All posts by Joanie Connell

4 Excuses Not to Delegate: Are You Using One?

Successful bossThere’s so much pressure to perform these days that it’s tempting to keep control over projects and minimize room for failure.  Why do managers resist delegating?

“They’re not ready.”

This is a typical reason leaders give to keep doing the work themselves instead of letting someone else take it on.  What they should be asking is, what would it take for them to be ready?  Also, what are they ready for now?  In other words, even if they aren’t ready to take on the whole project, what aspect of it could you let them take responsibility for?  And what do you need to do as a leader to get them ready to take on more?  This is an opportunity for you to coach and mentor and facilitate learning for your team members who, more than likely, crave growth opportunities.

“We can’t afford a mistake.”

This is the fear that drives managers to hover over their employees and make them feel useless.  Of course, there is always a risk of failure or a mistake, but it’s always a risk no matter how closely you supervise your employees. The downside of over supervising your employees is that they won’t learn how to take care of things when something bad does happen. And even if they could, they wouldn’t have the power to. Ask yourself: when you’re away from the office, can your employees get things done without you?  If not, this is a wake-up call for you to empower your team.

“They won’t do it as well.”

This is another reason for managers to do the work themselves instead of trusting others to do it.  Maybe it won’t be done exactly the way you would do it and maybe you won’t even know exactly how it’s done. But if you hire good people and train them, you can trust them to do good work.  You never know, maybe they’ll even do a better job than you!  This may be yet another fear that drives you to keep the work to yourself.  But, in the end, it is better for you, for the company, and for the individual for them to do better work than you.  Now you can stick to leading and growing your own skills.

“I don’t have time.”

Not having time to delegate is a classic excuse yet it’s one that causes managers to work excessively long hours unnecessarily. It’s often quicker for an experienced person to do something him or herself, but if you keep doing it yourself, you’ll have to keep doing it.  That’s where the overwork comes in: if you do the work and are responsible for leading the team, you will quickly run out of time.  In other words, you don’t have time not to delegate.  It may take more time initially to train someone, but the savings will begin to show up very quickly.

“One of the most difficult transitions for leaders to make is the shift from doing to leading.”  Jesse Sostrin states in To Be a Great Leader, You Have to Learn How to Delegate Well, in Harvard Business Review.  As a leader, if you keep doing the work, you will reach your output capacity quickly.  If you have a team of people who contribute to the output, you can scale and have much greater impact.  The reason for teams to exist is to increase productivity.  In high-performing teams, each team member does what he or she does best and relies on others to contribute in different ways.  Effective leaders facilitate this process.

Adulting: How do young people learn life skills?

Flying without a Helicopter Book Cover finalI came across an article in the LA Times today about how college students at UC Berkeley have started up an “adulting” course.  They created a student-run course to teach life skills to each other because they’re not learning them anywhere else.  The question is, why aren’t they learning life skills in life?

One of the students interviewed for the article says that kids don’t learn life skills from their parents because parents don’t trust their kids to be able to handle things.  The parents do it for them.  Schools have also taken life skills off the curricula in favor of academic courses preparing children for standardized tests.

My take on this is that the kids must resort to teaching each other adulting skills because all of the adults in their lives failed to prepare them for adulthood.  Parents, teachers, professors, administrators, and government protection agencies have disempowered children to the point where they don’t know how to take care of themselves when they grow up.

Presumably, these adults had good intentions to protect the children and give them the academic skills they thought were needed to succeed in life.  Or is it that they felt the need to control their children’s lives to fulfill their own insecurities?  In either case, the outcome is the same: many young adults are missing critical skills to succeed in life.

It is troubling to see that the college students don’t trust the adults, just as the adults don’t trust the kids.  And we wonder why there’s such a strong generational divide!

I offer a small solution, my book, Flying without a Helicopter: How to Prepare Young People for Work and Life.  I wrote this book because I saw how this problem was arising and I wanted to help young people (and their parents) prepare for life.  I’m there for young people and old.  If you want to talk, schedule a meeting with me, free of charge.  I am an adult who supports adulting.

Another solution I offer is building trust between the generations.  My Collaborating Across Generations workshop helps people in the different generations better understand each other and work together.  We need less Millennial bashing and fewer “OK Boomer” comments and more leveraging of our different perspectives and work styles.

360-degree Feedback Assessment

Individual 360-degree Feedback Assessment

Every leader behaves differently with different people or roles in the organization and they are perceived differently as well.  A 360-degree feedback assessment provides a mechanism for a leader to receive honest feedback from people in different levels or functions in the organization.  A 360-degree feedback assessment reaches out to people in different functions in the organization to get their perceptions of the leader’s performance along several relevant leadership dimensions.

Assessment:

The leader and 6-12 work associates complete the 360-degree Feedback Instrument online (about 30 minutes each).

