“Will You Marry Me”?

Building business relationships

 

You would never ask someone to marry you on a first date, so why would you expect someone you’ve met for the first time to refer business with you?

We have all heard the expression “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” and in many cases we use that expression in a less-than-complimentary way. In those situations, perhaps we should respond by assessing our own skills in developing relationships that can help us build business and careers. Professional relationships that help us along in our career do not happen by accident or without significant effort. They require nurturing, constant contact, and a host of other important ingredients that, when properly applied, can create a support team as dedicated to our success as we are.

We begin developing close friends early on in life. What we might not have realized in our developmental years is that the friend we sat beside while learning our ABCs may indeed be our doctor, tax adviser, or our children’s grade school teacher later on in life. However, as adults we can visualize that the people we meet at networking events may indeed end up changing our life—or more importantly, we may be able to change theirs.

Building career relationships is all about capturing relationships as an ongoing and fundamental part of our life plan. Life is about who you know; the common ground we find with our associates; and the commitment to engaging with our friends and associates, those we know now and those we have yet to meet. The most important relationship in the world may be just around the corner, or waiting for you to say hello at that next mixer.

5 Keys to Building Business Relationships That Should Be Considered When Networking

  1. Contact: Assess your availability to meet and be met by others. Are you in the right professional associations? Do you attend events regularly? Are you an observer or participant? How many people in your associations do you know on a first-name basis?
  2. Commonality: Seeking commonality with others is important, as it is the means by which you communicate in an interesting and outgoing way. Finding activities, interests, and even exercise plans that you have in common offers the easiest way to interact on different levels, broadening your communication.
  3. Credibility: Associates, especially new ones, need to see us as credible people. This means that we need to mean what we say, say what we mean, and always follow through with the commitments we make. When people say, “Do you walk your talk?” What they mean is, “Are you credible?” While we never know how many demonstrations of credibility we have to perform so that people believe we are who and what we say we are, there is a universal answer to how many times we can NOT be credible. One! That’s why it’s important to take our commitments seriously, each and every time we have the opportunity.
  4. Confidence: Only when we have had the opportunity to demonstrate that we “walk our talk” over time and with enough interactions will our friends and associates be willing to show confidence in us. When people have confidence in you they will follow your lead, your example, and your direction. They will allow you to influence their thoughts on particular issues and they may even see you as an expert in others.
  5. Trust: Most relationships never really make it here! You see, trust allows a relationship to flourish because it makes no difference which party leads and which follows. One respects the other in any given interaction and works to unconditionally support the direction, philosophy, and commitment of the other. When you achieve this level of trust in a relationship, you’ve made it! The relationship has achieved intradependence!

It takes time to cultivate relationships, which is why attending just one networking mixer won’t do it. It requires the dedication keep attending, having a plan when you arrive, and the patience for building those relationships over time. Next time you decide that networking isn’t worth the effort, think about this: People who have made time in their schedule to network have gotten results like these:

  • 87% of top-level executives network 2–3 times weekly
  • 80% increase their business development
  • 45% increase their sales
  • 95% build their business relationships
  • 90% increase their business opportunities
  • 80% have found their next job through networking
  • 65% receive a return on their investment
  • 76% get in front of the type of business that they would like to meet

Sharon Jenks is the CEO of 6 Degrees Business Networking, #sd6degrees

Six Signs Your Job No Longer Deserves You

Leave job

 

 

People talk about being in a rut, but here’s what we forget: the rut is mental. It’s a belief. “Oh, it’s hard to get another job!” We talk ourselves out of making changes or even contemplating changes, because of our aversion to change.

Your job may have been amazing learning experience at one time, but does your job still deserve your talents now? A lot of people get stuck. They get into a situation that more or less works, that pays the bills and that doesn’t bring them any closer to their flame. What’s your flame? It’s your passion. It’s your reason for being alive.

Your job should do more than just keep you alive — don’t you agree? You only have so many years here on earth. Are you going to spend them accumulating things like wide-screen TVs and frequent flyer miles you’ll never use because you don’t have time for vacation?

