Authority

AuthorityThis is a tough topic to address. We live in an age where the rights of the individual top the interests of a group. However, in a business context it is critical that we understand authority; it’s role, it’s use, and it’s consequences. Without authority a business cannot succeed. The issues is not one of “if there must be authority” but rather “how there should be authority”.

It’s a contract

Once an individual agrees to receive compensation in the form of a pay cheque there is a contract formed. You agree to fulfil the obligations of your job description in return for that compensation. By virtue of this contract you are working under some authority. That is the nature of a contract. Granted, the contract holder, the employer also has obligations as governed by law and business precedence.

The point is that, like it or not, you are under contractual authority. But let’s move on.

How to use authority

Rarely is the short answer! The use of authority should be an act of last resort. But when you have to use authority it should be used with quiet confidence and respect. Implied use of authority is a great way to exercise authority. An example of this would be “I need you to do XYZ because it is key to ABC objective. Can you please start work on that now? Thanks.” The tone of voice is critical. It must not be demanding. Rather, it should be conversational. A hard use of authority would be something like this. “Stop what you are doing and do XYZ.”

When to use your authority

As a leader you are obligated to manage your human, financial, and hard assets to achieve the objectives within your scope of responsibilities. You must discharge this responsibility seriously. Often this means that you have to manage problem staff or problem peers.

A staff example: There are a clear set of HR processes for managing and documenting the misbehaviour of staff. Understand the processes and adhere to them. Use your authority as required. You cannot allow ongoing poor contributions from a staff member. An old adage is “good news long and slow, bad news fast and furious”. Once you have exhausted fair efforts to change staff behaviour you need to shift into action mode with decisive decisions.

For problem peers I typically work on a three step process.

  1. I work to explain the challenge to ensure that we are on the same page regarding the challenge.
  2. If nothing changes I restate and highlight the business impacts and advise that the business cannot continue to realize the impact(s).
  3. I escalate to upper management. I can now demonstrate that a reasonable effort to work together was made and that I have exhausted my efforts to correct the problem.

Alternatives to using authority

Good leaders don’t use their authority unless they have to. The best leadership tools are things like;

  • Demonstrating value and appreciation for staff contribution
  • Making the work space respectful and fun
  • Enabling work diversity when and where possible to develop skills
  • Allow a sense of individuality in work styles
  • Enabling a “token” reward system for departments
  • Championing for fair compensation
  • Create and champion an inclusive and fair work environment

This doesn’t sound like using authority does it?  These tools create an environment where staff feel respected and appreciated. This will translate into a willingness to work with a sense of engagement. This may seem counter intuitive but this is the best context for building a self-motivated team. Self-motivation is the best alternative to the use of authority.

Typical “fails” in using authority

There are a number of typical mistakes that new leaders make when exercising authority. This includes confusing earned respect from demanded respect. Not understanding positional authority versus personal reputation based authority. You can get the same or better results when you ask, versus tell, when assigning tasks to someone. Dropping common courtesy should never be an option; please and thank-you should be mandatory for leaders. Another common error is assuming that having a title makes you better then staff – it doesn’t.

Rare special use of authority

There are rare occasions when you need to use your authority like a hot knife through butter. Good managers need to learn to not shy away from these “champion” events.

  • Stopping the corporate bully. Don’t let this happen, ever.
  • Allowing the quiet or shy to have a voice.
  • Defending your staff from senior management when the staff are in the right in a “punishable” event.
  • Demanding respect from clients in how they treat your staff.
  • Defending your staff from senior managements excessive use of authority

The authority conundrum

You often have it but can’t or shouldn’t use it. Or, when you need it you don’t have it! The bottom line is that good management skills are you best set of tools enabling you to reserve the use of authority as a line of last action.

How do you use authority? What are some good and bad examples of authority use that you can think of?

David Reimer

www.villagesquarementoring.com

Authority.png

Afraid to make “that” phone call? Part2

images7336J7M7In part one of this blog we discussed;

Why this topic? The value of good business language skills. Business versus personal communication. And when should you use the phone.

It would worth your time to review that blog first so you have context for the following comments.

