My Why

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How To Solve More Problems As A Leader

7 Steps For A More Productive Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Start Beating Yourself Up!

The Only Person You Need To beat Is Yourself

The cries of “my mommy beats me!” could be heard throughout the student-housing complex. The mother of the shrieking three year old was hoping in vain that none of the neighbors heard. She didn’t want to get a call from child protective services. If you didn’t know what was really happening, you might be tempted to call the authorities yourself. However, on this fall morning while I was in classes at the University of Utah, my wife had taken our only child at the time shopping. Upon arriving home there was a challenge given and accepted to see who could get from the car to the apartment first. My wife, wanted to teach our child to give her best effort, so she pushed out in front as the race ensued. Then came the words famous in our family lore, “my mommy beats me!”

The spirit of competition started early in our family of seven, when we play games, you play to win. There is no whining if you lose. You give your best effort to win. Someone usually is upset in these situations. I suspect we are not unique in teaching our kids to compete. All of my children have played sports. Each coach seems to focus on winning above all else. Both my sons play on a winning volleyball team at their school. Their team has a reputation for winning. As a result, many people cheer against them. They have learned to embrace the battle of competition. We all have. We learn that we have to compete to get in the best classes in high school. We learn we have to compete to be accepted to the best universities and to earn scholarships. We learn we have to compete to get the best jobs. We learn we have to compete against the competition in business.

I had been raised with this competitive mindset. In my career, I wanted to excel and be the leader. In sales, I wanted to be the best and highest producer. I would even get upset if others “beat me.” I would congratulate my competitor and seem happy for them, but inside, I was not happy. Because of my competitive nature, I found myself upset at losing. I would often compare myself to others. If I learned from their success, this could be positive. However, often, I would compare myself to others in an unhealthy way. My focus on beating them actually caused me to have less success. It would seem that the harder I pushed, the harder it was to succeed.

I know I am not the only one to have had these feelings. Just yesterday, I was having a discussion with a competitor of mine. He was telling me how one of his business partners had a plan to go after one of the biggest competitors in our industry. He wanted to undercut their pricing and steal all their customers. His motivation was to beat his opponent. This zero-sum (win/lose) mentality drains our energy, creativity and happiness. It is a poor long-term strategy in business. I have worked hard to overcome my zero-sum mentality. It is difficult when so much of our culture is focused on winning at someone else’s expense. The pull to win can be so strong that some are willing to cheat or do unethical things to win. It is not uncommon for kids to cheat in school or college because they are more focused on getting the best grade instead of increasing their own knowledge.

We are just wrapping up March Madness in the United States. We now have 4 college basketball teams who have defeated 60 other teams. Only one will be the champion. If you do not support one of those four schools, you may find yourself unmotivated to watch, you may even be cheering for a team to lose. I find myself often cheering for the underdog.

What I am learning, is that in business, there is room for more than one champion. In my business, I truly have a tremendous amount of competition. There are ten’s of thousands of coaches and business consultants in the world. When I was asked how I compared to my competitors, I used to outline all the ways we differed. I focused on what they did and what we do. Some of my competitors are really talented and effective. Focusing on why we are better doesn’t create loyal high paying customers. It seems to create more people who want to prove they are better than you. Simon Sinek argues that people don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it. (Start With Why)

Today, I don’t mind talking about the strengths of my competitors. When I am asked about the differences. I focus on our purpose and our strengths. I no longer choose to compete against others or compare myself to them. Instead, I am competing with myself to constantly UP my skills and talents. In other words, I beat myself…UP. When people ask why they should hire us, I answer: We will do our absolute best to elevate and lift your team to be more effective. We will constantly strive to improve how we serve and support you.

Since making this shift, my confidence has increased. People are more willing to support us and help in our mission. I am more satisfied and happy in my work. I am focused on lifting, inspiring an elevating others instead of beating them. The only person I have to beat is myself.

The author Spencer Horn, is President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. Other articles you may be interested in: Elevate Your Impact; Cure For The CEO DiseaseHow To Create Success From FailureIncrease Your Effectiveness As A Leader With Perception Science; How To Improve Your Leadership Under Pressure; One Reason We Struggle With Emotional Intelligence.

