Viewing entries tagged
business

Comment

Engaging Your Team: A framework for leading "difficult" people.

The cover of our eBook . . . .

Engaging Cover Mini copy.png

Here is a list of few things I’ve learned being in leadership positions for more than 25 years . . . how many do you agree with? How many have you experienced? Are their others that should be added to the list?

  • While there are lots of successful business models, business gets done through the effort of people.

  • Managers typically lose more sleep over people issues than they do business decisions.

  • Problems that persist in human systems are rarely simple, obvious, or subject to a quick fix. The easy fixes never become persistent issues.

  • Leaders fail to deal with “difficult employees” for a number of reasons but the biggest one is fear . . . in the leader themselves.

  • There are many successful business plans but success is determined by the action of people on the team.

  • People’s behaviors are, to a large degree, conditioned by their past experiences and only recognizing this and sustained focused practice create real changes.

  • The leader’s most difficult employee is likely to be one that differs the most from the leader in personality . . . and thus the one with the most potential to add balance to the team.

  • Leaders who are quick to see termination as the answer to problems will create teams with systemic problems of trust, loyalty, honesty, etc.

  • Leaders who will not address a toxic employee will demotivate and erode their team’s efforts.

Engaging Your Team: A framework for leading “difficult” people is an eBook we wrote to help managers and leaders. It can be downloaded for free (we do ask for your email), or, if you prefer, you can support our work and buy it on Gumroad.


Comment

Comment

Why won't they let go? Fear in the Family Business

The term “death-trap” comes to mind when I see this . . . but maybe that’s just me. Photo by  Priscilla Du Preez  on  Unsplash

The term “death-trap” comes to mind when I see this . . . but maybe that’s just me. Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

A Personal Confession

Rollercoasters evoke fear for me. There, I admitted it. It's not that the action of the rollercoaster—speed, erupt changes in direction or height—cause me fear, they don’t, it's the notion that these mechanical wonders . . . are mechanically complex machines . . . and complex machines . . . break.

Having admitted my fear, now, maybe, you will understand why the idea of “having a good time,” in my world, does not involve strapping myself to one of these mechanical devices; indeed, it would take just the right motivation (force?) to get me to risk of becoming a passenger. You may also, having realized the basis of my fear, be able to reason with me that my fear is irrational, and perhaps even in a way that gets me to reconsider my fear. After all, I do fly on airplanes. Oh, and yes, I have ridden rollercoasters in the past.

But, in the future? Probably not. For me a rollercoaster ride it is a waste of time and money. There is no “up-side” for me. I don’t get a thrill from riding. There is no “fun.” I’m long past the age of doing something I don’t like just to prove to others—or myself—that I’m not afraid. The motivator is going to have to be pretty good to get me to change.

Fear . . . and Holding on

If you got me on a rollercoaster and you were an astute observer, you might notice my discomfort. Nervous conversation, keen observation of the attendant locking the bar . . . subtle clues to my fear. Fear makes us want to “hold on” to what ever object seems to promise to save us from the feared outcome. A child will clutch to the seat or the safety bar or the parent,. an adult may simply hold on nonchalantly as possible but give away their fear when they “stiffen” with anxiety as the car moves over the course.

This fear and the natural tendency to “hold on”, reminds me of struggles I see in leadership transitions and particularly in Family Businesses—where the senior generation is holding on to the business and the younger generation is anxious to take over the controls.

So let's talk about the pertinent question from the younger generation's point of view . . . 

Why won't they let go?  

Ever had to "take the keys away" from an aging parent? Not so easy. For my family it was prompted by a few minor “accidents” over the course of one year followed by our local mechanic telling us that he intervened when one of my parents left the vehicle “in gear” and “bouncing against the concrete barrier” at a local store. He opened the car door, stepped on the brake, and put the car in “park.” Obviously, it was time.

