Love, Part 3: “This isn’t for you”

I’ve written about Pat Lencioni’s books before.  Really good stuff.  Weighted heavily towards the so-called soft stuff.  The same stuff, I believe, that creates separation from the pack and great companies.  I bring him up because the last two posts about “love” in the workplace or “love” as a leader remind me of a story he tells.  I think its a good illustration of what I tried to convey in Part 2

Pat’s POV — January 2014
When Meg Whitman Loved Me

No, this is not a tabloid headline. It’s a true story, and not a steamy one.

It was more than twenty years ago, long before Meg Whitman became the CEO of Hewlett–Packard, or candidate for governor of California, or CEO of eBay. I was just out of college in my first job as a research analyst for the management consulting firm, Bain & Company, and she was the lead partner on one of the projects I was working on, which made her something of my boss.
As a senior in college, I had decided that management consulting sounded really interesting. Management had always fascinated me, and being a consultant seemed like a wonderful way to help people. It was a perfect fit. So I applied for one of the most coveted jobs available to me and my classmates, and somehow was hired.

After about eighteen months on the job, Meg invited me to her office for a meeting. She said something pretty close to this: “Pat, I think you’d be a really good partner some day, but I don’t think you’re a great analyst.” Meg wasn’t one for fluffy conversation or saying things she didn’t mean. I knew that she was being sincere about both of her comments, and while I was simultaneously flattered and wounded, I was a lot more wounded. But I had to confront the fact that in the competitive world of big consulting firms, I was not on the fast track, and needed to find a new track.

Looking back and understanding my Myers–Briggs and DiSC profiles, I can see that I was never cut out to be a research analyst (I’m an ENFP and a high I and high D). My attraction to management consulting had to do with the work that partners did, but the only way to rise to that level in a big firm was to be better at quantitative analysis and number crunching than my peers. Meg made clear what I already knew, even if I didn’t want to admit it: I wasn’t ever going to love or be good at that kind of work.

I won’t say that I took the news easily. I certainly didn’t stand up and hug Meg (I don’t remember her being a big hugger). I probably agreed with her assessment a little sheepishly, and slinked back to my cube to begin pondering the future of my career (which would eventually take a new turn that has been a great blessing in my life). As I look back at that moment today, I realize it may have been the kindest thing anyone did for me in my career.

Let me be clear. I’m sure that Meg didn’t particularly enjoy having that conversation with me. But she did it anyway. She was gracious enough, direct, and most important of all, honest. And that’s a form of love. Love is not an emotion; it is a verb. What Meg did is take responsibility for helping me, regardless of whether she felt like it or how it would make me feel about her.

More leaders need to understand the power of honest feedback, because they would better serve their organizations and the people who work there. Keeping people in jobs or situations that are not suited to them is almost never an act of kindness, even when intentions are good. In most cases, it only prolongs suffering and prevents the pursuit of a better life. That’s not an argument for abruptly dismissing people who need to move on, but rather an invitation to have difficult conversations that give them clarity early and help them begin to take responsibility for their own success.

Ultimately, kind but direct feedback reduces the number of painful and expensive surprises that too often result in lawsuits for companies and personal scars for employees. If this seems like a simple message, that’s because it is. Unfortunately, this kind of love is all too rare.

So here’s to loving our people enough not just to hug them, but to tell them the kind truth. And here’s to Meg (I promise not to hug you).

Yours,
Pat Lencioni

You can read/follow Pat on his website here: https://www.tablegroup.com/pat/povs/

Love, Part 2: Wuv, Twooo Wuv

princess bride marriage love

In my last post, I talked about how important it is for leaders to not allow a void of communication to be created.  I want to drill down a bit on this with what and how we fill that void. I certainly didn’t intend to say in part 1 that we should only praise or shower people with love. What I believe is that we, as leaders, need to communicate honestly, clearly, directly, and … kindly. Depending on the employee’s performance, those conversations can be threatening, rewarding, or stabilizing.

“Tough Love” is really a misnomer.

If you really care about the individual as a person and you see him/her as a human being with hopes, dreams, fears, and responsibilities every bit as important as your own, you see beyond the job or task they may be failing at.  You see them and their happiness.  Nobody is going to thrive, over time, if they’re in a job that’s a poor fit with their strengths, values, and/or desires.

Here’s a real-life example (some details have been ‘vagued’ out to protect the innocent) …

“It’s evident to me that you’re unhappy here.  I say that because I’ve observed that in your demeanor but I also have some new concerns about the work you’re doing (Here’s what I’ve observed: X, Y, and Z).  Job satisfaction and job performance are usually pretty connected so I’m not surprised to see things that concern me on both fronts at the same time.  Life’s too short to spend most of your waking hours doing something you’re unhappy about or find unfulfilling.  If this is something you really want to do, then I will do everything within my power to help you be successful at it.  What are your thoughts?