Why not get a job that deserves you and that will reinforce you? Here are six signs your current job doesn’t deserve you anymore:

  • There’s no forward path. There’s no place to go from here. There’s no way to learn more, have more impact or use more of your talents. Scram!
  • There’s no one to learn from. No one around you looks like a mentor or coach. You’re the smartest person in the place. Get out of Dodge!
  • The people around you don’t want to hear your ideas. They like things just the way they are. So what, nothing works properly? They don’t care. Flee!
  • You don’t get to use your mind and your heart at work. You’re stuck in a little box. You’re a cog in someone else’s machine. Hit the bricks!
  • Your boss doesn’t get you and you don’t get him or her. It’s an energetic mismatch. You can’t grow as a person or a professional in your job. Move on!
  • You don’t enjoy your work or look forward to it on Monday morning (or any morning). That’s your body telling you “Run away!” – Forbes

What millennials do and don’t want from their employers

Busting workplace myths about the youngest—and soon-to-be biggest—generation

Baby Boomers and Millennials

This is the year the millennial generation—ages 18 to 34—will surpass the baby-boom generation in size. It has already done so in cultural and social significance. We boomers grew accustomed to the notion, forged over decades, that we drove the zeitgeist of our times. No more. Millennials rule.

That’s certainly true in the workplace (see our coverage of the 100 Best Companies to Work For). Any discussion of talent quickly devolves into a dissection of the millennial mind. Managers struggle with preconceptions. Must millennials change jobs every two years? Do they require constant reinforcement, after a childhood of “everybody’s a winner”? Do they need a “chill” workplace? Free food? Foosball?

Many of the popular notions are pure myth. Some busted ones:

Millennials want to change jobs frequently.

Wrong. A study by my former colleagues at the Pew Research Center shows that millennials actually value job security more highly than boomers do. But they won’t stay at a job they don’t like. Some 50% of millennials say having a “job you enjoy” is “extremely important” to them, compared with just 38% of boomers.

Money doesn’t matter.

Maybe. The Pew study found that millennials put “a high-paying job” near the bottom of their list of work priorities—but so do other generations, in roughly equal numbers. Count me a skeptic on all counts. What people say when surveyed over the phone and how they act when an offer is on the table are different things.

Every Millennial wants to be an entrepreneur.

They may all want to be Mark Zuckerberg, but it’s not happening. A recent Wall Street Journal analysis of Federal Reserve data shows the share of people under age 30 who own private businesses has hit a 24-year low—just 3.6%, down from 10.6% in 1989.

Still, there is no doubt that this generation is different. It is the most diverse in American history—43% nonwhite—and more confident about the nation’s future than older generations. That’s a reverse from the 1970s, when young boomers were considerably less optimistic than their elders. Millennials also are slower to get married than earlier generations and less likely to belong to a political party—which may make their employer, by default, the most important institutional affiliation in their lives.

The biggest difference is not who they are, but how they live. They are the ones most comfortable with the new human appendage—the smartphone—that lets them stay connected to a vast network of friends and provides instant access to information, both good and bad. They are quickest to adapt to the ways in which the mobile Internet is changing the fundamental logistics of their lives, and the first to demand the workplace do the same.

So pay attention. The millennials aren’t spoiled products of a coddled past. They are harbingers of our connected future. – by Alan Murray, editor of Fortune Magazine.

 

 

 

If Your Boss Tells You to Get a Coach, Don’t Panic

coaching

 

How does it feel when you’re told that you need a coach, whether it’s your boss or someone else? For many managers it feels like a kick in the gut, a clear sign that you’re doing something wrong and your job might be in trouble. For others, who might be resistant to coaching in general, it raises questions about whether you really need the extra help.

Having worked with dozens of managers who’ve been in this situation, these reactions are completely natural, especially if the request to work with a coach comes as a surprise. In either case, before you get started with the coaching, you need to work through these feelings so that you can have a positive experience. Here’s how:

The first step is to recognize coaching for what it is: a fantastic opportunity for growth, development, self-insight, and career progression – and an endorsement that the company is willing to invest in you. After all, there are a number of reasons why your boss might want you to be coached, and some are quite positive. Your manager might think you have a great deal of potential and a coach would help you develop it. Your boss might also suggest coaching to fix a particular skill deficit. One of my clients, for example, was asked to work with a coach specifically to focus on presentation skills. Her senior manager planned to give her more exposure to the Board but wanted to make sure she had the confidence and capability to hold her own in that setting.

There are of course situations where coaching is given to a manager because of a performance issue – an inability to deliver certain results, poor project execution, or not getting along with other members of the team. But even in these cases, coaching is an investment, not a punishment. The boss isn’t giving up on you.

The second step is to understand the nature of your resistance or hesitation. Are you opposed to being coached because you’re not sure what you should focus on? Or because you don’t really understand what’s involved in the process? If these are your concerns, take control of the coaching process. Interview the potential coach (if it’s not going to be your boss) and make sure that there’s good chemistry between you two; if not, find someone else. Set clear goals with the coach about what you want to accomplish and how she can be helpful. Engage your boss in regular progress reviews so you get feedback about how you’re doing, and establish a time frame for the coaching (and the achievement of progress) so that it’s not an open-ended relationship. In other words, take the ownership away from your boss and make the coaching experience something that belongs to you. You can also talk to colleagues and friends who have worked with a coach and get a sense of their experience.

