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Five Levels of Leadership Competence

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Alpine Link Corporation

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By Mike Hawkins

Most organizational successes, as well as failures, have their roots in a single common denominator. This is not to say that there aren’t many variables involved including the efforts of many employees, but there is one consistent element at the core of all organizational activity, and performance shortcomings in particular. While on the surface many problems seem due to product deficiencies, poor service levels, inefficient processes, outdated systems, or failed projects, these issues stem from a more fundamental issue. A company’s poor profitability, lack of sales, or operational inefficiency is ultimately rooted in poor leadership. Organizational shortcomings, as well as capabilities, have leadership to blame or credit.

Like it or not, an organization’s leadership influences everything an organization does, either through commission or omission. Even intangibles such as culture and values can be traced to what an organization’s leadership does to set the example or allow to persist. An organization’s leadership is responsible for developing, approving, or allowing every organizational activity including strategies, budgets, plans, systems, and processes. Leaders make decisions to take action or defer action, whether related to building, buying, partnering, engaging, or disengaging. Leaders, while not the only ones who are critical to an organization’s performance, are ultimately responsible for the outcomes—good or bad.

You might argue that a company’s frontline employees, streamlined processes, embedded systems, innovative products, or marketing programs are the most critical components and sources of competitive differentiation, but employees, processes, systems, and strategies are ultimately formulated, influenced, or decided upon by leaders. For this reason, an organization’s leadership competence is its primary determinate of performance.

The question regarding an organization’s capabilities at its core can then be stated as “What are our required leadership competencies and how well do we embody them?” As an executive coach, I’ve had the opportunity to analyze leadership in great detail from an insider’s perspective. Having coached hundreds of executives and observed firsthand how competencies correlate to results, I’ve discovered a recurring set of competencies in successful leaders as well as the competencies missing in unsuccessful ones. In all, I’ve identified thirty-eight competencies of great leadership that fit into five categories. The five categories spell out the acronym SCOPE:

  • Self: Setting the Example – At the core of great leadership is intrapersonal competence. This is the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that enable leaders to lead themselves and set the positive example for others to follow. People who can’t develop and lead themselves can’t effectively lead others. Competencies such as passion, self-awareness, integrity, mental fitness, courage, and confidence form the foundation of great leadership and the ability to gain other people’s trust.
  • Communications: Inspiring Performance – Second only to leaders’ ability to set a positive example for others to follow is their interpersonal competence and ability to communicate. Communications is the vehicle through which leaders perform their work. Great leadership requires competencies such as articulating the “why”, developing compelling content, engaging audiences, and listening attentively. People can be competent in their knowledge, but if they can’t communicate it well and inspire others to follow, their knowledge is of little value.
  • Others: Developing People – Great leaders attract and develop top talent. They hire well and develop their people continuously. They have the competencies of attracting, selecting, coaching, enabling, encouraging, managing, and imparting ownership. They don’t simply hire people and set objectives. They don’t merely expect people to perform and then fire them when they don’t. Great leaders coach their people as great athletic coaches coach their athletes. They help people leverage their capabilities and overcome their shortcomings.
  • Partnerships: Leveraging Teamwork – Having a team of top-performing individuals is insufficient to reaching the highest levels of performance. Great leaders assimilate people into teams that offset each other’s weaknesses and leverage each other’s capabilities. They have the competencies of alignment, building community, managing conflict, and collaboration. They work cross-functionally as well as with outside organizations to build teams of diverse people who work together toward common goals.
  • Execution: Delivering Excellence – Leadership is a means, not an end goal itself. The end goal of great leadership is to deliver results. Great leaders execute and sustain top-performance quarter after quarter, year after year. They have the competencies of focusing on value, enabling speed, fostering innovation, and making great decisions. They don’t rely on organizational restructuring or other actions that merely cover-up inherent operational issues. They build an organic capability that produces great results consistently.

There are many competencies, thirty-eight in all, that great leaders possess. One of the most important is the ability to coach people in their ongoing professional development. Studies find that ongoing employee development is more impactful to an organization’s performance than hiring the right people to begin with. Like a sports team, it is important to have the right people on the team, but it is even more important to develop people continually and assimilate them into a cohesive team.

Being a fan of sports and a former athlete myself, I find close parallels between great leaders and great athletic coaches. They both manifest these five categories of leadership competence. From a different perspective, there are another five characteristics they focus on. No matter what sport you might think of, there are five qualities that great athletic coaches give their attention to. They focus on technique, equipment, mental fitness, physical fitness, and teamwork. These are the five qualities that the thirty-eight competencies are intended to capitalize on. These five qualities apply as much to industry as they do to sports. Top performing employees cultivate the techniques and skills required for their role. They have the enabling resources and equipment they need. They have a positive can-do attitude. They are healthy, having the physical ability and endurance their role requires. They are part of an interdependent group of people who work together for the common good of the team.

SCOPE of Leadership Framework

SCOPE of Leadership Framework

Enabling these five qualities through the five categories of leadership competence is the content of my SCOPE of Leadership six-book series on coaching leaders to lead as coaches (www.scopeofleadership.com). Read Book 1 to learn the fundamentals of learning to lead. Read Book 2 to build the competencies of leading self and setting the example. Read Book 3 to discover the art of effective communications and inspiring others. Read Book 4 to learn how to coach and exhort people in their ongoing professional development. Read Book 5 to build high-performance teams and leverage the synergy of teamwork. Read Book 6 to put it all together and create a streamlined operation that delivers great results consistently.

 

 

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What Should You Stop Doing?

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Alpine Link Corporation

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By Mike Hawkins

When we attend staff meetings, planning meetings, and business reviews, we inevitably leave with a list of actions to put on our to-do list. We are generally good at figuring out what we need to do and putting plans in place to do them. The problem is that our to-dos often exceed our capacity to do them. When we add up all that we hope to accomplish, we end up with a list well above the 100 percent we have to give. It is a rare occurrence in our 24×7 always on, always working world that we don’t have too much to do and too little time to do it in.

If we can give only 100 percent of our capacity, why do we put more than 100 percent on our to-do list? If we expect to give only 50-60 hours a week to our work, why do we tell ourselves, and others, that we can complete 80-90 hours of work? Not only are we disappointing people including ourselves as we run perpetually on the treadmill of busyness as usual, we are stressing out and burning out. The importance has never been greater than now for people to learn to prioritize their time and decide what they need to not do rather than merely think about what they need to do.

There was a time in my life when I had a senior level corporate job, owned two small businesses, owned four homes, and supported five children. When I look back on those years, I wonder how I did it. In retrospect, I’m not sure I did it very well. Not until I learned to consciously decide what not to do did I become truly productive, effective, and balanced. Not until I consolidated my material possessions, focused my work on fewer meaningful outcomes, said “no” to some of my pastimes, and put constraints on what I did say yes to did I find time to achieve what I needed to achieve.

How about you? Are you finding it all but impossible to get everything done? Are you quick to take on more assignments and to-dos, but struggle to find time to complete them all? Are you adding more products and services to your product portfolio, but unwilling to kill the old ones that languish? Are you committing to more charitable activities without resigning from those that you need to resign from? Are you saying yes to requests for help without considering the opportunity costs of what you won’t be able to do? Do you lack a healthy work/life balance? Are you chronically late to your children’s sporting events, meetings, and appointments? Do you struggle to get out of bed in the morning because you worked late the night before? If so, consider that it’s time to start thinking about what you should stop doing.

Saying no, like stopping a habit, is difficult. It takes courage, self-control, and confidence to tell people that you can’t accommodate their request. It takes discipline to not allow the urgent to displace the important. It takes mental toughness to let go of an enjoyable pastime, special project, or long-standing tradition. It also takes intelligence. While you might be tempted to pack more activities into your already overbooked schedule, a little thinking helps you realize that you can’t do it. So stop trying.

