Talent Will Only Get Us So Far

From sports to work, we see so many individuals with an incredible amount of talent that still somehow manage to jack it all up and fall flat on their faces. Whether it be the charismatic new employee that can charm management, the eager recruit that oozes with potential or the biggest and fastest athlete, it is apparent that it takes more than raw skill to survive and prosper in this world. It’s takes a special “it” to move beyond flashes in the pan to consistent, long-term success.

Vick+Head+DownToday I’m over at Performance I Create discussing exactly what that “it” is and how it can take us from potential to the promised land in our careers. Here’s a quick sample:

…listening to sports analysts and reporters talk about the best in the game, they will talk about on-field stuff, but the conversation always go back to what that person does after the cameras go off and their teammates go home. We’ll often hear of how much time the person invests in developing their craft or niche in the weight room, film room or with personal trainers and coaches. They study…

I hope that you enjoy the full post HERE and I asked that you take it to heart and share it with anyone that is relying on talent alone to get ahead.

Check out my post and those of my fellow contributors for relevant, in-your-face, performance altering insight at Performance I Create!

Make Good Business Decisions, Not Popular Ones

I believe that the most difficult part of being a true leader is the ability to make the tough call even when it meets resistance. Do we tell people untruths to avoid hurting their feelings? Do we avoid negative but necessary feedback in order to keep people “engaged”? Yeah, it happens all of the time…and at the same time it’s doing that person a disservice as they don’t know that they need to do better and our places of business suffer from a false sense of success.

Today I am over at Performance I Create, where we dive a little deeper into the issue of worrying more about image than the true success of those we are chosen to lead. Here is a quick sample:

whatrightnot-easy…those in power want to seem like heroes/heroines and good guys, but we must be careful not to make critical business moves based on popularity alone. The temporary spike in popularity will crash even harder when the audience sees that the promises can’t be fulfilled or that the decision has actually made things worse. My advice to decision makers is simple…

I hope that you enjoy the full post HERE and I asked that you share this post with anyone that you know who is struggling with being liked versus being effective.

Check out my post and those of my fellow contributors for relevant, in-your-face, performance altering insight at Performance I Create!

Pissed Off For Greatness

I’ve never been a huge Baltimore Ravens fan (partially because they’ve beat up my TN Titans too many times), but I did enjoy watching Linebacker Ray Lewis play. Lewis, a future Hall of Famer and amateur “preacher”, was known just as much for his hard hitting, sideline to sideline play as he was for his “motivational” speeches.

I air-quote motivational and preacher there because while he was great a firing people up, people admit that they didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. It was as if he was speaking in some kind of deep biblical, mythological, gridiron code. Whatever it was, it fired his teammates up to the tune of 2 championships in twelve years…and several victories in between.

In 2012, ol Ray Ray was brought in to speak to the Stanford Basketball team before a game. The greatest line in the sermon…I mean, speech was “I’m pissed off for greatness!” Never lacking in the passion and pissivity department, that line shook something in my spirit. In a sport that requires one to be violent, one must indeed be pissed off to execute. To deliver bone-crushing blows and to put your body at risk the way the players do, one must dig deep, channel something from within and play angrily.

When we go to work, we’re pissed at people all of the time, but we don’t use that to our advantages. We actually let it work to our competitor’s advantage. While I’m not condoning tackling people by the copier (not all the time) or stiff arming someone to get the best seat in a meeting, I am saying that we need to take the stuff that we do not like in our offices and use them to fuel some change. Channel the anger that we feel toward policy, “the man”, or lazy teammates and shake some stuff up!

Are you tired of that lady that meets you at your desk every morning before you can even put your bag down…messing up your morning flow and throwing off your focus for the first half of the day? Take that pissivity and use it to let people know what your boundaries are…because a happier, focused you equals a happier, focused team.

Your employees not performing, thus making you look bad? Don’t just chalk it up. Channel that anger and let it motivate you to do something drastic and different. It’s ok to show emotion as a manager. It’s ok to be tastefully and necessarily forceful. Just be specific, respectful and don’t over do it.

