Leader Pragmatips #027

Stop blaming the Tool, focus on improving the user. 

There are so many people, posts, articles about “death by PowerPoint” or how they brag about “oh, in our meetings, we don’t use Slides” and a lot of other similar but somehow perplexing disdain against a tool. For me this is like saying we should stop using hammers in creating furniture or crafts. It’s akin to saying we need to stop using pens when we write on our notebooks. 

Again, these are merely tools and in most cases the reason why a PowerPoint presentation is boring or why the slides are too cluttered is because of one thing – the person presenting. But of course, who would want to admit that? It’s so much easier to blame the tool. 

I have attended many presentations that were massively educational and entertaining at the same time – using slideshows. On the flip side, I’ve seen people present with videos, lights and sound accessories that still bored me to tears. 

There’s no magic bullet, but there are basics: 

-Mastery of your content

-Passion for your cause

-Engagement of your audience. 

The tools are just there to help YOU communicate your message, not replace it.

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RCA Basics – Step 2

Read this first. RCA Basics

Done? Are you sure? Read it again.

End to end. All good?

How about one more for good measure. Finished? Great!

 

Because the below will be pointless without the aforementioned fundamentals.

This is for the next layer, the deep(er) dive, the extra steps. You get the picture.


When the traction is still not there or not as fast in spite of the basics, take a deeper and more concentrated look at All your:

Controllable Issues. Articulate with the 3 C’s that they are managed urgently and efficiently. The 3C’s are:

  • Clarity – represent in no uncertain terms. Before, Current and After.
  • Context – provide a simple story around the WHY
  • Confidence – if you’ve nailed the first 2 steps, you bring it home by discussing how you’ll correct along with hourly/daily measures that prove your actions are working.

The Top 3 Beyond the Surface Areas (because there are others) I would be looking at are:

1) Variation – less than 2% between top and bottom

  • Showing ALL quartiles continuously improving
  • Top quartiles (1 and 2) outperforming or over delivering on the goals and essentially doing the heavy lifting to help the bottom half

2) Outliers – virtually zero

  • Proof that we’re not tolerating slow or zero improvement (4 weeks max)

3) Existing v New  – Proof that call drivers impacting current performance were not present in days/weeks where you still performed well in spite of them being there

 

Also for the Non-Controllable Items:

1. Show proof that we are partnering with your Clients/Stakeholders around your recommendations for process changes that improve customer outcomes or at the very least

2. Asking for best practices or insights on how they might have addressed these issues on their end

  • 1st option is other internal teams that share common attributes
  • Clients top performing teams or insights teams or resources that can help

Note: If you can’t show ANY of these as a definitive and conclusive story, then you have your work ahead of you. Back to the drawing board as they say.

And this, THIS conclusively tells you where your efforts should be going.

Leader Pragmatips #026

I’ve had 5 recent conversations with people seeking advice on getting promoted or exploring other career options. 

After reflecting upon the separate conversations with these individuals (at varying stages in their operational maturity) I’ve found a commonality around the advice I gave:

– Never talk about what others lack

– Never talk about what you don’t get from your boss

– Never talk about what’s not ideal in the current environment 

+ Keep building your skill set and your results

+ Keep building your network and your peer/mentor group

+ Keep helping and developing your next in line.

But most of all, be patient. 

A popular quote says; luck happens when preparation meets opportunity. 

I honestly believe that. 

The best career progressions are the ones that are done right. And “right” means both timing and competency/personality fit.

Those are the ones that stick.

Leader Pragmatips #025

Wherever you are, be there. The concept seems easy enough but you’d be surprised how quickly the premise fades away especially for people who are naturally committed and hard-working.

We have a rule that we are proud of in our team – We Earn the Right to go on Vacation.

What this means is (a) I have worked so hard that my team/business is green and BAU or (b) I have a well prepped, highly competent, super reliable POC that will mind the store while I’m out.

But even with this, that temptation to glance at your phone, do a quick scan of your emails, a quick look at the notifications. Individually, appears harmless but compounded over time defeats the purpose of why you went on vacation in the first place.