Leadership Is About Impact Not Intention

Throw Your Good Intentions Out With The Trash And Focus On Your Impact

I became interested in emotional intelligence because I wanted to understand how I could be more effective at creating positive relationships for better results in my business and personal life. I wanted to be more aware of the ways I was sabotaging my own success and why my good intentions didn’t always have my desired impact. I was proud of the fact that I was goal oriented and really good at getting stuff done. However, I rarely got it all done, all by myself. We need teams, at school, at work, in our families, and in our communities.

Teams exist to produce results. The most successful teams are able to produce results again and again. In order for productivity to be sustainable, there has to be a positive environment, or climate. Dr. John Gottman researched the dynamic of what makes sustainable relationships work – romantic or business. The most effective relationships contribute positivity more than negativity by 5 to 1.

Despite considerable evidence of the benefits, contributing positivity is still a problem with most organizations today. I know many well-meaning leaders who have intentions to contribute and foster positivity. Yet, how many of us continue to have an impact we do not intend? We expect a certain outcome from a decision, action or conversation but we seem trip over ourselves again and again? I have been married for over 30 years and executive for over 25 years. In that time I noticed recurring behavior patterns in myself and others I worked with that were getting in our way. I noticed that my need to be in control was not as empowering as needed for my employees, wife and children. My personality traits caused me to yield to triggers in certain circumstances and I would become defensive

When I was fist married, my lovely wife offered to iron my shirts. I gave her negative feedback about her efforts. The impact was that I ironed my shirts for the last 30 years. Five years ago she offered to do it again, but because we have created a habit – I just do it. I realized that despite my good intentions, my behavioral tendencies developed over a lifetime where difficult to change. At some point in my years of marriage and work relationships, my intentions stopped mattering. People do not pay attention to my intentions. They pay attention to my impact, how I make them feel, how I inspire, engage or motivate them. Ultimately each of us is individually responsible for the results we have in our businesses and relationships. If our results are not good, if our teams are not engaged and performing, whom can we blame? As leaders, we have to take personal responsibility for our personal results and our team results.

Maintaining positivity becomes problematic when you are under pressure and dealing with challenging situations. In the next several weeks, it is probable that you will experience pressure and frustration. When that happens, your good intentions take a back seat to your habits. Think of the benefits to you to be able to change your patterned responses to achieve better results. If, like me, you want to become the leader your team wants to follow and the person or parent your family loves to be with – START TODAY. If you have already started, keep going. Just get a little better today than yesterday. If you have a bad day and your impact does not match your intentions, start again tomorrow. It is worth the effort.

For information on how to improve your impact, like our page at Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. Other related articles include: Cure For The CEO Disease; How To Create Success From Failure; Increase Your Effectiveness As A Leader With Perception Science; How To Improve Your Leadership Under Pressure; One Reason We Struggle With Emotional Intelligence.

How To Prepare Your Next Generation Of Leaders

Stretch Assignments in Succession Planning

Many business leaders are frustrated in fulfilling their succession plans. They perceive a lack of energy and voracity demonstrated by their designated successors. This perceived lack of motivation probably isn’t so much a demonstration of disinterest, but rather an illustration of limited developmental opportunities. How can we bridge this gap? The best way to develop successors is with stretch assignments. Learning through struggle and confidence building exercises will encourage the development of key skills and capabilities required to demonstrate their leadership readiness. By following the suggestions listed below, leaders can effectively stretch, develop and prepare their team to continue the leader’s’ legacy with confidence.

Step 1: Identifying shortcomings:

There are two kinds of shortcomings you need to assess: 1) Individual skills gaps, and 2) organizational requirements. Development opportunities will illustrate a mix of organizational requirements (the company needs ‘X’ project to be done), and individual requirements (the individual needs to build/develop/practice ‘X’ skills required by this task to personally achieve new levels of performance.) Optimal organizational development opportunities might include shorter-term, high intensity projects that spawn into long-term impacts. Additionally, these tasks should allow for the individual to exercise authoritative/collaborative decision-making, and perform strategic decision making skills while working visibly with other key players.

