From Fear to Trust

The human spirit is incredible. This COVID-19 crisis is testing the best of our humanity. Yet, we see amazing examples of humanness, innovation, unity, and sacrifice. We continue to take care of each other, educate, and engage people. Recall a question I asked in part one of this series. When we get beyond the peak, imagine that your leadership, your humanness is on trial. Will you be convicted?

When a colleague appears grumpy on a video call or sends you a sharp email, let compassion be your response habit. It is likely that what they are feeling has nothing to do with you but instead their personal stresses and fears. We all have different experiences shaping our ability to deal with these stresses. We all have coping skills, some more developed, some less. Many may be feeling overwhelmed. Let your high human skills of empathy, kindness, and trust be your guide as you lead through this crisis.

The chances are that by now, we all know someone who has been affected by COVID-19. It has created fear in people. That fear flows to families, communities, and workplaces. This crisis thrust leaders, middle managers, and employees into distributed work environments almost overnight. While adapting to our new circumstances, these fears grew to unusually large proportions. Whether in a crisis or not, fear creates a narrowing of the mental aperture and makes you feel like you are looking through a soda-straw as individuals and as an organization. This paralysis makes us forget our established priorities, our habits, our caring for one another. When a crisis sets in, fear is its friend. Fear short-circuits our healthy support systems of family, friends, and work. Trust is the counterbalance to fear and helps open our mental aperture, see opportunities, and be more collaborative. Trust creates psychological safety and can be an incredible inoculant when bad things happen to good people and good organizations.

Trust can make you feel in the most positive and profound ways. In our closest relationships, it creates confidence, happiness, and peace. Think about your work environment though. When you meet new employees, how does the trust conversation go? “Welcome to the team, be on time, work hard, and you will earn our trust,” or something along those lines? The prevailing idea for most is that people must earn trust, but why? Why is trust not automatically given based solely on mutual understanding and expectations?

My colleague John O’Grady, who spurred much of the thought for this article, creates an insightful trust paradox. Imagine that you must travel for a work assignment. The Uber driver arrives at your house, and you get in the car with your luggage. You arrive at the airport, drop your bags with a skycap, greet the flight attendant, and say hello to the pilot. You settle in for a flight, having granted trust to people you likely have never met—the driver, skycap, pilot. Do you know who did the maintenance checks on the plane? We trust these people with our lives and often those of our families, without a second thought. Yet, in our most important and intimate relationships, we withhold trust. With our work colleagues, those whom we inherently rely on for success, we say to them, “you must earn my trust.”

Why?

Perhaps the socialization of trust has been wrong. What if we granted the same level of trust to the people closest to us as we do to the drivers and pilots in our lives? Imagine having high trust relationships that start with “you have my trust, and it can only be eroded or lost,” rather than earned. The buy-in and responsibility felt by the newly trusted employee go through the roof! So, too, does their commitment to maintaining that trust.

Instead of only talking about trust at the beginning of a relationship and then again only if it is broken or lost, make trust part of your team’s everyday conversations. Use the space in between to talk about how employees are demonstrating behavior that aligns with your expectations. And when you think there may be a trust issue arising, approach it from a position of authentic curiosity instead of being accusatory. Find the underlying reasons and collaboratively address them. Maintain trust behaviors and a trusted environment before it becomes broken. Be proactive!

Cultivating a culture of trust is like any leader’s action; it is a choice. To create work environments where trust flourishes, we need to understand how it works, the ways it is given, built, maintained, and how it becomes lost or broken. We can then teach ourselves how to act and react in ways that help cultivate trust, even in the most challenging situations.

Talking at the Speed of Trust

When you are asked a question and are uncertain of the answer, frustrated, or with little time, how do you respond? We all have short-circuited answers that allow us to respond and move on. Or so we think.  These so-called default answers such as let’s talk; we’ll have an answer soon; don’t ask, just get it done along with many others can damage the trust between leaders and employees. While these defaults might allow the leader to get an answer out quickly, they can unintentionally send signals of uncertainty and mistrust to the receiver. Put yourself on the receiving end of these defaults and consider the feelings and anxiety they may create:

  1. Let’s talk – uncertainty; is this positive or negative? How should the employee prepare?
  2. We’ll have an answer soon – ambiguous, soon next week or soon in a month?
  3. Don’t ask, just get it done! – lack of confidence, trust, and value in the employee.

