Effectively Managing The Praised Generation

There is a generation out in the workforce today who do not regard, accept or handle feedback or criticism. Often when some of these young professionals run into opposition or frustration at work, they don’t always handle it well. If they don’t get along with a boss, many quit within weeks of being hired. They stay in a job less than two years compared to the average worker who stays in their job about 4.4 years (Bureau of Labor and Statistics). These employees belong to what is called the “praised generation.” Effectively managing the praised generation is a business necessity.

One problem with this generation is they have been overly praised by well-meaning parents. These parents have boosted self-esteem by telling their children how amazing, smart and talented they are. This form of praise, according to psychologist Carol Dweck, can create a fixed mindset that does not respond well to setbacks or opposition. These children are entering the workforce and according to Ms. Dweck, “…many can’t function without getting a sticker for their every move. Companies are reinforcing this behavior by shifting annual bonuses to quarterly or even monthly. Instead of employee of the month, it is employee of the day. Companies are hiring consultants to help them recruit, reward and retain this population.” I just attended an event where one of these consultants was giving my CEO peer group advice to better manage this generation. We have a workforce with too many that require constant positive feedback and can’t handle feedback for improvement.

Two things need to happen for this to change: 1. Managers must to own their behaviors and learn to be better bosses and learn to encourage better behaviors in their employees. 2. Younger employees must learn some resilience and learn how to deal with conflict and disappointment when things don’t go their way like they may be used to. It is important that we figure this out, because like it or not, Millenials (praised generation) are currently the largest generation in the workforce and will make up 49% of the workforce by 2020. They also have many tremendous talents and qualities that will benefit in our businesses.

So what do we do? Long-term: Parents must be willing to allow their children to fail. Help them feel the consequences of loosing a game occasionally, instead of a trophy just for showing up. They need to know when they do a great job and when they can do better. My wife and I have five children. Some of our children are grown and are doing well; they hard working productive members of society. They (mostly) took correction well and learned from mistakes. Some are still growing and learning. Our parenting is sometimes viewed as unreasonable and punishments are sometimes considered ‘mean’ and/or ‘crazy’. Our behavior is viewed as the problem rather than their actions being the issue. We, as parents, have had to be consistent and fair in order to develop responsible, productive adults.

My wife and I get feedback from other parents who say our children are well adjusted. It leads me to believe that many are not ‘leaning’ into the discomfort of teaching children discipline. It is not about being friends. It is about being loving parents. Part of my evidence about these parents comes from managers who are asking for my help with these praised children who work for them. More disturbing evidence of failed parenting comes from a conversation I had recently with a district judge in Las Vegas, where I live. He tells me that convicted felon’s always ask for mercy and don’t feel they deserve punishment for their crimes. He said when he gives the sentence, he is called ‘crazy’, ‘mean’, and worse things including threats. This judge knows the only way we learn is if we experience the consequences of our choices. Society it seems, must bear some of the burden of parenting deficiencies.

My question for you as a leader is-how well do you handle adversity? How good are you at taking responsibility for your actions and your failures? We live in a society where so many look to blame others for their failings. It seems most would do anything they can to avoid consequences. People with this mindset fail to learn and grow because they perceive consequences as negative. Many have the attitude that laws apply to everyone else and breaking the law is okay as long as you don’t get caught. Then if you do, it is because you are being treated unfairly.

So what can you do be more effective as a manager of this praised generation?

