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Organizational Success: It’s a Team Effort

August 28th, 2015 by Bill Mugavin in Coaching, Talent Development

ID-10079642To be a strong manager in today’s environment, you have to be good at leading teams. Even if you’re great at developing one-on-one relationships with team members and directing the work of individual contributors, that in itself is not enough. You have to pull it all together—to make sure that team members work collaboratively and cohesively in order to achieve results.

At FlashPoint we believe that anyone can learn to be a good leader—and by correlation, anyone can learn to be a good team leader. As you work to grow your leadership competencies and lead effective teams, here are some key areas to focus on:

  1. Make sure that everyone on the team understands the team’s goals—what the team is trying to achieve and how that fits into the organization’s overall objectives. Furthermore, make sure that everyone on the team understands his or her role and how he or she contributes to the team’s success. It might be helpful to come up with a team mission statement and vision that you regularly visit during group meetings and one-on-one reviews.
  1. Know what skills your team collectively needs and either hire new team members or develop current ones in order to fill any gaps. This way you’ll be sure that the individuals on your team complement one another and that you have the resources you need to achieve your goals. And by creating an environment where members utilize one another’s strengths, you’ll go a long way toward fostering collaboration.
  1. Demand that team members hold themselves and one another accountable. As the manager, you’re expected to hold your reports accountable—but teams work much better when the members also hold colleagues responsible for results. When a team member truly feels that others have expectations of him or her, it increases commitment and engagement.
  1. Don’t be afraid of conflict. For teams to work well together, members must be able to express themselves openly, even when it leads to disagreement. Too often leaders think they need to quell conflict so that their teams run smoothly, but this usually means that members end up suppressing ideas, hiding concerns, and letting hard feelings fester. A healthier approach is to encourage team members share ideas and feelings, even when they’re negative, so that they get them in the open and so the team can address them, find answers, and move forward.
  1. Promote an environment of trust. Your ultimate goal as manager is to create a workplace where team members trust one another—where they know that their colleagues are going to do what they say they’ll do and that they have the team’s best interest at heart. Many of the ideas we’ve discussed in the previous points contribute to a culture of trust; when everyone knows what they’re working toward, hold one another accountable, and have open dialogue then trust thrives. This should be a guiding principle for you as a manager.
  1. Celebrate your team’s wins. When your team succeeds, it’s on account of a lot of people putting forth solid effort. As the manager, you’re often inclined to recognize individuals for the part they’ve played, and of course you should do so. Don’t forget, however, to celebrate as a team. Recognizing and rewarding the group effort builds camaraderie and drives many of the key behaviors (openness, sharing, trust, collaboration) that you’ve been working to instill.

We’re operating in an exceptionally competitive business environment, and often what gives an organization an edge is the strength of its teams. As a manager, you need to ensure that your individuals are working to their greatest potential, but you must not get so caught up in it that you overlook the team effort. As you direct your employees, take time with them to focus on the team goals and outcomes. Tie their work to the team’s overall success. When reviewing their performance, assess how well they function as a team member. In your interactions with the group, keep team goals and teamwork as an integral part of the conversation. Focus on the suggestions above.

In the end be confident that the energy you invest in building a cohesive team will pay off. There’s a strong connection between team strength and business results, so know that when you lead your team to success you also lead your organization to success.

Bill Mugavin is a consultant at FlashPoint. He has worked with top-tier Fortune 1000 global organizations to improve leadership and management effectiveness.

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When Gen Xers Manage Millennials

August 20th, 2015 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Talent Management


Millennials may be the younger siblings of Gen Xers, but they were raised differently, with different expectations from their (usually Boomer) parents. Gen Xers, now in the role of manager to Millennial employees, are finding that their view of work, priorities, and use of time differ from those of their employees.


