Front Line Heroes – Chapter Three: ABC’s Oh Baby Now…. Part Two

Most Valuable Players B-Players are great employees, real keepers, and absolutely worth their weight in gold.  They are in alignment with the organization’s mission and values.  As corporate citizens, they care deeply about their internal and external operations.  They are probably not being promoted, but that is fine because they are doing great right where they are. A-Players have all the attributes of B-Players.  They also have the talent, desire, and ability to be promotable.  They are interested in professional growth and development.  These players, with development, could be moved to leadership either within or outside their current departments. Warning!  Pitfall A pitfall I’ve often seen with classifying employees in this way is that managers want shades of gray.  They want to rate employees as C+ or B-.  They want to make excuses and dance around the issue.  It is important that they stick to the A, B, and C buckets.  In this process, there are no minuses or pluses allowed.  Do not permit gray.  Managers need to make choices and deal with the consequences.  Employees are either making it as credible A or B-Players or not.  Managers need to be responsible for whom they are allowing to play in their sandbox; there are no “maybes” on the invitation. Open Assessments From time to time when consulting with small to mid-sized clients, and certainly during strategic planning, I have each manager stand in front of the room.  The managers are then asked to rank – one at a time – their direct reports as A, B, or C-Players. Now, the group has to be mature, sophisticated and responsible enough for...

Front Line Heroes – Chapter Three: ABC’s Oh Baby Now…. Part One

The only difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is the way we use them”  Anonymous If you will, please picture Michael Jackson at eight years old, singing his heart out with this refrain.  It is one of the first rock songs I remember loving.  Now, what could possibly connect this with a real business breakthrough?  The ABC’s, silly. D’s and F’s will sink your Company Management’s ranking of employees is controversial.  Forced ranking is something that many large, publicly traded companies do.  I am not endorsing this methodology or that of Jack Welch, who supposedly advocated culling the bottom 10 percent of the GE herd each year.  What I am endorsing, and heartily proposing, is that you only have truly outstanding and incredible employees in your company.  Now there is a radical thought. Before we go on, let me set some parameters I consider business to be performance oriented.  The companies I know play on a highly competitive field.  A lot of factors impact the long-term success of a business entity, and achieving success is complex.  However, I think we can agree that the quality of employees within an organization directly affects that organization’s performance. As business people, we do not directly control terrorist plots, the economy, our competition, taxes, healthcare plans, or national events.  But even with unions, executives and managers do ultimately control who works in the company. We should make the most of this opportunity and leverage the “people piece” to enhance our companies’ performance advantage.  The “ABC” process I’m going to tell you about is designed to give your company both a people and a...

Front Line Heroes – Chapter Two….The Coach’s Handbook

“Management practices have created patterns of behavior which are adversarial to employees and to productivity.”  – G. Hayes Managing is task oriented.  It’s about getting things done, which is a critical function in the business environment.  Managing is also the traditional mode in which business people work with one another.  Coaching, on the other hand, is learning oriented.  It is about helping people develop skills and techniques that will be useful in business.  Coaching is not better than managing; it is just different The “Managing” Model In the traditional “managing” model, the manager is the focal point.  Some of the antiquated beliefs justifying this design are that knowledge, compensation, and power flow up in organizations.  Problems flow down.  So do fault, blame, and the necessity to develop solutions.  To remain at a lower level has negative connotations, while the higher up you are, the “better” you are. Managers are literally the superior ones in this model. Many of these beliefs have become unconscious and unexamined; they automatically come with the territory of our work lives and culture.  But the fact is that this hierarchical managerial design is an ancient model.  You can trace it to kings and feudalism, and it was adapted for business during the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution.  During this time, people sought work in factories and needed to be organized.  The work was routine and fairly simple.  Hence, the system – in which the manager knows what to do and the worker follows orders – was born. Another aspect of this system is that for the sake of efficiency, different departments in organizations gave rise to...

Front Line Heroes Chapter One – Posters, Plaques and Horse Manure

“Vision without action is simply another form of blindness.  An idea without implementation and execution is nothing more than a passing thought.”    Phillip Jackson   Think about mission, values and BHAG’s – or “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” as coined by Jim Collins in Built to Last.  I don’t know about you, but the title of this chapter indicates my initial reaction to these topics:  posters and plaques are what typically happen to mission and values.  They’re created by the senior leadership team, captured on posters, and strategically tacked up around the building.  Nice tchotchkes, such as plaques, coins, and little statuettes, are made and set on every desk throughout the organization.  That can mean a lot of tchotchkes.  “Horse manure!” meanwhile, is how many a corporate citizen reacts to this phenomenon.  Why?  Because whatever is in the mission or values statement is not seen as relevant to the organization’s day-to-day operations.  In other words, the organization’s behavior is not congruent with its declaration of ideals. Now, my fear is that my input on this matter won’t make a difference.  I worry that leadership teams will still write empty mission and values statements.  I am scared that there will continue to be meaningless rollouts of these pronouncements.  My biggest concern is that the mission and values statements will continue to be irrelevant to day-to-day operations. Let me stop my tirade and say that mission, values, and BHAG’s are a potentially positive aspect of organizational life.  (Hey, get over your surprise.  I am nothing if not complicated.)  I have seen many examples of companies and organizations whose hearts are centered on...