  1. Adjust your expectations:
    Realize that developing this praised generation into productive contributors in your business takes commitment and consistency. You cannot simply hope the problem will solve itself. Make employee development an integral part of your business strategy.
  2. Learn how to praise: 
    Ms. Dweck gives some great advice that I support which you can immediately implement. Change what you praise your kids and employees for. When they do something hard, praise them for that. When they stick with a project regardless of the outcome, praise them for their commitment. Praise them for the effort not the outcome. Instead of praising for a job well done or a brilliant performance or a great idea, praise them for taking initiative. Ms Dweck even says, tongue in cheek, “praise them for not needing constant praise.”
  3. Coach & Mentor: 
    Develop coaching and mentoring programs that focus on soft as well and hard skills. Have a deliberate leadership development program that identifies and advances high potential employees.
  4. Fail forward: 
    Create an environment where people have enough freedom to learn by trial and error. Encourage employees to take initiative and take risks within reasonable limits. Mistakes can accelerate learning.
  5. Increase conflict: 
    Learning how to normalize conflict and disagreement. With the proper training, managers can learn how to turn conflict into a positive tool for the organization. It will help employees learn to constructively give feedback and benefit from disagreement. Building these conflict muscles will help develop this praised generation and consequently, help older generations make better decisions and be more engaged and productive.

The solution takes persistence and commitment. Your efforts can yield great benefits. Despite some of the negative press the “praised generation” gets, they have a great deal to offer and they are the future of your business.

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC.

Other topics that may interest you: Magnify Your Reputation; How To Make Yourself Instantly More Valuable;  Leadership Is About Impact Not IntentionWhat Is Innattentional Blindness Costing You?Is The Fundamental Attribution Error Destroying Your Team?Cure For The CEO DiseaseWhen Being Too Smart Hurts You

How To Make Yourself Instantly More Valuable

The current unemployment rate in the U.S. is 4.2%, 6.2% in Canada, 4.3% in the U.K., and 5.5% in Australia. Employment is considered to be at “full-employment” when the unemployment rate is at 6%. At this level, most people who want to work, have a job. At 4.2% unemployment in the U.S., companies are struggling to fill open positions with the best candidates. It is common practice for companies to poach the best talent from the competition. Making yourself valuable to your current employer may also attract the attention of other employers. Your ability to communicate effectively will give you options. If you are not currently satisfied with your work environment, learning to communicate with power and influence can help you interview more effectively and improve your upward mobility.

Communicate With Power & Influence

Learning the art of communicating with power and influence will pay big dividends in your career and life. Much of what you as a leader, manager, or project manager do requires the support of your teams, and support from cross-functional teams. In today’s workplace there is a premium on collaboration. Managers that can do it well will find their services in greater demand and their responsibility and earning power increasing. Communicating with power and influence can help you advance in your career, earn more money, effectively navigate conflict, and get buy-in for your ideas.

I graduated with a master’s degree in economics in 1992. I remember having little initial success in my job hunt. As I felt less and less confident, it hurt my chances for several opportunities. I remember interviewing with Mark, the Vice President of the International Division of Franklin Covey. He asked me how much I was worth. I was so beat up I said the minimum I would take was $30,000/yr. He said if I was not worth $100k why would he hire me? If I had learned to speak more powerfully and feel more confident in the moment, the outcome might have been different. Instead, I actually started to cry in the interview. Mark had compassion on me and encouraged me. Though I never worked for the company, we became friends and we are still in touch 25 years later.

After this experience, I was hired by an international public company and I soon became the vice president of operations. As part of the hiring process, I was taken on a trip together with my wife to see the site of a future project development. My experience is that my behavior and ability to communicate was under the microscope. With my wife by my side my confidence was high. When the CEO trusted that I had the character and qualities necessary secure the support of the shareholders, I was offered the job.

Trust Me, This Is Important

Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy, says that when people meet you they instantly judge if they can 1. trust and 2. respect you. Psychologists describe these two factors as warmth and competence. While most business professionals and certainly job seekers believe respect and competence rule, Ms. Cuddy argues that trust must come first. Of course competence is a prerequisite for any job. Let’s call it a ‘pay to play’ or threshold requirement. If we are not trusted, we may never have the opportunity to demonstrate our competence. It is not just what we do and say that matters, but how we do it and how we say it that matters today. It is not merely style over substance. Substance is required. But substance with no style is often a non-starter. To emphasize this point, HR.com reports that 90% of companies hire for skill, yet 90% fire for behavior. So hiring mangers are getting wiser, your style, your brand, and how you engender trust matters.