Born between 1965 and 1977, Gen Xers were the last of the “free range” children raised to be independent, take responsibility, and get things done in the absence of supervision. In the economic turmoil of the 1970s and 1980s, during which 40 percent of their parents lost their jobs and/or got divorced, they came home to an empty house, started dinner, and had their homework done before their overworked parents got home. They could not call their parents at work for dinner or homework help without getting them fired. As a result their world view is skeptical and pragmatic—they are businesslike, realistic, and determined. Often the only child or one of two children in the household, Gen Xers are used to working alone.

Born between 1978 and 1989, Millennials were the most over-scheduled, highly supervised generation to come along. The economy improved and jobs were more available in the 1990s, so their parents worked fewer hours and became their Millennial children’s “best friends.” These “helicopter parents” went everywhere with them: school, ballgames, plays, even weekends away at college, and now many go with their adult Millennial children to job interviews and often want to negotiate job offers and salary increases. After 9/11, parents wanted to be able to reach their children by phone at all times, so every Millennial had a cell phone and is used to constant contact. In the words of a Millennial I know, her parents never told her “no” or any variation of “no.” Helicopter parents tried hard to say “yes” to all requests. As a result, Millennials can be overly optimistic and not particularly inclined to follow policies and procedures. Millennials are multitaskers who grew up with groups of friends who did everything together and often worked on collaborative projects in school. It can be difficult for them to make decisions without input from parents or friends because of lack of practice.

Millennials are loyal to their managers, not to their company, and they have no fear of quitting without another job in hand—because mom and dad still have a room waiting for them. While Gen Xer managers will leave at 5:00 p.m. to spend time with their families, childless tech-savvy Millennials may come in late or want to work from a café, home, or other location, not necessarily between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. The greatest challenge for Gen Xer managers is to focus on managing their Millennial employees’ outputs and quality of results, not time at a desk. It can be a challenge for skeptical Gen Xer managers to provide the level of encouragement and feedback that gives naturally optimistic Millennials confidence and keeps them engaged. Face time is the secret management tool that retains Millennials.

Gen Xers can command loyalty by encouraging constant learning, modeling desired behaviors, and patiently letting Millennials try new approaches. Wise Gen Xer managers build relationships with their Millennial employees by focusing on areas of commonality such as both generations’ interest in constant learning, project success, and community service.

Nancy S. Ahlrichs is a business development consultant at FlashPoint, where she interacts with human resource professionals, executives, and business owners in order to understand their organizational needs. She collaborates with our other team members to develop appropriate consulting solutions and supports prospects throughout the sales process.

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Five Questions to Help You Create a Successful Coaching Program

August 17th, 2015 by Sean Olson in Coaching, Talent Management

You Might Need a Coach If . . . Coaching has grown substantially over the past decade. It used to be reserved for the C-suite and was viewed as a privilege. Today, however, companies see coaching as beneficial from managers on up. In my consulting work, I see a growing number of companies creating coaching budgets and utilizing coaches as a normal part of their employees’ development.

For coaching to truly impact the employees and the company, there needs to be some structure. If you’re in charge of designing a coaching program, you need to do a lot of thinking and planning up front. The following are five questions you should ask as you prepare to implement coaching broadly across the organization

1.    Does coaching fit with our current culture?  

If you do not have a company culture of growth and development, your employees will not be ready for coaching. They will see it as discipline. They will wonder why they need to be “fixed” because they think they are doing a good job. On the other hand, if your company culture is about developing the employees and creating a positive future, they will see coaching as a gift. They will see that the opportunity for coaching will empower them to flourish. Before you introduce coaching into your organization, make sure your culture aligns more closely with the latter example—or else it won’t succeed.

2.    What are the desired outcomes?

Coaching must be geared toward end results. So ask yourself: Are we using coaching to develop high potential leaders? Are we using coaching to adjust behaviors? Is coaching a last-ditch effort for failing employees (not recommended)? Once you address the desired outcomes, you can structure a process that leads to those outcomes.

