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Are You a One-Pitch Leader?

In baseball, the term “one pitch pitcher” refers to a pitcher who is overly reliant on one type of pitch (fastball, curveball, etc.) to be effective. History tells us this approach has limitations and ultimately limited success. They lack the versatility in their repertoire of pitches to solve the many different kinds of situations they face in the course of a game. Experts will tell you that the best pitchers have 3-4 different pitches they can throw at any given time and at any velocity they choose to solve the predicament in front of them.

Now, imagine that you are the leader of an organization and have many competitors who are looking to beat you to market and/or dominate market share.

Let’s take this scenario one step further and give you “one pitch capability” and we’ll give your competitors “three pitch capability” to solve all the problems that come your collective way. Now, the bad news, you are not going to win this competition. We’re sorry, we know that one pitch has carried you a long way and you have been successful wherever you have “played”. However the game has changed. The market place is changing daily, the complexity of data coming at you is mind boggling, innovation cycles are becoming shorter and shorter and what once made you successful now has you out of breath.

We can guess with some degree of accuracy what happened to you. Here is a short list of possibilities.

  1. You just don’t like coming out of your comfort zone.
  2. You have over-relied on a set of leadership behaviors that are not too different from each other and were greatly rewarded for this approach. It could be any set of behaviors. For our purpose we’ll choose decisiveness, hard driving and being directive. All great qualities but in the realm of leadership it translates to one pitch… FASTBALL! This is limiting. It leaves you with very little leadership versatility. You’re predictable.
  3. You greatly over value one aspect of leadership and strongly under value the opposite behavior. For example you might greatly over value decisiveness and almost completely dismiss consensus building. This could leave you very “lopsided” in this area of leadership and cause you to make a misinformed decision, leave people out of the process and ultimately not gain followership from key stakeholders. You won’t miss or fail a high percentage of the time, but enough to impact your career and your organization.

Here is the bottom line, the leadership development field has really never measured/assessed for leaders overusing their strengths. More of a good thing is always better… right? In fact what’s wrong with being decisive, hard driving and directive? Nothing actually, unless you are doing it most of the time with most of the problems you are trying to solve. If you mixed up your “pitches” and at the right time threw in some listening, asked for other opinions, facilitated dialogue between two opposing views from other leaders and called for additional data……well then you would be that more versatile and an effective leader who has 3-4 “pitches” they can rely on to get the best outcome.

So how do you uncover whether or not you have become a one pitch leader?

Here are you first steps in the change process:

  1. Pull out your most recent 360 review and capture the themes where people have indicated you’re doing too much of a particular behavior.
  2. Now, to the best of your ability make note of what meetings and with what people you are over-doing these behaviors.
  3. In order to balance out your behaviors and “show up” differently, look to demonstrate behaviors that are at the other end of the behavioral continuum. For example if people have indicated that your point of view tends to dominate meetings you could counter that with several possibilities; that might include a) asking questions to gather more data, b) asking someone else for their perspective or c) even “softening” your point of view with a caveat that sounds like: “I could be off the mark here, but I do think that we need to pursue this path of action…”
  4. Ask for feedback. Let someone you know and trust what you are working on and ask them to give you feedback on what they’ve observed.

Your objective is to become a versatile leader who can bring the right amount of the right behavior and the right time and be the most effective leader you can be. This is not easily done and perfection is not the goal here. Becoming more versatile in your leadership approach to solving big problems is our objective.

 

Author: Jeff Lugerner, Executive and Leadership Coach, Leadership Development Institute

 

Image: bigstock

Getting Things Done Vs. Making An Impact

There is a lot of discussion about productivity, but I’ve always preferred the term velocity. I’ve found that my velocity to goal determines my career velocity. By that I mean the speed and efficiency with which I achieve my goals determines the speed and degree of career growth I experience. If I use half the time and half the people, capital and other resources to achieve the goal as planned or as a peer, there will be career reward and recognition. As importantly, the organization can then apply the unused time, capital, people and other resources to achieving more than it planned or its peers — a double dividend of high-velocity goal achievement. And of course, the reverse is also true … taking twice the time and resources is bad for you and the company!

I love the sensation of forward movement, low-friction and trajectory that velocity evokes. The term productivity doesn’t quite get there – primarily because it’s easy to confuse the satisfaction of crossing things off your to-do list with having a material impact on the organization or your career.

Motion or Achievement?