The role of e-mail

E-mail is critical to the life blood of business communication. However, it should not replace a phone call when it is required. All too often emails are poorly written with grammatical and spelling errors. The short forms of text messaging have also found a place in e-mails. The result is that inexperience and immaturity can be clearly visible in e-mails.

The role of text and instant messaging

If your goal is career advancement by developing business acumen, then texting should be considered your most relationally familiar and casual form of communication. It’s not always appropriate, whether you think so or not. Text messaging via IM, Jabber, or Lync can have a limited role upward within a business. It may be helpful organizing dinner details on a business trip. Why? Because it is largely the domain of personal lives. It may not harm your career to be a strong user of text messaging, but it also does not have the “presence” of leadership.

The phone: Relationships and networking

Voice to voice or face to face are the right tools to build, and expand, new business relationships. Text and e-mail are great relationship maintenance tools. Success in business includes building an ever widening circle of relationships. By honing phone and face to face communication skills you will be more successful.

Old school  tips for using the phone

  • Smile when on the phone, it makes a difference in the tone of your voice.
  • Stand up when you want to be more formal – it helps with your “presence” on the call.
  • Don’t walk around. Today’s audio quality will reflect that movement and it then sounds like you are not paying attention.
  • Write call guidance or objective notes before you dial so you stay on message.
  • Take notes, even ask for a moment to do so as it makes the other person feel valued and listened too.
  • The biggest one is to “be in the moment”. Don’t multitask. It’s transparent to listeners.

The role of voice mail

Voicemail, in a business context, is really important. What you say, how you say it, and what you don’t say, are all important. All too often we get caught off guard by the voicemail prompt. Plan for the prompt and have planned voicemail script. Mine is;

  • State my name and the time of my call
  • State my reason for the call (the first part of the message)
  • State my call to action (what I need them to do)
  • State my phone number, and then repeat my phone number
  • I do all of the above in a moderate to slow speaking pace to ensure the listener can hear and comprehend me

The learned script ensures that I sound professional, accommodates listener audio quality challenges, and assists them in capturing my number.

I have been told to never leave a voice message as that is old school. Rather I should hang up and text the person.   I disagree with that. A few thoughts on this. One: I use voice to text to have my voice mail messages come to me in text format. This solves the inconvenience issue. Two: When I leave a voice message I want the receipting person to hear my voice, the tone, inflection, and other indicators.

The voice capabilities of your phone are a wonderful tool. Use it well and often as it will pay dividends in your business relationships.

What are your favourite phone use tips?  What do you think about text versus e-mail versus the phone?

David Reimer

www.villagesquarementoring.com

Afraid to make “that” phone call? Part 1

Afriad phone call

Everyone has a smartphone. We e-mail, text, and use a ton of applications on them. We even use them for personal phone calls. But how often do you make a business phone call? Here is a statement of fact: You will limit your upward advancement if you do not master the art of a live phone call. Here are a few observations for you;

 

  • The majority of business people under 40 tend to make a limited number of business phone calls
  • The majority of business people under 30 are often outright fearful of making a business phone call
  • The basic skills of a business phone call are being lost
  • If you learn to make effective business phone calls you will have a competitive advantage
  • E-mail is NOT an effective substitute for a business phone call when the call is required

Why this topic?

A well-rounded tool kit of basic business skills, necessary to develop business acumen, must include the appropriate and comfortable use of the phone. Effective communication requires the right tool at the right time. The value of hearing the tone of a voice, the cadence of the words, and the placement of silence are all cues to what the speaker is thinking and feeling. You cannot capture this in an e-mail or text. Good phone skills are also foundational to developing good presentation skills, table stakes for the boardroom.

The value of good business language skills

  • It will separate you from the pack
  • Executives will see value in your meeting presence
  • It will enable you to communicate what you mean
  • It will give you messaging opportunities;
    • Presentations
    • Meeting or project leadership
    • Crafting communication
  • It will improve your clarity of thinking

This would be of immense value to your career aspirations. Executives place high value on clear and concise communication. They look for these attributes in team members.

Business versus personal communication

There is blurring of business and personal lives.  This is new since the early 2000’s and is mostly good.  However, there is a time and place for business communication to be business. All too often I hear people start a conversation with an informal “how are you” and head into a personal story about their weekend or lives. While this is not all bad, a lengthy call introduction with a personal story is not a good behaviour. The majority of people use personal stories as a buffer against their nervousness. Given this high risk to adjust for nervousness by telling a story you are better off to simply avoid it all together. Peer to peer conversations can differ in formality from peer to manager or executive.

