Coaches Corner!

Growth mindset Management Respect

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Key Point: If you want to succeed as a people leader in our organization you must practice, practice, practice at being a great coach. Why? It happens to be the number one thing aspiring employees look for in their leadership. The kind of people we want working with us thrive on self-development and improvement, and want leaders with a growth mindset. They understand that a leader, who deeply cares about them, will advance their objective of self-growth exponentially.

If you work for someone who doesn’t consciously commit to coaching, you have to “figure it out” by yourself, and that is wasteful for all. I was curious about a recent HBR article on the subject by Dr. Joseph R. Weintraub, and James M. Hunt, both professors specializing in leadership development at Babson College. They co-authored 4 Reasons Managers Should Spend More Time Coaching.

 The following is an excerpt from their Harvard Business Review article:  

“We’ve been researching managers who coach and what distinguishes them. What has stood out in our interviews with hundreds of managers who do coach their direct reports is their mindset: They believe in the value of coaching, and they think about their role as a manager in a way that makes coaching a natural part of their managerial toolkit. These are not professional coaches. They are line and staff leaders who manage a group of individuals, and they are busy, hard-working people. So why do they so readily give coaching an important place in their schedule? Here are four reasons:

  1. They see coaching as an essential tool for achieving business goals. They are not coaching their people because they are nice — they see personal involvement in the development of talent as an essential activity for business success. 
  1. They enjoy helping people develop.These managers are not unlike artists who look at material and imagine that something better, more interesting, and more valuable could emerge. They assume that the people who work for them don’t necessarily show up ready to do the job, but that they will need to learn and grow to fulfill their role and adapt to changing circumstances. 
  2. They are curious.Coaching managers ask a lot of questions. They are genuinely interested in finding out more about how things are going, what kinds of problems people are running into, where the gaps and opportunities are, and what needs to be done better. 
  3. They are interested in establishing connections. As one coaching manager stated, ‘That is why someone would listen to me, because they believe that for that time, I really am trying to put myself in their shoes.’ This empathy allows the coaching manager to build an understanding of what each employee needs and appropriately adjust his or her style.”

Character Moves: 

  1. Adopt a coaching mindset regardless of what level you are on. Then practice. Then, practice more. This includes knowing how to coach each person in the moment AND in reflective debrief. You also need to know how to do team coaching.
  2. Remember that if you coach from a place of well intended care for the other person and act with authentic empathy/trust in the people you’re coaching, this genuine care will supersede any coaching clumsiness. Just do it. 
  3. Ask yourself if people want to work for you. Do they recommend working for you? Can you identify how people on your team have progressed? Do others realize that? What do your answers tell you? 

Continuous coaching in The Triangle!

– Lorne

One Millennial View: So, I’ve had some wonderful teachers all my life, and the other day I was thinking about this one great algebra teacher I had in high school. Unfortunately, I really don’t remember her name. I can’t do the “math” on why that is… I remember her class, her face, her quality lesson plan, but her name has completely escaped me… In contrast, I certainly haven’t forgotten the names of any of my high school coaches. As wonderful as that algebra teacher was, I don’t think her personal curriculum included the four points above. My coaches’ strategies sure did, though.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Movement Against Fear

Accountability Courage Personal leadership

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Key Point: Once you start moving, fear usually sinks back into the hole where it belongs. Unless you haven’t been close to a newsfeed, you’ve likely heard about the heroic three Americans and one British citizen, who were traveling Aug. 21, on the sleek high-speed train that takes high-level European diplomats, businesspeople, tourists and ordinary citizens between Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris. The heroes in this situation are Alek Skarlatos, a specialist in the National Guard from Oregon, Air Force, Airman First Class Spencer Stone, another American, Anthony Sadler, and Brit Chris Norman. A terrorist armed with an AK-47, pistol and box cutter intended on killing as many of the 500 passengers as he could. Could you imagine the carnage if left unchecked? Randomly spraying innocent people trapped in the train? Because of the bravery and willingness to act and NOT stay paralyzed, the story had a very different ending. Despite the terrorist’s intentions, there were no deaths, just one apprehended jihadist. As quoted from this Sunday’s New York Times