So, why won't they give those keys up? Especially given all the alternatives for transportation? Family members reassure them that they will be taken wherever they want to go. There are offers to pay for assistance. Uber, Lyft, and other services are readily available in some cases. Still, they don’t want to hand over the keys.

Once the transition is accomplished—voluntarily or not—the senior often complains, repeatedly, about the inconvenience of not having their independent transportation and may have to be reminded about the reasons the keys were handed over . . . repeatedly. But, too often this difficult transition is made even more difficult because we think this should be a simple transition based on a logical analysis of the risks, right? Well, for many, it’s not.

Photo by  Laura Gariglio  on  Unsplash

It's a funny thing about humans . . . “Keys aren't just keys.” Those keys represent much more. The senior may see them as “my independence, my freedom, my way of not feeling like a burden to others, my way of helping” . . . there are deep emotional ties that make what seems like a simple exchange, become a complex path to navigate. John Gottman, a researcher at the University of Washington, coined the phrase “dreams within conflict” to describe how, at the root of conflict, there often is a dream that is being unrealized or threatened. Not realizing the threat to that dream makes the senior’s resistance irrational—and invites unfavorable judgements of “stubbornness, controlling, emotional, etc.”

For my mom, as an example, I think that giving up the keys meant that she would worry about being a “burden” to others—anathema to her self-sacrificing consideration of others—in depending on them for rides.

Turning over a business

Why won't the parent’s let go?  After more than two decades working intimately with families, I can sum it up in a word: Fear. (Leaders of all stripes are, too often, Managing by Fear . . . and family firms are no different. In fact, “close-systems”—such as family business where there are more emotional ties—are more likely to be affected by management by fear at critical points during their development!)

What fear? Fear that . . . 

  • the change/transition will make things worse

  • the transition will place a burden on their children

  • their own value and self-worth will be lost

  • spending more time with intimate relationships will make life more difficult

  • the business itself will struggle or fail

  • their departure as a leader will, some how, harm the family

  • fear that leaving will expose some personal weaknesses

One of the barriers to moving beyond this transition point, is that people are not very insightful about what is motivating their family member’s actions. The aging parent may think, "They are making too big a deal about this!" or "They just want my car!" . . . and their defensiveness, often becomes the excuse to redirect themselves from their own fear. The children do the same. “They won’t ever let go!” or “They want to keep control!” hides fears of not being trusted, anxieties about performance, and other issues. But back to the parents . . .

Find the Dream . . . and Address the Fear

Tied to each of these “fears” is a dream. The senior’s dreams that the change will not make things worse for the family, the employees, or the business. That there will still be a valuable role that the parent can occupy within the family or children’s lives. That family relationships will improve or at least not be damaged in the transition. That the business will continue to grow and succeed.

Helping the parent with the transition includes a couple of important steps.

First, they may need help in recognizing and stating their underlying dreams—taking care to both acknowledge the ones tied to the business role and not neglecting dreams that are not connected to the business**—and recognizing that there may be inherent conflicts within the dreams. For example, the senior may want to travel more, have less stress or responsibility and at the same time want to be present to make sure the burden on the younger generation is not too great to handle.

Second, they may need a well-defined process of addressing the fears and supporting movement toward making risk/reward decisions . . . normalizing and challenging the fears—that can help them get “unstuck” and make the transition move forward.

This is not an easy process. Often, it takes time, careful persistence to address the issues. Trust building (yes, even between parents and children!) and the slow process of addressing, and lowering, fears so that changes can proceed naturally. At times, families simply can’t, won’t, or will want to decrease the risks of a negative outcome by engaging an outside entity to guide the process.

However it gets approached, trying to force someone to get past their fears (i.e.: Fear Factor style) is fraught with risks. There is no doubt that it can make things change, if successful, but too often it will heighten fears, create more resistance, and worst of all, create a traumatic event that may harm the relationships necessary to make a transition good for everyone.

**Often the younger generation will over emphasize the dreams not tied to the business as a means to leverage change. This often backfires. The senior sees this as the younger generation trying to “force them out” or manipulate because the dreams and fears tied to the business are minimized instead of being addressed.