Provide context and drive meaning to motivate people. Experts say it takes 500 milliseconds, or half a second, for sensory information from the outside world to incorporate into conscious experience. So, we can still get an answer out quickly, but if we take a few extra seconds to be more transparent, we can change the meaning of these defaults and bring clarity, understanding, and commitment to our work. Consider how the three defaults from above, but now with context, change the feeling:

  • Let’s talk about this at 4 pm. I like your idea of involving the staff because it gives them ownership of the process.  You specify why you like the idea, you set the expectation for time, and the employee feels valued.
  • We have not decided yet but will by the end of the day, Wednesday.  You are honest about not having decided and set expectations; the employee likely will feel—okay, Wednesday, got it.
  • Here is what we thought when we made the decision…  The employee is going to understand why and will likely give their best work because they feel like they are part of the team, trusted, and valued.

Trust comes from words and actions, but it must be felt by others to resonate. Take the few extra seconds to be transparent, honest, and only promise what you can deliver. Think about the work environments this crisis has created with back to back virtual meetings, online overload, and how these conditions are impacting your organization. Monitor your people for the signs of fatigue. Do what you can to remove uncertainty. Invest those few seconds to help your people feel, help them FEEL THE TRUST as you lead them through this crisis. Stay well, healthy, and safe!

Also check out part 1, part 2 and part 4.

Overcommunicate is a terrible term, because it’s imprecise, confusing, and can lead to all sorts of goofy outcomes.

What, exactly, does overcommunicate mean: talk more, have more meetings, speculate out loud?

We have seen the outcomes of these kinds of practices. Some teams have tried cyber-micromanagement – keeping their people on an open video line all day.

Others have ramped up the frequency of meetings – many that have no clear agenda or outcomes.

We have seen the fear, anxiety, and confusion that comes from leaders speculating out loud, ruminating about internal deliberations, and providing fact-free timelines and promises.

Stop overcommunicating.

Start communicating clearly and building confidence that you’ve got the judgment to lead your team through the COVID crisis and into the recovery.

Here are some practical tips for doing that.

1. Set your cadence. Your rhythm of meetings and routines needs to be purposeful and predictable. These become your team’s handrails through the uncertainty as you cross the COVID-chasm below.

2.  Open channels. Make informal town-halls part of your cadence. Take questions from people during the session. Stick to the facts as you know them. Feel free to say, “I don’t know” and “We’re still discussing that and haven’t made a decision. I’m very interested in your ideas, too.” Make sure these are sessions where people feel safe to voice ideas, opinions, and concerns.

3. Get moving. Put together three-to-five simple scenario plans. What are the common elements? Once you identify those you can start moving forward. Identify the forks down the road and the information you need to know to decide which path to take.  

4. Keep everyone engaged. Let people know the what and the why as you get moving. Empower them to figure out how. This simple practice lowers the chaos, boosts confidence, and increases your command of the situation.

5. Watch, Listen and Learn. You’ve got two ears, two eyes, and one mouth. Watch and listen at least four times more than you speak. Ask questions and get people thinking and solving problems.

You got it. Five tips to stop the babble and build confidence in success. Bam!

How well are these tips working for you?  Send me a message and let me know.

We do not know what the post-crisis new normal will look like, but we can reasonably guess that distributed workplaces will be more norm than exception.

A distributed workforce creates distinct dilemmas for leaders. 

Monitoring work is much easier when everyone is in one place. For some, the open-office was the ultimate micro-management tool. Even so, two-thirds of American employees report being unengaged at work (Gallup). 

Micro-management ensures physical presence but does not seem to help much with engagement and productivity.

As more employees work from distributed locations, micromanagement becomes harder. 

A discussant at a recent webinar told us about a manager who required his employees to work in front of a live web-conferencing camera, so he could see that they were working. Others report incessant check-ins in which people need to explain what they are doing each hour of the day.

Yes, that’s a ton of time lost in micromanaging.

Culture is another dilemma. There is a considerable risk that managers will treat distributed or telework employees as second-class citizens, which is terrible for morale. 

Employees will vote with their feet and computers to a team that values their productivity.

Employee disengagement and turnover are a silent killer; they are the highest costs most companies face.

Here are three ways you can strengthen your culture is a distributed workplace.

First, Hire and Promote for Common-Good Fit.

There are a lot of essential cautions about hiring for culture fit, including undermining diversity and inclusion. Even if done well, hiring for culture fit is too-narrow. 

Hire and promote people who demonstrate a commitment to your Common Good: Vision, Mission, Goals, Values, Standards & Expectations, and Strategy.

Second, Align Work with Strengths.

Leaders should design work to fit employee strengths, rather than treating everyone as interchangeable cogs.

People who report that they use their strengths each day at work are likely to be two-three-times more engaged and productive than those who don’t (Buckingham and Goodall, Nine Lies About Work). 

Leaders who do this well use two frames

Broad Framing. Use archetypes, such as SLA’s PROM™ Archetypes (Pioneers, Reconcilers, Operators, and Mavericks), so they have a clear mental picture of their team and how to put the right people in the right roles. 

