Roy's Blog: April 2019

April 22, 2019

Why are great leaders close to the people who execute?

There is a HUGE misconception that remarkable leaders are separate from the common folk in an organization; that they exist in rarefied air that only the great consume.

Don’t be fooled.

Pundits push the view that distinctive leadership is extremely complicated to achieve given the knowledge silos a leader must be proficient in.

Gifted leadership is much more than being expert in the tools of the trade such as strategic business planning, risk management, organizational theory or interpersonal relations.

Yes, you have to understand the basics, but they alone will not place you in the “the chosen few” of leaders.

They are merely table stakes to be in the leadership game.

My experience is that standout leaders are special due to their common folk attributes, in particular connecting with others in a casual way with honesty and integrity.

Leaders who can “see” others; understand their needs and wants and are motivated by a strong desire to help them in any way they can.

Throughout my career I was pressed to conform to the standard leadership practices promulgated by experts who believed that if I followed traditional thinking more closely, I would be a better leader.

I refused. It didn’t make sense to me given the “in the trenches” execution challenges facing the organization to be successful.

Organizations perform well when they execute flawlessly; people performing their assigned roles brilliantly to deliver expected results.
Achieving amazing results doesn’t exist within a strategic plan or conflict management theory.

Rather than go deeper and learn more about traditional practices, I chose to go broader and add a behavioural dimension that I believed would make the difference for the organization.

My approach was simple: to listen to the people doing the work and try to find a way to help them; to make their organizational life easier.

My game plan was to build a team that was unmatched in their ability to execute.

My style was very informal and I was approachable.

I focused more of my efforts than my peers in the workplace to understand and solve the problems preventing people from doing their jobs effectively; to break down barriers and grunge that impeded effective execution.

The upside — my teams consistently punched above its weight; the downside - my personal currency took a hit because my “common folk” approach was deemed inappropriate by some old school executives.

And if I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Cheers,
Roy
Check out my BE DiFFERENT or be dead Book Series

Recent articles you might like
How to prevent people from turning off and bailing out
Why gulf in class dominates the best in class
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  • Posted 4.22.19 at 04:34 am by Roy Osing
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April 15, 2019

How to prevent people from turning off and bailing out

One way to think about employee engagement is to identify the new practices an organization should adopt to motivate and retain its employees; this is the normal approach promulgated by the experts in the field.

To get employees more engaged by this method typically requires an organization to select a best practice and then convince everyone to start applying it. This usually requires a lengthy implementation cycle with engagement benefits realized in the medium to long term.

Eliminate the piss-off-factors

Another approach, however, is to define the things that organizations typically do today that turn employees off (“piss-off factors” — POF’s) and drive them to look elsewhere for career opportunities.

Improving employee engagement using this approach requires leadership to demand what specific current behaviours are to STOP and to identify the benefits of cessation.

Benefits of this approach are usually realized fairly quickly (assuming the practices in question are indeed stopped) and some breathing time is earned to develop and start implementing a longer term engagement strategy that adds new programs.

The approach an organization should take depends, of course, on the levels of employee satisfaction and engagement they are currently facing.
In most cases, however, there is a sense of urgency to see short term improvement in the face of market forces challenging financial performance.

This reality suggests that the most effective approach is to launch an all-out offensive on what needs to be stopped BEFORE evaluating the new programs that should be added for longer term cultural change.

As the new president of our data and internet company, I was facing some tough POF’s that completely overwhelmed the option of exploring new practices and programs to get employees more involved and committed to our strategy.

I chose to eradicate the immediate roadblocks to engagement through what I called a “Cut the CRAP” initiative which was intended to eliminate the highest priority dis-satisfiers as quickly as possible.

Based on feedback from employees, these were the things my leadership team chose to STOP! and prevent people from turning off and bailing out.

STOP! delegating

Stop delegating communicating and selling the organization’s strategy to employees.
Don’t ask junior or middle level managers to do it. Employees need to be convinced that the strategy is right and that they have a meaningful role to play in its achievement.

As president, I made it my job to be the point person to try and convince people that our chosen path was the right one, and that there were exciting opportunities for everyone. Was it easy? Hell no! Was it painful? Hell yes!
But in the final analysis it paid off as people saw their leader answer the tough questions and take the hits necessary to convince them that the proposed path for the organization was worth going down.

