3 Steps to Succeed in the Age of Agile Leadership

Change your mind and the best will follow you; 3 steps to demonstrate agile thinking, in a way that makes people want to follow.

If you are in a leadership role, you have a problem. Your people want you to communicate consistently and you are also expected to be agile in your decision making to keep up with the ever-increasing speed of business. This creates a paradox. On one hand, your people want you to be consistent and always do what you said you would do in the past. The company requires you to change what you think and say, based on the current needs. You and your people, and the company want the best possible outcomes in the future.

When you are agile in your thinking, perhaps based on new information, it is likely that some of your people will say things like “that isn’t what you said two weeks ago” or “I thought you said we were going the other way”. This can cost you credibility if you don’t manage it correctly; here is how to do that.

The top incentive plan consultants say that when you roll out a plan, you must set (and maintain) the expectation that the plan will change. They clearly state that, and include, “as we learn and/or market conditions change, if we feel that the plan has become unfair to employees and/or the company, we will change it. Expect changes 1-2 times per year”.

I think this is good advice.

Leaders are asked to provide reliability and consistency in what they say. This is great from a values perspective and may also be great for making the decisions that will best serve the organizations current needs. Like in our blog entitled, “3 Steps to Making Things Right After You’ve Made a Bad Decision”, we suggest that making the right decision isn’t always easy.

Please consider the following steps to follow when you are making and announcing decisions.

  • Stand by your decision. Tell people something like, “I’ve thought this through with you and others. We have many different opinions and a few weeks ago, mine was the opposite of where I stand today. I’m not sure this is the right decision and here is what we are going to do….”. Or, “I know that I used to argue that we should pursue option one. Based on new information, I’ve changed my mind and we are pursuing option two…Sometimes there is no decision that is “obviously right”. If you are dealing with one of these, be transparent.
  • Seek understanding, even if you don’t get agreement. Try saying, “I know you think we should have made a different decision and I respect that. I’m not asking you to wake up tomorrow and agree that this decision is the right one, I am asking you to understand that right or wrong, this is what we will be doing.”. Don’t apologize for the decision, stand in it with both feet.
  • Ask for commitment. Try saying something like, “Knowing that if you had been responsible for this decision, you would have made a different one, I’m asking if we can still have your full commitment and effort. I value the excellent work that you do and I’m asking that you bring your best effort and full capability to this work. We need your talent on this project and I’m asking if you will bring your best to it?”
  • In short, be consistent in what you say when it comes to your values. Change what you say when market conditions and/or your thinking changes around decisions. The agile leader knows that changing their mind is part of staying current and your best people know that.

    3 Steps to Make Things Right After You’ve Made a Bad Decision

    Hi, I’m Henry and I make bad decisions sometimes. I’m guessing you do too.

    Have you ever noticed that when you are collecting opinions before you make a decision, some people are giving you their opinions with disclaimers? They say things like, “I may be wrong and consider this…” or “I’m glad I’m not making this decision and if I was, I would….”. These people may seem afraid to make a decision and they may also be wise. The fact is that until you experience the outcome of your decision, you don’t know if it is right or not. As they say, time will tell.

    Other times, people have strong opinions and say things like, “you should do…” or “the only choice is to…”. These people may sound more confident and, at the time the decision is being made, they don’t know any more than the first group. They might be right and again, time will tell.

    Once some time passes and resources are spent, you find out if you were right or not. When you were, you feel like a hero and when you weren’t, you feel like a zero.

    You can leverage the situation for improved performance in the future. To do so, try these steps:

  • Be vulnerable and admit your mistake. You were wrong, trying to cover it up with excuses will lose you additional credibility. Instead, try saying something like, “I thought this was the right decision at the time and clearly, I was wrong.” Or “At the time I made this decision, I was sure it was the right thing to do and well, clearly it wasn’t”.
  • Don’t make it a bigger deal than it has to be, and move on. Put another way, sometimes, things are as big of a deal as you make of them. Try saying something like, “now that we’ve clearly established that this was the wrong decision, who will join me to help identify what we’ve learned and as a result, will do differently next time?”. It is a powerful leadership move to reverse the momentum of the discussion when everyone is focused on a problem.
  • Share the learning; You have taken the first two steps in admitting you made the mistake, the final is take a lesson from it. Identify the stakeholders who may have been affected and communicate your learning and/or new plan of action to them. Make a list of who needs to know about it and use the following framework for communication.
  • It might sound something like this:

  • Be vulnerable, admit your mistake: “Hi, you probably heard by now that I made the wrong call on how to lower our inventory levels”.
  • Don’t make it a bigger deal than it has to be, and move on: “I spoke with some advisors and we learned that the software platform we used does not do a good job of tracking inventory levels while you are operating the facility you are counting in”.
  • Share the learning: “As a result of our learning, we are instituting ½ day shutdowns of any facility we are counting inventory in, and only during the time we are counting. I thought you would want to know. Is there anyone else we should let know”?
  • Everyone makes mistakes, not everyone learns from them. As one of my martial arts coaches used to say “a loss is not a failure if you learn from it”. When you make a mistake, you have a chance to turn your loss into a lesson.

    5 Things High Performers Do (and Don’t) Say in the Workplace

    Think about the most impressive people you’ve worked with. What was it that made them special? It probably was a combination of several qualities: personality, results, attitude, and, I suggest, the words they choose to use in critical discussions.

    Our company’s mission is to always leave our clients better than we found them; so today, let’s look at language you can use to make a great impression on your co-workers, while giving yourself and your organization a competitive advantage.

    Since 2003, we’ve had the benefit of working with some of the highest-performing organizations, teams, and individuals in the world. We’ve worked with governments, non-profits, and, of course, for-profit organizations. We’ve delivered our concepts in over 80 countries. Young, old, male, female, across different industries and, no matter their country of origin, the most successful people we’ve encountered always know what to say (and, of course, what not to say) in order to build the strongest relationships, while driving the best results.

    We teach dozens of high-performing behaviors; but for now, let’s focus on five behaviors and the language you might use for each of them.

    Situation One: Managing time for what is most important. High performers allocate their time according to what is most important, adjusting as necessary as they proceed. Instead of saying “We don’t have time to do this”; challenge your team by saying “Let’s manage our time so we are able to get this done”. Always be willing to drop less important things in order to deliver excellence on what is most important.

    Situation Two: Willingness to take on a tough task. High performers are constantly seeking ways to successfully accomplish their tasks and projects, especially when the situation is challenging. Rather than “We can’t do this”, ask “How can we get this done?”. Always maintain a high orientation toward solutions.

    Situation Three: Encouraging and engaging others in the cause. High performers work to inspire others to accomplish tasks as a team. Instead of speaking poorly about a co-worker by saying “He doesn’t care about this”; try asking “How can we encourage or inspire him to care about this?”.

    Situation Four: High performers invite results over effort. Instead of saying “Have you had a chance to work on that report for the CFO?”; ask “What actions have you taken to generate the report we owe the CFO?”. High-performing language is precise, direct, and results-oriented.

    Situation Five: Demonstrating humility and the desire to learn. High performers have a contagious belief in their ability to learn; so, instead of saying “I know how to do this” (when you don’t), try saying “I’m currently learning how to do this” or “Together we’re learning how to do this”.

    This is a small sample of the high-performance behaviors we teach; and, if you practice any one for the next month, you’re very likely to be perceived as a person who delivers impact, value, and inspiration for your team.

    4 Steps to Build Your Most Important Relationships

    The people you RELY on most, may not be the people you LIKE the most. Let’s look at how to create a framework for separating, measuring, and responding to this paradigm with a plan of action.

    This coaching exercise is inspired by Dr. Colm Foster (my co-author of STEP UP. Lead in Six Moments That Matter), and also by my colleague and New York Times best-selling author, Dr. Marshall Goldsmith. They both state that you must be really clear about exactly who are the 5 to 10 people most important to your career, and nurture these relationships above all others. Today, we’ll show you some ways of doing this.

