Show Belief in your Employees

October 23, 2016

Q: While I received overall positive scores on my annual employee opinion survey, a couple said they wanted more coaching. As the Head of Finance, I don’t want to be the kind of manager that people leave the company because of. How can I be a more effective coach?

A: Employees are most engaged and satisfied working for leaders whose focus is on developing and supporting them to be successful. Here are four coaching concepts you can implement immediately.

Believe in your people: Maintain the mindset that they are totally capable. Really. It’s harder than it sounds. Give them tasks that are a stretch, show them how to achieve the target, then trust they will be successful. Don’t doubt them. Be available for help along the way. Avoid relying on the same dependable team members every time.

Recognize and acknowledge often: Creating a culture that focuses on strengths and successes will generate even more. Build confidence by acknowledging sincerely and publicly, giving developmental feedback respectfully and privately. When individuals mess up they forget they are also competent. In those moments remind them of how valued and capable they are. Reinforce the invisible — attitude, character and qualities.

Move them up and out: I know, you want to keep good people you have groomed. Admired leaders find opportunities for their people to grow beyond their role by recommending them for high visibility initiatives that match their talents and aspirations and by placing them in front of influential decision makers.

Hand over responsibility: Share the vision and how their work is imperative for its success. Set clear expectations, hand over ownership of the deliverables and responsibility for accomplishing it. Then back off. Give them room to figure it out and rescue them — shame free — if needed.

Watch the uptick in engagement and loyalty.

Reprinted from The Province, October 23, 2016.

The right apps are invaluable organizing tools

November 13, 2015

Q: I’ve just moved from a large organization to a small startup without an executive assistant to keep me organized. What tools would you recommend?

A: Productivity Apps that sync your smartphone, tablet and laptop may rival your EA because they manage details and information with people anywhere anytime.

Google Drive is a must have. This cloud storage system enables you to share just about any kind of file from recordings and photos to spreadsheets and word docs online 24/7. It’s a premier collaboration tool that allows multiple users to work on a single document separately or simultaneously and the Drive captures every update immediately.

OneNote is an intuitive note-taking app that can be used to capture random ideas or as searchable notebooks for a host of topics with sub-sections. Colour-coded tabs make it simple to sort, retrieve and review. Notes are easily shared with others by email. Meeting notes, video and recordings can be added to your notebook by emailing OneNote. A handy bonus is when clipping website information the URL is automatically saved.

Rated the best to-do list app, Wunderlist is great for managing accountability. It allows you to create multiple to-do lists, assign tasks to others and sort by priority or due date. Collaborators receive an email notification when assigned tasks and you receive one as they are completed.

Who can remember all their passwords? LastPass is the most popular password manager because it auto populates log-in information from all of your devices, alerts you if there is a security breach and allows you to give others log-in access to sites without ever revealing your password.

These apps can help you squeeze more time out of your day. Next time, useful travel apps for the mobile professional.

Reprinted from The Province, November 22, 2015.

Expert status now a barrier

February 29, 2012

Q: I have pride in being an expert people seek out in my organization, only to discover that it is now the barrier to moving into the executive suite. What can I do to change this?

A: Years of acquiring technical expertise or knowledge makes you so reliable in your current role that there may be a reluctance to promote you. Who else could possibly replace you?

Up to this point you’ve received your satisfaction from accomplishing things, feeling productive. Now, delegation is a high priority. Make yourself obsolete rather than indispensable. Transfer your knowledge to your staff. Give them opportunities to learn and grow so they can take over your job.

Relinquishing control of the daily tactical issues will also showcase your ability to manage a team to successfully meet outcomes. Have them replace you at meetings you cannot attend so others can see how capable they are. It will also give you time out from doing so you can begin thinking strategically at a level above the tactical.

While you progress from being task to strategic focus, you will also need to shift other leaders’ perception of you as a big-picture thinker. Find every opportunity to get visibility at your manager’s level and above. Take on a high-visibility project which would require you to consult with them. Meet with them informally for coffee.

In presentations to leaders, demonstrate your ability to transfer tactical information to the audience at the appropriate level of strategy for their needs. Be clear and succinct when outlining the key critical priorities for success and how they tie back to the strategic objectives and corporate vision.

