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Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Real Source of Personal Change (And the role of the DiSC)

Cleaning out my office the other day - an odd thing in itself - I came across something even more unusual than the thought of me cleaning anything.

It was the original DiSC Behavioral Profile my department and I did back in the early 90s.The chart showed that I was heavy in the “dominance” and “influence” areas with pretty much zilch in the “conscientiousness” and “steadiness” realms. It was apparently a classic “Inspirational Pattern.” This is what it looked like (over on the left).

According to the DiSC material:
  • My goal is to control my environment by “consciously attempting to modify the thoughts and actions of others.”
  • I’m adept at “identifying and manipulating other’s existing motives and directing the resulting behavior toward a predetermined end.”
  • I influence others through charm and intimidation and become manipulative and quarrelsome under pressure.
Tell me something I don’t already know. The need to control things is something I know a lot about.

So why bring up this unpleasant bit of history? Well, it’s surprising how accurately that profile described the “me” of 18 years ago. And while there were some things I would have liked to change about my behavior at the time, the truth is that I didn’t change that much after I took the assessment.

Don’t get me wrong; I have changed a lot since then. But what the DiSC program revealed, only started the change in my behavior. I really began to change when my goals changed - for reasons we’ll get to in a minute - and I realized the behavior that had served me in the past was no longer effective.

That’s what this post is about: the difference between identifying behavioral characteristics, which DiSC and similar programs like Myers-Briggs are very good at, and actually doing something about it, i.e. modifying behavior, which is a whole different ball game.

The real value of behavioral profiles systems
Not only was the DiSC system spot-on, it also provided tips on how I can be more effective and showed my staff why I behaved like a crazy person from time to time. That said, I think the real value in the exercise was that, for a day, we all got to be on the same level discovering what each of us was really all about. I remember it being fun and disarming and the increased understanding did help us better communicate and work together as a team.

Even so, though DiSC system told me I could be a control freak under certain conditions, was deeply afraid of “being too soft,” and would be more effective by showing some “genuine sensitivity” from time to time, nothing really changed that much because I had a job to do and that was get results, not get all warm and fuzzy with my inner self.

What it really takes to affect behavioral change
In reality, it took a couple of pretty dramatic personal crises to get me to take a cold hard look in the mirror and decide that I wanted different things out of life. And to achieve them, I would need to spend some quality time actually getting to know others around me and myself and enjoy life. I needed some balance.

An employee who used to work for Intel’s former CEO Andy Grove - a guy who was famously tightly wound - once said that Grove became a much nicer and mellower guy after his run-in with prostate cancer. A manager I used to work for also softened up after a scary medical condition. That’s the sort of thing that motivates change.

You see, DiSC profiles may be eerily accurate, but they’re still pretty limited compared to everything you and I have going on under the hood. That’s because the architecture of the human mind is complicated. It’s actually a lot like an onion.

And just like an onion, you peel a layer, cry, peel another layer, and wail some more. In other words, just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, you go a bit deeper and find out you didn’t know a darn thing. The mind’s tricky like that.

You see, what it all really comes down to, the essence of how you and I behave on a daily basis, is a loop that actually goes something like this:

You can follow the loop for years, even decades, thinking everything’s fine. Then, one day, something happens - a crisis, an epiphany - and you realize that the results of all your efforts weren’t what you expected. So you change your goals and, well, your behavior won’t change overnight, but it’s a start.

All the success!

PM in the AM

8 Things You Should Never Say to Customers

Great customer relationships: Hard to establish, easy to ruin — especially when you say the wrong things.

