Author: mission

Ways to market your value at work

Even with all the assessments, scorecards and performance reviews, there appears to be a growing chasm between performance and perception.

Just recently, a coaching client of mine — we’ll call him Tom — scratched his head when saying, “I thought my work would speak for itself. Now it appears, that in addition to my other roles, I need to be my own PR agency.”

He’s right. Since most of us will change jobs 11 times in our lifetime, the employee has become, what Daniel Pink calls in his book by the same title, a member of the Free Agent Nation.

In such a world, the employee/employer relationship is based less on loyalty and more on projects that begin and end, much like how temporary workers and small businesses operate with their clients. Add to that virtual meetings, e-mail-addiction and the increasing speed of work and you get a growing distance between the value people create and the perceptions others have of that work.

In some distant fantasyland called the Good Old Days, business leaders had more time to understand and appreciate the full value of their employees. Sure the employee/employer relationship had its own challenges back then, but chaos, uncertainty and the speed of change didn’t create a super-race of multi-taskers who can’t sit still and take full notice of those around them.

Today, we’re in what Thomas H. Davenport, expert in business process innovation, calls the “attention economy.” Get noticed; good for you. Don’t; good luck.

That brings me back to the question Tom asked: “How do I ‘manage up’ when I’m so focused on keeping my head down on my work?”

Treat your work like you would a small business owner. In addition to your external customers, get to know the needs, whims and concerns of your internal customers, namely, your employees, peers, and most importantly, your boss.

What goals do your boss have for her department? How are those goals measured? What expectations does he have of you?

I asked Tom to ask his boss two additional questions: “What three things should I do that will provide great value to the department and to our working relationship? What three things would I do that would severely damage your impression of me?”

Next, no news is not always good news. In a communication vacuum your boss will fill the void. Your job is to fill those voids with stories and impressions that accurately paint the picture of your performance and the value you provide to the organization.

So shift your work priorities to match those of your boss, schedule regular meetings to provide updates, send e-mails, consistently, sharing your latest successes and setbacks.

Why share setbacks? No one likes surprises. Sooner or later, mistakes will be known. Be upfront with your setback and share how you will remedy the issue. No one expects perfection. But pro-active problem solves are well respected.

Lastly, you’re allowed to brag if you give credit to others.

Dean Newlund is CEO of Mission Facilitators International. He can be reached at 623-444-2164 or missionfacilitators.com

Employees need to be their own PR agency

Even with all the assessments, scorecards and performance reviews there appears to be a growing chasm between performance and perception. Why just yesterday a coaching client of mine – we’ll call him Tom – scratched his head when saying, “I thought my work would speak for itself. Now it appears, that in addition to my other roles, I need to be my own PR agency.”

He’s right. Since most of us will change jobs 11 times in our lifetime, the employee has become, what Daniel Pink calls in his book by the same title, a member of the Free Agent Nation. In such a world the employee / employer relationship is based less on loyalty and more on projects that begin and end; much like how temporary workers and small businesses operate with their clients. Add to that, virtual meetings, email-addiction and the increasing speed of work, you get a growing distance between the value people create and the perceptions others have of that work.

In some distant fantasyland called the Good Old Days, business leaders had more time to understand and appreciate the full value of their employees. Sure the employee / employer relationship had its own challenges back then, but chaos, uncertainty and the speed of change didn’t create a super-race of multi-taskers who can’t sit still and take full notice of those around them. Today, we’re in what Thomas H. Davenport, expert in business process innovation, calls the ‘attention economy”. Get noticed; good for you. Don’t; good luck.

Which brings up the question Tom asked: “How do I ‘manage up’ when I’m so focused on keeping my head down on my work?

Treat your work like you would a small business owner. In addition to your external customers, get to know the needs, whims and concerns of your internal customers, namely, your employees, peers, and most importantly, your boss. What goals do your boss have for her department? How are those goals measured? What expectations does he have of you? I asked Tom to ask his boss two additional questions: “What three things should I do that will provide great value to the department and to our working relationship? What three things would I do that would severely damage your impression of me?

Next, no news is not always good news. In a communication-vacuum your boss will fill the void. Your job is to fill those voids with stories and impressions that accurately paint the picture of your performance and the value you provide to the organization. So, shift your work priorities to match those of your boss, schedule regular meetings to provide updates, send emails, consistently, sharing your latest successes and setbacks. Why share setbacks? No one likes surprises. Sooner or later mistakes will be known. Be up front with your setback, and share how you will remedy the issue. No one expects perfection. But pro-active problem solves are well respected. Lastly, you’re allowed to brag if you give credit to others.

