Articles in Category: Blog

Does What I do Make me Who I Am?

Written by Michelle Braden, CEO Posted in Blog, All Posts

Here in America we define ourselves and those around us by what we do. Think about the first question we ask after introducing ourselves…. “So where do you work?” and “what do you do there?” In part, this is good small talk. We naturally ask these questions in succession. The other part has to do with sizing people up. We determine before we even get to know someone whether we think they are successful based on how they answer these questions. Is it any wonder why we personally define ourselves using this same measurement?

This type of stereotyping begs the question many are now facing, what happens when what we “do” is done away with? What happens when companies go bankrupt, jobs are outsourced, people are downsized or laid off? How then will we define ourselves, our friends, colleagues or family members? Although what we do is obviously important, we have to learn a better self-awareness, or who we are “being.” Who we are “being” is who we are, our character, values, beliefs and passions. It is not determined by titles, salary or prestige.

To discover who we really are beyond the titles we hold is a challenge. Think for a minute about who you are…. If I asked you to describe yourself could you do so without talking about what you do? The goal is that who we are being works collaboratively with what we do but it does not define us. I recently asked a client of mine while working through the “being” vs. “doing” question, “how would you respond if you lost your job for one reason or another and the only thing you could find was working at a fast food restaurant wiping down tables?” His answer was the best I have ever gotten. He said, “well I guess I would have to work hard and rise to the top in that industry!” Now that is knowing who you are being no matter what you are doing!

I want to encourage you, whether you are in the most secure position you have ever been in or whether you are having to re-define yourself due to job loss, search yourself to know who you are being in this world.

Here are some suggestions as you go through this process:

  • Be insightfully straight with yourself.
  • What transformations do you want?
  • What are your personal values, passions, beliefs?
  • Write a paper about who you are.
  • Write a paper about who you want to be.
  • Be in your possibilities.
  • Dream!

This can be an eye opening experience if you allow it to be. We would love to hear your feedback on this exercise and if it was beneficial.

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Family Road Trip Wisdom:

Written by Barbara Higgins Posted in Blog, All Posts

5 Lessons for your Fall Leadership Planning

August is the summer tradition for road trip vacations in my family…a tribute to the final days of summer before back-to-school and changing to the more structured tempo of fall.  As we pile into the car with more duffle bags, suitcases, and boogie boards than clowns in a Volkswagen Bug, the circus begins.  As with most family adventures, you learn over time the different preparation styles that each person has to be ready to leave.  The “late packer,” the “early packer,” the “everything has to be done before we leave,” the “GPS” versus the “map reader,” each has a different checklist.

Leadership and planning with a group takes similar styles and can benefit from similar preparations to bring the group together in a happy travel plan.  Consider the following five approaches to start on a planning journey that can be fun.

  1. Pick a destination that everyone is excited about – This is the essence of strategy and planning.  If everyone is excited about where you are going, the rest of the details will be much easier to sort out.
  2. Plan your route – There is nothing worse than getting lost at the start!  Annual planning is just that simple.  There is no GPS for business so you have to manually take the time to write down the steps and check your progress.
  3. Set some ground rules – Setting expectations for the process and how the group will operate helps your different planning styles to work together.  Have enough flex in the timeline to accommodate the “late packer” with an extra reminder.
  4. If you get lost, learn something new – Getting lost can either have tempers flaring or provide an opportunity to have some fun.  Similarly, if your goals are going in a different direction or if there is a hurdle you didn’t anticipate, this challenge can be an opportunity.  Remember how many failures ultimately become big successes.  Taking the time to learn a new lesson is a great opportunity.
  5. Pack snacks – In the car, small snacks can be a lifesaver by satisfying an appetite that is off schedule.  In strategy and planning having some progress points can encourage small victories along the way.  In short, it keeps your momentum moving forward.

As you consider your transition to the fall, the timing is great for revisiting your strategic road trip. Take the time for a fall planning retreat.  Thinking about your goals as a team and refresh your plan.  This can make a big difference for your leadership travels.

Consider the experienced resources of MSBCoach to help facilitate your fall planning with the content, coaching, and dynamic tools to generate a great discussion. 

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Why Hire A Coach?

Written by MSBCoach Posted in Blog, All Posts

Have you every wondered why people hire coaches?

 

  1. The higher an executive advances up the organizational latter, they are less dependent on technical skill and require more effectiveness in interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence.
  2. Coaching is an effective tool for improving the bottom line performance in executives and organizations
  3. Coaching builds skills and capacities for more effective working relationships.
  4. Coaching paves the way for decision makers to create higher levels of organizational effectiveness through dialogue, inquiry and positive interactions.
  5. Coaching helps identify when teamwork is important; the how and when to apply the skills necessary to foster it.
  6. Coached executives have reported improvements in the following areas:
    1. 53% in Productivity
    2. 48% in Quality
    3. 48% in Organizational Strength
    4. 39% in Customer Service
    5. 34% in Reducing Customer Complaints
    6. 32% in Retaining Executives who Received Coaching
    7. 23% in Cost Reductions
    8. 22% in Bottom-line Profitability

*Research from the Center for Creative Leadership

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6 Strategies to Avoid Estimation Errors on Your Next Project

Written by Stasia Rice Posted in Blog, All Posts

Why Do My Projects Take Longer Than I Think They should?

There are those of us that are really good at estimating how long a particular project will take, or how much effort can be reasonably expended in a period of time. And then there’s the rest of us.

Whether it is through sheer hope or lack of experience, we often underestimate the amount of time and energy it ALWAYS takes to complete a project and overestimate the number of things we can add to our plates.

