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WHEN YOU KNOW YOU’RE RIGHT!

“In spinning a robe of your own righteousness, before the sun goes down you will find it all unraveled.” – Curtis Hutson

You know you are right….and yet they ignore you, ridicule you, argue nonsense to you or even try to sabotage you.

Of course, they can’t be “right” too.

John was one of the top engineers on the project.  After doing a bunch of independent research, he came to the conclusion the team was going in the wrong direction.  He had been hinting at his concerns, but it seemed everyone was too overwhelmed with their tasks to listen.

Every Wednesday at 8 AM, the team had an all-hands meeting.  John would be prepared.  He would show them why the current approach was doomed for failure.  It was all he could think about, all night long. He was fitful and had a terrible night’s sleep.

The next morning, John was exhausted but ready to go.  He steeled himself when it came his time to report.  He let it all out.  He was nervous, and his energy was strong. He told the team if they didn’t listen to his concerns, they would regret it later.

John did not get the response he hoped for.  At first, there was dead silence.  Then the questions, disagreements and attacks began.  Many on the team felt as if they were under attack from John, and sought not to listen or understand John, but to defend themselves.

It was a disaster.  The team lead ended the meeting and told John he’d like to meet with him that afternoon.

After the meeting, John was anxious and confused. He couldn’t understand why they didn’t jump on board with his recommendations. Thoughts kept repeating in his head about how he was right.  They must be blind, fools or even worse, reckless.

So where did being “right” get John?

Where does the push to be “right” ever get any of us? On any stage?

As the saying goes, “Are you always the smartest person in the room?”

I know my energy can rise when there is even a potential for conflict… and I know I’m right.

When we are “right” and don’t instantly get our way, it feels unfair.  When something feels unfair, the drama begins.  We can go from feeling like a victim one minute and acting like a villain in the next.

So, what approach do you take when you know you are right, and resistance is sure to follow?  What insights should John’s team leader share with him in their meeting? Let me share a few insights I’ve learned from trial work, sales, and the study of emotions.

  1. Begin by asking yourself the questions that are sure to come your way.  What are the possible objections to your argument?  What fears or concerns of others will you have to overcome? A good salesperson considers possible objections that may be confronted in a sales meeting and practices responses to them.  Even better, take away their potential victimology by addressing their fears and concerns… before they do.
  2. Have a confidant give you honest feedback.  Invite them to cross-examine you. When I was a trial lawyer, we would sometimes pay for a “mock jury” to test out our arguments.  Maybe a mentor,  coach, or old professor can be a good sounding board for you.  Having that sounding board is one reason every executive should have a coach!
  3. Hone your presentation.  Practice, practice, practice. Never wing it.  If it is important, it is important enough to do it with excellence.  Tell a great story, beginning to end.  Identify how everyone benefits from your approach.
  4. R-e-l-a-x.  Go into the meeting, presentation, etc. like the Dalai Lama would, focusing on liking the people you will be with, before you are even with them.  They are dealing with as much, and sometimes more, than you are.  So chill out and be a good human, no matter how excited you are about being right.
  5. I try to keep in mind the quote from David Bohm that “the truth doesn’t emerge from an opinion; it emerges from a dialogue.”  So, don’t be a know it all. Invite feedback.  Engage in a dialogue. Ask what they agree with or not, and why.  Try to learn something from them. That’s good sales.  Then identify what you agree about and narrow down the disagreements. Listen. Without interruption.   Step into their shoes.  Feel where they are coming from.  Even if you face disagreement, you can do so as good people.  Reasonable people can agree to disagree.
  6. Consider how you can mitigate their concerns.  Perhaps adjust your approach.   Be creative. Be flexible, like Gumby.  He…or she… with the most options wins.
  7. If you hit a stalemate, consider a third party to facilitate finding a middle ground.  A mediation if you will. Or call a timeout and agree to reconvene after everyone has had time to sort things out.
  8. If after all of that you still find yourself stuck in what you believe is a disaster waiting to happen, then either let go or get out.  Fighting reality is a game for the insane…or soon to be insane.  You don’t want to “lose it” because you are right. When that happens, everyone loses.

I think most people would say they are more “right” about things than other people.  Odds are, across your life, you are probably little better than 50/50 at being “right.”

Now that’s reality!