Step 2: Provide tools, resources and basic instructions:

Discuss the stretch assignment with your team/employee. Be sure to illuminate the opportunity to “see what you’re made of” to both internal leadership and external customers. Describe the impact of the end product – what is your vision for accomplishing this task? Then, provide the tools, resources and basic requirements to the individual/team to get things done.

Step 3: Empower through delegated authority and accountability:

When providing a “stretch assignment”, it’s critically important that leaders enable the individuals to make their own decisions/assessments. As they are held accountable for their actions, the struggle and strife will help long-term learning occur.

Step 4: Step Back:

Although your leadership engagement throughout the process will be available, it should only be available from a mentor perspective – when requested, and even then – in a coaching, not consulting, capacity. When asked for help, leaders can provide strategic considerations, understanding consequences, and seeing second and third degree influences of actions while reaffirming the project vision. Ultimately, the goal throughout this assignment is autonomy – empowering people to step-up, take action, and figure things out by themselves. This may be challenging for highly involved managers, but the autonomy, authority, accountability and empowerment throughout this process will enable employees to truly demonstrate and stretch their skill sets while fulfilling an organizational need in the process.

Step 5: Celebrate the struggle, success and achievement:

Following completion of key project milestones or the final assignment deliverables, positive feedback on successes is critical. During challenging assignments, praise the perseverance and determination to overcome. Celebrate the successes to reinforce those skills that were demonstrated through the endeavor. Share this achievement with others to encourage additional positive reinforcement. This positive reinforcement solidifies the lessons learned through struggle, and further builds confidence that will be applied to follow-on projects.

Although this may sound like all optimism and theory, the actual stretch assignment will likely be a substantial struggle – making or breaking the individual. Failure is most certainly an option – but through careful guidance, encouragement and mentorship together you can create something truly great while building skills and confidence in the process. Why take the risk of failure? Because struggle sparks learning & confidence, further building candidates to fill the role and legacy you left behind. After all, if it was easy, anyone could do it. Is that the legacy you want to leave?

Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. You may also be interested in the following articles: Increase Your Effectiveness As A Leader With Perception Science; How To Create Success From Failure; How To Get Your People To Change Today; Cure For The CEO Disease

The Help You Need To Achieve Your Resolutions

We are two weeks into our resolutions. How are you doing?

If you are like me, we are two of the over 145,000,000 Americans who make resolutions to lose weight (21.4%), self-improve (12.8%), make better financial decisions (8.5%), quit smoking (7.1%), spend more time with loved ones (6.2%), provide more service (5.2%) and more. However, according to a recent survey by Statistic Brain Research Institute, only 9.2% actually achieve them. More than 59% of Americans refuse to make resolutions or make them very infrequently. Why go through all the trouble of setting a goal you probably won’t achieve and then you will probably feel worse about yourself than if you did nothing? If the statistics of how few Americans achieve their goals are accurate, the majority of Americans have a point.

Why then do so may continue with the practice? Perhaps they have experienced the euphoria and enthusiasm of achieving goals as I have. My personal goal setting successes help me to persist. To help those considering capitulating on the opportunity to make a fresh start each year, I want to share what successful resolution and goal setters did that the rest did not. There are several things we can do to help us succeed in our goals. To simplify, I am going to focus on just two: How we set resolutions and behavioral balance.

One of the reasons we fail to achieve goals is how we set them. If you look at the list of resolutions above, what do you notice? Most are broad statements that are hard to define and achieve. What does self-improvement look like? How much more time will you spend with loved ones? Where will that time come from? How much weight will you lose and by when? How much time will you exercise each week? Many goals tend to focus on massive or extreme change. When life gets busy, we quickly lose track and motivation for goals, which no longer seem attainable. With fatigue, our will to pursue goals and resist going back to old habits is eroded.

 


The key to success is to use our understanding of brain science to set and achieve goals.

1.    Simplify your resolutions:

Set a series of smaller specific goals and focus only a few goals. If you set too many and or intangible goals, the brain rebels. Our brains are easily distracted and do not understand how to achieve a vague goal. I had wanted to lose 25 pounds for many years and not been successful. It wasn’t until I broke that bigger goal down into smaller goals that I had success. Last year I set a a smaller specific goal on January 15th to lose ten pounds by March 15th.

