What do you do when someone reneges on a promise?

Have you ever worked with someone (e.g., boss, co-worker, customer or vendor) who promised to deliver by a certain time and date, and failed to do so? And, kept failing over and over to keep their word? Some may not even remember making the promise, relying upon a false memory. Worse? They may use their position (e.g., being the boss, government official, etc.) to exonerate their lie. You may even have the agreement in writing. Yet, that doesn’t help you achieve the results you need for your company or meet a critical project deadline. How do you handle this bad behavior (if ongoing)? How can you minimize or prevent future miscommunications?

Take notes. Too often we believe we’ll remember what someone else has said. The problem?  Most human beings are very poor listeners, including you! They’ll even excuse any written agreements or emails by saying, “I was too busy and simply skimmed it.” Or, “I was simply agreeing with you!” HUH? When we are negotiating and setting up any type of agreement with another person, we need to stop(!) multi-tasking and focus 100% on what is being said. Clearly establish the “By-When” date and time the product or project will be completed and delivered. Set up checkpoints to monitor progress at the beginning and make any necessary adjustments as you go along, together. Include any additional specifications or verbal agreements outside the original agreement. Review immediately with the other person before moving on to other topics or concluding the meeting. 

Talk it out. Too often when something is not working out as expected, there is apt to be a barrage of emails back and forth. This will rarely resolve an issue since most can be easily misinterpreted. Is there a concern that your client doesn’t feel comfortable expressing? Is there a consequence to them if they admit to a mistake? Is there an unreasonable expectation that simply cannot be fulfilled? You’ll never know unless you ask. Don’t be afraid to discuss and see what win-win outcome(s) can be created. After the project completed, meet face-to-face with the person to resolve any residual concerns. Simply blowing it off will rarely prevent it from happening again, with this person or another!

Our critical ego. Too often we label the other person when problems occur. We tell others the person(s) doesn’t have a high level of integrity, a value. Others may or may not agree with your assessment; however, if they act upon it, it can create a liability for your career or your company. Be careful using words like “integrity,” “ethics,” “need to forgive,” etc.  These are hot buttons today. If you push any one of them, there will probably be an explosion. Instead of playing this no-win game of finger pointing (remember every time you point a finger, there are three fingers pointed back at you), focus on the needs of the project. Work through the issues or concerns to resolve them in a win-win manner.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2011

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Why doesn’t your Winning Formula always work?

We all love to win. We get upset with any set back and perceive it as failure. We fail to realize that some failure is inevitable. It is simply part of the process to achieve results! Instead, we take these perceived failures personally and blame ourselves, bosses, co-workers and clients. We fail to listen to others, falsely listening to our own ego at the expense of the company. So instead of learning from others and moving through the “issue,” we halt new ideas, projects or long overdue resolutions. (Think: slamming shut an iron door!) Many times, we keep failing over and over, yet hope for different results. It’s time to move out of this quagmire.

Get others on the same page. Allowing others to cause you frustration is not being responsible for your own inadequate interpersonal or project management skills. It means you need to help others get on the same page with you. Enable them to be part of the solution. At times you will sound like a parrot, saying the same thing over and over! It’s your job to include team members, even if they don’t behave in an ideal fashion. If your boss or co-worker(s) has a tendency to thwart your progress, keep him/her apprised of your plans and the actions taken to-date. Unfortunately, if you have a boss who is fearful of failure, he will listen more closely to the nay-sayers. If it’s a co-worker with an “ax to grind,” you may need to reconfigure his/her input with the team. Regardless, you are responsible for selling the project‘s intended outcomes, financial results and impact on the company. The key? Be clear. Be consistent.

Step outside your comfort zone. We falsely believe working beyond our usual comfort zones might give others power or the ability to win over us. We hold on dearly to attitudes, behaviors and other destructive patterns that ultimately limit our winning effectiveness. The truth is, in order to gain and retain a competitive edge in the marketplace, we must repeatedly achieve results outside the norm. The key is to simply acknowledge discomfort, and be accountable for your role in achieving the results. If you focus on the end results, yet still keep your eyes on the current situation, you will find the answer. Communicate often with your team members. Then they are more likely to join in and help create a winning outcome.

Have you reached your Peter Principle? “Every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.” (Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull, The Peter Principle, 1969.)  Unfortunately, if we lack the depth and bandwidth to effectively do our job, we will blame others for our lack of skills and lack of results. The key is to hire a coach. Use a validated 360-degree tool to help clarify inherent strengths and weaknesses from others’ perspectives. A good tool will also provide additional training and coaching information to develop key leadership skills. Develop three-month goals and Focused Action Plans. Do the work; there are no short-cuts! If a project’s results are less than expected, take it in stride; you will plan differently next time. Remember, failure is a great opportunity to learn successful skills we otherwise would have ignored!