Here are ten principles to follow in determining what to do, what not to do, and how to achieve more in less time:

1. Plan – Create a plan with specific goals, actions, and incremental milestones that you can track. Define your goals in terms that create a positive vivid mental picture of your desired end-state. Written goals help you establish clarity and provide accountability. Regularly review them and your progress against them. Like going on a trip, you will arrive at your destination much faster and easier when you have preplanned the best route.

2. Focus on the Important - With the many communications channels and other distractions vying for your attention, staying focused is a constant challenge. Don’t let the urgent, convenient, or loudest distract you from the important. Stay focused on reaching the milestones that support your goals. Create the habit of working intentionally. Make a “not to-do” list and adhere to it. Minimize your distractions. Turn off your notifications except during the time you have allotted to review them.

3. Set Your Own Standards – Don’t mindlessly follow social and cultural norms. Set your own example. Lead. Be proactive. Follow your own values. Establish your own principles and philosophies. Define the core guidelines by which you will operate your business and your life. Let them guide you instead of following the latest fads and over-hyped products.

4. Learn to Say “No” – You can’t do everything. You can’t attend every meeting or social function you are invited to. You can’t attend every family gathering. You might like to, but there aren’t enough hours in the day. Learn to say no. Or if an event is truly worthy, learn to use “yes, if …” instead of “yes”. In other words, put conditions on your commitments like adding “if we can shorten the meeting to 30 minutes” or “if you can have food brought in and we can meet during our lunchtime.”

5. Delegate – Just because there are activities you can’t say no to doesn’t mean you have to be the one who does them. No one is successful on their own. Solicit the help of others. Outsource the activities that others can do as well as or better than you. Delegate responsibilities to people who have more bandwidth than you. If you have a house to clean and a teenager at home who needs some spending money, pay them to clean. If you were hit by a bus tomorrow and had to spend the next month in a hospital, consider who would do your work and start delegating it to them now.

6. Be More Productive at What You Do – For those activities you must do yourself, find ways to be as efficient as you can. Your time is your most valuable resource. Don’t squander it. Create reusable templates for repeated tasks. Fully utilize your tools and productivity applications. Streamline your processes and eliminate time wasted on activity that doesn’t add value directly.

7. Get Organized – You can’t be your most productive if you’re not organized. Stacks of inbound correspondence mixed with reference material and time sensitive documents aren’t conducive to quick reference and follow-up. Establish a filing system that enables immediate access. Set up a “one-touch” approach to dealing with emails, letters, messages, invoices, reference materials, and approval requests. Follow the “do, delegate, delete, date, or file” principle.

8. Maintain Your Energy – Being tired deprives you of the energy you need to stay productive and focused. Obtain a good night’s rest of uninterrupted sleep – seven hours if possible. Eat a balanced diet and follow good nutritional guidelines. Take vitamin and mineral supplements. Exercise at least 30 minutes three times a week at your doctor’s recommended cardio level. Exercise increases the capacity of your body’s power supply.

9. Don’t Worry – Take your work one day at a time. Give each day your best and be satisfied that you did enough. Don’t worry about what you have left to do. Worrying causes chronic stress that creates health issues and decreases your energy. Studies find that 92% of what people worry about won’t happen, has already happened, or won’t change what happens. Channel your energy into more productive uses. Go exercise instead.

10. Maintain Some White Space on Your Calendar – Operate as if there isn’t as much availability on your calendar as it appears. Allow time for breaks. Leave time for reflection. The cliché that your best ideas come while in the shower is more fact than fiction. When relaxed, your brain is free to tap into its vast resources and capabilities. Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, Archimedes of Syracuse, and countless others were relaxing when they came up with their world-changing innovative ideas.

Bonus: Consolidate Your Possessions – Possessions are great when they enable your productivity, comfort, and enjoyment, but are not so great when they require maintenance, cleaning, protection, and upgrades. Realize that the value of your stuff might be less than the time, money, and worry you put into it. Consider renting, borrowing, or doing without. Just because you want something and can afford it doesn’t make it a good purchase decision.

Follow these principles to achieve your top priorities and a healthy work/life balance. Good luck!

 

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Social Media - The Untold Liabilities

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Alpine Link Corporation

www.alpinelink.com

By Mike Hawkins

Studies on Internet usage report that two out of three people actively use social media. Average usage varies between 30 minutes to four hours a day depending on the demographic you look at. Social media has clearly reached critical mass and become a way of life for many people. You find people checking their favorite social media applications everywhere—at the supermarket, on the train, in the car, and I can only guess, but probably in bed. It makes me wonder what people spent their time doing before Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Twitter. It also makes me wonder if some wouldn’t be better off without social media.

Don’t misunderstand. I know social media offers many benefits. Social media enables friends to stay in touch, business acquaintances to exchange information, and ideas to be shared to name just a few. However, there are also liabilities. People become so engrossed in their virtual world of informational updates that they ignore opportunities for genuine old-fashioned face-to-face conversation. They ignore their work and family responsibilities. They even crash their cars because they look at their phones instead of the road.

From a marketing perspective, social media and messaging can be a liability too—especially to the consumer. Marketers frequently abuse their unlimited ability to send information to the masses by bombarding us with a cacophony of sales and marketing noise. They generate messages daily that drown us in advertisements and superfluous updates. In retaliation, as if in a battle, we use software filters to delete their unwanted spam.

So here we are. People are employing systems to send messages to people who don’t want them and people are employing systems to filter out unwanted messages from those who send them. Systems are talking to systems and Internet usage statistics continue to set new records. Am I the only one that thinks that the quality isn’t going up with the quantity?  

Social media and messaging are here to stay because they offer many benefits, but don’t believe all the hype. If you are marketing a product or service, be careful about replacing quality with quantity. Just because you can send information to everyone doesn’t mean you should. Volume alone isn’t effective. As a consumer, neither is all the information you receive worth the time to read it. 

Regardless of your social media and messaging intentions, here are five social media and electronic messaging liabilities to be wary of:

  1. Hiding behind an online facade – Use online messaging to complement your communications, not replace it. There is still tremendous value in creating genuine relationships based on old-fashioned face-to-face communications. People still want to conduct business with people they truly know and trust. People still want to have real-time interactive conversations, not simple batch exchanges of 140-160 character messages.

  1. Being careless with distance – When people are surrounded by the protection of their automobile, they say and do things they wouldn’t normally do. The same holds true for messaging. In the same way that people regret their actions behind the wheel of a car, so do people who are too quick to say what’s on their mind and hit the send button. Use discretion in what you choose to put online. Realize that it is equivalent to publishing content on the front page of a newspaper. 

  1. Allowing quantity to replace quality – Big usage statistics and subscriber numbers might seem impressive, but they are meaningless if they don’t translate into results. Volume only counts when it produces value. Landing in someone’s spam filter is not valuable and nothing to be proud of. Neither are messages that make false claims, sensationalize the foolish, and set low standards for writing style. Don’t succumb to the philosophy that mediocrity is all right. It isn’t.  

  1. Putting more value on knowing than doing – Knowledge is valuable and staying informed is a worthwhile pursuit—to a point. When you find yourself spending more time being informed and entertained than doing, know that you’ve become a spectator rather than a practitioner. Consider that you don’t have to know constantly what people are doing, or let them know what you are doing. Replace some knowing with some doing. Don’t let your experience be conceptual.

  1. Losing focus and being eternally distracted – When you have work to do or a project to complete, turn off your messaging. When you are in a meeting or talking to someone, turn off your notifications. When your mental presence is supposed to be part of your physical presence, allocate your attention commensurately. Be respectful and disciplined enough to give your attention to that which is most important, not merely that which vibrates or rings every few seconds. 

Use social media and electronic messaging to complement great communications and enable great results, not supplant them. 