Can’t stand that fact that people aren’t following up with you and giving you feedback? Use that feeling of neglect as the inspiration to get out of the fetal position from under your desk, walk straight into the office of the person in the To: field of your email and initiate a conversation about your opinions and ideas.

Unknown-2Get pissed off for greatness! Get hype and make the play everyone else is afraid to! Because like a former employee of mine once told me, it’s better to be pissed off than pissed on…and by not standing up and putting a foot down we sometimes end up with a foot on the back of our necks. So get out there and tackle somebody (figuratively)! Score a touchdown (in the boardroom)! Knock the ball loose (when someone tries to screw you over)! And like Ray said in that speech,

“…you got to go out and show them that I’m a different creature now than I was five minutes ago…because if you ain’t pissed off for greatness, that mean you ok with being mediocre.” 

Huh? Anyway, get fired up and go make a difference while everyone else is just making noise…and get your celebration dance ready!

A P.I.P. Shouldn’t Be An R.I.P.

It’s so easy to say that employees should just go away when they’re not performing the way we want them to or responding to our management. The hard part is not actually getting them to change behavior, it’s actually admitting that we can do more to get them to where they should be.

image1PIPs or Performance Improvement Plans are often used by companies as the last ditched effort to shape up those “troubled” employees before we ship them out. Others use them as merely a coaching tool to get the attention of their people so that other forms of disciplinary action doesn’t have to be taken. I’ve seen PIPs in memo form, worksheets and templates, and I’ve even seen them delivered in emails. But regardless of how we format them, they should all have the same elements to be effective:

  • Clear areas that our employees need improve upon to remain a part of our teams
  • Challenging, yet achievable goals and deadlines for expected improvement
  • A plan of action for achievable said goals
  • Steps in which the manager can contribute and help the employee reach optimal performance
  • Fair and consistently applied actions that will occur if the desired performance isn’t met

We cannot use the word “Improvement” in the plan if we are not truly trying to achieve it. How we communicate during the delivery, and the words and tone used during the meeting should not feel like a death sentence or as if we are setting the employee up to fail.

There is no need to rehash the issues that we’ve had with the employee, but should focus on the behaviors that cause those issues that need to be altered or adjusted. Bringing up old stuff, especially if those incidents have caused negative conflict before, will surely turn your performance improvement meeting into a counter-productive blame session where no one is listening.

If we want our employees to listen, they must feel as if they are believed in, like they can make it and that they are being supported by members of management. Not only is this communicated in the document and meetings themselves, but by actually following up frequently to ensure that the necessary steps in the plan are being acted on.

So ultimately, a lot of the responsibility comes back to the manager. Not just delivering a document so that we can check a box, but managing our employees to yield the results that we need.

And isn’t that what management is all about? Not just supervising processes and expecting everyone to fall in line, but by providing resources and teaching people how to be successful in our systems.

Joe ClarkIf we want to get rid of someone, let’s just do it and move on to the next. Like Joe Clark said in the movie Lean On Me, “Don’t f#&% around with it…do it expeditiously!” But if we actually want them to get better, we must communicate it, make them believe it and show them how serious we are about them making it through the process.

Stop Hiding

I had a habit of hiding in my office when things get chaotic around the office. At least when that chaos was “someone else’s problem” or responsibility. When I started to hear people getting feisty or when I heard questions being raised up and down the hall, that was my queue to close my door.

It’s my only way to get peace, quiet and to not be pulled into drama or someone else’s mess…right?

Then one day, something happened to my peace and quiet. I started to get intercepted before I could make it to my office and I was forced to be that extra assistance or the different outlook that was needed. I couldn’t not get involved anymore. I couldn’t not give input or offer to fix the issue. And these interruptions changed the way I looked at my role. 

I believe that everyone feels as if they have more to offer than they are being asked to…but when it’s time to cash in we oftentimes don’t want to be bothered. We want it both ways. We want easy and cushy, and then complain when we’re not asked to help solve the difficult. After an issue has been tackled, we run from our hiding place and gripe that we weren’t consulted. If you haven’t done that, I have. I’m guilty.

