Leveraging your resources

leverageOften we feel overwhelmed by the volume of work that we face. That feeling of being swamped, no time for friends or family, and no work life balance. When we get into “go mode” the pace of activity typically limits our ability to leverage our resources. Stop, take time to count your resources, and then maximize the use of them.

Take “Resource” Inventory

You have a ton of resources all around you. The key is to see them and then leverage them. Typical resources include;

  • Technology – are you leveraging the full features of your desktop or corporate applications
  • Other departments – do you understand who should own what tasks and are you holding them accountable for doing their work?
  • Vendors – have your maximized the value that your vendors can give you?
  • Peers – are you equally distributing the workload?

Barriers to Resource Use

The number one barrier to leveraging resources is you! Have you allowed yourself to be the “go to” person? If feels great to have the status and recognition but it typically leads to drowning in work. The second barrier is not understanding task ownership. You may not be the “go to” person but you are not clear about who should own what work. Taking a moment to consider ownership of tasks can be very helpful. The third barrier is simply not taking the time to inventory your resources and fully leveraging them.

Solving the Problem

  1. Stop and take time to write down what resources are truly available to you. Think deeply, and take time to do this well. Build a plan to leverage all of your resources and execute the plan.
  2. Create a task ownership list. This should be a fact-based listing of who (peers, departments, leaders, vendors, etc.) should own what. Decide the best way to change your work volume by shifting the work to those who should own it.

Rinse and Repeat

Taking stock of your available resources and reviewing ownership accountability should be a seasonal or annual task. We get busy and we don’t take the time to re-think our work management process. Taking time to think this through will develop your leadership skills.

Good Leadership

Maximizing resources is a cornerstone skill for leadership. Developing these skills will give you a key business leadership tool that will separate you from the pack.

How are you doing at leveraging resources? Do you have a black and white view of task ownership?

David Reimer

villagesquarementoring.com

Appreciation

Appreciation 1.jpgOne of the top job satisfaction indicators is “appreciation”. Do you feel appreciated? How about the people above you and below you… do you express appreciation to them? As a leader you need to think about expressing appreciation and modelling appreciation. This action will have a significant impact on your teams morale and their willingness to go the extra mile.

Upward appreciation

It may seem counter culture to express appreciation to your leader but it is an effort well worth making. Often leaders can have a sense of isolation or distance between themselves and their teams. Leaders can also get fatigued from always looking out for and caring for their team members. When a team member expresses appreciation to their leader that can have a profound impact on the leaders thinking and support.

Appreciation is not pandering

Upward appreciation must be relevant and contextually true. If it’s not, then you are just trying to score points with your leader which is a waste of time. Good upward leadership appreciation statements might be:

  • Thanks for guidance on this project
  • I appreciated your insight on that issue
  • Your direction was helpful

Peer to peer appreciation

Peers are often the best source of support and suggestions. Cultivating strong peer relationships is critical for success. You never know who you may end up reporting to or who may end up reporting to you. Mutual appreciation always makes these inevitable transitions easier. So, you need to develop a habit of expressing and modeling appreciation for your peer’s support and guidance.

Downward appreciation

Appreciation 2Building strong teams and motivating your team members to go the extra mile is a core management skill and obligation. You can never express too much appreciation. Making it a habit to say “thank-you” for EVERYTHING is critical. The old school notion that the salary they earn is enough thanks is a joke. You should also enshrine the word “please” in your vocabulary. The best way to avoid having a sense of entitlement, and to make your team feel valuable, is the basic expression of please and thank-you. This is table steaks appreciation.

The next step is to find ways to express appreciation for specific attributes or unique contributions for each team member. I try and do this on a weekly basis. Your ability to think through and find creative ways to express appreciation will be directly proportionate to your success in building an ultra-loyal team.

Difficult team members

When faced with a sullen, negative, or lazy team member one of the first things to do is ramp up the appreciation effort. Trust me, this is really hard. But it is often all it takes to turn around the behaviour of a difficult team member. Of course, it won’t always work and that is when you need to pull out other management tools. But appreciation is your best and first way to engage staff.