Pioneers are innovators, Reconcilers are consensus builders, Operators implement your plans to a high standard, and Mavericks solve big, wicked problems. 

Narrow framing. Assign specific tasks based on particular strengths and inclinations. Programs like Tom Rath’s Strengths Finder can help leaders and employees identify the tight framing best for each person.

Third, Develop your Team Leaders.

Your workplace culture is not what’s written on the walls. It’s the total of what happens in the halls and on the zoom calls. 

Your team leaders, all the way down to your first-line managers, are the ones who create your workplace culture, one interaction at a time. 

You can strengthen your culture by improving the quality of one-on-one engagements. 

Each leader, from CEO to first-line manager, should engage with their direct reports at least once per week. If you cannot do that, you have probably exceeded your span of control. 

These one-on-ones are the most impact meetings in your organization because their quality directly correlates to levels of productivity and engagement. 

There are four great questions you can use as a foundation for these weekly one-on-ones. SLA has created this tool that guides you through these simple questions. Use it with each of your direct reports. 

Pro-Tip: Have your direct reports complete the worksheet and send it to you in advance of the meeting

The distributed workplace is probably here to stay. These three action steps will help you strengthen your culture and morale as you lead your team through this crisis and create the foundations to prosper in the post-crisis new-normal.

American resolve is on full display in this COVID-19 crisis. You are practicing physical distancing, you are more socially engaged than ever though virtual platforms, and your humanness is emerging quite nicely. In fact, humanness is emerging across communities, cities, and the country, if not the world. We are seeing innovative ways to care for others, educate, and engage people. We are seeing rays of hope and glimmers of unity, where what matters is taking care of each other.

Custodial staff, grocers, big box and general retailers, and delivery services are but a few of those we may have taken for granted previously. Now, along with first responders and medical professionals, they are part of the critical path to survival. As families and individuals, we are adapting to new routines. It is not easy, and sadly there have been tragedies along the way, but we are resilient people. We will survive this event. That is what Americans do—overcome adversity, adapt, and prosper.

This crisis is putting tremendous demands on leaders. Prioritizing tasks and time can be overwhelming. Add in the complexities of a distributed workforce and the uncertainty of when and how we will pivot to a new normal, and you might feel like you are always firefighting; do not. Leaders can get too focused on the fires when optimally, they should also be looking to identify the new normal and find opportunities for growth, akin to gardening. Have you spent time with your people cultivating trust, empathy, and purpose?

Ask yourself if you are working IN your business where you are likely serving customers, solving problems, making decisions, and perhaps experiencing online fatigue. Or are you working ON your business to build or refine a strategy, develop or strengthen your organizational culture, and emphasizing personal and team development? Engaging your middle management is a practical way to help you raise your gaze, spend time in the garden working on your business, and prepare for the new normal. And above all, take care of your people. They are looking TO you for guidance and AT you as an example now more than ever.

Strengthen Your Core – Engage Your Middle Management.

If you want to take the pulse of your business, ask the middle managers–the heart and soul, the CORE of your company. Many say middle management is the hardest job in business. They straddle the strategic and tactical levels of an organization, oscillate their thinking to focus up and down, manage a finite set of resources, and are responsible for day-to-day operations more than any other manager or leader. More importantly, they are the critical link to employee recruiting and retention, and ultimately, mission or project success. Ask yourself the following:

  • How are you taking care of your middle management, your CORE?
  • Are your CORE’s thoughts and ideas aligned to the success of your business?
  • How are you engaging your CORE to leverage their experience?
  • Have you provided the resources for your CORE to do their job?

Here is how a chief executive officer (CEO) engaged his CORE in a real-world example.

When COVID-19 shut down schools and workplaces, network demand skyrocketed. I listened to a telecommunications CEO trying to contend with increasing demand, service performance to existing customers, and network capacity. Several ideas on how to manage the increasing demand started floating amongst the staff. Senior leaders were also bouncing off ideas with their teams. They found a solution, or so they thought. The problem was more significant than expected, and while the first solution was helpful, it was a band-aid.

The CEO scheduled a virtual meeting with his CORE, where he described the challenge. He listened to the back and forth between the participants as they reframed the problem and tested solutions. Time was of the essence. In one instance, the CORE made the CEO aware of the risks and implications of a solution that he would not have known had he not engaged his CORE. Again, time was critical. The session ended with a clearly understood problem statement and a three-phased solution with buy-in across the senior and middle management levels. The CORE could now coach their teams on execution.

