Helping People Maximize their abilities


As I wrote the title I realized that was another way of stating my personal mission statement: “I am Anduril using my energy and creativity to help people move from mediocrity to trainingmagnificence.” Investing in others is the greatest gift from one person to another. This can be done formally as a manager to an employee, informally as a parent, or semi-formally as a sports coach.

No one has spare time beyond their fundamental contributions to life. To help people be more than just what they are today: they will need to prioritize in favor of their future and give something up to make the time available. Interesting to calendarwatch people try to make fit more in along with everything that is already filling their calendar to overflowing . It almost never fits. They squeeze and twist and manipulate the schedule until finally something gives: too much to do and not enough time to get it done. Now we find out where their priorities are.

 Part of people’s challenge is there also seems to be a scarcity of long range planning. There are too many tactical demands. To stop, look down the road 6 months and build backwards from there is not often done. 6 months, how about indifferencelooking down the road even 1 one month. Of course this adds to the tactical demand when the time comes due and they are not ready. They literally are stamping out the fires they created. I guess that makes them organization arsonists.

 For me the principle blessing of leading the others is helping them reach towards their maximum potential and then allow them to see the blessings in their lives jets1from operating beyond the routine: beyond just being mediocre. Most people have so much more they can give. If I can create the environment that allows them to shine, then they really shine. It is wonderful.

The Life “Blood” of a company – the employee

January 31, 2016 (San Diego)

                                   “Our people are the most important resource”

potential                         People are designed for relationship

Therefore, if we are to take the very best care of our “most important resource” we should be building relationships with them.

The trouble here is that as we are promoted, at best we have less and less time per employee for relationships. Added to that, we have more and more tasks that draw us away from connecting with the employee altogether.

Previously, as the leader of a 3000 person organization I found a few things that helped with the dilemma.

  1. Delegating as much and as appropriate to my immediate support staff. delegationThis allowed me to connect with the support staff, empower them, and give some of my “to do” time to connecting with others in the organization.
  2. Be “on purpose” about who I connected with. Once out of the office I met many people casually in passing. I made sure I was totally present with them no matter the length of the conversation. Though I was meeting people casually I did have some employees I wanted to specifically connect with. Though every employee adds value to the organization not every employee’s contribution is “critical” within a specific time frame.
  3. Be open to suggestions and criticism. For me this is much easier written than done. I am a work in progress when it comes to “not taking hard criticism personally.” This openness I found particularly invaluable since once I was out connecting with people I did not often connect with and I allowed them to be at ease in the conversation, they had great ideas, suggestions, and critical feedback.
  4. Why bother going the “extra mile” to connect with the employees? My research reveals that around 60 – 90% of the potential profits of a standard distributioncompany are in the 45% of the results that are not getting done by the present processes.

Test that thought

September 5, 2015 (San Diego) – Orange Man Detective with Magnifying Glass

            Over my years of life I have often found that my most current thoughts often become “tested” to determine if I am merely “spouting off” or if I have learned my own thoughts.

Over the last two weeks I had been experiencing a lot of “under communications” with a potential client/project worth about 6% of planned budget for the year. Though the project seemed to be “on” and I had invested about $600 in Visas and support work at the last minute a total turn of the agreement showed up in my “in box.”

Wow, what to do?understanding 2     Here it was 7 days before I was to start the project and the reversal of the agreement was huge. I could capitulate, go with the reversal, and wonder if there would be any further reversals when I came to final payment for the project. OR….. I could reference the original understanding, no contract, and see what would happen.

To be high performing for yourself one needs to be willing to stand one’s ground and agreed standards even it there appears to be a loss coming.

I wrote back upon receiving the reversal in “terms” with the cut and paste lines of the original understanding. That was a week ago. Not a “peep” from the prospect.

I stood by the standards agreed upon and only received silence. Wow, how might this have proceeded if I had agreed to the reversal of terms? Would more reversals be forth coming? Who knows?