Who do you appreciate? In what ways do you need to change how you express appreciation?

David Reimer

www.villagesquarementoring.com

Don’t Lie to Yourself

lie4.pngAre you as good as you think you are? Maybe you are better than you think you are! It is important that you have a practical and realistic view of your skills. This isn’t about being a buzz kill, but rather, knowing where you are will help you figure out how to get where you want to be. Overstating your skills can be a career limiter. However, knowing your capabilities and asking for a stretch position is highly appealing to executives. Lots to think about in these few points!

Reality

It is important that you have a firm grip on reality. Why? Because your leaders and their peers will have a pretty good understanding of that reality. You can only bluff your why for so long before it will blow up. You are far better off having a candid view of your true skill sets and any limitations. Knowing your reality will ensure that your personal credibility is high. Credibility is the foundation of your personal brand and therefore it is something to be carefully guarded and developed.

360-degree view

It is very helpful to have a 360-degree view of your strengths and weaknesses. A candid assessment of you by your peers, staff, and leaders is an invaluable view. Most companies have a human resources tool and process that will enable this information to be gathered. The insights gains will enable you to focus your skills development efforts.

The stretch position

Once you have a honest and frank understanding of your strengths and weaknesses you are able to define new skills that you want or need to develop. There is a lot of strength in going to your business leaders, providing them with a candid self-assessment, and a request for a stretch position so you can learn new skills. This is a way to gain upward visibility and separate yourself from the crowd.

The risk of the Lie

Those who consistently overstate their skills or abilities will eventually crash. Being “caught out” is embarrassing. However, the vast majority of the time management will just begin to side step the resource and limit their progress. An unspoken black mark will be placed on the resource who is not rooted in reality. You can’t afford this risk so be candid with yourself and others about your skills and capabilities.

Recovery

We have all seen very public crashes and recoveries. You can recover from just about anything if you build the right plan and take the right steps. The best way to recover in this instance is to simply begin to have a honest conversation with yourself and then others as appropriate. To have learned from a mistake often builds character and strength. Both of which are in high demand in business. It will simply be a matter of time. Worst case, a change in employers could give you a fresh start.

How honest are you about your skills? What are the areas of skill and capability that you are not honest about?

David Reimer

http://www.villagesquarementoring.com

Don’t Stop Learning

Learnging1I think this statement is applicable to all of us. Too often sharp up and coming managers develop a sense of “arrival”. They feel competent and entitled. They forget that learning is a lifelong process. Conversely, the best way for people who are nearing the last decade of their careers to stay relevant and valuable is to learn. A habit of learning will keep you engaged and give you an advantage in the competitive world we live in.

What to learn

There are three key areas of learning that need sustained focus.

  1. People management knowledge
  2. Technology knowledge
  3. Industry knowledge

While there are a number of other areas that warrant time investments, these three are non-negotiable. Read on.

People management

There is a significant difference in how to manage the generational variances in today’s work force. It is not a “one style fits all” world. The expectations and needs of millennials are very different then someone with traditional “old school” views. A manage, young or old, needs to understand and appreciate the differences. There is deep value to be gained from employee’s in the latter years. But you will need to take the time to meet them on their terms to find, release, and harness that value. Conversely, the dynamic thinking of the millennials is awesome as long as it can be applied in a practical and executable manner. Learn the generational people management skills. It will make you a formidable manager.

Technology knowledge

We live in a business environment where technology knowledge is a non-negotiable. I’m not talking about how to use desktop applications. Rather, all of us need to understand how to leverage IT solutions to enable and enhance business strategies. Too often there is a serious gap between the strategy of a business and the capability of IT. There are a number of core principles and policies that are critical to having a vibrant contributing IT organization. As a leader you need to understand them so you can champion, leverage, and lead IT into a full partnership with the business.

Industry Knowledge

The backdrop for industry knowledge is business knowledge. The mechanics of this is that you should be reading one, preferably two to three, business newsfeeds on a daily basis. Basic knowledge like trade agreement impacts, housing starts, banking performance, economic indicators such as GDP, etc. all create a basic knowledge of local and foreign economies. This backdrop is the right lens through which you should observe and consider your industry.