©Jeannette Seibly, 2011

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Ah-ha’s can be used successfully

Many of us experience ah-ha’s. As a result, we may develop a more positive attitude towards our jobs or clients. We might undertake an uncharacteristic, proactive role in resolving an issue or we may simply see a former blind spot that was getting in our way of being an effective leader. Too often, we realize we sincerely want to change and utilize our new insights. We say we’re going to do something. But unfortunately, we never do.

What’s an ah-ha or insight? Usually it’s an intuitive moment that has no real objective basis. It can be fleeting if we’re unaware. For example: You attend a seminar and suddenly realize you have poor listening skills. The challenge is follow-through. Even though you might write it down, it is forgotten come next week. Or you might remember it but don’t take any actions in a timely way to reinforce it (Think: maybe on Monday I’ll start to use my new listening skills. But by Monday nothing is farther from your mind.). These insights can disappear quickly if we don’t take concerted action. Paradoxically, it does no good to take action too quickly, without the reality of a focused action plan (e.g., decide your boss is the wrong one and quit).

It’s a three-step process. Too often we believe our ah-ha’s are the event! The end of all our current problems. We become “navel gazers” and simply wish to revel in the good feelings. Then, we get upset when that ah-ha disappears, or stops providing the difference it did when we first recognized it. First, understand an ah-ha is simply the start of a new journey. We don’t know where it will eventually lead. Second, put together a focused action plan. It’s not recommended that you submit a letter of resignation without having planned for the reality of being unemployed. Don’t restructure your department at work believing it will end all of your problems without taking into account all the ramifications a restructuring brings. Third, take action on your plan, step-by-step, after talking with your coach or boss to assess the details.

Share appropriately. We’re so excited by our new revelations. We tell everyone and insist they do the same! Unfortunately, it’s a great way to lose credibility at work, particularly if you’re the boss. Respect the fact that others may have a different view of your ah-ha, and it might not necessarily be a positive one. When sharing, share what actions you’ve taken and the difference it made for you. Do not insist others should have the same experience or perspective. They rarely do.

Balance human insights along with the more objective factual ones. The secret is to ‘try on’ your ah-ha immediately. When you buy a new coat or hat, you ‘try it on’ first. For example: ‘Try on’ the idea of being self-employed or living somewhere else. Talk with others first. Find out the realities (e.g., no steady paychecks, must be able to sell your product or service via human interaction, no friends or family close by, subtle cultural differences, etc.). There is no magic bullet in any new venture. It will take work. For more personal attributes, realize your old habits can be difficult to break, no matter how destructive they may have been. Consciously work with your new insight for 21 days. If that seems too confronting, take 20 minutes per day. Be open to fine-tuning with your coach or boss. Together, develop plans to build for future successes (e.g., join a community Board, be a team lead on a project, learn a new skill in accounting or human relations, etc.).

Putting your ah-ha’s into action can make a long-term difference!

©Jeannette Seibly, 2011

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Creating Excuses vs. Creating Results

Have you ever noticed? People are a lot better at creating excuses than they are at creating results!

They know if they don’t create a great story or rationale for not achieving results, they’ll look bad. Unfortunately, they fail to understand that failing to achieve required results hinders their company’s success in the marketplace. It hinders their own ability to transform their company, customer relationships and projects. Worse yet, this type of failure can derail their career irretrievably. 

It’s contagious. The biggest issue with allowing excuses to plague the board room is that excuses are merely rationalized reasons for failure. Some are very well rehearsed and we automatically buy into them, at the expense of ourselves and/or the company. We buy into them for various reasons (e.g., we like the person, we’re glad it’s them and not us on the hot seat, we have no idea how to get the results, we have no interest in the project or fear getting involved, etc.). Even the best of us can fall into using the “it’s not my responsibility” defense. Sadly, when this mindset spreads and permeates the company – as often happens – everyone has an excuse to give up. Set aside failure as fate accompli. Ask business questions that are on point and not just talking to talk. The answer is there! Brainstorm and listen for the gold.

Check all the boxes. Simply checking all the boxes isn’t going to move you ahead if you don’t include the human element in your checklist. Too often we focus solely on the material side of a project and forget the people involved. Or, we get so focused on the “feel good” of the project, we neglect making the hard decisions required (e.g., positive ROI). When we bypass setting up a tracking system to hold everyone accountable and manage poor attitudes, we derail progress. Use a business mentor to ensure that the milestones and focused action plans support the declared goal (think, impact on bottom line). Many times it may only require a slight change to get back on track. Other times an entire re-design may be necessary. Either way, do what you must to ensure forward progress.