[Whoa.  Do I answer him honestly?  He's not attacking me, but he's also forcing me to deal with the issues that I've been trying to avoid.  Do I answer him honestly?]  

I think the answer to that question, Do I answer him honestly?, depends a lot on your intent as a leader.  If your intent is to “performance manage out” this problem child, that will come across.  You may not think so, but sincerity is something that is really hard to fake.  If someone is being genuine with us we can generally tell, can’t we?  It’s a feeling we get.  Let’s continue with the feedback conversation:

In order for you to really be successful here, though, I’ve got to see the following changes (1, 2, 3).  Here’s the thing, I want two things.  I want you to be happy and I want you to be happy here.  And, because that’s what I want, I’ll do everything I can to help you be successful.  I’ll be more clear about my expectations.  I’ll follow up with you about your progress and I’ll listen to your concerns.  I won’t hold back my opinions.  IF, however, you disagree with my concerns and counsel and therefore disregard it, I can pretty much guarantee we’ll be having a difficult discussion like this again very soon.

The choice is completely yours.

To me, that conversation shows true love (twooo wuv as he says in Princess Bride).  We’re deceiving ourselves when we avoid the honest and direct conversations with employees.  We’re not being more kind.  We’re not doing them any favors.  We’re actually doing more harm than good.

The longer you wait, the harder the conversation becomes.

Don’t wait.  If you make it a common practice to give direct, corrective feedback as close to the issue as you can, you bring clarity to your team and you avoid mole hills turning into mountains.  Show the love.  Don’t wait.  Tweasure your wuv.

Love, Part 1: “Have I told you lately that I love you?”

 

 

Who knew that Rod Stewart was such a management guru?  He doesn’t look like one.  But let’s judge the man by his words not his appearance, huh?

Rod_Stewart_and_Ron_Wood_-_Faces_-_1975

 

“Have I told you lately that I love you?”

And with that simple question, Rod does more good in the world of “performance management” consulting than most consultants ever could.

Have you ever wondered what you’re boss was thinking about you and/or your performance?  I have.  I’ll get to that in a second.  I was speaking with a colleague the other day whose performance over the course of the last 24 months has been staggering.  As a new leader in the industry he has assembled a team, collaboratively defined its vision, elevated care and customer service, and has achieved fantastic financial, clinical, compliance, and regulatory results.  Can I paint a more successful picture?

And yet, after another record breaking month of results were posted, he was concerned that his boss wasn’t happy with him.  Why?  Because he hadn’t emailed him or called him to comment on his performance.  It had been a few months now.  No thank you.  No Attaboy.  Silence.  So, instead of appropriately celebrating or feeling satisfaction, this top performer’s strongest emotions were concern and doubt.

I experienced something similar several years ago.  My boss was on the road almost all the time.  Not only that but he had the weight of the organization on his shoulders and hundreds of people wanting a piece of his time.  As the weeks, then months went by I tried to just give him (AND MYSELF) the benefit of the doubt …

I’m sure he would call or email me about my performance if he had any concerns.

I know he’s just really busy.

He hired me because I don’t need the supervision or direction.

But, given enough time, its natural to FILL THE VOID with the worst case scenario.

I began to do what my colleague was doing.  I began to not only doubt my boss’ appreciation of my work but I began to doubt if he thought my role was even important to the organization.  After all, if nobody’s talking to you about your work (good or bad), your work must not be that important to people.

The benefit of the doubt turns into the TYRANNY OF THE DOUBT.

Maybe its just me and my colleague, but I don’t think so.  I’ve had people I’ve managed express similar feelings during overdue conversations with me as well.

A few months ago, I kept missing a 1:1 with one of my department heads.  Things kept getting in the way.  One postponement after another.  Sure, we’d talk briefly in our daily department head meeting or in the hallway but we missed quality 1:1, focused time to talk about her department (employees, goals, challenges, etc.)  When we finally met, I told her how impressed I had been by her improvements and resident/patient satisfaction I was seeing.  She was stunned.  She fought back the tears.  You see, she thought I was avoiding her because I was unhappy with her.  I had inadvertently created a void and she filled it with the worst case scenario.  Shame on me.

As leaders, we can way too easily fall victim to the illusion that silence creates.  “All is well.”  We can forget that even (especially) our top performers need regular feedback. Ironically, too often we spend an inordinate amount of time with under-performers at the expense of quality time grooming, coaching, rewarding, and recognizing those whose work we rely on so very much.

Let’s make the time.

–> Let’s set reoccurring appointment reminders on our calendars to reach out and fill the void with true conversation that builds loyalty and reaffirms mission.