But if you still don’t think working with a coach is necessary, make a list of reasons why. For example, does your resistance actually stem from an underlying anxiety about what coaching will reveal? A common concern is that the process might uncover issues that people don’t know how to deal with or threaten their self-image. Or maybe these are the reasons running through your mind: “I don’t have time for coaching.” “I’ve been successful so far — why fix something that isn’t broken.” “Coaching often doesn’t work, I’d rather try another approach to development.” “What I really need is better feedback and guidance from my manager.”

Each of these might be a legitimate reason for not wanting to work with a coach. But before you try and make your case, ask your boss why she recommended coaching in the first place. If there are skills she wants you to work on, ask if she would be open to you pursuing a different development approach. For example, you could take a course, or tackle a stretch assignment, or pick up some new responsibilities. If time is an issue, negotiate a development schedule that works for you – or suggest a better time of the year to do the coaching, based on the rhythms of your workplace.

In the end, if your boss still thinks coaching is the best option for you, put aside your resistance and make the most of it. Use it as an opportunity to get more feedback from your boss, and from your subordinates and colleagues as well. Everyone has something to learn, no matter how successful they’ve been in the past and how much potential they have for the future. That’s not to say that coaching is the magic key to success for every manager, but it’s a tool that may be useful and shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. The bottom line is to remember that coaching is an investment – and the more you put into it, the greater the chance that you (and your company) will get a positive return.

-Harvard Business Review

 

What a Bit of Executive History Shows Us, an excerpt from CEO Point Blank

CEO Point Blank

The 2000s, in my opinion, have been the most trying and difficult times C-suite executives have ever faced in American history—even tougher than the Great Depression.  Not only do we have a tougher business climate, we are faced with bigger competitors—global competitors that do not operate under the same set of rules as we do in the United States.  The idea that globally things are “fair and even” and “may the best-managed company win” are concepts and beliefs shared by no one I know.

The global economy and unfair competitive practices aside, we continue to legislate and regulate ourselves internally to the point where we spend the majority of time wallowing around trying to create some kind of competitive advantage out of thin air.  I spend a lot of time thinking about exactly what happened to us as a country post World War II when we were filled with hope and confidence that when all else failed, we could outwork you.  I see great companies struggle with trying to find production efficiencies while their foreign competitors are allowed to flow products into the American market unchecked and unregulated.

I must admit to being part of the problem.  Here’s why.

Post World War II, our economy was made up primarily of family businesses that covered the range of our needs from food to clothing, transportation, and manufacturing craftsmanship.  Family businesses were passed down from generation to generation with the “secret sauce” that made the products or services unique to the region or geography they served.  You knew where your food came from, where your clothes were made, and you even knew the name of the family that made your car.

Our returning hero’s average age was twenty-six and many were returning to the family business, or turning to trades they had learned while in the military.  They were received into the workplace with open arms and the country was ready to step on the gas, fueling the largest generation of consumers the United States was ever to see.

The returning veterans were schooled in the family businesses and the discipline it took to operate them. They were charged with learning the tasks and craftsmanship of their trade because their mission was to protect the family homestead and their families relied on them.  Those that had new talents put them to use, still with the idea of making America stronger and their lives better.

The results speak for themselves.  Some of the strongest financial years in America were from 1945 through 1965.

And then things got tweaked.  Our foreign policy became unpopular.  The average age of an infantryman in Vietnam was twenty-two. Our youth (I was one of them) rebelled against everything that even resembled someone telling us what to do.  Belonging to anything was frowned upon.  I remember being at college one fall and seeing a group of guys spray painting a sign over a fraternity house door that said, “It’s wrong to belong.”  We had begun to question everything, believe in nothing but freedom—whatever that was—and reject the foundational pillars that had given us the best economic conditions in the history of the world with the highest standard of living yet to be experienced.

It took a few years for the rebellious students of the 1960s and 1970s to get around to work, as most of us went to college, and many on the six-year plan.  As we began to assume positions of authority, we slowly began to bring our rebellious nature to the workplace:  We threw out tradition. We didn’t need to wear a stinking tie–we worked better in flip-flops.  We worked in cubicles because offices created “silos.”  I remember listening with rapt attention to one of the long-haired business gurus of the time with a primetime audience tell us to break down the silos, that big oil was making too much money, and the banks were ripping us off.  He had all the answers.  Get your people a meditation room–that’s what attracts the real talent.

We all drank that Kool-Aid and we changed the face of American business just as we had changed the face of American culture fifteen years prior.  The results speak for themselves.