While this can be painful at best if the project only affects you, when it affects your team, or the organization as a whole, estimation of time and effort really become critical to the success of the project, team morale and completion of strategic objectives.

Here are six strategies to consider for those of you that may share frustrations in estimating:

  1. How clearly defined is the scope of the project? Do you know EXACTLY WHAT needs to be accomplished, and EXACTLY HOW it will be accomplished? If not, allow time for investigation, planning and re-planning- especially if this is uncharted territory.
  2. Ask your experts. Typically – those actually doing the work are better suited to advise you on the time and effort you’ll need to complete the task – or even just define the scope of the task. Be advised and then, as the leader – be sure to take into consideration if this person has been a good judge in the past, what other tasks may also be coming up, give room for other variables and then adjust the schedule and your expectations accordingly.
  3. Be mindful that many people on your team may want to naturally try to accommodate your wishes. Be sure to ask probing questions about their portion of the project, what is required and what other expectations are on them. This will save you down the road when they are floundering because they have agreed to do too much. Also be sure to check in with them frequently to encourage open communication so that you can adjust the schedule and expectations as necessary.
  4. Be mindful of your own desire to accommodate an unrealistic schedule. It’s no secret that leaders are under pressure to perform and to get the project done quickly and under budget. As you collect scheduling information from your team – ideally your experts – be sure to examine your motives if you think that the project could or should be done faster or cheaper. Holding strong to a realistic goal allows you to under-promise and (potentially) over-deliver – a much better position than over-promising and under-delivering!
  5. Expect that nothing will go as planned. Help your team to realize that when they are estimating, they should plan for technical glitches, changes in scope or priority. These are all natural occurrences in a project of any sized organization. Change is a constant – but if you’re expecting it, you can help your team to adjust that much more quickly.
  6. When in doubt – give the schedule a little cushion. Your percentage of increase will vary depending on your experience and that of your team, but as long as the goals of the project can withstand it, add a little more time on top just in case. You’ll be surprised how often you need it!

Once you are relatively certain of a good estimation, a project leader needs to be a champion, cheerleader and barrier remover once the work is underway. Delivering a project on time and on target is a very gratifying feeling – and working toward that is important for your team and the organization as a whole. However, if the path and the itinerary are not clear from the get go- or the expected arrival date is unreasonable or just plain wrong– no one will enjoy the trip! Frustrations will mount both on your part and that of your team and targets will be missed. Developing your skill in estimating a project scope and schedule to enable your team’s success will result in far more satisfaction on everyone’s part! 

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Performance Reviews – It’s Your Job

Posted in Blog, All Posts

Six things that will make that job easier

Performance reviews – groaning ensues. I have met few people who like to give or receive performance reviews. Yet, we are continually told that feedback and holding people accountable are important to ensure engaged employees and successful organizations. Perhaps a little reminder may be in order – “Leader, it’s your job to give performance reviews”. Here are a few of the problems that most organizations struggle with:

  • Giving and receiving feedback has to be encouraged. Formal reviews are necessary and need to happen but equally important are ongoing conversations between you and your employees. Waiting for the “formal” review time to give and receive feedback is often too late for any real adjustments or meaningful celebrations.
  • Having a form that is just a checklist that you mark with a score or check is not feedback. I understand if there are standards and production requirements that need to be measured but it will never will never increase the engagement of your folks. A review must be a two-way conversation.
  • Often employees are unclear about expectations and goals therefore, they do not achieve the desired outcomes. Often organizations have changing priorities but those never filter down to the employees. Regular on-going review sessions would ensure that employees know what is expected.
  • Many organizations do not have an established performance review process or any accountability for doing them. It starts at the top. If leadership is not adhering to a performance review process among themselves, it will never become part of the culture. Performance reviews must be done at all levels.

Providing and seeking feedback doesn’t have to be hard and rigid. Some things to consider:

  • Employees want feedback and they really would like to give you some feedback as well. This is where the skill of coaching can really open the door to very meaningful conversations. Here are a few coaching questions to choose from:
    • What is going well? What’s one brag you want to share? What has been your biggest success?
    • What do you like most about your job, right now? What part of your job is the most satisfying?
    • What is not going well? What’s getting in your way of doing your job? What’s been your biggest challenge? What do you need to do differently?
    • What do you like least about your job? Which part is the least satisfying?
    • What am I (the leader) doing well? What could I do better?
    • What advice do you have for the organization?
  • Make the employee part of the process. Give them opportunity to contribute to their performance review. If there is a checklist, have them complete it and then compare with each other and discuss. Use the time to find ways to help them grow and problem solve.
  • Use the Performance Review as a reminder of the goals, vision and values of the organization. Engage the employee in a conversation of how the goals, vision and values are showing up in their daily routine of work.
  • Schedule at least three formal sessions during a performance year and strive to have on-going informal conversations. During the first formal sessions set the goals and encourage the employee to create goals. Discuss the expectations and how they will be measured. Set the dates for the next two formal sessions. One of the expectations should be that you and the employee will show-up for the sessions prepared to discuss successes, challenges and opportunities for growth.
  • Hold yourself accountable to have “mini” informal feedback sessions with all your employees. It can be as simple as asking one question – What would you like me to know, right now? The point is to have a conversation – you will definitely walk away with just a little bit more insight.
  • As a leader, if you are not receiving regular feedback from your leadership, seek it. You will become much better at giving feedback if you are receiving it. And a much better leader!

I can’t promise that establishing a culture of productive performance reviews is going to be easy. It’s going to take discipline and a real desire. I can promise that if you stick with it, the ROI will not just be in dollars – it will be a great place to work! 

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