“I am through waiting”

Kevin Costner Dances with Wolves

 

It’s a great story.  One of my favorite movies.  Dances With Wolves.  I used to watch it all the time as a kid.  After about 20 years, I watched it again recently.  It’s funny how music, scriptures, books, movies can mean something so different depending on one’s circumstances.  This time, I saw a lesson of management/leadership that didn’t really apply to me at age 12.

Procrastination is a challenge for many of us.  For some (me) more than others.  There are plenty of causes to procrastinate a decision or an action … (insufficient information, analysis paralysis, laziness, passive-aggressive attitudes, misunderstanding, feeling stuck in a rut, etc.)  About 18 months I found myself feeling stuck.

Almost like a victim of circumstance.

That, my friends, is an uncomfortable feeling.  I was trying to navigate personalities, agendas, and business objectives and I felt like I was failing.

Looking back, I was taking a passive approach which is very much not my style.

Luckily for me, I snapped out of it.  Or, I got slapped out of it :)  I doubt I’ll forget that particular meeting wherein the conflicting personalities, agendas, and business objectives blew up.  Toward the end of that meeting, I resolved to “get back in the game.”  Maybe, just maybe, Dances With Wolves came up from my subconscious.  Lieutenant John J. Dunbar had a similar wake up call …

“I realize now that I have been wrong.
All this time I have been waiting.
Waiting for what?
For someone to find me?
For Indians to take my horse?
To see a buffalo?
Since I arrived at this post I have been walking on eggs.
It has become a bad habit and I am sick of it.
Tomorrow morning I will ride out to the Indians.
I do not know the outcome or wisdom of this thinking, but I have become a target and a target makes a poor impression.
I am through waiting.”

It can happen in a moment.  The change of momentum.  In fact, look at the word.  

MOMENT(um)

Momentum. It is the secret to love, health, body, mind, spirit. How do you get it? We all know what it’s like to have it. Those happy days when we were ‘on the wagon.’ I don’t care how or why we fall off whatever wagon matters to us. I just care that we get back on. Quickly. But how?

Momentum is made up of one ordinary yet powerful word: MOMENT. We take moment(um) back moment by moment. The moment we turn off the TV and go to bed early. The moment we arise early in the morning and run instead of sleep longer than is needful. The moment we say no to the candy, fast food, junk food, soda, and choose healthy food. Each moment builds upon moment until you feel the momentum lifting you out of bed to exercise, eat right, make time for the most important things and people in your life. If you don’t have the momentum you once did in any aspect of your life, it’s just a moment away. Seize the moment. Regain the moment(um).

Whoa.  Took a little personal life detour there.

What about your facility?  What are you waiting for?

McKnight’s Guest Column: Show Me The Money!

Happy Thanksgiving!  I just realized that another guest column was posted to McKnight’s.  This topic of whether or not staff should EXPECT a raise with their review came up when a friend of mine, Josh (new administrator) asked my opinion about it.  His question reminded me of when a CNA taught me a valuable lesson years ago at my first facility … You can read the entire article by clicking HERE or on the article image below.

Guest Column for McKnight's regarding annual reviews and raises

Guest Column for McKnight’s regarding annual reviews and raises

McKnight’s Guest Column & Attack of the Killer Email Monkeys

I recently wrote a guest column for McKnight’s that was apparently really well received according to their editorial staff.  You can read the article here:

McKnight’s Guest Column: The “Leading Cause of Death” of LTC Leaders

There are several really good comments at the bottom.  One comment, along with my reply, I’ll post here below.  I literally had this very same Q&A yesterday with a colleague who is fighting to get a handle on his workload/monkeys and establish a stronger method of follow-through.  Here’s the back and forth for the comment and I’ll include a little more from my email exchange with my colleague …

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Avatar
TryHaggis
2 days ago
Dave, nice job. Speaking as a casualty (or fatality) of this very issue, I can attest to the principles here 100%. I’m always curious about what people use to “know” their monkeys, tasks, etc. Given the close relationship between time management & monkey management, have you discovered a great time management tool / system that effectively discharges monkeys?