Dean Newlund is CEO of Mission Facilitators International. He can be reached at 623.444.2164 or www.missionfacilitators.com

Learn to lead by leading self

As I boarded the first of three flights from Atlanta to Bangkok my only thought was how I was going to best serve my client. Traveling internationally had become routine. Little did I know that the teacher would become the student and I would be served up lessons I could never have seen coming.

Twenty four hours of flying later, blurry-eyed from lack of sleep I checked into my Bangkok hotel, hailed a cab and high-tailed it down to the Grand Palace for my only opportunity of site seeing on this trip. I had seen other Palaces, like Versailles, testament of power and wealth. But this place, with its temple, gold roofs and statues of Buddha was more a reminder that inner peace and outer peace are mirrors to one another. The place made you want to sit, observe and take a deep breath. Lesson one: A leader cannot bring peace and harmony to his or her team until they cultivate that within. I pondered that during my cab ride how many companies would be better run, how many customers and communities better served if leaders mastered themselves before leading others.

A week later I had missed my flight to Hong Kong. Stuck in the Airport I called my travel agent back in the States. Julia had found me another flight that was to leave in seven hours. She stayed up well past 1:00 am her time in order to be assured I made it safely on my new flight. Upon my return I sent her a Bonzai tree with the note: “You made a bad experience exceptional”. Lesson two: Leaders who take great pleasure in serving others leave a lasting impression. We want to follow those who help others. Setting a direction, making the tough calls, coordinating the work of others is an important part of leadership. But an authentic leader is all about service.

A few days later, in Hong Kong, I walked down to the Admiralty protest site at the exact moment they were televising on huge screens results of the first talks between the protest leaders and the government. Serveral thousand people quietly sat watching the news reports. Tents in perfect rows lined the streets. Artwork and food and water stations turned a four-lane road into a neighborhood of sorts. Hong Kong was the spark of China’s economic boom when the British gave it back to China. Now economic self-determination was giving birth for a desire for political self-determination. Lesson three: A core need for all of us is autonomy. We’re willing to follow others, engage in debate, and even sacrifice for the good of others. But we must have a say in how and what we do. Great leaders never forget to engage those in decisions that effect how and what they do.

On the flight home I reflected: Learning how to lead others starts by leading oneself, service is the ultimate goal behind leading and people are more apt to follow you if you give them autonomy over how they do their work.

Dean Newlund is CEO of Mission Facilitators International, Inc., He can be reached at 623.444.2164 or www.missionfacilitators.com

Companies should understand the impact of stress on the workplace.

In an average week I may interact with 15-40 clients in my role as an executive coach and strategic facilitator, and it seems that everyone has been experiencing the same thing; increasing levels of stress. One person I talked to last week admitted being addicted to stress as a way to fill some emptiness. “What am I suppose to do when I have nothing to do?”, he asked.

As I look beyond the efforts of companies to engage employees, develop their leaders, provide service to their customers and create innovative solutions it becomes apparent that all of these well-intended efforts are being held back or even derailed by negative stress. In order to survive and thrive in the 21st century we need to be more aware of the effects of stress on people and how to reverse it.

As Stephen Covey said in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, companies that push employees harder to increase output, without taking the time to examine and improve the process, create a cycle of diminishing returns. New ideas for improvement happen during reflection, and if employees are so harried and taxed, they don’t have the energy or motivation to do this important “thought work”.

According to an article by Dr. Kevin Flemming, more that 60% of work absences in the United States were attributed to psychological stress and other related issues. This cost American companies: $57 billion.

And if stressed-out employees alienate customers what happens when they aren’t overly stressed? According to a study by Frederick Reichheld and W. Earl Sasser, a 5 percent reduction in customer defection translates into anywhere from a 30 percent to an 85 percent increase in corporate profitability.

So if I step back from my own stress and do this reflective “thought work” Covey talks about, I wonder what part of negative stress is self-imposed? In our efforts to pursue our “unalienable Right to happiness” do we need to re-discover what really makes us happy? Are we trying to find happiness in the wrong places and is our unmet need for happiness the cause for some of our stress? Jacob Needlemen thinks so in his book The American Soul when he asserts we often seek happiness through the acquisition of things. “Materialism is a disease of the mind”, he says, “starved for ideas about our inner and outer world.”