This engagement was not an all-hands event; it was an interaction. Participants asked open-ended questions, which is a great way to get connected and focus on the real problem (or problems). While the problem was a firefighting activity, its outcome was gardening. Aside from finding a solution, the best effect, and enduring quality out of this CORE engagement was humanness. The leader was open, vulnerable, empathetic, and honest. As the meeting continued, others followed his example of humanness, and the trust meter reached new heights. The CEO strengthened his organizational culture and is continuing these sessions to get through this crisis and beyond. As their new normal takes shape, he will be able to blend the intentions of top leaders with the knowledge and experiences of frontline employees.

Spend time in your garden nurturing habits, values, and the new normal with the CORE of your organization. Remember, your CORE has the most direct and recent experience, and with their involvement comes ownership that can lead to influence across your teams. Leverage the trust, connection, and collaboration you have generated, and then let your CORE coach their teams.

The best leaders recognize that the best ideas do not always come from the top. Carving out time and space for you to engage your middle management is a low cost and secure investment with a high payoff. Get them involved in your gardening. Stay well, healthy, and safe!

Also check out part 1, part 3 and part 4.

If you could change one thing about your team’s productivity, what would it be?

So, what’s holding you back from making that change?

The twin crises of COVID-19 and the economic shutdown are hurting a lot of us — me and our team at Strategic Leaders Academy included. Postponed work, canceled conferences and speaking events, experiential learning events on hold; the list goes on.

There’s also the pain of not being able to visit elderly loved ones for fear of passing along a virus you do not know you have.

It breaks my heart that I cannot safely visit my father, who is fighting cancer so bravely. A loved one in our extended family recently passed away. Her family cannot give her a proper funeral.

A friend has had to put work on hold as his wife has fought COVID-19. She has beaten the virus; I am delighted to say! He’s loved spending so much time with his children — who also got other illnesses — and yet he’s put everything else on hold. All of this comes at a cost.

Everyone I know is experiencing some version of this and more.

What to do?

There’s opportunity in crisis if we dare to look for it. It’s tough amidst all the challenges to look for the possibilities.

That’s precisely why we are putting together this series of webinars: RAMP – The Major Crisis LifeCycle.

If you missed our first webinar, you could register to watch it right here.

Check out our recent articles, too. RAMP: The Major Crisis Lifecycle.

These webinars help you put an eye on the future. When you know what to look for, you find it more easily.

We want to help you identify the opportunities you need and the tools to find them.

Our first webinar identified five shifts from conventional thinking that can help you put some structure around these ambiguous opportunities:

  1. From Firefighting to Gardening: how to focus on growth (working on your business rather than in your business).
  2. From Fear to Trust: how to strengthen workplace relationships even as we telework and practice physical distancing
  3. From Compliance to Commitment: how we can boost commitment to success and our culture. You’ve probably found that micromanaging is hard nowadays. You can expect people’s tolerance for being micromanaged to diminish after all this.
  4. From Single to Multiple Decision-Making Approaches: how to organize your decisions, so you make quick ones when the timing and conditions are right, gain the insights and support from your team, and empower and delegate to people’s strengths.
  5. From Crystal Ball and Blueprints to Intelligence and Agility: how to turn uncertainty into calculated risk, so you ask the right questions and execute quickly and precisely. The teams with the best intelligence and agility will prosper in the post-crisis new normal.

If you missed our first webinar, you could register to watch it right here.

For the next five weeks, our webinars are going to drill down into these themes.

This week builds on the Firefighting to Gardening shift. We are calling it Double your Productivity: Organizing your Time and Team for Sustainable Success. This webinar will help you:

 * Gain time for growth by using these practical delegation tips;

 * Boost your results by reducing hyperactivity and creating your organizational rhythm;

 * Slash wasted time and energy by letting your leadership emerge from the middle; 

 * Improve innovation with three techniques that promote your creativity and focus;

 * Reset your trajectory by seizing this opportunity reform nagging issues that have been holding your team back.

RAMP Webinar #2: Double your Productivity is live at 12:30 am Eastern time on April 2.

The Crisis Lifecycle

Where Are You Looking?

Focus on priorities

The fears are real.  Coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) is upon us and will affect every individual in some way.  Whether you are now tele-working from home with three kids “helping” you, working double shifts at the hospital, or simply hoping to feel better since your test came back positive, we will all be affected by COVID-19.  Leaders across the nation and throughout the world are implementing measures that were unfathomable only a short month ago. So, what now?  

More than ever, we need humanness—the quality of being human.  Your high human skills are being put to the test. Your empathy, trustworthiness, respect…those critical elements of leadership are in full view.  And while we continue to stress social distancing, it is time for a reframe. Say no to social distancing and yes to physical distancing. Yep, keep that six feet between you and others but allow your heart, mind, ideas, kindness, love, and words to flourish.  Be creative, leverage technology and lean in deep to be more socially connected more than ever. Who are you inviting for a virtual dinner this evening? 