Walking the Training Talk

I just finished reading my bi-monthly issue of Training Magazine. It highlighted the top 125 company training programs in the country. Some insights I gathered:

  1. 1. Most employees want at least two hours of training per month. If the employee desire is roughly 24 hours of training per year and they earn $50,000 then you have to deliver that training, including their cost of attendance at roughly $50 per hour, or $1200 year or 2.4% of payroll…and as you will see, that’s on the lower end of the budget for great companies.
  2. Unfortunately, less than 80% of employees get two hours of training per month. Is it the time? The money? A philosophy that training is not needed to perform at peak levels? If you are super concerned about time or money then make sure the training produces results.
  3. Employees want training to learn new skills, grow in their career, and be more productive. Don’t you want that too? Everyone wins when you train well. I just read an interesting survey on Lifetime Learning done by Pew.The info from that could be yet an additional article.
  4. Employees continue to acknowledge feedback as the greatest engagement factor. Meaning training alone, without feedback, is wasted time and money.
  5. While employees have shorter and shorter attention spans and prefer shorter training sessions, studies show that training is more effective when longer in duration. I say make the training fit the need. Sometimes micro-learning is perfect. Others times a deep dive is required.
  6. The average training spend has increased by at least 10% per year over the last five years. Have you kept pace? As George Gilder reminds us, we are in a knowledge economy, no matter what job we do.
  7. Most award winning companies say their training budget as a percentage of payroll is between 2% and 4%. There are outlier companies such as Quicken Loans which devote 8.3% of its payroll budget to training. What percentage of payroll do you devote to training?
  8. The vast majority have tuition reimbursement plans.
  9. Great training is a mix. Some online, some just-in-time, mentoring, Kaizen groups, presenters, trainers, TED talks, etc. Training is only limited by a company’s creativity.

There’s the general landscape. No doubt half of all companies train better than the other half, 10% do a great job of it and 1% do a world class job. Where do you stand?

If you walk the training talk then brand that fact on your about page, your hiring page, during your interview process and then execute it on or during orientation and throughout their career. This will improve your ability to hire and retain productive employees.

Leadership and Self-Deception

The book Leadership and Self Deception: Getting Out of the Box by The Arbinger Institute was a wake-up call for me. The deception is this: because my self-talk is I care my actions show I care.

Not so fast.

When giving presentations I challenge leaders to give me an example of how they showed someone they cared about them…and no, a paycheck doesn’t count. Usually a great deal of silence follows as they explore their memories for such an example. Some will talk about how they showed up for employees facing medical or family situations. For the rest, like it was for me, it is a wake-up call. We get our deception.

Unfortunately, when we run 75 miles an hour, it’s hard to show people we care for them because heck, we don’t even show ourselves we care for ourselves. We become numb and we engage in ongoing criticism as supposed to anything positive.

Check your head: when is the last time you showed somebody at work you care about them?

Go into your day intending to show people you care about them. How can you do that? Some ideas:

  1. Check in with any family concerns.
  2. Check in with how they are doing at work.
  3. Tell them something you admire about them.
  4. Listen to them with full presence.
  5. Go to lunch or take a walk with them.
  6. Write a personal note.

How will you show somebody you care about them today? Please share your ideas in the comments below.

Ten Commandments for Inspiring Super-Forecasters

It’s easy to get lost trying to figure out what’s coming next. I listened to an interesting TED Podcast about risk and forecasting and then visited Phillip Telock’s Ten Commandments. I encourage you to do the same https://mgmt.wharton.upenn.edu/profile/1390/research

Here’s my summary of the commandments:

  1. Triage – ask the critical questions at the right time.
  2. Break the problem down into manageable pieces.
  3. Balance the inside and outside views.
  4. Balance underacting and over reacting.
  5. Look for the clashing casual forces affecting each problem.
  6. Try to distinguish the many degrees of doubt as a problem permits.
  7. Strike the balance between under and over confidence and prudence and decisiveness.
  8. Look for the errors behind the mistakes but know of rear-view mirror hindsight bias.
  9. Bring out the best in others and allow them to bring out the best in you.
  10. Master the error – riding a bicycle. Learning requires doing and feedback.

There is wisdom in each one of these suggestions that applies to everything from searching for opportunities to managing risk. It’s a great formula for tackling many problems.

Side note: If you’re interested in a free PDF copy of the book I wrote Stop Making Mitsakes, please email to don@donphin.com.

Negotiation Strategies

Every day we are negotiating. Whether on a sales call, seeking a raise or dealing with our kids. I recently read James Altucher’s book Reinvent Yourself and he shared what he learned about negotiating from his interview with Chris Voss, the former lead hostage negotiator for the FBI. Chris wrote a book about negotiation called Never Split The Difference. Here are negotiation strategies gathered from James’ interview with Chris. Many of the same points I learned negotiating as an attorney.

