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August 9, 2013 / Ask Mariposa

Ask Mariposa: Difficult Conversations

Erica asks: My department head is an extremely brilliant man and I have nothing but the utmost respect for him.  But lately, I’ve noticed a shift in his behavior that is beginning to strain our working relationship.   He has become very irrational, negative, and all over the map with requests and demands.  What can I do to keep our relationship in tact without stepping over any boundaries?

Eric Nitzberg, Executive Leadership Coach responds:

A lot depends on the level of trust an openness you have with him.  This is a delicate situation, so you’ll want to be thoughtful about any approach.  If you have a pretty open, high trust relationship you might broach the subject directly, “It seems like you have been a little on-edge lately.  I’ve noticed some changes in your leadership style.  Would you be open to talking?”   If you can’t address the issue directly, then I would consider which of the new behaviors are the biggest problem for you, and what you might do about them specifically.  If “requests all over the map” is the most frustrating issue, you might try having a neutral conversation with him about that issue, “I want to make sure I’m aligned with your priorities.  Can we talk about what’s most important among your requests?”

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July 23, 2013 / Ask Mariposa

Ask Mariposa: Creating Positive and Collaborative Communication

Demitri asks: My colleague has an answer for everything and dominates all of our team meetings, screaming for attention.  She bulldozes ideas and ridicules anyone who disagrees. No one on our team wants to step up and call her out on this “annoying” behavior.  What can I/we do to create a more effective and positive experience in our meetings when we need to work with this type of person?  

Dina Silver, Executive Leadership Coach responds:

Tough situation!  As you are already experiencing, colleagues who dominate meetings create a range of challenges for other team members including: creating an atmosphere of annoyance, distaste, disaffection and disappointment for all present who are unable to participate fully and see no way to stop the bulldozer.  Meetings become solo acts for the benefit of the loudest voice instead of forums for team collaboration.

It is the responsibility of the team leader to intervene in order to create a safe, innovative and participatory forum for all employees.  Consider speaking to the team leader offline about this issue.  Frame it as a need for stronger team dialogue and a desire for your meetings to be a forum where all voices are essential.   Offer ideas for improving team communication.

Consider these suggestions:

  • Limit the number of minutes each member speaks at a time (3 minutes, for example).  You can use an egg timer, your watch or phone’s timer application.  This will force everyone to pare down his/her thinking and share the crucial core of his idea.
  • Every person who wishes to contribute to the conversation has  the uninterrupted opportunity to do so.
  • Phones and other devices are turned off during the meeting.  If you are present in the room, be present.  This ensures all participants are listening to each other and not simply waiting for their chance to talk.
  • Start and end meetings on time. Do not catch late people up by rehashing what others have heard.  This will be awkward at first, but people will adapt and appreciate this.
  • Agree on meeting communication norms:  no personal attacks, blaming, eye ball rolling or disdainful comments.  Stop the behavior the moment it occurs.

Finally, every person in the room, including you, has a responsibility to enforce positive and collaborative communication.  Do not let old habits creep back. Gently remind team members of the rules of engagement and help the conversation get back on track.

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July 9, 2013 / Ask Mariposa / Stress / Work-Life Integration

Ask Mariposa – 6 Keys to Effective Delegation

James asks:  I am working long hours and am starting to feel burnt out. My manager says I am a high performing manager but I should be delegating more. So, I did.  Things are not getting done right or in a timely fashion.  I’m worried this will affect my own performance. What’s the secret to delegating effectively so as not to diminish results?

