The Source of “Soft skills vs Hard skills” in Management Excellence

Daily Self-Coaching: http://www.tompeters.com/docs/7SHistory.pdf For all of you who wanted to know where the “Soft skills and Hard Skills” idea came from don’t miss this historical summary by the management guru, Dr. Tom Peter’s. It first appeared in a HBR article and then was expanded in the award winning and ground breaking organizational and management effectiveness book In Search of Excellence. If you have not read this book it is a must read for all managers and leaders. You can download an e-book now. Below is a video where Dr. Peters asks, “If not excellence, what?” What else should you be doing with your time, your life? He agrees with Thomas Watson, Sr., the talented early leader of IBM, that you should make a personal commitment never again to do anything that is not excellent.

Part l: New Style of Leadership–Stop Negative workplace Virus and Bad Attitudes

“Little known fact 71% of workers think about quitting their jobs every day. What do we do to change this apparent virus sweeping our work place environments”?  

 We must become willing to admit that our way of leading and creating “quality of work” environments are simply not working. We are not creating the results or the quality of life that we would like for ourselves, associates and customers, These hectic and wired times are calling out for a new type of leader in organizations. This type of leadership is not based on position or status.  It is truly based on equality, respect and positive regard for everyone in the organization. At its core leadership is shared by everyone in the organization.     In this new leadership style we need everyone aligned with the vision and understand why we are in business–this is called the mission. The leaders must be willing to challenge the “status quo”, accept change as a natural state and realize that the so-called soft side of business is really the hard side. Mental maps of risk taking must be continually updated and failures must become learning experiences. This may sound foolish or a bit naive and yet many of the new and innovative companies accept and operate in this revolutionary way.

One thing is at the cornerstone of this leadership revolution—Constant growth and development through feedback. Most people are not consciously withholding feedback because they want to create a negative work place culture or reduce company morale. Often, they withhold feedback because they don’t know how or when and in what way to skillfully use the soft power of open and two-way communication tool called– feedback.. Also, many people are just uncomfortable confronting others on their “screw-ups, or failings. In other words, they lack the know-how and skills to conduct productive feedback sessions. There are some ways to take some of the suffering out of giving and receiving feedback.

First, we’ve got to start taking accountability for our individual roles in creating environments where “feedback” is not seen as a dirty word.  How can you help?  Try practicing a few of the following behaviors of the new leadership style:

The revolution begins with a few change agents practicing Reality-Based Feedback. Reality based feedback expands on the ideas of William Glasser M.D.  from the therapy couch to workplace interactions and conversations

1. A reality based leader or coach is one who is self-aware, open, flexible and authentic. DWYSYWD is the foundation of their leadership and management philosophy. They are able to quickly read others and accept the reality of a situation. These new leaders are sensitive and understand others needs ( high on empathy) by confronting in a caring way reality and truth. This directness preserves valuable time and energy trying to fix blame or uncover the truth behind excuses for not doing things right or choosing the wrong things to work on. It conserves precious team energy, and uses that energy instead to be more productive and efficient in working on priorities and creating a better quality of work life (QWL).

2.  Better yet, a Reality-based Leader anticipates the upcoming changes and capitalizes on the opportunity inherent in the situation without drama or defense.

3. This new type of leader uses feedback to address pinches in expectations and issues early and often.

Besides poor communication I think the lack of feedback is the root cause of many employee’s attitude issues.  Sharing feedback early and often takes some of the pain out of the situation that year performance reviews rarely do.  Timely feedback is a critical component of achieving success on an individual, team and organization levels.

Understand that giving feedback does not mean being ugly, mean, or an“I gotcha you asshole” attitude.  Under the mask of being “nice” leaders, teams and organizations all over the country are missing opportunities to increase responsibility for decisions and actions by withholding caring feedback and covering-up emotional pinches.  Feedback is a critical component for growth, development, and individual satisfaction with their job. The lack of feedback is also impacting the organizational culture and growth by causing interpersonal conflict and many “soap opera” dramas. Thus, an unhealthy climate on a cost-benefit analysis basis could be costing a decrease in motivation, loss of valuable time, energy and profits for your organization.

You want great business results?  Regular performance conversations are a part of that equation.  If you are not getting good feedback, ask for it.  Occasionally, ask people what things you should stop doing, start doing or continue doing.  If you are one of the vast majorities of people who dislike giving feedback, stop withholding this valuable information and learn how to give and receive it. If you are defensive when someone shares feedback with you, grow up and be a professional.  Feedback is simply another persons’ opinion of your work habits and performance.  Try not to take it personally. And as always stop judging and start listening for ways to be supportive and helpful. If these things are tried I guarantee the quality of work and the attitudes toward jobs will significantly improve.