Business communication should look something like this;

  • A layer of respect and formality appropriate to the business structure
  • Mainly focused on business conversations versus personal life conversations
  • Generally, have an objective or goal in mind
  • Appropriate use of the English language
  • Provide clarity of purpose / issue / goal in succinct terms
  • Should have limited to no ambiguity

You should use the phone when;

  • You need to build a relationship, particularly a new one
  • You are managing a crisis
  • You are delivering hard news
  • You need to apologize
  • You need an extra effort from a staff member
  • You feel like you want to hide behind email
  • You need to hold someone accountable

While there are a number of key uses for the phone, this short list will give a sense of when and why to use the phone.

In Part 2 of this topic I will talk about;

The role of e-mail and text. The phone’s role in relationships and networking. Lastly, old school phone skills and the role of voice mail.

How do you feel about your phone skills? What are your observations about your peer groups phone skills?

David Reimer

www.villagesquarementoring.com

Succession Planning – Are you ready?

Succession PlanningMost people think this only applies to executives and owners.  Not true.  Good managers should have a succession plan for themselves.  They should also work to be part of their leader’s succession plan. The mechanics of succession planning is based on the fact that you need time, often more than a year, to groom a successor.  Let’s break the mechanics down.

The “season” challenge

The successor does not have to be like you; they only have to be capable of doing the job. Sometimes they should not be like you. Business or departmental growth often benefits from seasons of leadership style or capability change. What is difficult about this is for you to find, train, and support someone who is different then you.  If you pull back and think about the big picture and consider the notion of seasons of leadership change it will help. Seasons of change;

  • Drive improvements in new areas
  • Broaden the mix of thinking
  • See barriers to success in a new light
  • Bring balance to departmental or corporate culture

Document the skills required

First you need to identify the role specific skills required.  Then you need to identify the life skills required.  (check out: http://bit.ly/1pvx7N2 for a blog on this) This will help clarify your succession plans.  Further this document will help you bench mark potential candidates and define training needs.

Identify the candidate

Now it’s time to review your team and identify a candidate or two.  It is always amazing to me how my perspective changes about team members when I begin to look at them as potential candidates.  Once again, as I think about seasons of leadership, sometimes difficult or different staff become interesting prospects. At this stage you now need to work on developing the successor.  This means loosening your firm grip on the reins of authority.  Delegation will allow you to see how they manage authority and leadership.  Overtime, you should have a trusted lieutenant by your side.  If not, the process of succession planning is broken.

Are you the problem?

The lack of succession planning always lies with the person in charge.  Most problems are;

  • You won’t delegate, or don’t know how to delegate
  • You don’t trust your team
  • You think sharing success diminishes your value to your leaders
  • You have not hired good staff who can grow into your role

If this is you, then you need to sort out these issues.  Start now so you can change your behaviour and enable yourself to build a successor.

What about your promotion?

You should strive to make yourself easily replaceable in your current role.  Why? So you can be readily promoted.  If you do not have a successor you are;

  • Likely hard to replace and therefore not easily promotable
  • May be viewed as “not a team player”
  • May be viewed as “not a good at delegating”
  • May be viewed as a “glory” hog

You should think deeply about what executive skills look like.  Then figure out how to model them.  Good executives are awesome delegators and strong team players. Good executives share success.  Good executives require their managers to have succession plans.  This ensures that the bench of managers have backups.

What do you think about succession planning?  Should you start this work now?  Do you have good replacements for you in your team?

David Reimer

What do your messages really say?

imagesW08JHL0CDo you really send the messages that you think you are sending? How often do you re-read an email or text before you send it?  You might be surprised at what you think you are messaging versus what you are really messaging.  Your perception may not match reality.  Messaging is a critical business tool that you cannot afford to ignore.