Be true to standards is important in high performing companies. If managers rewrite the rules as and when it suits them there will be underperformance from the employees. Guaranteed.


Doubling the “other 6%” to 12%

Jan 24, 2015 (Munich)

            In my last 3 posts I have written about the distinction of tasks being performed way above goal level performance, at d4 in the Ken Blanchard Companies models. My research has shown that about 15% of tasks are done in this zone: 9% of the tasks by self starters and 6% of the tasks by those who have received some encouragement and support to move beyond average, mediocre, d3.

For the 6% who received encouragement and or support on tasks, that effort at encouragement and or support seems to be happenstance rather than a planned leadership strategy. Yes, some for sure it is a planned leadership intervention, but most? I think not. I base this conclusion on the fact that if it were a sustained purposeful leadership strategy more of the 55% of the tasks being done in an average fashion would have moved into the high performing zone. (Remember, one of my previous observations is that most people can perform their tasks at a high performance level with supportive leadership.)

Why isn’t there a sustained leadership strategy by many managers? Though the answer for each manager is unique and often personal, the broader answer is that top management is not behind the growth and development of staff beyond profession “hard” skills.  They pay lip service to training and development, put money and time into giving training and development, but that is where it ends. Application of learned skills on the job is totally up to the trainee. The pursuit of excellence is totally a self initiative project. The trainees experience from top down that real growth in self driven so they pass that the same effort to their staff. An axiom of behavior in organizations is leaders “you get what you role model.

Managers can break this on/off encouragement and support of staff with some basic planning, personal initiative, and a desire to help others maximize their contribution to the organization and themselves.

  1. A spread sheet of critical tasks and current performance levels: beginners, 3 – average goal level performance, and 4 – exceeds goals.
  2. Use the spread sheet to guide development at least once/ week
  3. Base the use, step 2, on the immediate needs for bench strength improvement
  4. After about 6 months you will have moved development from “immediate” needs to longer term needs out in the 6 month window.

Self sustainability, a beginning

Dec 06, 2014 (Indianapolis) – Self sustainability, a beginning

            What has to be the ultimate goal of any supervisor, manager, employer: helping the workforce become self-directing decision makers on behalf of the company goals. Imagine if most of your employees, maybe 75%, were self directing themselves toward goal level performance on the critical tasks they perform for the company. That should be easy to imagine since from my research most companies in fact have around 75% of the critical tasks being done by self directing employees. That is average though. No big deal. No distinction.

If that is in fact “average” or what I label as “mediocre” – half way up the stony mountain – then what is the distinction that moves some companies to great, further up the stony mountain, while others languish at mediocre? To be useful in this blog think about companies that are competitive pairs as did Collins in the seminal book “Good to Great.”

The model that I will reference is the Ken Blanchard Companies “Situational Leadership II” model. In the model I have found that average = good = development level 3 in the model. The model also has a higher level of performance, development level 4 which I have found as “distinctive” – great – head and shoulders above the “average” worker, manager, or company.

What allows, causes, provokes, drives, entices, or woos and employee, manager, or company to regularly do the critical actions at development level 4? Before I offer my best assessment of my question allow me to offer some data. In my research: about 15% of the critical tasks are being done at development level 4. That is not 15% of the employees but 15% of the tasks. My guess, but not researched is that the “hi-pos”, the designated high performers do more of their critical tasks at d4 than the average performer in the company.  I would even bet that the “hi-pos” have learned better than the average performer which tasks are currently critical and do those tasks much better than the average performer and much better than the average tasks that they are assigned. In short they do first things first and they do them better, faster, and different than the average “bear.”

To the question from above: seems there are two general answers:

  1. Of the 15% of the tasks that are being done in the d4 zone, 9% are being done at that level of performance by naturally high performers. People who would do a great job on a task because of who they are irrespective of any external factors. At times I have been that d4 performer or have seen others perform at that level “in spite” of the external factors. Remember, d4 performance is distinctly above the goal level, average, d3 level performance.
  2. The other 6%? Now that is a group worth pondering. They are in the zone because of extrinsic factors. In my next post I will begin to elaborate on those factors. It will be my Christmas present to all. It will also be a New Years gift as I am sure I will take more than one post.