Want more on the topic of Motivation checkout the history of motivation and job satisfaction. While on this site do not miss one of my favored models of motivation and job enrichment design developed by Hackman and Oldham’s. Their Job Characteristics Model looks at some very important factors of autonomy, skill development, and clear goal-setting as a way of increasing positive motivation for doing a job an outstanding way. Their model also identifies several other aspects of job design – such as feedback and feeling that one’s work is meaningful –  which could also affect workers’ level of satisfaction.

Part II –Team Meetings: Focus and Understanding Individual Needs of Members

In Part I of this series on Meeting Effectiveness , I shared some ideas about how important it is to maintain and build the group as a whole by understanding the Maintenance Needs of the team. In this post, I want to review a different type of team need that can make or break your team’s effectiveness–Individual Needs of team members.  

Obviously, any group is made-up of two or more individual persons. These persons have their own individual needs. Your individual personality preferences, life experiences, genetic and neurological make-up and in particular positive and negative experience of  working in teams drive members behavior. These individual needs drive the type of communication,  interaction, and roles members play when the team comes together to work on tasks. These needs must be identified and satisfied before a productive and satisfying meeting can take place.  Most team members consciously or unconsciously require different needs to be met. These needs are recognition, status, control,  autonomy, security, belonging, affection, acceptance, etc. The list can go on and on. The nature of human circumstances  and life in general determine a person’s particular needs at any given moment in the life of the team. All of us at any given time might need more recognition, a sense of belonging or control.

Let’s say in a given team Bill will need many of these things. For many reasons, he may also need to a leader on a particular topic under discussion; he may need to liked and feel like he belongs; he may feel a need to impress one particular person in the group. The kind of needs he expresses are a direct result of his particular circumstance, brain functioning and  perception of gain or loss by being a member of this group. At this point you might being saying: ” I get it that everyone has needs but how do you use this information to improve team meetings and produce recommendations for the task we were assigned to work on? For part of my answer, I want to introduce you to an emerging field in behavioral and team management–cognitive brain research. This new research about how to apply brain research to improve human performance, develop effective teams and drive change is being conducted by Dr. David Rock and his associates at the NeroLeadership Institute.   In a recent interview, with the NY Times, Dr. Rock describes the importance of new brain research model called the SCARF theory by saying ” it is crucial for managers to make their employees feel they are on the same team.”  The SCARF model provides a structure for analyzing what motivates our social interaction and behavior at work. The SCARF  acronym stands for Status, Control, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness.  To see more read about Dr. Rocks research click on this link to the NeuroLeadership Institute webpage.

Since, we have covered maintenance needs and individual needs in teams my next post will focus on task needs and roles people might play  and how to use this information to improve team meetings. Thanks Coach Mark

Are Leaders Born or Made? Focus on Emotional Intelligence

Are Leaders Born or Made?

Some evidence to help shape and challenge your thinking

In a award winning 1998 HBR article by Goleman, the Father of Emotional Intelligence, laid out many of the answers for the often asked question –Are Leader’s born or made?  

In his research and study of many large, complex and global companies, he found that while the qualities traditionally associated with leadership—such as intelligence, inspiration, toughness, determination, and vision—are required for success, they are insufficient to describe the total picture of what makes a great leader. Truly effective leaders are also distinguished by a high degree of emotional intelligence, which includes self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill.

These qualities may sound “soft” and not “hard” business analytics”, but Goleman found direct ties between emotional intelligence and measurable business results. While emotional intelligence’s relevance to business has continued to spark debate over the past 15 years, Goleman’s article remains the definitive reference on the subject, with a description of each component of emotional intelligence and a detailed discussion of how to recognize it in potential leaders, how and why it connects to performance, and how it can be learned. It also remains top of my mind because when I understand that emotions and feelings enrich our lives it motivates me to learn as much as I can about myself and interactions with others. EI provides me with the opportunity to see life as an opportunity to grow and develop. I am motivated to risk and be curious about what I don’t know about the human condition.  As a result I become stronger in the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical spheres of my life because I am inspired to put “continuous” learning at the center of my life rather than living in the past or fearful of the future.

I truly believe what Bertrand Russel, a great American philosopher said. To paraphrase his thoughts and idea: Most people would rather go through life “sleep walking” and not thinking about the important work of thinking deeply, problem solving and taking constructive action about the things they value most in life. Remember there are many things we can influence and control in life and there are also things we can’t; knowing the difference and choosing to do something about creating a life on purpose and with meaning is in our hands.