Enhance Your Brand

Your brand and how you engender trust are influenced by your communication style. Some people are naturally assertive and controlling. Others are encouraging motivators who appreciate recognition. Some are naturally supportive and avoid confrontation. Finally, some prefer accuracy and rules and have a need to be correct in everything they do and say. Knowing your natural communication style will help you manage your brand. Armed with the knowledge of your natural tendencies, you can begin to enhance your natural style for improved results.

I eventually became a CEO of leadership training development company. Over the years I developed a reputation or ‘brand’ as a manager. I was most interested in people doing what I wanted them to do. To be sure, I wanted their buy-in, but if I didn’t get it I would bulldoze them. This also showed up at home with my kids. I was more focused on the task than on connection. I was not getting the results I wanted. I decided to change my brand. I worked hard at changing my natural style to become more empowering and motivating. I worked with coaches and mentors to help me improve. I have become a personal and executive coach. My experiences have been a powerful catalyst in my life and the life of my clients.

You May Be Creating Your Own Problems

In the workplace, it is common for managers to create problems with their employees based on their individual communication and leadership styles. One way managers create their own problems is by controlling employee behavior instead empowering them to solve their own problems. When we have problems with our employees, what do we usually do? Tell them to fix it. Sometimes we tell them how to fix it. Usually how we would fix it. The problem with that approach is if they are not fully in agreement with your idea and it doesn’t work, they blame you!

Take the first step to understand and improve your communication style. Find an effective behavioral survey. I have used many and I recommend the ProScan for accuracy. Take the survey here and schedule a brief initial consultation today! This awareness will instantly make you more valuable. Armed with this information you will be able to immediately make adjustments to enhance your natural communication style.

Improving you are ability to communicate with power and influence has many components. This is just the first article of many on the topic.

Related topics: How To Make a Stronger ImpressionLeadership Is About Impact Not Intention, What Is Innattentional Blindness Costing You? How Asking Questions Strengthens Your TeamWhen Being Too Smart Hurts You,

The Author, Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC

Face Your Fears!

I know everyone has challenges. There are people all around the world who have experienced and are experiencing tragedies and may be struggling with how to move forward. Some of you may be struggling with fears about loved ones who are sick. Perhaps you are having relationship, emotional or financial challenges. Maybe you are concerned about your job security or you are afraid that you are not having the results you deserve. I do not want to trivialize the seriousness of your specific challenges. It is my hope that perhaps some of my personal experience and perspective may provide a small dose of help and hope to one of you in need.

During these difficult times it is easy to complain to others about our condition. Sometimes we do this to garner sympathy from others, or just get a burden off our chest. It is natural for us to desire the support and understanding of people close to us. It is important that we do not dwell on our problems excessively or let our fears consume our thoughts. When we do, we actually help bring about the thing that we fear. It is possible that by sharing our fears too much, we may reinforce and strengthen those fears. This may also cause fearful thoughts and behaviors in others.

I do believe it is good to reach out in our times of challenge. However, I submit that we must avoid the negative complaining that fuels fear and focus on thoughts and actions that build hope. For example, a co-worker recently asked each of us at work to think positive thoughts or pray for her mother who was receiving her final chemo-therapy treatment and check up for cancer. I know my friend was concerned about her mother and the chance that her cancer would persist. However, instead of focusing on the fact that the cancer may persist, she focused on getting everyone around thinking that her mother’s health would improve. When in fact it did, her hope, faith, and actions were rewarded.

I understand that our faith may not always be rewarded with these positive outcomes. I believe our hopefully positive outlook must persist regardless of the outcome. This will allow us to have the greatest fulfillment in our life. It will also reinforce the attitude that we need to courageously face the challenges of life. We will get through the difficulties of life that we will all experience. When we face our fears and difficulties with hope and faith, we will ACT in ways that will help us begin to have the results we desire. It is in action based on hope and faith that enables us to create: great relationships, health, wealth, confidence, happiness, and joy.

