Monday, June 30, 2014

What Does It Take To Build And Develop A Truly Great Team? Part 1 of a series…

A truly great team requires obsessively great hiring, a trusting, transparent Leader who strives to be a servant Leader, shared goals and values (best if developed by the team), a culture of ownership and responsibility, and a need for constant improvement.

I have been writing about hiring and training the best hourly team members, as well as how to change the team culture to enable the development of a truly great team on my blog for some time now.  It's been almost 100 posts in the making, and I imagine it can be daunting jumping into what is essentially a book on hiring and team development.

So... I thought we might shorten all of those posts into a much shorter series on hiring the best hourly team members; how and why to hire for Leadership qualities; honesty, trust and transparency as they relate to Leadership (servant Leadership in particular); developing team goals and values; developing/changing our team culture; and developing enough trust and ownership in that culture that will not only allow for constant improvement, but will demand it.

I've been hiring hourly team members, from entry level/no experience people to department Leaders and Store Team Leaders for 30 years now, and that is what I'm writing about.  When hiring executives, or other jobs where specific job skills, talents, and/or a specific educational background is needed, weed out the applicants without these mandatory requirements, and then follow the steps I outline below.  If you disagree, I'm sure you'll let me know

Hiring is arguably the most important thing we do.  You cannot have a great team without hiring great people.  If you don't have the team you want, the first thing you need to look at is your hiring.  In fact, if you don't have the team you want, and you have been doing the hiring, I'd suggest that you need to get someone who has a track record of hiring great people either take over your hiring, or retrain you on how to hire.  Yes it's hard to own up to that, and admit that we aren't good at hiring.  And... without great hiring we will never have that great team.

Too many of us have some notion that we cannot admit we are not that good at hiring… for some reason admitting that is a huge blow to our egos.  We are all very good at one or two things, OK at most things, and not so good at other things.  Build and play to your strengths, and find people who are very good at the jobs you are not so good at.  You can read my whole series about how to hire hourly team members for Leadership qualities starting here from earlier in this blog.  It will take some humility to fully accept that we need to unlearn our old ways of hiring in order to learn to hire for qualities.  And the payoff is simply amazing!

You will be hiring for attitude/qualities first, and any needed skills second (again, I'm talking about hiring hourly team members).  In fact, you should be hiring for every position based on Leadership qualities first, skills second.  If you are serious about developing a great team, you will need the best Leaders.  How many places have you worked where great Leaders are being developed?  Any?  So... you will have to grow your own, and hiring for Leadership qualities is the best way to start.  The hourly team members you are hiring today will be your Leadership team in the near future.

Your should read my post about Hiringfor what can't be trained, and in a nutshell... Think about the people who you would love to clone... they are probably really good at the skills of their job, and is that what makes them clone worthy?  Probably not... They are most likely clone worthy because of the qualities they possess... because of their attitude towards their work... that's what makes them great!  I can take the next person you see and train them how to do every task needed to run a grocery store (you can probably train the skills needed for your workplace), however I cannot train qualities.  We cannot train anyone to be self aware, to show self responsibility, to have courage, to extend trust, or to be honest... those cannot be trained, so we must hire for them, and I dare to say, at least for hourly team members, almost only for them!

The best way I have found to determine which people have the qualities we are looking for is through a long and friendly conversation, with some specific questions used to draw out our own make or break qualities. 

For instance, if your new hires will be dealing with your customers, it is imperative that their default level of customer service is at least as high as your expected level of service.  I have found it next to impossible to get people to consistently provide a higher level of customer service than they believe is the correct level, without constant supervision, and no one has the time for that.  So... we must hire people who already believe that our expected levels of service are the correct and only reasonable level of service.  Then, and only then, can we count on them to consistently deliver that level of service without any supervision.  I wrote a post specifically about hiring for customer service here.

Well, we knew this would be a series…  next time we’ll start to talk about just how we discover whether or not our applicant has been developing the qualities we’re looking for.

Friday, June 27, 2014

No One Took You Wrong... You Said It Wrong!