“In the train carriage, Mr. Stone was the first to act, jumping up at the command of Mr. Skarlatos. He sprinted through the carriage toward the gunman, running ‘a good 10 meters to get to the guy,’ Mr. Skarlatos said. Mr. Stone was unarmed; his target was visibly bristling with weapons… With Mr. Skarlatos close behind, Mr. Stone grabbed the gunman’s neck, stunning him. But the gunman fought back furiously, slashing with his blade, slicing Mr. Stone in the neck and hand and nearly severing his thumb. Mr. Stone did not let go… Mr. Norman and Mr. Sadler had joined in the efforts to subdue the gunman, who ‘put up quite a bit of a fight,’ Mr. Norman recalled at the news conference in Arras on Saturday. ‘My thought was, ‘I’m probably going to die anyway, so let’s go.’ Once you start moving, you’re not afraid anymore…’ Mr. Anglade (a well known French actor pulled the alarm) and accused the train personnel on Saturday of having fled the scene of the struggle, abandoning the passengers and cowering in the engine car. He told the French news media that the behavior of the staff had been ‘terrible’ and ‘inhuman.’”

Character Moves: 

  1. Thankfully, the vast majority of us will not be confronted with the split second decision to fight an armed terrorist in a life or death struggle. But almost all of us likely have some quiet version of “personal terrorism:” Something that eats at us (like that medical diagnosis you know you should get, fierce conversation you know you should have, etc). This applies to the workplace and every part of our life. While the situation above (life or death) does not compare, the lesson from it I believe is relevant: “Once you start moving you’re not afraid anymore.”
  1. Determine what keeps you paralyzed and just move. It will feel so good. Confront that fear, stare it down, “run” at it! What are you waiting for? (Unless you want to cower in corner)?

Moving against fear in The Triangle,

Lorne  

One Millennial View: These stories are such important dopamine dumps. You peruse headlines hoping that you won’t encounter something like this, the story that reminds us to check over our shoulder every time we’re somewhere vulnerable (recent theater shootings don’t help either). But, to know that there are true heroes out there willing to act in these situations has so much more of a lasting impact than the tragic alternative. And they’re fuel to motivate us in more likely, everyday situations. If these guys can run and subdue an armed terrorist, why are we afraid to take any non life-threatening risks? These motivating events will stick with us far longer than that horrible news story we can’t wait to put out of our mind.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

No Zombie Talk

Accountability Communication Personal leadership

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Key Point: Learning to be efficient and clear is an exceptionally important skill. It is a necessary gateway to any top-level position. We have to be excellent translators. If you spend any time with high-level boards of directors you may learn this lesson in a painful way. An icy glare from the Chairman when you use precious board time with some comment that adds little to a meeting will have you looking for a cave to hide in. Ouch. If it is not material to the progress of the group’s agenda, shut up.

I’ve been listening more carefully to how much B.S. has infiltrated and clouded our conversations. I detest for example, that we use exclusive words in the human resource community that I find fuzzy at best and confusing at worst. For example, what does “performance driven, talent management and workforce utility ” really mean? (I’ve probably used similar phrases… Geez… What pomposity). I just got a call from a sales person reading off a script inviting me to a conference about leadership and the way he described it had me almost burst out laughing. I thought he was pitching something about advanced physics. No, thanks.

As I get older, the more I value clarity and the elegance of simplicity. The size and complexity of my PowerPoint is often an indication of how much more work I need to make the intent of my message more accessible.

Another peeve is acronyms. People are often shy to ask what the heck they mean. Complexity in communication is such waste! And I have lots more work to do in this area. How about you?

Character Moves:

  1. Sharpen your words and keep practicing. 
  1. Allow yourself the time needed to craft an elegantly stated view and paint a vivid picture of your intent. When you say or write it with crystal clarity, your audience will emotionally connect with you.
  1. Listening to be sure you understand their intent is a treasure chest of insight for how to better communicate. Become an expert at learning from the communication style of others.