3.    How will we measure success?

Coaching often includes an end-of-engagement evaluation, and if it has gone well participants will say it “was great,” they “enjoyed the coach,” they “liked being stretched and exploring opportunities,” and they “treasured the self-awareness.” These are all fine comments, but how you do you really demonstrate to your organization that you’ve had an impact? The answer usually lies in performing front-end assessments and post-coaching reassessments. The goal, of course, is to show that coaching has helped to move the needle, that the participant has grown, and that you have met the desired outcomes. Involve the manager in the entire process so there is internal accountability. This way, everyone knows that progress is occurring.

4.    How do we know which employees are coachable?

Not everyone is ready to be coached. Typically ego or fear will cause an employee to balk at coaching. If an employee is not open to the process it will not work. This is why it is so important to create a culture of coaching. If employees view coaching as a part of the normal rhythm of the company, they will be more open. If they see it only as a tool for addressing extreme circumstances, they will be hesitant.

5.    How can we create a consistent experience when we use different coaches?

There is value in having a preferred provider of coaching for your company. When the coaches come from one or two organizations, you can create tools and processes to see that the experience is consistent. This also allows the company to garner some aggregate data about the outcomes of coaching that shape the entire learning and development future agenda.

These are not the only questions to ask as you work to build a coaching framework, but they offer a good start. By focusing on them, you’ll be able to initiate important conversations with your leaders and other key stakeholders that will help you define what successful coaching looks like at your organization.

Sean Olson is a business development consultant at FlashPoint. In his role he works to understand client needs and help them find the answers that move their organizations forward.

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New Business Realities Require New Leadership Competencies

August 13th, 2015 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Talent Development, Talent Systems and Processes

ID-100179268As business gets more complex (due to globalization, more diverse employees and customers, technological shifts, and other factors), confidence in leaders at all levels is declining. According to a survey that Bersin by Deloitte conducted:

  • 71% of respondents have confidence in their senior leaders (down 9% from a previous study).
  • Significantly fewer, 49%, have confidence in their midlevel leaders (down 17%).
  • Only 30% have confidence in their frontline leaders (down 2%).

To a great extent leaders today are “pioneers” in uncharted territory. Many have underestimated the new business reality and in some cases minimized the overall context in which they’re leading. To regain the confidence and commitment of their teams, they still need fundamental competencies in the areas of integrity, strategy, results and execution, judgment, and team development, but more is expected today. They need additional skills to move their organizations forward and achieve success.

This means that you need to invest in developing your leaders, now more than ever. And as you prepare them for an ever-changing and more complex business environment, it’s helpful to consider the following four trends.

Trend One: The specific competencies needed by today’s and tomorrow’s leaders go beyond visible behaviors. Leaders need to develop cognitive skills in order to deliver the behaviors that drive employee engagement, innovation, and organizational growth.

Trend Two: Further, organizations need to develop their own leaders from within who have specific skills and knowledge of the business. A growing number of companies are providing emerging leader development as a tool to retain high-potential employees and to build a pool of talent that they can tap into as the organization changes direction, grows, or discovers other opportunities.

Trend Three: Organizations must take new approaches to imbue leaders at all levels with the needed skills and experiences to prepare them for new challenges. Additionally, the leaders themselves must take a more hands-on approach to their own development. Leaders can no longer be passive classroom learners and call it enough. They must be active learners who incorporate new skills in their daily activities. This requires reading, seeking input, volunteering for experiences and projects outside of the norm, and taking action to learn from others within their own work environment.

Trend Four: When developing leaders, the old rule of 70% formal classroom training, 20% networking and coaching, and 10% on-the-job learning is now reversed. Effective programs today focus on a mix of 70% guided on-the-job learning, 20 % coaching and networking, and 10% formal learning. Tools for development include:

  • Engaging action learning teams on long- or short-term business cases or projects.
  • Creating deeper and more diverse networks between leaders.
  • Utilizing group coaching so participants can learn from one another.
  • Utilizing technology to enhance virtual collaboration.
  • Incorporating mentoring or peer coaching to work on just-in-time challenges.

New business realities require new leadership competencies and more effective approaches to developing leaders. If your organization is still using outmoded methods such as classroom training as the sole development tool, your leaders are falling behind. Bringing creative and contemporary leadership development approaches into the work environment takes planning and flawless execution—but by doing so, you’ll see a direct connection between your leaders’ growth and your bottom line.