To have a meaningful impact on the organization and gain career growth and professional rewards, what you work on and how you work need to align to achievement of the goals of the organization.

These 5 strategies have helped me and can increase your career velocity:

  1. Do work that matters. It is often not the easiest work … it’s work that clearly aligns with and advances the economic and strategic goals of the organization. Don’t know the strategic goals and economics? Work on that next!
  2. Deliver excellent work. It is often not the first and fastest thing you do or deliver. It is the best you can do or deliver. Set a high bar for yourself.
  3. Value time as money. Because that’s what it is. Act like it’s your money being burned when you burn time. Get to end of job on time and then reach for more.
  4. Learn everything you can. By doing and engaging, not by observing and judging. Then use what you learn to improve your work product and grow your impact capacity.
  5. Choose a full experience. Choose to engage and experience the work and what the environment has to offer — especially when it’s not a walk in the park. You’ll build skills and durability much faster. When you choose less than full engagement, you lose.

For a chuckle and to underscore the point, here is the opposite of these 5 strategies: functioning at a snail’s pace doing irrelevant, mediocre work that you’re not proud of and which is completely disconnected from leadership’s goals while learning nothing, gossiping plenty and staying disengaged on the sidelines.

Chances are you’ve worked with someone just like this, but never wanted to be that person!

What do you think? What are your velocity strategies and tactics?

photo credit: eflon via photopin cc

How To Skip The Negative Feedback "Sandwich"

I’ve never fully understood the logic behind the “sandwich” method of delivering performance feedback. (I’m sure you’re familiar with this concept: Open a discussion on a positive note, then insert a negative piece of news, followed by another positive.) We like to think that we’re softening the blow by offering several of bits of positive feedback around a central negative message. However, we’re doing no such thing.

Actually, this approach may be a disservice to both categories of information — each of which plays a unique and highly valuable role in shaping performance. Overall, we need to pay close attention to the “cascade” of emotions and behavior that we initiate when delivering feedback, but also be careful to retain the value of the message.

Performance Feedback: Open Dialogue

Processing negative performance feedback is quite challenging for most of us — even though on a very basic level, we realize that accepting “where to improve” is critical to our careers. While positive feedback serves to motivate and energize our work lives (we all need this on a regular basis), the “negatives” can also provide useful information about where we should direct our attention. To remain competitive, we certainly require both categories of information — and I am not debating the value of either. Rather, I’d like to open a discussion about how negative information can be presented and approached, to afford the most progress possible.

When considering negative feedback, we must acknowledge core human characteristics; including self-efficacy (the belief that individuals can actually impact their situation) and goal orientation (some individuals focus on learning, others focus on demonstrating competence, and others focus upon avoiding negative judgement). To properly deliver negative feedback, we should carefully consider and frame the delivery, so potential damage to an individual’s psyche is minimized and progress is emphasized.

Developing A Constructive Approach

There’s truly an art to presenting information about performance deficits of any kind. When managers practice the sandwich method, I fear that once the “meat” of the sandwich is delivered — the “downside” of performance — we really don’t remember much of anything that follows. (Attempting to “hide” the information doesn’t address the issues.) We can certainly do a better job of moving the conversation to more neutral ground, where performance improvement can follow. But how? Here are some ideas:

3 Behavioral Considerations

1) How humans are “wired” to perceive bad news. We are likely predisposed to pay more attention to negative information, possibly a leftover evolutionary survival mechanism. As a result, we’re likely to become hyper-focused on the negatives. This clouds our “lens.”
2) We sorely need the positives. We should all be allowed to absorb what we are doing well at work. That’s not possible when information about our successes is delivered in conjunction with information about shortcomings.
3) We “digest” slowly. It takes time to process negative information properly. Initially, when you hear information you might not not want to hear, negative thoughts can spiral, leading to responses such as panic and denial. There are stages in this process that cannot be skipped.

5 Ways To Avoid “The Sandwich”

1) Build resiliency. Performance management should never be a once a year, “live or die” event. Ultimately, it’s a continuous process. Provide positive feedback concerning small successes along the way to provide balance. This helps difficult information become easier to absorb.
2) Address self-efficacy. Some individuals have the tendency to believe they cannot impact their performance or build a needed skill set. Explore this predisposition, to encourage a more hopeful perspective.
3) Focus on learning. Research has shown that in contrast to performance goals, learning goals can increase problem solving in relation to performance problems, possibly limiting the “sting” of negative feedback. Setting the tone to “learn from failure” can prove more effective in motivating and directing behavior.
4) Never “drop a bomb.” It’s wise to address negative feedback when it is delivered. Allow enough time to help control anxiety, and at least begin to discuss a plan for improvement.
5) Support the digestion process. After sharing negative feedback, be sure to provide plenty of support. Be highly accessible as an employee works through the information and begins to take logical steps forward.