Available eBooks:

Engaging Your Team: A framework for managing difficult people.

Family Legacy: Protecting family in family business.

Comment

Comment

Team Training Needs to be like Music Lessons

My humble set up. Love my Taylor guitar and the discipline of practice and working toward mastery.

My humble set up. Love my Taylor guitar and the discipline of practice and working toward mastery.

Team Training as Music Lessons

If you really want your team training to make a difference . . . fashion them after music lessons . . . not school.

Remember music lessons? You go, have a 30 minute “lesson,” get your assignment, and go home to practice, hopefully daily, some exercise, technique or mastering a piece of music. Similar, but critically different, than the experience of school—at least as I experienced it—where much of the time the focus was on imparting information—through a lecture for example—where the goal was to master content and demonstrate that through regurgitating it on a test. (BTW: I realize that modern didactic approaches are trying to address this singular approach . . . through recognizing different learning styles and more comprehensive teaching processes . . . but let’s allow the simple duality for the same of drawing, what I think is, an important distinction.)

Two Distinct Approaches

Think about the differences in these two approaches . . .

Music Lessons Classroom

Focus is on skill acquisition. Focus on imparting information.

Short, repetitive instruction and daily practice. Lectures, homework and testing.

Narrow focus: scale, song, technique. Broad focus: history, terminology, theory

Emphasis on practice. Emphasis on teaching.

Outcome: improved skills. Outcome: content mastery.

Moving from “School” to “Lessons”

To often, team training is modeled more on a “school” platform instead of a “music lesson” style. I worked for a time for an organization that had an internal “university” for training. Once a month, the managers would get together for training and typically it was some form of “telling us” about something that would help us do our jobs. At best, it was a way to get a break from the daily grind, conduct business during breaks with our colleagues, and impart some . . . some . . . useful information. Many saw it as a “requirement” and generally a waste of time. Did we walk away with new skills? Rarely.

Supervisors and managers are in their positions precisely because they have skills. But that does not mean they have reached mastery. Like a musician or artisan, the skill building process is on-going because every new situation requires the application of skills in a new way. Just like each piece of music is different and the student has to learn how to apply their talent to performing that particular composition.

Practice . . . and Mastery . . . and Superior Performance

Yo-Yo Ma, the world renown cellist, said, “The goal of practicing is to achieve a freedom of the mind that enables one to physically do whatever they want to do. Careful practicing eventually allows one the freedom to be spontaneous, to react onstage to the moment.” I also heard this virtuoso in a live interview once comment that if he missed a day of practice, he would notice. If he missed two days, his teacher would notice. If he missed three days, the audience would notice.

Yo-Yo Ma, Wikipedia

Yo-Yo Ma, Wikipedia

How many leaders dedicate themselves to continuous skill development? How many organizations allow for, or prioritize skill development, as a goal for leaders? In my experience, not many.

Two stand out in my experience. One provided their “point person” to take several weeks each summer for continuous training. Another limited the role of their leader to one primary task in order to have them continue to develop a high degree of skill in that task. In both cases, the results were spectacular. Those two leaders excelled in their roles and it was clear why. The organizational support for their practicing and mastering their talks was remarkable.

Organizations have come to understand the need. They provide coaches, they allow time for continuing education, they promote leadership development. But few, really have a clear focus on creating a “music lesson” mentality and a consistent focus on specific skill development. The well-documented decline in interpersonal skills in the age of social media and virtual relationships among younger cohorts of leaders makes this need an urgent focus for the future of leadership in organizations.

Buy Engaging Your Team: A framework for leading “difficult” people here, or get it for free by joining our email list!



Comment

Comment

Hubris or Grandiosity?

