Are Your High Expectations Hurting Your Team?

During a recent interview with a member of my client’s executive team, a leader said to me, “Nothing I do is ever good enough for [the CEO]. We’re all starting to ask ourselves why we bother trying.” When I later debriefed the assessment findings with the CEO, she said, “People consistently disappoint me. It’s always been that way. I have high standards. That’s why I get the results that I do.”

When we discussed the unintended consequences of her expectations, it had never occurred to her that she was undermining the very results she sought. Conventional management wisdom suggests that setting a high bar for employees is a good thing. But when employees can never reach that bar, those high standards become weapons, leaving bitterness and unrealized potential in their wake.

This study of more than 300 executives in 10 countries shows that approximately 35% of executives fail because of a tendency toward perfection. That’s because achievement-oriented leaders tend to be chronically dissatisfied. While you may be thinking that you’re “just pushing them to be the best,” you may actually be setting them up to fail. Step back and reconsider whether your constant pushing may have unwanted side effects. Here are a few you might see:

Disappointment in yourself. It’s often not just your direct reports you hold to an unreasonably high standard. In my experience consulting with executives, it’s common for a leader’s discontent to turn inward. Without the ability to feel satisfied with their best or proud of their accomplishment, these leaders often lack joy and professional satisfaction. If you’re one of these leaders, pay attention to the stories you tell yourself about your performance. If the narrative is one of inadequacy or you struggle to take pride in your accomplishments and abilities, it may be a sign that your high standards have warped your own self-perception.

Loss of self-confidence in others. In their book, Impossible to Please, Neil Lavender and Alan Cavailoa write, “When you find yourself working with or for a controlling perfectionist, it’s common to feel angry and frustrated or even worse, you feed into their hypercriticism and begin to feel inferior, like you can’t do anything right.” If your high standards are causing others to feel inadequate, eventually they lose confidence and stop trying. They may second guess themselves while privately resenting you and fearing your regular critiques. Worst of all, because they can’t tell where your unfair standards end and where their shortfalls begin, they aren’t able to improve. As one of the direct reports of the CEO mentioned above so aptly put it, “After a while, the safest thing to do is nothing. Whatever she screams about that day is what I work on.”

Little organizational resilience. When a team is constantly feeling second-guessed or criticized, it has a harder time bouncing back after a setback. People become paralyzed rather than creative when facing challenges. A leader’s perpetual dissatisfaction can drain a team’s resourcefulness. If you worry about whether your organization can rally in the face of major problems, your constant push to reach ever rising standards may be the cause. And if you have aspirations you want your team to achieve, your expectations may actually be weakening their ability to do so.

If you’ve seen any of these consequences in your organization, here are some things you can do.

Learn to harness your discontent. Your dissatisfaction can be an asset; the key is being selective when you use it. In situations where people need to improve, pushing them to stretch can help close the gap. But because of the power that you have over others, your discontent carries more weight and impact. People want to please their leader, and when they believe they can’t, it’s demoralizing. But if they believe they can meet your standards, they are more likely to believe they can be successful when you raise those standards. Be judicious about when and how often you express dissatisfaction.

Never let others question their value in your view. I asked my CEO client who wasn’t aware of the consequences stemming from her high standards, “Do members of your team know what you value about each of them?” She couldn’t answer definitively. She naturally assumed her team shared her drive for perfection and never considered that her critique made them feel incompetent. If you want those you lead to take your critique to heart, it’s imperative they know what you find special about them and their contributions. It doesn’t matter how senior an executive is. You can never take for granted every leader’s need to know they — and their work — matter to you. Inventory the unique value each member of your team creates, and when you see that value in action, be intentional about telling them.

Examine how and when you set standards. Perfectionistic leaders often don’t communicate their “high standards” until others miss their expectations. When you observe a gap between what you get and what you wanted, pause before reacting. Ask yourself if the person who fell short understood what you expected. Then, ask yourself if what you wanted was realistic given the circumstances and abilities of your team. Being honest about what you base your expectations on, and clearly conveying them to others in a timely manner, ensures your standards aren’t just high, but realistic and fair.

Embrace your own goodness. You will be more forgiving of others if you loosen expectations of yourself. Take stock of where your self-perception lacks objectivity, and what conditions trigger your self-contempt. If you surface strong resistance or emotion as you consider areas where you shine, that’s likely a sign that the origins of your harsh discontent may lie deeper than you think.

As a leader, you have the opportunity to unleash the greatest contributions of others. Appropriately raising the bar allows them to grow as your organization progresses. If your standards are too harsh, inadvertently hurting others, find out why, and learn to use your discontent for the good of those you lead.

BY Ron Carucci

Source HBR

A framework for succeeding as a first-time CEO

We’ve all seen the signs of a floundering first-time CEO: leadership attributes and behaviors we can all agree are not only ineffective but sometimes harmful. Although well-intended, there are four damaging leadership attributes and behaviors first time CEOs often display:

• Over-helping: First time CEOs are often eager to help their new teams gain trust and build relationships. However, this instinct can occasionally turn into over-helping, which often becomes micromanaging or functional leadership.