I wish you, your family, and your business abundant prosperity in the New Year!

 

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Poor Fitness Excuses Exposed

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Alpine Link Corporation

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By Mike Hawkins

You know your physical fitness is important, yet you struggle to find time for regular exercise. You know your diet is important, yet you can’t resist fast food or unhealthy snacks. There is little more important to you than your health, but you do little to improve it. If this is you, you have many companions. Studies find that for two out of three adults, this is their daily battle.
 
What is preventing you or those you care about from establishing and sustaining healthy lifestyle habits?  Is it limited time? Indifference? Lack of perceived value? Listed below are the excuses I hear most often and my rebuttal for each. Pick the one you use or hear most often. I hope you will discover that the excuse makes little sense and it’s time to make health and fitness your top priority.
 
Excuses and Rebuttals:
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“Being out of shape isn’t really that bad” – Just because you don’t think your poor fitness is a problem doesn’t change the reality that it is. Not only is a lack of exercise and poor nutrition going to haunt you when you become older, it hurts you now. Your poor conditioning impacts your mental acuity, your energy level, and your physical appearance—you just don’t realize it. Your brain receives less oxygen and your body fewer life improving hormones. Your body has to work harder to carry around your excess weight. You are less attractive and less likely to attract the people you might like to attract. Accept it or not, when you are out of shape, it impacts you physically, mentally, socially, and professionally. 
 
“I’m too busy to exercise” – Yes you are busy, probably very busy, but you have the same twenty-four hours a day that others have who do exercise. It is not a lack of time but how you choose to spend your time that is the real issue. There is always time if you choose to make your health a high enough priority. Realize that the time you spend exercising and making healthy food choices is more than offset by the improved productivity you gain the rest of the day from increased energy and mental acuity. Consider too that you might need to start saying “no” to some people, quit spending time on lower priority activities, delegate some of your responsibilities, or become more productive at what you do.
 
“I’m too tired” – Could it be that your very lack of physical conditioning or poor health is causing you to have limited energy? Most medical experts would say it is. Or is it that you give everything you have all day long to everyone else and have no energy left to invest in yourself? If so, realize that while your workload might serve a noble cause, if you don’t give yourself the proper rest, nutrition, and exercise your body needs, your ability to help others and get work done is limited. Consider your lack of energy a wake-up call for change. Heart attacks, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are not badges of honor.
 
“I don’t like to exercise” or “I like what I eat” – If you choose to merely do that which you enjoy, at least appreciate the consequences so you won’t feel like a complete fool later. Realize that as you indulge in your poor lifestyle choices that you are creating a debt that you’ll have to repay later. Your short-term pleasures and gratifications will become your displeasures and regrets in the future. Just because “someday” may seem a long way off right now doesn’t mean it won’t come and you won’t have to confront it. Consider that most anything of value, including your health has a cost. Small sacrifices in what you eat and how you spend your time are worth making. Not always being comfortable may be just what you truly need. 
 
“I can’t resist the temptation” – There is no denying that your mind and body make change very difficult. Physical cravings and mental thought processes are powerful. There are many approaches, however, you can use to counter them. For example, you can remove yourself from temptation laden situations, remove the temptations from your surroundings, and have contingency plans in place for the occasions when you do encounter them. As you incrementally overcome your undesirable desires and discover that you can control yourself, your confidence goes up and your ability to maintain your willpower becomes stronger and stronger.
 
“It’s too late” – You may be in extremely poor health and exceedingly out of shape, but it’s never too late to benefit from good nutrition and exercise. What you do for your body today has an immediate impact. Studies find that just a little exercise immediately improves blood circulation and alters your physiology in a number of beneficial ways. Just one day of good nutrition improves your immunity to disease and infection. Just one day of replacing starches and sugar with leafy vegetables and fiber improves digestion, reduces headaches, and improves vitality. Unless you don’t plan to live past today, it isn’t too late to enjoy the benefits of a better lifestyle.    
 
“I’ve tried before and just can’t stay with it” – Habits are powerful, yet they can be changed. People do quit smoking. People do lose weight and keep it off. People do start running and get just as addicted to it as they do watching television. No one is born a junk food addict or tobacco user. Habits are learned behaviors and can be unlearned. It takes discipline and persistence, but you can change. Forming new habits requires that you stay with them long enough that they become natural. Your new diet and exercise routine then simply become your normal lifestyle. Yes, you must permanently give up some things, but you can and believe it or not—you will eventually even enjoy it. 
 
“I’ll make a change, just not now” – You might intend to change, even soon, but days turn into weeks which turn into months and then years. Before you know it, you’ve ignored healthy lifestyle choices for five, ten, or more years. The reality is that if you need to make a change, you need to make it now—not tomorrow or next week. Decide to put time on your side instead of against you. Every day you wait to improve your fitness is another day of added cholesterol and weight gain that you have to undo. It’s another day that your muscles atrophy, your lung capacity decreases, your memory fades, and your cognitive ability decreases.
 
“I just can’t seem to get started” – Start by deciding to start. Set goals for yourself. For each, determine the time, resources, and assistance you need to reach them. Create a plan of what you will start doing as well as stop doing. Recruit others in your family, neighborhood, or work to join you. Create contingency plans for the temptations and obstacles you will likely encounter. If you know you’ll be starving in the afternoon, take a bag of nuts with you to work. If you know you can’t resist a candy bar or desert, bring a piece of dark chocolate with you. If you know someone will likely call a meeting in the morning when you had planned to be in the gym, establish a home workout routine that you can do.  
 
Once you get started, take it one day at a time. Don’t worry about tomorrow or reaching your goal. Just do today what you need to do today. At the end of the day, review how well you did. Score yourself in a journal to track your progress. When tomorrow comes, do it over again. Then again and again each day afterwards. Before you know it, you’ll be in great shape, full of energy, mentally acute, and enjoying life like you never have before. Let there be no more excuses!
__________________________________________ 
 
If you or someone you know needs a little boost in setting and sustaining a New Year’s resolution, order a copy of my book “Activating Your Ambition: A Guide to Coaching the Best Out of Yourself and Others”.  It provides a straightforward approach to setting goals, creating a plan, and sticking with it until desired behaviors become natural. Buy a single copy for your best friend or a case to give everyone on your team. You can find them at your favorite book seller or at www.activatingyourambition.com where you will find discounted autographed copies as well as free shipping.
 
My colleague Colleen Stanley has just released her great new book, Emotional Intelligence For Sales Success. In it, she shares tips and expert insights on areas of the sales process where soft skills affect hard sales results. Order a copy at your favorite book seller orhttp://www.amazon.com/dp/0814430295/ref=cm_sw_su_dp
 
Happy Holidays!

 

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Two Perspectives on Employee Engagement

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Alpine Link Corporation

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By Mike Hawkins

As with many business buzzwords and general management philosophies, the term employee engagement solves (or causes) many problems. To lessen the ambiguity, at least a little, here is my definition of the term, “the degree to which employees respect their organization, want to stay in their organization, have passion for results, and put in higher discretionary effort.”

Studies of employee engagement regularly find that most employees are not fully engaged. Most are only somewhat engaged and many are disengaged. The cost of disengagement to companies is substantial. Estimates range from the hundreds of billions of dollars to the trillions. In the course of coaching and consulting, I frequently find employee engagement not much higher than 50 percent. In other words, many employees only give about half of what they could be giving. When you think about it, that is disastrous. Organizations are only half as productive as they could be!

The reasons for low employee engagement are numerous. To name a few, reasons include controlling managers, unsatisfying work, insufficient recognition, lack of resources, conflict with colleagues, limited opportunities for advancement, and unclear responsibilities. To make it simple, you can put most of the reasons under the category of poor leadership.

Clearly employees play a part in their level of engagement too, but most of the root issues are within management’s control. It is an organization’s management that largely determines how well an employee is suited to their role, receives recognition for their efforts, has the right resources, and engages in meaningful work.

