Time After Time

Ok, so the title is only somewhat connected to the topic, but I thought it would grab your attention better than “Why you Think You Don’t Have Control Over Your time

True to the tradition of this blog, these will always be inspired by Leadership Lessons based on real life situations.

 

The last few weeks have been spent in conversations with peers and friends about the time they spend at work, specifically about the perception that they don’t have enough time to finish the things they need to. I say perception because as John Maxwell mentions “regardless of what anyone thinks, we all get 24 hours a day,  You can’t Manage time, what you can manage is yourself

And as I am sure most of you already know, It’s how we use the time given to us, the choices that are available to us, is where the problem sits.

Believe it or not, I’ve seen Managers and Senior Leaders driving slides for clients or senior execs, taking and writing minutes of meetings, attending meetings where they’re not really needed and the worst of all, absorbing deliverables that are not theirs to begin with.

And then we get to points where we complain that we’re stretched too thin. And then our health suffers because we lack sleep. And then the things we’re supposed to take care of, our actual deliverables, the ones with the biggest impact of ROI are the ones that suffer.

You need to Stop. Just stop.

There are many books and articles out there that teach time management, prioritization skills, even advanced methods like quartile task management, but they’re all useless until you make a decision that you can’t do it all. You’re not supposed to.

Sometimes things are difficult because we choose to make them so.

In my opinion and experience, it needs to start with a mindset shift and a conscious, almost religious reminder and affirmation of 2 things:

  • Understand WHY you do what you do.
  • Understand WHY your role exists in the team.

This will significantly help you in ensuring your time is where it needs to be. Once you have that, the rest literally becomes easy.

Here’s the top 3 tips of things you can do:

 

Delegate clearly and with purpose.


Especially the lower level, administrative tasks. In most cases these are tasks that entry-level peeps will die for because it gives them exposure, training and learning for things currently not in their scope. Things like minutes taking, organizing meetings for other people or departments etc. still happen today. It shouldn’t.

This should not be done by any manager level or senior-level person or higher especially if you’re struggling with bandwidth or workload challenges. Your time should be spent on more impactful things, where it matters most – with your team.

 

Divide and Conquer.

Whether it’s meetings and deliverables. There should be very little meetings where multiple manager level people or higher are required to attend. If there are conflicts, ask your peer or even your boss if you can split up and then catch up later to calibrate. If you have more than 1 meeting a day or more than 5 per week, where all senior Leaders are out of the floor, Stop it. Keep the time and valuable leadership guidance and influence always on your frontline.

The same applies to deliverables and reports. We each have a role, a load to carry. We need to ensure that everyone does their part and eliminate the need for rework.

 

Pushback and or Ask for Help.

Most of us don’t do this because we think it’s a sign of weakness or we’re afraid of upsetting our Clients or our Senior Leaders. This is simply not true. Any competent, tenured or rational Leader worth his salt will almost always understand when you pushback or ask for help. Just don’t make it a habit and don’t wait for the last minute when you do. Make it clear, concise and appropriately timed.

This is more than ok especially if you position it with a measured, well thought out reason and or a counter proposal. You’ll find that doing this not only ensures the quality of your output but also gives you back time and ability to focus better.

 

When all is said and done, you control your time. It doesn’t control you. When things become floopy as they sometimes will, remember – Understand WHY you do what you do and Understand WHY your role exists in the team

And it will set you straight.

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Leader Pragmatips #013

If there is declining performance in any measure, once you’ve really isolated true root cause, the next likely step is to make a change.

People and teams are often stalled at this point because of this word “Change”

There is always a stigma around it. They say it’s hard, scary, & that nobody likes it. This is why we all need great effort to break the notion that people fear change. They do not.

What people fear are:
– sudden change (abrupt/timelines)
– big change (scope/scale)
– change without context (clarity/purpose)

As Simon Sinek says, effective change is about evolution, not revolution. A revolution is violent, sudden and often has counter consequences whereas evolutionary change is in small increments (which doesn’t have to take decades) but more importantly, it has the proper communication and context explanation of the “WHY”

With this, everyone becomes clear on the intent and rationale, they feel safe and understands that we have to make this change in order for us to stay true to our purpose, our cause and our beliefs – a.k.a. our “WHY”.

You want to address declining ESAT, KPI performance or anything else that requires a shift in mindset, process or actions, ensure you have solid, open and constant communication channels.

Year End Wisdom – A Legen_Dary 2017

My year end message to a group of dedicated and passionate leaders:

——————

Last day of the year in 2017, Can you believe it Team Legen_Dary?