2.    Focus on behaviors to achieve goal, not just the goal:

Next, I changed my focus from losing the weight to focusing on actions, which cause me to lose weight. The two things I could control were diet and exercise. Everyday, I would measure the calories I consumed. This was very time consuming, and the discipline kept me focused on the actions I could control, which was calorie consumption. I also measured how many calories I burned on a daily basis.

3.    Regularly self-evaluate:

With this simple focus, I reviewed each week how I was doing. Resolutions seem overwhelming because we only do them once a year. I would resolve at the start of each week to stick with my plans. Thought leader Brian Tracy suggests you review your goals every day. Greater frequency is needed for success.

4.    Reward success:

After a particularly successful week, I would celebrate. I would give myself permission to eat something I enjoyed. I want to achieve my goals and I want to also enjoy life. This kept my brain engaged and motivated to move forward. After two months, I had lost 12 pounds! I was so excited and motivated to lose the next 10 pounds. However, because of my success and over-confidence, I no longer measured my calorie intake to go along with my exercise. The discipline of measuring my calories everyday was hard and time was limited with all my obligations. The result was that I only lost 2 pounds over the next seven months. Returning to the discipline of measuring calorie intake made the difference.

The second key to achieving goal success is finding behavioral balance. Our behavioral temperament can often conspire against us in achieving our goals. Last week I was conducting a communication workshop with employees of an IT services company. Over 50% of employees had what we call a high patience trait. When I asked members of the class what they thought they could do to improve communication, most of them said that they needed to be more assertive. This is a behavior that is difficult for people with high patience.

You may be asking, “What does this have to do with achieving goals?” When these technicians work with co-workers, clients and others who talk too much, they find it difficult to interrupt and get control of the conversation. High patient people find themselves at the mercy of other people who hijack their precious time and they do not want to be perceived as being rude and cut them off. As a result, they feel powerless to control their schedules. Many people with this behavioral tendency have a really hard time saying no. These individuals may become overwhelmed with helping others and run out of time to achieve their commitments. They end up working longer hours and putting their personal goals on the back burner. If you say yes to everyone else, you may be choosing to say no to your goals.

If you can relate to this personality, you can learn to be assertive without being rude. Set expectations around your communications. If someone interrupts you, let him know you really want to listen. However, if the conversation is going to take more than five minutes, you will need to schedule time to talk. This gives you permission to set expectations without being rude. Learn to say no, and you will be so much happier.

Each personality type has behaviors, which may cause self-sabotage and imbalance. This lack of balance makes it hard to achieve our goals. High dominant personalities may delegate responsibility but hold on to authority because they feel the need to be in control at all times. This causes them to be overwhelmed because they are often unwilling to let others have more authority. Some high conforming personalities get out of balance because of their desire for unattainable perfection. The high extroverts get out of balance when they spend too much time socializing. Also, their desire to be liked may cause them to say yes to too many assignments, which leaves them too little time for their own goals.

These are only a very few of behavior tendencies which have the potential to work against your efforts to achieve your goals. If you recognize any of these behaviors in yourself, here are a few suggestions for you.

1.    Identify your behavioral preferences:

There are many great behavioral surveys that will help you identify behaviors which may be causing you to be out of balance. I love the ProScan Personal Development Report. It is highly accurate tool, which provides a tremendous amount of information you can immediately put to use. You will become more aware of your behavioral tendencies, which may be helping or hurting you to achieve your goals. Armed with this knowledge, you can make the necessary adjustments.

2.    Identify an accountability partner:

Share your behavioral results and goals with someone you trust and respect. Empower them to let you know when your behavioral tendencies are getting in your way. This will help you make needed adjustments more quickly. A coach is a great accountability partner option. Not only can she help understand how you are getting in your way, she will help you identify how to leverage your behavioral strengths to achieve your goals.

Simply change the way you set goals. Make them simple and tangible for a specific time. Then learn how you may be self-sabotaging. Our behavioral tendencies can cause imbalance, which can inhibit our ability to achieve our goals. Learning how to leverage your behavior and partnering with an accountability partner will help. These suggestions will help you achieve your goals in 2017 and every year.