Barbara Baill, Executive Leadership Coach responds:

Effective delegation is a challenge for many high performers who are responsible for managing others.  Delegation is not a simple of task of tossing an assignment to one of your people on the way to a meeting and waiting for the final product. It does take time and attention initially, but, over time, you will find your employees growing in their capabilities and feeling more challenged and empowered. Eventually, the investment will pay off for all.  Here are some key elements of effective delegation:

  1.  Choose the right person who has the skill sets for the task. Discuss with the person why s/he has been selected for the assignment.
  2. Articulate the assignment carefully any specific timelines, requirements, performance standards, checkpoints and other expectations. If you have any sample outcomes (reports, slideset, etc) from previous projects, share them. Point the delegatee to other resources that can be helpful.
  3. Solicit questions, comments and suggestions from the delegatee. Gain commitment to take on the challenge.  Ask what support he/she will need from you and others.
  4. Empower the individual by informing others that the delegatee is leading the effort.
  5. Establish and conduct regular check-ins and monitor project progress. Ensure the individual knows how much communication you need to keep you well informed and in what particular circumstance immediate contact is required. Be encouraging and offer feedback and support but don’t take back the project.
  6. Ensure the person is recognized for successful completion of the work. (Don’t inadvertently take the credit – common mistake.)

These steps can help you become a master at delegating which will help you and your people continue to grow and will magnify the output of your entire team.

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July 3, 2013 / Ask Mariposa / Stress / Work-Life Integration

Ask Mariposa: One Powerful Way to Reduce Stress at Work

Stuart asks: I am feeling increasingly unhappy at my job. My stress level is so high that it is affecting me physically and mentally. How do I manage my stress without burning out?

Anne Loehr, Executive Leadership Coach responds:

“Bad stress” is an ever increasing problem at work and it is essential to find ways to reduce it. “Bad stress” causes us to worry, experience fear and feel anxious. Any form of stress that makes us perform below our potential is considered bad stress. Bad stress increases the cortisol levels in our blood, which can lead to many problems such as high blood pressure, early onset diabetes, heart problems and central obesity (bulging belly).

There are many ways to reduce bad stress at work. I’m going to discuss one way now, so I don’t stress you out with too much info! 🙂

More and more people are using email, text and instant messaging as their chief communication tools for daily work life. It’s instant, it’s easy, AND it creates lots of stress! Researchers have identified three major problems:

  1. This form of communication lacks cues like facial expression and tone of voice. That makes it difficult for recipients to decode the meaning. It is the poorest form of communication because it only uses words.
  2. The prospect of instantaneous communication creates an urgency that pressures online communicators to think and write quickly, which can lead to carelessness.
  3. Finally, the inability to develop personal rapport over online communications makes relationships fragile in the face of conflict. Online communication is great for confirming meetings, getting an address or sharing a short piece of data. Unfortunately it is used for a lot of other communications which should be done in person.

Here are some tips:

Never argue by email. Save discussions, especially on controversial topics, for when more direct forms of communication are possible. Pick up the phone and/or set a time to discuss issues.

Keep it short. We’re talking less than 50 words. We have about 15 seconds of attention span to offer any incoming email. If you can’t get the message across in that time, either attach a separate document with all the details, or pick up the phone for the discussion. Or use the email to set the time for the discussion.

If you want to lower your stress levels, limit your email communications and switch to phone and face to face conversations for better results. It is more meaningful, more effective, and can generate new relationships in an already tense world.

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June 13, 2013 / Ask Mariposa

Ask Mariposa: Communication Barrier Tips

Janelle asks:  I’m experiencing communication barriers with my direct reports.  On two projects, I’ve asked them to take the lead on things but they’ve dropped the ball.  What tips can you offer to help with my communication?

Tawny Lees, COO responds:

How frustrating!  When making requests, many communication barriers can occur. When you reflect on these requests, were they posed in a direct manner, i.e.: “Will you?”, or indirect, such as “Can you please…?”  Indirect requests are not straightforward enough to solicit an immediate yes/no response.  Also make sure any request is very specific – you’d be amazed at how often they aren’t! Include:

  • Who:  will do the work
  • What:  specific action and/or result needed
  • When:  time frame
  • Why:  context/purpose

Then, make sure to listen for a true response, which should indicate a yes, no, an alternative proposal or a commitment to do it at a later time.