Individually we need to remind ourselves of what truly makes us happy: Probably not cars, furniture and shoes but family, friends, adventure, learning and play. And by spending as little as 20 percent of our time doing what we love to do we reduce the risk of burnout. Having a balanced life also needs as much importance as finishing projects at work.

Companies need to place employee stress on their risk management radar. It is hurting the bottom line, strangling innovation and derailing all the great ideas that come out of strategic planning sessions. Movement forward cannot be achieved without addressing the stress that is holding us back.

Dean Newlund is CEO of Mission Facilitators International, Inc. He can be reached at www.missionfacilitators.com

Stretch yourself to get skills for career growth

The first question I was asked during my first day of college was “what’s your major?” I thought the purpose of college was to explore ideas not limit options. I was given a college advisor who got the unenviable assignment of dealing with us misfits he labeled “undecided.” The pressure to specialize extends into business as well. We get trained and hired to be electricians, teachers, nurses and restaurant managers. Being a specialist gets the job. But growing a career requires a diverse set of skills and attitudes.

Jeff is a cardiologist and an emerging leader in a local hospital. He’s been successful treating patients and doing research. Now the organization he works for sees him as a future leader. But a 360-degree assessment reveals Jeff is weak in communication, setting a vision and collaborating and engaging with peers. As Marshall Goldsmith, a Harvard Business Review author and executive coach has said, what made you successful in the past will not be what makes you successful as a leader in the future.

Jeff is not alone. Mike Lombardo and Bob Eichinger say in the book “FYI: Learning Agility”: “Less than 30 percent of an organization’s high performers have the potential to rise to and succeed in broader senior-level, critical positions.” So what does Jeff do? How does he abandon being the expert and take on unfamiliar roles of collaborator, communicator and networker?

Know thyself. According to a 2010 Cornell University study, self-awareness was found to be the No. 1 predictor of executive success. For Jeff that means developing the ability and willingnessto learn from experience and subsequently apply that learning to new situations.

Expand the network. Jeff spent so many years focused on his clinical and research work his world now only consists of other cardiologists. He needs to know the needs and concerns of others outside his specialty and expand his network to areas he’s not the expert in, and by so doing, risk looking vulnerable.

Think Medici. The wealthy Medici family in Italy fueled the outpouring of knowledge, culture and ideas that flourished during the Renaissance. Financial support was a big contributing factor, but so was the intersection of artisans: Painters learned techniques from their interactions with sculptors; musicians came up with ideas by learning from actors. Jeff will gain insights by his interaction and learning from pediatricians and ophthalmologists, as well as marketers and finance managers. Learning from outside our industry or specialty increases the possibility for innovation and opportunities.

Market Me Inc. Jeff thinks his work will speak for itself. But what he doesn’t realize is everyone is too busy to fully understand and appreciate all the great things Jeff has done. He may wait a long time before someone taps him on his shoulder to indicate he’s been promoted. Instead, Jeff should send updates to leadership, actively pursue opportunities and initiate projects. Jeff needs to devote 5 percent of this time as the PR Agency for Jeff Inc.

Dean Newlund is CEO of Mission Facilitators International, Inc. He can be reached at www.missionfacilitators.com

Agility over specialization makes better leaders

The first question I was asked during my first day of college was “what’s your major?” I thought the purpose of college was to explore ideas not limit options. I was given a college advisor who got the unenviable assignment of dealing with us misfits he labeled “undecided”. The pressure to specialize extends into business as well. We get trained and hired to be electricians, teachers, nurses and restaurant managers. Being a specialist gets the job. But growing a career requires a diverse set of skills and attitudes.

Jeff is a cardiologist and an emerging leader in a local hospital. He’s been successful treating patients and doing research. Now the organization he works for sees him as a future leader. But a 360-degree assessment reveals Jeff is weak in communication, setting a vision and collaborating and engaging with peers. As Marshall Goldsmith, a noted Harvard Business Review author and executive coach has said, what made you successful in the past will not be what makes you successful as a leader in the future.
Jeff is not alone. Mike Lombardo and Bob Eichinger say in the book FYI: Learning Agility “Less than 30% of an organization’s high performers have the potential to rise to and succeed in broader senior-level, critical positions.” So what does Jeff do? How does he abandon being the expert and take on unfamiliar roles of collaborator, communicator and networker?