  • The work associates include a manager, a group of peers, a group of direct reports, and an optional other group, such as internal or external customers.
  • The assessment is conducted externally by the coach or coach’s organization to ensure confidentiality of participants.
  • The participant shares names and contact information of the raters and the coach coordinates the communications to the raters.

The 360-degree feedback instrument may be one of the following.

  • EQi 360
  • SVI 360

Report:

The comprehensive 360-degree Feedback Report for the chosen instrument.

Feedback:

Participate in a 1 ½ hour meeting to go through and ensure understanding of the 360-degree report.  Compare and contrast the feedback from the individual and others and identify strengths and development opportunities.  Determine which strengths and areas for development are most relevant to the individual’s leadership goals.  Incorporate the participant’s strengths and development opportunities into a development plan to accentuate their leadership strengths and address their leadership gaps to strengthen their overall leadership platform.

Cost

Individual 360-degree assessment and feedback

Includes the 360-degree Feedback Instrument, Rater Coordination, Report, Development Plan Template, and Feedback Session.

$1,499.00

How much will it cost when your key people leave?

NetworkingHow likely are you to lose your key employees?

According to Gallup, only one-third of U.S. employees are engaged in their work and workplace. And only about one in five say their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work. What’s worse, 51% of employees are actively looking for new jobs.  The answer is, you are very likely to lose an employee very soon.

How much will it cost when your key people leave?

What does it cost to replace an employee?  The range is large, but it is expensive at any level.  Studies show it can cost 20% of a low-to-mid-range position and more than 200% of a high-level or executive position.  Let’s look at the numbers.  The cost to replace a mid-range administrative manager being paid $40k would be about $8k.  But the cost of a highly educated contributor, director, or executive who’s paid over $200k would be over $400k.

What goes into calculating turnover costs?

  • Hiring (advertising, interviewing, screening, hiring)
  • Onboarding (training and management time)
  • Lost productivity (months, years to match a high performer’s level of performance)
  • Low team engagement (other employees are affected when someone leaves)
  • Customer service and errors (new people don’t know what they’re doing and make mistakes)

The costs may be much greater in your company, especially if a key person leaves at a critical time.  Missing a release deadline could cost the company funding or market share.  Lost knowledge could cause a faulty product to be released.

How will you keep your best people?

The top way to keep employees today is to engage them.  This means allowing them to do meaningful work that helps them grow.  When people are doing something that matters and are growing in the process, they are likely to stay.

Sixty percent of employees say the ability to do what they do best in a role is “very important” to them.  The problem is that people often don’t know what they do best, and it’s even harder for their employers to know.  The solution is to assess what people’s natural talents are and let them do work where they apply them.

A fun way to assess people’s natural talents is in a team-building session where people self-assess and share their talents with their team members.  People get excited about their discoveries and they learn how to better engage each other in projects.

If you are leading a team and you want to keep your key players, you may want to give our Strengthen Your Team Team-Building Activity a try.  It costs only a small fraction of what it costs to lose someone, and it will pay back even more in terms of the increased productivity and engagement of your team.  You will also have fun discovering how your own natural talents come into play.

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Is Your Company Suffering from the Tech Effect?

Teacher and schoolchildren studying in front of a computerRemember when computerized communication technology first came into being?  If you’re too young to know what that was like, it was magical!  We went from waiting impatiently for the mail carrier or staying near the phone to receiving emails and texts in minutes or seconds.  We went from wading through file cabinets and encyclopedias to getting information instantaneously from the internet.  We went from living in siloed communities to being globally connected.  Think about it: we now can access just about anyone or anything at any time!

But, have you noticed how the magic is starting to wear off and anxiety is moving in?

Woman Buying Train Ticket Using Vending Machine At StationBusiness leaders are finding their enterprises rely too much on technology and not enough on people.  Employees are suffering from overwork, owners have lost control over what their employees are doing and saying about their companies, and the general public is suffering from social media addiction.

There’s a longing to slow things down and go back to the personal principles and values that made companies grow and operate better, such as culture and reputation.  Customers and employees are also crying out for privacy, to protect their personal information and to go back to having control of what they share with others.

Ironically, communication technology is the driver of many communication problems.  People are feeling more isolated than ever before, company reputations are suffering, and conflict is rising—and it is costing companies a lot of money.Woman in computer room using personal digital assistant

  • Employees lose an average of one day of work per week to their phones—and they’re getting paid for that day. Nearly 50 percent of people say they can’t live without their phones, which people on average check every 12 minutes and touch 2,600 times a day.
  • American businesses are losing $62 billion per year from poor customer service, according to Forbes Magazine, because of autoresponders and pre-recorded help messages or remote call centers with people who don’t speak the language well.
  • Tesla’s stock dropped over eight percent in a day in response to Elon Musk tweeting he was thinking about taking the company private. Roseanne Barr’s racist tweet cost over $1 billion and 200 people lost their jobs from cancelling all of her shows.