You Are 100% Responsible For How People Take Your Communication
How many times have you said, or heard, "he took me the wrong way" or "they misunderstood what I was saying"?
When communicating your thoughts, you are completely responsible for making sure the other person understands the idea you intend to convey. 
Being a good communicator means more than simply stating our thoughts.
It means:
  • Stating our thoughts clearly, and in terms that can be easily understood by our intended audience.
  • Watching the facial expressions and body language of the people to whom we are communicating, to see that we are getting the reaction we expect.
  • When we are unsure if the other person has understood us in the way in which we intended, we are responsible for making sure.
  • We should ask the other person something like "What did you hear me say"?
  • If they heard anything other than what we intended, it is our responsibility to restate our thoughts until they hear us as we intended.
  • It is our responsibility to be aware if we have hurt their feelings, or insulted them.  If we catch it right away, we can often repair the damage pretty easily with an honest apology and restating our thoughts.
Yes but...  What about the arguments like...
"People will hear what they want to hear"?
It's up to us as Leaders to make sure everyone with whom we are communicating hears what we intend for them to hear.  Yes... everyone knows this one exception... the person who seems to choose not to understand, or who has already decided what we intend and cannot be swayed.  These are extreme cases, so please do not get caught up in them.  If this happens to you quite often, the problem may be your communication style.
How about... "I can't make anyone feel anything, we each choose how we feel"?
Theoretically it is true that we cannot make another person feel any particular way.  And in reality, most people are too caught up in their thoughts and emotions to be fully present.  The truth is that most of us are not emotionally intelligent enough, nor present enough to choose our emotions from minute to minute.  Unkind words, anger, projected emotions, or simply poor communication can, and often will, result in hurt feelings.  Once we are aware of hurt feelings, we are responsible for making an attempt to clear things up.
What about "I could not have said it any more clearly"?
There is no one correct communication style, and to think that your choice of words in any given moment can be universally understood by every person, no matter their emotional state, is a bit arrogant.  You are not responsible for the emotional state of the other person, and you are responsible for making sure your thoughts are understood as you intended, no matter the emotional state of the other person.  Its called empathy... understanding the emotions of another person.  If we understand how they are feeling, we can more easily state our thoughts in a way that they can understand.
Do you feel that the communicator is responsible for whether or not they are heard as they intended?
This post is a rewrite/update of a post originally found on

Monday, June 23, 2014

Leadership And Holding The Door Open

Do you hold the door open for others?  If you do, why do you do it?

Do you want to think that you hold doors open for anyone who happens to be behind you because you are a kind hearted and giving person, and then feel a little insulted when you don’t get a ‘thank you’?

Do you, like me for much of my life, hold the door open for others and then say a sarcastic ‘you’re welcome’ (at least in our heads) when they don’t say thank you? 

Or do you feel insulted (again, like me) when they slip through the door without touching it, forcing you to either let it close on them or continue to hold it open until they are through (which means, unless you are a complete ass, you simply have to hold it open until they are through)?

Why did you really hold the door open in the first place?

Did you hold it open in order to get a ‘thank you’?

If you felt anything other than happy that you were able to do something nice for another human being, even if they didn’t even acknowledge you at all, then you held the door open for the wrong reasons.

I want to suggest that we could view Leadership in the same way. 

I believe that our reasons for taking action will affect the outcome of that action, so the motivation for our behavior towards those who work for us is the key to getting positive outcomes.  I talked about that here...

Ask yourself the following questions.  You don’t have to share your answers with anyone else, so you can be completely honest with yourself.

What is your motivation for wanting to be a ‘Leader’?

Why did you apply for, or accept this role?

What is your motivation for developing relationships with others?

Do you have an agenda that you keep from your team?

Are you completely transparent with your team, sharing your true goals and motivations?

Are you truly honest with your team members when giving them feedback?  Do you tell them what they need to hear, rather than those convenient remarks that don’t really give them anything to work with?

And this is a tough one… Think of someone you really respected and who has passed on (perhaps a parent, teacher, or mentor)… what if they were actually looking down on you, watching your every move, knowing your thoughts… would they be proud of you?

As Leaders, we ‘judge’ the work performance of our team members, as well as their motivations, and we make decisions that affect the future of other people every day.

How often do we take an honest look at our own actions, and our motivations, to make the needed course corrections to put us back on track and aligned with our true values?

We could all benefit from having partner, a mentor, or a coach to help us keep our actions aligned with our true selves.  Failing that, we need to find the courage to take an honest look at our own actions, and see if we are remaining true to what we each believe is the ‘right’ way to live our lives.

Being human we will all continue to make mistakes.  And through an honest assessment of our actions, taken on a regular basis, we can keep ourselves on track to be the Leaders we aspire to be.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Leadership Or Manipulation?

If We Are Developing Relationships For The Express Purpose Of Influencing Others, Is That Leadership Or Manipulation?

I started to write a post on developing relationships, and the connection between my thoughts on what Leadership is and is not, and how and why we develop relationships burst into my mind.

I have come to believe that we, people, can only consistently act like great Leaders if we have developed “Leadership qualities”.  That is to say Leadership is not a list of behaviors or actions… it is rather how we see ourselves and the world, and this understanding, this way of being, determines the actions and behaviors by which we define Leadership.

