Organizational Excellence

People and Process Improvement

Posts Tagged ‘coaching

The Secret of Life

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A little Brain Dump is always a good way to start the work week. I feel better already.

Engagement and success are kissing cousins. Need one to have the other. To me, these few things make or break whether you are “successful” whatever success means to you. No matter if you’re talking about a relationship, being a parent, or being in any position from president / politician, from the big boss all the way to a factory worker or admin assistant to the assistant.

This is not nuclear physics. It won’t solve world hunger. I’ll take care of that this afternoon. But for now…add something to the Secret of Life short list and “Like” if you think this isn’t out of reach. If you don’t like this, I probably wouldn’t ‘like’ you!

  • Do what you know is right.
  • Do what’s expected of you. If you don’t know, ask. Ignorance is not an excuse.
  • Take time to consider the other person’s needs and feelings.
  • Find what you like to do, and were meant to do. Then, Just DO it!

Reward those people who deliver on these things. No matter whether a simple “thanks, you’re appreciated” or a little well-earned respect. Money sometimes works too, but those other things are free.

Get rid of or at least distance yourself from those who don’t deliver. They may be contagious and life’s too short. It may sound cold, but Darwin was right.

Add anything to the list?



Written by Craig

August 20, 2012 at 9:50 am

How Countable Are You?

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“Countability” was coined by John Maxwell in The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork:

9. The Law of Countability. Teammates must be able to count on each other when it counts. Is your integrity unquestionable? Do you perform your work with excellence? Are you dedicated to the team’s success? Can people depend on you? Do your actions bring the team together or rip it apart?

My leader has asked the questions many times: what exactly is “accountability”? What does it mean to hold someone “accountable”?

It’s time to take a swipe at this snipe called accountability.

I am your leader, I am counting on you to make the best possible decisions within your area of responsibility. By the same token, you can count on me as your leader to clearly define what’s expected of you, and to make sure you have the information, skills and tools to deliver on those expectations. A good leader does not count on more than their followers can deliver. A good follower delivers no less than what they are capable of.

Don’t expect me to make decisions for you when you are capable of making the call yourself. That’s just abdicating your responsibility. And, no offense but I have more important things to do. If you make a decision to the best of your ability, within your defined area of countability, you will not be chastised if the decision turns out to be wrong. We need to figure out WHY it was a wrong call, and learn from it together.

We have more than enough definition and structure: work instructions, standard work, targets, ISO9001, leader certification, hourly associate performance expectations and assessments, salaried performance management, policies. All we need to do is execute consistently every day to the best of our ability. No exception to this is acceptable or justifiable on the leaders’ or followers’ part.

Our success hinges on clearly defined expectations and responsibilities and leaders supporting the team–providing what they need, enabling followers to get the job done. A leader cannot succeed without ensuring the success of their followers and having a team that is countable. That is a leader’s number one job.

A company cannot succeed without people who are countable, people who do what is expected of them, up and down the line. When people deliver the goods, they need to know it. When they fall short, they need to know it. And if they need help to pick things up a notch, they need to get it.

Countability applies to all levels of leaders and all followers. No rocket science, nothing more than fundamental chain-of-command.

How countable are you?

Written by Craig

July 2, 2012 at 9:42 am

Letter to the Boss, From John Everyman

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Dear Sir:

My name is John Everyman, and I’m one of the hundreds of people who work for you. Like me, many of my co-workers have started working here fairly recently after losing their jobs. You probably haven’t had a chance to get to know many of us or what we did before we came here, but that’s understandable. Since we’ve been working side-by-side, I’ll help you get to know a little about them.

Many of my co-workers have had impressive careers and responsible, important positions. Laid-off teachers. Highly skilled craftsmen. Entrepreneurs whose businesses have failed. College graduates, some with masters degrees. Ex-soldiers who risked everything. Parents who are successfully raising families, and grandparents who have already succeeded in that most-important job of all.

Since you don’t know me, I wanted to tell you a little about what I did before I came here. I managed thirty people and a seven-figure budget. My salary was quite a bit more than the wage I earn now, but that’s alright. These days money isn’t everything like it used to be. I have a lot to be grateful for…I’m working. You have no idea how frustrating it was hearing over and over that I was “too qualified” for other jobs I had applied for before this company finally gave me a chance.