So when you do get an approved leave, please stay conscious and make the most out of your time away from work. No tablets when you’re at church with Family. Shut down that phone during dinner with your spouse. Turn off that laptop during your kid’s program.

This is so you can come back fully recharged and overflowing with fresh ideas that will take the business forward and upward.

And Leaders, Commit to never calling them unless it’s a national security/end of the world type of scenario. We owe it to them as they will surely do the same for you.

Get Them Super Interested in Reading Your Reports!

This speech was from a movie back in the 90’s, “Can’t Hardly Wait” about a guy in love with a girl and wants to give her a letter he wrote several years back.

This is the speech that he had prior to giving her the letter:

 

Preston: Look, I don’t know about you, but I really believe that there is one person out there … for everybody. That’s what this is about … (points to letter he is holding in his hand) It’s not just some sappy love letter telling her how my heart stops every time that I see her. It’s in there though.

It’s not just to tell her that I think she’s more than just the homecoming queen. Or Mike’s girlfriend. That there is this amazing person inside her that nobody bothers to see. It’s in there too … but, what it’s really about, is that if she’d just give me a chance, just one chance … maybe we could find out if there is a reason for all of this.

Why she’s not with Mike tonight and after four years, I’m still here with this letter. Maybe we could find out what that reason is. You know? It’s time to find out. I think I’m ready to do this. Finally.

 

Most of the people who have watched and heard the speech (including me) are now super interested in what the letter contains. Wouldn’t you be?

There’s a lesson here that we can transpose to when we send summaries and reports. Assuming you’re like Preston and what you wrote/created was done with so much passion that it qualifies as your best work (because why bother if it’s not, right?) here are some tips to remember:

The BAD – “Please see attached” or “Submitting this week’s” (or Month’s) Report” or heaven forbid, the ever lackluster “HYG”. Most submissions have email text like the above and that’s just not good enough.

The Not so GOOD – The email body that’s a direct copy paste of what’s in the attachment, Or something that is inexplicably longer than the attachment itself. You don’t want to discourage people from reading your actual output, so you need to be cautious about this.

The goal in your email preface is as our subject states, to get them super interested in Opening/Reading them. And you do this by highlighting 2 things:

1. The Overview: Giving them a bit of context of what it’s about. Key word – a bit.
2. The WHY: Provide compelling reasons why this is important to you, how it affects the team and why it is important to them too.

Here are few other really good tips if you’re committed to submitting things that are worthy of reading.

Report submissions forms a large part of what we do and how we’re seen in terms of our effectiveness. Here’s to making sure that the information you want seen is perceived and understood with clarity and in the spirit that you intended.

 

Leader Pragmatips #024

Desensitized to Success. I am forever thankful that I am blessed with predominantly successful teams and team members. Which is why one of the recurring reminders in our group is  The Biggest Enemy of Success is Complacency 

 

It’s a good reminder. It allows us to stay on our toes, keep our guard up, and always strive for the best. I’ve recently learned that there’s another side that we need constant awareness of – it’s when we become desensitized to it and neglect to celebrate: 

– The recurring wins

– The consistent overdelivery vs targets

– The periodic offering of value adds and insights 

While not perfect, some of our worst days are the best others can hope for. What is a way of life for us, are ways some people are still figuring out how to do.

So always make a big deal and deliver that reward. Always remember to send that “kudos“ email. Always make time for that personal handshake or pat on the back.

Or… write that blog entry once in awhile to remind your team how proud you are of them.  🙂

We Each Have Our Kryptonite

Another title here could have been, The 7 Different Superstar Leader Personality Traits to be Cautious of

 

We often joke about how each of the superstars in our team unfortunately has that “thing” that one quality that would otherwise categorize them as near perfection. Here are some samples of semi-blind items to illustrate my point. The cool thing about all this is how it has multiple commonalities with leader personality types that may also be present in other teams. Which is why it is important to look at this with a spirit of candor and open criticism so that we may all constantly improve.

Team Member #1: The Drama Queen – Masterful ability to create an atmosphere of fun, dedication and connection within the team. Class leading competency in client discussion and negotiations. A distinct ability to build great teams and identify members well suited for any task or problem that needs solving. The Kryptonite – will often need an adjustment of perspective to remind her of the good she does and how much value she brings because for some reason, from time to time she convinces herself of the opposite. She will be driven by so much emotion that it puts her decisions and next steps at risk.