STOP! expecting people to get it

Stop expecting employees to somehow understand by serendipity their role in the execution of organization’s strategic game plan.
Don’t assume they will get it.
Leadership must translate in detail what people in various functions — sales, marketing, customer service, finance — need to continue doing and what they must do differently. Without understanding, engagement is impossible.

My leadership team held workshops with every function in the organization to define the precise role each had to play to execute our strategy and to develop performance plans for every individual to make it happen.

STOP! commanding

Stop directing people what to do as a leadership style.
Stop telling and start asking… for opinions, advice, suggestions and help instead of shoving instructions down people’s throats.
Why would anyone be engagement-minded if they have zero freedom to express themselves in their job?

I was satisfied that my leadership team was on the “serving page” but felt we had work to do at particularly the frontline supervisor level. We held one-day Servant Leadership workshops with all supervisors to reinforce the expected behaviours.

STOP! using social

Stop sending email and using social media tools as the primary way to communicate with employees.
Stop one-way talks and start active two-way conversations through face-to-face real time engagement. Employees need to ask questions and get immediate feedback if they are to actively support the organization’s goals and objectives.

We declared a policy to management to cease email communications as a vehicle to disseminate information on strategy and to schedule regular face to face meetings with their employees to discuss the direction of the organization and how they felt about it.

STOP! being predictable

Stop doing everything “by the book”; preventing people from stepping out and showing some creativity. Start having fun.
Introduce levity and informality.
Allow people to break the rules to stimulate innovation. Surprise people — introduce “The Greatest Risk Taker Award”.

We introduced the notion of “Dumb Rules” to our values statement and declared that rules, policies and procedures that made no sense to customers and employees would be changed or outright killed.
And we held the management team accountable to do it.
Monthly Dumb Rules contests were held to recognize the person or team (with their manager) who killed the dumbest rule. A workplace party was held for the winner and fun was the word of the day.

STOP! thinking they will fall in line

Stop expecting people to align with the values of the organization.
Today’s workforce is not a homogeneous mix of ethnic backgrounds and life values; it’s a mosaic of heterogeneous cultures and expectations.
Stop thinking everyone will support your efforts; you have to earn it by recognizing and addressing the reality of diversity.

Our teams varied considerably and we chose to communicate our actions in a way that reflected the divergent value sets of our employees. This required detailed background research work but it paid off in the end.

STOP! playing favorites

Stop favouring any particular group.
Stop treating specific functions as “the chosen ones” in terms of the critical skills they possess or the strategic value they represent.
Marketing may be a vital element of your strategic game plan, for example, but constantly putting them on a pedestal will only alienate others to the detriment of universal engagement.

We treated my entire organization — over 2,000 people — as one team. There were no favourites. Each was expected to contribute equally to our strategic goals.

STOP! thinking small things are small

Stop ignoring the little things.
Stop thinking that a small act that doesn’t align with motivating employee engagement is no big big deal and will slide by unnoticed. It won’t. People always connect the dots and burn you when your words and music don’t match.

We included this issue in the employee surveys we conducted regularly, and discovered initially there were valid criticisms which, thankfully, decreased substantially over time as we made “what we say and what we do” a critical priority.

STOP! playing ping-pong

Stop flavour of the month change. Stop jumping from one tactic to another. It’s disingenuous and will convince employees that you are not committed to the course of action you have chosen.
Stay your course and tweak it only when you are hit by an unexpected negative event, not simply because you had another brainwave.

Our action plan was to knock off each POF with the top 3 leading the way. We didn’t vary the plan. Employees believed we were emotionally invested in a solution set that would improve things for them — and for us with higher levels of engagement.

STOP! the we-they

Stop separating the leaders from the workers. Stop the “us vs them” treatment in the workplace. How can people be willing to engage more if they don’t feel important and valued?
As long as they consider leadership team as the elitist group with special privileges they won’t change and engage more. Their suspicions that upper management isn’t prepared to work along with them will be confirmed; no progress is made.