Here are eight things you should never say to customers (even if you would secretly love to):
  1. “No.” A boss once told me, “Never tell a customer no. Always say, ‘Yes, we can. Here’s what that will cost.’” If you absolutely can’t provide a certain product or service, you can’t, but often you can’t simply because you don’t want to. (In the example above I didn’t want to. What the customer had asked for was certainly possible but would have been a real pain to pull off.) Price unusual requests accordingly: If you can make a decent profit, why not? Making a profit is why you’re in business.
  1. “Are you sure?” Customers are often wrong. Too bad. Never directly doubt their statements or their feelings; all you’ll do is make an already bad situation a lot worse. Instead ask questions or seek to better understand. Saying something like, “Can you walk me through that one more time so I can make sure I can take care of what went wrong?” validates the customer’s position while helping you keep the conversation objective and solution-focused.
  1. “What you should do is…” Don’t tell me what to do. Help me. That’s why I came to you.
  1. “That’s against our policy.” Maybe it is against your policy… but if the customer wasn’t aware of the policy ahead of time, who cares? Any terms or conditions not spelled out in advance are irrelevant to the customer. Imagine you’re a customer who finds out after the fact that special order items can’t be returned — how would you feel? Refer to policies or conditions when the customer was fully aware of and agreed to those conditions; otherwise, find a way to fix the problem. Unstated policies are your problem, not the customer’s.
  1.  “No problem.” Maybe this is just a pet peeve, but I’m always irritated when, say, I ask a waiter for dressing on the side and he says, “No problem.” I know he means “yes,” but “no problem” still implies I really am causing a problem. When I’m the customer, I’m favoring your business with my patronage; your business isn’t doing me any favors, so never imply you are. Replace “no problem” with “yes.”
  1.  “Let me try to do that…” Customers care about results, not effort. Tell me what you will do. “Trying” creates greater uncertainty, and uncertainty is the kiss of death to a customer relationship. If a client requests an accelerated delivery, say, “I’ll call our distributor and get the best schedule possible.” All you can do is all you can do. Don’t imply you’re working extra hard on my behalf by “trying.”
  1. “Let me know if you have any other problems.” If a customer comes to you with a problem and you think you’ve resolved that problem, great. But don’t expect the customer to contact you if other issues pop up; follow up a couple days later to make sure all is still well. Solving a customer’s problem meets expectations; following up to see if they need further assistance shows you care.
  1. “I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.” Maybe you will… but in the meantime the customer is left wondering what “soon” means. Always specify a time. If, when that time comes, you still don’t have all the information you need, contact the customer and say so — and say when you’ll follow up again. Customer relationships are based on managing expectations; “as soon as I can” sounds good but fails to set an expectation the customer can count on.
 All the Success!

PM in the AM

Leading Equals: Motivating people effectively,without authority

Does this sound like a job you'd want?

This doesn't sound like a lot of fun, does it?

When leading a team of your peers, these are typical challenges.

Leadership is a complex subject. There are visionary leaders, empowering leaders, charismatic leaders, and values-based leaders. For each of these styles, there are situations where that style is and is not effective. However, the one thing that traditional leaders can usually rely on, regardless of their style or situation, is legitimate power. When things get tough, a traditional leader has the status and position to demand how work is done.

But when you're in charge of a group of your peers, your level of authority is often nonexistent. You might have as little status as the person to whom the work has been given – but is that enough to lead what is essentially a horizontal collaboration?

To lead a peer group, you must have all the characteristics of great leaders – and then some. Here are the key skills you'll need to succeed.

Master the Group Process
Learn to lead discussions and proactively manage different personalities. You never know what past experiences – good and bad – team members have had with one another.
Whatever the history, your role as leader starts by setting a positive foundation for the team's interactions:

·    Establish a relaxed environment, where everyone is encouraged to share opinions and ideas.
·    Ask for input from everyone, and encourage quieter members to speak up.
·    Use active listening skills, like paraphrasing and asking questions for clarification.
·    Insist on respect for one another and, for tasks taking a lot of time and effort, consider developing a team mission to define your team's goals and how people will work.
·    Use participative decision making tools, and try to ensure active involvement and commitment from your coworkers.

Empower Team Members
Leaders who give power to others can be very influential and motivating. When leaders use their power to help others accomplish great things, people often want to work very hard for them.

When you empower someone, you're essentially saying that you trust that person. When people feel trusted, they may naturally want to take on more responsibility for the outcome, because they'll share in the spotlight when success is achieved.

Empowerment, then, is a great motivator, and it can be used to recognize the efforts of team members. When leading your peers, be creative with reward and recognition – sometimes assigning a task or granting a level of authority can serve as a very effective reward.
Beyond this, work hard to motivate the people you're working with and, in particular, give praise wherever it's due.

Be Flexible
Rules, regulations and a heavy-handed approach can cause resentment and non-compliance in a team of peers. Use discretion, and learn to adapt to the changing environment – this can be critical.

You won't always be the expert, and you won't always know what to do. With a flexible leadership style, you can often deal with changing circumstances without compromising your leadership role. If you rely on a rigid structure and style, you may find yourself challenged often, and you may waste your energy fighting interpersonal battles instead of accomplishing goals.