Team Member #2 The Nega Man – Best in class ability to fix broken or non-performing teams with the unique method of identifying and correcting negative behavior (ironic) out of the operations that’s driving 80% of the problems. One of the most emotionally tough and enduring members of the team that can weather many hardships that come with any performance recovery effort and inspire the same from his team. The Kryptonite – on occasion has the tendency to always focus on what can go wrong. Always adopting a skeptic’s point of view for any initiative that’s not readily measurable. Often gets stuck at proving whether something is right or wrong versus providing solutions to solve the problem.

Team Member #3 The Nervous Nancy – Very adaptable, always ready to take on any task and has genuine willingness to step in and assist. She brings a great sense of maturity to the team. Has great capability to make good, calculated decision under most circumstances. An amazing planner, able to set goals, anticipate problems and issues ahead of time and has a good understanding of what it takes to prevent them. The Kryptonite – She doubts all her decision from time to time. Often seeking validation even in the simplest of issues which slows her down. In atypical situations get frazzled and distracted regardless of how solid and well thought out her action plans are.

Team Member #4 The Escalator – A hyper organized individual that brings with her a unique, almost clinical precision when it comes to running her team. Great execution for anything that is tied to an existing process and delivers best in class consistency in this respect. A great ambassador, a promoter of synergy, she is well-liked and forms that instant connection with any team she works with regardless of tenure. The Kryptonite – everything is an escalation. For some reason the lines become blurred when problems come up and she overlooks that most of the issues are well within her power, competency, scope and capability to solve. This challenge is also mirrored at times down through her direct reports.

Team Member #5 The Jekyll and Hyde – One the best analytical minds in the team. An amazing problem solver, best in class tactician and above average presenter with capability to develop and execute long-term action plans, projects and documentation to support them. Regarded as a reliable and trustworthy operator with the capacity to take on ad hoc tasks with very little lead time required and highly capable of functioning autonomously. The Kryptonite – The occasional temper tantrums which lead to irrational decisions, questionable next steps which in turn creates significant disruption to an otherwise admirable momentum and a series of positive results.

Team Member #6 The Moody Moderator – Possessing multiple skills beyond the contact center, an entrepreneurial mindset and blessed with a great vision, an ability to visualize an ideal end state of any existing task or situation. A true quick learner with incredible adaptability and agility, able to take on new tasks, projects and develop the competency required in order to thrive. Has the natural ability to create open and collaborative environments. The Kryptonite – This is all dependent on mood often triggered when things are not ideal or if a planned action will not be executed the way the person would have. In cases like these, the person then slows down or in some cases shuts down.

Team Member #7 The Crazy Koala – Unmatched and unrivaled in the ability to understand, interpret, dissect, teach and present numbers. Above average capability in engaging with Clients and senior leaders. Very capable in delivering CS related functions, projects, presentations and overall site or program management. Easy to work with and is effortlessly accepted by any work group or team due to a natural ability to cooperate. The Kryptonite – Avoids difficult conversations and any situation that is beyond the norm. This unintentionally and quite unfortunately makes the person ineffective against driving numbers or KPI’s therefore limiting the overall value add the person brings.

 

Don’t get me wrong, these team members are Superstars, some of the best Operators in the industry today. Almost Superhero-esque in their capability to identify, solve and in some cases prevent problems within their respective teams. But what is a Hero without a flaw right? It makes for a boring, uninteresting and un-relatable character. And because they are so good, it almost makes their flaws acceptable, tolerable to a degree.

 

From a professional standpoint, as long as there is awareness of the weakness, there will always be opportunities to train, correct and if not control these opportunities to ensure that your teams function well, continuously progress and succeed.

 

There are multiple ways you can deal with your Kryptonite’s aka your weaknesses. Here are the top 5 tips that I recommend:

 

Acknowledge it – a popular quote; with awareness comes responsibility and choice. The choice to do better, to be better.