In spite of my years as a captain, I haven’t forgotten how to be a good soldier. But now that I’m back to taking orders rather than giving them, I realize that I did forget some things that are very important to the troops in the trenches. I was a manager for so long I forgot what it felt like to be just a “regular person” on the front line. That’s not to imply that you’ve forgotten too. But just in case, I want to share this with you.

Some of the best people in the world reported to me. Those same people work here. While we may be the best, we’re easy to please. Nothing that matters to us costs much of anything! My co-workers and I…

  • Want to help! Is what we know, see and think important to you? If so, show it to us now and then. For starters, just let us know you are really listening, that what we say is registering with you.
  • Need to know we are making a difference, and we need to know how we’re doing.
  • Need to know that we’re appreciated.
  • Need a compelling vision to commit to; without that all we can do is comply to the direction we’re given. There’s a big difference.
  • Are good soldiers. But we need clear marching orders from leaders we trust, before we will feel safe laying it on the line.
  • Need a chance to better ourselves, not just through raises or promotions. We need opportunities to learn more, do more, apply ourselves more. People need to grow.
  • Need to feel like our talents are being fully utilized in our jobs. Did you know that “wasting talent” is now one of the official Eight Wastes of Lean Thinking? Talent is a terrible thing to waste.

These are the same things that my employees needed more than anything else I could have given them, and these are the basics that I lost sight of in my years as a manager. I was too busy juggling the accountabilities of the position that I had far too little time to devote to the people who were capable of making or breaking me in that position.

My family has adjusted our standard of living and we’re doing alright, especially considering the economy. This job means a great deal to us-I need the paycheck and the benefits more than you can even imagine, unless you’ve recently been without one or the other or both. I really don’t care about “position” and I’m sure many of my co-workers are like me in that respect. But if I ever do get back to a position where I am once again responsible for leading others, I have learned some valuable lessons that I will not forget.

I hope you have not forgotten those things, because that’s easy to do. We’re counting on you.



Behind the Everyman Letter

Talent Wars

Before the downturn, the big scare was a projected shortage of talent of significant proportions. But employee retention is still a key issue; and it is black and white demographics. The number of those entering the workforce over the next few decades does not even come close to being able to replace the droves of retiring boomers. At the same time, education attainment levels are plummeting-smaller percentages of young people are graduating from both high school and college.

The talent pool is evaporating, and the impacts cannot be ignored. Fewer workers, lower skilled.

It’s more than numbers that is scary. Those boomers who do retire will be taking with them the years of experience and knowledge that built most of the companies they are working for. They are the long-term do-ers and leaders of business and industry.

Career Shifters

Countless people have recently transitioned into new jobs, many of them taking a substantial cut in pay, position, and responsibility. Some may have taken a “lesser” job just to survive, others may not mind staying where they landed even when opportunities open up again. Their new employers don’t recognize the importance of this fact. When the downturn eases, many highly skilled, experienced people will be looking for meaningful jobs if they feel they can do better. Or, does their current job satisfy them enough to entice them to stay? The opportunity to create a high-involvement, highly engaged work force will never be greater. The highest quality raw materials are readily available.

People Who Need People…

It’s no secret that your people determine your success. From The Global Workforce Study, Towers-Perrin 2007:

While many factors can trigger failure, the most critical is often overlooked: people. Lack of support, buy-in, and readiness at all levels — your employees, frontline managers and CEO — makes the difference between an abandoned initiative and one that contributes to your company’s growth. 

The downturn has elevated the need for engagement. BlessingWhite noted in their 2009 report Uncertainty’s Antidote: Three Leadership Imperatives:

Now you need employees to stay focused and productive despite taking on the ghost work of laid-off colleagues, paused pet projects, eliminated perks, ever-shifting priorities, and the distraction of the latest market headlines telling them their 401k’s have been crushed again. Employee engagement is essential.

Retention, and the Payoff

If you manage to land good talent, you’d better work hard to hold on to it. What factors impact overall job satisfaction, and therefore retention? Forget the bottom level basic survival needs of the Maslow model. The work force is craving much more than just pay and benefits. I’m not a researcher, and I don’t care to list yet again the mountains of studies and data to validate this, but the studies are out there. Fact:

Companies with higher levels of engagement also experience greater profit, productivity and retention rates.