Essentially, you need to help your team adjust to changes in direction, circumstance, and priority. Whenever you get a cross-section of people working together, there can be times of ambiguity and uncertainty. When you're open to change, your team will see that, and they'll be more likely to also accept change.

Set Goals
Few teams would get very far without goals. Certainly you need goals to point you in the right direction and to evaluate performance. When you bring together a diverse set of people, having a clear direction is even more essential.

All team members will likely have their own perspectives. These could lead your team down very different paths – if there's no central direction to follow. Different paths can also cause conflict around resources and priorities.

You can avoid many of these difficulties with clear goal setting that's based on agreed and valuable objectives. It's much easier to keep people working together effectively if objectives are clear, if it's obvious how the team's output will help its customer, and if disputes are resolved by referring to the team's goals.

From then on, it's important that you develop an implementation plan and remain focused on your targets.

Support and Protect Your People
Each team member usually has his or her own regular job to do in addition to the team's specific tasks. This means that commitment to your team may be weakened from many directions. As the leader, and the one who is ultimately accountable, concentrate on getting the support and resources your team needs to do the job well.

Focus on these three key areas:
1.   Obtain resources – Your team may quickly lose momentum if it encounters resource shortages. If you get your team what it needs – when the team needs it – your status, influence, and ability to motivate can increase significantly.

2.   Manage Stakeholders – Many people outside your team may strongly influence the team's success. First, you may encounter outside resistance from various sources. For example, John's manager may not allow him to work more than one hour per week on team projects, or the finance director may refuse to "spend one more dollar on that project."

There may also be key team champions. As a leader, your challenge is to figure out how to use the champions' influence to persuade "resisters" to change their opinions. A great way to gain the respect of your team is to protect it from negative outside influences so that members can produce great work.

3.   Obtain management feedback – Your team needs to know they're supported. Make sure you receive regular communication from managers and executives. You're the liaison – the link – to ensure that management knows what's going on, and that your team knows what management thinks. 

Key Points
Leading a team of your peers is a definite challenge. It can put all of your leadership skills to the test. From setting goals to involving team members in decision making to creating a climate of openness and honesty, you need to have it all – and more. If you remember to put your team's needs first, and if you work very hard to protect their interests, you'll prove to them that you're committed to and passionate about their success. When you demonstrate that you believe in the value of their work, and when you're willing to work through any obstacles you encounter, your team will respect your integrity – and they'll want to work hard with you, and for you, to achieve results.

All the success!

PM in the AM

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Dealing with Change: 6 Steps



Over the years -- through research, working with people at all levels in organizations and our own life experiences -- we have learned some techniques that can help you move from reacting to change to proactively rising to its challenge:

#1: Recognize that change involves loss.
Even positive change, by the way. For example, a job loss (whether through layoff or career advancement) means losing coworkers, familiar routines and surroundings, and a reassuring feeling of competence.

Get in touch with that loss. Experience it and put it in context with potential gains entailed in the change.

#2: Embrace the change.

This does not happen overnight. [See Step 3.] You may have heard of the Serenity Prayer (which can be viewed as a religious prayer or a secular self-dedication):

         ...grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change
        Courage to change the things I can and the Wisdom to know the difference.

#3: Approach change as a process.
Don't expect instantaneous comfort with the change. It's like a new pair of sneakers. That old pair is well worn in and comfortable. But it's ratty looking and starting to fall apart. A new pair just doesn't feel right, yet. But we know it will, after a few days. So we bear with the temporary discomfort.

Some changes may be welcomed, e.g., a new job, house or child. Some may not, e.g., going on without a loved one. Either way, change can be disorienting and uncomfortable or even painful, initially. But, this too shall pass.

And, typically, there are stages we move through. The following SARAH model, outlining classic stages of grief, applies to all types of change:

Shock -- numbness, confusion, disorientation
Anger ... or (directed inward) -- depression, sadness, fear
Rejection ... including denial of emotional impact
Acceptance ... or (negatively) -- resignation, i.e., hopeless "acceptance"
Hope -- positive focus on the future

Although the manifestations, timing and sequence vary from person to person and circumstance to circumstance, we must accept and move through whatever stage we are in, in order to reach full acceptance and hope. Otherwise, we can get stuck in one or more stages, e.g., bitter resignation or vacillating between anger and rejection.