Nancy S. Ahlrichs is a business development consultant at FlashPoint, where she interacts with human resource professionals, executives, and business owners in order to understand their organizational needs. She collaborates with our other team members to develop appropriate consulting solutions and supports prospects throughout the sales process.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

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Coaching to Well-Defined Outcomes

August 6th, 2015 by Tracy Puett in Coaching

ID-100183483Many organizations recognize the valuable role that coaching plays in developing leaders and growing their skills. But the process itself will have little impact unless both the coach and the leader have established clearly defined outcomes.

The coach plays an important role in this, and a critical skill of all good coaches is the ability to elicit what success looks like as a result of the coaching engagement. If you’re coaching, ask what outcomes you and the leader are trying to create as a result of your time together. The clearer the two of you are on objectives and goals, the faster you can achieve them.

Coaching outcomes are well-defined when:

  • They are stated in the positive (i.e., when they articulate what the leader is moving toward vs. what he or she is moving away from or trying to eliminate)
  • The leader can initiate and control the actions that will lead toward the goal
  • The outcome is time-based and specific
  • Both the coach and leader can describe what type of evidence will indicate that the leader is moving toward the goal

The following questions will guide you as you and the leader articulate the coaching outcomes.

  1. How will you know when you have been successful? (In sensory terms, what does success around your goal look like, sound like, and feel like?)
  2. What are the obstacles keeping you from having the goal? (What are the blockages, mental models, maps, or behavioral limitations that are inhibiting success?)
  3. What happens when you get to your goal? (Are there positive side effects? Negative side effects? Who else might be affected by your reaching this goal? By saying “yes” to this goal, what else are you saying “yes” to? What might you be saying “no” to?)
  4. What do you get by attaining this goal? (What is the meta-outcome, or the outcome of the outcome? Is that desirable? Is your current goal what you really need to go after in order to attain this larger outcome?)

Getting to the heart of these questions may require intense conversation and deep thinking. The time that you and the leader invest in defining solid outcomes, however, will significantly impact the coaching experience in a positive way, helping to ensure that it has lasting results.

Tracy Puett is consultant at FlashPoint. He provides expertise in the areas of curriculum design and facilitation, assessments, and coaching at all levels.

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Turnover Begets Turnover: Nip It in the Bud

July 30th, 2015 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Talent Development, Talent Management


ID-10078686It’s a fact: hiring and retaining software developers is going to be an increasing priority for your company in 2015. The talent competition is heating up as new companies move into central Indiana. This week DemandJump LLC chose central Indiana over Austin and San Francisco to invest more than $1.2 million and add more than 80 jobs by 2018. Last month Eleven Fifty Academy Inc. and Eleven Fifty Consulting, also based in Carmel, detailed plans to invest nearly $1 million and add a combined 92 jobs. This means there are more jobs for developers and other IT specialists to choose from, and more talent competition for existing technology consulting firms and tech-enabled firms. What can you do to retain your top IT talent?

The good news is that in the long run the more job choice there is in central Indiana, the more likely we are to attract and retain locally educated or grown talent. But in the short term every employer with IT staff needs to look honestly at itself as a talent competitor and develop a multi-faceted strategy to attract and retain top employees. Smart companies focus first on their existing staff because as long as these IT staffers stay and continue to grow their skills, the organization needs only to recruit for new positions added. Since turnover begets turnover, turnover prevention is the name of the game!