The Author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. For additional information consider the following topics: “Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired;” “The Power of Accountability;” “Act As If…Today!:” “Silence Your Saboteur!”

How To Create Success From Failure

Fail Successfully

As a child, you were constantly failing. You formed words in your mouth, which instead came out as sounds. Those failed words were music to your parent’s ears. You fell hundreds of times as you attempted to walk. You crashed your bike as you began to ride. You made cacophony instead of melody as you learned to play the piano. From all of these failed experiences, you were learning. If you quit because of these failures, you would have remained silent, never learned to ride a bike or play the piano.

What were the conditions that allowed you to find success from these failures to learn, grow and develop? Your parents or guardians most likely encouraged you when you were learning to walk, especially when you fell. They kept talking to you when you were making sounds instead of words. They motivated you to get back on your bike after you skinned your knee. They applauded your staccato rendition of your favorite song at your first piano recital.

As we get older, many of us have learned to do what it takes to get rewards for good behavior and avoid punishment from mistakes. Consequently, many gain a sense of satisfaction when they are praised, and shame for reprimands. Much of an individuals self worth may come from the acceptance and reward they receive. As children grow through adolescence they become less and less willing to take risks, which might lead to embarrassing attention. In our middle and high school classrooms, fewer students raise their hands, for fear of being wrong.

I remember being in Mrs. Martin’s 12th grade honors English class 34 years ago. We would read books like the Heart of DarknessWalden and other fun reads. Mrs. Martin would ask questions and rarely got answers. I was a fairly smart kid, and the son of an English teacher. I often knew the answers to her questions. However, I would not raise my hand. Instead, I would answer under my breath, just loud enough for some kids around me to hear. This happened often enough that the kids around me started to laugh when Mrs. Martin gave the same answer I had just muttered. Eventually she asked why the kids were laughing and they said, “Spencer always has the answer.” So now she deliberately called on me. In those moments, however, I never seemed to have the answer.

I struggled to get a good grade from Mrs. Martin. When I complained to my mother, also an English teacher, she told me I just needed to work harder. I had a paper due on Thoreau’s Walden. I told my mom it was not worth it to try, I would just get a bad score. My wonderful mother decided to teach me a lesson that a good grade was possible and wrote my paper. (The only time she had ever done this.) She, and I, received a C+. She was so furious; she told me she was going to talk to the teacher. Instead of making a kerfuffle, I wanted to avoid embarrassment and further humiliation so I dropped the class. I had what Psychologist Carol Dweck calls, a fixed mindset. If I had what she also calls, a growth mindset, I may have been more willing to learn from my mistakes. Instead, I avoided the learning opportunities afforded me in her class and just rested on the fact that I didn’t need another English credit to graduate. I settled for avoiding discomfort and protecting my ego.

I’m sure I am not the only one that has had a fixed mindset at some point. As we mature, many of us participate less and less in successful failure. Many avoid situations, which may lead to failure in their lives and in their businesses. In my business, I see many people who are unwilling to change habits and patterns. They are afraid of getting feedback that does not reinforce a positive self-image. Feedback can be a valuable tool to help us improve. Instead, we label it as unjustified criticism to protect our ego and need to be right.

Some of us have behavioral characteristics that are more disposed to avoid failure. Some people have a bias for perfectionism. This may cause them to delay action because they fear making mistakes. Other people may be very demanding. They focus on task, and minimize relationships. These demanding and critical leaders shut down innovation and, may take few risks themselves to avoid their own medicine. Others dislike confrontation, or difficult situations, so they avoid them. Still others are so focused on being right, they may not be willing to risk being wrong in order to learn. Click here to request our powerful assessment to identify your behavioral characteristics. When we send you our link, the process only takes 5-10 minutes.

In business, we have management processes whose entire existence is to eliminate or mitigate risk. Project Managers manage risks of various types such as technical risks, monetary risks, and scheduling-based risks. The International Organization for Standardization, created standards relating to risk management known as ISO 31000. These standards create systems and processes designed to reduce risks. However, they may also create a bias against taking risks. This risk aversion can permeate organizational cultures and stifle growth.