Aggressive furious businessman shouting and working with computer in officeThese problems all have one thing in common, what I call the tech effect.  The tech effect occurs when communication technology loses its human focus and/or the people who use communication technology lose their human focus.  It’s when people communicate with their screens in the form of makeshift messages to ephemeral followers and measure reactions in quantities, instead of building relationships with people.

How do we combat the tech effect?  We need to get the people back in.  Business leaders need to change the culture in their companies to be more human-centered, modify structures and practices within their companies to increase employee and customer engagement and loyalty, and promote healthy, humane work practices and products that sell.

How do we do this?  I have lots of ideas and systematic solutions.  Stay tuned for more on the tech effect

How Do You Hire Mature Millennials?

Asian millennial woman selfieI continue to get complaints about how the Millennials are not responsible employees who can be counted on to show up to work and act professionally.  I hear things like:

  • He asked for a day off the first weekgraphicstock-group-of-friends-millennials-sitting-in-pinewood-using-digital-devices-social-addicted-phubbing-technology-concept_rpxae5qYkb
  • She showed up in shorts that were so short her bottom showed
  • She played on her phone and ignored customers
  • He was 2-hours late and didn’t call

While the Millennials do like to have their fun and many have not been prepared for work like their predecessors were, it is certainly possible to find good Millennial employees.  The Millennial generation is very large–over 71 million in the U.S. and growing—and many of them are very responsible, mature people.  You just have to find them.  You can do this using good selection methods.

1. Start with a job description.

Every good talent management system begins with an accurate job description.  This means researching within your organization what knowledge, skills, behaviors, and other characteristics are necessary to be successful in this role.  If it’s an existing role, ask the manager(s), people in or previously in the roles, and others who interact with them what knowledge skills, behaviors, and other characteristics have led to success and failure in that position.

For example, if it’s an account manager position, you might hear things like:

  • Professional demeanorPretty operator
  • Customer service oriented
  • Good communication skills
  • Develops relationships with customers and with coworkers
  • Knowledge and skill with CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software

You’ll need people to expand on specific knowledge and behaviors that make up these categories.  For example, what does having a professional demeanor mean?  It might mean:

  • showing up on timegraphicstock-multiracial-business-people-working-together-connected-with-technological-devices-like-tablet-and-notebook-teamwork-business-working-concept_BTebaVJYyZ
  • calling ahead if you’ll miss work
  • wearing appropriate clothes
  • being well-groomed
  • using respectful language and not curse words.

If it’s a new role, or if you just want help getting started, search for the job the US Department of Labor database of job descriptions.  You can also ask others in different organizations for their experiences.  If maturity is needed for success in the job, it will show up in your research.

2. Include Maturity in your Job Posting.

Write a job posting that includes the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics that are necessary for the job.  Maturity would fall under “other characteristics.”  If maturity is extremely important, put it front and center in the job posting, as in

  • “looking for mature people of all ages who show up on time, are dependable, and work well with others.”

By putting it out there, you are encouraging applicants to self-select to apply if they are mature or skip this job if that seems too much for them.  Hopefully, the applicants are self-aware enough to see whether they are mature, but this may not be the case.

3. Screen Applicants for Mature Behavior

There are many tests and methods to screen for mature behavior.  Whatever you choose to use, make sure you are consistent with all of your candidates so that you get good data and you are not introducing bias into your hiring practices.

I like to put people to the test right away with a few hurdles they have to jump to be worthy of an interview.

  • Require candidates to email you by a certain deadline with a cover letter and People on laptopsresume. You can give them instructions for what to include in their letter, such as why they are a good candidate for the job.  You can see if they meet the deadline, if they follow instructions, and how professional their letter is.  Is it proofread or full of typos, formal or in text speak, did they do their homework to learn what the job is about or is it generic, and so on…?
  • Email candidates who meet your criteria and have them set up a call with you. See how professionally they interact to set up a time that works for you.  Are they cordial, flexible with your schedule, reliable to call you at the number you give them at the agreed-upon time, etc.?
  • Invite them to a face-to-face interview. See how they dress and behave with you and others during their visit.  Did they arrive early to be sure to be on time, are they wearing appropriate clothes, do they look you in the eye, do they treat other staff members respectfully, and so on…?

Multiracial business people working outdoor in townThere are many other things you can do to screen candidates for maturity in your hiring process to make sure you are getting Millennials on your team who are mature, responsible, respectful employees.  To learn more, contact us for a free consultation.