Less words and more meaning in The Triangle,

Lorne  

One Millennial View: I’m fortunate that my field of work preaches this. I’ll never forget my Reporting Public Affairs professor telling me, “Garrett, if anything you write is over 800 words, it better sing.” The myth that length is a sign of intelligence or deeper understanding is not normally true. How’s this? The employee who asks a personal or time wasting question at the end of a department meeting should have to bring in bagels and coffee on Friday morning that week… #NoBagelQuestions2015, let’s start a movement.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

‘The Greatest Place I Hate to Work’

Management Organizational culture Respect

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Key Point: If recent investigative journalism is valid, Amazon’s overall culture makes me want to puke. While I admire the company’s passion for achieving exceptional customer value and their extraordinary execution based on data science, I believe there is something fundamentally wrong, perhaps even sinister about the application of their belief system. According to an intriguing article published in this Sunday’s New York Times, only 15 percent of Amazon’s 180,000 plus employees have been there for more than five years. Apparently, they proudly admit to being a “grind and spit you out” machine. 

“‘A lot of people who work there feel this tension: It’s the greatest place I hate to work,’ said John Rossman, a former executive there who published a book, The Amazon Way.

According to this NYT article, another employee quipped: “The joke in the office was that when it came to work/life balance, work came first, life came second, and trying to find the balance came last.”

I want to pull out a couple of excerpts from this extensive article to make a point: 

“At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are ‘unreasonably high.’ The internal phone directory instructs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another’s bosses. Employees say it is frequently used to sabotage others. (The tool offers sample texts, including this: ‘I felt concerned about his inflexibility and openly complaining about minor tasks.’)”

“Bo Olson lasted less than two years in a book marketing role and said that his enduring image was watching people weep in the office, a sight other workers described as well. ‘You walk out of a conference room and you’ll see a grown man covering his face,’ he said. ‘Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.’”

“Molly Jay, an early member of the Kindle team, said she received high ratings for years. But when she began traveling to care for her father, who was suffering from cancer, and cut back working on nights and weekends, her status changed. She was blocked from transferring to a less pressure-filled job, she said, and her boss told her she was ‘a problem.’ As her father was dying, she took unpaid leave to care for him and never returned to Amazon.”

“In Amazon warehouses, employees are monitored by sophisticated electronic systems to ensure they are packing enough boxes every hour. (Amazon came under fire in 2011 when workers in an eastern Pennsylvania warehouse toiled in more than 100-degree heat with ambulances waiting outside, taking away laborers as they fell. After an investigation by the local newspaper, the company installed air-conditioning.)”

WOW!! My question is WHY have this kind of culture? Who says we have to grind the hell out of people, tear each other apart, and work until the waiting ambulance carries us out, in order to accomplish greatness? Frankly, I believe this thinking and leadership is based on incredible emotional ignorance, perverted leadership ego and a distorted sense of mission. (Perhaps the means would justify the end if the Amazon’s mission was finding a cure for cancer or some other truly noble cause)? Amazon likes data… Ok… Try this: The Great Place to Work (GPTW) survey is taken by thousands of companies and by more than 11 million workers globally. The top rated GPTW organizations develop cultures that are not perfect but they are places where people generally thrive. Independent financial analysts regularly study the financial performance of “100 Best” companies. Analysis shows publicly traded 100 Best Companies consistently outperform major stock indices by a factor of two. Great cultures that have a huge human dimension do drive extraordinary financial results. 

Character Moves: 

  1. Be a real leader and find a way to achieve “moon shots” and extraordinary results in a culture that reflects accountability, respect and abundance. I believe that a culture of short-term performance based on exploiting weakness, ill founded employee competition, and dog eat dog fear will ultimately implode.
  2. The greatest teams, organizations, other dynasties of sustainable true value, are renowned for their culture of teamwork, people deeply caring for each other, while working towards a purpose with exceptional meaning and positive contribution to humankind. Challenge the heck out of Amazon’s assumptions and ideas that take us in the other direction. Unless of course you want to be an “Amabot” and eventually experience that “ambulance ride.” 