As president of an organization that was geographically dispersed, I had a number of offices which I did NOT locate on the top floor with other executives (I took some heat from my peers for this). I tried to have each office in a building location that would increase my availability to people and made it known they were welcome to drop in unannounced if they so desired.
It took a while, but eventually people believed me and took advantage of the opportunity to meet and chat — since I spent most of my time in the workplace doing my “LBSA”, my office became a secondary focal point in any event.

Preventing disengagement by addressing POF’s as the first priority WILL result in more engagement.

It plays to what people expect of their leadership — first, listening to what upsets employees, and second, doing something about it.

Cheers,
Roy

Check out my BE DiFFERENT or be dead Book Series

Recent articles you might like
Why gulf in class dominates the best in class
How to avoid losing it after you’ve got it
What to do when you’re stuck

  • Posted 4.15.19 at 04:40 am by Roy Osing
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April 12, 2019

10 easy ways to leave your problems at home — guest post



When you spend eight hours a day in the workplace, it can be difficult to leave your personal life at the front door. While your job success is a big part of your life, it’s only one aspect of your life — and you don’t want to bring your personal life into it.

Whether you’re experiencing relationship issues, or you’re stressed about home repairs, here are a few tips to keep your problems at home.

Keep work at work

If you’re unable to establish boundaries for keeping your work at work, it’s going to be even harder to leave your problems at home. Time spent at home should be your time for dealing with your personal life.
Try to be present when you’re at home. Work-related items, such as a laptop or work phone, should be left at work. If you work from home, make sure you have a set schedule for work hours and leave all work supplies in your workspace.

Stay present during family time

Once you get home, live in the moment. If there are conversations that need to be had, or if you’re spending time with your kids, be engaged. Really listen to your partner when they’re telling you about their day.
Take time to have fun with your kids and be truly invested in their lives. Spend time manifesting the relationships in your life creating meaningful bonds with your family members. 

Find an outlet

You don’t need to live by, “Work, home, sleep, repeat.” Routine can get monotonous, boring, and detrimental to your mental health. If you are struggling with life at home, find a release that works for you.
Try to exercise, take a class, find a support group, or simply hang out with your friends. A healthy outlet may be the refresher you need to get back to work invigorated and not bogged down with the struggles of your home life.

Personalize your office space

An easy way to help out with our stress levels in by working in a visually pleasing environment. While you may not be able to redesign your entire office, try to make little changes to bring your personality to your desk.
Get a picture of your family, fancy office supplies, or a plant to freshen things up. Intentionally create an office space that you enjoy working in to help you focus on the task at hand.

Have a support system

It may be unrealistic to never talk about your personal problems at work. Instead of striving for perfection, select a few trustworthy coworkers as your support system.
Having coworkers who understand some of the things you go through outside of the workplace may be a way to relieve the built-up stress you feel throughout the day.
If you’re able to get things off your mind by talking to a coworker during your lunchbreak, it could help increase your productivity the rest of the day. It may ease your tension simply knowing that you have a network of trustworthy people you can reach out to if needed.

Take care of yourself and your home

Taking care of yourself and your belongings is essential in ensuring that you’re not constantly thinking about your problems. Make healthy habits by maintaining an exercise routine and scheduling routine maintenance on your home for example.
Taking care of your body and your home will eliminate some of the problems that may normally cross your mind at work.

Treat yourself

There’s nothing wrong with splurging every once in a while. If you’re feeling stressed, take yourself out for a nice meal during your lunch break instead of eating at your desk. Don’t be afraid to go out of your normal routine to do something that will bring you joy.
Never underestimate the power of unwinding to help get you through the last part of your day.

Take a breath

If you start to feel overwhelmed and are unable to get your mind off of your personal problems, consider going into a separate room and doing deep breathing exercises or mindful meditation.
Taking the time to clear your mind will make it easier to get back to the grind without having your productivity hindered too much.

Stay positive

Try to think about things in a positive light while you’re at work. One easy way to stay positive is by keeping a gratitude journal at your desk. Make it a daily habit to write something you’re grateful for and why.
This is an easy practice you can start so that when you get to work to shift your mindset from home life to a happy, productive workday.

Don’t try to be perfect

At the end of the day, nobody is perfect. It’s natural to discuss home life at work every once in a while.