How do you present negative performance feedback? What are your “best practice” strategies? How have these strategies helped you develop others in the workplace? Share your thoughts in the comments area below.

(Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared as a LinkedIn Influencer post. It is republished with permission.)

Image Credit: Kitsa Sakurako/Flickr

How To Skip The Negative Feedback “Sandwich”

I’ve never fully understood the logic behind the “sandwich” method of delivering performance feedback. (I’m sure you’re familiar with this concept: Open a discussion on a positive note, then insert a negative piece of news, followed by another positive.) We like to think that we’re softening the blow by offering several of bits of positive feedback around a central negative message. However, we’re doing no such thing.

Actually, this approach may be a disservice to both categories of information — each of which plays a unique and highly valuable role in shaping performance. Overall, we need to pay close attention to the “cascade” of emotions and behavior that we initiate when delivering feedback, but also be careful to retain the value of the message.

Performance Feedback: Open Dialogue

Processing negative performance feedback is quite challenging for most of us — even though on a very basic level, we realize that accepting “where to improve” is critical to our careers. While positive feedback serves to motivate and energize our work lives (we all need this on a regular basis), the “negatives” can also provide useful information about where we should direct our attention. To remain competitive, we certainly require both categories of information — and I am not debating the value of either. Rather, I’d like to open a discussion about how negative information can be presented and approached, to afford the most progress possible.

When considering negative feedback, we must acknowledge core human characteristics; including self-efficacy (the belief that individuals can actually impact their situation) and goal orientation (some individuals focus on learning, others focus on demonstrating competence, and others focus upon avoiding negative judgement). To properly deliver negative feedback, we should carefully consider and frame the delivery, so potential damage to an individual’s psyche is minimized and progress is emphasized.

Developing A Constructive Approach

There’s truly an art to presenting information about performance deficits of any kind. When managers practice the sandwich method, I fear that once the “meat” of the sandwich is delivered — the “downside” of performance — we really don’t remember much of anything that follows. (Attempting to “hide” the information doesn’t address the issues.) We can certainly do a better job of moving the conversation to more neutral ground, where performance improvement can follow. But how? Here are some ideas:

3 Behavioral Considerations

1) How humans are “wired” to perceive bad news. We are likely predisposed to pay more attention to negative information, possibly a leftover evolutionary survival mechanism. As a result, we’re likely to become hyper-focused on the negatives. This clouds our “lens.”
2) We sorely need the positives. We should all be allowed to absorb what we are doing well at work. That’s not possible when information about our successes is delivered in conjunction with information about shortcomings.
3) We “digest” slowly. It takes time to process negative information properly. Initially, when you hear information you might not not want to hear, negative thoughts can spiral, leading to responses such as panic and denial. There are stages in this process that cannot be skipped.

5 Ways To Avoid “The Sandwich”

1) Build resiliency. Performance management should never be a once a year, “live or die” event. Ultimately, it’s a continuous process. Provide positive feedback concerning small successes along the way to provide balance. This helps difficult information become easier to absorb.
2) Address self-efficacy. Some individuals have the tendency to believe they cannot impact their performance or build a needed skill set. Explore this predisposition, to encourage a more hopeful perspective.
3) Focus on learning. Research has shown that in contrast to performance goals, learning goals can increase problem solving in relation to performance problems, possibly limiting the “sting” of negative feedback. Setting the tone to “learn from failure” can prove more effective in motivating and directing behavior.
4) Never “drop a bomb.” It’s wise to address negative feedback when it is delivered. Allow enough time to help control anxiety, and at least begin to discuss a plan for improvement.
5) Support the digestion process. After sharing negative feedback, be sure to provide plenty of support. Be highly accessible as an employee works through the information and begins to take logical steps forward.

How do you present negative performance feedback? What are your “best practice” strategies? How have these strategies helped you develop others in the workplace? Share your thoughts in the comments area below.

(Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared as a LinkedIn Influencer post. It is republished with permission.)

Image Credit: Kitsa Sakurako/Flickr