Please understand that I am not accusing, because I was part of that movement and I was a leader at the C-suite level.  As I look back at my career, I always felt like something was missing.  No matter my success, I always felt a bit hollow.  I think back on my college days and wonder why I didn’t buck the trend and rush that fraternity.

We had all lost our business discipline.  I could make money; that was the easy part.  But I couldn’t control my attitude and approach to anything that resembled authority and control, and believe me, I wasn’t alone.  Everyone was stupid, no one could keep up with me, and I wanted to run ahead of them and demand they keep up with me.  Rules were for other people, not for me.  I was so good at the money-making part that most of the time, people would leave me alone because they knew inherently that they were better off for me running off like a mad man and putting money in their pockets.

I am sixty years old, and though I’ve lived life well I am still discovering and facing the truth about myself and looking to be better for it.  I want to be the person who finds a way to get through to other C-suite executives and prove to them that silos work, we can be competitive globally, it is okay to be a leader, and that the single greatest gift you can bring to an organization is discipline: order overlaid with a huge dose of forgiveness.  If we are to bring our economy back to any level of dominance, we must be disciplined in our approach and willing to subjugate ourselves to our mission.

– Ed Jenks is Senior Consultant and Chief Strategist of The Jenks Group, Inc. is a well-known and nationally recognized business professional with more than twenty-five years as a C-Suite Executive.

 

Preparing for Your New Position – Phase Three: Settling In and Taking Charge

taking charge2

You may see yourself as a warm, easy-going boss with a high level of concern for your people. Or you might picture your managerial style as hard-nosed and highly oriented to the tasks you’ve assigned to people. And you may be correct.

What counts most as you enter your new job is NOT how you see yourself, but rather how your people perceive you. Their reactions and job performance will be based on what THEY believe you want from them.

Let’s recognize up front that performance in any group is bound to show some slippage in a crisis situation, such as welcoming and getting used to a new boss. Even if your department was producing excellent results prior to your arrival, you can expect a temporary drop-off while everyone gets accustomed to your methods and standards.

There’s an effective three-step process for managing people during a period of transition. Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Direction

Begin by letting your people know exactly what you expect of them. Tell them what’s to be done and (if necessary) how, when and where to do it. Supervise them closely to make certain their performance meets your expectations. Take corrective measures quickly if you see any evidence of performance drop-off or obstacles to specified accomplishments and deadlines.

Some managers think that being “directive” with their people requires a stern, unsmiling style that keeps them coldly distant from their subordinates. Nothing could be farther from the truth; you can be directive and warmly supportive at the same time. In fact, under normal circumstances you should be both. Your staff needs to feel that you have high standards….but also that you believe in their ability to produce the results you want. Expressing confidence in your people is usually a self-fulfilling prophesy.

However, you need to remember that smiles and pats on the back are rewards, and rewards should follow performance. If you appear a “softie” who gives rewards without first requiring satisfactory results from your people, you’ve lost one of your most powerful managerial techniques. In effect, you’ve rewarded non-performance instead of waiting until you see the results you’re looking for. When incentives are given away in advance with no need to be earned, they lose their power to stimulate performance.

You didn’t get this far without acquiring some ability to deal with people. With some forethought you can maintain a balance between friendly support and premature rewards. Once your people see that top-performers are treated differently from others, they’ll know exactly how they must perform if they want the same rewards from you.

Step 2: Relaxation

As each of your employees begins to show a willingness and ability to take responsibility for his/her actions, you can reward performance and stimulate further progress by relaxing your directive behavior. People who readily agree that you should involve yourself closely during the early stages will also become resentful if their satisfactory performance does not earn them some operating freedom.

This concept – called “positively reinforcing successive approximations” – is an effective strategy for helping your people develop professional skills and motivation. First you “lay on” the structure (direction); then, as soon as you notice the slightest step in the desired direction, you rewards the satisfactory performance by easing your close supervision. You praise them for their results. Continues progress brings more rewards, which generate more progress, and so forth.

Since your objective is to “accomplish organizational goals through the efforts of your people,” this relaxation phase is vital in developing your subordinates to the point where they can think and act for themselves.

Step 3: Delegation

Once your employees have demonstrated that they are able and willing to function on their own, your development strategy is nearly complete. Now it’s time to sit back and watch from a distance as your self-motivated and self-directed people run their own show.

To be sure, you still need to be informed and in control. The ultimate responsibility for their activities still belongs to you. Delegation is an excellent managing strategy as long as your people are functioning effectively, but you have to be ready to step in at the first sign of trouble. To an authoritative manager, delegation seems to be a risky way of doing things; but consider what happens when your people are operating on their own and producing satisfactory results:

  • You have less time required for close supervision and more time for thinking, planning and brainstorming new ideas for improving your operations or reaching for higher goals.
  • You have fewer “people” problems because your staff is motivated toward achievement rather than self-protection, unproductive competition, or other distracting behavior.
  • You’ve taken a giant step toward identifying a potential successor or two for the day when top management has another career jump in mind for you.

