshops and they network with other Great HR executives. Bad HR does not.
  • Bottom-line is Bad HR is disastrous for any organization.

Bad HR is a blockage to the Great HR opportunity. If your HR person doesn’t want to kick ass in HR…find someone who does!

Conclusion

HR continues to get a bad rap, although it professes a desire to be “strategic.” Yes, there are real blockages…and there are also far too many excuses which allow those blockages to hinder doing Great HR.

 

PS if you are in HR and have not watched my video The Truth About HR….and You, now would be a good time to do so!