What Makes Your Executive Team Excel?

I’ve worked with many teams over the years and when asked how they think they are doing, they reply “Good, okay, satisfactory, etc”.

These are all words that we might hear that make us nod our heads and go about our day.

But when it comes to business, good just isn’t good enough. It’s words like great, amazing and spectacular that are going to really make us stop in our tracks and it’s those same words that are going to add up to increased income and getting a leg up on the competition.

For many businesses, the road to greatness starts with a strong leadership team.

A  powerful executive presence will be effective in motivating workers to get the best possible results. While leadership coaching can be a good way to make the leaders in your company stronger, I’ve compiled a number of tips that may be useful for management training and high potential development.

Be sure to consider the whole company

Many leaders tend to base their decisions on what they feel will be best for themselves and their departments, not for the whole company. This selfish sort of thinking can really backfire, leading to tension in the workplace, overall discontentment, and ultimately, a failing company – which isn’t good for anyone.

If you are in a leadership role, examine your motivation for making the decisions you make. Try to be as unbiased as possible. Sometimes selfish decisions are made without a person truly realizing how one-sided they may be.

Work towards making decisions that take the whole company into consideration. These will be beneficial for everyone involved and make for a win-win situation.

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

Comfortable is one of those words that can easily be associated with ‘good’ status. If employees do their predictable jobs every day, what can go wrong?

Well, the answer might be ‘not much’ but it also means that not much is going to improve either.

The business world is all about taking risks and going outside of your comfort zone.

Experiment with new ways of doing things to find the most effective methods. Brainstorm new products and services to come up with money making ideas.

Communicate

In any business situation communication is always key. Not only will it help everyone in your company get on the same page, but it will also help build trust with an emphasis on collaboration, not competition.

In executive team building, it is important to set aside times and means for communication. These can include regular meetings, emails or other types of correspondence.

Focus on the positive

While communication is key, the way you communicate will also play a big role in determining the effectiveness of your leadership skills. Focusing on the positive will help to this end.

Think about opportunities rather than challenges, and solutions instead of problems. Avoid dwelling on the negative and think of ways to make the company grow.

Regularly scheduled meeting and clearly defined goals will also help to this end, directing focus more clearly.

Define clear standards for performance and behavior

While it is important for your team to work together, each team member should also be assigned certain roles based on their strengths. This can help your company in the following ways:

  • Increased organization: When each member knows what is expected of them, they will be more focused on their task and getting it completed.

  • Increased sense of pride: Team members are aware of what their strengths are and will feel a sense of pride in realizing that a leader or manager has recognized these strengths as well. This will encourage them to feel more positive about the work they are doing and produce higher quality material.

  • Increased accountability: When a team member knows exactly what is expected of them, they know they must be accountable for the work they produce. This reduces any gray areas or possibilities of shifting blame.

While all of these may seem like abstract solutions, putting them into effect in the workplace will yield proven results.

Companies who have adopted these methods in team development, experience amore open and comfortable professional situation that eventually lead to increased revenue for the company.

If you are in a leadership role, try working on the way you develop your employees to improve the running of your company. Making these changes is sure to provide positive changes that will make your workplace a more productive environment.

To your team’s success,

Simon

How to Create a Position-Result Guide and Establish Accountability in Your Organization

We don’t get paid for efforts; we get paid for results. In many organizations, job descriptions are purely task-oriented. People are told what to do instead of what results are expected. This limits their scope and inhibits initiative and creativity.
A Position-Result Guide is a tool that defines and organizes your work in a result-oriented approach.

Creating a Position-Result Guide in 3 steps

1. Describe Your Major Goal of the Position

Identify the role and major purpose of your work and position.

  • What overall results are expected from you in your position?
  • Why does this position exist and how does it relate to the organizational objectives and strategic priorities?

2. Determine Your Responsibilities with Key Result Areas (KRA)

A Key Result Area (KRA) is a job function and describes areas of responsibility related to the desired outcome of the position.

  • What are the key responsibilities?
  • What are the main projects, areas of activities or key result areas of the position?
  • What is this person responsible for accomplishing?