Close the loop. As a boss or team leader, we fail to follow-up on the progress needed to achieve the results required. Our excuses: We’re too busy! We allow limited thinking or territorial issues to get in the way of doing the right thing the right way. Many times we make the process harder than it needs to be and buy into false accomplishment. Learn to truly listen to others. This is particularly important when you don’t want to listen or if they don’t seem to be making sense right away. There is an answer. To move progress forward during a meeting, write-up an agenda and follow it! Create a sense of immediacy and encourage engagement by distributing minutes (with assignments determined during the meeting!) within 48 hours.

How do you design a plan that works? How do you create unprecedented results? Learn how. 5D ResultsTM to be released soon!

(c)Jeannette Seibly, 2011

Are your best employees difficult to work with?

Difficult employees can be very competent, technically. Or, they might have great people-savvy but limited technical abilities. Due to this global market we operate within, they may have entirely different definitions of integrity, ethics, and other core values. They provide challenges to you as the boss.  Either they do not have a well-balanced approach to issue resolution, or worse, they refuse to develop these abilities. Although they may lack the interest to acquire these skills, they end up blaming you when problems arise! As the leader, you must be proactive. It may save your job.

Use scientifically validated assessments. Using an assessment tool will facilitate a better understanding of each person’s thinking style, core behaviors and occupational interests.  It will provide a bigger picture of their personality traits in comparison to the rest of the working population, which provides them with a better understanding of why they may have trouble working with different types of people. To receive the biggest ROI, have all your employees together when debriefing the results.

Require appropriate training.  Investing in areas where these employees require a stronger skill set may make all the difference. Enable highly technical people to develop the appropriate people skills. Develop project management skills for employees who have great people skills but show little interest or ability to manage processes and details. Remember to include training for setting goals and achieving results on-time and within budget. Ethics training for all employees is a great tool to get everyone on the same page.

Exploit strengths. If your employees are good either with the details or the bigger picture, have them review a current project with you and together determine why it is stalled or not working well. Listen for the gold; ask questions. See if these individuals can uncover the issue(s) themselves. Even if they have been the biggest nay-sayer, this process will bolster their own buy-in to the project.

Keep attitude positive. Too often we place blame on difficult employees and hold them responsible for our own negative attitude towards them. Unfortunately, you foster dissension that may spread to other employees when you do. Instead of creating this hostile working environment, teach your employees how to value others’ contributions, regardless of how they share their ideas  Be a better boss by conveying how to do this through your example. Your ROI will be evident as you watch your employees develop stronger interpersonal skills and build a cohesive team.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2011

Leadership Maturity

Honestly ask yourself:

Are you able to discuss others’ opinions without being defensive?

Do you know how to take an idea or concept and make it profitable?

Do you laugh at appropriate jokes without taking it personally, even if it’s about you?

Do you have the ability to see the bigger picture and patience to rephrase it into bite-size pieces so that others can get on the same page?

Can you make decisions that balance both the facts and the human interests?

If you answered yes to these questions, good for you! You are on the right track as a leader. The higher up the corporate ladder we climb the more our effective leadership relies upon interpersonal skills such as these and less about technical expertise.

But often as leaders, we take ourselves too seriously. We are unable to build upon ideas or create a consensus that works. We openly disparage others when they disagree with us. We exclude people with broader experience instead of learning from them, and defend our limited experience in an attempt to feel better about ourselves. This is career limiting behavior for any leader!

Persuasive Listening. To truly listen, we must silence our internal chatterbox and refrain from thinking about our response when others are talking. We will hear similarity in arguments even when it appears we are on a different side of the issue. Good leadership skills – like active listening – provide new solutions that might not be readily apparent.

Be open to differing opinions. We can make better decisions for our companies and organizations when we openly hear what others have to say. But if we become defensive or belittle differing perspectives, we make less than adequate decisions, fail to address the bigger picture or miss details for implementation entirely.  We create a negative reputation for ourselves and our organizations. Disparaging others reflects more negatively upon the speaker than the person being belittled!

Be a team player. Many leaders don’t make good team players. They may play at being part of the group; however, they are more interested in how it applies or affects them personally.  Team has evolved into a broader definition this decade: It’s getting everyone on the same page and moving forward together. It’s not about everyone thinking the same thing or using the same signals or jargon!  It’s about learning to appreciate others and elicit the best in them, as they are. Learn this masterful skill and be seen as a leader to follow!

(c)Jeannette Seibly, 2011

Ninety-nine percent of the world’s information is in people’s heads

Too often we believe that we know it all. This is compounded by easy access to the internet, social media sites, on-line libraries, and other material resources. We fail to realize that our effectiveness as leaders relies upon our ability to converse, listen and learn from other human beings! When we allow our egos to get in the way, we limit issue resolutions, fail to recognize our current thinking has created issues, or we assume we’ll get to the answer ourselves if we simply think longer. A mental monologue does not provide new information or perspectives! It simply regurgitates what’s already in one’s brain.

Draw a circle the size of a pie. Let’s say in this illustration that the circle/pie represents all the information and knowledge in the world. Now cut a very tiny sliver of it.  Yes, that’s what we know that we know. Take another tiny sliver and that’s the equivalent of what we know that we don’t know!  What’s left?  Almost a whole circle/pie!

Learn how to ask questions.  If you sound like an interrogator, you will leave others feeling defensive and you’ll usually get flippant responses. If you don’t listen and keep asking the same questions, people will stop sharing possible solutions. Remember, we never learn everything in one conversation! Learning is a lifelong process. That’s why there are other people in the world! Lighten up and learn to have real conversations.

Set aside ego.  Admit you don’t know the answer. Learn to brainstorm ideas, particularly out-of-the-box concepts. Interestingly, many times it’s the idea that appears to be off-the-wall that provides the best solution. Also, if you have difficulty taking risks or making mistakes, you’ll never learn how to improve yourself, a project or the financial well-being of your company. You learn the most from your best teacher – experience. However, piling up too many failed experiences will not bode well for your psyche.  Healthy leaders build on strengths, not weaknesses. Hire a business mentor to guide you through an operational, people or financial challenge. Mentors enable you to take calculated risks as you design and implement a strategic plan.

Listen for the gold mine. When you are truly listening, you will find a wealth of insight that you had never considered. Don’t grab the first couple of ideas and retreat, believing you now have the answers! Ask questions of others to see how you can segue these ideas into focused action plans with attainable results! Sometimes your perception of who may be the most unlikely people to talk with will surprise you; they may have the solutions that work or contacts to answer the questions!

(c)Jeannette L. Seibly, 2011

Have Confidence in Your Leadership during a Disaster

We all experience disasters. Catastrophic events like damaging weather or fire can present immense challenges. People-created debacles involving our workers or competitors can catch us just as off guard.  How we react as leaders either compels others to follow us or sends them careening off. These split-second choices determine our reputation as decision makers. Ultimately they impact our career and the financial well-being of the company. 

Whether it is a random day-to-day frustration or major upset, how you handle it creates others’ perceptions of your capabilities as a boss and leader. Inappropriate action or a complete failure to act only creates more of a crisis. The same happens if you take your frustrations out on others or allow your ego to run the show. In the midst of mayhem it is essential to remember: A crisis isn’t about you! It’s about your ability to make sound decisions certain to impact the lives and livelihood of others.

Understand you can’t control it. You can only control how you react to it.  Tornados, ice storms or other natural disasters will cause disruptions to day-to-day business.   Create a well-planned disaster response. Promote it comprehensively so everyone knows what to do. Have practice drills every few months to remind everyone  how to do it. Stress the difference this plan can make in saving lives and important business data. Have a plan in place to relocate the business to reduce business interruptions and limit negative financial impact. Track that all staff are consistently taking the necessary day-to-day actions (e.g., backup of data, keeping backup off-site, etc.) every day without fail. Make this priority training for new hires. 

You did what!!??  When employees make a serious error in judgment, get the facts from them first!  Figure out what happened by asking clear questions of everyone directly involved. Too often, bosses conduct incomplete inquiries, collect hear-say and leap into action before they have the benefit of facts.  Delaying reaction intensifies the damage (e.g., on-the-job injury, harassment, etc.). Waiting will reduce the value of fresh information. If you’ve handled the matter inappropriately, others may hold back, sharing only limited information in an effort to distance themselves from you.

Act promptly with clarity. Once you have the facts, act immediately. Waiting for all the details can limit your effectiveness. Develop a plan with your team members supported by the facts and SOPs (Standard Operating Policies & Procedures).  Act with confidence, even if you don’t feel it. Remember, you’re the person-in-charge. Others will take their cues from you and if you don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill, they won’t either! If Plan A doesn’t work, move to Plan B. Be prepared to change strategy if circumstances change and new information requires it.