We read a lot about what huge technology firms are doing to keep their much-recruited staff members, but what can a small or medium-sized firm do to keep its mission-critical staff members? The answer is to focus on your culture. A casual, inclusive, collaborative environment with high standards is an IT talent magnet. Consider these tested retention tools:

  1. Develop your managers. The number one reason employees leave is their manager. According to Gallup, managers are responsible for 70 percent of their employees’ engagement (read: productivity). Regular feedback and timely performance reviews are just part of good management. Managers need training with this, and you need to invest in it.
  2. Offer real work/life balance including flexible work hours. To your employees “work is a thing you do, not a place you go.”
  3. Develop your staff with flexible training formats. Use a mix of classroom, e-learning, video, action learning projects, mobile formats, and so on. For both Gen Xers and Millennials, once they think they have learned everything, they leave.
  4. Build in more collaboration. Two heads may be better than one, but six heads beat two! Use collaboration software to enable participation from anywhere. The younger your staff, the more they want to collaborate—and the more experienced they are with collaboration software.
  5. Develop and implement a diversity hiring and retention plan. The more diversity you have today, the more you will have in the future. Millennials are the most diverse generation to date—43 percent are bilingual, for example. And with a tightening local hiring market and more emphasis on hiring using H1B visas, having a diversity plan is critical.
  6. Develop your managers to lead diverse teams. In Indiana we are teaching English as a second language to children from more than 200 different language backgrounds. Language, culture, gender, and even style differences can too easily become productivity barriers—yet diverse employees can be the key to developing software that works for all, not just today but tomorrow.
  7. Hold fewer meetings. Today most employees feel they have too many meetings—so look where you can eliminate them. Make sure those you do hold are well run, on time, and involve decision making.
  8. Create a real mentoring program for experienced employees. Mentoring is a draw for young talent, so if you don’t have a mentoring program in place, explore creating one. Carefully select and train mentors. Focus on soft skill development.
  9. Regularly reward and recognize accomplishments. Use low-cost, no-cost fun to reward milestone achievements and conferences or technology upgrades to reward significant achievements.
  10. Offer free food and excellent coffee. Bad coffee costs you in tardiness as employees stop at Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks. Have a coffee taste off and let your staff choose. During the day, offer fruit, energy bars, baked chips, and the occasional pizza or sandwich delivery to keep your employees fueled.

It’s important to focus on a well-balanced mix of these tools. While the free food and good coffee are serious and desirable cultural elements, don’t think for a minute that they will substitute as retention tools in the face of a poor manager or otherwise rigid culture. You need multiple retention strategies. As you work on this, recognize that becoming a 2015 IT talent powerhouse takes work—but know that by becoming one, you’ll benefit your bottom line!

Nancy S. Ahlrichs, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is an author, a frequent speaker and a business development consultant for FlashPoint, a global talent management consulting firm

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Build the Bottom Line by Measuring and Improving Employee Engagement

July 24th, 2015 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Talent Development, Talent Management

ChangeEmployee engagement is the key to bottom-line performance. When employees are engaged, they’re willing to go the “extra mile” in their jobs. They learn continually, accept promotions, refer qualified job seekers to the organization, and commit to staying and growing with the organization, at least for a couple of years. Engaged employees have a significant impact on the company’s performance.

It’s not enough to accept this as truth, however—you also need to back it up with numbers. Metrics-driven executives become increasingly supportive of engagement efforts when they see results, so you have to show them the data. It’s fairly straightforward to figure out the organization’s financial performance, but how do you measure engagement and make the connection?

First, realize that it takes time—usually three to five years. You have to invest in establishing baseline engagement metrics showing where your organization is today and compare it to data you collect year after year going forward. With this in mind, here are some of the metrics you can look at to determine employee engagement.

