Are You a Maximizer or a Tweak Freak?

sitThe Clifton StrengthsFinder measures the presence of 34 talent themes. One of their themes is “Maximizer” which they define as: “People who focus on strengths as a way to stimulate personal and group excellence. They seek to transform something strong into something superb.” Leaders with this strength can be invaluable to an organization that is committed to continuous improvement and excellence. It is an effective and motivating strength when it is productively applied. When it is not productively applied, the leader can become known as a “tweak freak.”

The “tweak freak” is the one who consistently comes around after the job is done and says, “You should have…” This is not stimulating, it is demotivating! In this scenario you run the risk of the employee thinking, “Why bother doing my best, when my best is never good enough?” If you know the best way to do something, either do it yourself or explain how you want it done before the employee exerts their effort only to be told afterward, “You should have…”

The leader who wishes to productively apply their Maximizer strength will offer or discuss their “tweaks” before the employee executes his or her plan. If you know you have a tendency to want to “tweak” your employee’s efforts after the fact, invite them to solicit your suggestions before they begin executing their plan. Encourage them to come early and be prepared to:

  • Explain their goal(s)
  • Lay out their plan
  • Ask for your suggestions or insights.

This will allow you to come across as the true Maximizer who stimulates them toward excellence. This way, they will be able to use your voice in their performance as they work on their project or assignment instead of dreading your “tweaks” after the fact.

When it comes to maximizing strengths, leaders might also be inclined to follow the Situational Leadership II approach, which is a leadership model we use in many of our classes that teaches leaders to diagnose the needs of an individual or team and then use the appropriate leadership style to respond to the needs of the person and the situation.

The goal of Situational Leadership and maximizing the strengths of leaders, employees, and even of organizations is to:

  • Develop leaders who excel at goal setting, coaching, performance evaluating, active listening, and proactive problem solving
  • Clarify individual goals and ensure alignment with the organization’s goals
  • Create systems to track performance and partnering
  • Reduce employee turnover and absenteeism
  • Increase “star” employee retention
  • Improve individual and organization development
  • Improve job satisfaction and morale at all levels
  • Create a shared language of leadership within an organization

By Roy Knicley and Denise Forney, ATW Training Solutions


The A, B, C’s and D’s of Trust

We’ve all heard the saying that “People don’t leave companies–they leave people.” In fact, research even shows that the primary reason people leave a company is due to lack of trust in their relationship with a manager or supervisor. So, if solid relationships are an essential factor in the ability to retain the best and brightest talent we have, then it makes sense that leaders must have strong, effective skills to build trust in today’s workplace.

In a recent study conducted by Watson Wyatt WorkUSA, it was found that only 39% of employees at U.S. companies say they actually trust the senior leaders. While pay and benefits sometimes surface as motivation for leaving an organization, the primary factor affecting turnover is whether or not a manager developed a trusting relationship with the employee.

When we consider the economic impact of the issue, it becomes apparent that a lack of trust at work is costing companies dearly – as evidenced by reduced productivity, inefficient or excessive work procedures in teams, decisions being questioned or second guessed, and a reduction in creativity and commitment. We also need to consider the costs of attracting, hiring and onboarding replacement employees.

In our training sessions, we discuss the Trust Works model from The Ken Blanchard Companies as a vehicle for building and maintaining trust within your workplace. This model includes four essential elements. We call these the “A, B, C’s and D’s of Trust.”

First, it’s important to see if the leader has strong competency skills or is “Able” to be effective. This is measured by expertise – the skills, experience and knowledge to get the job done. Also, if leaders are able to get performance results and if they are achieving their goals consistently. Finally, do they have facilitation skills – or what we call problem-solving and decision-making abilities – to effectively make choices to move results forward?

Believability,” or acting with integrity – the essence of a person is another element that is essential in any trustworthy relationship. When someone is believable, they exhibit honesty — admitting when they are wrong, keeping confidences, and making ethical decisions. They also have an established value system by which they work and live. As leaders, do they treat people equitably and ethically? It’s often said that a person’s perception is their reality. Employees need to feel there is a fair process in their workplace environment.