 

I can still recall the Start of Year Townhall we had and how we were all super excited about the year ahead and now, the year is done. I guess time indeed does fly when you’re busy and being awesome.

 

It was a very busy, action packed and colorful year and like a Superhero movie, full of twists, turns, a few kicks to the gut, a few great lessons and surprises that ultimately grows the character of our protagonist, growing, evolving and ultimately better than where he/she started.

 

We feel great sadness for some of our Leaders who left our ranks, we wish them well and we hold no disdain for any of them. After all, functioning and being part of a Legen_Dary team like ours takes a special kind of discipline, toughness, enthusiasm and panache that’s simply not for everyone. There’s no shame in that.

 

I personally feel great pride and admiration for the Leaders who remain, fighting the good fight, giving no excuses, weathering the harshest of storms, who had every right to give up or complain but instead just like Thor in the Avengers movie shouted “Is that the best you can do?!?!”

I am honored to stand by your ranks and call you peers. You know who you are. Likely the same people reading this note right now, on your holiday break. That’s just who we are. Embrace it. It’s what will enable us to continue winning in 2018.  And speaking of wins, oh boy did we have a lot.

 

We’ve had some challenges too, a few missteps and ball drops, but I am confident that each of those were treated as learning opportunities so now we’re better prepared and equipped to ensure they don’t happen again. AND if we line up all our Losses vs. our Wins side by side, I know the latter beats the former a hundred fold.

 

As with each passing year, 2018 will be busy, it will be challenging and it will test our limits. When the time comes (and believe me when I say that it will) and you become disorganized or even start doubting your capabilities, remember to calm down, focus and follow Batman’s advice to the Flash when he was overwhelmed with doubt and fear:

 

In this story Barry Allen/The Flash had never been a hero before. He’d only pushed a couple of people out of harm’s way. Stepping into the Justice League and faced with great challenges made him feel inadequate. He didn’t know what to do.

 

Batman gave him invaluable advice. “Save One” Save one person… Then you’ll know what to do.

Once The Flash saved one person, he began saving another… then another… and another.

This is a great representation of your roles as Leaders. In times of great challenge, leaders don’t freeze, they just start. They start out leading one person, and then the next, and then another one more.

 

Of course 2018, will be tough but it will also be very fulfilling. I see a great many things coming our way this new year. And I can’t think of a better set of Superheroes that I am extremely proud and privileged to work right alongside with. Keep the passion and focus in 2018 and once again let R.E.A.P. be your guide along with our VISION, our WHY. The REASON why Team Legen_Dary exists.

 

I would like to close copying a remark from one of the best mentors I’ve ever had, functioning in the best Team I’ve ever been a part of (Team Awesome) and by happy extension, our team, Team Legen_Dary.

 

“Something that makes Team Awesome, Awesome and will always be true for me and this team…

We watch each other’s backs, we trust and support each other, we pick each other up when we fall”

 

I challenge you all to live by these tenets. And one more challenge, (a recurring one)

 

I’ve talked to a few of you about how as we continue to grow and I stay connected with each of you and make sure that everyone gets the time they need to support their business and their development.  I need your help on this one, there is no way I can solve it on my own, there’s no way you can solve it on your own too. So please come to me with the things you need help with, sit down in my office till we get it done.  I’ll continue to work to get us the support we need that will create more time for us but please always help me see what you need and fight for it, of course doing the pre-work first 😉

 

Again, thank you for all that you do.  Your sacrifices, your pain, your can-do attitude, and of course your excellence.

 

I remain humbled and proud to be working with each and every one of you.

 

 

2018 will be Legen… Wait for it…

 


 

 

Leader Pragmatips #012

Diagnose correctly before you treat.
A recurring advice I remind the teams I work with whenever they are struggling with getting performance to green and making it stick:

My sincere hope is that we walk away EVERY DAY fully knowing what we did wrong that’s driving the inconsistency.

Please STOP creating action plans, prescribing what to do next, holding people accountable, executing any new action plans IF YOU ARE NOT CERTAIN that you have IDENTIFIED what is the true FAILURE POINT within the processes, procedures or execution.

If we’re not fully certain then we have to – Go back and figure it out.

Ask for help if you don’t know how.

Bottom line, It needs to be CLEAR, OBSERVABLE, and MEASURABLE issues otherwise they are just theories.

We can’t fight theories and we shouldn’t.

Leader Pragmatips #011

Majority of people easily confuse these 2 and unfortunately what is known as Correlation is often confused with Causation. Correlation is when things seem to have a consistent relationship, i.e. as one item increases, so will the other. Many make the mistake of assuming that correlation can imply causation, that the increase in one item is increasing the other. This is simply not true.