The three-step process can work for you, but it requires a careful distinction between group accomplishments and individual achievements. Not every member of your staff will develop at the same pace, or to the same degree. The “direction-relaxation-delegation” strategy only works with individuals and groups that are moving forward together. Be careful not to let your positive reinforcement spill over the non-performers as well as those who are delivering satisfactory results.

The COMPOSE Problem-Solving Model

Of course, the world won’t always rotate precisely as you want it to. Your attempts to “relax” your directive control of people’s activities, or to “delegate” tasks when your people appear ready to handle them, may not produce the results you expect. Performance problems can occur in the best-managed functions and, when they happen to you, you’re going to need a simple and quick method of deciding what’s wrong and providing a solution.

Further, you won’t always have the luxury of taking your time to analyze problems on the job and figure ways to get your people back on track. The COMPOSE Model is designed to help you identify quickly whatever performance problems have occurred, and then to develop “change” strategies aimed at solving them.

Acronyms are easy to remember. That’s why I’ve arranged the seven common sources of performance problems into the world “COMPOSE” (which happens to be synonymous with “putting things into proper order”):

Competence                – inability to perform as expected

Overload                     – too much workload

Motivation                   – lack of proper incentives

Perception                  – not understanding what’s required

Organization               – insufficient resources

Supervision                 – lack of direction from you

Environment               – problems with outside factors

If one of your people is having difficulties performing up to your expectations, the problem is probably associated with one of these seven factors.

Competence

Sometimes the problem is caused by lack of ability to complete the task as assigned. It’s important to remember that employees are not universally competent: some have more skill and talent in certain areas than others. Usually, job competence is a function of education, experience on the job, or aptitudes which specifically qualify certain people for certain jobs.

If you employee has a competence problem, ask yourself first whether he/she is assigned to the proper tasks – that is, could his/her talents be better utilized elsewhere in your group. If the ability is present, you might spend more time giving the employee direction: specific instructions (from which he/she can learn how to deliver the results you want), and close supervision to assure success while the employee is learning. You might identify training or development courses that would contribute to employee’s competence in the future. At times it’s constructive to assign the employee to work closely with someone who already possesses the skills, and watch those abilities “rub off” on the person who’s having problems in that area.

 Overload

Managers often assume that “if I can handle the workload, so can anyone else.” That’s not always the case, and y our first clue comes when the employee’s work begins to suffer because of overload. People become disorganized, and lack timely answers to basic questions. Deadlines are missed even though the employee has the necessary abilities to perform the tasks.

Often a case of overload will show itself in a short temper, or even physical illness caused by the continuous tension of trying to handle too much work.

If your employee suffers from an overload problem, you’ll want to re-examine the delineation of duties throughout your group and re-assign tasks more evenly. If this cannot be done, check your staffing in general to determine whether more people are need to achieve the goals of your department.

Motivation

It’s difficult to succeed with tasks if there is no motivation or incentive to perform that task. It’s important to realize that not everyone is equally motivated to perform: some folks can see their personal goals being realized by accomplishing the task, where others cannot. Some employees have a problem with willingness – the desire to do something well. Others have problems with won’tness – “I don’t like the work and I won’t put forth my best efforts.”

If incentive problems exist within your organization, check your use of rewards. Your people should clearly understand that successful performance on this task will gain them the rewards they seek – more enjoyable assignments, more pay, opportunity for recognition among their peers, or promotion later on. Positive incentives often take the form of public praise for work well done, and all your people are sensitive to how you feel about sharing the credit and giving everyone a “boost” within the group and in the eyes of your boss.

Perception

Some people don’t really understand what’s required of them in a given situation. They may possess the competence to succeed, and the motivation to try their best, but find it difficult to interpret your directions or comprehend the results they’re striving for. To be fully effective, the employee needs to know (a) what the job consists of; (b) the objectives accomplished by the task; and (c) how you want the task accomplished. There’s also a need to clarify which tasks have priority over others – what should be done first, for example.

Usually a return to the “Action Plan” will remove questions of perception regarding an assignment. Make sure your instructions are given in specific ways, to avoid misinterpretations by others. Review instructions if necessary, so that every member of your team understands what to do and why it’s important.

Organization

Every employee needs some degree of organizational support to accomplish assigned tasks. If you expect your employees to return their tools to the supply room before leaving, you’d better make sure that the supply room is open at the proper times. If your employee needs to produce a typed report by Wednesday, be sure there’s a typist available between now and then.