The fears are real.  They cut across organizations and have a real impact on teams, families, and individuals.  Heed the experts’ advice on how to minimize exposure to COVID-19. When we get beyond the peak, imagine that your leadership, your humanness is on trial.  Will you be convicted?  

This series of articles will share a view of working through a crisis and where to look to shape success.  It is intended to help you assess your leadership, culture, and strategy by discussing four phases: react, adjust, manage, and prosper (RAMP), and how they may affect you and your organization or business.  

React is the crisis mode where we implement our continuity plans—establish communications, account for people, and focus on select tasks.  This is also the time to assess your planning assumptions, something that will continue throughout the crisis.   

Adjust will help identify what elements of the plan proved useful, what was unnecessary, and what was missing.  Consider key variables that will shape the new normal.

Manage, unleash the power of your middle management, the heart and soul of your organization.  Get ahead of the curve by framing likely new normal scenarios and key indicators.  Plan the reintegration of your employees with new opportunities in a new and perhaps unchartered territory, market, or mission space.    

Prosper is your adjustments and new opportunities, with a strengthened core of middle managers, ready for a new normal.  Improve your team’s post-crisis outcomes by using a simple set of intelligence and planning techniques that keep you agile and oriented on the future.

While your teams and organization attempt to settle into new routines, where are you looking?  The reaction to this crisis is still on-going. As we enter this second week of change, many are still refining, or in some cases creating, procedures.  You have met with your senior leaders or C-suite, established and communicated your priorities. Now, assess yourself and your organization’s situation: 

  • Priority 1 – care for those in your charge; what is the succession plan for you and employees who may fall ill?
  • What are your touch points with customers/clients/students—those you serve?
  • Are you organized correctly for the circumstances?
  • What functions continue; what functions stop?
  • How are you making and documenting decisions?
  • Who else needs to know?  

There are a host of questions surrounding you and your team’s reaction.  Keep asking and let your employees surprise you with their innovation. Moreover, appreciate your improved self and organizational cultural awareness by conducting this assessment.  This crisis is extremely fluid so keep a view on the reaction but don’t be afraid to “raze your gaze” to what might be next. On that note, do not fail to imagine. Be well, stay healthy and safe!

Also check out part 2, part 3 and part 4.

RAMP – The Major Crisis Lifecycle™:

The Four Phases you need to Know

RAMP Crisis

When biking, do you focus on the pothole or where you want to go? 

I learned that lesson the hard way. The more I focused on the pothole, the more likely that I smacked right into it. 

That all changed when I focused on where I wanted to go instead. I maintained awareness of the pothole but concentrated on the path forward. 

Whew. No more face-plants or blown tires! 

Major crises tend to have a specific life-cycle. We call it RAMP: React, Adjust, Manage, Prosper. 

Organizations that fixate on the crisis tend to stay mired in it. They adapt too late to the new normal and often fail. The ones most likely to power through the crisis and prosper, put an eye on the future and begin working toward it. 

By now, you have gotten tons of advice on crisis management from some very talented people and organizations, like Jan Rutherford, Stan McChrystal, Bill Watkins, Harvard Business Review, and McKinsey, to name a few. 

You have put the best ideas into practice. You are starting to get on top of things again.

Here’s the problem with staying focused on crisis management: you fixate on the crisis rather than anticipate and shape the future.

You are at risk of staring at the pothole. 

You need to keep one eye on the crisis; you need to set your other eye forward.

Crises tend to follow a life-cycle. It goes something like this.

1. React. Government, business, and nonprofit leaders, and others take measures to address the crisis. T
he novelty of the situation and inadequate information undermine decision-making. Some actions turn out to be insufficient; many wind up being excessive; others are spot-on. The back and forth is a normal response to uncertainty, but it is not the new normal.   

2. Adjust. As the novelty wears off and better information becomes available, leaders adjust their policies for a more significant effect. They strengthen the inadequate measures and modify the excessive ones. Leaders and policy-makers are now making fine rather than coarse corrections. The downward spiral stops, and the situation begins to stabilize. 

3. Manage. The crisis wears off, and the situation stabilizes. Sound policies are in place and need only minor adjustments. This situation is the New Normal, a post-crisis status quo. New rules, written and unwritten, govern the marketplace. Many organizations that survived the worst parts of the crisis get caught flat-footed here because they presume things will return to the pre-crisis status quo. 

4. Prosper. The New Normal creates new opportunities and risks. Some of these are traditional ones in a post-crisis context. Others emerge as needs and interests adapt to the New Normal. Overall economic growth resumes.

Organizations that anticipate the New Normal are best positioned to power through the crisis and thrive afterward. High tech companies like Apple and Google did this well as the 2008 financial crisis subsided. Ford avoided a bailout. 