The key is to make sure it doesn’t get to the point that it negatively affects your productivity or the organization’s bottom line.

Emma Cook is a recent graduate and freelance writer living in Raleigh, NC. She’s taking time to explore her passions and expand her writing portfolio. She enjoys writing about all things healthy living- whether it’s home life, aging, mental health, or seeking financial freedom. She’s passionate about helping people live their fullest lives and hopes to do so through her writing.

  • Posted 4.12.19 at 03:50 am by Roy Osing
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April 8, 2019

Why gulf in class absolutely dominates the best

I’m a huge football fan (soccer to you North Americans) and live to sing You’ll Never Walk Alone and watch the Reds put me through agony every game they play.

Recently the Reds defeated Bayern Munich in a Champions League match 3-1 to earn the right to progress to the quarter finals.

Of course the Liverpool media were all over the win, and a comment by the Liverpool Echo’s James Pearce caught my eye.

He labelled the Red’s domination of their opponent this way: “Liverpool played with real maturity and control— rock solid defensively, tireless in midfield and packing a punch going forward. There was a gulf in class.”

Gulf in class

What an effective way to describe the way they beat their competitors. It wasn’t that the Reds performed better than Bayern; it was more that they completely dominated them in an incomparable way.

Liverpool outmatched Bayern and we’re in a completely different category than their opponents; it wasn’t an incremental difference between the two, rather it was a huge gulf.
I got to thinking about how gulf in class is such a great way to describe an organization that was in a different class than their competitors. One that was unmatched by any other; one that was separate from the herd.

About the gulf, Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead said it best: “You don’t want to be merely the best of the best, you want to be the ONLY one that does what you do.”

How can you develop a gulf in class — a chasm — between yourself and your closest rival? There’s no silver bullet — no one thing — you can do; rather it’s several actions taken simultaneously that act synergistically and in unison to produce consistently amazing performance.

Gulf in class organizations distinguish themselves from “the best” in these 5 ways.

Leadership

Gulf in class organizations have amazing leaders who are dedicated in mind, spirit and body to serving every member of their team based on their individual unique needs.
They are revered by their team and will do anything for them. In the face of criticism, they support their people; they take the heat when team members have an off day.
Their end game is to help develop each team member as a human being not just a player.

Family

Gulf in class organizations aren’t organizations at all, they’re a family and everything they do is to build and maintain it.

“When I die, don’t bring me to the hospital. Bring me to Anfield. I was born there and will die there.” — Steven Gerrard

They represent the ultimate of inclusivity in the truest sense of the word.
EVERYONE is emotionally invested in the organization and committed to their success: employees, customers, stakeholders — all those who touch them.

Patience

Gulf in class organizations are patient with the intent to build themselves to win in the long term. They aim to out perform their opponents over the long haul accepting that short term blips along the way are just a fact of life.
They have a long term plan, they understand the competencies they need to achieve it and they consistently keep working hard to achieve their long term goals.

They live the “form is temporary; class is permanent” mantra focussing on what is needed to create something that lasts forever rather than on transitory short term performance.

Loyalty

Gulf in class organizations focus their energy on creating undying loyalty rather than enhancing employee engagement.
They understand that loyalty is a two-way street requiring the organization to earn the right to ask for the support of their family members. They extend a hand and people respond emotionally to perform to the best of their ability.

Giving

Gulf in class organizations give unselfishly to the communities where they do business.
The family “shows up” at local events to help those in need; employees volunteer their time and expect little in return.

Community involvement is a high priority in a gulf organization. It is viewed as a strategic program that commands a non-trivial portion of their annual operating budget.
It is included as a fundamental value of the organization and has specific objectives along with customer focus and revenue growth.

Gulf in class represents the ultimate expression of competitive advantage, but is rarely seen due to the incredible investment that it requires. But to those families like the Liverpool Football Club who have chosen to follow this path, success awaits.

Cheers,
Roy

Check out my BE DiFFERENT or be dead Book Series

Recent articles you might like
How to avoid losing it after you’ve got it
What to do when you’re stuck
How can small and independent retailers survive? — infographic

  • Posted 4.8.19 at 04:19 am by Roy Osing
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