    Step One: Make a list of the 5 to 10 people at work you really LIKE to interact with, showing how they relate to you. These are the people that make you smile when you see their name in your inbox, on Slack, or dialing in on your phone. Please write them down now. When you are finished, your list should look like this:

    like

    Step Two: Now, make a list of the 5 to 10 people you RELY on most to be successful in your career. Some of these people are defaults. (For example, you have no choice about listing your boss.) You should also list any direct reports. Now, think about the peers you rely on most, customers and/or vendors. You’re not listing departments or companies; you are listing individual people. Write them down. When you are done, your list should look like this:

    need

    Step Three: Assess the status of each relationship, using our traffic light system. GREEN means the relationship is great, so keep it going without any need for immediate attention or action. YELLOW means proceed with caution, or slow down. This might be due to some recent struggle or lack of attention. Perhaps this one needs some time for reflection. (You might ask this person “How do you feel about how things are going between us?) RED means the relationship is tense, unproductive, and/or clearly in need of some work. Stop what you are doing and make a plan to improve this relationship. For help on any of your relationships in RED, you might want to watch one of our blogs on Emotional Safety™

    Step Four: Decide what you will do to build and strengthen the relationships you need the most. Will it be an offer of help? Providing a resource? Checking in with them? Starting a new behavior? How about stopping a behavior? When you are finished, your list should look like this:

    Although this concept is easy to understand, with our busy schedules it’s not always easy to find the time required to invest in the relationships we rely on most for our success. Again, it is important not to confuse the people you like the most with the people you need the most. You must pay attention to the ones you need the most; and there is a clear return on investment when you follow through on this. For more on how to do this, watch our blog entitled Reversing the Polarity of Communications for Better Business Results; or our latest blog on Generating Empathy.

    3 Steps To Avoiding Meeting Madness

    How do you feel when you know you are about to participate in a regularly occurring business meeting? We’ve gotten feedback from thousands of people, and too many of you have negative feelings about attending most meetings.

    Meetings are supposed to create value for the organization and, if structured properly, meetings should leave you feeling better leaving the meeting than you did going into it.

    Here are three of the concepts from our Winning With Accountability™ method to help you produce better results and also, improve your experience.

    Each meeting should result in a quantitative positive value to the organization, as well as to you. What is being produced? What is being created? Are you making a decision? The high performing teams we work with leverage the following 3 P’s:

    Purpose: Why are you having this meeting? Is it to make a decision? Is it intended to create understanding around a new initiative? Always know the “why” before starting the meeting.

    Process: What will be the structure of your meeting? What are the key roles and who will play them? Be sure to design and publish an agenda in advance of the meeting.

    Payoff: What is the value to be created by this meeting? Your organization should be able to perform, communicate, or think about something differently as a result of this meeting. Make sure everyone understands why the company should pay for this meeting? What are the values or returns to be created?

    Start and end the meeting on time. This might sound easy, but it isn’t. Start the meeting on time, even if all the players are not present. What takes even more discipline is to end it on time. This means calling a stop to the meeting, even if you didn’t cover the complete agenda. This hurts the first few times you do it, but it creates a competitive advantage for your organization as you will rapidly mature your team’s ability to value and leverage your most important asset: This is a proven best practice to introduce more accountability into your meetings.

    Leader speaks last. The higher you are on the organizational chart, the later you should contribute your thoughts, especially when brainstorming an idea. When we facilitate strategic planning sessions with our clients, we always invite the leader to speak last, allowing others to fully contribute their ideas. The leader never loses their authority to call a decision, but if speaking first, the leader might halt the flow of ideas and even worse, inhibit the participation of others.

    So, while we have many other best practices for running successful meetings, what are you going to do with the ones we just gave you? We recommend that you watch this video with your team and start applying these concepts. For example, ask your team to discuss the 3 P’s. What is the purpose of this meeting? What process will we use to achieve that purpose? If we do well, what will be the payoff for the organization? If the team can’t identify the 3 P’s, you might consider canceling the meeting.

    Start and end the meetings on time and, finally, as a leader, speak last when brainstorming.

    Although it’s true that most meetings suck, you have the ability to begin improving your meetings today.

    For more best practices on how to build a Winning With Accountability™ Culture in your organization, check out our Amazon Best-Selling book by author Henry Evans, “Winning With Accountability, the Secret Language of High Performing Organizations”.

    4 Steps To Making Lemonade Out Of Losses

    As a former competitive martial artist, I learned at an early age that sometimes, despite all of your training and preparation, losing will happen.