Most companies and nonprofits adjust too slowly because they do not keep an eye on the future. They follow the pack, which always swings way behind the pitch. Companies like General Motors and big banks survived thanks to government bailouts. Others managed to make the big leap on their own. 

1.8 million small businesses reportedly failed due to the financial crisis. The gap between capabilities and new opportunities was too big.

To help you follow the green line, we are putting together a series of free webinars.

During these sessions, you will:

  • Gain a clear eye on the future by discussing the RAMP stages and how they affect you and your business;
  • Boost your clarity and confidence as you exchange tips and insights with a high-performing peer group;
  • Slash engagement-distancing by examining ways to keep everyone focused, connected, and using their strengths;
  • Anticipate the New Normal by considering the key variables that will shape it;
  • Get ahead of the curve by framing likely New Normal scenarios and key indicators;
  • Improve your team’s post-crisis outcomes by using a simple set of intelligence and planning techniques that keep you agile and oriented on the future
  • Avoid the expensive mistakes of trying to crystal-ball the future and being locked into a losing plan.

The live webinar is on Friday, March 27, 3-4 pm Central Time. Register here.

When you are ready, here are four great ways to work together

Speaking: Do you want a professional keynote speaker to talk with your team on leadership, culture, and strategy? I’ve talked to business, NFL, academic, government, nonprofit, and military audiences. I always tailor the presentation to you, so the message inspires action for you and your team. I’m a professional member of the National Speakers Association, which means I have a proven track record of professionalism and performance.

Training: If you want an even higher impact for your team, training and workshops are a great way to go. I teach teams and organizations on a range of Leadership, Culture, and Strategy themes, to include: how to elevate your team’s performance, how to build a culture of excellence, how to slash employee burnout and turnover, how to develop a winning strategy and how to prevent expensive mistakes. Programs for you range from half-day primers to three-day intensives, to include offsite at places like Normandy and Gettysburg.

Self-Directed Courses: Do you want your team to stay engaged on these key themes but do not want to send them away to an executive education course? We have a suite of online programs that are perfect for you. The courses are excellent ways to follow-up a training event to keep your team learning at your own pace.

Consulting: Do you want to improve your leadership development programs, build a culture of excellence, and create a winning strategy? Unlike the big, gucci, consulting firms that are slow, bureaucratic, and stick you with junior MBAs, I work personally with you and your team, so you get results quickly and cost-effectively with no hassle.

What results can you expect? Check out these video testimonials.
Reach out to me anytime you are curious about working together.

Eight Questions to Ask Employees

 

As a leader right now, your concerns are overwhelming: family, friends, employees, the future of your business. The dual crisis of COVID-19 and the economic shutdown could have your business hanging in the balance, too.

There is so much to do, so much worry, so much uncertainty. But you are tackling the challenge.

By now, you have gotten a lot of good advice on crisis management. You and your team have started to adapt.

You also know that we are at the beginning of the crisis lifecycle. We are not yet at a new normal.

Still, you want to make sure that the measures you are putting in place are both prudent and resonate with your employees. You want them to have confidence in you and the future.

Now is the time to check-in with your team on these issues, so you can make changes that sustain your high-performing team. 

Here are eight questions to ask your team. You can use the standard Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree scale. I’ve adapted these from the excellent Nine Lies About Work by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall.

As we are adjusting to the crisis:

1. I am very enthusiastic about my company’s mission.

2. At work, I clearly understand what my leader expects of me.

3. I believe that the people on my team share my values.

4. I use my strengths every day at work.

5. My teammates have my back.

6. I know I will be recognized for excellent work.

7. I have high confidence in my company’s future.

8. My work challenges me to grow.

Buckingham and Goodall argue that high performing teams consistently answer Strongly Agree or Agree to these questions. 

These questions also serve as an excellent inventory for you as you manage the crisis and look ahead to the future. 

When you are ready, here are four great ways to work together

Speaking: Do you want a professional keynote speaker to talk with your team on leadership, culture, and strategy? I’ve talked to business, NFL, academic, government, nonprofit, and military audiences. I always tailor the presentation to you, so the message inspires action for you and your team. I’m a professional member of the National Speakers Association, which means I have a proven track record of professionalism and performance.

Training: If you want an even higher impact for your team, training and workshops are a great way to go. I teach teams and organizations on a range of Leadership, Culture, and Strategy themes, to include: how to elevate your team’s performance, how to build a culture of excellence, how to slash employee burnout and turnover, how to develop a winning strategy and how to prevent expensive mistakes. Programs for you range from half-day primers to three-day intensives, to include offsite at places like Normandy and Gettysburg.

Self-Directed Courses: Do you want your team to stay engaged on these key themes but do not want to send them away to an executive education course? We have a suite of online programs that are perfect for you. The courses are excellent ways to follow-up a training event to keep your team learning at your own pace.