Usually, there are between three to six Key Result Areas per position.

3. Define and Set Performance Standards (PS)

A Performance Standard measures the successful completion of a task, activity, project or responsibility. It describes when a job in the Key Result Area is satisfactorily performed. Be sure the conditions you describe are specific, measurable and time-based by applying one for the following measures:

  • Timeline (“project XYZ accomplished by November 30”)
  • Documentation (“financial report delivered and presented by June 15”)
  • Percentage (“increase market share by 2% by the end of the year”)
  •  Number (“create and submit 5 proposals per months”)
  • Monetary Amount (“reduce cost by $200k in 6 months”)

Following is an example of a “Position-Result Guide” for the role of Vice President’s Operations of a $500 million construction company. Please note the specific and time-based measures.

 Position Guide: Vice President of Operations

Major Role and Goal of the Position
Plans, organizes, directs and controls the activities of the Operations function of the company to ensure client satisfaction, quality delivery and financial performance. Responsible for the performance of all operations functions, including: Manufacturing, Material Management, Ordering services, Labor and Project management.

Key Result Area #1: Operations Management
Performance Standard: My job in this area will be satisfactorily performed when:

  • Job profit for each construction project is met (Yes/No, including percentage difference from budget).
  • Labor Budgets are met (Yes/No; percentage difference from budget).
  • Schedule on sites are met (Yes/No; percentage difference from budget).
  • Material Budgets are met (Yes/No; percentage difference from budget).
  • Quality standards are met (QA/QC Checklist completed and signed by client.

Key Result Area #2: Maintain Customer Satisfaction and Client Relations
Performance Standard: My job in this area will be satisfactorily performed when:

  • Weekly meetings to collaborate with sales to estimate how to develop new customers to meet monthly sales targets.
  • Send out client satisfaction surveys at the end of each job at time of implementation.
  • Meet with client and conduct interviews to hear all concerns and assure needs are being met once per month.
  • Attend two industry trade shows and two conferences each year with the goal of staying current in our market sector.

Key Result Area #3: Management and Team Development
Performance Standard: My job in this area will be satisfactorily performed when:

  • Staff morale is high. Survey staff every 6 months with the goal of 75 percent who are satisfied with their work.
  • Conduct annual performance review meetings (written 1-page summary per direct report).
  • Plan and conduct 3 off site team or strategy events per year to help bolster companywide morale.
  • Monthly 1-1 development meetings with my Direct Reports to coach, mentor, develop their skills and knowledge; have them complete and work on their own development plan.
  • Conduct meetings to provide information, updates and direction to the operations department (monthly with entire staff; weekly meeting with Direct Reports).

Key Result Area #4: Management Collaboration and Engagement
Performance Standard: My job in this area will be satisfactorily performed when:

  • Companywide resource planning and allocation based on short, mid and long-term business development and backlog (quarterly meetings)
  • Internal coordination with key departments: finance, sales, estimating – monthly meeting for update and coordination.
  • Financial planning, projection and reviews: monthly reporting to CEO and executive team.

In order for a business to succeed, it requires an approach that organizes and structures work around results. Translating the organization’s strategic objectives into responsibilities and roles is the foundation of effective performance management and essential for creating a culture of accountability. This involves every position in the organization to link their responsibilities to the overall organizational objectives to clear, measurable standards of performance.

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The 5 Success Factors of a High-Performing Team

Rallying a group of individuals – with all it implies in terms of personalities, personal growth and character differences – can be challenging. A high-performing team is the ultimate weapon to achieve success, where unique strengths are put together as a whole, rather than joining parts as best you can.

Have you ever worked in a dysfunctional team?

I have and know: it’s a lot of hassle, it takes effort, it creates tension, stress or anxiety – overall, it’s just not fun.
A team might not be dysfunctional from day one. It is often the result of built-up frustration and individual attitudes. Some team members may be worried they will lose power and be out-shined. The team may lack a strong leader who can rally everyone around a common goal or doesn’t know how to improve the team morale.
Whichever the reasons the team is not functioning optimally, the job doesn’t get done, or at a higher price.