Comment

Comment

Meeting with My Social Marketer/Graphic Designer Consultant

Andrew doing a TedX talk

Andrew doing a TedX talk

So, how does an "old dog" learn "new tricks?"  I refuse to believe that I . . . strike that . . . they, the old dogs, can't. Maybe that's why I stubbornly strive to complete my training as a fingerstyle guitar player despite having limited skills and no talent . . . or it could be just that sheer stubbornness. Anyway, I digress from the point.  How can someone . . . you or I . . . learn how to use the newer forms of marketing when we were not part of the technological generation?

Consultants. In my case a Social marketing/Graphic Designer who is 27 years old.  I know. I was there when he was born.  Yes, he is my son. But he is also someone who has developed two very successful Kickstarter campaigns, professionally works for firms in this capacity and, despite his youth, has widely read on the topic.

I know all of you don't have the good fortune of having a "kid" with this background, so, in this post I am going to summarize what I am learning.

1. Everything you do on-line should have a purpose. Is it to get traffic to your website? Get more people contacting you? Check out your free resources? Sign up for a newsletter?  You should have one goal and bend everything about your on-line connections to that goal.

2. A few simple, consistent, activities are better than a complex unmanageable plethora of activities. An active website where people can connect to your email list may be the one thing that your activities should support. So creating a blog, connecting no LinkedIn and Facebook (or your own 2 favorite venues) maybe enough.

3. Providing value is key.  You need to have good content, provide real value, and focus on helping others . . . not selling. People only buy things when they perceive that it has a value to them.

4. Having an outside consultant who doesn't get bogged down in the day-to-day fluctuations of operating your business helps tremendously.  A meeting with my consulting son clarifies what needs to be done, how to do it, and unleashes my work ethic in a dynamic way that makes the time and cost well worth it.  I'm a hard-sell on this myself (some would call it being cheap!) but I have learned to appreciate the value it provides. 

So here's how it is laid out for my business . . . 

  • Create high-quality "landing pages" on my website where people can get free ebooks

  • include links to these landing pages through blog posts, LinkedIn and Facebook

  • Add people to our email list and continue to provide them with valuable emails

  • Hopefully those who have additional needs will be interested in connecting with us at a higher level . . . through our publishing, training, and consulting

And here's the connection:  Free ebook Engaging Your Team: A framework for leading "difficult" people.  As a bonus you will get to see Andrew's graphic designs in the ebook.

Comment

Comment

What is an Organizational Behavioral Consultant?

Keith & Bryan.png

Organizational Behavioral Consultant.  

Organizational Behavioral Consultant. It's a mouthful isn't it?  That’s the title one early consultee used as a label for what HSC does with organizations. What exactly does it mean?  Well, I'll give you my take.  

First, the focus on Organizations means understanding the human "system."  Our founder, Bryan Miller, was steeped in systems theory including taking courses on topics like “Cybernetics of Cybernetics”—a course on the “system of human systems”—whose underpinnings were all about systemic theory. Studying how complex systems of human work was critical to the founding of HSC.

So, when we talk about consulting with organizations, or being an Organizational Behavioral Consultant (OBC)—the consultant should have a focus on the organization as a wholistic richly cross-joined system.  He or she needs to understand the entire "animal" and how subsystems work within the larger needs of the organization.  They need to understand that each subsystem is interdependent upon the others and a change in one will effect the other subsystems.

Second, Behavioral means that the focus is on how the organizations actually "acts"--what it believes, says, and does. No grand theoretical models here!  Instead it is a practical, pragmatic, approach that focuses on real outcomes and solutions. Understanding human behavior can, of course, be acquired over time by any consultant. However, at HSC, our consultants have backgrounds in the helping professions and leadership. With high-level training, and experience, in understanding the complex behavior of groups and individuals, HSC provides a rigor and depth of analysis and direction not found in typical consulting processes.

Third, consultant.  At HSC, this means a collaborative partnership.  Working with the talented, smart, experienced leadership in a way that allows our "outside" perspective and experiences with the methods, processes, and tools of consulting to help influence and guide the steps to creating the most effective and successful system. Our approach is to build upon the strengths of the organization and it’s leadership. Challenging each to rise to its best performance and breaking down barriers to that goal.