E.g. Based on data, we know there is Correlation between Agent Sat and Customer Sat. In this example correlation DOESN’T imply causation therefore the action is to drive Agent Sat. This is the metric that has sufficient data sample size. The context and conversation now revolves around 2 Questions – What kind of Customer Outcomes are you going to drive? What kind of coaching conversations will you lead with your team?

In the simplest terms possible, Correlation can be used to make observations and comments BUT should never be used to make decisions. This is where identifying Causation matters.
Identifying Causation requires testing, experimentation and most importantly – Sufficient and measurable Data. Once you have it, you need to move to the more important aspect of identifying connections and root cause – Context and Action.

Leader Pragmatips #010

Measurable Values. KPI’s are easy for the most part. A target is agreed upon, then we measure at periodic intervals how close or far we are to the target and why. But what about Values?

Most companies have values as part of their mission/vision statement and while that is easy enough to translate for most people, it wont always be the case for some of our direct reports that need something simpler, something real, something measurable.

A key learning from Simon Sinek is through the use of Verbs. Verbs are useful when setting measureable goals relating to values, They have to be verbs because values are things you do, values are things you live by.  You cant do nouns, you can only do verbs.

E.g. Innovation – you cant walk into someone’s office and say “hey from now on I want a little bit more innovation out of you”

What you can say is  “Look at this task/deliverable from a different perspective”

Honesty – same premise, say “Always Do the right thing”

If you ask someone if they “displayed honesty today”, they may reply with “Yes,  but we also did these items to ensure profits, etc.”

But if you ask them, “Did you do the right thing today?” The answer will be less ambiguous and it will be from a higher standard.

The Rant Chant

Here’s a situation that I’ve always found weird:
Employee posts, rants, and demonstrations around how he’s been mistreated, unsupported, demotivated, and everything else you can think of. And the rest of the world quick to descend upon the boss, the team or the organization about how he was wronged, the horrors that he had to go through and why he has been maligned and mistreated when he has done no wrong whatsoever. All of this and any of the situations, barely and almost always skipping or excusing the only other person in the story – himself.

It’s common knowledge that there’s always an unseen side of the story, something happening behind the curtains. So in this instance, humor me. Let’s consider in this example that what we have is a lazy employee, selfish, unwilling to adjust, delivering sub optimal output, in some cases cheating for personal or financial gain.

Over 50% of posts, feedback, memes, social media rants today is about a bad boss. It’s never about a bad employee.

The defensive readers out there will be quick to ask, well what drove them to that stage? And we can intelligently discuss this aspect another time but for now let’s consider the individual. In these cases of random and almost always anonymous rants (which says something about the person ranting more than anyone else) very rarely is there a question if the problem is really on the boss, team or company. We automatically take the person’s word for it.

This is not a discussion of what kind of environment pushes an employee to be bad. If you’ve read my past articles, you’ll know that I am a firm and passionate advocate of creating environments that allow motivation and great ideas to thrive.

My points are:

  • There are amazing work environments out there but somehow still littered with bad employees.
  • There are toxic work environments out there where great employees continue to prosper and succeed.

Which is why this is a discussion about bad employees plain and simple. They do exist. I know because at a brief point in time many many years ago, I was one.

From my point of view, there was nothing wrong with me, it’s everyone else’s fault. At least that’s what I kept telling myself and anyone willing to listen. That’s what I kept saying to anyone willing to believe.

Thank god for great mentors who got me out of that mindset, challenged me and focused me towards the actionable and positive pathways.

So, the lesson today is simple, when any person or group of people are crying foul or havoc, don’t be too quick to believe and remember these 2 considerations:

Consider the timing – people always “react” violently when there’s a strong performance push or strategy shift. A necessary move to course correct and stay relevant in the industry. While the larger majority will evolve, there will be those that won’t or can’t. It leaves little to no room for mediocre or bottom performers. People who don’t want to change or are unable to change will instead just make noise because it’s all they can do.

Consider the source – most if not all the complaints will be coming from Outliers, the slackers, the complainers. Those who want to and know they can exploit Clients, Senior Executives who are far away from the day to day to get a pass. They’ve done it before and they will do it as long as it takes. Gullibility and tolerance are their best friends.

Staying cognizant of these things will allow you to focus on objective reasons and enable intelligent decisions on if and when intervention or action is needed. At the end of the day, it’s always important to walk away with resolution. It is far more important to make a change instead of just making a point.