I do not suggest recklessly taking risks or accepting failure. Instead I suggest developing a culture of innovation and growth. The marketplace is changing so often and so rapidly, it is impossible to succeed with the status quo. According to a recent HBR article, “Increase Your Return on Failure,” one of the biggest reasons companies fail to grow is a fear of failure. The authors, Julian Birkinshaw and Martine Hass, cite a Boston Consulting Group survey, which identifies 31% of respondents identified a risk-averse culture as a key obstacle to innovation.

The solution? Foster a culture where “Fail Fast,” “Fail Often,” and “Fail Forward” is embraced.

  1. Fail Fast:

    Use failure as a call to action; to improve, to learn. Be willing to avoid complacency and take action. Avoid perfectionism and analysis paralysis. Set parameters for experimentation and innovation. Edison and his team learned 10,000 ways a light bulb doesn’t work. Their process of experimentation led to success.

  2. Fail Often:

    Focus on what you can control. Lon Kruger, Head basketball coach at Oklahoma is a great teacher. He wants to win, like most of the people on his staff and his team. He teaches the athletes to pay less attention to the final score and more attention to their individual effort. Did you dive for every loose ball? Did you do what it takes to win the rebound battle? Did you do your best? Coach Kruger stresses that when we continually do our best, the scoreboard will eventually reflect our effort.

    Avoid complacency. The environment is constantly changing. What worked last year, last month, last week, yesterday, may not work today. Continually look for ways to improve and innovate. That requires being willing to accept some risk and failure. Click here to watch a short video of a Japanese entrepreneur who embraces fail often.

  3. Fail Forward:

    Change your approach. Avoid the victim mentality. When things don’t work out the way you planned, change your approach and move past it.

    Learn to appreciate feedback. If you have a fixed mindset, this can be very difficult. I have learned to ask myself, “is there truth to what they are saying, or wisdom in their perspective?” I needed to learn that their perspective was valid to them. When I dismissed feedback as inaccurate, I would do nothing new, or different, and would stay stuck in my behavior.

    Learn from every failure. It is not easy to take time and look in the mirror about what went wrong. Sports teams have made a science of this. They study video images to see what went wrong so they can identify what to do differently. I regularly watch and listen to myself giving presentations. It is painful, to be sure, because I see all my weaknesses exposed. But, this is a great opportunity to improve my craft.

    We are currently experimenting with google adwords to help grow our business. We have set aside a small budget to experiment with. We want to learn what works and what doesn’t. We have created multiple ads to track responses. The ones that perform poorly are replaced. The ones that perform well are given more investment. We are learning from failure and success. Both are valuable. After a month of this process, we have a strategy we are confident will work. We will then commit a larger budget to a winning strategy.

    Learn from your mistakes and mistakes of others. Gather new information and data continuously. Then share what you learn. This will let people know you are serious about learning. By avoiding talking about mistakes, you send a message that failure is not acceptable. Encourage others to share their mistakes and lessons learned.

To quote Pixar president, Ed Catmull, “Mistakes aren’t a necessary evil, they aren’t evil at all. They are an inevitable consequence of doing something new and should be seen as valuable.” Your focused and deliberate efforts to create a culture that encourages successful failure will pay dividends.

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. For additional topics read: Sick And Tired of Being Sick And TiredHow To Get Your People To Change TodayThe Power of AccountabilityHow To Defeat The ‘Fog of War’ In Business

Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired

If you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, good things are about to happen. Pain is a prerequisite to cultural change, getting healthy, or improving almost any result. Last week I was in Colorado Springs for the annual PDP Global conference. Three years ago at my first conference, I wanted to see the local sights and go for a hike. My associates referred me to the Manitou Incline, the “Holy Grail” of cardio experiences. The hike is one mile straight up the mountain. You will experience almost 2,000 feet of elevation gain. At 6’7” and 282 pounds, this was a tough trail. Last year I hiked the incline and it was painful. I decided to change and get in shape. The pain caused me to lose twelve pounds and improve my stamina. I improved my time to the top this year by 15 minutes and I felt much better. Just 18 more pounds to go.