Know thyself. According to a 2010 Cornell University study, self-awareness was found to be the #1 predictor of executive success. For Jeff that means developing the ability and willingness to learn from experience, and subsequently apply that learning to new situations.

Expand the network. Jeff spent so many years focused on his clinical and research work his world now only consists of other cardiologists. He needs to know the needs and concerns of others outside his specialty and expand his network to areas he’s not the expert, and by so doing, risk looking vulnerable.

Think Medici. The wealthy Medici family in Italy fueled the outpouring of knowledge, culture and ideas that flourished during the Renaissance. Financial support was a big contributing factor, but so was the intersection of artisans: Painters learned new techniques from their interactions with sculptors; musicians came up with new ideas by learning from actors. Jeff will gain new insights by his interaction and learning from pediatricians and ophthalmologists, as well as marketers and finance managers. Learning from outside our industry or specialty increases the possibility for innovation and opportunities.

Market Me, Inc.. Jeff thinks his work will speak for itself. But what he doesn’t realize is everyone is too busy for them to fully understand and appreciate all the great things Jeff has done. He may wait a long time before someone taps him on his shoulder to indicate he’s been promoted. Instead, Jeff should send updates to leadership, actively pursue opportunities and initiate new projects. Jeff needs to devote 5% of this time as the PR Agency for Jeff, Inc.

Dean Newlund is CEO of Mission Facilitators International, Inc. He can be reached at www.missionfacilitators.com

Unproductive meetings waste the nation’s resources

Would $30 billion in cost savings or added productivity make a difference to our lagging economy? It certainly would.

Consider this: Our nation could probably save that much simply by eliminating poorly run and unnecessary meetings.

Each day 11 million meetings take place in the United States, or 2.6 billion in a year. Based on an average salary of $30 per hour, the U.S. spends $80 billion on meetings each year.(In reality, the amount spent on meetings is much higher because most meetings involve more than two people.) Some research says that 37.5 percent of all meetings are considered “poorly run or unnecessary,” which would equal $30 billion a year of unproductive or poorly run meetings.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard “If I didn’t have to go to meetings, I’d like my job a lot more.” Research supports that notion.

Employees’ perception of meetings mirrors their overall job satisfaction.

Meetings have become the bane of business. How often have you left a meeting asking yourself: “What was the point of that? Why was I invited? Will any actions come from this meeting?”

Getting people to meetings can sometimes be tough. One company I worked with forced late arrivers to sing a song, essentially incentivizing promptness through embarrassment. Years ago the quality of food at Microsoft meetings determined how many people showed up. Essentially, the company was incentivizing attendance through food. There’s got to be a better way.

Because we avoid accountability, rely on tradition, buckle under office politics and lack facilitation skills, meetings have become “Corporate Sominex.”

Well-run meetings inspire engagement, drive decisions and produce accountability.

Here are sound ideas for how to make your meetings engaging and effective:

• Meeting preparation: Set goals for the meeting. This will determine the agenda and who should attend. Not a single decision is made in 65 percent of all meetings. So cancel them and rely on e-mail, Sharepoint or some other communication medium.

Give participants a role. Encourage them to brainstorm, help make a decision or provide feedback.

Distribute reading materials 48 hours prior to the meeting. Attach a standard agenda sheet that clarifies the reason for the meeting and its desired outcome and explains who’s asked to attend and why.

• During the meeting: Establish and follow the meeting code of conduct. Start by reviewing the anticipated outcomes and agenda. Rely on a facilitator to keep the discussion on track. Avoid PowerPoint presentations at all costs because they distract more then they engage.

Involve each participant in the discussion by calling out quieter individuals and limiting air time for those who easily dominate the conversation. Determine next-step actions by clarifying who “owns” the actions and when they are to be completed.

• After the meeting: Publish a list of action items and encourage “owners” of action items to schedule time in their calendar to complete their items. Eighty percent of the time in meetings is devoted to less than 20 percent of company’s long-term value. So, without having to lay people off or make major expense cuts, companies can see real improvement in productivity by making meetings more effective and engaging.

Dean Newlund is CEO of Mission Facilitators International Inc.

Good leadership includes structure

Innovation is the cornerstone for surviving and thriving in today’s world of V.U.C.A, Volitivity, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity; or what I describe in a white paper of the same name, The New Normal 2.0. To not be aware of nor respond to the seismic changes in our economy, demographics, buying patterns and workforce demands is a receipe for disaster. We all know of companies that failed because they didn’t respond to these market changes. Others, like Apple and Google brought fresh life into their industries because they made innovation a part of their business strategy and values like tolerance, collaboration and flexibility found their way into business practices.