Engaged workforce?

June 1, 2014 (San Diego) 

            There is a quotation sitting in front of me for today: “It is possible to be busy – very busy – without being very effective. This would be highly engaged employees expending their efforts on moderately effective projects or organizations.

My favorite book that reflects this very condition is “The Goal” by Eli Goldratt, North River Press, 1984. Yes, I know, what can we learn from a 30 year old book? In this case wisdom.

Mr. Goldratt wrote the book based on a consulting project. The focus company was working day and night, constantly in motion, with all kinds of overtime, yet never making deadlines. Over the course of 3 months this company was turned around to being totally profitable, ahead of schedule on all contracts, Diverse Team 2and no over time. Also, there was no additional workforce or expenditure on new machinery. Yes everyone was extremely busy without being effective.

When organizations need to “up their effectiveness” it takes an organization wide effort directed from the top, but with constant input from all levels of the organization.

Help the employees win, reward them appropriately, keep them in the loop and it will be amazingGo for the Gold what they can do.

Are we clear about expectations?

April 27, 2014 (San Diego)

            I wonder how clear organizations are being around expectations for each employee?

April 19th’s blog below: when managers mark employees on a forced distribution curve there would be incentives albeit covert to keep expectations a bit fuzzy. If the expectations and goals were totally clear and people exceeded them, the forced curve champions would be in a huge bind as more than 10% would be “top performers.” One would think that for an organization having more “high performers” would be good.

The May 5th‘s and April 14th’s blogs on helping employees stuck at a performance below goal level raises the possibility of marginally fuzzy expectations. For the most part company’s now-days hire proven professionals. Assuming a decent job of selection and interviews: very qualified people should be the outcome in the hiring process; why do so many, up to 25% languish below expectation, goal level, performance? They know how to do the work, after all they were hired because they were proven. So why cannot they get to at least goal level performance? The answer for the most part is employees are abandoned on the job unless problems or crisis happen. At the beginning there is a rudimentary explanation of expectation, but from there the employee is expected to learn the details of the expectations. In many cases that is more difficult than merely putting in time on the job and hoping to figure things out. The guidance from the manager or a mentor to refine expectations so that appropriate actions occur is totally missing.

I have also seen that accountability becomes part of the lack of clarity around expectations. The most weighty impact happens when an employee makes a mistake either on purpose, by accident, or for lack of knowing the “right action to do.” What I see the most is that the manager / supervisors states the mistake and reiterates that it should not happen again. The part that is missing is exploring why the mistake happened in the first place. Gaining clarity here is not at all putting yourself “in agreement” with the reason, you are working to understand the reason for the current performance so that you can adjust, correct, prevent, stop the current performance and aim the employee towards the desired performance.

For us as managers always keep in mind that the employees are watching what we do. Our actions have huge impacts on how the employees will respond. If we show passive indifference to the details of what is expected, what can we expect from our employees? Remember: we get what we role model.

Required performance distribution curve: a problem

April 19, 2014 (San Diego)

            Required or forced distribution of performance for the purpose of bonus and promotion can be a real problem particularly if you are encouraging your employees towards totally engaged optimal performance. The problem: suppose you succeed but standard distributionstill have a forced distribution curve in place?

An example: suppose the general rule of thumb is that only 10% of your employees can be rated at the top and get the highest bonus.  As long as manager do not do much that might just work as my observations over 29 years of consulting is that about 12 – 15% of the employees will move into a “peak performing” zone all on their own. Now your company engages on a leadership program to begin systematic development of staff and it is really successful. An easy outcome would be up to 50% of the employees are now in the “peak performance” zone. What happens to bonus distribution based on the forced distribution curve?