Good messaging is also a key peer differentiator. Read on…

  • Make it crisp
  • Value dumps
  • Vision messaging
  • What you think doesn’t matter
  • Start with message validation

Make it crisp

Too many corporate communications have long and wordy sentences.  Further, paragraphs are too long.  You can find good on-line guidance on this. The short version is this; be harsh with yourself on the word count in sentences.  Cut the flowery rhetoric and get to the point.  Use bullet points more often as a tool to cut paragraph sentence length. Senior executives are time constrained and therefore you will gain favourable attention if you can provide succinct and direct messaging.

Value dumps

A common messaging error is dumping too much value into a message.  The receiver simply can’t absorb it all.  This is common in presentations, particularly external ones.  For example: If you have 20 value statements and you only need the top 7 to win the next step in the relationship then stop at 7.  This way you will have another 13 value statements to delight the client as you continue developing a relationship.  Otherwise, if you state it all up front, you will have less to say in the subsequent meetings.  Further, absorbing all 20 value statements is a difficult task for listener.

Vision messaging

Leaders need to build vision statements that create an image of a possible future.  This is a critical messaging tool for executives through to department managers.  This skill is all about creating word pictures that allow you to figuratively stake a flag on a direction or goal.  Then you need to get behind your teams and help them get there.  Honing this skill will likely allow you to stand out from your peers.

What you think doesn’t matter

All of your communication should be written with consideration to your audience.  What is their role? What is their subject comprehension level? What is their bias on the topics? What is their age and experience?  All of these and numerous other factors should be considered when you write your message.  Reading a finished message from the perspective of the audience is a fundamental tool to good messaging. This is a learned skill.

Start with message validation

A great way to improve your messaging skills is to use validation.  Find peers, senior managers, staff, partners that you can use as a sounding board.  Create your message and then run it by them.  The goal is for you to see your messages from the perspective of peoples view. Take a look at the Getting and Giving Advice blog for guidance on this.

How are your messages?  What can you do to improve your messaging?  What are your messaging blind sides?

David Reimer

Crisis management – are you good at it?

untitledIt is surprising to see leaders react strongly to daily challenges. Often this reaction drifts into low grade crisis mode. This can also be perceived by staff as increased stress and sometimes, low grade panic. Why do leaders expect an easy ride? We are paid, as leaders, to deal with challenges and problems – it’s our job! If problems and challenges did not exist we would not be required. Reading on.

 

  • Control you emotions
  • Have a pressure relief valve
  • Let your staff vent
  • Be calm, get promoted

Control your emotions

A key management role is to deal with problems while presenting a calming influence on the business. It is the job of management to expect problems and crisis to arise. When you are faced with a crisis how do your staff and fellow leaders perceive your emotional response? Are you calm and controlled or flying off the handle? As leaders we cannot afford the luxury of venting. Our job is to provide an umbrella of emotional stability to our staff and the business.

Have a pressure relief valve!

However managers are not robots. There is a need to have a safe place to blow off steam. This is a good tool that allows us to provide calm leadership to our teams. When I was a new leader I worked for a VP that gave me some great advice. He said “you can come into my office and throw up on my desk, but I expect you to present a confident and calm face to the business”. He was my pressure relief value. You will need that safe place to vent.

Let your staff vent

Too many organizations judge harshly when staff vent. If it’s in public and damaging then it’s inappropriate behaviour. However, we are all human and you should allow your staff a safe place to vent. That’s your office or some other private place. Do you allow your team members to use you as a pressure relief value? Or do you demand that they contain the stress to the point where it blows? And it will blow, either at work or at home. Neither is appropriate. As a manager you need to help your staff manage stress.

Be calm, get promoted!

An employee who demonstrates good crisis management, calmness in the storm, and clear decision making with a rational thought process, is highly valuable. They are promotable. How are you perceived by your leader, your peers, and your staff in the middle of a storm? It is important for you to develop calmness and quiet leadership in a crisis. This is part of what makes a good leader.

How do you behave in a crisis? Are you the “go to” person or are you part of the crisis hype?

David Reimer

 

Being second is pretty good!

influencer_badge1We all strive to be the leader, the big kahuna, the king of the castle, the person in charge. That’s OK. I’ve been there and that’s a pretty good place to be. But most of us will spend more time being the key influencer to the person in charge. Now that is an interesting role to have. Key influencers often have an incredible amount of power through influence that is not associated with their titled role.  Further, being a key influencer is the best training ground for leaders.