If a leader is truly to be effective in their role, they need to be “Connected” with the individuals on their team. Do they have people focus – where they enjoy working with their employees, respecting individual differences, and building personal rapport? How are their communication skills? Are they receptive to feedback? Do they listen well and utilize input from others? Finally, how well do they recognize their employees? Are they intentional about praising the contributions of their team members and celebrating the successes of their employees?

The last element of a trusting relationship between a leader and their employee is the ability to be “Dependable” and maintain reliability. A leader can do this by consistently following through on their commitments, holding themselves and others accountable, and organizing effective systems in place to implement work processes.

The greatest gift that leaders can give to our employees is the gift of our time. By being intentional in our communication and working toward these four elements of trust: Able, Believable, Connected and Dependable, we will build a foundation that is strong and lasting.


April: A Time To Review More Than Your Taxes

The dreaded April 15th tax deadline has passed. This date is something that virtually everyone remembers because of the consequences that can result if it isn’t met. I’d like to offer another way of thinking about this date. Why not use it as your time to review and see how you are doing on the goals you have established for the year? Too often we set goals, write them down, or maybe even design a really nice visual of what the future will look like if they are accomplished. Unfortunately, these documents are often filed away in a drawer or on your computer, only to be pulled out at the end of the year to see if they have materialized.

Great leaders and organizations understand the importance of periodically touching base on goals to see if things are being accomplished. If we don’t hold ourselves accountable, who will?

Here are a few other analogies to tax time that we can consider in our professional lives:

  • Policies and processes are your friend. Like it or not, if you follow policies and procedures like having your withholding done correctly and paying estimated taxes, when your year is up, there shouldn’t be any surprises and you shouldn’t have to deal with consequences. The same goes with goals. If you set up a process to review, give and get feedback, and modify expectations to meet overall goals, you won’t be surprised when the year is complete.
  • It’s easier to keep track of things all year long instead of all at one time. Don’t wait until the last minute to start pulling everything together. Spending smaller periods of time, in a strategic manner throughout the year, will reap more benefits than a strong push at the end.
  • Getting a refund is great . . . or is it? Some individuals purposely overpay taxes because they like to get a big refund each year. However, consider the value of that money. Instead of you having access to what is yours throughout the year, it is in the hands of the government. Would you have saved more money by using it to pay down a credit card or a loan? In your professional life, are you spending your time doing the highest priority items, those items that will present not only short, but long-term benefits for you?

So, did you get your taxes in on time this year? Were you surprised or were you in a place where you knew what to expect? Can you say the same thing for your personal goals—are you on schedule and in control of the outcome? Today is as good as any day to take a step back and see how you are doing!

Doing What You Say You Are Going To Do—Is It That Hard?

Whether you call it being accountable or being responsible, doing what you say you are going to do is critical in being an influencer of people. But why does it seem to be so hard for some to do what they say they are going to do, while others make it seem easy and are seen as being more dependable or shall I even say, trustworthy?

Part of it starts with wanting to be what I call “pleasers”. You know the type. The person that never wants to say “no”. The person that overcommits. Even though in the back of their minds they are saying to themselves, “How am I going to pull this one off?”. Unfortunately, many of us are this type!

Another part of what makes doing what you say you are going to do more difficult is that you overestimate your ability to accomplish everything! I see this many times with new supervisors. When they are promoted, not only do they get the supervisor or manager title, but many think they get the “super cape” that goes with it, giving them the superpower to accomplish the impossible. Unfortunately, wanting to do something, and having the time, experience, and resources to do it is totally different.

When it comes to doing what you say you are going to do, a couple of strategies emerge.

Strategy 1 – All In: These are the individuals we’ve described above that are “all in”, no matter what the situation or the cost. This unfortunately leads to over promising and under-delivering in many cases.

Strategy 2 – All Out: These are the individuals that won’t commit for fear of failing. The philosophy is to aim low, get lucky, exceed expectations, and be seen as a hero. This is often termed under-promising and over-delivering.

I advocate a third strategy that is simple and will help you be seen as a more trustworthy, influential leader.

Strategy 3 – Realist: These are individuals that look at what needs to be done and then looks realistically and what they are able to do. They don’t over-promise, they don’t under-promise, they methodically look at what they can realistic accomplish and commit to it. As they work through the situation or task they “own” their commitment, they “act” on it and they “answer” for it. This is simple in concept, but requires a commitment by you as an individual to follow through and be accountable.

The payoff is clear. Better relationships, less stress, increased productivity, and being a trusted, influencer of others.

I Wish They Would Just Do What They Said They Would Do: Making Accountability the Choice

Recently there has been an increased emphasis on accountability in our organizations.  Superior accountability leads to superior everything – service, teamwork, and productivity to name just a few.

What we must remember is that accountability is a personal choice that we make, a promise or commitment to others, or even to ourselves, to make something happen. Accountability is first and foremost a mindset. A way of thinking, seeing, and acting that allows us to:

  • Take Ownership – that is, to agree to accept responsibility for something—even when we don’t know the exact outcome of what we’ve agreed to do. Once we’ve agreed to take ownership of something, we then need to “Take Action”.
  • Take Action — we take actions to ensure that what we agreed upon gets done. We take action even when the going gets rough. Finally, after we’ve completed what we said we’d do, we need to “Take Responsibility”.
  • Take Responsibility —we take responsibility, regardless of the outcome. So if we hit the mark and the results are great, we accept those results; and if we missed the mark, then we accept responsibility for the outcome.  We can move forward and learn from the lessons we just experienced.

If we want to make accountability the ultimate choice, it must start with us. We must model the above, Take Ownership, Take Action, and Take Responsibility.

After ensuring that we are modeling the way, we help others be accountable by making sure they know outcomes for what we are expecting from them. It’s hard to hold someone accountable for something they didn’t know was expected of them.

Next, help them “Take Action” by giving them the tools and resources they need to be successful.  And don’t underestimate the resource of your time to show them how to do what you want them to do. Your time and attention is one of the most valuable resources you can give them.

Finally, review results, positive or negative, and help them to “Take Responsibility”. Keep in mind it’s easy to answer for things when things are going right. It is important that you create a culture where it’s okay to make mistakes. Not disastrous mistakes, you have to watch out for them, but mistakes that help them learn and get closer to the right answers.

Accountability, it’s a choice personally and as a leader. How are you doing?

Leadership Develops Daily, Not in Day

An often overlooked quality of a leader is patience. Now I know you might be thinking that by patience I mean patience with difficult employees or situations. For the sake of this conversation let’s consider patience when it comes to developing as a leader. Successful leaders develop skills over time. It isn’t something that just happens overnight. John Maxwell, in his book Developing the Leader Within You shares what he calls the “Five Levels of Leadership”.

Level 1 is what he calls the Position Level. Every leader starts with a position, a title. But as a leader, you need to understand that it’s not about the position you hold, it’s the person you are. You can lead by position power and get short-term results, but if you continue to lead through the position you hold you won’t be successful long-term.

Level 2 is what Maxwell calls the Permission Level. Team members will give you permission to lead them if you take time to develop relationships with them. Relationships take time to develop and it means reaching out to make a connection.

Level 3 is the Production Level. In this level people begin to follow you, not just because you have a position, and not just because you’ve taken time to develop relationships, but because of the results you are getting. They see you as a person that works hard, does what they say they will do, gets results and succeeds. People want to be around and follow successful leaders.

Level 4 is the People Development Level. This is where leadership really starts to get exciting because you are growing as a leader through your development of others, most notably the growth of other leaders that you develop.

Level 5 is the final level and is often referred to as Personhood. A better term from my perspective is Leadership Legacy. As Maxwell comments, you don’t do Level 5 leadership, it is something that is given to you. You are given Level 5 leadership after you have successfully navigated Levels 2, 3 and 4. Like your position is given to you by your organization in Level 1, Level 5 is given to you by your followers.

The key though as we look at all of these levels is that it takes time. It takes patience and persistence. Developing relationships takes time. Producing results takes even more time. Identifying and mentoring future leaders takes a lot of time. Leadership is a journey that develops daily, not in a day.