Here are two perspectives to help both employees and managers improve engagement:

If you are an employee, find the meaning in your work. Your organization is successful because it provides a valuable product or service. Either believe in what you and your organization do, or find work at another organization you can believe in. You spend too much of your life working to not enjoy your work and fully embrace it.

If you are in management, treat your people like the most important asset they are. Be clear about your expectations. Give people praise and recognition when they meet your expectations. Be considerate and respectful. Being a leader is an honor, not a justification to exercise your authority. There are times when people need to be managed, but more often they need to be led. Be a leader who people want to work for and give their best for.       

 _______________________

Article written by Mike Hawkins, award-winning author of Activating Your Ambition: A Guide to Coaching the Best Out of Yourself and Others (www.activatingyourambition.com), and president of Alpine Link Corp (www.alpinelink.com), a boutique consulting firm specializing in leadership development and sales performance improvement.

 

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Growth Spurts and Graduations

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Alpine Link Corporation

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By Mike Hawkins

This is the time of year when high school seniors graduate from high school and college students graduate from college. I’ve had one of each in my own family. Here is a brief message for graduating seniors that I hope you’ll find interesting and perhaps a message you can pass on to those graduating in your family and circle of influence.

Dear Graduating Seniors,

It is a distant memory for you now, but when you left middle school and started high school, you were growing at a rapid pace. It was during those years that your relatives told you at the end of each summer that you must have grown at least three inches. Your growth spurt was a physical one.  

In your high school years, you kept growing physically, but more importantly you grew mentally. You learned how to study and take tests. You learned the true value of friendships and all the joy as well as frustrations that went along with them. You discovered social groups and how to fit into them, or how not to fit into them. You discovered the power of peer pressure and how rewarding or painful it can be when you follow the footsteps of others. Your growth spurt was primarily a social one.

When you leave high school, you enter another growth period. You take control of your own life and leave the daily persuasions of many people who have been so influential to you. You leave the peer pressure of your friends in high school. You leave the encouragements as well as the naggings of your family. You transition from the pressure of having to follow others to being a leader of yourself. You become an adult and decide for yourself what you want to do, when you want to do it, and how you will do it. You receive the right to vote and make decisions for yourself. It is the beginning of the independence that you will enjoy for the rest of your life and one of the most exciting times of your life.

When you go off to college, you continue developing relationships and growing socially, but your growth in knowledge becomes your most noticeable growth spurt. Your college years are where you learn the domain of your future career. You learn fundamentals that prepare you to enter the workforce and earn a good income. You build an understanding of how to perform as an engineer, accountant, manager, doctor, teacher, or whatever role you pursue. You gain valuable knowledge that you will use for the rest of your life.

Whether graduating from high school or college, let your knowledge growth spurt continue. Don’t stop learning. The next 10+ years are your most important learning years. You will join the workforce, but consider that learning is more important than earning. The investment in learning you make early in your life will pay financial dividends the rest of your life. The more experience and knowledge you have, the more your future employers will value you. As you make the inevitable choices ahead between learning and earning, choose learning. Gain as much experience and knowledge as you can. It will be returned to you with interest as you move into your next growth spurt – your financial one.

Congratulations seniors!

 

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Consequences of Performance

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Alpine Link Corporation

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By Mike Hawkins

It would be great if people always took responsibility and gave their best effort without having consequences, but they don’t. Many employees only work because they need to keep their job. Many families only pay their bills because they want to keep their belongings. Kids only do their homework because it’s required to pass to the next grade.
 
In situations where consequences are less direct or absent, people are generally less responsible. The reason people don’t eat what they should, get enough exercise, treat others with respect, or maintain only good habits is because they experience no consequences – at least not directly or immediately.

The reality is that most people think and behave based on expected consequences. People make decisions and take action based on what is at stake – either what they stand to lose or gain. If there is nothing at stake, most people see little reason to take action.

When leading yourself or others to behave, perform, or think in a certain way, be clear about what is at stake. If nothing is at stake, either establish something or don’t expect the results you are expecting.

Listed below are various consequences typically used as either punishments or rewards. If you are an employee, consider these when asking for rewards for good performance. If you are a manager, refer to these when establishing and communicating the consequences of performance. Note that while both punishments and rewards are powerful motivators, great leaders emphasize the rewards. Keep yourself and others focused on what you want, not on what you don’t want.
 
To promote top performance, ensure people’s performance is recognized with either more or less of the following:
Praise – verbal encouragement, hand-written thank-you notes, pubic announcements
Recognition – peer, departmental, organizational, or industry awards
Symbols of accomplishment – celebrations, promotions, plaques, trophies, recognition events
Tokens of appreciation – gift certificates, dinner for two, donations to charities in the employee’s name
Admonishment – reproof, lecture
Empowerment - change in responsibilities, authority, title, position
Monetary compensation – raises ,bonuses, commissions, stock options, or work hours for hourly employees
Resources –expense budget, equipment, facilities, staff
High profile assignments – special projects, operations assistant to a senior executive
Management oversight – attention or independence
Practice –time spent practicing the fundamentals or whatever does or doesn’t need improvement
Professional development –formative experiences, training, college, coaching, mentoring
Benefits and perks – schedule flexibility, association memberships, travel upgrades
Time off - paid sabbaticals or vacation, days off, afternoons off, or for very poor performance - permanent time off
Progress – incremental progress toward other professional or personal goals
 
To state the obvious, consequences must not only be established, but enforced. A punishment or reward not applied is meaningless. Only establish consequences that you expect to enforce.

 

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The #1 Skill of Effective Communicators

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Alpine Link Corporation

www.alpinelink.com

By Mike Hawkins

Randall was my boss at IBM. He brought me into his organization early in my career as a first-line manager. As great leaders do, he saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. I’m glad, because in my first few months as a manager, I made a lot of mistakes. I first tried being a super-contributor, a manager who relies on his own contributions rather than working through his people. Then I tried to manage my team instead of lead them. I focused on controlling my employees and enforcing company policies rather than coaching and enabling them. All the time, Randall was patient.
 
Randall’s office door was always open. I could come to him with my questions, frustrations, or need for encouragement. He would always hear me out without interrupting or redirecting. Rather than change the conversation to something he would rather talk about, he would stay on my topic. He would probe, reflect, and show empathy.
 
When you talked to Randall, you knew he was listening and not merely formulating his response. When you left Randall’s presence, you felt understood. He had a way of making you feel good about yourself. He made you feel important. It was even therapeutic at times. Depending on your need, Randall could be a proxy for your counselor, pastor, friend, and even your parent.

 
Great leaders are great listeners. They are not merely great speakers or talkers. They leverage the power of both their mouth and ears. They provide information when appropriate, but equally well receive it. They make themselves available to their constituents. They are open-minded. They seek to understand before being understood.
 
Talking to someone is not a conversation. At best, talking is half of a conversation. The other half of a conversation is listening. If you are talking to someone who is distracted and not understanding, your talking is more a vocal cord exercise than a conversation. For effective communications to take place, there needs to be effective listening.
 
Counter intuitively for many people, people who focus more on speaking than listening are not as effective in their ability to influence. They don’t garner the trust of others. They don’t endear themselves to others. They don’t have as deep and meaningful a dialog. Nor do they understand or learn as well.
 
There is no joy in being with someone that wants to do all the talking. They constantly redirect the conversation back to themselves. They don’t care about what others have to say. They want to be the center of attention. You think, “Why don’t they just talk to a mirror? It’s obvious they don’t really need anyone else in their conversation.”
 
Listening enables understanding and builds relationships. It makes people feel important, valued, and respected. It satisfies people’s basic need to feel understood. There are many situations where people don’t need you to solve their problems or do anything other than empathize and listen.
 
