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Use this self-assessment to be your own best leader

Posted by on Aug 9, 2017 in Leadership, Self-Improvement

Leadership Self-AssessmentLeadership Self-Assessment2-page self-assessment – 355KB

Here’s a new download that’s perfect for reflection and planning.

It’s a quick-take self-assessment for individuals who want to become better leaders and managers – of themselves.

Use it to take stock of strengths, sources of inspiration and engagement, learning needs, recharge opportunities, and more.

The fill-in sections are all on page 1. Detailed guidance is on page 2.

Feel free to download, print, and circulate it among colleagues.

We call it IMAP, for Individual Management Action Plan. But don’t let the word “individual” fool you, because it works especially well with groups. It’s an easy but eye-opening exercise that prompts good dialogue and discovery.

Have team members use it on their own – then get together to share key findings. They’ll find plenty of common ground. They’ll learn new and important things about each other. They’ll even uncover ways to help each other – in ways that benefit individuals and the team.

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Download the 2-page self-assessment  (PDF 355KB)
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The simple way to cut barriers down to size

Posted by on Aug 7, 2017 in Change Management, Workplace Improvement

barriers to change

If you’re facing a big barrier in your workplace, something that’s blocking your path forward, slow down and take a closer look.

That insurmountable obstacle might really be a manageable speed bump.

I experienced this in a literal sense when jogging on my favorite wooded trail recently. Everything was going fine until – what?! A newly fallen tree blocked the path.

The tree trunk looked so out of place in sideways form. Big, too – too big to climb over. So I turned around and retraced my steps.

A week later, I followed my usual route. I had forgotten about the fallen tree until – what?! There it was again, still blocking the path. I turned around around and headed the other way.

Bet you can guess what happened the third week. Yep, I ran the same old route – and was surprised all over again by the fallen tree.

But this time, instead of staring at the tree and being daunted by its presence, I looked left and right to find a way around. It took maybe a minute to push through the brush, along the trunk line, where I found a lower section. I climbed over and continued running, leaving that once-insurmountable barrier in the dust.

So what the heck happened? Why did I bow to the barrier those first two times? And what does this tell us about our workplace barriers?

For starters, the fallen tree was totally unexpected. After years of running in those woods, I had grown accustomed to every natural feature. It came as a shock to see an enormous tree lying on its side across the usually peaceful path – and the surprise seemed to fill all my thinking, to the point where I didn’t even consider going over or around.

The second time, it had more to do with repetition. I had turned around after the first encounter, so I did it again without thinking. It seemed like the path of least resistance.

That third time, I was no longer surprised by the sight. Nor was I so reflexive about turning around. I took time for a better look, studying the tree and terrain to check my options. The trunk seemed to get thinner on the right, and the brush seemed passable. So that’s where I went. Problem solved.

Perhaps you’re pushing for some sort of change at work, but you’ve encountered a barrier. You didn’t expect it. Now you’re at a standstill. You’re tempted to give up.

But wait – take a fuller look. Assess the situation. Think through your options. It’ll take some extra work as you improvise and try different things, but that big barrier will get a lot smaller.

A friend of mine had been all excited about a new training program she wanted to bring to her workplace. Then she pitched it to her boss’s boss’s boss – who reacted with all the animation of a fallen log.

The encounter rattled my friend. All she could talk about was the obstructionist higher-up who had no vision. She considered giving up on the new training.

But she persisted, with some adjustments. She talked with colleagues to learn more about that seeming log of a leader. She discovered that he loved metrics, especially financial measures like return on investment. He also like bullet points and brevity.

So she retooled her presentation and reapproached.

The second meeting took only ten minutes, but the log proved to be a real person. He asked questions. My friend had answers. The exchange turned into conversation.

A week later, the training got approved.

The program is now up and running, with my friend leading the way.

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By Tom TerezContact

Smart strategies for working with schemers

Posted by on Aug 3, 2017 in Emotional Intelligence, Management

barriers to change

Does your workplace include a scheming type who seems to play games with people?

They’re difficult to work with, but not impossible.

The key is to understand what’s happening – and to be ready with a few smart strategies.

1. Many schemers get their way through subtle bribes. They put on a friendly air and vaguely promise to help at some point down the road – in exchange for an immediate favor. Their favorite phrase is “I owe you one.” But they rarely deliver on their promises. When they approach you to make a deal, take a pass.