On the other hand, have you belonged to a winning, high-performing team?
Yes, that is fun and rewarding, both personally and professionally.

What makes the difference?

The 5 Characteristics of a High-Performing Team

1. They focus relentlessly on the future

Top teams are aligned around a common purpose. They develop a clear vision of where they want to go and what they are trying to accomplish. Strategic objectives are clear, so are roles and responsibilities.

2. They have each other’s back

It’s critical that each team member trust the intention of the others. This fosters collaboration, information sharing and creativity. The resulting camaraderie, transparency and bond is rewarding, not only in terms of output, but also in enjoyment.

3. They value and integrate differences

Great teams are well-rounded, precisely because each great team member is not. Each team member offers their individual strengths and talents which are valued by others.

4. They decide collectively and execute efficiently

Top teams are very productive in making decisions; each member is engaged in the decision-making process in various ways and committed to the outcome.

5. They support and hold each other accountable for results and behaviors

Individuals hold each other accountable for the agreements and actions. There is a clear set of behavioral norms and guidelines. It’s not as much about expectations as it is about clear objectives and attributions. Who is supposed to contribute what, in a given timeframe allows to keep the projects on track and heightens the sense of responsibility.

Common goals. Trust. Respect. Collective effort. Accountability. Those are the ingredients to build a high-performing team, which naturally lead to superior growth and efficiency.

Professional Relationship: How to Respond to Broken Promises

In professional a relationship, broken agreements, lack of follow through, and unclear expectations significantly increase the risk that projects get delayed, customers miss a shipment on time, or quality standards are not met. Additionally, it creates frustration, dissatisfaction or even resentment for the people involved.

How do you respond in a situation where a co-worker,
manager or peer who doesn’t live up to their word?

When the Professional Relationship May Go Sour

Just recently, I had an experience of this nature with a business partner.

I have known Lewis for years. He is one of the top recruiters in the executive arena, and I consider him an expert in recruiting top talent for Fortune 1000. He is ambitious, intelligent, and an exceptional conversationalist. Lewis’ biggest professional strength is his superb questioning and listening skills.

Recently, we met over lunch and bounced off business ideas to partner together on a client project on leadership assessment and training. This is a topic that we both feel passionate about. I left that lunch with excitement, but not a specific next step.
I followed up with a phone call, and emails, all of which were left with “I’ll get back to you”.

After several unfruitful attempts to get a response, I got frustrated and started to question how we can develop a successful professional partnership if we are not responsive (and responsible) to each other. I wanted to call him again and tell him straight in his face “Hey buddy, if we do business together, I’d expect you to follow through on what you say”.
Instead, I took a step back and wondered how to get that message across without appearing critical and even offensive. I crafted a message, which I edited several times to make it sound appropriate. Here is what I sent to him:

Dear Lewis,
I highly respect your professional expertise and I am interested to further explore how to partner together and develop a successful project for our client.
At the same time, I am concerned about your responsiveness. When I called you the last two times, you said “I’ll get back to you later today.” I am still waiting for your call. I understand that you are very busy and have many things going on.
Please let me know your level of interest and commitment. Again, I appreciate our professional relationship.
Best regards,

It is a skill to call someone out without coming across critical or offensive. The key is to find the appropriate tone.

To my surprise, I received an email after only 15 minutes. Obviously, I got his attention.

Here is his reply email:

Simon, my apologies for my delayed response.
We just finished an end of period and so schedules/tasks gave way to higher priorities from the internal clients. I do welcome the opportunity to connect again and will suggest some times for a follow up call next week. I agree that we may have some powerful business ideas. Thank you for taking the time to reach out to me here.
Regards,
Lewis

A week later, we met again for lunch and briefly addressed the topic of responsiveness and follow through in a professional relationship. He admitted that when he saw my email, he had to smile and said: “It has been years since anybody had called me out!” I was pleased to hear that and replied, “I accept your apology”, and off we went to further discuss our business endeavor.