Consulting: Do you want to improve your leadership development programs, build a culture of excellence, and create a winning strategy? Unlike the big, gucci, consulting firms that are slow, bureaucratic, and stick you with junior MBAs, I work personally with you and your team, so you get results quickly and cost-effectively with no hassle.

What results can you expect? Check out these video testimonials.
Reach out to me anytime you are curious about working together.

Invest in your team

How are you investing in your team? 

I just finished reading Nine Lies About Work, a terrific book about ways to build high-performing teams. 

They discuss eight questions that reliably indicate a high-performing team. Here’s #8: “In my work, I am always challenged to grow.” When your employees answer “strongly agree” on this and seven other questions, there is a very high probability that your team is high-performing.

There are some excellent ways you can challenge your team members to grow. Regular, personal check-ins where team leaders ask questions like “what’s going right for you?” and “in what ways can I help you?” boost engagement. 

So do opportunities to grow and develop. The best leaders resist the urge to use classes or programs to make your employees more well-rounded — to work on their supposed weaknesses.

After all, a manager’s ability to accurately assess a person’s strengths and weaknesses are meager. The best person to determine your strengths and weaknesses is YOU.

Real strength is what you love to do, not just tasks that you perform well. What you love to do strengthens you and gives you energy. These are the kinds of jobs, activities, roles that put you in a natural state of flow. 

Tasks or activities that drain you sucks your energy and leaves you mentally and emotionally exhausted – even if you do it well – it is not a strength. You will burn out quickly.

When you work with your team to learn their real strengths and put them in positions that let them use their strengths each day, you are more likely to create a highly-engaged, high-performing team.

An excellent place for you to start is to help your people understand their servant-leader archetype: Pioneer, Reconciler, Operator, or Maverick. This assessment helps them narrow down the ways they best contribute — the roles that put them in a natural state of flow.

Next, design each person’s work around their natural state of flow. 

Third, map your team to find out if you have any gaps. If you are missing an archetype or have a significant imbalance across the four, you will need to find ways to cover the holes. Doing so will probably include having some people do tasks that are outside their flow. That’s ok as long as you provide them opportunities to replenish their energy, AND you have most of their work inside their flow.

Finally, do a weekly one-on-one check-in with each direct report. Help each person be the best version of themselves and provide them the resources and clear expectations they need to excel.

SLA’s Sustainable Growth Mindset® courses give you step by step ways to Elevate your Team’s PerformanceDevelop your Healthy Culture, and Build your Winning Strategy.

You can take these self-directed courses at your own pace as you boost your team’s engagement and performance. 

Investing in yourself and your team is among the most worthwhile things you can do. 

L
earn more about these courses by clicking HERE.  When you’re ready use promo code SLABLOG and save 20%!

When you are ready, here are four great ways to work together

Speaking: Do you want a professional keynote speaker to talk with your team on leadership, culture, and strategy? I’ve talked to business, NFL, academic, government, nonprofit, and military audiences. I always tailor the presentation to you, so the message inspires action for you and your team. I’m a professional member of the National Speakers Association, which means I have a proven track record of professionalism and performance.

Training: If you want an even higher impact for your team, training and workshops are a great way to go. I teach teams and organizations on a range of Leadership, Culture, and Strategy themes, to include: how to elevate your team’s performance, how to build a culture of excellence, how to slash employee burnout and turnover, how to develop a winning strategy and how to prevent expensive mistakes. Programs for you range from half-day primers to three-day intensives, to include offsite at places like Normandy and Gettysburg.

Self-Directed Courses: Do you want your team to stay engaged on these key themes but do not want to send them away to an executive education course? We have a suite of online programs that are perfect for you. The courses are excellent ways to follow-up a training event to keep your team learning at your own pace.

Consulting: Do you want to improve your leadership development programs, build a culture of excellence, and create a winning strategy? Unlike the big, gucci, consulting firms that are slow, bureaucratic, and stick you with junior MBAs, I work personally with you and your team, so you get results quickly and cost-effectively with no hassle.

What results can you expect? Check out these video testimonials.
Reach out to me anytime you are curious about working together.

 

Avoid being Scapegoated

Want to avoid being scapegoated for the next breach?
You need Total Trust alongside Zero Trust

You are a new CISO in the financial services industry. You are excited about the job but anxious due to the scale of the cyber threat from a range of actors: lone-wolf hackers, organized crime syndicates, governments and their proxies, and insiders. As you think through your game plan for addressing these threats, what’s your most important first step?