Daily Quote and Reflection: Work and the Principle of Meaning

Daily Quote and Reflection: It is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life. And it is very difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work. -Jim Collins, Author of Good to Great

Reflection: Have you ever contemplated what is the difference between work and play? Many people when ask to do this reflection say to me –work is work. It doesn’t have anything to do with play. Maybe maybe not I reply. I say what about organizations like  Southwest Airlines (Fun LUVing attitude not just words but real action in creating a family atmosphere and support programs to make communities a better place to live and work. The attitude is made-up of these principles–

  • Have FUN
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously
  • Maintain perspective
  • Celebrate successes
  • Enjoy your work
  • Be a passionate Teamplayer

The essence of work at Southwest Airlines  is  doing good while having fun. Of course there are many other organizations embracing this philosophy of meaning and fun at work like Tom’s of Maine, Zappos, and Patagonia who’s mission is to: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis..

Let’s brainstorm for a second the characteristics of work vs. play. Work conjectures up characteristics and thoughts of : required activity, pay for results or services, to survive and put a roof over your head, paid to do it, have to, sweat, challenge, bosses, be told what to do and how to do it, how to behave, command and control, schedules, boring, supervision, structured routine, time pressure etc… vs Play– want to, engaged, spontaneity, fun, freedom to choose, smiles, do it because I love the activity, enjoy the people playing with me, time is mine, etc…

So the question becomes how do we put more fun and meaning into work?

Exercise on Interpersonal Conflict: How to control frustrations and anger to solve problems

 

“If we don’t change the direction we are going, we are likely to end up where we are heading.” – Chinese Proverb

Of the three basic emotions that lead to poor productivity and interpersonal flare-ups —disappointment, frustration and fear—frustration leading to anger is the most destructive. Your particular situation may involve enormous frustrations and disappointments with others or yourself.  (“I needed to find better ways to handle Danny’s tantrums before I create a never-ending battle of the wills.” Darn him for always having a melt down when I need his cooperation.”) or enormous self-anger (“Why, why, why can’t I be a better Dad when things are not going well with the kids; m expected reaction just raises the temperature and sets him off. I really hurt our relationship when I get anger.” Whatever the proportions, some feel frustrated guilty but resist letting the situation escalate to anger, shouting and demanding; others acknowledge their frustration and inability to handle the situation but feel “stuck” in same old patterns.. Most of these regrets get you stuck in unproductive perseverance.

Considering frustration and anger separately makes both more useful. Right now, think of something or someone you are frustrated with… With that situation or person in mind, finish this sentence: “I’m frustrated that __________.” Repeat the exercise until you run out of frustrations and things related to that person or situation. For example, if you are  frustrated with a building contractor not finishing on time or making major errors on the project, you might say, “I’m frustrated and extremely disappointed that I have to stay on top of every piece of this remodeling project or it doesn’t get done on budget or in a timely manner. I’m angry that I chose such an incompetent builder and that this project is taking up all my time and energy. ” So this first exercise gets at the root causes for the frustrations.

Now that you have fully itemized the causes for the frustrations make another list of possible solutions needed to be implemented to solve the causes. In this part 2 of the exercise begin each sentence with the phrase, “I’m frustrated and angry at ________ because________ and I want to resolve this by _____________” For example, “I’m angry at Bill, the builder,  because of the cost and time over runs and I want to solve this by instituting a daily meeting to set priorities and action items for completion. To ensure we stay on task I am immediately bringing in a new supervisor for the project.” I’m sad about the need for this tight structure and supervision and the finger-pointing and blame game that has been going on” Write down the solution based  on your identification of the causes for the frustrations and anger about the personnel and situation.

Underneath frustrations is the feeling of disappointment when looking back at what we could have done. It does have a piece of self-loathing. Also, anger for what took place or is still happening. Try learning the lessons the experience is teaching you now rather than looking back and obsessively contemplating what could have been. Reflecting on Warren Buffet’s view of looking back may help you put frustrations and disappointments in perspective–”I never look back. I figure there is so much to look forward to that there is no sense thinking of what I might have done. It just doesn’t make any difference. You can only live life forward.”  So as you think about your frustrations right now–If you had the opportunity for a “do over” what would you do differently? What can you do now to correct the situation or put the project back on track?

Finally, remember that you need to focus on living and working fully and intensely in the present, with minimal infringement from the past failures or miscues to solve this problem and improve productively and enable others on the team to do their best work.

Business Development Architecture:A Model based on Messaging

The goal for successful sales interactions is to understand the customer needs and help them differentiated their services or products in unique ways and provide value that can be evaluated against a consistent  and tangible criteria.   Over the years I have been in the business of designing an effective Sales Architecture called a “structure with process” for business development. This model is dependent on designing a message that is grounded. compelling and believable. In this blog I will outline the stages you need to follow in building a “sticky” and effective ” Business Develoment Architecture”.

Business Development Architecture–Stages of Message Development   

Stage 1. Message gathering intelligence and information

Stage2. Message design and structuring

Stage 3. Message implementation

Stage 4. Message Evaluation

In the next blog I will flush-out the definition and details of this Business Development Architecture.