If there’s a problem in getting the required support from the organization, you may find yourself talking with your boss or others to find the solution. In such cases, other priorities may prevent you from getting the help you need. When this happens, you’ll have to revise your expectations regarding the employee’s assignment to avoid holding someone responsible for circumstances beyond his/her control.

 Supervision

As mentioned earlier, different people require different levels of supervision. To some, your continuing attention is a reward, because they want to spend time with you in the course of their work. To others, your close supervision can appear threatening to their perception of their autonomy. Some employees react to supervision by saying “What’s the matter? Don’t you trust me to do a good job?” while others will wonder if you trust them out of your sight.

The balance between too little supervision and too much is a matter of judgment. You need to give people sufficient operating latitude if you want to stimulate their incentive, yet too much “rope” can cause you to lose control. The best strategy is to maintain open communication with each of your employees, paying attention to feedback and adjusting your supervising style according to their wishes and your evaluation of their ability to perform on their own.

Environment

If a problem exists, and none of the preceding factors seems to be the cause, take a look at the external factors that may be influencing your employee’s performance. In some “hourly” situations, peer pressures can limit output. Gas shortages or baby-sitting problems can hamper your employee’s ability to get to work on time. Personal beliefs or political sentiments can occupy a person’s mind and interfere with productivity.

If there’s an environment problem, it’s useless to reprimand people for circumstances beyond their control. However, if outside factors are interfering with performance – and the control is clearly with the employee – a counseling session is called for. In any case, close communication with your people will create an atmosphere in which external problems can be identified and discussed so that each employee can perform without distractions.

Try the COMPOSE Model with your next managerial problem. It gives you a system for approaching problem identification and analysis during the first few months, even if you don’t have complete familiarity with the function or the people. Its orderly approach not only provides a basis for action – it also encourages your people to cooperate, since they can recognize the logical strategy you’re using.

Debriefing Your Boss debrief boss

No systematic approach to entering your new job would be complete without an official closing exercise. Earlier we discussed the need for a “no surprises” strategy of keeping your boss informed of your activities and progress. Presumably you’ve been maintaining this contact, and using the feedback to alter your direction and techniques.

Your contract for disclosure with your boss needs a wrap-up to signal your readiness to be your first opportunity to acquaint your boss with some of your operating methods, close observation has ended. One way to accomplish this is formal “debriefing” meeting at which all pertinent subjects are resolved. The objectives of this meeting are:

  • To bring your boss up to date regarding all phases of your transition into the new job;
  • To cross-check your conclusions about goals, and the resources available to achieve them;
  • To describe the improvements you’ve made since joining the organization;
  • To gain your boss’ confidence that you’re in control.

Your debriefing meeting should be scheduled within 90 days of your arrival on the job. It may be your first opportunity to acquaint your boss with some of your operating methods, Action Plans, personnel allocations, etcetera. It can lead to changes of strategy if certain approaches are not working as expected. It can be the basis for a review of staffing requirements for the future. In short, the debriefing meeting can be used to accomplish whatever purposes you’ve identified during your first few months on the job.

Most important, the meeting also establishes the potential of a long-term working relationship in which each of you can obtain the results you want.

The timing and length of the meeting are not half as important as being thoroughly prepared for it. Remember, you’re asking for your boss’ time, and a measure of your effectiveness is your ability to manage the time he/she will give you. Use charts, graphs, and other aids to clear communication. Leave materials behind to help your boss remember what was discussed.

Before departing from this meeting, get your boss’ reactions to everything presented. Set the stage for future meetings. Later, analyze what happened and plan for regular reviews and “no surprises” discussions. Identify suggested areas of improvement and make sure you’ve attended to them before the next meeting – at least to the point where you can show some progress.

Following is a “Debriefing” checklist to help you structure the meeting. Add whatever special items are necessary to customize the format to your situation.

  1. Give your boss some honest reactions to being involved in the organization, and express your appreciation of support received thus far (if applicable).
  2. Highlight major areas of concern.
  3. Review the contents of your “First Meeting” worksheets and report on progress to date.
  4. Review the subjects discussed at your “Ice-Breaker” meeting with employees.
  5. Present your Action Plans and explain your strategies for achieving results within the specified deadlines.
  6. Add any additional Items for your discussion.

Best of luck in your new position/job and enjoy the benefits of a great start!