One final tip:  direct requests might sound strange at first, so we recommend practicing them.  Successful use comes from mastering your tone of voice, which should be firm and clear to prevent communication barriers.

For more information, we suggest:

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June 3, 2013 / Articles We Like / Recommended Reading

On “Clearing Hurdles to Employee Engagement”

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We share this article by Razor Suleman because a disengaged workforce is detrimental to business success. Recognition is a timeless, cost-effective leadership tactic, which leads to employee success therefore engagement, and yet organizations face hurdles when implementing a recognition program.  The article featured on TalentCulture, Clearing Hurdles to Employee Engagement, identifies six common hurdles:

  • Employee participation
  • Making time
  • Securing executive buy-in
  • Engaging managers
  • Budget
  • Measuring Success

Tips for clearing these hurdles can be found in the article’s Infographic towards the bottom of the article.

Consider this:  How does your organization recognize employees?  What challenges do you face in clearing the hurdles in your organization?

Comment below!  Or send us your questions via Ask Mariposa.

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May 21, 2013 / Ask Mariposa

Ask Mariposa: How to Coach Someone Who Doesn’t Want to be Coached

Saul asks: How do you coach an employee that doesn’t want to be coached, but is part of his PDP obligation to be coached for 4 months?  What power suggestions or questions would you use in this situation to motivate behavior or start thinking about the pressure to change?

Tawny Lees, COO of Mariposa responds:

Hi Saul,

Tough situation! As a coach, you know that openness to the coaching process is a pre-requisite to it being effective. So hopefully you can enroll this employee before committing to the engagement!

I suggest you start with open questions and deep listening to truly understand the resistance. “Tell me about you…tell me about what’s going around here…tell me about this PDP plan…”

Often the resistance is fear of the unknown, and an assumption that the coach is working for “others” who have an agenda. Establish rapport and explain the coaching process/relationship (including confidentiality) using positive language like “you and I would focus on what’s most important and helpful for you” or “clients use me as an objective sounding board as they work on their goals and tackle tough problems.” Address any specific objections, questions or worries. Your objective would be to help the employee see that you are there to help him/her be successful. Period.

If/when you see an opening, you could try specific questions about goals and begin motivating. Here are some ideas:

  • “What are your toughest challenges right now?” “What would it be like if you were able to handle those with more ease?”
  • “I find most people like to continually grow and stretch themselves. Tell me about anything at which you are currently trying to get better?” “What benefits would come from getting better at ____ ?”
  • “What could we work on that would have a big impact on your career/work life?”

Good luck! Let us know if we can help further. More on rapport and assessment questions can be found in our ITM coaching model.

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April 29, 2013 / Blog / HR / Talent Management

Five Lessons from a CEO on HR

hr-jigsawIn a unique turn of roles Les Hayman “retired” from a long tenure as a CEO to leading Global HR for SAP. In a recent guest blog post, Les summarizes five key lessons that he dubbed: “What I Wish I Knew as a CEO That I Learned Later in HR.”  The five lessons were:

1. Spend more time on making recruitment a core competency in the entire organization. I especially agree with his point that hiring for attitude is more important than hiring mainly for skills. The costs of weak hiring practices are enormous, and while HR should lead the way – it is every leader’s responsibility to be good at recruiting.

2. A large number of people who move into management are not comfortable when they get there and should be given the opportunity to move back out without being penalized, or better still, can stay in a professional role rather than being pushed into management. Les was surprised at the number of reluctant managers he came across, and advocates for valid vocational career paths for professionals. I agree with him wholeheartedly, AND I believe that sometimes these reluctant managers can become highly passionate and effective managers given the right coaching.

3. There are no such things as HR problems, only business problems that HR needs to help resolve. Couldn’t agree with this one more – HR leaders need to see themselves as business leaders before others will.