I regularly talk to business executives who seek relief from challenges and pain they are experiencing including reduced profit, financial losses, high turnover, weak succession and bench strength, or missed goals and opportunities. They want our help with an employee, a boss, a team or an entire company. When they ask for help, I want to know if they are serious about change. Organizational change must be supported and lead from the top to succeed. If the pain is not great enough, there is often little incentive to change.Manitou Incline 7-15-16

Throughout a company, there may be various levels of pain. One organization I recently met with has been having problems for years. The senior partners have been ignoring the problems and doing business as usual until recently. They are losing some of their best talent to the competition. The behavior of some the senior executives is causing new recruits to leave. The pain of departing recruits is magnified when they persuade other potential recruits they will be unhappy if they work here. Worse, they talk to current employees and entice them to leave. The problems where originally ignored as senior executives justified their behavior by convincing themselves the problems belonged to those who left.

The next levels of shareholders are clear about the problems and have been sounding the alarms for as many years. Their warnings have fallen on deaf ears until now. The pain is finally great enough for changes to begin. These senior executives have to support any change initiatives. Half measures will only prolong the pain and misery. When top leadership sit in their ivory towers and refuse to listen they allow pain to persist with their teams. Some shortsighted executives only change when they can no longer be insulated from pain.

Avoid or reduce organizational pain:

Listen to your team: They are your “canary in a coal mine.”

Take time to actively seek feedback from your direct reports.

Conduct regular employee and customer feedback surveys.

Develop a culture that is not satisfied with the status quo and strives for more.

Seek outside perspectives from industry experts, books, curricula, competitors, consultants, board members, etc.

Pain is healthy. It let’s us know something is wrong which can lead to necessary changes. Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Or do you need to be sick and tired a little longer?

Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC

Read related topics: Cure For The CEO Disease; The Power Of Accountability; When Being Too Smart Hurts You; Disengagement And The Love What You Do Myth; How To Defeat The Fog Of War In Business

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Why Employees Don’t Do What You Hired Them To Do

Learn six non-effective and six effective responses.

In my experience, most employees join your company with enthusiasm and they have a desire to contribute and make a difference. They certainly don’t start working with you to cause problems and become less and less productive until they leave or you ask them to leave. So why don’t people do what you want them to do?

The problem is usually related to your management practices. Often the hiring process is an interruption of regular business operation usually seen as a burden. Because of this, managers don’t take the time required to create the best results. Halfhearted efforts to onboard may be seen as insincere. Often new employees are left to fend for themselves, to “sink or swim.” They may feel neglected and disillusioned when managers are too busy to take the time to train and mentor them. Without the proper attention, new employees may be indoctrinated and influenced by the unstated culture or “the way things are really done around here.” Usually only then do they turn into the “problem” or frustrating employees I most often hear about.

It takes a conscious and concerted effort to help your new employees get off to a good start and learn good habits. Sometimes even with proper on boarding and training, employees don’t do what you need. Not only is it important they know what to do and how to do it, they must understand the “why!” An employees beliefs about the job is a powerful influence on behavior.

A recent situation I became aware of involves a new office manager who is responsible for the customer service representatives. She recently hired two new CSR’s with great experience who were excited to join the team. The office manager complained she was too busy to train, in reality she was reluctant to let go of control. Within a month of hiring, these two new employees began having conflict. Experience was not enough to overcome the lack of training.

I began working with the office manager to help improve the situation. As we were role playing, I learned of small behavioral problem with the most experienced CSR. She refused to use a headset, which reduced the number of calls she was able to take shifting the burden to other team members. She prided herself on excellent customer service citing Yelp reviews as justification. She claimed she could not hear on the headset. However, when she used the handset, she had to take time after the call to make notes, were as, if she used the headset, she could make notes as she talked and provide great customer service to more customers. Receiving a new headset did not cause a behavior change. Only after we explained and demonstrated the benefits to our customers and the team did her behavior change.

Problems like these would be much easier solved with proper initial training. When the training is not given, managers may be shocked that employees they thought would be great,….aren’t. Managers respond in many different ways when people do not do what they want them to do or disappointing behavior emerges. The responses are usually tied to the manager’s personality and level of experience.

Here is a list of non-effective management behaviors you may recognize:

  1. Ostrich theory:

    This is about doing nothing and hoping the problem will go away. Are you really surprised when things do not change?