Choose one or two of the thoughts below, print them out and display it as a reminder to move forward with hope and faith. Recite them as a daily affirmation:

“We come this way but once. We can either tiptoe through life and hope that we get to death without being too badly bruised or we can live a full, complete life achieving our goals and realizing our wildest dreams”. -Bob Proctor

“I have insecurities. But whatever I’m insecure about, I don’t dissect it, but I’ll go after it and say, ‘what am I afraid of?’ I bet the average successful person can tell you they’ve failed so much more than they’ve had success. I’ve had far more failures than I’ve had successes. With every commercial I’ve gotten, there were 200 I didn’t get. You have to go after what you are afraid of”. -Kevin Sorbo

“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.” —Helen Keller

“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.” —Henry Ford

“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” —Rosa Parks

“Fears are nothing more than a state of mind.” —Napoleon Hill

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” —Nelson Mandela

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” —Marie Curie

“Being brave isn’t the absence of fear. Being brave is having that fear but finding a way through it.” —Bear Grylls

“Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.” —Babe Ruth

“Do the thing we fear, and death of fear is certain.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

“If you look into your own heart, and you find nothing wrong there, what is there to worry about? What is there to fear?” —Confucius

“Action cures fear, inaction creates terror.” —Douglas Horton

“Do the thing you fear and keep doing it… that is the quickest and surest way ever yet discovered to conquer fear.” —Dale Carnegie

“Don’t give up when the pressure mounts. Face your doubts. Master your fears”. –Jeffrey R. Holland

“Don’t take counsel from your fears”. –James E. Faust

“No one likes to fail [but] we mortals do not become champions without making mistakes”. –Dieter F. Uchtdorf

“Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward”. –St. Paul

Face your fears!

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. Additional articles which may interest you: How To Create Success From Failure; Learn From Mistakes; The Results Killing Virus; Silence Your Saboteur

Learn From Mistakes

The best companies allow employees to experiment and make mistakes. In many organizational cultures, innovation is discouraged when leadership doesn’t encourage risk taking. Making mistakes is one of the best ways to learn. We often learn more from our mistakes than our successes. Managers who do not empower employees to take risks to avoid consequences of their actions will depress learning and development. Many people avoid taking risks because they don’t want to experiences consequences. Others make mistakes and don’t learn when they look to avoid consequences.

The same principle applies in our personal lives. I haven’t always made great decisions, though I accept responsibility for and learn from my mistakes. At one point, I started a business without doing my due diligence or consulting my wife, who wisely was against the idea. Four years later, we had depleted our savings and our home was in foreclosure. In the end, we were forced to give it back to the bank. This was devastating. I changed direction with my business, we found a nice rental house, and life continued. It was not the bank or the government that caused me to lose our home. It was a consequence of my choices and actions. Experiencing the consequences of our actions can be a catalyst for change.

Failing to take responsibility and ownership for our decisions can be very costly. We lose the opportunity to learn and grow. I had a friend who was losing his home a couple of years ago. In his case, he decided to stop paying his mortgage when the value of his home fell below what he owed. Many people did this expecting a bailout from the government. When he was complaining about why the president wasn’t doing enough to help him, I interrupted him and told him his blaming was preventing him from finding another solution. He was being a victim. Experiencing the consequences of our actions is incentive to quickly learn and change course. I know first-hand how painful it is to lose a home. But blaming others for our predicaments only hurts us….we give away our power to change. If we believe our problems are generated externally, we may think we have no choice. If we think nothing we do will matter, we may choose to do nothing. When we take personal responsibility, we change our behavior and our outcomes, creating opportunities to learn, grow, and change. It all starts with choosing our response, and learning from the consequences of our choices.

