There is one thing more powerful than all the coaching models, approaches and certifying organizations put together.
That one essential key is hindered by almost all organizational performance appraisal, performance assessment, performance development or what-have-you systems and processes. The typical performance appraisal system puts the manager in the position of assessing and judging the employee. Separate from them, overlooking, deciding, giving them their score. There is no requirement to make a significant commitment to the employee. Sometimes there is a commitment to provide developmental opportunities but rarely have I seen a manager commit to the employee that their performance will improve.
From the sidelines you watch and judge. “From the French judge, a 6.9”.
Imagine this scenario: A manager says to her boss and her colleagues, “Let this employee work for me for a year and I promise they will be twice as effective as they are now. If they don’t achieve that, cut my pay in half and don’t let me supervise anyone again.”
Now that’s commitment – a level of commitment that’s a game-changer. Now you’ve got something at stake. You are in the game with the employee and with a commitment to improving performance. To make this bet you may need more development than your employee. That way everyone wins!
If you have some employee whose performance needs to improve, and you’re not willing to make the bet, either you or the employee ought to leave now and save everyone from the torture of being stuck in a job going nowhere.
But then, not everyone wants to change the game. Not every assessor, evaluator, judge, Monday-morning-quarterback wants to risk putting their own ass on the line.
In response to a recent post, Malcolm McKinnon writes:
“I disagree with your statement that ‘I don’t know’ is akin to saying ‘I’m dead’, rather I think ‘I don’t care… to advance’ is the sentiment to be damned. In fact, I think ‘I don’t know’ can be a critical element of avoiding groupthink and advancing empowerment and technology.
“Saying ‘I don’t know’ or perhaps ‘I don’t understand’ is a useful tactic for a low legitimate power minority perspective holder trying to expose a group’s weak decision.
“Isn’t ‘empowerment’ emboldened by managers admitting that those doing are best positioned to make change suggestions? Isn’t ‘I don’t know’ an important part of that process?
“In a world of questionably researched / motivated content, written by only self-professed experts, is ‘I don’t know’ an important signal of trust in a message and associated politic infused world?
“While I agree we have an abundance of knowledge sources – and Google seems ‘all-knowing’, I sense the message ‘I don’t know’ is not one to be damned, but rather, in some instances to be encouraged. We should save our criticism for not caring to advance, for accepting ‘status quo dogma’.”
Malcolm, I agree with the sentiment of your comment. “Not knowing” is a far more powerful orientation that “I (or we) already know.” “Already knowing” suppresses thinking, re-thinking, creativity, innovation.
People have a tendency to translate the issue they are currently facing into a problem they already know how to solve – because they already know how to solve that problem. Already know can be deadly.
The issue I was pointing to was the readiness to let not knowing how to be a stop. “Not knowing” is not the issue. Letting that stop you is the issue. Not knowing can be a real source of power – but not if you let it stop you.
If the pioneers (go West young man, go West) said, “I don’t know how to grow potatoes in this ground” – and stopped there – rather than trying things, seeing what would grow, experimenting to find out how, they would have died earlier than they did.
How many people are killing themselves and their organizations with, “I don’t know how”? That’s the part that concerns me.
In my previous blog post I expressed amazement at the lack of even thinking about service at a Victoria restaurant. Unrelated and unexpectedly on Wednesday I was copied on an email Scott Macpherson wrote to everyone in his organization acknowledging Anita Barker for her client focus.
Scott runs TrainingPort. Together with his team, they provide customized business aviation safety and operational training across North America from their base at Vancouver Airport.
Scott says, about a client who is leaving, “This Company has been a client for a year now and was a hard-won client at that. It took over a year to earn their trust and they are all satisfied with our content, system and service. However, they are our first client to not renew.” It turns out that the Aviation Manager wanted to test the competition.
In closing out the file and training records, Anita discovered that a new pilot was starting at This Company and on her own initiative, set up the new pilot up as a trainee on the system until the end of the contract.
In a business whose biggest challenge is serving the tremendous growth they are experiencing (a well-earned challenge) an employee goes the extra mile to continue serving a client who is leaving. Others may be tempted to focus on the new clients, or those who are staying.
Now Scott, do you offer training for restaurants? Or Telus?
A bit of a theme is emerging here: Who are you serving? Are you going the extra mile or telling them to go away and come back in 10 minutes?
Or (Telus) telling the customer you will let them know in about two weeks how much longer they will have to wait for a land-line and internet service. After committing to provide the service!
We have two lines to serve you. The first line is to tell you how long the second line is. The second line is for the service we committed to!
The co-founders of an organization recently asked me to make an anniversary presentation and acknowledge their contribution with a gift of two of my images (I’m a reasonably accomplished amateur photographer).
After carefully selecting and fine-tuning the images, I had them printed and framed and took them to a large organization that ships packages all over the world and offers to get them to their destination on time (think brown).
I took the framed prints to them on a Monday. The presentation was on Saturday night. There were lots of delivery options: overnight, two days, three days, by ground, etc. They wrapped and boxed the framed prints and recommended their three-day option. That would schedule the prints to arrive on Thursday, leaving an extra day in case something unforeseen happened.
However, the prints did not arrive in three days. I called to find out where the package was and what would be done to get it delivered on time. After hearing, “Sorry, you’ll have to call this number,” I explained that on Saturday, I was standing up in front of 100 people to make a presentation of the contents of the package that they had in their possession. The first person I talked with at their call centre said there was nothing she could do. She might as well have said, “It sure sucks to be you. Too bad you chose to do business with us.” Her supervisor sounded more helpful, but he referred me to someone else, who asked me to call another location. It went on and on.