#4: Develop a positive outlook.
Negativity is a killer (sometimes literally)! Stress, brought on by negative thoughts and actions, can lead to a reduced immune system and a greater possibility of illness.
In this context of rising to the challenge of change, negative thoughts are paralyzers - telling ourselves (incorrectly) that we can't do what we need to do.

Turn those killer thoughts into more positive (and more realistic) internal dialogue. Practice the following process:
  1. Recognize: realize that you're thinking negatively
  2. STOP: visualize a STOP sign and tell yourself to Stop It!
  3. Restate: reframe into a positive statement
  4. Reward: even if it's just giving yourself a pat on the back
For example:
  1. Oh, this is impossible. I'll never be able to do this!
  2. Stop That! That's not true.
  3. This is hard; and I'm not sure yet how or when I'll succeed, but I will!
  4. Hey! I just changed a negative into a positive. Well done!
Initially, you'll probably miss more negative thoughts than you catch, but you'll get better and better; and the process will start to become automatic.

Have you heard that joke about the tourist in New York City, trying to find Carnegie Hall? He approaches a street musician and asks: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? The answer: Practice, practice, practice!

#5: Make a plan.
Translate your positive attitude into a positive plan of action. As with any good plan, include short-term goals and timetables. What will you do and when will you do it? Review the plan regularly and revise as appropriate. [See Step 6 below.] Get started and take one step at a time.

Perhaps most important, develop a support system. Surround yourself with positive people, who care about you. And let them in. Share the challenge you're facing, your stumbles and your triumphs.

One of the best-known support systems is Alcoholics Anonymous -- a wonderful model for coping with change. [We've already quoted from the Serenity Prayer used by that group.] Find a sponsor -- your own personal cheerleader and coach -- someone to turn to when the going gets tough and with whom to share successes along the way.

Better yet, a team of sponsors --working in coordination or separately. [A few years ago, we saw a TV news story about an entire town banding together to solve their joint unemployment problems in a very creative way.]

Perhaps that team consists of some combination of: a family member, a friend, a coworker, a mentor, a mental health practitioner, a professional life-skills coach, and/or training seminars.

#6: Allow yourself to be flexible.
Accept that life is a series of detours. The best laid plans...

Many times, when we least expect it, life throws us a curve. It's not the nature of the curve so much as our ability and skill to handle the detour that affects the outcome.

Expect such detours. For example, you may want to develop strategies for coping with your worst-case scenario.

Don't let the detours throw you. Simply revisit your plan and revise accordingly. Remember, you can handle this!

All the Success!

PM in the PM

7 leadership lessons from the golf course

It might seem counter-intuitive that a personal endeavor like golf can provide lessons for leaders, but it can.

Golf requires passion, and many develop a life-long obsession with improvement, despite the frustration that inevitably comes along.

“Leadership can be the same way,” argues Daniel Newman, CEO at United Visual.  “Those who are most active at it are often doing it out of passion and a desire to improve (self or others). This desire to change, inspire, and impassion can deliver amazing results one day only to bring dismal results the next. Nevertheless, when leadership and passion are a part of your DNA, quitting is never an option. So the choice becomes to persevere and to be a life-long learner.”
Newman offers seven leadership lessons that he calls “critical,” all of which come from the golf course.
For example, sometimes you have to “grip and rip”— take that big risk — while other times you should “lay up” and play it safe. He adds that you should always expect the ups and downs.
 “Failure is a part of any strong leader’s CV,” he reminds us.  “When you hit a bad shot, don’t mess up the next three while dwelling on it because ups and downs are part of leadership.”
Newman’s seven tips are sure to keep us on course.
All the success!
PM in the PM

How to Attract, Keep and Motivate Today's Workforce

Organizations face major challenges when they consider the increasing difficulty of finding skilled people, a younger workforce with different attitudes about work, and a growing population of older workers heading toward retirement.

Businesses can improve their ability to attract, retain and improve productivity by applying the following five-step PRIDE process:

P - Provide a Positive Working Environment
R - Recognize, Reward and Reinforce the Right Behavior
I - Involve and Engage
D - Develop Skills and Potential
E - Evaluate and Measure


Jim Goodnight is the co-founder and President of SAS in Raleigh-Durham, NC. SAS is the largest software development company in the United States. Their progressive work environment and host of family-friendly benefits keeps their turnover rate far below the national average. Jim said, "My assets leave work for home at 5:00 or later each night. It is my job to bring them back each day." Wise executives realize the responsibility for creating a positive work environment cannot be delegated. It starts at the top.