-Sharon Jenks, CEO/President – The Jenks Group, Inc. http://www.thejenksgroup.com

 

Preparing for Your New Positions – Phase Two: First Days On The Job

first day on job

If you’re like most people, you’re anxious to “make a splash” in your new job at the earliest opportunity. Management – possibly content to wait several months for your first major contributions – will be delighted to witness your early success. Executives and managers throughout your company will mark you down as a “comer” on a fast track to further advancement (and nobody will be surprised when it happens). Your subordinates will see you as a polished leader, certain of where you’re taking them and sure of how to get there.

In fact, however, there’s a thin line between “making a splash” and “making waves”, especially where newcomers are concerned. As you join your new organization, be conscious of the line and don’t make the mistake of crossing it too soon, or without the support you need.

Up to this point you’ve been concentrating on gaining the approval and support of your boss. Equally important is the support you need from the people who report to you – your employees. It’s worth a moment or two to review the ways in which the enthusiastic cooperation of employees is earned by a new boss.

Leadership and Management

From among many definitions, we can distill the essence of leadership as “an attempt to influence the thinking or actions of people.”

Your employees have been hired because the function is too big for one person to handle. As the manager (leader) of this function, your job is to “influence” your people toward accomplishment of organizational goals. In this sense, your success depends ultimately on your people, and you must find ways to reach your objectives through their efforts.

The secret of successfully influencing people involves understanding what motivates them to perform up to the standards you expect of them. As you enter the scene, your employees’ personal “motivators” are both positive and negative:

  • Positive, in the sense that you represent a new beginning and your arrival could help them get closer to their individual career goals.
  • Negative, in that you are an unknown commodity, and working with you might not be a pleasant or successful experience for them.

Although you have many anxieties of your own about making a soft landing in your new job, be aware that your employees have questions, too:

  • What are your values? What do you stand for?
  • What do you want from them? Will you change their assignments or working conditions?
  • Will there be new rules?
  • What’s your personality like? Will you be easy or difficult to work with?
  • Will you listen? Can you be influenced?
  • Is this a “new start” or are you aware of their past successes and failures?
  • Are their positions secure? Will anything be taken away from them as a result of your arrival?
  • How visible will you be? How much contact will you want with them?
  • Will their creativity and contributions be recognized?

Each of these questions is a potential “negative” motivator because your employees’ anxiety will persist – and interfere with their productivity – until they receive satisfactory answers. Your actions and statements in the early weeks will provide those answers…..and once initial impressions are formed, you’ll have to work very hard to change them.

From the first moments on the job, you can show that you’re aware of these anxieties and begin to remove the negative motivators. Your systematic approach to entering your new job includes a thorough preparation for getting started with the people whose efforts will determine your success.

The “Easy Entry” Method

Many people fear a change in their working environment. To varying degrees, your subordinates are concerned about how your arrival will affect their lives. Under your predecessor – whether they were happy or not – at least they knew what to expect. They’ve become accustomed to being managed and evaluated in a certain way. In the beginning they’ll be watching you closely to see how your ways will differ from the old ways.

The “Easy Entry” method is a proven technique for respecting the concerns of your people while minimizing the disruptions to productivity that are caused by your arrival as leader of the group. IF you can incorporate each of the following six policies into your style, you’ll find that:

  • The group “performance drop” can be avoided entirely even though you may be making major changes in work assignments and procedures;
  • The structure of a planned entry will reduce some or your anxieties, too;
  • The “crisis” of your arrival will become an “opportunity” for personal growth and higher performance levels among all your people.

Each policy is described briefly. Based on the impressions you’ve formed from your Pre-Start review of projects, plans and personalities, you can list specific issues you’ll want to address.

 Policy #1: Learn the rules before you change them

Every organization has its traditional norms and customs, and your people are used to certain ways of doing things. Smart leaders know they have to “earn” the right to change procedures. Spend a few days getting to know how your people have acted and interacted in the past. Pay attention to traditional lines and patterns of communication. Show people you understand the system before you impose new ways of getting things done. With each change you introduce, be sure that all your employees understand why you’re improving the procedure and what benefits the change will bring.

 Policy #2: Evolution, not revolution

Even the most needed medicine is hard to swallow if the dose is too large. You may have inherited a smoothly running machine or a “clunker” badly in need of repairs. Either way, a massive dose of cure-all could kill the patient.

Plan your change strategy over an initial period (at least one month) instead of dumping all the issues on your people at once. Try to consult with key players and get them to “buy into” both the need for change and your methods of making it happen. Part-authors make very enthusiastic helpers.

Policy #3: Hold an early group meeting

Your first encounter with your employees will probably be brief and functional. As quickly as possible thereafter, schedule a meeting for everyone in your group, to calm the anxieties and set the stage for your action plans. (A structured approach is provided in the First Meeting Ice Breaker below.)