The bad news: you cannot buy engagement. The good news: engagement costs nothing.

Written by Craig

December 28, 2009 at 4:05 am

Good For You, Good For Me

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 Leaders Expect…

Diligent people who produce

Company goals to be met



Followers Need…

Clear expectations

A compelling reason to perform above and beyond the call of duty

A feeling of belonging and worth, and of contributing to the cause

The knowledge, skills, abilities, systems and tools needed to meet their expectations

These needs and expectations are not in conflict. Rather, one leads to the other. People find meaning and the means to make a difference through their level of contribution at work, and their efforts directly impact the profitability and success of their employer. Seems like a basic concept. But if it was that easy, why hasn’t everybody been doing it, and doing it well?

Written by Craig

December 28, 2009 at 4:01 am


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(see ACCOUNT (+) ABILITY = RESULTS (?) for Part One)


This is not rocket science! A simple formula in which accountability is just one element:

Clear expectations +

Knowledge, skills and abilities +

Accountability +


= Results.


The Formula In Action


  1. Leaders set S.M.AR.T. expectations. Better yet, involve the do-ers in determining what needs to be done. Then, leaders provide the template through modeling, and performance management and coaching helps keeps people on track;
  2. Don’t set your people up for failure! Communication, Training and Development must provide knowledge, skills, and abilities people need, to have a realistic chance to deliver on their accountabilities;
  3. Accountability is nothing more than making sure people know what they are expected to do, and what the impacts are of their delivering the goods as expected, as well as the consequences of not doing so;
  4. Follow-up includes manager / subordinate communication, regular performance management updates, and coaching when necessary to get a person back on the right track;
  5. Results are realized in the form of goals being met, and in desired behaviors that have become routine — expectations, or norms;
  6. Adjust expectations, repeat process


IF there is involvement in goal setting of those accountable with achieving the goals (engagement), and a clear connection to the top (alignment) then the level of commitment to achieve the goals ramps up.


Effective performance management kicks in, avoiding “fails to meet expectations” at year-end by truly managing performance throughout the year. If there is a performance issue, clarifying expectations and coaching to improve performance comes into play at the time and place of need.


Engage > Align > Execute!



Written by Craig

April 22, 2009 at 7:33 am


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First, a news flash…my favorite purveyor of engagement, BlessingWhite, is in process of rolling out new material after partnering in its development with a couple of UK leadership experts: Why Should Anyone Be Led By You?

BlessingWhite Press Release for “Led by You”  (you may need to register to see this but it doesn’t take long and it’s free)


In one of the groups I am active in, I posed a question about leadership style and whether there are significant cultural / norms / environmental differences in our worlds on different sides of the water—the UK and US.


Mary Ann Masarech, Director Research & Marketing at BlessingWhite, replied

“…In my personal experience, leaders and employees have far more in common across geographic boundaries than they have differences. We all know that you can have five individuals who look a lot alike, with similar backgrounds, yet they can have very different personal values and goals. That’s why we say “coach the individual, not the demographic.”


That’s a great philosophy to work by…coach the individual, not the demographic. It’s dangerous to cram people into buckets.


Situational Leadership is decent, for its basic philosophy: weigh the task at hand and the individual’s level of readiness and willingness, and tailor your coaching and communication approach accordingly. The relatively new stuff that examines generational differences in motivators and therefore preferences (Values Population Groups, or ‘generational cohorts’), while providing decent food for thought, is not absolutely practical without some serious analysis of the specific situation and the individuals involved.


Myers Briggs, DiSC et al….buckets all around us. Have you ever seen a bucket full of crabs? I haven’t. But I’ve heard the picture is not pretty. The crabs evidently don’t want to be in the bucket, and neither do I.


It’s easy to determine your own preferences for leadership style, both leading and being led, especially if you‘ve taken the time to identify and very clearly define your personal values and goals. Things get much more difficult when dealing with other people unless there is crystal clarity between you, of each others’ drivers and core values.


Now, there’s a unique idea….what level of trust would you need to have an open and honest discussion with someone at work about your core values? If that someone is your boss, and if they care about your job satisfaction (therefore your level of performance!) they have a huge vested interest in what drives you.


If you are a manager, re-read the last sentence. Twice.

Written by Craig

April 10, 2009 at 8:11 am