While listening to yet another employee tell me “We’ll see what we can do,” I imagined myself empty-handed in front of 100 people. I didn’t want the shipper “seeing” — I needed them to be “doing.” There is a world of difference between “seeing what you can do” and “doing what it takes.” From the beginning, seeing what you can do builds in an excuse. You absolve yourself from all responsibility for delivering on a commitment and from expecting that commitment to mean something. If you say “We’ll see what we can do” fast, you can pretend that it means something other than “I took a look and saw that I couldn’t do anything.”
Eventually, the manager at the depot in Dallas called me, got a description of the package — its size, color, weight, fragile stickers — and did what it took. He went out and searched through as many 18-wheeler trailers in his yard as it took to find the package, and delivered it personally to the front desk of the hotel at 8 p.m. on Friday night. Thanks for doing what it took.
Are you willing to “do what it takes” or are you just “seeing what you can do”? Which world are you living in?
Send us your examples of people who did what it took and we will highlight them here.
Photos: Armstrong images
$$$ A financial crisis is making headlines but the financial mess is the fallout; not the real crisis. The financial crunch is not likely to be the most significant fallout; the real crunch is a trust crunch.
The financial foolishness is clear. In a drive to continuously increase profits, banks lend more and more mortgage money to people who can least afford to pay. They lend more than the underlying assets are worth, they lend more than people can afford to pay and they structure the lending with low initial rates that rise quickly. Then they sell these mortgages to financial institutions (Bear Sterns, Lehman Brothers, et al) who, in turn, repackage them, call them high grade investments (as confirmed by the rating agencies), and sell them to their clients. Some of the documents describing these investments and the associated risks run upwards of 700 pages.
The repackaging included “credit default swaps” that in turn were traded on the market. Purchasers are led to believe that this credit default swap protects them — pays them, if people default on the underlying loans. We might be tempted to think of this as insurance, but these are sold as “swaps” not “insurance”. If these were sold as insurance, the seller would be regulated and have to demonstrate sufficient financial reserves to pay in the event of a default. Because it is called a swap and not insurance, there is no regulation and no need for the seller to demonstrate that they could actually pay in the event of a claim.
It doesn’t take a genius to recognize the house of cards: risky mortgages rapidly churned out in a fantasy of a never ending increase in property values, repackaged in obscure ways, subsequently rated as low risk, combined with illusory insurance and sold to “trusting” clients by institutions with insufficient resources to withstand a crisis of trust.
We will never really know but their financial modeling likely indicated they could withstand market slowdowns or the odd hiccup in cash flow. Clearly, and tragically, they did not factor in a crisis of trust.
TRUST AND TRANSPARENCY DETERMINE YOUR LEADERSHIP CAPACITY
The lesson here is clear. Trust is essential to leadership; trust is essential to accomplishment; trust is essential to staying in business. If there is insufficient trust — with colleagues, “bosses” or those to whom you would provide leadership — not much of significance will get accomplished. Insufficient trust with clients, others in your industry or suppliers can mean the end of your business — even if you have been in business for decades and previously enjoyed a good reputation.
Lehman Brothers had been in business for 158 years, but folded because clients didn’t trust them, investors didn’t trust them and others in the industry didn’t trust them enough to lend to them.
Bear Sterns clients didn’t trust that the funds Bear Sterns was selling were as safe as advertised. Bear Sterns clients lost billions, their shareholders lost billions and their employees lost their jobs as Bear Sterns, who had been in business for 85 years, was forced into a merger with JPMorgan Chase.
Billions in write-downs drove Merrill Lynch into the hands of Bank of America when potential investors didn’t trust that Merrill Lynch knew what it was doing.
Insurance behemoth AIG was taken over by the U. S. government when it couldn’t be trusted to honor the $441 billion of credit default swaps tainted with subprime mortgages. And private equity investors didn’t trust that AIG management knew the quality of the assets they owned or the risk of the swaps they owed.
Transparency is irrevocably twinned with trust. Never be bullied by “don’t you trust me?” Bet on knowing what’s knowable, wisdom and prudence.
Faced with an arcane 700 page document you will either have to read it, have your lawyer read it or trust your advisor to be looking out for what is in your best interest. Blind “trust” isn’t trust at all. It is willful blindness. The leadership in these organizations took themselves down; personally and corporately they invested their own money — foolishly; unwisely; imprudently.
On the one hand we could argue that it would be foolish not to demand full disclosure and better transparency. But, if you have been doing business with someone for years, or with someone whose reputation you respect, you may feel like you are faced with a dilemma. Insisting on detailed examination and analysis may lead to a false assumption of mistrust, rather than prudence.
When you defer to someone else’s judgment and recommendation alone, you are risking both the value of the transaction and the relationship that has been built up over time. If someone plays the, don’t you trust me? card when due diligence is called for, it actively undermines trust. Never let others make something an issue of trust that is really an issue of competence, understanding or insight.
You are either taking action to honor and protect the trust that has been built in your relationships or you are risking it. Risk that trust at your peril. When people stop trusting you they stop believing what you stand for and what you have to say. When you gamble with your credibility you are gambling with your future and the future of your company.
Trust can take decades to establish and be vaporized in an instant.