• Egocentrism: Perhaps born from a fear of failure or insecurity, first-time CEOs often fall into the trap of being driven by their egos. They take on the hero mentality and the accompanying sense of martyrdom.

• Overcapacity: While CEOs should be eager to get involved, they shouldn’t book themselves over capacity. Frequently, first time CEOs try to do so much they become frantic and unavailable. At the worst of times, this devolves into seagull management.

• Ambiguity: At the start of a first time CEO’s tenure, it may seem like the game is moving too fast. As such, the organization may suffer from an unclear vision, strategy and culture. This can manifest in slow or poor decision making and living in ambiguity.

I have coached many first-time CEOs, but one client in particular represented these four ineffective, harmful behaviors and attributes. Bob had an impeccable background in the building products industry, having risen across functions in various organizations before taking on a COO role. He had a tier 1 MBA and had worked on three continents. At 45 years old, he seemed like the perfect candidate. When a former boss and chairman of the board offered him an opportunity to interview for a CEO role, Bob impressed everyone and ultimately landed the job.

His new management team was a blend of tenure and youth, with the new organization positioned for growth. Bob’s first 30 days were a blur, and upon his return from a conference, the first wave of challenges hit.

First, Bob’s executive administrator departed the company to follow her previous boss. Second, he was asked to join a sales review where the national accounts team was having profound challenges. Third, the CRM implementation was put on hold until Bob was on board, so he needed to learn and get on board with the process. Fourth, he and his board were concerned with a pre-existing major lawsuit, and there were two acquisitions that needed his attention. Fifth, he called the call center one night and was placed on hold for 17 minutes before being dropped — twice! Finally, Bob’s head of HR retired, and his head of marketing was in severe conflict with the product development leader, resulting in two “concrete” silos.

In the face of all these challenges, Bob remained strong and eager. He came to the office by 6:30 a.m. and never left before 7:30 p.m. It seemed to him all was broken, and he was singularly accountable for what seemed to be a landslide of problems.

Bob set about to fix it all. Over the next month, he demonstrated his sales prowess, drew a new process and national accounts strategy up, and demanded the CRM be implemented — or else. Bob canceled a family vacation because “it wasn’t a good time,” and his wife and kids were missing him. He stopped exercising and became moody. Bob demonstrated such poor impulse control that the board of directors received several emails stating key talent was leaving, the strategy was as unclear as ever, and Bob seemed overwhelmed and in over his head. When Bob’s mentor and chairman offered him a coach, he refused. He was offered assistance to recruit a new CHRO, which he also refused because “he didn’t have the time.” The CRO resigned due to Bob’s behavior. Eventually, Bob was terminated on the six-month anniversary of his hiring.

Unfortunately, Bob’s story is all too common. What can we do to help the first-time CEO and limit the damage that can be done?

1. Build your board of directors. This is not the actual board of directors but, rather, a personal BOD. Additionally, CEOs should focus on the buildout of the executive and L2 teams, so they can direct team members to work on the business. By working at the process level to increase the processes and focus of those teams, CEOs are working on the business, which is dramatically different from the way Bob worked in the business.

2. Consider executive coaching. Bob was, is, and could be a high performer. However, he was using the wrong calculus for high performance. High performance is calculated by enterprise leadership and leading leaders versus actual functional contribution. Coaching can help this re-setting, increase one’s self-awareness, and limit the impact of the bias on decision making. Coaching can also help leaders increase their emotional intelligence, which is highly correlated with leadership effectiveness.

3. Prioritize the four to six greatest value drivers for the business. Using the “VRR” framework, a CEO can clearly articulate primary value drivers, risks and products, services and culture to increase relevance for customers and employees.

4. Develop an inclusive process to establish the infrastructure. To work on the business and not in the business, CEOs must develop the organization’s executive infrastructure, rhythm and prioritization. This is most effectively done by clarifying the culture, vision, strategy, operating mechanisms, and even a corporate calendar.

“Not working in the business” is foreign and unnatural to first time CEOs. Helping first-time CEOs adjust their effort to work on the enterprise, and not in the functions, is a critical step in this journey. By identifying specific developmental opportunities and addressing these early on, we can best prime first time CEOs for success.

By Michael Brainard

Source: Forbes

Manager Global Business Services Outsourcing & Shared Service

Leading businesses are now using Global Business Services (GBS) to create alignment among their business units. Instead of operating numerous shared service centers and managing outsourcing vendors separately, organizations can integrate governance, locations, and business practices across the enterprise to achieve transformative performance improvements. In this way, GBS serves as a single enterprise organization or network that can drive collaboration and sharing to improve delivery efficiency, effectiveness, and business outcomes.