  • Voluntary turnover: Analyze turnover and exit interview data by department and manager, race, gender, generation, length of tenure, and other demographics to be able to address specific issues with specific populations. Who is leaving and why? Share data with all levels in management. Departments and managers with high turnover need assistance in recruiting (how to hire the right people who will fit) and with their management skills.
  • Training participation: Track the number of training hours per year for the organization overall, as well as for different levels of employees. Analyze training participation by department and manager, race, gender, generation, length of tenure, and so on—and cross-reference it with turnover data. Low participation in any department or function often results in higher voluntary and involuntary turnover. Manager development is strongly correlated with higher staff and manager retention and higher employee performance.
  • Revenue per employee: As a baseline, determine today’s revenue per employee (total annual revenue divided by the number of employees at the end of the year). Calculate this for the past two years and then monitor it year to year after you implement engagement strategies.
  • Number of internal applicants per job opening: If internal candidates are not applying, that’s a sign that engagement is low. You may need to offer internal courses in resume and interview preparation, internal networking, and other topics. Demonstrating care for your employees’ careers increases engagement.
  • Number of employee referrals for job openings: With or without a referral reward, engaged employees will refer qualified applicants. Track where and how all applicants learned of each opening.
  • Number of awards as a Great Place to Work, Top Employer, Great Place for Mothers, Best Places in IT, and so on. Many of these awards are based on employee surveys. If you apply for an award and don’t win, use the survey data/report you receive to analyze the situation and to refine engagement efforts in the future. When you do win, continue to use the data to improve strategies. Either way, thank your employees for taking the time give feedback.

Senior management may need education around the value of employee engagement to understand that lower engagement means higher turnover, a negative employment brand, more quality issues, a negative product or service brand, and a lower bottom line. Share articles featuring Gallup research. Start an executive book club with discussions of books such as First Break All the Rules or What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. Apply for an award as a Best Place to Work or Top Employer.  And remember what the famous management consultant Peter Drucker once said: “What’s measured improves.” In the end, your bottom line will thank you.

Nancy S. Ahlrichs is a business development consultant at FlashPoint, where she interacts with human resource professionals, executives, and business owners in order to understand their organizational needs. She collaborates with our other team members to develop appropriate consulting solutions and supports prospects throughout the sales process.


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Leadership Development Trends from the Leadership Challenge Forum

July 16th, 2015 by Bill Mugavin in Talent Development, Talent Management

Recently FlLCWashPoint had the opportunity to sponsor the 2015 Leadership Challenge Forum in San Francisco. More than 250 attendees from all over the world learned about the latest research and developments with The Leadership Challenge® Workshop and LPI®: Leadership Practices Inventory®, as well as other products and services associated with the program. With a theme of “cultivating a culture of leadership,” the forum included three keynote sessions and more than 20 breakout sessions that covered real-world case studies and provided skill-building opportunities. Below are some key highlights from the forum.

Cultivating a Culture of Leadership

The authors of The Leadership Challenge®, Barry Posner and Jim Kouzes, kicked off the forum by sharing the foundational principles for cultivating a culture of leadership in organizations. There are many reasons that leaders seek to change the culture of their organizations. In some cases they are striving to transform unhealthy cultures into healthy cultures. In other cases they are working to move from a culture of command and control to one of teamwork, collaboration, and empowerment. Regardless of the reason, Posner and Kouzes argue the only way a culture changes is if leaders change. While processes and structure are important, it is the behavior of leaders that has the most impact on the creation or evolution of an organizational culture. Until leaders intentionally and consistently demonstrate The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® (model the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process, enable others to act, and encourage the heart), culture change initiatives are doomed to fail.

The Correlation between Employee Engagement and Leadership

Posner shared research on the extent to which employee engagement is influenced by a number of different factors (such as employees’ age, nationality, gender, educational level, position or job role, hierarchical level in the organization, and time with the organization; the size of the organization; and the industry). He found through the research that these factors have little influence on engagement levels. Instead, the largest influence on employee engagement is leadership behavior. Specifically, higher levels of employee engagement are directly related to how frequently leaders demonstrate each of The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership®. The good news here is that increasing employee engagement doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated. Leaders have the ability to improve the engagement simply by intentionally and mindfully putting The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® into practice in their everyday interactions with their teams.

