Tuesday, April 8, 2014

How to Introduce a Culture Change to Our Team Part 4… Take an Honest Look at Your Leadership

Again… I glossed over an important part of the process, this time around our values, and your part in the whole thing.  As the team Leader, you will not only have to live your values, but also commit to start meeting with every team member and developing those relationships.  The relationships are the basis of your leadership, and are going to be the difference that takes your team from mediocre to great.  You’ve been reading all about this in the books we’re reading, right?

So… in preparing for the Mother of All Meetings, where you are going to introduce your values, and talk about how you wan to change the culture of your team, you will have to take a look at yourself, and how you have been behaving.  Have you really been living the values that you are going to announce as ‘defining your new culture’? 

Answer these honestly… Do you act respectfully at work?  Are your words and actions ‘above the line’?  Do you tell off color jokes or stories at work?  Do you really have the respect of the majority of your team members, or do you just like to think you do?  Do you play favorites, or have you in the recent past?  Are you a player coach who jumps in to help where you can, or have your team members never seen you lift a finger to help them?

Take an honest look at your hiring practices… have you brought in people from your old employer regardless of their qualifications?  Do you have a habit of hiring people you think are attractive?  How do you imagine your best team members would rate your hiring?  Have you spent time getting to know not only your new hires, but also the rest of your team members?  Do you have strong relationships with them?  Meaning, do you really know them, their goals, and what they do outside of work?

Have you ever used fear or intimidation to get people to do what you wanted them to do?  Do you keep your emotions under control… are you emotionally intelligent?  Or do you sometimes show your anger, or frustration?  Do you give credit where it is due, or have you taken credit for the work of your team?  Have you been helping your team members develop skills and qualities, and helping them move up?  Or have your actions showed your fear of those who might be smarter or better Leaders than you?  Are you arrogant at work, or do you ask for help and opinions from your team members?  Do you admit your mistakes, or do you point out those of your team members without ever owning up to your own?  Do you stand up for your team members when they take chances, or do you throw them under the bus?

Do you address performance issues on your team in a timely manor, or do you allow bad behavior and or poor performance to continue?  Do you give feedback, both positive and constructive, to your team members all through the year?  Or do you save it all up and dump it on them at review time… talking about behavior from 10 months ago?  Do you celebrate and reward small wins and good work, or do you focus mostly on what’s wrong?  Are you available for your team… is your door open?  And would they agree?  If you think they would agree, do they come to ask questions and give you feedback.  If a large number of them do not come to you, they do not feel you are available.  Are you open to the opinions and thoughts of others, or do you know better?

Do recognize and reward behavior on a regular basis, or do your team members feel taken for granted?  Saying thank you is great, and if that’s all you give, it’s not enough.  Are you honest and transparent?  Do you explain what is happening and why, or do you keep information from your team?  Do you walk your talk?  Do you set rules and expectations and then break them yourself?  Do you give direction, or do your team members wonder what you want them to do?  Do they understand your goals and priorities?  Do you micromanage, telling your team not just the outcome you want, but exactly how they need to achieve that outcome?  Do you delegate, or do you feel that you need to do it all yourself?  Do you take everything way too seriously, or do your team members appreciate having you around at work?
No one of us is perfect, and we are all guilty, at least at one time or another, of some of the above. 

If you don’t feel that you are guilty of any of the above, and you don’t have an amazing, high functioning team, you must take a look at the disparity between what you probably see as your great Leadership and your lack of results.  Most likely you are not seeing yourself objectively, and are lacking some self-awareness.  Talk to your therapist/mentor/coach about it.  For the rest of us however, it is crucial that you are aware of your past and current behavior at work.  It is not necessary to beat yourself up about your mistakes, and… just as our Leadership team had to agree on an accurate picture of our reality in order to decide what needed to change, you will not be able to change if you are not able to take an honest look at your own behavior. 