Policy #4: Get your people out of the weeds

The natural tendency for some people is to lie in the weeds, holding back their thoughts and ideas until they see which way your wind is blowing. Presuming that each of your employees is necessary for your group to be productive, you cannot afford to let them hide until it’s safe to emerge.

Potential contributors may need some prodding at first. Solicit opinions and probe for the reasons behind them. Let your employees know you’re interested in them, both as people and as professionals. Avoid judgmental reactions to their statements during your early days in charge.

Policy #5: Don’t knock you predecessor

On the surface, it’s easy to establish your leadership credentials by pointing out (even with faint praise) the failings of you predecessor’s programs and methods. It’s a quick way to show management that changes ought to be made and you’re the right person to make them. Besides, if the last person to hold the job is gone from the company or location, there’s no easy way from him/her to fight back.

Criticizing your predecessor is perilous, because at this stage you don’t know what loyalties exist in the organization. You don’t know who else worked hard to propose and execute the existing programs. A better strategy is to step with care in this area, and state your personal goals in terms of improvements rather than rescue missions.

Policy #6: Keep everybody informed

One of the best ways to foster a “team” spirit among your people is to begin with an open-communication policy. Although unwieldy in very large groups, the practice of keeping everyone informed demands little extra effort. Yet your people will know they are valuable members of the group, and their appreciation will translate into productive results in their jobs.

Of course, you’ll have more frequent contact with immediate subordinates than with others in the group. Still, you can insist on a “stair-step” communication system to assure that everyone gets the word.

Make your own personal notes on the six policies of the “Easy Entry” method, or add policies of your own.

The “Easy Entry” method can be implemented from your first day on the job. The mechanism is a series of transition meetings with your staff members. The sessions begin with an emphasis on getting to know each other (Ice-Breaker), and evolve into strategy meetings concerned with “where we want to go and how to get there” (Action Planning). Depending on your objectives and circumstances, you may need to schedule several meetings stretching over a period of many months.

Use the recommended agenda as guides, adding whatever special items you think should be covered. Divide the business items into several smaller meetings if you choose to concentrate in specific areas with your staff. If possible, send agenda outlines in advance so that all participants will know what’s expected of them and will have sufficient time to prepare.

Ice-Breaker Meeting with Your Employees

Use the following as an outline for you introductory meeting with employees. Check the items that apply to your situation, and make notes on how you intend to handle each subject.

Introduction

  •  Start the meeting by announcing its purpose: to begin a systematic transition involving two basic phases (organization analysis; action planning) and extending over a “set” time period.
  • Introduce yourself and give some pertinent information about your background.
  • Tell them something about your values, operating style, desire for future group accomplishments, etc.
  • To stimulate involvement and begin coaxing your people out of the weeds, ask each participant to describe his/her background, current major responsibilities, etc.

Business Portion

  • Describe the group’s workload (as you see it) for the next 30 days:

List current projects and deadlines

  • Discuss any changes you feel necessary for projects, deadlines or persons assigned
  • Discuss routine responsibilities for each participant, and ask staff members what your involvement should be
  • Ask each participant to describe the non-routine activities that are part of his/her job
  • Establish reporting/decision channels (explain your reasons for changing any previous customs)
  • Give the group your work schedule (including travel dates) for the next 30 days.
  • List any administrative matters to be resolved in the next 90 days (e.g. salary reviews) and schedule date/time for each.
  • Ask if there are any questions, and answer fully.
  • In adjourning this Ice-Breaker meeting, establish an open-door policy for the next 30 days (at least) and encourage each staff member to bring all delays or difficulties to your attention.
  • Add any Additional Subjects to Cover

Action Planning

As the series of meetings with your boss and staff progress, you’ll begin to feel a need for a system of recording and publishing the results.

The Action Plan format provides a simple framework for listing projects…..assigning specific responsibilities for each action step…..and tracking the results as you go along. Further, it serves as the basis for progress reports to keep your boss well informed, and for use during subsequent staff meetings.

After the Action Plan is prepared and circulated, you can take responsibility for keeping it current or assign the task to the person primarily charged with producing results. You can keep the master set on file in your office and schedule update sessions periodically.

The Action Plan helps you keep each project on schedule. Failure to reach a certain sub-goal by a given date is an automatic signal that something’s wrong and some trouble-shooting action is needed. After completion, the Action Plan worksheet is an excellent place to document performance and prepare detailed reviews for salary adjustments or other decisions.

Use one Action Plan sheet for each project.

To receive Action Plan sheet or Progress Record Templates please send an email to: sjenks@thejenksgroup.com

Look for the final phase in our blog tomorrow.

Sharon Jenks, CEO/President The Jenks Group, Inc