The Voice for Insightful Leadership with Shelley Row, P.E.

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Whether your technical expertise is in engineering (like mine), law, finance, technology or science, we technical folks don’t have good reputations as managers.  When a technically accomplished person is promoted into management, suddenly the old skills that made us successful are not as relevant. It’s a whole new ball game and a whole new set of skills. As we always said: Technical skills are the easy part. People skills are the hard part.

 

Technically-talented managers can become perplexed by people issues, stymied by office politics and mystified by seemingly illogical decisions made by “management”. You don’t have to be perplexed, stymied or mystified if you have all the information you need.

Here are 10 things that every technical person should know when they become a manager and leader.

  1. Know your staff
  2. Know you
  3. Know your boss
  4. Know the influencers
  5. Know the factors other than the data that are influencing organizational trajectory
  6. Know the person who can get things done in the office
  7. Know a broad range of information sources
  8. Know how to challenge your initial impressions
  9. Know your vision for the organization
  10. Know your leadership philosophy

To further develop your knowledge in these ten areas, click here, to receive questions to prompt your learning.

Contact Shelley Row to assist you and your staff to grow your skills as an insightful leader.



Do you worry about leaving town for vacation? Maybe you are concerned that things may not go smoothly while you’re gone. Or maybe the volume of email to which you’ll return feels over-whelming. Or maybe you feel that the customer may not wait, and you’ll lose business. I understand all those concerns. They were mine, too. But, guess what. I did it.

I took a two-week vacation (to Tibet with the Ra Ma Institute and traveled with my step-daughter, Linnea Miron, who is the CEO of Real Wellness); never touched my computer; didn’t respond to emails and (drum roll) the sky didn’t fall. It is possible to be out-of-touch and the world won’t come crashing down. It takes preparation.

Here are the four steps I took to prepare so that I had the space to relax and benefit from the trip.

1. Touched base with clients in advance. For any client who had a pending action item or an action that may be needed while I was gone, I contacted them in advance. I explained that I would be in Tibet with iffy wifi and cell coverage. No one panicked, most were pleased that I let them know and all were happy for me.

2. Completed activities in advance. I made an effort to complete tasks in advance that would be due while I was gone. For those items I was not able to complete, we scheduled meetings after I returned to discuss progress, schedule and due dates. Everything was easily worked out.

3. Staff monitored and responded to emails. My staff monitored my emails for any unanticipated issues or for client questions (from current or prospective clients). When appropriate, they let the client know that I was out of the country. If they couldn’t help directly, they worked with the person to schedule a call when I returned. Everyone felt that we were responsive to their requests.

4. Cleaned out the junk emails. This one is tricky. I opted to periodically delete junk emails when I had accessible wifi. I chose this so I wasn’t overwhelmed by the shear number of emails. There is something heart-stopping to see hundreds of emails stacked up after a two-week trip. The trick, of course, is to not get sucked into work. It was effective for me because I scanned email subject lines and the sender. I didn’t open or read anything. It was obvious when emails were junk and were safely deleted. When I returned, there was a manageable number of emails that needed “real” consideration and response.

These four steps worked for me. The preparation was not to be taken lightly. The weeks leading up to my trip were busy, but the payoff was high. (More about that in the next newsletter.) There were many other professional men and women on the trip. All the ones I spoke to did some combination of these techniques so that they, too, had the mental and emotional space to absorb the wonders of the Tibet.

What can you do to prepare so that you reap the full benefits of creative down time?



It’s a position that seems perfect for you. You made it to the interview and now it is your big moment. There’s a lot at stake. Not only do you want to make a good first impression, you want to be memorable for the qualities that matter.

But are you ready?

Yes, you brushed up your resume and you researched the organization. But did you take the time to get clarity on the key points they should remember about you? Can you succinctly and clearly articulate the main message about you?

When preparing for an interview, I recommend creating your brand statement. This is a personal summary of who you are, your skills, and attributes you bring. You must get clear, be succinct and land the message.


Tip #1) Have a brand statement. It is essential that you know your personal brand and have a brand statement. Your brand statement concisely defines your skills and the value system you bring to work (dependable, professional, responsible, creative). When I work with clients to create their brand statement, we use a self-assessment tool and value system exercise, but you can do the same if you are honest with yourself about your skills and principles. Here is a framework for your use.

  • I am [your background] who [statement about a core strength].
  • I provide [three to four key points about your strengths].
  • I bring [statement about your values or how you do your job].

Here are two examples of real brand statements:

Ex.1)

I am a successful executive who loves a challenge.

I provide:

  • Big picture clarity,
  • Well-organized action and
  • Polished presentation

I bring professionalism, integrity, politeness and self-awareness to my work.

Ex.2)

I am an outgoing CPA who is focused on collaboration and team work to tackle tough accounting issues.

I provide:

  • Translation between highly technical tax regulation and business operations,
  • Collaboration with key business personnel,
  • Articulate summaries of tax challenges and issues, and
  • Practical business minded solutions that save time and money.

I bring integrity, courtesy, credibility and helpfulness to my work.


NOW IT’S YOUR TURN

Are you able to write your brand statement?  You want this ready before you walk into an interview.


Tip #2) Use examples. Most interviewees talk in broad generalizations, but generalizations are fuzzy and forgettable. If you state, “I’m well organized,” follow it with a specific, concise example where you used organizational skills to produce a key product. Examples make it easier to understand the value of the skill in a practical, real-world situation. Plus, examples are essentially short stories. Stories stick in the brain more easily than generalizations. Have a short example for each point in your brand statement under the “I provide…” section.


