Friday, December 18, 2015

taking giftedness for granted

Every organization has them...people who are gifted at what they do.  They make amazing things happen with limited resources; they seem to do their work effortlessly; they can wait until the last minute and their work is still awesome; they are often lauded for their work more externally then internally; and they are the ones who bring attention and recognition to the organization.  As leaders, we are giddy over their performance and do anything we can to keep them happy and motivated.  But is it enough?  And what is it that gifted people most need to stay engaged at their highest level over a long period of time?  Here is my attempt to answer that question.

  1. Gifted people need to be is not enough to pay them and expect them to do their job.  The extra pats on the back and "atta-boys" are often enough to keep them going for a few more months.  Consistently praising them, both privately and publicly, goes a long way in keeping them happy and productive.
  2. Gifted people need to be rewarded...this goes so far beyond the monetary side of rewards (though that is a part of this).  People who produce want to have the tools they need to produce more and better, and are happy to keep producing at a high level when they know that they can have access to what they need.  The organization that rewards its gifted individuals will keep getting more and more from them over time.
  3. Gifted people need to be protected...these people are often incredibly focused and think about one thing, and because of that focus can tend to frustrate others in the organization.  Leaders need to help these gifted individuals broaden their horizons and help others understand how the gifted individual thinks.  Running interference for the gifted people in our organizations is part of the job of leaders.
  4. Gifted people need to be fed...while giftedness may come naturally to many, it also comes as a result of hard work, and these people are always wanting to learn more so they can do more with their gift.  Sending them to conferences, introducing them to other gifted people, and giving them room to grow as they need to grow are all important for the feeding of their gift and talent.
There is always a dark side to giftedness, thus the reason many gifted individuals burn out or burn bridges behind them.  Setting limits, developing structures, and regular conversations can help our gifted workers navigate these issues and keep them from hurting themselves and others.  Take time today (and during the weeks and months ahead) to care for these people who mean so much to your organization.

Friday, December 11, 2015

leadership workouts

Part of my routine is to workout 3-4 times a week for 45-60 minutes, lifting weights and walking on the treadmill.  At the end of each workout, I determine success by what I call the sweat and soreness much have I sweated and how sore am I over the next 24 hours?  If I achieve a high sweat and soreness score over a period of time, I feel better and am in better shape over the long haul.  So it is with get better at what I do in this role, I need to consider my sweat and soreness measure as a leader.  Let me explain:
  • When was the last time a presentation made you sweat because you had opened yourself up to questions and were not sure what the next one would be?
  • How often have you walked out of a meeting feeling a little beat up because you allowed your team to be open and honest with you?
  • How often do you find yourself sweating because you are making decisions of which you are not sure of the outcome?
  • When was the last time you sweated having to deliver bad news...and hurt a little bit because you actually delivered that news?
  • How often are you reading something that makes your brain hurt?
  • What new thing are you trying that makes you hurt in places you never imagined existed?
Here are two caveats to the sweat and soreness measure of leadership:
  1. Many people find that exercising in groups holds them more accountable and is actually more sure to include your team in your workout.
  2. The higher my sweat and soreness measure after a good workout, the better I feel about myself - the same is true for leaders.
Enjoy your next workout!

Friday, December 4, 2015

why hire a consultant?

As we finished the two day retreat with our consultant this week, the question of why would anyone hire a consultant plagued my mind...could we have done this ourselves?  why are we spending money on this?  are we a better institution now than we were before they arrived?  Upon further reflection, I realized that our consultants had been worth their price in gold - and that by using them and taking advantage of what they brought to the process, we were not only better today but we would be much better in the future.  So...why hire a consultant?  Here are several reasons that come to mind:

  • Believe it or not, there are people smarter than us.  As someone recently reminded me, "If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room."
  • Very few executive teams have all the skills that they need to get the job done.  Finding someone to come alongside and help fill in the skills gap makes sense.
  • COULD we have done the work ourselves? Perhaps.  WOULD  we have done the work ourselves? Maybe. And would we have done the work ourselves in such a TIMELY MANNER?  Probably not.  Consultants can bring focus and urgency to a process.
  • Consultants have worked with similar institutions and can provide feedback based on what those institutions do - or don't do.  Having such a comparison helps move the process forward.
  • It is easy to be distracted from what's important to what is urgent.  An outside consultant and partner can help keep the focus on the important rather than only the urgent...if you let them.
  • Having a trusted partner outside of the institution can give perspective to the leader and the team.  Seeing them as a partner rather than a vendor goes a long way in ensuring completion of the project.
Hiring a consultant is only part of the work...listening to the consultant is another part of the work...using the consultant in an on-going relationship is yet another part of the work.  And finally, the organization has to DO THE WORK itself, or the work of the consultant is in vain.  Why hire a consultant?  To help the organization do its work in moving the mission forward.