Better in The Triangle,

Lorne   

One Millennial View: It should be noted that Bezos has since refuted these claims, making a statement that, “This article doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day… I strongly believe that anyone working in a company that really is like the one described in the NYT would be crazy to stay. I know I would leave such a company.” Now, all that reveals is ONE certain truth: If Amazon REALLY is like that, the CEO (at least to save face publically) recognizes that it’s wrong… The “true” story is likely a very personal interpretation of what really happens at Amazon. But many U.S. Millennials, because of a slow economy, have learned put up with a bad situation. I’ve heard many stories of friends disliking their positions, (in some case crying in bathrooms), bad bosses, and just “sucking it up” the same way many of us once threw up during “two-a-days” during sports drills and didn’t quit the team. Check out the demands of investment banking interns on Wall Street, or starting schoolteachers. It might be muddy now, but is there promise for a “starting position” later? Do the future pros outweigh the current cons? There are dirty jobs out there that are underpaid and/or overly demanding. Regardless of all, the ONE thing that can’t be compromised is the way employees treat others and operate with their co-workers… Workload, hours, and pay not withstanding, the reason you don’t quit that tough team is because you are a “team,” a “work family,” getting through it together for future success. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

The Netflix ‘Keeper Test’… And the Courage to Take It

Accountability Organizational culture Organizational leadership

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Key Point: I was revisiting the now famous set of slides developed by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and then (2012) Netflix chief talent officer, Patty McCord. The Netflix “people philosophy” was posted on the web for anyone to read. Over five million people have now viewed the principles behind Netflix culture and HR strategy. The PowerPoint itself is without any “whiz bang.” In fact, by presentation standards, it’s lousy. It went viral primarily based on the merits of the slide content and challenge to much conventional thinking regarding people and culture.

One my favorite pieces from the slides is the Netflix “keeper test.” And after my vacation, it got me wondering what would happen if everyone in our company initiated a “keeper test” conversation. Here is how it would go:

All Managers would ask themselves the following: “Which of my people, if they told me they were leaving for a similar job at a competitor or peer company would I fight hard to keep?”

And/Or:

All team members would ask their managers: “If I told you I was leaving the company to work for a competitor, how hard would you fight to keep me and try and convince me to change my mind?”

If you’re a manager and you have people you wouldn’t fight for at all to keep in the company, then they are likely placeholders at best, blockers at worst. They are taking up a spot an “A” player could be in. Your job is to give them a generous severance package and replace them ASAP. It is the honest and respectful thing to do. If you, as an employee, ask your manager the “keeper test” and they can’t look you in the eye and tell you unequivocally, “YES,” they’d try and fight for you… Then you need to know what is missing so that the answer could be a clear “yes.” A respectful leader will let you know where you stand… No material surprise.

Character Moves:

  1. Apply the “keeper test.” If you’re a leader, be honest… Be respectful. Who would you fight for? Be ambivalent about? Or wish they’d just disappear? At minimum, if you have anybody outlined on the “disappear list,” can you imagine how he or she must feel working for you? Kindly and respectfully give them a generous severance. Their replacement, assuming you know how to attract “A” talent, will give you a 10 fold productivity increase in return. And of course you will soon ask yourself why it took so long to make the decision. (Btw, do not fight to keep “brilliant jerks.” They get results but the cost to the culture is usually way too much. These so called “brilliant” people are more easily replaced than you might think).
  1. As an employee, have the self-accountability and courage to ask your boss the “keeper test” and expect an honest response. Now you’re on the receiving end of No. 1 above. How does it feel to be on that side of the equation? How do you wish your boss would respond? Don’t you wish your boss would be letting you know where you stand regularly so that you didn’t have to ask the “keeper test” and/ or knew well in advance what the answer would be?
  1. Remember that “stars” can hit a rough patch too… Just like great organizations sometimes do. They deserve a near term pass, reasonable loyalty, and we don’t want to give up on people without understanding context. However, as they say at Quicken Loans, “The trend needs to be your friend.” If you’re performance is trending continuously downward, well you should not be surprised if things end unhappily. What you and I did “great last year” only lasts for a while. The trend has to be “up” in terms of value and contribution, or no one will fight to keep us.

Keeping in the Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: I guess the most relatable comparison would be to ask yourself if you’re in the “friend zone” with your job. With personal relationships, the “what are we?” question is maybe the most avoided of all… Maybe you sort of like your job, cause it’s there, it keeps paying, and it’s comfortable. There are a million reasons not to pry. But are you happy? The “keeper test” seems equivalent, cause it kicks things into gear one way or another. It can be the scariest truth ever, but you know what? Why settle? There’s a “job” out there for you. They say, “Relationships can be like jewelry… You see something that might look nice on someone, but it just doesn’t look good on you.” That’s just fine! Jobs are the same. Find the piece that wants to wear you as much as you want to put it on.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis