Come Out From The Corner Office

Congratulations! You recently have been promoted to that management position and sitting in that corner office you’ve always coveted in your career. It’s new! It’s exciting! You feel you have finally arrived! You’re educated, trained, and have a wealth of experience under your belt.You can’t wait to get started and make your mark with your new team. You’re ready for the challenge!

At one time or another, we may all have had an opportunity in our career to feel that elation and excitement. How ready were you to manage right out of the gate? I know I wasn’t!

Reflecting back on when I started managing in a senior position, there were some key things that I wish I would have done differently, more, or better! So, when coaching or mentoring others, there are two major lessons learned that I usually share with them:

1) First, I should have spent more time outside of the corner office and engaged and interacted with my team more.

2) Secondly, I would have focused more on these key principles:

Motivating Employees

Tell your employees how much you appreciate them from time to time. Just go out and say it. Ask them out for a cup of coffee and tell them what you appreciate about them: They’re a hard worker; they effectively motivate other people; they’re easy to coach; they’re disciplined or go the extra mile; they always cheer you up, etc. Don’t mince words — just tell them straight out. An employee who knows just how much they are appreciated will work harder, enjoy what they do more, and pass that psychic happiness along to other employees.

Setting Goals

Make sure each employee knows what’s expected. Having concrete goals empowers your employees and keeps them focused on work. Explicitly outline what you expect, when the deadline is, and what you’ll do with the results.

Hold yourself to the highest standards. We all know the kind of manager who constantly shouts or bitterly complains when mistakes are made but gives himself a ‘pass’ when he fails. Don’t be this kind of manager. Ideally, be harder to on yourself than you are on your employees. This can have a trickle-down effect: Employees see the types of goals and standards you set for yourself and want to emulate you because they look up to you.

Delegating Responsibility

Assign tasks that will stretch your employees. As your workers begin to take on more responsibility and demonstrate that they’re capable, give them tasks that will expand their skills and help them take more ownership of their work. Not only are you finding out how much your employees can handle, you’re making them more valuable to the company.

Communicating Effectively

Ask questions. Intelligent questions show that you can follow the flow of the conversation and clarify when necessary. Don’t be afraid to ask questions because you’re worried about appearing “stupid.” Effective managers care about understanding what’s important; they don’t care about how they get there. Know, too, that others will probably have questions and may not ask. If you ask their question for them, you can act as a facilitator and build your team’s engagement level. That’s the true mark of a good manager.

Embracing Egalitarianism

Treat everyone equally. Most of us aren’t as egalitarian as we’d like to be. Many times, favoritism happens on a subconscious level. The tendency is to give more positive recognition to the people who remind us of ourselves somehow and who actually like us, rather than to the people who make the biggest contributions to the organization. In the long run, it’s people in the latter group who will make the most progress in achieving the organization’s goals, so monitor your own behavior carefully and make sure you’re not accidentally short-changing them, even if they give you the impression that your positive regard doesn’t affect them. Some people shy away from positive feedback but appreciate it nonetheless.

Treat your employees well. If you’re good to your workers and they’re happy with their jobs, they’ll pass that kindness on to customers and invaluably bolster the image of your company. Or, they’ll do the same for their employees and maintain a positive corporate culture.

Coming Off The Island

Don’t try to go it alone. Swallow your pride. Take every opportunity to learn and draw upon the experiences of others every day. You will never know it all. Network and communicate with colleagues, peers, and seniors that have been there. Ask questions, observe, and reflect upon how you can adapt what you’ve learned to become better.

Seek A Mentor. It never hurts to have someone in your corner that you can trust and seek guidance from every now and then. Listen, reflect, and draw upon their experiences.

So, if you’re a new manager, I encourage you to come out from the corner office and engage with your team…

A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.
— John Le Caré

Why Mentor Others?

Mentoring-wht1Recently, my wife and I drove through various Southeastern states to visit family and friends. While driving, I often had many moments to reflect upon what I do, why I do it, and what brought me to make and stick to that decision all these years. Throughout the drive, I always circled back to three things. First off, I’ve come across many people that have positively influenced my life. Secondly, I’ve always had a passion for helping others, and Third, I love to coach and teach. So, why do I choose to mentor others?

In my business, I often come across people from different generations, in various stages of their lives, or are in some form of transition. They all face changes, challenges, and decision points in their lives that affect their jobs, careers, and businesses. Whether these changes, challenges, or decisions are planned or not, the crossroads they face can be quite daunting. Often times, they seem stuck, have little or no direction, and they need help. Having been there many times myself in my life and career, I try to share my knowledge and experience with them, so that they can make the right decisions for themselves.

WebThree key points that I always try to stress in my mentoring sessions with them are: have a vision, think strategically, and continue to learn.

Early in my career, one of my mentors always tried to stress these three key points with me. He emphasized to know where you want to go, think out of the box, and continue to learn.

“Education is a foundation, not an end point. Never be afraid to diversify, grow, and explore different things.”

casentric-mentoring-quote2.ashxGreat advice and it works; however, it’s a two way street! Let me share a success story with you. Quite a few years ago, I mentored a young supervisor just starting out in her career. After a few sessions, what we discussed clicked, she got it, and ran with it. Over the years throughout her career, she has held various supervisory and managerial roles in a Fortune 500 company, where she had (as she puts it) the privilege of coaching, mentoring and developing many young professionals herself. Oftentimes, she reflected on the mentoring sessions we had and encouraged others to try new things, diversify, and explore other areas of business and interests. As she continued to grow in her career, she coached, taught and mentored students in a business partnership program affiliated with her local school district, and encouraged others to mentor others as well.

So, that’s why I do what I do. Just as my mentors taught and encouraged me, I continue to enjoy my passion to mentor others. Don’t be afraid to try new things, diversify and share your talents, and explore new areas of interest. What’s on your development plan for this year?

The Times Are A Changing

Change is constant. We hear, read about, and experience it everyday in our jobs, businesses, career, and personal lives and relationships. Constant changes in business drivers, technology, the economy, health care, social programs, and security (just to name a few, whew!) can make our heads spin! Its rapid pace can be overwhelming, confusing, and downright intimidating. But, the change train won’t be making a complete stop at the station to board us as passengers. Whether we are ready or not, we need to make a leap from the platform to board it. For us baby boomers, remember the 1963 Bob Dylan song, “The Times Are A Changing?” If not, or if you are part of the later or more recent generations, I encourage all of you to read the lyrics…listen to the song as well if you wish :). The rapid pace of change started well over 50 years ago. Bob Dylan saw it and tried to educate us through the pop culture we knew back then… and it hasn’t stopped since. Change affects us all. How we handle it determines whether we survive and be successful.

Often times, when faced with change, we look back to the past. It’s human nature. At times, it’s difficult and complicated. Quite frankly, we struggle, especially if many changes are all occurring at once. We don’t like being taken out of our comfort zone.

When dealing with change, most of us go through a process called the “change curve” before we board the train. The “change curve” has four stages: Information, Support, Direction, and Encouragement.

Looking To The Past…

During the early stages, we are “looking to the past.” As we hear about the upcoming change, we may be in denial. We want to know what’s changing and why, and how will it affect us. So, we start gathering information.

As we learn and the information starts settling in, we may not want to believe in the change, let alone accept it. We grieve and anger may start to set in. So, we start looking for support. <Stage Two>

Looking To The Future…

At some point, we reach a crossroad. Either we don’t accept the change and accept the consequences and move on or we start seeking direction and start “looking to the future.” We start exploring options on how to adapt to the change. So, we start looking for direction. <Stage Three>
Finally, we accept the change and want to learn how to prosper and benefit from it. So, we seek encouragement. <Stage Four>

My Suggestions Beyond The Curve…

So, if you start peeling back the onion, when you, your friends, or colleagues have difficulty dealing with change, try to follow these nine simple points:

– Seek information and learn
– Seek to understand
– Be empathetic
– Seek and provide support and guidance
– Keep an open mind
– Consider all the options and consequences
– Make an informed choice
– Grasp the change
– Prosper and grow

In closing, change is all around us. Sure, it takes us out of our comfort zone some times. The choices we make have impacts on our jobs, businesses, careers, and personal lives and relationships. We may not agree with the changes, but we can choose to stagnate or grow. They are your personal choices and moments of truth. Whether we like it or not, “The Times Are A Changing.”

Life After The Pivotal Decision In XLIX

I’m sure most of you saw the last minute of Super Bowl XLIX and went to bed thinking about the pivotal decision that the Seattle Seahawks made at the one yard line with under a minute remaining that cost them the game. If you’re a football fan, especially a Seattle Seahawks fan, I’m sure you’re still shaking your head wondering why didn’t they call a running play in that situation? The obvious questions that are being asked in sports talk shows, in bars and restaurants, and around the water cooler this week are:

– Why did this happen?
– Who made that call?
– Why was that call made?
– Whose fault was it?

But, let’s face it, what’s done is done! All this commentary won’t change the outcome, will it? But, as I sit here and hear all of this, I wonder: how does an experience like this really affect someone that’s directly impacted by it? In this case, the Seattle Seahawks…

Obviously, for the Seattle Seahawks football team and organization, the end result of Super Bowl XLIX was very disappointing and will leave a sour taste in their mouths for awhile. But, really…where do they go from here? How will it affect them psychologically? What will their mojo be like going into the offseason and training camp in 2015?

Like him or not, Pete Carroll is not only good football coach, but he is a good mentor and leader. He’s a catalyst of an organization that promotes a team culture built upon trust, loyalty, and learning. Just like after every game, the coaching staff won’t point fingers or repeatedly dwell on the negatives. They will breakdown the game plan, play scripts, and the game tape to determine what happened, what they could have done better, learn from the experience, and start preparing for the next season. My guess is that this team and organization will rebound stronger than ever because they believe in its mission and culture. I believe that their psychic and mojo will be just fine.

So, for the rest of us, what we can we take away from this? Well, to start, a team or organizational culture like Seattle’s just doesn’t magically happen without effort. That’s true with any business or organization as well. It’s psychic, culture, and mojo must start at the very top and trickle down through the rest of the organization. The best organizations promote learning cultures to make themselves better by continually assessing their performance , successes, and failures and share and teach what was experienced from good or bad decisions with their employees, members, or followers.

In a nutshell, they don’t point fingers, they get to the root causes, learn and teach, and correct the flaws to make every one better for the good of the whole.

“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.”
– Jack Welch –

An effective CEO, like Pete Carroll, will make that happen…

The Leader In Me

At one time or another, I’m sure that everyone of us can step back and think about someone we met for the first time, a play, show, or production we attended, a book we read, or a talk or speech we heard, that made a lasting impact or impression on us. It could have been a story line or theme, a specific line or quote, or a profound message that hit home with us. Recently, I had such an experience that I would like to share with you.

Periodically, I offer my services as a part – time substitute paraprofessional teacher in a local school district for elementary and middle school children. Just last week, I was supporting a third grade class where the teacher was reviewing basic math skills (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) with his students to increase their proficiency. What was intriguing was not only how he did it but what he was trying to instill in the class at the same time. Let me explain what I think I saw and understood…

What Was The Teacher’s Primary Objective?: Teach and increase proficiency in basic math skills (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division).

What Was The Teacher’s Bonus Objective?: Introduce the students to the concepts of fair and respectful team play and the importance of integrated team leadership.

What Was The Teacher’s Approach?: The teacher instructed the boys to lineup and sit on one side of the room and the girls to lineup and sit on the other side. Taking turns, the teacher had one boy and one girl approach the front of the room and stand in front of him. The teacher then quickly flashed a math card with a question (e.g. 7 x 2 = ?) to the two students. Whichever student answered the question correctly would earn one point for their team. That student could then earn bonus points by shooting and scoring a Nerf basketball into a basket on the opposite end of the room. Depending upon where the student chose to stand, they could earn two or three additional bonus points if they made the basket just like in a basketball game. Whichever team provided the most correct answers and accumulated the most points within two 15 minute “halves” won the game.

What Was The Teacher’s Expectation?: While the game was in progress, he expected the students to “stay on course.” In addition, the rest of the class understood that they were to remain quiet, and not cheer for either team, until a correct answer and any bonus baskets were attempted (whether made or not). Regardless of which team answered correctly, and whether bonus baskets were made or not, they were expected to encourage and cheer for both participants. If any behavior was displayed that did not meet these expectations, that team’s point total was docked two points. In a nutshell, he expected them to stay focused, participate and do the work, support both teams, and have fun.