It took me leaving my current employer and then coming back to understand that I was being asked to participate in the chaos because I was trusted to bring about some order while others were scrambling. I eventually learned that throwing my hands up when I might have had THE suggestion only helped in keeping the calamity and status quo in tact. I was great at pointing out what was wrong but I was not doing enough to change it. 

What I Learned
People in leadership positions are a proud breed of people. They may not outright say, “Hey kid, we need your insight or help”, but instead casually ask your opinion in passing, ask you to make a phone call for them or hand you a document to proof. That is sometimes their way of saying, “What you think matters” without saying, “What you think matters”.  And once I jumped into one of those chaotic situations and helped to calm it down or to make sense of it, the people around me realized what I knew or said silently all of the time…I CAN do more.

If you can do more, do more. Don’t run from the difficult, don’t shy away from the challenge and don’t avoid the uncomfortable..only then to complain that you’re not being used in your workplace properly. The old adage remains, “Respect is earned, not given”, and earning it means getting our hands a little dirty more often than not. Respect is earned by staying in the midst or close to it when things don’t make sense and helping to decode it. Respect is given when our ideas aren’t held for ransom for fear that we won’t be popular, liked or politically correct. 

20140723-064044-24044763.jpgBeing counted on and accountable is tiring, it is busy and it might just make the workdays longer. But isn’t that better than flying under the radar to a point that I’m virtually insignificant and useless? Isn’t that better than my phone not ringing at all? I think so. 

We have enough of those people…the ones hiding behind their doors like I used to. Avoiding challenge but having the loudest opinions about how those forced to deal with it handled or mishandled it. The opinions and ideas voiced behind those doors do us all no good as the real work is done and real respect is earned on the other side of it.

Now What?

I am fresh back from a wonderful conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (LASHRM) and I am still pumped up and excited about my profession.

As I emptied my conference bag and began sorting through all of the pamphlets, pens and notes, I reflected and thought to myself, “Now what?”

We go to all of these conferences for development , fellowship, and to meet our Social Media peers and friends in person, but what good is all of that development and fellowship if the organizations that we return to don’t see and reap any benefit?

What are we going to do? What are we going to change? How are we better and will the colleagues we work with daily see it? Or are we just going to hoard all of the cool stuff we learned and keep all of the free pens and water bottles to ourselves.

I saw something special in that convention center, and because of that I’m motivated to share until my colleagues get tired of me.

I had the pleasure of working with my Performance I Create colleagues as the Social Media team for the event. We had a ball, sharing session content, promoting social media, blogging, etc. As the River Center staff began breaking down the exhibit tables and attendees were clearing out, we thought that our work was done. Just then a volunteer approached us and said that there were a couple of attendees that really needed to talk to us. Agreeing, a couple of us walked out to where our Social Engagement Portal was (that staff broke those tables down fast!) and we were immediately hit with a series of questions about how “Social” could help them in their workplace. They wanted to know how to move their thoughts from ideas to execution…and which tools and mediums would be best for what they were trying to accomplish.

connectAs we engaged them (my colleague did most of the talking, ahem), you could see light bulbs not only coming on but exploding. The concepts we spoke of were not complicated. They just needed some of that stuff that we teach and talk about to come off of the screen, out of the blogs and made plain to them in person…right there in their hands so that they could grab it and implement. What they needed was the knowledge that we had gained from doing…ideas that we got from conferences….strategies that we picked up from our peers. They needed it to make sense and tie in to what they were dealing with every day in their organization…and that if they had questions afterwards that they could reach out and get support.

“Don’t just help light bulbs come on, help them explode!” – Justin Harris, 2014

That’s what stuck with me. That’s what made me realize that it’s not that the people upstairs from me don’t care to do things differently, it’s that they don’t know exactly where to start. They have ideas, but they need help planning. Those of us that say we’re experts are needed to reach out occasionally and break it down for them. Because sometimes our messages are too big and they can’t run with that load. If we break the messages into manageable chunks, focus on process instead of the presentation, we’ll see more people grab hold and put the stuff in action.

So it starts in my shop. Being the change that I talk about and helping others to implement. Helping others to get involved and learn more about the tools of our trade. Because the Resources that we have are no good if we are not sharing them with other Humans.