Leader Pragmatips #009

Higher Standards. Attendance projections, a fundamental requirement for any Operations today. Whenever there is failure, most people treat it casually and adopt a “we will do better next time” attitude. Much worse, they lower targets or keep it flat to ensure they hit it. This is a bad outlook to have in my opinion for 2 reasons:

#1 Projecting to fail. Anytime you project anything less than best in class, is an acceptance of defeat, of failure. The equivalent of saying “I can’t improve any further than this. I can’t make my team do better”.

#2 Failing to meet your own projections. It means you don’t know your teams. It means you tolerate situations where someone promises something and doesn’t deliver. It shows you’re ok with being lied to or disrespected. It shows you don’t care about your output and credibility, your integrity and professionalism.

We are here to drive the results, work and inspire our teams, to change them for the better. Not just observe and report. Raise the bar. Hold people to higher standards, most especially ourselves.

The Law of Averages – Part 2

You don’t remember Part 1? You’re the average of the 5 people you hang out the most? Why you should stop hanging out with negative, losers, and complainers? Why you should hang out with Smart, Positive and Productive people? Ok here you go. Part 1

All caught up? Good!

At the end of that same dinner, when everyone was saying their goodbyes and well wishes, one of our Clients’ senior guys approached me and said, – “Thank you Bernie, I know you like to be quiet and stay behind the scenes and I know this is where you support these guys (referring to the team) like crazy and I know you keep them happy, so thank you for what you do for us”

It blew me away. For one of the senior most executives to say this to me, is the highlight of my work week that time. It’s not because I am not fulfilled or challenged enough in my work that this became the highlight, quite opposite in fact.

I am motivated each day to come to work because I know the work we do makes a difference at all levels. It’s just that the comment hit so close to home for me and I am sure it’s the same for the rest of you who focus on ensuring your people get all the recognition and accolades, that sometimes it is super easy to fade in the background when everything is going supremely well.

But such is the nature of Leadership right? It’s just one of the many things you give up when you chose to take up the mantle of Leadership, remember?

In this same thought, let me share this speech from the last episode of the TV series Madame Secretary’s 2nd season that really stuck with me.

Preface: The Secretary of State was set to give a graduation speech but due to unforeseen and critical circumstances, she couldn’t make it and sent her Speech Writer instead.

Matt: Uh, good morning.

Good morning. I’d like to, uh… (stammers) uh, begin by stating the obvious. I am not Elizabeth McCord.

I’m her speechwriter. Believe me, uh, no one is more disappointed that the secretary won’t be giving the address that I wrote for her.

You know, now that I know that it’ll never see the light of day, I think it’s safe to say that it was the greatest speech ever written. (audience laughs)

I mean, honestly, uh, this is probably the first moment in my adult life that I’ve stood in the spotlight. Truth be told, it’s probably gonna be the last. Why? Because I’m one of those people who works in the dark.

I know what you’re thinking. As soon as my Etsy page is discovered, uh, I’ll invent my own job title on Buzzfeed and livestream my Christopher Walken impression as I hoverboard to the Soylent dispenser in the playroom… (audience laughs) …and I don’t blame you.

In this world of relentless self-promotion, we’ve all been raised to think that the limelight is the only light worth seeking.

But that isn’t the case. And if I can impart one thing today, a small, simple truth to carry with you as you walk through those gates, it’s this:

Achievement is often anonymous. Some of the greatest things have been done by people you have never heard of…

Quietly dedicating their lives to improving your own.

 

——
There are many lessons here. For me the clearest being – continue to do what you do, continue to rise above mediocrity, continue to be more than just “average”. Ignore who gets the credit and focus on what truly matters.

As Mr. Sinek again points out, Leadership is not about being in charge, it’s about taking care of those in your charge.

Leader Pragmatips #008

Confrontation. This word has gotten a bad rap over the years and it really shouldn’t have, it is often confused that confrontation has to be done in a contentious manner. There’s no rule that says it has to be. When something needs fixing, when a change needs to happen, when there’s a difference between the results you actually have versus the one that you actually need, then it’s high time for a confrontation. A structured, methodical and one that’s geared towards measurable actions and step changes.

 

What you don’t ever want to do is side step the issues, hoping they’ll get fixed. Remain stubborn with what you think is right even if the constant results are not showing it. The absolute worst is the cowards way of posting anonymously or sharing vague quips and anecdotes in the hopes that you’re making your point across. You may think that’s what’s happening but it’s really not and your just doing more harm than good.

 

Just like in other popular credos and slogans e.g. face your fears, own up to your past mistakes, take responsibility for your actions, it can all be done in the positive frame of mind, but the first step is the confrontation.