So… we can learn the ‘skills’ needed to develop relationships.  We can learn how to talk to our team members, get to know them, and do what we can to help them achieve their goals.  We can try to share something of ourselves in order to build a level of trust or openness between us, and through this we will probably achieve some level of influence over these people.

And unless we are doing it because we actually care about those people; because we sincerely want to know them and help them; and we care less about the outcome than we do about the relationship, then I would call that manipulation.

I have witnessed an amazing amount of this kind of behavior.  I have been manipulating end when I was younger and didn’t know any better, and on the receiving end working for people who were acting out of fear rather than caring.

In my experience this behavior can achieve some results, and only for a limited amount of time.

If we don’t truly care about the people around us we will not be able to carry on investing in them when things go sideways and the pressure is on.

If we care more about the outcome than we do about the people we will eventually have to toss aside those we don’t believe are moving us towards our own goals quickly enough.

If we don’t believe that the world is a safe place, and we are acting out of fear, we will not be able to extend trust for very long, and our need to be in control will take over.

Building relationships can give us influence, and only if we are building those relationships for the right reasons.  If you are not getting the results you want; find your team members do not really trust you; or you just don’t really get the whole ‘relationship’ thing… you might think about your motivation for trying to build those relationships in the first place.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Do You Remember What It Was Like To Be New?

We were all new at some point.  We can be new in our job… perhaps getting a promotion or hired in at a level that is new to us, as well as simply working in a new environment.  Both of these bring challenges, and as Leaders our actions can have a major impact on the kind of relationships our new hires develop at work, as well as how they feel about us and their new job… which in turn determines their level of engagement.

What I’m talking about goes much deeper than onboarding… our happiness, satisfaction, and level of engagement at work is directly connected to our relationship with the person to whom we report. 

Different organizations have different onboarding procedures, which can certainly enable our new hires to want to be helpful, and feel as if they are welcome and part of the team.  And it’s you; their team Leader, working with them daily (or as often as you possibly can) that really allows them to help the team achieve its goals.

And if we stay in the same organization for a while, we can easily forget what it’s like to be new.  It’s all too easy to become a bit arrogant about what people should know, what basic expectations should be understood and automatically met, what rules and roles are universal as opposed to unique to our organization, and what behavior and communications styles are expected and acceptable.

If we as Leaders fail to remember what it was like to be new the damage can be irreparable.   

We can easily alienate our new hires by failing to show empathy.  Starting a new job can be stressful enough without out boss expecting us to know and understand all of the in’s and out’s of our new workplace in the first few days/weeks.

We can make it easy for them to feel overwhelmed, which will certainly impact the quality of their work, as well as their level of commitment to the team goals.

Our demands and expectations can encourage them to think that perhaps this was a mistake… maybe they should not have accepted our offer?  This is tough to fix once the damage is done.

Or minimally, we can fail to make this transition period as short and as pleasant as it can be.

So how can we remember what it was like to be new?

And in what ways can we help our new hires adapt to their new role and new environment?

To remember what it’s like to be new we can:

Spend some time with kids.  Kids are constantly learning and exploring the world, and spending time watching and interacting with them can help keep us grounded.  Kids constantly remind us of what it’s like to be new at something.

If we keep our long-term goals in mind, seeing them… living them every day, we will be much more likely to remember what it’s like to be new.  Keeping our long-term goals active helps us asking “what if”?  And “why not”?  These are the questions we asked when we were new…

Work with your new hires at every opportunity.  You have a vast ocean of knowledge and experience compared to the thimble of knowledge your new hire has.  Only through working with them can we impart that knowledge to our new hires.  Every day, when we work alongside our new hires, with their fresh eyes, they ask us questions about things that we have come to think are obvious….

At times it can take A LOT of patience, and the rewards are well worth the effort.  You will be building relationships that create engagement, loyalty, and trust.

To help our new hires adapt we can:

Be mindful of not doing things the easy way… not taking shortcuts.  As Leaders we should always do things the right way… people will almost always find their own short cuts, so if they see us, their Leaders, taking short cuts they will find a shortcut from that point, probably leading to poor quality work.  We will have set them up for failure.

Make sure that your new hire really understands your commitment to helping them achieve their goals.  This will come from meeting with them, working with them, and developing an honest, trusting relationship with them.

Make a quick list of all of the mistakes you have made.  For me, there is no way this is a quick list…  Remembering and sharing all of my mistakes with my team members helps keep me from taking my knowledge and experience for granted, and it puts my new hires much more at ease.  They can avoid making a few of my mistakes, and they seem to have an easier time approaching me with questions.

Make it clear that you expect mistakes.  If we are not making mistakes we are not trying hard enough to achieve great.  Just make sure I hear about it from you first!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to remember what it’s like to be new, as well as ideas about how to help our new hires adapt to their new environment.