  1. The most important question is to ask somebody “How?” For example “How am I supposed to get a million dollars by tomorrow?” Open ended questions such as “How” or “What” get people to keep talking.
  2. Everybody tries to get a “Yes” first. Chris says get them to say “No” first. For example “No, I don’t want this project to fail.”
  3. List the negatives on your side. It shows you can empathize with them. In my trial lawyer days, I always brought out the opponent’s arguments before they got a chance to do so. It built credibility with the jury along the way.
  4. Try to show they may be powerless – If the negotiation is not going your way you can say “Sounds like there’s nothing you can do.” People resist the idea of being powerless.
  5. Use silence- people can’t stand silence. As the saying goes “let the silence do the heavy lifting”. Be quiet long enough and they will come up with something to say.
  6. When it comes to numbers in a deal Chris recommends letting them come up with the numbers first and stresses the importance of using very specific numbers.
  7. He also encourages us to make our list bigger than theirs. Say you are going into a negotiation with your CEO for your dept. agenda; if you go in with one option and then they say “no” where does that leave you? If however you go in with five and they say “no” to 3 you are way ahead of the game.
  8. Figure out your terms and conditions in advance. Don’t wing it.
  9. Chris also talks about mirroring, the power of information and using the deepest voice you can when negotiating.
  10. I can add to this list the importance of being able to walk away from the table. You must go into a negotiation with a Plan B. If you are stuck with only one option you have the weaker position. Knowing your “outs” is an important part of being a good negotiator.

There you have it, wisdom for your next negotiation!

All the best, Don

PS Has the person at your company that handles HR signed up for my Great HR program yet? www.greathr.com

Are You a “Negative Hero”

I know sometimes I am. I know there are times when my intentions are good…but my outcomes are not. That’s what a “negative hero” is.

Think about your parents for a minute. When you were a kid their intentions were good (they did love you after all) but many times they were too critical, judgmental and punishing. It seemed all they could focus on is where we didn’t do something 100% right…according to their rules.

As we got older and more independent the result wasn’t submission anymore… but a fight or flight response.

And they lost part of us in the process.

I decided I didn’t want to to lose my kids…or my best employees and clients either.

When I do workshops I talk about the 80% leader, with their strong emotional energy. Control, in the name of good, is their game.

I just heard a great quote that applies to being an 80%’r. “You can’t arrest your way out of a problem.” By William Joseph “Bill” Bratton, 38th Police Commissioner, NYC.

Why do we as leaders and bosses and parents think we must will our way through a problem? Don’t we make our ongoing micro-arrests when we so? How’s that feel to other people. You may be 100% right…and it still feels wrong.

When we play with an 80% energy we become villainized. People feel our energy. They don’t feel our intent. Like the antelope tracked by the cheetah, it feels the vibe and …poof!

Unless you want to end up alone, or surrounded by submissives, the 80% approach is not the answer.

The answer is managing your emotional energy. Much of our 80% comes from the fear of what may happen. That fear overwhelms us in the present moment causing our energy to well up so we can control the situation and protect ourselves.

Here’s the answer: Stay present. Feel what is going on, right now. Is your emotional energy “up” because you are fearful? Are you in survival mode? How is that helping right now?

When we are present with a situation our emotional energy is balanced. Both of us take up enough space to leave room for the co-creation and dance. I call that playing 40/40.

When we are 40%’rs we allow other people to become their own heroes. Our kids, employees and customers/clients.

Real heroes inspire others to become their own heroes. You can only do that when your emotional energy is present and not hijacked by fear.

By the way, I find this is an ongoing process. We must fight our natural instincts to be fearful of the future…every day…day after day.

 

PS Lesson 9 in the Great HR Program is all about managing our emotional energy. That lesson alone is worth the price of admission to the entire program. www.greathr.com

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.

Maybe leadership should do something about HR… like supporting it.

I’ve been around the HR and leadership block. For decades it seems like I’ve read a dozen articles in business publications blasting HR for every article that praises it.

There is great opportunity in great HR. The results of Great HR practices fall directly to the bottom line.

I’ve coached dozens of HR executives and spoken to thousands of CEOs. Most leadership does a poor job of supporting HR executives. Most CEO’s don’t want to manage the HR executive. So they pass it off to a CFO or COO, who are not exactly enamored with the HR function either. How many CEO’s, CFO’s or COO’s do you know who got into their careers so they could manage an HR executive? Answer: none.

Yes… there are the outliers …and they are exactly that – the owners who value HR and have it report directly to them.

Instead of talking about splitting HR in half or abolishing it all together perhaps it should be viewed as a strategic objective for the long term success of your company.

Here are a few ideas of how you might support your HR executives:

  1. Hire great HR executives. As with any position, half of the employees in it are better than the other half. And then there is the top 10%. It makes a world of difference when you hire that top 10%, whether you do so in a full time or part time basis. Simply they can see things about the HR opportunity that most people can’t. And they are prone to action.
  2. Help them understand your strategic objectives. Then work with them to align their practices towards those objectives.
  3. Have a monthly meeting where you go over a report identify progress on KPI’s and a summary of the latest HR related data.
  4. Encourage them to shed low value duties. When they ask for administrative help- give it to them. I want none of my HR executives doing $10-$20 work.
  5. Include them in your critical meetings and decisions. Encourage their contribution.
  6. Support their career growth. Get them into a Vistage group or remote coaching from Don.
  7. Acknowledge when they add value and motivate them further by giving them a raise.

A mentioned in the email I encourage you to take advantage of the free ZeroRiskHR assessment you can put to use today. Have your HR executive complete it and gain insight into how to better manage them.