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. Additional articles which may interest you: How To Create Success From Failure; Leadership Is About Impact Not IntentionHow To Prepare Your Next Generation Of LeadersIncrease Your Effectiveness As A Leader With Perception Science;  How To Get Your People To Change TodayCure For The CEO DiseaseThe Importance of Values

The Results Killing Virus

Are your results being impacted by an infectious disease? Science has proven that attitudes are literally catching like a virus. We live in a society where avoiding responsibility (non-responsibility) and placing blame is deeply rooted in our culture. Do you allow your mood to be determined by how others treat you? Do you feel others cause you to be offended or frustrated. If you do, you are probably infected with the highly contagious blame disease.

Blaming is often associated with strong emotional feelings. Author Daniel Goleman writes, “…emotions are contagious. We ‘catch’ strong emotions much as we do a rhinovirus – and so can come down with the emotional equivalent of a cold.” (Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence) American Psychiatrist, Daniel Stern, says our minds are continually interacting through a type of neural WiFi. (Daniel Stern, The Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday Life, 2004, p. 76) Parents blame teachers for low test scores, teachers blame parents for unruly children, employees blame their bosses when work gets too hard, and citizens blame the government for their economic woes and more.

When we think our problems are externally caused, it reduces our power! It causes us to focus on who to blame rather than on finding a solution and changing our circumstances. If we believe our problems are external, then we are at the mercy of those external conditions. For some people this is convenient. It gives them a ready made excuse when things go wrong. Taking personal responsibility is a much more difficult doctrine. True, some circumstances are beyond our control. I will discuss how to approach those in future articles. Let’s inoculate you from the blame virus.

Stop the spread of blame today!

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. Additional articles which may interest you: Leadership Is About Impact Not IntentionHow To Prepare Your Next Generation Of LeadersIncrease Your Effectiveness As A Leader With Perception Science; How To Create Success From Failure; How To Get Your People To Change TodayCure For The CEO DiseaseThe Importance of Values

The Problem With Pressure

Do you ever struggle with all you are required to do, balancing life and career? When things are overwhelming, you start to create patterned responses or habits of thought and behavior that can hold you back in effectively fulfilling your duties. The mind rebels and wants to keep you safe in a comfort zone. It gives in to fear and doubt, it deletes, distorts and simplifies information. When this happens it limits your ability to respond effectively, or to change your approach if necessary.

Put another way, our ability to think clearly is diminished under pressure. The brain will revert to behavior that is most comfortable. Some of you may become belligerent and aggressive. Others can’t stop talking and may become sarcastic. Others avoid conflict and procrastinate. Some become obstinate as their need to be right causes them to dig their heels in. These patterned responses may show up unexpectedly and at/or inconvenient times. Some of your patterned responses have been developed over a life time and are very strong.

The first step in taking more responsibility and control over your patterned responses is to identify your behavioral traits. The increased awareness will help you begin to make better choices. Take a few moments to complete a quality behavioral assessment of your choice. Or I invite you to complete ProScan, one of the best behavioral surveys available click here. The first one is my gift to you. To take this assessment, you must be willing to review the results with me. This allows us to discuss some ways you can reject your patterned responses which may be holding you back.

Choose your response for better outcomes!

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. Additional articles which may interest you: How To Improve Your Leadership Under PressureLeadership Is About Impact Not IntentionHow To Prepare Your Next Generation Of LeadersIncrease Your Effectiveness As A Leader With Perception Science;

The Value of Your Values

How Living Your Values Increases Happiness & Power

The first step to taking 100% responsibility for the outcomes in your life is to get clear about what is important to you. What do you value? Values represent our guiding principles, our broadest motivations. They are the attitudes and ideas we hold that influence how we act. This applies to individuals, organizations and societies. I used to think identifying values was just a good idea. Then I learned the power created when behavior is truly aligned with what we say we want. When we make time for the things we identify as most important, our satisfaction expands.