A. Get the latest technology and management tools.
B. Develop new, mandatory, IT security training for the company or client.
C. Bring in consultants to advise you on the latest threats.
D. Tighten protocols and increase penetration stress tests.
E. None of the above

Unless you picked E you will end up as just another victim. Your company will be
inadequately prepared to prevent a breach. Your team’s flat-footed response after the breach
will result in major losses to the business. You will be the scapegoat.

When your back is against the wall and you have to prepare your team to deal with new and
unprecedented threats, this is what you should do. It’s the opposite of what every guru is
preaching.

Your first step: Build Trust. Up and Out; Down and In

Zero Trust is an important technology and cyber security precaution. No one should be
granted total access to information.

A zero-trust approach to workplace relationships, however, is disastrous. When dealing with
your people and teams and those you support, you need to earn Total Trust.

You were hired because you seemed to be the best qualified person for the job, but that does
not mean you are trusted by your CEO, peers or team.

Compared with people at low-trust companies, notes a Harvard Business Review study, people at high-trust companies report: 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, 40% less burnout.

Lack of total trust sets you up for failure:
 You will not make much headway on getting cyber security imbedded in the culture;
 You will not be invited to board meetings to discuss cyber security;
 You will have little interaction with the CEO;
 Your C-suite colleagues will try to poach your budget and client;
 You will be seen as an impediment to growth; a distraction from business;
 You will have high rates of employee burnout and turnover;
 Your team’s vigilance and responsiveness to threats will be unequal to the task.

Fortunately, you do not have to share in this fate.

When building trust, think 1) Up and Out and 2) Down and In.

Up and Out: It is tempting, particularly for leaders of highly technical teams whose missions
are poorly understood across the company, to start building relationships from your silo –
your comfort zone and point of view. This common approach is the fast track to poor
communication and mistrust.

To build a trusting relationship with your boss and your peers, you have to meet them at their
bus stop. That is, you must see things from their point of view, talk their language, and
understand their interests and concerns. They won’t trust you fully unless they know you “get
it.”

How do you know that you are on the right track?
 You can “see yourself” and the business from their point of view.
 You discern how they view you and your team.
 You recognize their perceptions about how you affect their performance and the company overall.
 You understand the company’s vision, mission, goals and values and how you contribute to success.

Question: Can you explain all the above so clearly that it makes sense to a 5-year-old? If not,
you do not know it well enough.

Down and In. Build trust with your team. Trust is earned. It is not given because of your
position.

Being trustworthy means being worthy of trust. This is most powerfully expressed in your
competence and your character. Your team needs to believe that you can do the job, that your
word is good, that you will treat each employee with respect, and that you will be a good
steward of your people, teams and organization.

How do you know that you are on the right track?
 You set clear performance and behavior expectations;
 You meet those expectations yourself;
 You hold everyone equally accountable – no favorites;
 People bring you bad news immediately without sugar coating;
 Employees provide you with candid feedback without fear of backlash;
 Your employees understand their mission clearly and how it relates to the mission and goals of the company.

Question: What have you done today to show your team that you are worthy of their trust and
respect?

When you have total trust, your CEO and board want to hear what you have to say, your
colleagues will see you are a partner, and your team will have higher rates of engagement and
lower risk of burnout and turnover. Your company’s cyber security will be far stronger, too.

Christopher Kolenda, PhD, founder of the Strategic Leaders Academy, helps CISOs and
Cyber Security leaders elevate the performance of their teams, slash disengagement and
burnout, and boost the quality of their strategies and plans.

When you are ready, here are four great ways to work together

Speaking: Do you want a professional keynote speaker to talk with your team on leadership, culture, and strategy? I’ve talked to business, NFL, academic, government, nonprofit, and military audiences. I always tailor the presentation to you, so the message inspires action for you and your team. I’m a professional member of the National Speakers Association, which means I have a proven track record of professionalism and performance.

Training: If you want an even higher impact for your team, training and workshops are a great way to go. I teach teams and organizations on a range of Leadership, Culture, and Strategy themes, to include: how to elevate your team’s performance, how to build a culture of excellence, how to slash employee burnout and turnover, how to develop a winning strategy and how to prevent expensive mistakes. Programs for you range from half-day primers to three-day intensives, to include offsite at places like Normandy and Gettysburg.

Self-Directed Courses: Do you want your team to stay engaged on these key themes but do not want to send them away to an executive education course? We have a suite of online programs that are perfect for you. The courses are excellent ways to follow-up a training event to keep your team learning at your own pace.

Consulting: Do you want to improve your leadership development programs, build a culture of excellence, and create a winning strategy? Unlike the big, gucci, consulting firms that are slow, bureaucratic, and stick you with junior MBAs, I work personally with you and your team, so you get results quickly and cost-effectively with no hassle.

What results can you expect? Check out these video testimonials.
Reach out to me anytime you are curious about working together.