    In our business, we help teams formulate and execute strategies designed to give them a competitive advantage. While on that journey, our clients sometimes make mistakes, or, as in athletic competition, they experience losses.

    How does this apply to your team?

    Though you and your team may train properly, and create a winning game plan, sometimes, even when executed properly, you will still lose. Unforeseen obstacles, unanticipated variables, or even plain bad luck will prevent you from achieving your desired outcome.

    As a martial artist, my coaches taught me a mantra that we often teach our clients. A loss is not a failure if you learn from it. In this context, a loss is a lesson. With this in mind, let’s discuss how a team failure can become part of achieving better business results.

    Plan for failure. As part of your planning process, accept the reality that not everything you try will work out the way you intended. Use a mantra like ‘fail fast and fail cheap’.

    Reward what we call ‘new and innovative mistakes’. Wow us, show us a flaw in our process that no one had anticipated. However, if a team or individual is making redundant mistakes we still want them to have a job, we just want them to have it with a competitor.

    Celebrate your ‘failures’. Each time you record a ‘failure’ you have harvested and identified something that you should stop doing or do differently. Celebrate these milestones as part of your continuous improvement process. Create an environment of Emotional Safety™ for those times when your people do make mistakes.

    Learn from the mistake. As a result of what you learned, what will you and your team begin to say, do, or think about differently? What is a process improvement that you will make? Bottom line: Make a process improvement.

    Some teams we’ve worked with go so far as to award and incentivize strategic losses. You can give awards such as ‘Most Innovative Attempt to Succeed’ or ‘New Lesson Engineering Award’.

    We teach our strategy clients that the two keys to being more competitive are 1) Be faster than your competitor to recognize the need for change; and 2) Make that change faster than your competitor. If we were to add a third, it would be to learn from mistakes faster than your competitor.

    To summarize: any person or organization that wants to drive innovation, must make the acceptance of failure an acceptable part of the culture. To put this another way: Start thinking about new and innovative failures as lessons.

    Losses and mistakes are not failures when they are generated; they are made into failures when you refuse to learn from them or make improvements as a result of them.

    Emotional Safety™: The Key to Making Smart Decisions

    Informed people make the best decisions, and, as a result, add the most value to their organizations.

    Whatever job you have and whatever your level of authority, your people are relying on you to be informed about your function, no matter whether you’re CEO or packing and shipping on the warehouse floor. No matter where you sit or what you do, other people count on you to know your stuff.

    In short: Your co-workers want you to be an expert; but what makes an ‘expert’? An expert may have earned that reputation through a combination of training, study, work experience, observation, or ongoing learning.

    We suggest that part of being and remaining an expert is linked to being fully informed about your role; meaning that your knowledge goes beyond the day-to-day responsibilities of your job. It means you know where your work comes from, why your work exists, and that you understand the needs of your stakeholders. In addition, it means knowing how others see you as an employee, boss, vendor, or co-worker.

    This is where our concept of ‘Emotional Safety™‘ becomes important. Most people find it easy to approach you to share good news about your performance or behavior. They also find it easy to tell you when you’ve done something well. But what about the times when things aren’t going so well? What if someone wants to give you constructive criticism? We suggest that the easier and more rewarding you make it to bring you ‘bad’ news, the more informed you will be.

    Simply put: Emotional Safety™ means you make others feel comfortable in bringing you bad or challenging news. If you master Emotional Safety™, you will be going beyond making them comfortable in approaching you, and actually make them feel rewarded and appreciated for doing so.

    So, when someone points out a problem with your plan, thank them. When someone suggests that you behaved badly during an interaction, thank them; and, when someone challenges your opinion, acknowledge their thoughts and thank them.

    For stronger relationships, dealing with feelings before facts will get you deeper, more rewarding and more productive relationships. It will also promote better business results.

    One of my colleagues, Dr. Tim Turner, ran the Emotional Intelligence Development program for the FBI. Early in his career as an agent, Tim noticed that the agents who solved the most cases were not the tough guys you see in the movies. Instead, they had a way of making others feel comfortable. Even when interrogating a suspect, the agents created an experience of Emotional Safety™ for that person.