4. Spend more time on underperformers. While I agree with this, I also believe the right recruitment has to be in place first. And that the “move them up or move them out” approach does not have to be a lengthy, painful process.

5. Put less value on formal performance reviews and more on managing behavior as a moment by moment way of business life. Hallelujah on this one, and the ITM Coaching approach is a great skill for leaders to enable this moment-by-moment way of business life!

 

To check out the full article: http://seapointcenter.com/what-i-wish-i-knew-as-a-ceo-that-i-learned-later-in-hr/

To check out other writings by Les Hayman: http://leshayman.wordpress.com/

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April 23, 2013 / Ask Mariposa / Coaching Skills / HR / Talent Management / Influencing Skills / Strategy

Ask Mariposa: Top 4 Executive Coaching Focus Areas

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Daniel asked: Can you share the most frequent areas that you help clients improve on with coaching?

Regan Bach, Executive Leadership Coach, responds:

Great question Daniel and you are not alone in wondering what actually occurs during a coaching engagement.  There is a great deal of customizing that occurs with each client’s needs, but here are the Top 4 most frequent areas of coaching focus:

1) Vision/Strategy/Execution

Whether it be for CEOs or new managers, setting a clear vision for yourself and your team is mission critical.  From there it’s all about articulating that vision to others, identifying an “actionable” strategy to execute on the vision, mitigating roadblocks, and tweaking the roadmap/trajectory given inputs over time.  A good coach helps leaders to a) get very clear on strengths and areas of opportunity to improve, b) articulate personal/team/company vision, and c) helps identify action steps to begin executing on a trajectory for success.

2) Going Slow to Go Fast

In today’s fast paced work environments, leaders jump from task to task, project to project, and initiative to initiative.  Rarely do they take time to slow down, unplug, assess the Big Picture, and reflect on what’s working, what’s not working, and what they want to do DIFFERENT moving forward.  Coaches act as a forcing function to help support leaders in unplugging, assessing themselves and their environments, and then identifying areas that need their attention.  What’s critical is helping today’s leaders not only identify where to show up, but also how to show up.

3) Influencing

This is an area where almost everyone can improve.  I have found that individuals, regardless of title, greatly underestimate (and thus under-utilize), their ability to influence others.  I spend a great deal of time working with clients to help identify effective and efficient ways to influence both vertically and horizontally throughout an organization.

4) Feedback, Communication and Relationship-Building

Organizations exist because humans create them.  Thus, many leaders continually struggle and are challenged by behavioral and/or human-centric issues.  At the core, business is all about communication and relationships.  Coaches help leaders create clear lines of communication, implement durable feedback loops into their work, and get clear on how and when they message things to others.

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April 4, 2013 / Ask Mariposa / HR / Talent Management / Influencing Skills

Ask Mariposa: 3 Tips for Developing Leadership Influence

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Andrea asks: I am not in a formal position of power but lead several cross-functional projects and collaboration is critical to our goals.  How can I develop more leadership influence?

Susan Bethanis, CEO of Mariposa responded:

You are smart to be thinking about developing leadership influence skills, even as an informal leader.  Cross-functional initiatives, flatter management structures and virtual teams which sometimes include third parties have become the norm in business today.  Understanding how to influence others is a skill that when honed, serves company goals and your career.

Here are 3 tips:

  • Consult and Pre-Sell.   Meet with stakeholders to share your ideas on achieving a desired outcome.  Solicit their reactions and ideas as well.  By inviting input and balancing it with advocacy, resistance can be minimized while gaining buy-in.
  • Know Your Audience, Tailor the Message.   Develop clear and compelling messages rooted in short and long-term requirements.  Research your stakeholders’ needs and tailor the message based on their interests.
  • Establish Behavioral Rapport.  Match the pace and volume of your speech with that of your stakeholder.  Avoid matching negative emotional states.  Be conscious of your body language, including posture and facial expressions, as unintended non-verbal cues can undermine effective communication of your message.

Want more?

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