Make it easy for others to view you as a visionary leader.

Originally published in The Province, February 26, 2012.

Get set up -then unplug

July 19, 2011

Q: Vacations just aren’t worth it. I work like a dog beforehand to get ahead of my workload and race to catch up when I get back. While I’m away my BlackBerry buzzes continuously. I’m thinking of cancelling this year’s holiday altogether. Can you help?

A: Others won’t respect your time off until you do. You’ve trained people that you are available even when absent.

This time give people two week’s notice of your upcoming vacation. At the same time block time to wrap up, tidy up or delegate your current responsibilities to others you trust. Introduce your replacements to the key issues and provide clear written instructions on how to handle specific situations so you can relax knowing business is taken care of.

Turn on your “out of office” e-mail manager informing people you are unavailable and who to contact regarding urgent issues. Create an outgoing voice message with the same information. Then unplug. Don’t answer your phone! Seriously, once you respond from your BlackBerry it is game over.

Doing even a little bit of work while away will continue a slow drain on your mental and emotional batteries. You will end up coming back just as tired. Ride the relaxed holiday momentum by easing back into work. Block the first day or two to get organized and reoriented.

Rather than answer each email, sort by subject, scan, prioritize and act on the most pressing issues. Delegate what you can immediately, then file or dump messages you were cc’d on for reference. This reduces the sense of overwhelming.

Remember. Vacations have enormous health benefits.

Originally published in The Province, July 18, 2011.

Plan project in four steps

February 28, 2011

Q: I tried to empower my director with an important project. Each time I checked in with him he said he was on track and didn’t need any support. But when he presented to the client, it wasn’t at all what I envisioned. When I told him how disappointed I was, he said that he felt set up because I didn’t tell him my expectations ahead of time. What should I do in the future?

A: It can be tricky anticipating how much support and clarity a seasoned leader needs. To spare future headaches, follow these four simple steps for every initiative.

1) Create a united vision. Begin by sharing both of your visions for the project. Have your direct report go first. Discuss best possible outcomes and what they would actually look like in reality. This minimizes the expectation gap.

2) Plan and strategize. Once you’ve reached mutual agreement, forecast potential obstacles and an plan to resolve them should they occur. Put three to four key expectations on the table so your director knows exactly where the goalposts are. Be specific and measurable. Share any wisdom, insight or mentoring you would appreciate receiving if you were in his shoes.

3) Empower him to take action. Set up realistic targets and timelines for progress reports. Then turn him loose to meet the expectations and desired outcomes in his own way. Schedule regular meetings to ensure the project stays on track or to allow for course correct if the project requirements change

4) Debrief each project for the key learning. Grow your director by hearing what he thought was successful and why. Then share what you found successful and what you want next time.

Empowering your employees does not mean abdicating your responsibility as their leader.

Originally published in The Province, February 27, 2011.

You’re still the boss of you

July 29, 2007

Q:  People keep dumping extra tasks on to my plate, even though they’re not my responsibility — and if I don’t do the work, it won’t get done. I can’t say no, yet I’m sick of all the overtime I do to keep up with the additional demands. Help!

A:  You are a highly responsible individual, but unfortunately your continual “over-functioning” has trained others to believe they can get away with doing less by convincing you to take on their work.

The first step toward change is to understand the payoff motivating you to accept this treatment. Do you feel more valued when others ask you for help? What stops you from saying no? Are you worried about looking bad? Do you fear repercussions?

Requests may feel like demands, but you do have a choice. Take a minute to ask yourself, “What’s in it for me? Am I truly willing — not just able — to accept the task?” If the answer is no, say so up front instead of resenting the commitment or complaining later.

You are committed to a job well done, but how did this become your responsibility? What about the other workers’ roles? Ask what part they’re taking on before you agree to anything.

The next step is to practise saying no to low-risk or easy things. Be prepared for some resistance from those accustomed to taking you for granted, but stick to your guns.

Find other ways to say no. For example, “I’d like to, but that doesn’t work for me,” or, “I won’t be able to consider that until [some future date convenient for you].”  You may work for an organization, but you are still the boss of you.

Originally printed in The Province, July 29, 2007.