There are many kinds of values. To keep things simple I will mention two: Core Values and Aspirational Values. Unlike belief systems, which must be regularly examined and updated, core values must remain constant if they are to be an effective tool. For example, the northern star is valuable to navigators because it remains consistently fixed in the heavens. It is a tool that provides accurate direction when needed no matter where the person is located; it is a constant in a world full of variables.

Aspirational values are those behaviors, attitudes and characteristics that you are working towards. The distinction is important because of the impact on engagement. If you were to state innovation as a core value and your policies and the behavior of leadership do not reinforce or support this value, you will create cynicism and disengagement. You may reduce innovation because your most innovative employees may leave. However, if you state this as an aspirational value, you are more honest about the need to be more innovative. It will not create a false expectation that can come back to haunt you.

Companies spend a great deal of time and money defining values that are important to them. The challenge seems to be; behaving in harmony with those values. I have experienced first hand how making decisions and behaving in alignment with your stated values improves personal and employee satisfaction. Just as important, it improves efficiency and productivity. Not only is behaving in alignment with your stated values the right thing to do, it will benefit your bottom line. Following the constant guidance of positive values will lead you inexorably to the situation and outcome you desire.

Here are some ways to identify your values:

  1. What drives you crazy– Take a moment to identify what drives you crazy. Think about the opposite of that and you will identify what you value.
  2. A PEAK Experience –Think of a time in your life when you were excited, happy or fulfilled- Tell the story to someone and ask them to help you identify what you valued about those experiences.
  3. Suppressed Values – Things you long for but are not getting. (I love to be out in nature.)
  4. Invisible Values – These values are honored naturally, you do not think about them. Quirks (Have to have the pillows straight) Hugh Grant movies make me squirm. I don’t like to look foolish or stupid. I value being competent polished, etc.
  5. Must Haves – Look at what you must have in your life beyond food, shelter, and community.
  6. Obsessive Expression – Do you insist on honoring a value as a demand. Look for places you take a value to extreme. (The need to be right, to be in control, to avoid conflict at all cost, resistance to being managed or following rules, the need to work hard, focus on problems, worry, unrealistic expectations, overly sensitive to being embarrassed, thinking about what you will say vs. listening, compulsive need to be heard, needing to be liked, fear of rejection, indecisive, overly agreeable, deferring, overly skeptical, slow to trust, over planning, perfectionism, inflexible, constant need for variety, enjoying interruptions, need for autonomy and independence and more.) These can hold you back.
  7. Your Future Self – Think about who you wish to become or who you are becoming.

Identify and take responsibility for the things that are most important to you. How does this give you power? When you allow life to happen to you, you take what comes. Your schedule is at the mercy of others and it will fill up with trivial activities and interruptions. I hear my clients say from time to time: “I am too busy…to exercise, or to socialize, or to enjoy some quiet time!” Make time for the things you value most. It will energize you, it will force you to be more efficient and effective. You will begin to take back power over your life. YOU get to decide where you will spend your time and energy. If family is important, schedule time for them. If work, making money, exercise and sports, family, friends, church, etc. are important to you, schedule time in your week for them. Schedule time with the people that are important to you.

Dr. Daniel Amen who is a brain disorder specialist who wrote “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life.” He says that we harness our brain’s power when we give it direction and vision. Having a purpose in your life aligned with your values gives you power. As you look back at your days and weeks and you have made time for the most important things in your life, you will have a sense of satisfaction, happiness and power.

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. Additional articles which may interest you: Leadership Is About Impact Not IntentionHow To Prepare Your Next Generation Of LeadersIncrease Your Effectiveness As A Leader With Perception Science; How To Create Success From Failure; How To Get Your People To Change TodayCure For The CEO DiseaseThe Importance of Values

My Why

Our purpose is to elevate leaders and help them elevate their teams.  We exist to help organizations achieve desired results by transforming people and processes.

We help companies achieve their goals and vision by developing people starting at the top; by improving processes and helping our clients deliver a great service or product.