When your only course of action is damage control, be calm and deliberate. Your confidence and leadership is the best disaster insurance.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2011

The Art of Straight Talk

Effective leaders know how to elicit the best in others through communication. They have great listening skills and people feel great after conversing with them. Unfortunately, too many rely upon manipulative techniques or hide behind technology. The results are disastrous!

Many people fear talking with others. They attempt to hide their discomfort by using company lingo or business jargon. Others don’t readily understand what they are saying. Sometimes they are not clear themselves, and may use terms inappropriately in the hopes they sound important. They offer flippant opinions about how something should be resolved without taking into account details or perceiving nuances that might be present. They are very poor listeners. They allow their minds to wander and think about other issues, falsely believing they are saving time. They over use qualifiers (e.g., try, might, etc.) in a vain attempt to have others “feel good” about talking to them. Leaders must achieve results, not merely try!  Your team looks to you for motivation and direction. Do not disengage their efforts!

Use multiple mediums to convey your message!  Many workers have only a 6th grade reading level. To complicate it further, many don’t read for comprehension. They read just enough to get it done and be able to say they read it. When questioned about content, they clam up. They might share a few words they remember reading, or simply claim, “I don’t remember.” Time has been wasted and everyone is disengaged. To communicate well, write simplistically. Speak in a clear manner that readily helps the other person get on the same page with you. This is particularly necessary when sharing new ideas. Talk someone through a new policy or procedure. Take the time to provide opportunities for Q&A. Use visual examples. The keys to successful communication are consistency and repetition.

Listen. It saves time and money. We believe we can look into the whites of someone’s eyes and know whether or not they are telling the truth!  Then, we operate accordingly.  (Truth: statistically we are only 14% accurate about deception.) We need to learn how to ask the right questions. We need to learn how to listen not for the answers we want to hear, but to the answers actually provided.  If you truly listen, you’ll be amazed by what you can learn.

Move the conversation forward.  We believe if we can repeat back what someone has said, we listened!  Or worse, we are mind readers. In that case we don’t need to actively listen and just wait until it’s our turn to talk. Simply repeating back someone’s words does not mean you listened! Unless you build upon someone else’s information, to them it is like having a conversation with a wall!  Listening is the ability to hear the spoken and unspoken words.  Take what is said and move the conversation forward. Now that’s value added.

The bottom line is that a well-run company works to communicate in a manner that others readily understand: verbal, written and visual delivery of the message. Communication is consistent, simple, and when necessary, repetitive.

(c)Jeannette Seibly, 2011

Negative Leaders Kill Results

Leaders with bad attitudes fail to deliver consistent results.  They are unable to inspire others or engage others in the company.  It’s one reason for their higher rates of unemployment or unsuccessful business start-ups. When someone views everything as wrong, it’s hard on the psyche of others. The key is authentic and inspirational positivity.  On the flip side, leaders who have positive attitudes set the tone for the entire organization. They create a culture ripe to resolve issues and achieve unprecedented results. Do not confuse this with a Pollyanna approach, where everything is great and there is rampant denial about the importance of unresolved issues.

You are ultimately responsible. Unfortunately, arrogant leaders who believe they are better human beings than their employees, fail to review the details necessary to achieve the results they desire. These leaders do not take responsibility to inspect cause and affect themselves, then have the nerve to blame other team members for their own blunders. This negative behavior can be very costly. Remember – manage each process in a positive, can-do, manner. Don’t micromanage your people or their individual personality traits.

See the possibility. One of the most telling traits of a good leader is people seeking out your counsel. Learn to see the possibility in other’s ideas, even when they are clearly flawed. Help others view their challenges as simply an opportunity to grow – even if they are not coachable. Learn to evaluate these ideas using the 2-2-2 approach: 2 good aspects of the idea, 2 specific areas for improvement, followed by 2 good aspects of the person and/or idea.

Choose to have great days! While everyone occasionally has a bad day, if you have them often, you may be in the wrong position within your company. If prior to this position you were typically a positive person, seek medical help for this negative change. Pursue assistance from a coach or therapist, who can point out negative leadership behaviors and work with you to practice positive approaches. Every result has a front-of-hand / back-of-hand component. One side of your hand shows a negative perspective and the other side shows a positive opportunity – but it’s still the same hand! The point? Your perception!  Your attitude makes all the difference in achieving results. Yes, it is contagious!

360-degree feedback.  It’s important you know how your team rates you as a leader.  Conduct a 360-degree assessment and learn about which critical leadership traits you may possess and which you need to improve. A good assessment will be validated and provide a “how-to-improve” section. Contact author of this article for additional information:  JLSeibly@SeibCo.com


©Jeannette Seibly, 2011