The ability to influence, collaborate, encourage, coach, gain trust, and learn is more dependent on a well-developed ability to listen than to speak. As Stephen R. Covey, author of The 8th Habit, said “The most important skill in life is communications. And the most important communication skill is listening.”
 
Regardless of your role or level, develop the #1 skill of effective communicators – listening - and watch your performance dramatically increase.

 

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Leadership by Guss

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Alpine Link Corporation

www.alpinelink.com

By Mike Hawkins

Dogs are great pets, but I’m giving our 3 year old mini-goldendoodle a promotion from great pet to great leader. While a friend of ours was snowshoeing with Elizabeth and me, we were talking and watching our dog Guss. It dawned on us how many great leadership qualities he exhibits. I’ll admit to being a bit biased toward my buddy Guss and a dog lover, but maybe you will agree.
 
Here are twelve important leadership characteristics we observed, one for each month of the new year, that we would all do well to imitate in 2012:
 
-Leads by example. While we were heading to our destination, our leader Guss was always in front. Not so far that we couldn’t see him, but just far enough ahead that we could observe him as he created the path and set the direction for us to follow.

-Serves. Our leader was constantly seeking to serve and please us. He proactively brought us valuable resources (bones, sticks, and balls) without having to ask for them. He put us first and himself second. While not counting on it, he knew we would return the favor.

-Exhibits temporal intelligence. Our leader had a good sense of timing. He knew when it was best to wait and when it was best to take action. When we weren’t quite ready, he sensed it and waited patiently. When we were ready, he sensed it and jumped into action.

-Displays emotional intelligence. Our leader was good at reading us and picking up on subtle cues. He noticed our body language and voice inflections. He could tell when we were upset or happy. He knew when to stay away and when to approach us.

-Works as a team player. Our leader had a genuine interest in being with us and part of our team. He stayed with us even when other distractions could have drawn him away. We knew we could count on him to protect us and watch out for our best interests.

-Garners trust. Our leader was honest, authentic, and competent. He never said or committed to something that he didn’t back up with action. He was never misleading. He always let us know what he was thinking (with his wagging tail).

-Displays courage. Our leader was courageous. He was goal oriented rather than risk averse. He didn’t let any fear or doubt hold him back. He didn’t make excuses or blame others. Even though our journey was not completely safe, or known, he fully engaged and finished it.

-Continuously learns. Our leader didn’t get stuck in the rut of complacency. He didn’t remain satisfied with what he knew or could do. He pursued higher levels of performance. He continuously learned (new tricks) as we progressed on our journey.

-Adapts and resolves problems. Our leader adapted to the environment we were in. He confronted and overcome every obstacle we encountered (fallen trees and snow drifts). He made adjustments when they were needed and never lost sight of our objective.

-Works intentionally and persists. Our leader didn’t give up when the going got tough. He stayed focused. He didn’t put off his responsibility until the next day or week. Neither did he consider his work complete until we had fully reached our objective. He worked tirelessly and intentionally.

-Makes decisions and takes action. When it was time to take action, our leader was ready. Without delay, he was the first to go. He asserted himself. He didn’t wait until everything was perfect or until our plan had been repeatedly reviewed until it was diluted down with everyone’s petty desires.

-Motivates and has fun. Our leader did his job, but didn’t take it too seriously. He was always in a good mood. He liked to work hard, but he liked to play too. He had fun and cheered the rest of us on. We couldn’t help but take on his enthusiastic spirit and can-do positive attitude.

 

 

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Making Conflict an Asset Rather Than a Liability

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Alpine Link Corporation

www.alpinelink.com

By Mike Hawkins

Is conflict good or bad? Do you look forward to a vigorous debate and exchange of opinions or do you avoid it like the plague? Many people avoid conflict, yet when it is engaged constructively it is beneficial. It is through healthy disagreement and debate that problems are solved. Healthy conflict enables people to build on each other's ideas. It challenges people to raise their performance. It helps people grow and develop. It helps people understand each other's personalities, motives, and needs. It enables better collaboration and synergy.


In contrast, conflict is unhealthy when disagreements turn into arguments. Conflict is unconstructive when the conversation turns from sharing perspectives to defending positions, proving each other wrong, attacking each other, or seeking revenge. Conflict that is unhealthy is costly. Improperly handled, conflict contributes to unnecessary work, low employee productivity, low morale, low engagement, and high turnover. It creates stress and illness. It tarnishes an organization's image. It exposes organizations to legal issues and the costs of litigation.
 
Working with people is not always peaceful. People have different values, perspectives, motives, and personalities which cause differences of opinion and disagreement. As in a marriage or best friendship, conflict at work is unavoidable. The issue then with conflict is not about avoiding it, but in properly handling it.


Marriages that last do so because the spouses know how to handle their disagreements. It is not because they don't disagree. All couples disagree. But marriages that last do so because the spouses, or at least one spouse, knows how to disagree constructively and manages their disagreements. Anyone
can handle agreements. It is how people handle disagreements that determine the quality and longevity of a relationship. It is how well people handle the unhappy moments rather than the happy ones that matters most.


Conflict can tear people and organizations apart, or it can enable top performance. It depends on how it is engaged. Follow these six principles that start with letters that spell out the acronym "LEADER" to make your disagreements constructive dialogs instead of unconstructive arguments:

Listen - Listen and understand each other's perspectives and
motives. Many arguments are the result of simple misunderstandings that could have been avoided had the people just taken time to listen to each other and understand why each person did what they did.
 
Empathize - Put yourself in the other person's position. Admit
that you might not feel, think, or behave any differently. Mention your own mistakes to show that you're not perfect either. Validate the other person's feelings and needs even if you disagree with their thinking.

Agree - Agree on common ground before focusing on differences.
Establish an equal level of appreciation for the benefits of maintaining a positive relationship. Build an equal motivation and commitment to resolve the issues. Establish a cooperative spirit on both sides.

Demonstrate respect - Give a complement or perform a gesture of kindness to show a willingness to be civil. Maintain self-control and professionalism. Be careful not to say or do something that trips the other person's defense trigger and draws their ire.


Explore - Explore new perspectives and solutions beyond what each person initially supplies. Identify different solutions that address both parties' concerns. Create blended solutions that incorporate both parties' ideas rather than just one party's. Agree on win-win solutions.


Review - Review and evaluate progress regularly. The resolution
to the dispute isn't complete until it has been fully implemented and any desired behavior changes have become a part of the normal routine. Gently and considerately hold each other accountable until it is no longer necessary.

Follow these principles and you'll enjoy the benefits of more harmony and less hostility.

 

 

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8 Questions to Enable More Accomplishment and Less Churn

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Alpine Link Corporation

www.alpinelink.com

By Mike Hawkins

Does it seem there is an ever increasing amount of time spent each day churning rather than accomplishing, or is it just me? I'm on my way to a doctor's appointment when I get stuck in not one, but two different traffic jams. I get to the doctor's office and forms that were just filled out last year have to be recompleted. I find out I need a minor "procedure" which can't be done today, so I have to schedule another appointment for next week. On my way back to my office, I stop in to get a haircut and find my
barber is out for the day, so I try another one down the street and she has four people already waiting. I run into the post office to discover my tax assessment is too high which I'll need to protest. I then get a call from my wife to pick up something from the grocery store because she is stuck on the phone debating our most recent cell phone bill with our phone service provider. I go to check out, but don't have my customer loyalty card. I get back to the office and my computer freezes up while I'm on a conference call as I review my notes for an upcoming meeting. Wow, is it already 5pm? Where did the day go? And oops, I still need to go to the bathroom, which I've needed to do for the last hour.
 
And then there is electronic communications. How many webinars, e-newsletters, YouTube videos, emails, voicemails, text messages, tweets, links, Facebook updates, and blogs is enough? At what point should we concern ourselves about moving from having knowledge and being informed to taking action? Is there a point at which we should be concerned that our "business" is perhaps more appropriately called our "busyness"?