    So how can you bring this about in your work? By collecting as much data as you can (even the stuff you don’t like hearing about) so you can make fully-informed decisions.

    Think about it this way, just because people aren’t telling you how you can improve, doesn’t mean you don’t need to improve, because we all do. It is more likely to mean that they’ve had an unrewarding experience with you, and, as a result, they’ve started to withhold information from you. If too many people do that, you’ll still have the same decision-making authority; but you’ll be deciding in an uninformed way, making you dangerous to your organization.

    For more on Emotional Safety™, read our Amazon top-10 business book, “Step Up–Lead in Six Moments that Matter“, co-authored by Henry Evans and Colm Foster. The last chapter is focused on creating Emotional Safety™ for everyone, which will foster better business results.

    Mastering Empathy in 3 Easy Steps: Building Better Relationships and Business Results through Managing Conflict

    Let’s see if we can sharpen your empathy skills in 4 minutes or less.

    Empathy, simply put, is expressing your understanding of how another person feels, leaving them feeling understood and heard. This is easy to do when you share their concern or care about their issue. It’s not so easy when you don’t care.

    Has someone ever told you about a problem or brought you a complaint that mattered a lot to them and didn’t matter to you at all?

    Perhaps you found yourself thinking “this isn’t a real problem” or “I can’t believe they are worried about something like this”.

    Perhaps you don’t care about their opinion because their facts are completely wrong. Let’s roll with that example.

    Suppose you and I work together and you don’t like working with me. This dislike has built up to a point where you are going to tell me about it. You say “Henry, I don’t like working with you because your hair is too long and I feel like you are always brushing it during our meetings.”

    These facts are obviously wrong and if I had to go to court to argue against them, it wouldn’t take me long to persuade the jury and win the case. But what happens to our relationship if focusing on the facts is all I do? If your frustration energy was high when our interaction started, and all I do is argue the facts, it will most likely increase your negative charge, leave you even more frustrated, and permanently damage our relationship. So, how to fix this?

    STEP ONE: Put their feelings before their facts. Try to remember a time when you didn’t want to work with someone and remember how that felt. Do that right now. You are probably naming feelings like “frustrating”, “unmotivating” or even “de-energizing”. If you can remember your feelings, you are halfway to creating a meaningful human connection with this person. Now all you have to do is express your understanding by saying something like:

    “It sounds like working with me feels frustrating and you really don’t want to do it anymore. I too have felt the same way about a co-worker, and I don’t want you to have that experience with me.”

    • Now, for STEP TWO: check in with the person to see if they now feel understood.

    If they nod, or say “Yes, that’s what I meant”, they are feeling de-energized, more objective, and relieved that you understand them. Now you’re both ready to discuss the facts.

    STEP THREE: When approaching the facts do what we call “using curiosity in lieu of judgement”. Instead of saying “You’re wrong because look, I’m bald” say “What led you to the opinion you just presented to me? I want to hear more about your perspective.” If your relationship is strong enough for some humor, you might ask “Really? Tell me, what color is my hair?”

    For stronger relationships, dealing with feelings before facts will get you deeper, more rewarding and more productive relationships. It will also promote better business results.

    Four Intentions for Making This Year – Your Best Year

    We want each year to be better than the last, but some of you may feel you don’t have enough control over your outcomes. You may also feel that each year gets busier than the last; making it even harder to be mindful about your choices. Part of our Accountability Method™ asks you to focus your time and energy on things you can control, a concept Dr. Covey introduced some time ago. We ask our coaching clients to focus on four general areas: Head, Heart, Money, and Space. Then, you take a few small steps to make next year better than this one.

    Number One: Head

    What will you learn in the coming year? Will it be a new behavior, or a work-related field of knowledge such as rising to the next level in your financial acumen? Maybe it will be reaching an expert level on a software platform you rely on. Whether it’s financial learning or dancing Flamenco, learning something new trains your mind to be open to new possibilities in other areas of your life. People may begin to experience you as being more flexible.

    Number Two: Heart

    Which relationships will you invest your time and energy in at work and home? Don’t pick 3. Choose two: one at work and one at home. To whom will you bring deeper attention? How will you demonstrate this attention? Will it be through acts of kindness or more intense listening? Will it be forgiving someone? What will you do so this other person will notice and appreciate your new investment in the relationship?