Why? Because no industry is an island both in terms of continental and global activity. Threats and opportunities arise from anywhere. A general industry knowledge framed by broad current business knowledge will enhance your world view and your management decisions. This is a competitive advantage for you.

What does the long game look like?

My Father has a keen understanding of the human condition. As a young man I asked him what my goals and focus should be. Here is what he said;

  • From your twenties into your mid to late thirty’s your primary goal is to learn
  • From your mid to late thirty’s until you early fifties your primary goal is to do while continuing to learn
  • From you early fifties until your early sixties your primary goal is to shift from doing to teaching while continuing to learn
  • From your sixties onward your primary goal is to teach while learning

I am in my mid-fifties and I have proven this model to be spot on. The fact that I have made learning a lifelong pursuit has enable me to be relevant and in demand in my fifties. A lot of my peers are now out of touch and floundering because they did not continue to learn. They felt like they had arrived and there was nothing more for them to learn. That was a critical error.

Are you committed to learning? If so, what did you learn this week? Last week? The month before?

Your personal brand will be dramatically enhanced if you commit to a life of learning!

David Reimer

http://www.villagesquarementoring.com

Good Groupthink

GroupthinkManaging and leveraging Groupthink is a lost or dying art.

When was the last time you were part of a Groupthink event? When was the last time you used Groupthink to build team cohesion and drive performance?

Everyone has been part of a Groupthink event – it is human nature. Just think about a sports event, a social group, a party at University, or a community event. Groupthink is intrinsic to human behaviour. It is also a powerful team leading and team building tool.

Groupthink

Typically, the word is used as a complaint for negative situations, but positive cases might include a group atmosphere of high morale or confidence, like a workgroup that really believes in the quality of their project or product.

As business leaders we should seek to foster positive Groupthink behaviour. How?

Positive Groupthink

It begins with developing team diversity. Diversity in thinking and therefore perspectives. An inclusive diverse team can be scary good! By encouraging cross thinking and openness to new concepts you enable a team to feel empowered. This sense of empowerment to achieve the named task or goals is a key element.

The group starts with the individual

You have to ensure that each team player feels valued by you as their leader. They need to have their ideas heard and their contributions valued. Managing the value of the individual is key to positive Groupthink. Others will observe that the individual is valued and they will develop a sense of loyalty to each other under the leadership structure. A positive individual perspective is a surprising key to group strength and confidence.

Time

Investing time in your team’s development will typically yield great results. A team that is knit together will begin to feel stronger together. A Monday morning Smurf Gun war, a silly department Mascot, or a call to battle with a “competing” department are all team building events that take limited time but yield stronger teams.

Attitude

As the team leader you have to have fierce loyalty to your team. That doesn’t mean hard decisions can’t or shouldn’t be made. If they are for the right reasons the team will see that and support you. Your attitude as a leader will shape the team.

An example

I had a team that was fractured. It had the normal mix of hot shots, hard workers, socially outgoing, and socially shunned. I spent time getting to know each of them and earning their trust. Then I began asking them what they would do if they were me. To my delight, the most shy and least accepted team member had been thinking deeply about our processes and work outcomes. He had great insights that shaped the business performance. And the other team members recognized his good contribution. They became a strong unified team working independent of close supervision. A win for everyone.

How about you? When have you experienced positive Groupthink? What ideas do you have for building good Groupthink?

David Reimer

http://www.villagesquarementoring.com

The Power of Imitation

ImitationThey say that imitation is the best form of flattery. Not all the time!

Who are you imitating? And you are imitating someone, consciously or not. Sometimes more importantly, who is imitating you? Imitation is a wonderful way to learn. Watching someone’s behaviour, language, style, and faults all provide a rich understanding of what works and what does not work. Senior executives are often reading and learning from other leaders. Why? They recognize that leadership is a learned behaviour. They know that they can change their style or language or behaviour. Imitation is one of the best ways to learn.