Have you ever worked for a bad boss? One of the main reasons employees quit is the relationship with their first-line supervisor. The fact is many supervisors and managers are unaware how their actions and decisions affect employee turnover. A critical aspect of an effective retention strategy is manager training. Properly trained managers play a major role in an effective recruitment and retention strategy. Managers need the skills, tools, and knowledge to help them understand their employees' retention needs and be able to implement a retention plan designed to increase employee engagement in the organization.

Money and benefits may attract people to the front door, but something else has to keep them from going out the back. People have a basic human need to feel appreciated and proud of their work. Recognition and incentive programs help meet that need.

A successful reward and recognition program does not have to be complicated or expensive to be effective. Graham Weston, co-founder and CEO of Rackspace Managed Hosting, gives the keys to his BMW M3 convertible to his employees for a week. This creative way to reward employees has a bigger impact than cash. He says, "If you gave somebody a $200 bonus, it wouldn't mean very much. When someone gets to drive my car for a week, they never forget it."

At First American, managers present a Greased Monkey Award to the computer technician who is best in resolving problems with computer programs. The award is a plastic toy monkey in a jar of Vaseline along with a $50 dinner certificate.

An equipment distributor rewards each employee's work anniversary with a cake and a check for $200 for each year employed. Twice a year employees' children receive a $50 savings bond when they bring in their "all A's" report card. In addition, they reward employees with a "Safety Bonus Program." They screen each employee's driving record twice a year, and anyone who has a citation is removed from consideration. Those employees remaining at the end of the year divide $2,000. On Fridays, all employees rotate jobs for one hour. This builds a stronger team, unity, and improves communication within the company.

People may show up for work, but are they engaged and productive? People are more committed and engaged when they can contribute their ideas and suggestions. This gives them a sense of ownership.

The Sony Corporation is known for its ability to create and manufacture new and innovative products. In order to foster the exchange of ideas within departments, they sponsor an annual Idea Exposition. During the exposition, scientists and engineers display projects and ideas they are working on. Open only to Sony's employees, this process creates a healthy climate of innovation and engages all those who participate.

TD Industries in Dallas, TX has a unique way of making its employees feel valued and involved. One wall within the company contains the photographs of all employees who have worked there more than five years. Their "equality" program goes beyond the typical slogans, posters, and HR policies. There are no reserved parking spaces or other perks just for executives -- everyone is an equal. This is one reason why TD Industries was listed by Fortune magazine as one of the "Top 100 Best Places to Work."

For most people, career opportunities are just as important as the money they make. In a study by Linkage, Inc. more than 40 percent of the respondents said they would consider leaving their present employer for another job with the same benefits if that job provided better career development and greater challenges.

Deloitte is listed as one of the "Top 100 Best Places to Work." They discovered several years ago they were losing talented people to other companies. They conducted exit surveys and found 70 percent of those employees who left to take new jobs and careers outside the company, could have found the same jobs and careers within Deloitte. As a result they created Deloitte Career Connections, an intranet-based development and career coaching program for all employees. During the first week of implementation over 2,000 employees took advantage of the program and viewed internal job openings. Not only does the program provide new job opportunities, but Career Connections offers a host of career development tools such as self-assessments, tools to develop resumes, and articles on various job seeking strategies within the company. Skilled people will not remain in a job if they see no future in their position. To eliminate the feeling of being in a dead-end job, every position should have an individual development plan.

Continuous evaluation and never-ending improvement is the final step of the PRIDE system. The primary purpose of evaluation is to measure progress and determine what satisfies and de-satisfies your workforce. The evaluation process includes the measurement of attitudes, morale, turnover, and the engagement level of the workforce. Here is a checklist of items that should be included in your evaluation and measurement process.

·         Conduct formal and informal employee satisfaction surveys.
·         Initiate interviews and surveys concerning the real reasons people come to and leave your organization.
·         Improve your hiring process to create a better match between the individual's talents and job requirements.
·         Provide flexible work arrangements for working parents and older workers.
·         Hold managers responsible for retention in their departments.
·         Start measuring the cost of turnover.
·         Focus on the key jobs that have the greatest impact on profitability and productivity.
·         Examine those departments that have the highest turnover rates.
·         Design an effective employee orientation program.

All the success!

Peter Mclees, MS LMFT