    Number Three: Space

    What clutter will you reduce? A clear space encourages a clear mind. Most people vow to ‘clean out my desk’ or ‘purge my storage room’ or some other BIG project. We encourage busy people to start small and realistically. Consider purging just one drawer in your desk, or one shelf in your closet. Consider making one small purge each week. For those of you who are already mindful about physical space, consider what negative thought patterns you could purge next year.

    Number Four: Money

    What will you do to secure your finances? Review your annual products and services subscriptions and cancel any that you no longer need (or use). Use budgeting software to track your personal expenses. You might be surprised by how much you spend eating out, or by indulging in retail therapy when feeling down. What are you income goals? What is your next step to getting a promotion and raise? What are your expense goals? We recommend having a personal cash flow plan, in the same way a business does.

    Finally, although some things will remain totally out of your control or influence, if you focus your energy on incremental, achievable steps, you will find yourself more self-actualized, and that means each year you’ll get closer to living the life you want to live.

    Our Dynamic Results team wishes that this coming year will be your best year.

    Please continue reading for additional resources to help you in creating your best year.

    Head: Watch TED talks to see what types of innovation are happening in the world.

    http://www.ted.com/

    Heart: Learn to create what we call ‘Emotional Safety’ in your relationships.

    http://dynamicresults.com/step-moments-matter-director-emotional-safety/

    Space: Reduce clutter in your life and ‘free your mind’.

    http://idreamofclean.net/10-foolproof-ways-to-reduce-clutter/

    Money: Take small steps to improve your financial strength.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/24-ways-to-improve-your-finances-this-year-2016-1

    Three Rules for Choosing the Right Employee (or Boss) and How to Be One of Them

    Hi, I’m Henry Evans, Founding Partner of Dynamic Results.

    Do you find in working with your teams that sometimes either your business results or relationships suffer?

    Recently I was talking with a high-performing leader of a global pharmaceutical company. Like many of our best leaders, he delivers above his annual targets and, as importantly, he has very high employee engagement and retention. Everyone wants what he has achieved: exceeding expected business results while at the same time, building and maintaining a happy work team. To state this another way: they are doing great work, in an environment that feels great to work in.

    When asked how he’s doing it, he said it boils down to knowing how to select the right people. After “many years of doing it wrong” he learned three things needed to measure when hiring, (or choosing the people you want to work for):

    • They are good at what they do. Competence should be a baseline requirement for your hires.
    • They love what they do. They aren’t dragging themselves to work. They are happy to be doing what they do, and they know the higher purpose behind their work. In this case, it’s the creation of drugs intended to improve the lives of cancer patients. If your job is manufacturing car parts, your higher purpose might be “keeping people safe while they drive”.
    • They are easy to work with. These are the people you want to be in meetings with; people you feel motivated to communicate with.
    • His experience shows that if you are missing any of these three criteria, results and/or relationships will suffer. His theory matches our own experience in coaching leaders.
      Most work conflicts or unrest that we observe are due to perceptions that people are: Incompetent (not good at what they do); Dispassionate (a buzzkill, party pooper, or energy vampire); or just plain Difficult (labeled as rude, jerks, etc.).

      In hiring, here are sample questions you may want to ask:

    • To establish Competence, ask scenario-based questions like “Please tell me about a time you had to solve a complex problem” (One relating to their job description).
    • For Passion, ask a question as simple as “Why do you do this kind of work?” or “Why did you choose this career?”
    • For Likability, ask: “Please tell me about the last three disagreements you had at work?” or “What is a personal trait people consistently tell you needs improvement?” or “What’s more important to you, relationships or results?”Whatever you ask and whatever you are measuring, please remember to tune-in to your intuition when making hiring decisions, or when choosing who to work for. Einstein said that “the best decisions are a combination of intellect and intuition”. He was a relatively smart guy so let’s listen to him.

      Collect whatever background data you need (work history, GPA, etc.), and check-in with yourself to see how you will feel working with this person. The best decisions are made when we use a combination of head and heart.

      I thank you for your attention.