I fully endorse effective communications, but I get about twenty webinar invitations a day, about a dozen online articles, another dozen e-zines, several on-line surveys, and hundreds of emails including far too many advertisements. I know people put a lot of thought into these events and messages, but I only have 24 hours in a day and I have other work to do.

I try to keep my daily-unplanned to-do list of activities to a one page list. But with all the extra electronic communication, equipment hassles, errands, traffic jams, maintenance activities, and life's general administration - I'm finding page two of my to-do list is getting more and more use.

So what is the answer? What might we do to make our world less complicated and keep our to-do list to a manageable level? How might we do more doing and less reacting, responding, redoing, restarting, resolving, and churning? I don't think we can count on advertisers, insurance company support representatives, doctor assistants, social media developers, or department of motor vehicle clerks to do it for us. The answer is we have to do it for
ourselves.
 
Next time you think about adding complexity and busyness to your already overcrowded schedule, ask yourself:

1. Does this need to be done? Is this important, or merely urgent and convenient? - Politely say no to requests that are not important to you and your stakeholders. Or put lower priority requests on your proverbial back burner for when you have more time.

2. If I do this, what am I not going to do that might be more important? - Consider what you are not going to do when you do something else. Something might be important, but is it as important as what you are going to have to defer?

3. Does this add sufficient value to justify the time and effort? - Think about what your time is worth. You might save money by doing something yourself, but what if the time it takes you costs you more than you save? What if maintaining your loyalty program membership, using reusable coffee cups, and searching for discounted offers costs more in time than it saves?

4. Could someone else do this better than or instead of me? - Consider who else might have more time or be better capable of doing what you are tempted to do yourself. Delegate tasks to others. Let go of your controlling nature. Empower others with authority. They will usually surprise if not delight you with their abilities.

5. Is there an effective way I could do this from my office or home without traveling? - Don't make two trips when you can make one. Consolidate your customer travel, errands, and meetings where possible. Take advantage of conference calls and web-based meetings when meeting face-to-face isn't absolutely necessary.

6. Is there an automated or more productive approach that I could use without sacrificing effectiveness? - Take advantage of productivity tools, systems, and repeatable processes. Build templates rather than recreate your letters, proposals, agendas, plans, and guidelines from the beginning.

7. How might I change this situation so that it takes up less time and heads in a more productive direction? - If a situation is clearly out of control, don't perpetuate the nonsense. Change the situation. Call attention to the activity that needs to stop. Reframe the decision that needs to be made. Solve problems at their root cause rather than applying temporary fixes to symptoms.

8. When making a purchase, ask, "Do I really need to buy this? What are the longer term implications of maintenance, repair, taxes, storage, and disposal?" - Everything you buy requires some degree of maintenance. A friend of mine and I once discovered that between us we had over fifty gasoline powered devices, which required storage, oil changes, repairs, and
maintenance. Consider renting, leasing, or borrowing instead of buying if you truly need something.

Much of our typical day is allocated to the essentials of life and work. For
the discretionary time left, be discerning about how you spend it.

 

 

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Five Tips to Avoiding Burnout and Handling Stress

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Alpine Link Corporation

www.alpinelink.com

By Mike Hawkins

Studies reveal that over 75 percent of adults are stressed out beyond healthy levels and on the verge of burn-out. They have high-blood pressure, a weakened immune system, or other stress related illnesses. Their leading cause of stress: excessive work.
 
People work so many hours that they lose their work-life balance, get less sleep than they need, run themselves down, and chronically feel behind on their commitments. They lose their mental edge, operate at a sub-optimal level, and make mistakes they wouldn't otherwise make. In some cases people spend more time making up for their poor performance than the time they put
into their performance to begin with. Many people live their life on a "treadmill of busyness as usual".
 
Counter-intuitively, the biggest issue with not having enough time has nothing to do with getting more work done. If you are like most people, you find ways to get your work done. The casualty of not having enough time is not having sufficient time left for strategic interests. It is not having time to learn, develop your skills, or develop the skills of your team. It is not having time to spend time with your family. It is not having reflection time to think and innovate. It is not having time to build social relationships and business partnerships.
 
Decide what is most important and put your focus there. You can only do what time allows. As long as you are working productively on the most important activities to the best of your ability, you can't do any more. Continue to seek help from others and delegate where you can. Look for ways to improve your productivity and skills. But as long as you give the current day with your current priorities your best effort, you are doing the best you can. Don't be anxious or stressed by what you aren't getting to if you are already doing all you can. It is of no consequence. Accept that you will have competing priorities and you can only give the time and effort you have to give. No more, no less.
 
Here are five key principles to follow in helping to avoid burnout and handle your stress:

1. Take your work one day at a time. If you do the best you can, you are doing all you can. The rest has to wait until tomorrow. Don't compete with the reality that there is only 24 hours in a day.

2. Be thankful for what you do have. Look at the glass as half full
rather than half empty. It could always be worse. You could have two broken legs, be without a job, and have the bank foreclosing on your house.

3. Continuously seek improvements. Seek ways to be more productive. Look for opportunities to delegate. Say "no" to unimportant requests. Or say "yes, if ." to put conditions on a "yes" that needs reasonable limits.

4. Don't tie your mood, attitude, and confidence to the opinions of others. Rise above your circumstances. Decide your own mood and make it a good one. You may have to live with the actions of others, but others don't have to dictate your attitude.

5. Appreciate adversity. Adversity is where learning, patience,
appreciation, and character come from. If you can get to the point where you "delight in your suffering", your stress might even turn into something you can enjoy.
 
Follow these principles to make your day the best day you can. Then smile and appreciate that it will be okay.

 

Couching

By: Rob Bahna

Most sales training tells us that we need to uncover the problems, needs and wants of our customers. And of course – that is sound advice to truly being a consultative sales person.

Many sales people ask similar questions to do this:
What do you like about…..
What don’t you like about or what would you change about if you could…
Are you having any problems with…
What are your biggest challenges…
 
I won’t get into what I really think of many of these questions – but I will say that customers hear them all the time – so their value to you as a sales person is limited. Customers learn responses to questions (Like do you want fries with that?). You need to differentiate yourself.
 
And – what if your customer is someone you don’t know well and you are asking about sensitive information? Do you really believe someone who does not know you well is going to open up and give you sensitive information and tell you their problems?
 
Ask any sales manager how their team is doing and you will get the same answer – great. Ask the CEO how the sales team is doing and you are more likely to get the truth. Why – because it is not a direct reflection of their responsibilities on a daily basis. You could ask the sales manager – are you any good at your job? It is the same question..
 
But you do need sensitive information at times from people you don’t know well. One technique to help with this is COUCHING. Couching is designed to:
 
Make it o.k. for customers to share their challenge because they are not alone. Help them understand where you are going since they want to be in control. Give them genuine compliments to help learn their thoughts/opinions/feelings. Differentiate you from all the over-used questions they hear every day.
 
Since we sell an automated CPR device to help improve patient outcomes – a couching question I might use would look something like this:
 
We know that despite all of our collective efforts, the national average for out of hospital cardiac arrest survival rate is still around 8%. How does that compare with what you are seeing with your patients?
 
You mentioned that you have been a medic for 15 years. In that time frame, how many changes have we had in the way we do CPR? Could you share with me what the compression to ventilation ratio was when you started? What are your thoughts on these changes?
 
Be different. Be better. STOP doing things the same way and break out of those comfort zones and your results will STOP being the same.