Tip #3) Land your message. Most interviewees ramble. The interviewer easily gets lost in the onslaught of words and may struggle to catch the key points, much less remember them. Make it easy for the interviewer. Emphasize examples of the main messages in your brand statement throughout the interview. instead of ending with pleasantries, end the interview with a short, strong summary of your brand statement and tie it specifically to this position. Make it clear why you are THE choice for the job. Ending with your brand statement ensures that you manage the last impression and that you leave them with the main points about you.

 

Bring insight to your interviewing skills by defining your brand statement, using real-life examples and landing your message. You will stand out from the crowd….for sure!



It was a dark, stormy night. Rain was falling in buckets as we drove to Houston to pick up my sister at the airport for the holidays. The white lane lines were scarcely visible. We had a general outline of the road but were stressed because of the limited visibility.  Suddenly, the road lit up like the proverbial Christmas tree. The lane lines were raised reflective markers and they glowed through the dark rain like beacons. The road was clearly visible.  There was no question that we were on our path and our relief was palpable.

Your plans for 2019 are like the road. Perhaps you set your goals and they are completely clear in your mind. But how well have you communicated those goals to staff?  Even if you see clearly, your staff may not. They may be generally on the right road but without clarity, they can feel the stress of uncertainty and that wastes energy and time. When your goals are crystal clear, your staff is relieved of that uncertainty and can focus on execution. It’s like having the road to their goals lit up with reflective markers.  How do you bring that goal clarity into your workplace?

  1. Set clear goals. Your staff wants to know that you, as the leader, know the direction of the organization. If you haven’t already, take the time to consider your 2019 goals. It’s like picking the route you’ll travel this year just as we picked the road to Houston. When you think about 2019, what course are you on? What are your goals for the year? What are the major activities you intend to accomplish? Write them down now.
  2. Metrics. How will you know that you achieved the goals? I like to ask clients, “What does success look like?” This question is a great way to crystalize your expectations. Success may look like a revenue target, or a target for new clients, or specific behaviors for customer service. Once you know what success looks like, what are the metrics? Maybe it’s financial or maybe it’s that staff manage client calls in an efficient, friendly way. For each goal, write down the metrics or behaviors you associate with your goals.
  3. Share with staff repeatedly. You need goal clarity and so do your staff. Don’t underestimate the difficulty of assisting staff to internalize the same goals. This is a key job for you! You must share the goals and share them again and again, to embed them in long-term memory. Once is not enough. Neither is printing them on a poster and thinking you’re done. Repeated, specific goals, with metrics, are the reflective markers along the way that reduce stress and provide clarity. It’s key for staff to know, really know, the expectations for them and the organization. Clarity eliminates wasted energy on speculation and allows all that energy to be directed into performance.
  4. Report progress. Progress reports demonstrate that you are serious about the goals. Visible reporting of progress reinforces the goal and creates more clarity. It reassures staff that they remain on the right road and that their way forward is still lit with bright lights.
  5. Celebrate success. Divide the goal into chunks and have mini-celebrations along the way. I recently read Chip and Dan Heath’s book, The Power of Moments. They note the success of dividing a big goal into chunks that can be rewarded along the way. The brain likes rewards for meaningful progress. Completion of interim steps encourages one to tackle the next step. What intermediate milestones can you celebrate?

We arrived in Houston safely and with less stress due to the clear, lighted path. You can provide your staff with a clear, well-lit path by identifying your goals and clearly articulating them … regularly. When you do, you reduce their uncertainty and stress so that they can focus on performance. And that makes for a great 2019!



control

Is there someone you work with who could use a little motivation?  Could you use a little motivation? You can’t motivate someone else if you can’t motivate yourself and, frankly, we could all use a little motivation sometime. Too often we think of motivation as money or a promotion but intrinsic motivation comes from inside and is powerful.  How can you leverage findings about brain function to connect with intrinsic motivation? There are five ways to aid your brain or other’s brains to feel motivated by feeling rewarded.

Today, let’s look at control (we’ll examine other approaches in upcoming posts). The brain likes to feel in control so take advantage of it. There are two ways to use control in your favor.

You are in control of more than you think you are. I was excited to be in a new job and looked forward to contributing to the organization.  But I soon discovered that my new boss was a control freak (to be fair, so am I) and my motivation suffered. After venting every evening to my husband and lamenting that I’d taken the job, he encouraged me to look for areas where I could exert some control. And I found that he didn’t care much about our conference planning process so that’s where I jumped in.  We reworked the process, implemented a new approach and I felt motivated because I now had an area of control. Do you suffer from a boss who won’t share control? If so, you need to dig deeper. Where can you exert a bit of control? Look for areas where your boss has little interest and jump in.  Taking control is likely to have a motivating impact.

You can give up control of more than you think you can. You may be stifling motivation by being overly controlling. Give others a sense of control to activate reward feelings. If you’re feeling queasy about releasing control, don’t worry. You don’t have to give away full control. You might release control of the process but retain control over the final product. Can you provide a range of options from which they can pick? You could ask for input on a big decision which makes the brain feel like it at least has a say.   You might break a project into parts and give over control of the less risky elements.  For a client who is unconvinced of the merits of a project, you could ask them to set a trial period to define the parameters for moving forward, or define when to pull the plug. It puts them in control of part of the work. Where can you hold on less tightly? You can give up control of more than you think you can.

Whether it’s you who needs more motivation or someone on your team, push yourself to find ways to take or release control. The brain will be happy you did.