Calling out Your Business Colleagues is a Skill that Can Be Learned

Please consider the following principles:

  1. Deal with your emotions first. Never respond when you are frustrated, annoyed, or angry with the other person’s behavior.
  2. Be specific: Call someone out by stating what happened, not your interpretation of what happened.
  3. Ensure that the tone of the message reflects an attitude of support, candor and honesty, instead of criticism or irritation. People appreciate supportive feedback. They resent critical feedback.

When a professional relationship is difficult dues to unresponsive partners or unmet expectations, communication is crucial. Rather than setting out to express frustration or anger that would only cause problems, keep your emotions in check and find ways to positively engage team members so they keep seeing the big picture: a successful outcome.

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A 5-Minute Walk: The Simple Secret for Achieving Team Trust

Have you ever been angry at work? Maybe you yelled at somebody or you got yelled at by a colleague or even a manager? Yes, it happens in the workplace. Everyone gets angry or frustrated at one point or another and needs an outlet. However, as a professional it’s important to pay attention to the way your responses affect your employees. Your outburst may be of little importance to you — with your feelings leaving just as fast as they came — but to co-workers or employees you have conducted yourself in a way that sets how they think of you and how they will respond to you, ongoing.

I have an excellent example of how a client allowed his anger to get out of control in his workplace, ultimately costing his organization $20 million dollars. When I began working with “Mike,” I spoke with the stakeholders to get an idea of his leadership strengths and weaknesses. They all told me how passionate and driven their CEO Mike was and that he demonstrated high goals and standards. However, they also told me they didn’t trust him. After delving further I learned of two separate incidents where Mike yelled and used abusive language towards two employees.

To Mike these situations were a one-time event that was quickly forgotten. However, these incidents quickly made the rounds to all of his employees and they soon expressed a distrust for him because they didn’t want to be yelled at themselves. I collected the feedback and confronted Mike. Interestingly, he had no idea that his actions had created this impact in his workplace.

Mike and I worked together to address his frustrations through other outlets such as walking or a 5-minute break.  After a year of coaching and working together, Mike’s effort significantly paid off and his working relationships improved. Two years later, his company reported a $30 million profit.

The lesson all leaders can take away from Mike’s experience is how important it is to have awareness of the way  your behavior affects your team. It may seem like a reaction or conversation you had is small, but you are constantly setting an impression for your colleagues that will change the way they work and communicate with you. Even the smallest of conversations matter when you are in a leadership position.

A Simple Skill To Help Leaders Improve Their Team Morale

Through my leadership coaching of CEO’s, Marketing and Sales Leaders, I have learned that forgetting to listen in a business environment is a reoccurring theme for many professionals. Often times it seems that extremely smart people suffer from this ‘know-it-all’ attitude the most. To them, it may seem easier to answer the questions themselves than sit back and delegate the work to somebody else. However, this is not always the case. To be successful in a leadership position, it’s important to have the ability to listen and pass the work on to others. This will ultimately lead to more productivity in the work place.

I once worked with a client we will refer to as Bill. Bill was an extremely smart individual and it seemed was always ten steps ahead of a problem. He could combine a complex issue in his head and easily come up with a solution. But interestingly his extreme intelligence had become a liability in his leadership role. I quickly learned this in a coaching session with him when I provided him with some advice and he cut me off in the middle of my sentence and finished. After some further investigation I learned this was what Bill was also doing with his marketing people. 

The effect of this know it all attitude that Bill maintained was unproductive meetings and a lack of creativity, because people were not given the chance to speak up. His employees became disengaged and demotivated due to not being heard or listened to. The morale in Bill’s company was low because people ultimately felt that it wasn’t worth their time to bring their ideas to Bill.

After about 6 months of coaching with me I helped Bill realize that even if he was the smartest guy, he didn’t have to constantly demonstrate this to his team. Over time Bill learned that listening and showing empathy to people paid off. The marketing meetings in this company immediately improved as Bill allowed people to participate and finish their thoughts. The team became more innovative, creative, and effective. People felt much more motivated and engaged because they were being heard.

Bill’s behavior and experience with his team can teach us all that sometimes you have to slow down and listen instead of trying to do it all yourself. Sometimes, doing less can mean getting more in your leadership role.