 

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Ten Steps to Leading as a Coach

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Alpine Link Corporation

www.alpinelink.com

By Mike Hawkins

As an avid skier, mountain biker, and outdoor enthusiast, I'm always looking for pointers on how to improve my athletic ability. I find that regardless of the sport, there are five capabilities that consistently determine athletic performance. Whether an individual or team sport, mechanized or human powered sport, or indoor or outdoor sport, improving performance comes down to five qualities. They are:
 
 - Technique
 - Mental Fitness
 - Physical Fitness
 - Equipment
 - Teamwork
 
As professional athletes know best, if you don't use the correct technique, have the proper frame of mind, maintain physically fitness, employ the right equipment, and leverage the help of others, you don't win.

These same five qualities enable top performers at work too. Top performing professionals are skilled and technically competent. They are positive and mentally acute. They are energetic and physically fit. They have enabling tools and equipment.They leverage the support and help of others around them.
 
It should be no surprise that great leaders, like great coaches, emphasize these five qualities. They help their people develop skills and leverage strengths. They encourage and exhort their people to believe in themselves and develop a can-do attitude. They have their people practice, build strength, and cultivate endurance. They equip their people with resources, tools, and processes that enable high productivity and quality of execution.
They foster collaboration and teamwork.
 
To lead like a coach, here are ten steps of good coaching to employ as you help develop and enable people in these five areas:
 
1. Understanding - Get to know the person you are coaching including their strengths and their development needs. Understand the ecosystem in which they operate. No one succeeds or fails on their own.
 
2. Goals - Explore the person's ambitions and goals. Discuss the skills, attitudes, and behaviors needed to reach their goals. Jointly create an individualized coaching agenda that targets the specific skills to be developed.
 
3. Mindset - Cultivate the person's mental fitness. Develop their eagerness to develop. Motivate and encourage them. Create an improvement mindset. Attitude comes before aptitude.


4. Awareness - Investigate any obstacles preventing their desired behaviors. Ask questions to uncover root causes. Observe them in action to facilitate deeper understanding. Establish awareness of any habits that need to be changed.
 
5. Solutions - Discuss the alternative solutions available to building their desired skills and behaviors. Evaluate the different options. Take into consideration the time, energy, and resources required. Agree on a solution and plan of action.
 
6. Incremental steps - In developing new behaviors, start with the basics. Review and practice the basics before moving into more advanced capabilities. Break goals down into incremental milestones. Practice and make progress in small steps.
 
7. Resources - Engage others in the process of providing them with encouragement and support. Provide any enabling equipment, tools, systems, or processes needed to facilitate continued development and proper execution.
 
8. Opportunity - Move the person from practice to production. Move them from building knowledge and methods to putting them into application. Put them into the game. Give them assignments without the "training wheels".
 

9. Feedback - Monitor their performance and progress. Provide candid feedback. Encourage, praise, and recognize their efforts. Constructively critique them where they need to improve.
 
10. Reinforcement - Continue reinforcing their desired behaviors. Help them practice and refine their technique. Facilitate ongoing adjustments as needs change. Challenge and exhort them to continually develop. Build and maintain their confidence.

Follow these essential steps of good coaching and watch the performance of your people take off.

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10 Reasons to Manage as a Coach

The Management Attribute Most Desired by Employees.

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Alpine Link Corporation 
www.alpinelink.com

By Mike Hawkins

Relationships between employees and managers take many forms. Some are collaborative while others are competitive. Some are vibrant while others are antagonistic. There are managers and employees who have great respect for each other and work closely together like partners who help each other out. Others hardly see each other or wish they never saw each other. 

The nature of employee-manager relationships depend on factors related to the manager, employee, and organization. An organization's culture, policies, and HR systems have an impact. The manager's leadership style, span of responsibility, and leadership competence have an impact. The employee's level of performance, skill level, role, and attitude have an impact. But more than any other factor, it is managers and their leadership style that most determine the nature of the relationship.  

Some managers operate as "super-contributors" who are individual contributors with a higher level of responsibility. They often have a peer level relationship with their employees. Some act like military commanders who tell their people where to go and what to do. They have an authoritarian relationship with their employees. Some act as charismatic politicians who like to make promises and strive for popularity. They have a superficial relationship with their employees. Some managers are disengaged and not materially involved in managing or leading at all. They have no relationship with their employees.  

The most effective relationship and approach a manager can employ is akin to a coach working with an athlete. It is a coaching style of management that utilizes coaching best practices. It is a style that inspires people to be their best. Managers as coaches not only hold their employees accountable, they encourage and enable their employees. They help their employees develop and improve their skills. They establish a nurturing and motivating relationship with their employees.

Here are ten reasons why managers should lead as coaches and develop a coaching approach to leadership: 

1. Managers spend weeks if not months recruiting, interviewing, and hiring top talent to put on their team. Employees are their most important assets. Employees are worth the investment. 

2. Coaching improves employee performance. Studies find that employees who receive coaching perform up to 200 percent higher than employees who don't. 

3. Surveys find the top attribute most desired by employees in their manager is an ability to coach. Employees want individualized help in improving their skills. 

4. Annual performance reviews are pathetically insufficient to helping employees become top performers. Annual reviews are not a substitute for continually working with employees on their professional development. 

5. Manager conversations with employees about sales forecasts, budgets, project status, and other operational issues don't get to the root issues that prevent top performance and are most deserving of discussion.  

6. Practicing and honing basic skills are what differentiate good
performers from top performers. Yet employees don't regularly practice and work on their skills without the exhortation and attention that comes with coaching. 

7. No one is successful on their own. Top performers are part of an ecosystem. It is the help, encouragement, advice, facilitation, and enablement from others and in particular from their manager that enables their top performance. 

8. A primary reason that top performers join an organization and subsequently stay with an organization is the potential for professional growth. Top performers place great value on learning and development. 

9. When successful people are asked about the aspects of their career that most enabled their success, they consistently mention a mentor, athletic coach, or boss who took the time to work with them individually on their development.

10. Studies find that over three-fourths of organizations have a skills shortfall that will prevent them from reaching their goals. Helping to improve people's skills has to be a manager's top priority.

Consider your relationship with your employees or boss. Think about how your relationship could be improved through coaching. Talk to your boss or your employee about improving a skill or leveraging a talent through coaching. The time you invest in it will pay huge dividends in improved performance and relationship.  

In next month's article, I'll highlight the five coaching areas that most impact athletic and employee performance.

Article written by Mike Hawkins, award-winning author of Activating Your Ambition: A Guide to Coaching the Best Out of Yourself and Others (www.activatingyourambition.com), and president of Alpine Link Corporation (www.alpinelink.com), a consulting firm specializing in leadership development and sales performance improvement.  

For other articles on reaching your peak potential, visit
www.alpinelink.com/Leadership_Sales_Management_Consulting_Papers_Tools_Templ
ates.aspx.  

 

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A Team Versus a Collection of Individuals

 

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Alpine Link Corporation 
www.alpinelink.com

By Mike Hawkins

Contrast two teams each within a different company. The first team calls itself the "Silos". The Silos are very talented people. Each person is intelligent, experienced, and competent in their field. But they rarely ask for help or offer to help others. They work in silos. When their work interfaces with someone else's work, they quickly hand it off so they can go back to their own work. When they attend meetings, they often withhold information and protect resources for themselves. When there are issues on the team, they are quick to blame others rather than take responsibility. The team often feels uninformed because there isn't a spirit of collaboration or transparent information flow.

The second team calls itself the "Band". They are not as individually talented as the Silos, but they work as a team. Rather than depend on their own individual capabilities they leverage each other. Everyone knows each other's strengths and weaknesses. They proactively assist each other so that their weaknesses are minimized and their strengths are amplified. They encourage and praise each other. They brainstorm, plan, and make decisions together. They have clear roles as individuals, but work in jointly agreed upon interdependent processes that ensure efficient handoffs. Because they help each other, they know what everyone is doing. There is good information sharing and peer accountability.

Comparing the Band and the Silos, which team do you think is the most productive? The most fun? Innovative? Which team would more likely attract and retain good people? I know I would prefer to work for the Band.