  1. You could reset the curve so that what was considered “peak performance” is now the “new normal”.  One can only imagine the impact on employee engagement when no matter how well they perform, no matter how much extra they earn for the company it is now the new normal and not considered outstanding.
  2. Perhaps a better way of handling the situation is to do away with the curve altogether           and replace the curve with milestones that reflect the market place potential for your company. The metrics of this are totally connected to your company and its thanksgiving 2ability to perform in the market place. A book that totally shows how this works is “The Goal” by Eli Goldratt.

How does your company reward all its best performers or just the best of the best?

Bringing a new employee into the fold

March 8, 2014 (San Diego)

Tender loving care (TLC) will go a long way with orienting a new player whether they are a high performing transfer, an apprentice, or an intern. They all come wanting to do a Strongergood job, highly motivated, and ready to go. What do they need?

Some job and politics orientation will be useful. How work gets done, what a good job looks like, time lines, who are the “go to people” etc. Though this may seem mundane in many organizations, orientation is anything but mundane. I get to do a lot of consulting work for an international tech company that does a lot of reorganizations. The technology experts are located all over the globe and with the regular reorgs, the “go to” tech person changes often. A new player working to figure out potentialthe “intelligence matrix” on his/her own can waste huge amounts of time and can become quite frustrated. Plus the current tech expert has no idea who the new person is nor the immediacy of their need. The tech experts responsiveness can be quite delayed.

I think some organizations or at least some managers treat this pursuit of the answer a “rite of passage.” “If they cannot handle this challenge how can they handle the ‘day job’”? Just maybe the nature of how the task 408px-Pompeii_Garden_of_the_Fugitives_02shows is different enough for some people. The job of working on systems to find problems can be quite different than working in systems to find people and have those once found be usefully responsive. Some new people have moved into the “quit and stay” mode of work. They do not seemed to be able to find the solution to the “intelligence matrix”, no one seems to be willing to help, and they cannot afford to quit.

The other part of the orientation needs to be the politics of the organization. There is the formal structure and then there is how things really get done structure. There are the people who provide answers and people who provide solutions. There are power brokers who do nothing without personal gain and there are those who will nearly drop everything to help another particularly someone new.

breatheAs we help “nuggets” (new guys) learn the ropes we speed up their adsorption into the man upman uporganization and minimize the time needed for the organization to be blessed by their gifts and talents they bring to the table.

Steps toward higher performing organizations

Feb 23, 2014 (San Diego)

Over the last 15 days I have had the privilege of presenting leadership principles in 9 of those days to groups of military, other government functions, and private sector companies. Seems the challenge-of-the-day is people who position themselves just the opposite of the principle of “Invictus” (see Feb 02 blog). They are good at presenting problems and seeking others to solve them: both personal and professional problems. They take no responsibility for the occurrence of the problem, nor the solution: those are both the domain of someone else. They have essentially detached themselves from the organization except for…. salary and benefits. How sustainable is that?

In Robert Greenleaf’s seminal book, “Servant Leadership” Paulist Press, 1977, he wrote that there is an implicit and often explicit “social contract” between organizations and leadreship servantworkers. The worker applies his/her gifts and talents for the good of the organization at goal level and the organization will give the promised salary, benefits, and suitable working conditions. If one is “detached” from the organization and not fulfilling their portion of the social contract, Greenleaf wrote there must be means to restore the contract or remove the employee. Everyone can imagine the impact of a non-whaleperforming whale on the performing whales. In case the metaphor is illusive go to your local SeaWorld and ask them. They will tell you that the nonperforming whale adversely impacts the performance of the performing whales. Not cool!

Unlike whales, on the job you get to do interviews and stress we need youtesting for suitability before hiring. There are resumes and referrals where a company can research past performance.

In my next blog I will first address how to preserve the initial motivation a person brings to the job, thus heading off the potential of developing a non-performing whale. The ensuing blog I will address what I see as a means of working with the non-performing whale.