Define it – make sure you’re clear and specific about your gaps and opportunities and how you’re going to correct them

Challenge it – commit toward the action that you will improve and work on these areas

Measure it – set a quantified goal that will show and reinforce the progress you’re making as you work on improving

Celebrate it – whether they be small or big improvements, make sure to recognize and reward yourself for the milestones and wins you gain along the way

 

Did you identify with any of the personality types? What are the ways and methods you use to work on these items? Let’s discuss!

Leader Pragmatips #023

Every Employee wants to feel part of Something Bigger than Themselves – aka The Bricklayer Parable. A traveler came upon three men working. He asked the first man what he was doing and the man said he was laying bricks. He asked the second man the same question and he said he was putting up a wall. When he got to the third man and asked him what he was doing he said with a smile that he was building a cathedral. They were all doing the same thing. The first man had a job. The second man had a career. The third man had a calling.

 

Perhaps the fuzziest yet most critical part of True Engagement is when our people understand WHY we do what we do and are bought in. As Leaders we drive the point home by:

 

• Instilling a sense of pride in doing great work, adhering to a distinct set of values and beliefs that we all share and should be proud of.

• Sharing the overarching business plans for the year ensuring language is clear across all levels. Talk through the achievements of the past year and what the goals are for the current year

• Talking about what part they play in the grand scheme of things, why they’re important and what’s in it for them when we succeed.

• Reinforce the fact that majority of these drive the organizations’ stability and security in which everyone is able to reap the benefits.

• Link the team’s vision and their own professional goals and how it complements the organizations’ objectives. Reinforcing the point that the organization’s success is everyone’s success and vice versa.

 

Leader Pragmatips #022

Here’s part 2 of 3: Every Employee wants to feel Safe and
Supported – one of the common misconceptions is that you only need fun, games and prizes to drive an engaged environment. A distinct connection to the Top 1 reason (feeling successful) is if the skill each employee has, is greater than what the work requires. This is where we come in as Leaders. We do these by:

 

– Periodically reviewing where the skill and competency gaps are and ensuring the appropriate tools, training and resources are given to bridge them urgently.

– Be there for them. Make sure they know your time belongs to them, constantly and genuinely ask how they are doing. Be sincerely interested in their aspirations.

– Be clear to separate the mistakes made or AFI’s from the person. You need to make sure they know you have their back. That you will help correct and guide them if they make honest mistakes.

– Continuously challenge them to improve. That you’re not here to make things easy for them. You’re here to make them better so that things organically become easier.

– Make sure they know they can count on you to defend them when necessary. That you will step in front of any unreasonable call outs, criticisms or complaints from anyone.

 

 

Part 3 of 3 coming before end of week

Leader Pragmatips #021

A while back, I codified what is in my opinion the TOP 3 things that ensure True Employee Engagement. This is only the Top 3 because there are others. I emphasized that this is in “my opinion” because this is based on my personal experiences, lessons personally realized, with concepts taught and shared by mentors and peers. And so the TOP 3 are:

1. Every employee wants to feel SUCCESSFUL in what they do every day

2. Every employee wants to feel SAFE and SUPPORTED

3. Every employee wants to feel PART OF SOMETHING BIGGER than themselves

 

Due to insistent and popular demand, I will add a few short and practical examples to further explain what each mean. These are all actionable of measurable items that you can do that creates the environment that drive true Engagement. Here’s 1 of 3:

 

Every employee wants to feel Successful in what they do every day – one quote popularly attributed to Einstein is that “Everybody is a Genius. But If You Judge a Fish by Its Ability to Climb a Tree, It Will Live Its Whole Life Believing that It is Stupid” No one wants to come to work and feel like a failure. And as Leaders it is our responsibility to ensure that this is not the case. We do these by;

 

  • Setting goals that are realistic, normally through a glide path. Ensuring we provide the coaching and tools necessary to achieve them.
  • We fight for targets that make sense, using as much statistically relevant data samples as possible.-We ensure we recognize as loudly and as often as possible whenever someone beats a target or performs above and beyond expectations
  • We have a constantly updated stack rank that is visible for all. We ensure that everyone knows where they sit in the stack rank and how they can move up
  • We reward for both success (the people who are on the top) and improvement (those who continue to show incremental improvements daily, weekly, monthly)