Here are a dozen characteristics of high performing collaborative teams to consider as you evaluate your team and strive to improve teamwork:

1. Unselfishness - Teamwork starts with a collaborative mindset. Collaborative team members see their work as a part of the team's work, not merely their own work. They consider themselves and their resources to be the team's resources.


2. Conscientiousness - Team members are conscientious about each other's needs. They spot opportunities to help others rather than wait to be asked for help or told to help.


3. Competence - Each team member is knowledgeable and skilled in their area of competence. They treat each other with respect and admiration because they see each other as experts in their field who can be depended upon.


4. Transparency - Conversations on collaborative teams take place publically with the team rather than privately between individuals. If someone has something to say in a meeting they say it rather than saving it for a post-meeting gripe session.


5. Communications - Team members communicate frequently staying up to date on what others are doing. They are invited to regular team calls making them feel informed and in the know about important team activities.


6. Feedback - Collaborative teams promote feedback. They give each other praise and encouragement for work well done as well as constructive criticism when they spot opportunities for improvement.  


7. Decisions - Team members feel involved in setting the direction of the team because their opinions and ideas are sought after. They are asked to give input into important decisions.  


8. Empowerment - Team members are delegated the flexibility and resources to get their work done. They feel ownership for their work because they are given the responsibility and authority to get it done.


9. Conflict - Collaborative teams manage their  conflict. They remain constructive when they challenge each other. They debate ideas and actions rather than personalities and feelings.


10. Roles - Team members know their roles on the team and the dependencies that others have on them. They interact efficiently because everyone's responsibilities are clear.


11. Processes - Work processes are well defined with interdependencies clearly stated. Emphasis and detail is added where teamwork is expected.


12. Accountability - Team members are held accountable for their contributions to the team and for being a team player. Recognition is given to those who perform. Candid conversations with improvement plans are given to those that don't.

As the legendary baseball player Babe Ruth said, "The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don't play together, the club won't be worth a dime."

 

 

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13 Tips for Selling Your Ideas

 

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Alpine Link Corporation 
www.alpinelink.com

By Mike Hawkins

There are few positions that don’t require sales skills. Not everyone is in sales, but everyone sells. Everyone has customers, either internally or externally. Everyone is in situations where they need to influence someone. Everyone has ideas they want others to embrace. No matter what you think about sales, there is no escaping the reality that having selling skills is extremely valuable.


If you have an important idea that you want others to adopt, here are 13 consultative selling best practices to employ that will give you the best chance of success:


1. Idea – Before you attempt to sell your idea, fully understand it. Refine it. Research available background information. Talk to others. Be able to clearly articulate your idea in a compelling way. You only have one chance to make a good first impression and win someone’s support. Develop your expertise and become proficient on your topic.


2. Audience - Determine who to sell your idea to. Identify the specific people who would be most impacted and interested in your idea. Consider who has the authority to act on your idea or allocate the resources you need. Learn as much about your target audience as you can and personalize your proposition to their interests and needs.


3. Outcome - Think about your desired outcome. Clearly determine what you expect to achieve in the interaction you will have with your target audience. Do you want them to trust you, refer you to someone, approve something, buy something, or endorse something? Be clear about your expectations of next steps and possible outcomes.


4. Contact - Set up a meeting or call with your target audience in a setting and manner that is appropriate for your topic and their level. Use a more formal style for people you don’t know, particularly those in more senior positions. Leverage common acquaintances and reference common interests to help secure the meeting if you don’t already have a relationship with them.

5. Rapport - When you first meet, take a few minutes to make proper introductions and exchange relevant background information. Focus on establishing your credibility before outlining your idea or proposition. As time and the other person allows, develop the foundations on which you can build a trusting relationship.

6. Problem – Start your proposition by describing the overall problem to be solved or opportunity to be leveraged. Create context for your idea. Build a baseline of awareness of the overall topic. Make clear the impact of the problem or size of the opportunity you are addressing to set proper expectations and capture their attention.

7. Alternatives - Identify the relevant alternatives to addressing the overall problem you outlined including your idea and other ideas that compete with yours. Include “doing nothing” to ensure at least one alternative to yours is considered. By giving alternatives you move people from thinking about a “yes vs. no” decision on your idea to a “which is the best” decision between multiple alternatives.

8. Funneling - Funnel down to your proposed alternative by successively eliminating the other alternatives. Establish the criteria by which you are funneling and one by one reduce the alternatives down to your proposed alternative. You not only bring out the differentiating qualities of your proposition, but establish implicit evaluation criteria.

9. Value – Reinforce the unique value of your idea. Identify not only any monetary or strategic value, but other value that might engage their emotions. Mention how your idea might reduce risk, simplify complexity, increase respectability, or promote harmony. Build their intrinsic motivation to accept your idea.

10. Believability - Make your idea believable and actionable. Identify any anticipated obstacles to implementing your idea. Outline contingency plans or solutions to dealing with them. Give examples and stories where others have succeeded. Give a demo if applicable. Outline a plan of action in sufficient detail that makes your proposition seem doable.

11. Hook - Create a sense of urgency to act on your idea. Answer the questions “why me?” and “why now?” Avoid being manipulative or applying negative pressure. Focus on the positive benefits of acting quickly. If you need to emphasize the negative consequences of not adopting your proposition, do it in a non-threatening way.

12. Close – Suggest next steps. Give them an opportunity to accept your proposition or take whatever next steps you are proposing. Be clear about any decisions you want them to make. By asking people to take action, you either facilitate the next step or uncover their objections – both of which are good outcomes that keep you moving forward.

13. Implementation - When you get the go ahead, don’t celebrate too long. The real work now starts. You may have successfully finished selling your idea, but you now have to deliver what you promoted. You’re not finished until you have implemented the idea and made it work as promised. The credibility on which you will make your next sale depends on fulfilling the promise of this sale first. A sale is only a success after it delivers the value that you promised.


Apply these consultative selling principles and watch the adoption of your ideas soar.

 

 

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Your First Ninety Days in a New Management Position 

 

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Alpine Link Corporation 
www.alpinelink.com

by Mike Hawkins 

First impressions are hard to change. So are “first actions”. What you do in your first ninety days after assuming responsibility for a new organization is critical. Your first actions are closely watched by your direct reports, boss(es), peers, and customers. Your first actions set your tone and planned direction for the organization. Your first actions determine the likely outcomes and results you will produce. 

If I were taking a new management position, I would concentrate my energy in the first ninety days on learning as much as I could about my organization and the market we serve. As I learned, I would formulate opinions on what was working and what needed to be changed. I would resist the temptation to get sucked into tactical operational execution. By the end of ninety days, I would make my assessment of the organization and set the direction for it.

Listed below are the primary areas that I would focus on if I were taking over an organization as a new senior manager. These are also the areas I would assess as a management consultant if I were on a broad business assessment engagement. I hope you can put this list to good use someday.

To view list click here.

 

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Embrace the “New Normal”


describe the imageAlpine Link Corporation
www.alpinelink.com

by Mike Hawkins   

Call it a recession, downturn, or tentative recovery. It doesn’t matter. The current economy still has significantly more capacity in it than demand. We know painfully well how difficult times are compared to what we enjoyed a couple of years ago. In the “good old days”, sales for some could be won by just showing-up. Not anymore. There are no “leftovers” to be had.You may long for the return of the good old days, but they are not going to return the way they were before. Buyer behavior has shifted permanently. What we are dealing with is not a temporary fad. Business models and markets have changed forever. There is no latent demand that is about to burst open. Instead, there is a “New Normal” that we must accept. The burden is now on business owners and workers to reset to the new reality. Here are five “A”ttributes that business owners and employees can embrace to be successful in the New Normal:

to view the five "A"ttributes click here.

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