  2. Auto-correct:

    Employees are told what the problem is and is it up to them to fix it. What if they don’t know how?

  3. Persuading:

    Person is told about a problem and then told, “here is how I would fix it.” People will have much greater buy-in if they own the solution. Your approach may not be the best for everyone. Recognize there is more than one answer or approach to solving a problem.

  4. Group grope:

    I see this all the time. A manager is fed up with the behavior of a few people and so a meeting is called and everyone has to hear about the problem. This approach is ineffective for several reasons. First it demotivates your good employees who are doing what you asked. Second, the offenders may now feel let off the hook because the general address makes it seem this is a wider problem. This helps them justify they are not the only one with the problem and can make it harder to get change. Plus, just don’t do it!

  5. Announcing:

    Some executives announce the problem and declare how the problem will be fixed. Usually as an ultimatum. This rarely works because you have almost no buy-in. I see parents of mis-behaving children make threats and not follow-through. You just empower your kids and employees to not take you seriously and ignore you.

  6. Replacing:

    You fire the person because they did not do what you wanted. I have seen this approach very often. Managers actually think this is an effective accountability tool that sends a message to others. It is actually very poor accountability. It is usually an indictment of effete of poor management and usually sends the wrong message unless it is clearly justified.

Here are some suggestions to help people do what you hired them to do:

  1. Give them a “why”:

    In addition to knowing what and how to do things; employees need to understand why to do things. This is an important step that will make an impact on behavior. How people see the task or behavior they are asked to do impacts their behavior as in the headset example. The office manager did not initially explain the “why”. When people understand the “why”, it is easier to overcome the beliefs needed to change behavior.

  2. I.H.O.T.:

    If your employees know what, how, and why to do things and they still won’t, it is time to use “I.H.O.T.” or “I have observed that…” This is an effective coaching methodology. See article “How To Get Your People To Change Today.”

  3. Modeling:

    Set the example of the behavior you want. You may have heard the saying: “the beatings will continue until morale improves!” This sounds funny and I have seen variations of it happen often. If you want better customer service, treat your employees the way you want them to treat your customers. If you want them to listen to you, listen to them. If you want them to follow-through, make sure you always follow-through. Some managers think they are exempt from the rules. This hypocrisy will destroy your credibility and your ability to affect change.

  4. Have a plan:

    Go into your behavior change initiatives with a plan. Avoid shooting from the hip. If you feel you need help with your plan, find a trusted advisor in your HR department, a senior executive, mentor, coach, etc. Review your plans with someone outside your department or organization. This will allow you to get objective feedback and improve the approach for the best results. Practice your approach. I often role-play with my clients. I pretend to be the challenging employee or have them give me the objections they hear and we practice potential responses. This is great for managers with less experience. It will give them greater confidence to address problems more effectively.

  5. Know thyself:

    Understand what help you need. Be willing to admit you don’t know how to handle some situations. Find the resources you need. Many managers get a promotion and they are so focused on proving they are right for the job, they think they have to have all the answers. It is better to admit that you don’t know everything, and then you will be more willing to learn. Understand your behavior patterns, your strengths and weaknesses as a leader. This will help you be aware which ineffective behaviors above to avoid and how to approach the problem which includes understanding your behavior preferences, motivators, and de motivators and those of your employee. Each manger has different strengths and can approach the problem differently. There is no one approach to every problem.

  6. Recognition:

    Recognize good behaviors and behavior improvement. Many managers miss this for several reasons. One, they don’t need recognition so they don’t give it. This is related to the fundamental attribution error. Another reason is lack of time, or you feel people should not need to be praised for what you pay them to do. People will do more of what you incentivize them to do. Incentives do not have to be pecuniary. They can be a sincere, acknowledgment, or more public recognition based on the behavior.

Most employees are excited to make a difference when they join your company. It is up to you to determine if they stay that way by helping them succeed from the minute they join your team.

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

Related topics: Disengagement And The “Love What You Do Myth”; Is The Fundamental Attribution Error Destroying Your Team?; How Asking Questions Strengthens Your Team; One Reason A Healthy Culture Is Essential; The Power Of Accountability