What it is and how to look at it

Imitation is an automatic behaviour that we unconsciously engage in, whether we like it or not. Imitation becomes an advanced behavior when an individual consciously observes and learns what to replicate and what to not replicate in another’s behavior.

It is critical that you understand that imitation cuts both ways; what to learn and what not to learn. I firmly believe that the majority of the time we observe how not to do something. Therefore, you should be sensitive to what you are imitating – good or bad behaviour. You should be consciously assessing who and what you are imitating. This is a learned skill just like leadership.

Who to imitate

Find peers, leaders, and executives who you believe are worthy of imitating. Learn from their behaviour and try to replicate their positive business skills and character qualities. The goal is to develop your leadership skills so this should be the context of your activity.

Look outside

Another key element of imitation for learning is to find people outside your organization who represent a strong learning value for you. This is typically found in reading articles, books, and business sections of the newspaper. Another good source is vendor and customer relationships. External influence is critical in creating a well-rounded leader. Developing as a leader within a single organization is helpful but can be constraining to your thinking.

Your style

Imitation does not mean that you have to surrender your own personal style – unless your style is juvenile and needs to be improved. Imitation, in a business context, is about learning approaches, language, and specific business skills all of which will improve your thinking and understanding of business situations. However, you still need to be true to your personality strengths and retain your identity.

Try before you buy

Once you have identified a skill in another person try it on for size. Use that skill in the next meeting, modify it until it works and fits for you. The benefits of conscious imitation are that you can play with skills and figure out how to make them your own. This is an important point as this is how you retain your sense of genuine presence and therefore credibility.

Who do you imitate? What have you learned from this process?

David Reimer

www.villagesquarementoring.com

Do you see the big picture?

big pictureAs you progress through your career you should begin to gain a broader and deeper perspective on the business attributes. It is important for you to look for, and understand, this broader and deeper perspective. This will help you have the right context for making and understanding decisions. Further, it will enable you to demonstrate leadership maturity. This will benefit you in your career growth.

I don’t see it!

Sometimes we observe leadership behaviour or decisions and they just don’t make sense. There are a few sets of behaviour and decision drivers;

  • External information or forces at play – the stuff that is outside the company. This could be a long term set up for merger or acquisition activity. It could be a planned response to competitive activity. It could also be bringing outside talent to influence the internal dynamics.
  • Cross division or departmental information or forces at play – this is typically managing resource allocations, moving staff for development purposes, setting for an internal structural change, responding to market forces by positioning for offense or defense.
  • Staff resource development – this is where you want to be as this action focused on grooming future leaders. Sometimes decisions regarding promotions that you observe, only make sense when viewed from this context.

Mind games

Once I learned the importance of seeing the big picture I started to play mind games. I would observe decisions made by executives and try to think through what would be good root causes to support those decisions. This mental exercise did two things for me; I developed my root cause thinking capability and I began to see a much broader and deeper picture of the business. These learnings became key attributes in my business success. Plus, they enabled me to earn quicker promotions. Further, over time, I became a capable contributor in the boardroom. I was on the same page as the executives which made me valuable.

Strategic thinking

The root of strategic thinking is to first see a broad and deep corporate picture. The second part is understanding what you are seeing. I will often go to a colleague or leader and ask questions like “What does this perspective of the business mean?” Or “I see this executive decision and I don’t understand why they did that, can you explain it to me?” This questioning mind lead me to be in conversations that were often above my pay grade. I became known for having an inquiring mind which is not a bad thing.

The alternative

Those who don’t see the big picture typically fall into a few categories;

  1. People who are content with their role and understand the value of their daily contribution.
  2. People who are discontented but aren’t up for the effort to change. This group is typically the first to complain and sow discontent.
  3. Those who just need to be cookie crumbed into seeing the broader and deeper view.

As leaders, or potential leaders, we need to understand the different behaviours related to the larger view.

Getting on with it

I would encourage you to develop the habit of asking questions that will help reveal the bigger picture. Questions that will help you understand the attributes of the bigger picture. Questions that reveal motivations for decisions. This will all help you create an informed view.

What questions do you have? What picture do you see?

David Reimer

www.villagesquarementoring.com