We help employees love what they do and make a difference. We improve trust, communication, and facilitate healthy conflict.

We help management become proactive versus reactive, by improving hiring practices to attract and keep the best people, and help keep people engaged in a meaningful way.  We give management relief, confidence, and enthusiasm for the future.

Why do I teach? I am a teacher at heart. It brings me great fulfillment to help people learn things that will make their lives and businesses better. I love to see when someone makes a shift in behavior after having a clarifying experience.

Teaching is one of the noblest professions. My mother was a teacher. Her students loved her. They came and visited her at home when she was sick. When she missed work, they were happy when she returned. She had an impact. She made learning exciting and fun. Her students wanted to learn. Maybe that is why I love to learn. I love to help elevate my clients skills and to see their satisfaction and happiness with their results. More importantly, I like to see them develop and elevate their teams.

It is extremely fulfilling to hear someone tell me that something I said had a big impact on them and they chose to change because of that. I have clients tell me that employees enjoy my workshops and they are excited to learn and they are engaged in my workshops. I believe in creating an environment where learners are inspired to apply what they learn to transform their performance. This is my why.

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. Additional articles which may interest you: Leadership Is About Impact Not Intention; How To Prepare Your Next Generation Of Leaders; Increase Your Effectiveness As A Leaders With Perception Science; How To Create Success From Failure; How To Get Your People To Change Today; Cure For The CEO Disease

How To Solve More Problems As A Leader

7 Steps For A More Productive Team

One of the problems I see with leaders is they solve too many problems. Wait…you just said this article is about solving MORE problems, not that I am solving too many! That is right. Sometimes we get so solution oriented, and so bottom-line obsessed, we actually make more work for ourselves. You may be sabotaging your ability to be productive when your team members come to rely on your genius and acumen instead of developing their own. They pass the ball to you to make the game winning shot because they have confidence in you and also, because they lack confidence in themselves.

Many managers I know are overwhelmed with day-to-day responsibilities. They spend much of their time fighting fires or going from one crisis to the next. When they do spend the time to plan, they rarely implement those plans; instead they go hastily back to their frenetic problem solving ways. Worse, they spend very little time developing the capacity of their teams. They may abdicate employee development to HR or a training course. It is time to get off the hamster wheel of crisis management! To become more productive and efficient, start investing time to develop the skills and abilities of your team members.

One of the most important tasks of leadership is to elevate the leadership capacity and problem solving skills of our teams. Managers may intellectually understand this is true, however, the following may be some reasons they don’t change:

  1. Managers are addicted to being needed:
    There is something satisfying about being the “go to person”. Some managers believe that making themselves indispensable may provide job security.
  2. Managers don’t know better:
    They have been taught their whole life to take action. They have been told what to do by parents, teachers, coaches, professors, military leaders, past bosses and more. They may have learned habits of tell and do. Because telling or dictating is a poor way to get people to act, employees of today may fall short of the “dictator’s” expectations. This reinforces the manager’s belief that his people are incapable and perpetuates a vicious cycle.
  3. Lack of trust:
    When manager’s lack trust in the ability of direct reports to solve problems or take on greater responsibility, they actually stunt their employee’s growth. This leads to only assigning tasks they are “certain” they can handle. I believe people can accomplish much more than we give them credit for. By not challenging our people, we ensure their dependence on us and keep ourselves on the hamster week. I discuss the importance of giving your people stretch assignments in How To Prepare Your Next Generation of Leaders. Giving your team members opportunities to grow means getting out of your comfort zone and their comfort zone. Let me give you an example: My son’s both play volleyball for their high school. One plays varsity and one Jr. varsity. The Jr. Varsity coach has begun a rotation only relying on a few starters. In practice, he only focuses on starters. In tough games, only this group plays and they get tired after a while and make mistakes. However, since the coach does not have confidence in the ability of the other players, he only plays the same few. While this groups ability increases, the ability of the rest of the team begins to atrophy’. The coach’s dependence on the group of starters actually increases his dependence on them. At first this is great for the starters. But they soon feel tremendous pressure to perform and with very little respite, their performance begins to diminish.
  4. Control obsession:
    Managers may be controlling in how they want things done. When team members are given authority to solve problems on their own, they may take a different approach than the manager.
  5. Confused good boss syndrome:
    Some manager’s may actually think they are being kind by bailing their team members out. They may shoulder more work thinking they are protecting their team.
  6. Managers are busy:
    They think they don’t have the time to invest in their people. They hope they figure it out on their own. After all, isn’t that what you did? What worked for you and your generation, will probably not work today. There are to many options for our employees. If they do not get what they need and want from you, they can easily get it somewhere else. The revolving door of employees adds to the lack of time managers have to train and develop. Hiring new employees takes a lot of time. Not to mention the extra work required filling the vacancies of employees who quit or were terminated.
  7. Talent hoarding:
    According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, one reason some managers don’t elevate, develop and encourage some of their top performers is to keep them on the team. It is called talent hoarding. This natural tendency to hold on to top performers will back fire and hurt the business. If these employees are not given an opportunity to grow and develop with you, they will go somewhere else. You will be forced to replace them.