What Was The Result?: From what I witnessed, the primary and bonus objectives and the teacher’s expectations were communicated, understood, and met successfully.

I have to tell you! My jaw dropped! How in the world did he get these third grade 9 year olds to understand and buy – in to the these objectives and expectations and actually get them to have fun and perform proficiently at the same time? Here’s what I found out that day…

At the beginning of the year, the teacher introduced a learning theme for the class named: “The Leader In Me.” Wherever he could, he integrated this learning theme into all his subject lesson plans. Just like he used a game for the math proficiency review, he tried to use “fun things” to get the students interested and engaged to help their learning and proficiency in those subjects as well. Slowly, he focused on seven “habits” to help the students understand the theme and to drive proficiency and individual and team leadership in the classroom.

Habit #1 – Be Proactive – “You are in control and choose your actions”

Habit #2 – Begin With The End In Mind – “Have a goal, work hard, and have a plan”

Habit #3 – Put First Things First – “Have a plan and do important things before unimportant things”

Habit #4 – Think Win Win – ” Everyone can win and learn, support others, and be confident in yourself and your fellow classmates”

Habit #5 – Seek First To Understand Then Be Understood – “Listen closely to see what others think since it is good to be different and everyone has something to contribute”

Habit #6 – Synergize – “Work together to listen and create new ideas”

Habit #7 – Sharpen The Saw – “Recharge, relax, and have fun”

When traveling home after class that day, I reflected on what I had just experienced. What did I learn? First, with the right teaching, coaching, and mentoring, leadership traits can be developed and groomed even at the simplest grass roots level.

Past research suggests that leadership is 30 percent genetic and 70 percent a result of lessons learned through life experiences. ScienceDaily University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES).

Granted, there’s no guarantee that everyone will be a leader regardless of what teaching, coaching, and mentoring that they receive; however, it’s a step in the right direction to help them be successful, be positive contributors, and be team players in whatever endeavor they choose. Second, it’s important nowadays to teach, demonstrate, reinforce, and encourage active involvement to achieve desired results. What better way to learn! This teacher was truly a leader that was making an impact! Finally, think about this. If corporate and executive leaders promoted a learning culture where their mission statements, charters, and values of their corporations, businesses, and organizations were centered more around habits and teaching moments like these, the meeting of challenges, pressures, and issues they face might just be a little more palatable and solvable.

In closing, here’s a parting thought: if it’s happening at the simplest grass roots level…then why not elsewhere? Think about “The Leader In Me.”

What Will Your Drivers For Success Be?

As you forge ahead towards a new job, career, or business venture, how are you feeling? What’s on your mind? Are you excited? Wondering what it’s going to be like and what it’s going to take to be successful? How will you know if you’re progressing and doing the right things? Those where the types of things that were going through my mind whenever I started a new job or, more recently, when I started my own consulting business, GAC Insights. I was very excited and confident, but at the same time, a little apprehensive. What should my drivers for success be? I always tried to give this serious thought and through continued education and experience, my drivers for success evolved and still remain part of my business acumen even to this day!

But, what’s it going to take for you to be successful? What should your drivers for success be? There are many articles, books, and references, which you can read to draw upon some best practices and, of course, drawing upon the experiences of others always works too. But, for now, let me share two articles with you which I think may start helping you as you embark into your new job, career, or business venture.

The first article focuses on building relationships of trust. Whether you will be a individual contributor, manage people, or lead teams, the eleven key points featured in this article will serve you well. To be successful, you need to build trust with your fellow employees, customers, and key stakeholders. Without trust, you won’t have credibility nor sustainable success.

Especially for our younger colleagues, the second article focuses on what employers are looking for the most from 20 something employees. To be successful, consistently exhibiting these ten abilities and skill sets should fare you well with any employer. To me, the key points are: be able to think on your feet, be a problem solver, and be a team player.

As a parting thought, I encourage you to continue building your professional network, but most importantly, surround yourself with quality people, seek and maintain contact with a few good mentors, and “learn every day”!

Success in business requires training and discipline and hard work. But if you’re not frightened by these things, the opportunities are just as great today as they ever were. ~David Rockefeller

Best wishes for continued success!