These traits . . . system-focused, behavioral, collaborative . . . enable us to use our tools (employee interviews, focus group, action planning, coaching) to quickly identify and target issues holding back the organization and free it to move forward in a less stressed and sustainable manner.

Well, that's it.  Organizational. Behavioral. Consultant. This defines HSC and the work we do to help leaders and organizations support and connect the power of their human resources.

Available eBooks:

Private Practice through Contracting: Decreasing dependence on insurance.

Engaging Your Team: A framework for managing difficult people.

Family Legacy: Protecting family in family business.

Comment

Comment

Taking your business on line.

First, I should tell you that I am not an IT expert.  However, I am fairly competent with IT (for my age). Although I the language I learned was "Basic" on a Wang magnetic-tape drive computer . . . I still have a basic handle on how computers and, simple, coding works.  Thus, in my own assessment, I'm not entirely without "an idea" but neither am I a professional.  I tell you this to help you put the following in context.

I am currently working to take much of my consulting services on line.  With the dramatic changes that continue to occur in IT it is at times overwhelming to try and sort through the "chaff" to get to the "grain" (Forgive the agricultural reference, but I am from the midwest . . .).  So here I want to tell you about the very best tools I have found. If you do any contracting (or want to) then I would encourage you to check these out.

If you are not very IT savvy, you can still go operate on line but you may need more "professional support." Once you get comfortable running, what I call a "team of teams" it becomes much easier to take on complex tasks outside your direct line of experience. This is critical in being a model leader, entrepreneur, or consultant.

All the best!

Bryan

 

The best tools I have found for taking business on line:

Squarespace:

For you website, I don't think you can do better than use this.  My IT son would probably disagree (but then again, he has had to spend a lot of time helping me transfer over information from the origin website we programmed together several years ago).  Why Squarespace?  Because it is a locked down version that allows a lot of flexibility.  

If you want to spend your time coding and creating your own very unique and specially designed website then Squarespace may not be for you.  Although you can introduce your own coding, it is purposely limited.  The upside? If you just want something easy to use, flexible, powerful, and professional looking then this is a great choice. After all do you want to spend your time building a website or building your business?

Trello

Trello is an awesome project management and organizational system. I use Trello to organize my operational tasks, as a marketing contact manager, to do project management, track my invoices and payment, create job-specific calendars for clients, share information and resources, and to promote and connect others to my products.

The primary reasons I use Trello are to build a strong brand for myself, develop products and processes that can be replicated (for myself and others), and connect clients with my business.  It truly is one of the most flexible and useful tools out there.

Gumroad

Have some products to sell?  Gumroad is a great place to set up shop and sell your physical and digital products.  Easy to use and connect to your website there is nothing out there that surpasses it as a vendor at this time.

Google Forms

Want to do a survey for a client?  Hope to set up a survey on your website to engage them and get people interested in your products and services?  Google Forms is a great way to create surveys, collect data, and display the results.

Join Me

For video conferencing (and sharing your desktop) I have found Join Me to be a friendly and useful tool.  They software is easy to learn and the basic services work very well.  The very first time I attempted to use Join Me . . . it worked with little or no struggles to "learn the software."  

I have other services and software that I use regularly but none of them live up to the satisfaction I have had with these five.  As I find other alternatives that are especially good, I'll share them here.  I hope you will share your "finds" here as well. A good recommendation is a great way to cut through the clutter and find the few jewels that will set you apart and make succeeding more likely.

Google Forms

I have used Google Forms for multiple purposes. Created my own on line surveys, signed up attendees for conferences and had the fill out a post-conference evaluation, created employee satisfaction surveys, and other sundry items.  It is user-friendly, intuitive, and can be shared with others easily.  Check it out!

If you have some on line tools you find very useful, please share them and we will check them out, and write about it as well!

Thanks, in advance, for sharing!

 

Comment