Whatever the reason you are not developing your team, stop it. You will only disengage your employees. People usually perform to the level of expectation. If your expectations are low, they are probably being met, though not to your satisfaction. You then will probably shoulder more responsibility until you become at least frustrated, or worse, exhausted and burned out. And finally you may take drastic measures like quit, or fire the people you feel are making your life miserable.

I am convinced the employees we hire do not take a job hoping they will be underutilized and hoping they will underperform. They join us with hopes and expectations of learning and growing and contributing. Here are some ways to help you enable your team members to be productive:

  1. Believe they can do more:
    Always believe in the potential of your employees. You just have to figure out how to enable their potential. That comes from taking personal responsibility for their development and not blaming them for your failure to support and train them.
  2. Refuse to solve every problem your employees encounter:
    When they come to you asking for help, ask them to come up with at least two ideas for how they would handle it. You may be surprised with the solutions they find. If the solutions are not good, give encouraging feedback. This is how they learn. Repeat the process often.
  3. Brainstorm together:
    This is an effective process when stakes are high and margin for error is small. Take opportunities to work on problems together. Make sure you give your employees space in these sessions to come up with ideas. Discuss the merits of ideas and come to a decision together.
  4. Praise your team members for their efforts:
    Let them know when they do well. Make sure they are not just hearing from you when they make a mistake. When you encourage them for initiative and perseverance, you will get more of that behavior.
  5. Be willing to let your people fail:
    People often learn the most from failure. If you trust your people are doing their very best, you know they do not purposely want to create problems.
  6. Take a close look at how you may be contributing to the problem:
    The culture of your team enables the results you are achieving. The culture of your team is a reflection of your leadership. Be willing to work on yourself. Learn how you may be getting in your own way as a leader. Learn how to ask better questions that engage and encourage versus being a teller or dictator. Learn how to create an environment of trust where people work to solve problems, go the extra mile and help each other out.
  7. Make time to teach them:
    In addition to your coaching and instruction, give them opportunities to develop their skills and talents through in house and external training programs.

The investment of time you make in developing your team will come back to you. You will see your direct reports shouldering more and more of the responsibility you now carry. As they do this, your trust in them will increase. As you give them more responsibility, their capabilities will grow. The only way for you to grow is to help others grow. As that happens, the ability of the team to get stuff done increases. What if one of the people you develop does so well, they get promoted off the team? Be happy for them. Change is part of life. Train their replacement and become known for the leader who elevates and develops other leaders.

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. Additional articles which may interest you: Leadership Is About Impact Not Intention; How To Prepare Your Next Generation Of Leaders; Increase Your Effectiveness As A Leaders With Perception Science; How To Create Success From Failure; How To Get Your People To Change Today; Cure For The CEO Disease