You’re indispensable

A good key influencer, the person behind the leader, is often a remarkably demanding and critical role.  Good leaders will cultivate key support teams. Leaders often hesitate to make decisions without first hearing the suggestions and perspectives of an influencer. A respected influencer can also raise new issues with credibility. Some of the most rewarding roles are key influencer positions. It is a role with a lot of informal political and business power. They are indispensable to leaders.

Second is often best

When you really think through the role of an influencer you will come to the conclusion that it is a pretty good role to have. Influencers can be considered the heir apparent.  They generally have insider information and knowledge about pending decisions. A discerning influencer is a sought after internal resource. There is merit to spending a lot of time in the influencer role. Influencers don’t have the same optics and performance demands that leaders have. Being second fiddle is a pretty good place to be.

Hone your skills

The influencer role is the perfect stepping stone to executive leadership roles. If you can find an influencer role grab it. From that position you will observe executives in action. This affords you the learning opportunity of seeing how to lead and how not to lead up close and personal. You will see the subtleties of corporate management and the related legal activity. People talent management and a host of other HR related skills we be front and centre in the discussions. An influencer role is a great place to hone your leadership skills.

Who is an influencer?

The attributes of a good influencer are;

  • Good communication skills – written, verbal, and presentation
  • Think at the 50,000 foot level and to think strategically – those are different skills
  • Understand financial information
  • Be trustworthy and loyal
  • Understand the business and the industry
  • Be unafraid to speak the truth – tell it like it is
  • Being flexible

This list could go on but these are the highlights.

 

Go get it, or make it

You will not see the influencer role advertised. Every company should have one and leaders need them. If you can’t identify the influencers in your business then they are very good at their jobs or there isn’t someone currently filling this role. You can target the role if it exists by beginning to model the role and working toward becoming the support person to the influencer. It the role does not exist then you should align yourself to someone who has a strong upward mobility and become their key influencer. That way you learn the role and you may in fact follow on their coattails.

Does being an influencer appeal to you?  Why?

David Reimer

Death by meetings, or not!

meetings_graphic317How many times have you gone to a meeting only to find it unfocused and unproductive? You look around the table and most people are absorbed in their laptop or phone. Or they just have a vacant unengaged look on their face. This is death by meetings. Likely the highest wasted labour cost for smart workers today. Yet somehow we get sucked into the deadly meeting syndrome.

Meetings 101

Save yourself from meeting death! Ask for an agenda from the meeting organizer. If that’s you, don’t ever issue a meeting invite without an agenda. Your meeting outcomes will improve as long as you keep the attendees focused on the agenda. Ask yourself “why am I here”, what is my role or contribution? If you or the meeting organizer can’t come up with a good reason then take a pass on the meeting. Request that the meeting organizer stick to the planned agenda and timeframe.

Meeting strategies

Careers can be made or lost in a meeting. Good meeting contributions are often lost due to lack of time to think through the agenda and your personal contribution. Take 5 minutes before every meeting to review the agenda and think about your contribution. What is the most important issue? What is the single most important thing you can say?  What is the best thing for you not to say? How can you demonstrate thought leadership? How can you best contribute to the meetings success? If you can think these items through ahead of time then you will have a marked advantage over the rest of the meeting attendees.

The alternatives

We all have rich collaborative tools available today. Do you know what they are?  If not, then find out. Do you know how to use them? If not, find a training tool and dig in. Get your team together and discuss the value of meetings and brainstorm alternatives. If you save yourself and your team from one or two meetings it will be worth it. Create meeting rules for your group. Get a meeting hog Lonnie jar. Make it fun to put a spot light on meeting misbehaviour so you can change it without putting someone down. Do whatever it takes to save yourself and others from meeting death.

Sadly, it happens

There are a few well known technology companies that run on meetings like a drug addict dependent on the next fix. Employees will confess that they spend most of their time in meetings and not really delivering much of value. Some stay and let atrophy set in. Others bail on a good income but zero job satisfaction to find something less soul killing. Often it only takes a few people to change the meeting addiction culture into one of truly worthwhile staff gatherings.