This is a real key for several reasons.  Your team members know you inside and out, and will be looking for you to continue your old behavior.  Past bosses have probably attempted to get more out of these people by telling them stories like this, and each time it turns out that the boss is unwilling to make any changes.  You must admit your old behavior, and your past mistakes.  You must also own how you have not always lived up to the values you are going to introduce, and your part in how the team got to it’s current state. 

If you fail to admit these things, out loud, in public, your team members will not trust that you are serious about changing your own behavior, and odds are they will be right.  They will understand that you want them to change their behavior, while you stay just as you are.  They will not buy this for a second, and all of this work will be for nothing.  If you cannot admit your mistakes, out loud, in public, you are not really ready to make the changes needed.  You need to take some more time and work on your personal growth before you try to make this huge shift in the culture of your team. 

I understand that this is hard work.  None of us likes to admit our mistakes; that we have let others down; that we haven’t lived up to the standards we set for others.  The hardest work in Alcoholics Anonymous is not stopping drinking… many of us are able to do that, over and over and over...  It’s staying sober by doing the work… it’s making a searching and fearless moral inventory, and then admitting the nature of our mistakes…  That is the work!

Your work here must be done before the whole team meeting.  You have meetings with your apprentices, to help them through this process… often it’s you simply pointing out their mistakes and failings… we’re good with that right?  No problem with me pointing out all of your mistakes and failings… Oh and you need to work on fixing them or you won’t be working here anymore!  We’re OK with that… and taking a long hard look at our own behavior is not quite as easy is it?  Easy or not, if we don’t have a clear picture of how we are, and just as important, the perception our team members have of us, we cannot change, or convince them of our sincerity in making this change.
So… how do we get this clear picture of ourselves?  We’re not all alcoholics and we don’t all hit a bottom that forces us to see how our behavior is literally killing us.  We ask for the most honest feedback we can get from our apprentices, our mentor/coach/therapist, and from our team members and peers.  Yes… you ask everyone for feedback.  If you haven’t been open to hearing anything negative or constructive in the past, don’t expect your team members, or even your apprentices to give you much.  There is too great a chance of retribution, and they are not as trusting as you might believe. 

I have a hunch that you already know how you are… you just don’t want to admit it.  If we don’t hear it, we don’t have to admit it, right?  Wrong.  You have to really listen to all of the feedback that comes your way, and make sure the people giving you the feedback know that you heard what they were saying.  I will probably be difficult, and hard to hear.  And you can know that just listening will build trust in the people who are giving you this feedback.  Just doing that is a positive change for you.

So now we have some feedback to reinforce what we already knew… now what?  Well, that feedback tells us what behaviors we need to change in order to change our culture.  As I said before, we need to be the change we want to see… or was it Gandhi who said that?   Either way, if the Leader doesn’t lead the charge, no one will be following.  It’s up to us to set the example for the rest of the team.  Perhaps the most powerful thing you can do at the meeting is admit to things that no one told you about, things that you know everyone knows and that no one will say.  That will gain you respect and trust my friend.

Moving forward, we will be open to feedback; we will stop playing favorites… that will mean not hanging out with any team members outside of work… they can’t be our friends anymore.  We will keep both our words and actions above the line; we will jump in and help instead of just watching; we will give 9 positives for every negative; we will give credit like there is an endless supply; we will own our mistakes; we will work on our emotional intelligence; we will give constructive feedback more often… there should be no surprises at performance reviews.

You will need to exemplify all of the values you will be presenting at the whole team meeting, starting before the meeting.  You will state, at the meeting, to everyone, that you know you failed to live up to these standards, and you are making a commitment to the every one of them to be the Leader they deserve.  I can guarantee you one thing… if you humble yourself and speak from your heart at this meeting, you will accomplish more in that hour than you ever thought possible.  You will commit to start building the relationships that you should have been building all along, and the only thing you ask of them is to believe it when they see it.  People can tell when we are being sincere and speaking from our heart.  They not only appreciate it, they respect the person doing it.

That was a long post!  We’ll have to continue with the actual meeting next time.

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