Characteristics of Admired Leaders Remain the Same

During the forum one more bit of research was shared around the characteristics of admired leaders. Of the 20 characteristics identified by Posner and Kouzes (e.g., ambition, broad-minded, caring, courageous), research has consistently shown that employees most admire leaders who are honest, competent, inspiring, and forward-looking. However, a great deal has changed in the world of work. Given the global nature of and unique makeup of today’s workforce (e.g., five generations in the workplace), is it possible there has been a shift in what people admire about their leaders? Posner and Kouzes took a fresh look at the data to answer this question. They added into the mix new leadership characteristics such as agility, appreciativeness, compassion, humility, humor, and resilience, but the core characteristics remained constant. The outcomes of the research demonstrate that while the world may change, what we look for in our leaders doesn’t. We still want leaders who are honest, competent, inspiring, and forward-looking.

There are many exciting things on the horizon around The Leadership Challenge® Workshop, much of which was shared during the forum. But what is most heartening, is that this research based, time-proven leadership model continues to help liberate the leader in all of us.

Bill Mugavin is a consultant at FlashPoint. He focuses his consulting on talent systems and processes, as well as leadership and management development

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Basketball, Broadcasting, and Lessons for the HR Professional: Highlights from the Annual SHRM Conference

July 13th, 2015 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Talent Development, Talent Management

Is thCaptureere a more enthusiastic group than HR professionals faced with endless opportunities to learn and rub elbows with 15,555 of their closest friends and colleagues? I think not. Especially if the gathering is the SHRM 2015 Annual Conference and Exposition in beautiful Las Vegas! No one let the 109 degree heat slow them down.

Sunday’s kickoff keynote speaker, Mike “Coach K” Krzyzewski, men’s basketball coach for Duke University, got everyone off to a high-energy start. Coach K spoke to a standing-room-only crowd to connect his coaching approach to the team and culture approaches that work in organizations of all types and sizes.

For example, Krzyzewski said that at the start of every season he gathers his players together and introduces them to every nonplayer whose job it is to make them successful: maintenance workers, office employees, janitors, and others. He never wants one of his players to say, “Hey, you!’ to anyone who is there in support of the team.

Krzyzewski also urged HR professionals to know something about every employee in order to have more personal conversations. He said that “you want to be able to extend congratulations on a work anniversary or for the birth of a child, or condolences for the loss of a parent.” He urged us to “treat each person as a human being by talking with them about more than work.” In his experience, employees will respond with loyalty and engagement.

While Krzyzewski shared many of his transferable success secrets, one of his most important messages was to “manage and think laterally, not hierarchically.” He drove his point home with a story about basketball great Michael Jordan asking him very politely, “Hey, Coach K. Could you help me with my defense? I have a free half hour.” Jordan knew his place as the greatest basketball player of all time, but he asked for help nicely rather than demanding it. Jordan led by example, and his team worked more smoothly as a result.

Monday’s conference sessions began with another standing-room-only presentation from author Marcus Buckingham. As he often does, Buckingham focused on maximizing leadership strengths before zeroing in on HR’s biggest challenge: technology and old data. “Technology supports organizations, not individuals. We need more support for team leaders in the form of real-time data around each team’s microculture.” He went on to say, “We need leading qualifiers” to help us assemble teams with the right strengths, competencies, and skills. “Right now, technology does not support in advance of a project or other need.”

Buckingham urged HR professionals to push technology providers to offer tools that team leaders and team members will actively reach for on their phones or smart watches. He sees a burning need for measuring real-time performance and real-time engagement. Annual performance or engagement data is too old.  He also urged leaders to provide coaching, not just feedback. “Help me to get better going forward” instead of telling me about my past performance.

Tuesday’s keynote speaker had several special messages for the women in the audience. Since women make up the vast majority of HR professionals, Mika Brzezinski, an MSNBC television host, author, and journalist, had a great turnout. Brzezinski cohosts MSNBC’s weekday-morning broadcast Morning Joe with former Republican representative Joe Scarborough.

Brzezinski focused on her most recent book, Knowing Your Value, and shared personal stories along with the latest research on why many women don’t negotiate their compensation, why negotiating aggressively usually backfires, the real reasons why the gender wage gap persists, and what can be done about it. Her brutally honest, funny, and self-deprecating style had the audience laughing and nodding knowingly.