The last word

Meetings have a role to play and are often critical to success. But they need to be well planned, kept to an agenda, held to a start / stop time, and be focused on deliverables not chit chat.  Beware the standing meeting – be willing to review the purpose and process of the meeting to ensure that it is fresh, relevant, and focused on what is worthwhile.

Are you a meeting junky or a meeting expert?

David Reimer

Your target role now!

k22798699I am amazed at the number of people who wait to get promoted. A long time ago I was mentored in a key skill that was critical to my career growth.  “BE” you target role now.  This means assessing your target role and deeply thinking through how a person in that role behaves and thinks.

How to deeply think about the role

What are the accountabilities for that role?  What are the types of goals?  What are the reporting processes?  What are the language styles and expectations? What are the major role challenges? What are people in that role doing really well?  How does the peer group at the role level interact? There is a lot to think about and process or internalize.  Don’t rush this step.

What’s your take on it?

The next step is applying the role to you. If you had that role, what would you do differently? How can you map your current work to the goals and priorities of that role? What would you have to change about your work habits to be in that role? What skills would you need to brush up on or learn to be in that role? Do you really understand the accountabilities of that role?

Putting it together

The two foregoing paragraphs should give you lots to think about and work through. Sorting out your thoughts into actions / plans / training / changes will give you exactly what you need to start “being” your target role.  This process will change your thinking which should change your behaviour which should change how you are perceived.  The goal is to act and think like your target role.

How you win!

Your manager, or their peers, should begin to notice a change in you which will differentiate you from your peers.  That’s called rising to the top above your peers which will give you a promotion advantage.  I have always asked my team leader, manager, executive the following questions;

  1. What are your key performance objectives?
  2. How can I help you achieve them in my current role?
  3. How does my work effort align to the corporate objectives?
  4. What can I do to have a larger role in the key objectives of our team?

These are very different questions than the typical following questions;

  1. What do I need to do to get a promotion?
  2. What do I need to do to get a raise?
  3. I feel ready for more responsibility.

The first set of questions are the kind that will get you upward bound.  The second set of questions make you sound just like everyone else.  Choose to be different!

What do you think about this concept?  How can you begin to “be” your target role?

David Reimer

When “good enough” is OK!

good-enough-is-perfect

There appears to be a constant striving for perfection. The drive to take every project all the way to a vision or goal of perfect.  Why? Why spend all that time and effort to achieve the perfect result when good enough is in fact enough. In reality, the majority of high achievers know what effort is enough to achieve the right return, then they move on to the next task.

Are you getting diminishing returns on your work?

The right rate of return for your work is when the work effort yields a “good enough” result. Think of it this way; the last 10 – 20% of your effort costs more than the return on that effort.  Therefore you are now in the area of diminishing returns.  Conversely, 80 – 90% achievement provides an equitable return on your efforts.

You can do more for less!

Therefore, if you take all your work tasks or projects and develop “good enough” plans versus perfect plans you will likely be more productive.  You will have more time for your work load.  As you further consider the “good enough” concept you quickly come to the conclusion that you can rank all your work effort or projects by “return priorities”.

What is your work effort rate of return?

A key leadership thought process is “what is the financial rate of return” on any given effort.  The rate of return can be applied to all of your activities.  What is my rate of return on the time I take to chat around the coffee machine? What is my rate of return working out “the perfect” presentation by fiddling with numerous minor images or details? When you observe your staff, what rate of return are they providing you based on the myriad of decisions that they make every day?  A rate of return view of decision making will drive an outcome that is “good enough” based. Beware – a strict rate of return view will suck out the humanity of work and leadership.

Making it work

You need to determine what portion of your work, or your teams work, is high priority versus medium to low tasks.  Focus your energy on the key project.  But don’t get consumed with perfect.  Do a great job but don’t strive for perfection.  Take the time you have saved by avoiding “perfection” and apply it to lower priority tasks.

Caution sign ahead

As a leader you need to balance the principle of “good enough” against the host of other management tools.  As an example: on occasion I have had to take a developing staff member through the process of developing excellence in their work.  In that case I would request a higher deliverable level as a learning process so I would not use the “good enough” concept. So ponder the concept of “good enough” and put it into your leadership tool mix.

Does the “good enough” concept make sense to you?

David Reimer