Companies should re-examine, redesign, removed or improve upon every aspect of their business. Some companies have seriously taken on this challenge of reinvention while other have not.

However, there is one part of almost all U.S. businesses that has changed quite a bit: Leadership. Just look at the number of books on Amazon about leadership and you’ll know I mean. Our fascination with power and prestige of leaders is fueled by a concern that being a good leader is not only hard, but rare. We seem to be grapsing at straws trying to figure out what leadership should be.

And then there is the responsibility of the follower that seems to be absent from the literature.

Today’s leaders are instructed to be agile, flexible, cooperative and intuitive; traits perfectly in line with creating innovative companies. These traits have become the core of numerous models that define leadership as being a servant, an authentic person, a coach, a mentor; an individual who provides “appreciative inquiry” or reaching “level five status” on top of Maslowe’s Hierarchy of Needs.

While I applaud all of these new models, and many others not mentioned, I think we have incorrectly devalued some traditional characteristics of leadership. Leadership isn’t just about a set of behaviors. Leadership is a structure on which behaviors can be effective. Much of that structure has been diluted or overshadowed by any new leadership behaviors described as “flavors of the month.”

I’d like to see more emphasis on structure. We should be asking: does the leader work under a clear and compelling mission and set of strategies? Do they know the goals they are accountable for? Are they and everyone else on their team clear of their roles and responsibilities? Do they know who is ultimately in charge for each project for function? Are they certain how work gets handed off and is there a clear escalation process for issues? Do they have a good structure for how they run meetings and make decisions?

Pressures to put out fires, doing a lot more with a lot less, and a relentless focus on cost cutting also contribute to being more reactive and less reliant of structure. Because of, not despite of these pressures to innovate and achieve short term results, we should not devalue or abandon sound structure. A leader without a solid structure is just an employee with good influencing skills.

Dean Newlund is CEO of Mission Facilitators International and can be reached at www.missionfacilitators.com.

Are you addressing symptoms or root causes?

Remember Newton’s Third Law of Motion: For every action is there is an equal and opposite reaction? I’ve coined a similar law for business teams: For every symptom there is a hidden root cause. Symptons are easy to see while root cause is often hidden. Why should we care? We make decisions on what we can see. If we can’t see root cause, then we’re making decisions on symptoms, and those decisions can pull us way off track.

Take for example my client Kathy, a leader asked to mediate issues between two teams outside her department. She told me she witnessed unkind behavior, avoidance and poor listening. How could I help her improve the communication between these two teams? I asked her, “How do you know these two teams are only suffering from poor communication?”

“Because”, she said”, “they said so and I’ve seen it.” “Ok, let’s just assume for a moment that the poor communication you’ve identified is just a symptom of something else. Then, what could be the cause?
She thought for a moment and then said: “They haven’t clarified roles, nor developed a process to hand off work. They also don’t have common goals or a decision making process.” Then I followed with: “If they had all of the things you just mentioned, would they still have poor communication? “Yes, but much less.”

The two teams Kathy was trying to help did indeed have some communication issues. Many team members were not good at modulating their style. For example, results-focused people didn’t take the time to listen to relationship-focused people. Communication delivery could definitely be improved. But, as Kathy discovered, most of these teams’ issues were not stemming from communication. They hadn’t done the foundational work to make them two interdependent teams.

I told Kathy she should follow the wisdom of small children who ask their parents why at the end of each answer, or Honeywell that adopted the practice of “asking the five whys”. This is a great way to get to root cause.

Kathy went back to these two teams and facilitated a process that addressed their root cause of poor communication: The lack of a solid team foundation. Later she worked with individuals on adjusting communication styles. She reported a few months later that the two teams were working much better together.

If Kathy had only addressed the symptoms, she might have put them through some communication exercises, helped them improve listening and how to adjust their styles. But, the underlying problems would not have been resolved. And, in my experience, when we aren’t addressing the root cause of an issue, a part of us is aware of this. And, this disconnect just creates more frustration.

The law of business teams that “For every symptom there is a hidden root cause” has three principles: Communication issues go down when teams are built on a strong foundation. Decisions based on symptoms create ineffective results. Asking the Five Whys helps get to root cause.