Brzezinski has interviewed a number of prominent women across a wide range of industries on their experience moving up in their fields. She shared the eye-opening stories of such power players as presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett, writer and director Nora Ephron, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, television personality Joy Behar, and many others. She also shared why women are paid less and what pitfalls women face—and play into—according to Donny Deutsch, Jack Welch, Donald Trump, and others.

With dozens of breakout sessions from which to choose, attendees enthusiastically went session to session and also made time for the exhibit hall. Many old—and new—friends of FlashPoint met with us and talked about leadership development, selecting and nurturing emerging leaders, and the need to update competencies and align talent management processes with the current strategic direction. We had great conversations, we learned a lot, and all in all it was an exciting four days!

Nancy S. Ahlrichs is a business development consultant at FlashPoint, where she interacts with human resource professionals, executives, and business owners in order to understand their organizational needs. She collaborates with our other team members to develop appropriate consulting solutions and supports prospects throughout the sales process.

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Making Lasting Behavior Change Takes Marathon Effort

July 7th, 2015 by Sean Olson in Coaching, Talent Management

Finish LineA few months ago a colleague ran the Boston Marathon. Leading up to the race she had talked with those of us in the office about her training regime and how she had prepared mentally and physically.

During the marathon every runner was tracked electronically, so many of us in the office monitored her progress via a website. What amazed me about her performance was her consistency. From mile 1 to mile 26 her average pace per mile stayed within a range of 33 seconds. She set her pace, she did not waver, and she finished well.

Advancing in one’s career is often like training for and running a marathon. And just as marathoners face hurdles, employees must often overcome negative behavior issues that will potentially hold them back. I have coached a number of executives on professional development and know that realizing the need to change a behavior is step one. Actually changing the behavior is step two. Then there is a third step that many often overlook: changing the perception of the behavior by your colleagues.

As we seek to bring about behavior change via these three steps, here are a few practical suggestions that will help, keeping our marathon theme in mind.

  1. Involve others in the process.

My colleague told us of her goal and shared her progress, and if you want to attain lasting behavior change that leads to growth in the workplace, you need to involve your colleagues too. For one, they will be able to help you better identify the behavior that you need to change. You may not be able to articulate the behavior yourself, but your colleagues probably will. It may be painful to hear, but their feedback is a gift.

  1. Continue sharing your progress.

We regularly asked our colleague about her marathon training. “How many miles per week do you run? Do you run any hills? What is your diet like on the days you take your longer runs?” She was happy to involve us and share her process and progress. When you’re working to change a behavior, you have to share the process and progress too. Be grateful to your colleagues when they ask questions. Be open and share the good and bad of your journey to a better you. If you do not share your progress, they will assume that there is NO progress. 

  1. Remember that it is in fact a marathon.

For my colleague, running the Boston Marathon was the culmination of years of effort,  work, and setbacks. She had to endure injury and surgery. She had to run other marathons to qualify for Boston. The actual event took less than four hours but the ability to finish was years in the making. In a similar manner, you must recognize that you will not make a major behavior change in a few weeks. You will not make a major behavior change in a few months. It will take upward of a year or two. Don’t be discouraged but instead recognize that this change will impact you in a positive way for the rest of your life. Stick with it.

The day my coworker ran the marathon, I kept watching the clock. The website gave us the estimated time that she should complete each segment. I checked in around those times and smiled when I saw that she had kept the pace. When she finished, our team sent a flurry of e-mails congratulating her and marveling at the accomplishment. In an odd sense we had finished the marathon. Likewise, when you involve others in making behavior changes and are consistent over the long haul, your team’s perception about you will shift. When that changes, everything changes.

Is it time to change a behavior to elevate your ceiling? Start the process now, involve others (perhaps even a coach to guide you), share progress, and commit to the long term. If you do these things, like our marathoner, you too will make consistent progress as you develop your career—and you’ll celebrate when you cross the finish line.

Sean Olson is a business development consultant at FlashPoint. In his role he works to understand client needs and help them find the answers that move their organizations forward.

Image courtesy of U.S. Navy


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