2. When a game-player turns on you, the best response is a cool head and plenty of unassailable facts. For instance, if a scheming colleague is going behind your back to spread rumors that your project is way over budget, come to the next meeting with the latest figures proving otherwise. Don’t be confrontational – just present the facts, take questions, and let reality clear up any misunderstandings.

3. If the person is more aggressive, actively trying to sabotage your work, find a chance to engage him or her in civil conversation about it when colleagues are around – preferably in a meeting. Explain what you’re seeing and how you interpret it, and ask whether your concerns are justified. Be specific and detailed, but also be concise. End by asking your colleague for their take on things. What you want is to create a public awareness of what’s happening.

4. Don’t forget that scheming types are human beings too. To improve the chemistry of this person’s relationship with you, look for any impromptu opportunity to talk with them about anything that’s unrelated to work. Let’s say the person loves football and you both saw the championship game – then start a conversation about that. Or you see a child’s artwork taped to his office wall – ask about it. You won’t rewrite history or change the person’s neural wiring, but a few sincere comments will likely warm up the situation.

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By Tom TerezContact

The case for data-driven curiosity

Posted by on Jul 26, 2017 in Process Improvement, Workplace Improvement

improvement tools

When it comes to working smart, a little bit of research can go a long way.

You don’t have to be a full-on scientist by any means. But if you want to improve how work gets done, you’ll want to conduct the occasional inquiry.

It can be simple, informal, even fun. And it’s likely to be illuminating.

My 19-year-old daughter is working as a math tutor this summer. The learning center is across town, and she can take two different routes to get there.

Wanting to minimize her drive, she put on her inquiry cap. She started taking the different routes – and used her phone to record the number of minutes for each trip. (You can see some of her data in the photo.)

After a couple weeks of testing, she conclusively knew the fastest route.

How can this inquisitive approach help you at work?

Let’s say your work group gets needed information from an incoming form – but half the time the information is incomplete or inaccurate.

So you and your colleagues construct a simple test. As the forms arrive, each of you keeps a running tally of the information fields that have errors. After two weeks, you combine your check-sheet data to create a single Pareto chart that reveals which fields are causing the most problems.

All of you had your theories. Now you have data and a convincing picture.

You know where to focus in order to improve the quality of incoming information.

None of the above requires you to be the next Marie Curie or Isaac Newton.

Simply be curious. Seek out data and facts. Organize the information so you can draw conclusions. Then use the insights to power improvement.

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By Tom TerezContact

The power of positive questions

Posted by on Jul 25, 2017 in Engagement, Workplace Improvement

improvement tools

When it comes to workplace improvement, what’s better than good ideas?

Good questions.

By posing good questions on issues that matter, you can engage colleagues, deepen their thinking, and find common ground through dialogue.

You’ll even come up with better ideas, powered by all that additional brainpower and experience.

Here are seven sets of questions – waiting for a brave person (you) to start the conversation.

Engaging your mind

When was the last time you got so caught up in interesting work that you lost track of time? What were you doing? What was it — about the work itself, how you were going about it, its connection to a greater good — that made this such an engaging activity?

Seeing results
When you want to see the results of your work, what do you look at? How do you know that your effort is having a positive impact? If you could wave a wand and instantly create a more meaningful system for tracking results, what would it look like?

Tackling problems
What is your biggest challenge at work? What makes it so tough to address, and what is the great opportunity that lies within? How would you go about pursuing this opportunity if you had none of the workplace barriers that seem to exist? What creative approaches might make the difference?

Serving customers

When your customers talk about your organization behind your back, what do you think they say? Who has the highest praise, who is most critical…and why? What are they really saying? If you were in your customers’ shoes commenting on the work you do for them, what would you say?

Achieving unity and diversity

What gets greater emphasis in your workplace, unity or diversity? If it’s unity, does the pursuit of oneness prompt people to downplay their differences? If it’s diversity, does the workplace ever feel like a loose collection of conflicting styles and agendas? How can unity and diversity gain strength from each other? What can be done to achieve both of these workplace imperatives in maximum measure?

Giving and getting respect

Johann von Goethe said, “The way you see people is the way you treat them, and the way you treat them is what they become.” How does this play out in your workplace? What could be done right now to make respect one of the workplace’s greatest strengths?

Acknowledging the elephant
Is there an elephant in your workplace — a big problem or concern that no one ever talks about? Something that’s known to all and in desperate need of dialogue? If so, why is the elephant so unacknowledged? What are the risks of talking about it? What are the potential benefits?

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By Tom TerezContact