 

Supporting Women Leaders: Navigating through Gray Area

Business woman leading over speechSupporting women leaders isn’t as straightforward as it might seem.  It’s actually become rather complicated in today’s climate.  I had the pleasure of interviewing Deborah Rocco on my REAL Life Lessons Women Lead Radio show and she described how men and women can navigate this sticky issue and work together to support women at work.

Happy business people with their heads together representing concept of ftiendship and teamworkWe all make mistakes,” Debbie said.  As we move forward and try new ways to be inclusive and supportive, we will occasionally say the wrong things and organizations will try new policies and programs that will sometimes fail, but that’s okay.  The key is to move forward with good intentions and learn from our mistakes.  Together, we’ll get there.

Working meetingMen are an important part of the equation.  In fact, they are half the equation.  Debbie talks about how women and men can align with each other to support women leaders.  A key lesson here is not to scare men away from supporting women, as we’re seeing from the backlash to the #MeToo movement.  Yes, we need to hold people accountable, and we also need to help people learn from their mistakes and bring them into the conversations to move forward.

Holding back judgment is often difficult for us, but it’s another part of the equation—for both men and women.  Research shows that women are equally responsible as men for gender stereotyping.  We’re also all responsible for letting others make different choices from our own and being supportive of these differences the best we can.  For example, you may not agree with someone’s decision to take—or not take—maternity or paternity leave because you hold strong beliefs around the subject, but an individual still has to do what’s best for them.  It can be hard to hold back judgment in these cases.

Vain businesswomanWhen it comes to ourselves, it’s not black and white either.  It takes time and effort to get in touch with our inner selves, to know what we want and understand who we are.  And it’s more complicated than that because we are constantly changing.  The environment around us changes and our values shift as we move through different stages in life.  Debbie says that we need to regularly check in with ourselves, at least once a year.

Debbie offers many more insights and tips for women and men, and organizations as well, as we all navigate through the gray area of inviting women leaders to the table and not letting them slip off the glass cliff along the way.  To learn more, listen right now.

Cheating Is the New Normal

Pensive guyIf you’ve studied social psychology, economics, sociology, or law, you’ve probably heard of “The Tragedy of the Commons.”  The story goes like this: A long time ago, towns used to have a “common”—a shared field or piece of land—where people let their cattle graze.  In order for there to be enough grass for all the cattle, people had to take turns letting their cows graze on the common.  The tragedy occurred when some people decided to secretly bring their cows in at night to let them eat extra grass.  When only a few “cheaters” did it, they might have gotten away with it, but when enough people did it, the grass died, and the resource dried up for everyone.

I was talking to a former athlete this morning about how it’s more common for people to take a gap year in between high school and college than it used to be.  He said that people used to do it in sports to take a year to lift weights and get bigger and stronger to be more competitive in college football.  He said, back then, they called them “cheaters” and taunted them.  But today, this kind of behavior is completely normal and accepted.

Have you noticed that, today, it’s normal and accepted to use every loophole, advantage, tutor, coach, and even cross the line to exaggerate the truth or have others do the work for you to get ahead of the competition to get into college, to get a job, to get elected, or simply to get anything you want?  It’s so normal, in fact, that we don’t even flinch anymore when we see it.  We just sigh and lament how things are today.  And, if we have the resources, we tend to jump on board.  I hear over and over again, “I’m afraid if we don’t do it, we’ll be left behind.”

Today’s tragedy is coming about in a different way than the commons of yesteryear.  We are cheating the system and destroying it in the process.  Our individualism is spoiling the commons—our common resources, our communities, and our unitedness—and it’s spreading around the world.  Look at the environment for an obvious example.  It’s okay for a few people to pollute, but when many people do it, the atmosphere gets destroyed and global warming impacts us all.

This whole conversation started when the former athlete said that he overheard one affluent mother in a coffee shop telling another that her kid just got back from a college tour in Sweden.  The other affluent mother responded by saying hers had just returned from a college tour in Norway.  Now, you may have heard that studying abroad can be less expensive than attending college in the States, but, for the most part, that is not true.  Even if tuition is cheaper, the travel and living expenses can be quite high.  In any case, undergraduates from the most affluent families are up to five times more likely to go abroad as part of their degree than less privileged students, a new study says.

Why is this important?  Because so many people are trying to cheat the college system in our country that it’s become a less desirable resource.  The cost to get into college is so much higher than it used to be—both financially and because of the toll it takes on the children spending every waking hour boosting their resumes and test scores to get in.  What’s more, college students are increasingly anxious, tuition costs are skyrocketing, and, because so many people have college degrees now, the degree means less.

It’s even more tragic because the people who could benefit the most from a college degree—poor and middle-class Americans—get the least benefit because they incur so much debt.  But no worries for the rich, because as the American college system dries up, the rich increasingly use their resources to send their kids abroad to get educated.  And so it goes.