So here’s a question for you: Where are you on your leadership journey?

A New Twist on SMART Goals

Earlier I talked about Ken Blanchard’s old book that is new again, the New Leadership and the One Minute Manager.  There is a major change in the Situational Leadership® model to add in Goal Setting as the first skill in being a situational leader. Of course, whenever you talk about goal setting, we almost immediately go to SMART goals.  This acronym has been used for years and while some have modified it slightly to meet their needs, typically it stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Bound. Personally I’ve always had a problem with having both Attainable and Realistic in the acronym. I know they are different, but at the same time they seem redundant. When working with managers I usually substitute Aligned, meaning to make sure that the goal is aligned with the department goals, division goals and corporate goals. I also struggle with the difference between Specific and Time Bound. If you are Specific, shouldn’t that include an element of time?

The New Leadership and the One Minute Manager introduces a new twist to the old acronym. Blanchard proposes:

  • Specific: What is the goal and when does it need to be accomplished? What does the goal look like in terms of time, quality, quantity, cost or even percentage of change.
  • Motivating: Is the goal exciting. Is it motivational to the individual?
  • Attainable: Is the goal realistic, reasonable and achievable?
  • Relevant: This answers the question of whether the goal is important to the organization, division or team.  Basically, will accomplishing this goal make a difference?
  • Trackable: Pertains to the way progress is counted. Don’t confuse this with specific. Specific would be “I want to lose 15 pounds in 3 months”. Trackable is the measurement system I’m going to use (scale for pounds lost, tape measure to measure inches lost, etc.) that is going to be used to track success.

To me the big change comes in defining the difference between Specific and Time Bound from the old model. It makes sense now to be Specific and Trackable. The other change I like is adding Motivating. If the person isn’t motivated to accomplish the goal it stands a good chance of not being accomplished.

Overall, I like the new model. It makes sense and is something I think all supervisors, team leaders, managers and leaders can use to propel their success. The beginning of the year is a great time to make sure your goals are SMART.

Good luck.

What’s Old Becomes New! The NEW Leadership and the One Minute Manager

For many of us who love to read and study the topic of leadership, one book that is in almost everyone’s library (or should I say iPad now) is the book “Leadership and the One Minute Manager” by Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersy. First published in the 1970’s, it introduced us to the revolutionary idea of situational leadership. Over the past nearly 50 years the content in the book has stood the test of time because the concept of situational leadership works. So why mess with perfection? Well, that’s a question that I’m sure Blanchard will talk about when he comes to Iowa for the Iowa Association of Business and Industry annual conference. (By the way, if you’re interested, give us a call at ATW and we’ll share the information on how you can see Ken Blanchard speak on June 11th in Davenport.)

Blanchard and his team released a new version of the book in 2013. They didn’t just update subtle areas, they actually redefined the three skills of a situational leader. In the original book the first skill was Diagnosis – what is the developmental level of the person you are leading in reference to the goal or task you are asking them to accomplish.  The second skill was Flexibility. Flexibility refers to the leader’s ability to flex and be comfortable using different leadership styles. The final skill was Partnering for Performance, where the manager partners with the person they are leading to focus on what they as a leader can do to make the employee successful. Again, these three skills have provided a solid foundation for leaders for nearly 50 years.

So what changed in this new version?  In talking with Blanchard he commented, “We always felt a very important skill was missed up front, goal setting.” So in the new Leadership in the One Minute Manager the three skills have become Setting SMART Goals, Diagnosis, and Matching. As you can see, Diagnosis continues to be a strong skill needed but it is now preceded by making sure the person you are leading has a clearly articulated and mutually understood goal.  Makes sense. How can you diagnose a person’s developmental level without a clear goal/expectation to reference? And the new third skill set, Matching, basically combines Flexibility and Partnering for Performance.

Having just spent some time reviewing these new concepts I’m excited for another 50 years of sharing these concepts and unleashing the potential of leaders. Of course that would make me 100 years old but hey, it’s a clearly articulated goal. Now can someone diagnose what I need to do to make it happen?

Check in for next week’s blog and we’ll talk further about a new twist on SMART goals!