Conclusion – Part 9 The Coach’s Handbook

Managing and coaching are different systems of human interaction.  Both are necessary for successful organizational life.  In managing, one tends to make decisions based on established directions, emphasizing reason supported by intuition, acting in the present based on the past, and emphasizing knowledge. In coaching, one needs to make decisions based on an envisioned future.  A coach emphasizes intuition supported by reason, belief and commitment in others, and acting toward the future based on the present. Coaching as a predominant style is a new development, and because of the changes and pressures which are overwhelming business, it will be a prominent management style in the future.  Managers and team leaders who are going to be successful need to invest themselves in this system and become extraordinarily proficient at it. All employees in business need to shift from being victims to being players.  The view that work is a have to needs to be redirected to work as a privilege or a growth path.  Once people come to work in order to grow, develop and learn, as well as to make a living, then the transition from managing to coaching will be a relatively simple and profoundly beneficial thing to...

The Coach’s Handbook Part 8 – Are You Coaching?

The following are questions to ask yourself to see if you are an extraordinary coach: Would people around you say that your team gets extraordinary results (enables the production of results beyond business as usual)? Is there evidence that you are someone who develops great players?  By a great player, we mean people who are able to make things happen far beyond what one might expect given history and past predictions of your organization. Do you consistently demonstrate the ability to bring the capabilities or possibilities of co-workers to a more advanced or effective state?  The coach does this with whomever he or she directly or indirectly interfaces in the organization.  The coach develops people in a 360 degree circle – above, below, and laterally with the organization. Do your commitments and sphere of influence go beyond traditional business channels and relationships?  The coach does not get entrapped by his or her position in the organization.  This person uses influence and coaching to move the ball wherever he/she moves within the organization. Are you a person who presents himself/herself for coaching?  Are you coachable? Do you take on projects which require self development? Your answers should give you a sense of whether or not you are coaching be tough on yourself, however, and differentiate between your coaching activities and management activities.  All too often, we find executives claiming to coach, but really managing.    Next time – The Coach’s Handbook – Conclusion...

The Coach’s Handbook Part 7 – Extraordinary Coaching

Extraordinary coaching is brought about by fusing the uniquely human characteristics mentioned previously with the experience and perspective useful to the overall game plan already residing within the coach.  An extraordinary coach will be one who truly measures his/her performance by the performance of the employees (the players).  This approach will yield not only superior results, but will establish a foundation for an ongoing flow of future coaches who understand the power of coordinating and propelling (vs. controlling or ignoring) players’ potential. Certain observations can be made about the ingredients which set the stage for extraordinary coaching: The player needs to volunteer for and be eager for the relationship with the coach. The coach always leaves the exit door open.  Players can terminate the coaching relationship.  This is different from leaving a managerial relationship and does not necessarily mean leaving the company. Coached organizations must be made of volunteers and people who love to play. The coach never has permission to develop people into anything they have not asked he/she to develop. Coaches develop capabilities.  They do not get tasks accomplished.  Managers focus on the task, but coaches use the task as a metaphor for development.  They get the task accomplished, but use it to develop people Coaches manage the context and the resource constraints.  Coaches manipulate the time and resources available to make the task at hand an all-consuming challenge. The game the coach sets up pulls players far beyond their belief of what they can do – and far beyond any realistic assessment of what they can do.  Goals are plucked from the domain of possibility and...

The Coach’s Handbook Part 6 – Coaching is an Art not a Science

While the structure of the coaching relationship has been discussed, little has been said about the actual process of effective coaching. How does one learn to function as an effective coach? What skills and abilities does one need to have? Can coaching be taught in the same way we teach a science or technology? Or, is coaching more like an art, which can be expressed, but can never be formalized into a general set of rules or procedures? We take the position that coaching is more like a performing art rather than a structured technology for human interaction. We have already acknowledged that coaches often make use of rules, techniques, and other methodologies when they are needed. At the heart of the process of coaching lies a more fundamental, non-structured responsiveness which results in uniquely human expressions such as: compassion, leadership, creativity, wisdom, vision, and commitment. You cannot pretend these things; it has to come from the soul. In a similar illustration, professional dancers, athletes, and other artistic performers need certain basic skills and abilities to reach a high level of professional performance. However, the source of their actions and behaviors is not merely those skills themselves. A human being does not perform coaching as a simple product of learned skills and behaviors. More is required for successful coaching.   Next time….Extraordinary...

The Coach’s Handbook Part V – Beliefs of a Developmental Coach

Here is a chart* that contrasts coaching beliefs with managerial assumptions. This will give you greater a sense of the difference between a control-oriented management system and a commitment-oriented coaching system.               *Adapted from materials created by Robert Shaw, M.D.  Chart developed by Gloria DeVoss, MSW.  Adapted to Business by Roy Quiriconi   Next time – Coaching is an Art, not a...