Avatar

A colleague of mine shared with me his secret for seeing his EMAIL MONKEYS a few years back. And this usually takes a bigger leap of faith, but it is HUGE for my ability to SEE my monkeys and act quickly on them. “A monkey is whatever the next move is when dialogue between two parties ends,” right? Therefore, emails become a massive collection of monkeys.
So, here’s what I do … I delete EVERYTHING that doesn’t REQUIRE a response. My Trash folder becomes my massive archive if I ever need to review an email from before. I TRY to keep my inbox below 10. I have 8 in there right now (I have 24,985 in my Trash Folder). Again, I delete everything that doesn’t require a response, a next move. So my inbox are only monkeys that need my attention. I’ll sometimes put on my calendar an email/monkey to address if it can’t be done immediately or if I’m in the middle of other more important things. It gives me a tremendous sense of control and organization.
I breathe/sleep easy knowing that I don’t have monkeys hidden in an inbox of 10,000 emails (those hidden/forgotten monkeys are the ones that undermine my credibility with people who are WAITING forever for me to respond). I do not use folders to organize emails from So-And-So or emails on a certain topic. I’ll use Evernote to record emails on a certain topic of a project I’m working on. Folders are just more hiding places for monkeys. It could take a weekend to thin out your inbox depending on the size. So, you may just want to rip off the bandaid and delete everything older than two months and thin from there.
I go into more depth here (caution: don’t click unless you’re really interested in the “nitty gritty” of handling monkeys AND I’m fully aware what works for me won’t necessarily fit you): Monkey Nitty Gritty or “It’s About Time”

Stooping To Greatness, Part 2

Yesterday, I ran into an “old” former colleague.  It had been years.  First thing he said: “How is that we look so old now?”  I never liked him.  Ha!  :)

The truth is that it was great to reconnect.  Coincidentally, he’s in the midst of solving some of these same cultural puzzles for his new organization.  We talked about Part 1 over lunch.

A couple key points when beginning this new culture adventure …

  • There’s a huge difference between the sugar-rush, Diet Dr. Culture & Built-To-Last Cultures.

    Most staff have seen the Mission/Vision/Whatever that comes down from the Ivory Corporate Tower.  They are forced to attend the meetings and trainings, often delivered by corporate types or half-heartedly by facility leaders.  During those meetings, they are very quietly grabbing each others hands with a knowing nod: “This too shall pass.”  And, they’re right.  It won’t last because they (the staff) didn’t give birth to it.

No longer collecting dust on the wall.

No longer collecting dust on the wall.  You can’t make this up.  In the basement of my facility, I was looking around for some equipment.  I turned on the light and saw these artifacts from the prior facility occupants.  I don’t know what caused them to fail.  But they did.  Anecdotally, I’ve seen this play out time and again.  Where there is no vision, the people perish.  Without a vision/culture that actually inspires (or at least captures their hearts and minds), you’re programs become artifacts.

  • The GIVING BIRTH metaphor.

    I’m a guy.  I’m no expert.  I know.  But, I’m a father of 5, does that count for anything?!  Here’s the metaphor that fits so well here: Establishing your company/facility’s culture should be like giving birth.  There’s power in the creative process.  There’s a massive difference psychologically (for buy-in/commitment) if I’m able to participate in defining the culture (expectations, standards, rewards, etc.) as opposed to having Know-It-Alls present it to me.  If I go through the labor of wrestling with the words, values, mottos, standards, and behaviors that we want for our workplace, and then the delivery of agreeing to and training new hires in it, then I will be committed to the final product in a way that I simply can’t if it’s presented to me … let me illustrate:

    • Several years ago I went through this creative process for the first time at a building I ran in Orange County, CA.  Our before and after scoreboard made many in the organization take note and ask me to share our “secret sauce” as we went from worst to first in some key metrics like EBITDAR PPD.  I was more than happy to share.  It felt like I was on tour as I presented to more than 1/2 of our facilities.  I would spend an entire day with a facility’s leadership team – presenting to them the what, how, why, and when of World Class Service, which is what we labeled the culture we gave birth to.  The immediate response from those many facility teams was, by-and-large, enthusiastic.  They wanted to do the same thing at their buildings.  They wanted to do it right away.  I gave them our Mission & Standards documents.  I gave them our Orientation packet.  I gave them our Daily, Weekly, Monthly system for making the culture take root.Poster-BWC-[Converted]-Outline
    • Poster-BWC-Standards-[Converted]-Outline

      And, then I left to the next facility.  I hit rewind and repeat.  Over and over again.  I personally felt tremendous excitement about making a difference beyond my facility.  I felt appreciation from ED/DNS partnerships who were looking for that missing thing to take them to the next level.  They found it.  They believed.  And, except for a handful of facilities, most of their efforts fizzed out within 3 to 6 months.Why?  I’ve thought a lot about that.  Ultimately, I believe two things are absolutely required in order to transform your culture into a transformative force:

      1. The Executive Director must be a “true believer(not the regional or the divisional or the owner at the home office)

      2. S/he must lead her/his facility through their own creative process.  They must reinvent the wheel instead of adopting someone else’s wheel (no matter how successful that wheel made that someone else).

If this is true, then the questions become what, why, how, and when to recreate the wheel.  The Birds And The Bees, if you will, of how cultures are made (I couldn’t resist).  Culture Birds & Bees.  That’ll be part 3 next.