“When you are the new leader of a team, how do you get your team to buy-in to your strategy?” (subtext: I’ve tried demanding buy-in, and it doesn’t work)
“How do you have difficult performance conversations with people having challenges in their personal life?” (subtext: without seeming like a jerk)
“How do you know if you are balancing your time correctly between building relationships and getting results?” (subtext: I just graduated from a top MBA program and I’m more comfortable with formulas)
These are some of the questions to me during a recent conversation with 25 new hires at my workplace. Questions I’ve worked on via deep introspection regarding my values and my hoped-for contribution to the world as well as training and study and practice in management and leadership–for 30 years! I started at Taco Bell, then checker at a grocery store, retail sales in a department store, new student orientation at my university, marketing in a health care organization, TA during graduate school, waiting tables at a Mexican restaurant, clerical work in two different manufacturing facilities, management consulting, and 18 years in learning, development, operations, technology, and strategy. And so what was my answer to the questions?
I have some guiding principles that help me make decisions, but people are unpredictable, life is messy, and you can’t control other people’s reactions–so nothing works all the time. Here are some guiding principles to the overarching question around balancing relationships with results:
1. No involvement, no commitment. Some things are non-negotiable, so state what they are. If you have freedom regarding HOW to accomplish something or decisions to be made in the face of the non-negotiable, involve people as much as you can.
2. Be mindful and conscious. Were expectations communicated? Repeatedly? With feedback? Have I listened as much as I’ve talked? Is this fair? If our entire working relationship were broadcast on TV, would I feel good about what I’ve said and done? Have I offered resources within the organization?
3. Being “nice” isn’t nice. I learned this from @jack_welch. If you go a few years (which sometimes turns into 10 years, or 20) thinking, “Mary isn’t really that good. She doesn’t meet my expectations. But it wouldn’t be ‘nice’ to talk to her about performance right now” (because her kids are sick, her husband is out of work, she has been struggling). And then one day, maybe for financial reasons or you being called on the carpet for Mary’s lack of performance, you need to tell her she no longer has a job. Is that nice? When you say, “Mary, you weren’t really very good,” shouldn’t she say, “Why didn’t you tell me?” Of course, treat people with respect, develop the skills to provide feedback appropriately, but being “nice” isn’t the goal.
4. Ask for feedback from your team. If you’re a jerk, you’ll hear about it, even if it is masked in political correctness.