You along with dynamic colleagues will work closely with executives to consider how an outsourcing or shared services operating model aligns with their business strategy. As a Manager, you will lead and deliver large, complex client engagements that identify, design, and implement creative business and technology solutions for large companies.

Manager level responsibilities include: providing service excellence by identifying key client business issues, determining client needs by supplementing the standard assessment techniques and tools with innovative approaches, evaluating and validating analysis and developing recommendations for the client in the context of the overall engagement.  You will be expected to implement and oversee the quality of deliverables and effectively manage the team and day-to-day relationships to ensure exceptional performance.  Managers participate in the development and presentation of proposals for business development activities. You will have the opportunity to lead small engagements or components of large, complex engagements.

Manager Qualifications- GBS

Required:

  • A minimum of 6-8 years consulting and/or industry experience is required
  • Must have subject matter expertise in Shared Services, Outsourcing and/or Offshoring industry or multiple back office functional optimization
  • Shared Services Feasibility Assessments, Implementations, and Optimization
  • Ability to analyze and apply outsourcing trends
  • Practical experience with the full lifecycle of functional optimization, BPO and/or shared services programs
  • Core vs. Non-Core Assessments
  • Understanding of vendor landscape
  • Financial analysis and business case development experience
  • Ability to interact at all levels of the client organization
  • Bachelor’s Degre

Preferred:

  • RPA experience
  • Ability to work independently, manage small engagements or parts of large engagements
  • Strong oral and written communication skills, including presentation skills (MS Visio, MS PowerPoint)
  • Strong problem solving and troubleshooting skills with the ability to exercise mature judgment
  • Willingness to mentor junior staff
  • An advanced degree is preferred

The team:

Finance & Enterprise Performance Consulting:

The Finance & Enterprise Performance Offering (where Global Business Services resides) works as a trusted advisor to CFOs, COOs, CIOs, and key executives. We advise, implement and deliver as-a-service solutions, helping our clients develop strategies and capabilities to support enterprise-wide decision-making, improve finance operations, and create impact within their organization. F&EP brings together four different, but highly complementary legacy practices, allowing us to go to market more effectively and bring unparalleled breadth and depth of expertise to our clients which is unmatched by our competitors today.

If you think this could be a fit, please let me know

Larry Janis, Managing Partner, E: janis@issg.net

Phone 516- 767-3030 ext 301

When managers break down under pressure, so do their teams

  • by David Maxfield and Justin Hale

As a leader, much of what you do is relatively forgettable. We don’t mean to insult, but your routine actions on routine days are experienced by your direct reports as, well, routine.

But for non-routine days — the days when you are under the gun, feeling the heat, or pushed to your limits — how you respond under the pressure makes an indelible impression on the people around you. Our latest research shows that your temperament in these crucial moments has a tremendous impact on your team’s performance.

When the hammer comes down, are you calm, collected, candid, curious, direct, and willing to listen? That would be ideal, wouldn’t it? Or would your direct reports describe you as upset, angry, closed-minded, rejecting, or even devious?

We asked more than 1,300 people in an online survey to describe their leader’s style under stress and the impact of that behavior on their work. We found that a large majority of managers and leaders buckle under pressure. Specifically, respondents reported that, when under pressure:

  • 53% of leaders are more closed-minded and controlling than open and curious.
  • 45% are more upset and emotional than calm and in control.
  • 45% ignore or reject rather than listen or seek to understand.
  • 43% are more angry and heated than cool and collected.
  • 37% avoid or sidestep rather than be direct and unambiguous.
  • 30% are more devious and deceitful than candid and honest.

One executive we worked with was adamant and deliberate about creating a fun and supportive atmosphere where his team felt safe to try new things. He saw his role as supporting people and developing talent. And yet, to his surprise, most of his team labelled him a “jerk.” As we described a time when his team found him to be extra “jerky,” he said, “I know what you’re thinking: you’re thinking I’m some sort of hypocrite. But I’m not. Ninety-five percent of the time, I’m the fun, supportive guy I’ve described. It’s only five percent of the time when I lose my temper or forget what I should be doing and I say stupid things like that. Those statements are not an accurate reflection of who I am.”

And while his team agreed he was great 95 percent of time, this non-routine behavior left a lasting impression. His team felt it was those few moments — the five percent of moments when stakes were high, and the heat was on — that revealed the truth about who he really is.

And there’s more to the story. The research found that when leaders buckle under pressure, it doesn’t just hurt their influence, it also hurts their teams. Respondents said that when their leader clams up or blows up under pressure, their team members have lower morale; are more likely to miss deadlines, budgets, and quality standards; and act in ways that drive customers away.

Our research reinforced this. One out of three leaders were seen by their direct reports as someone who can’t talk or engage in dialogue when the stakes grow high. And when leaders fail to practice effective dialogue under stress, their team members are more likely to consider leaving their job than teams managed by someone who can stay in dialogue when stressed. Team members are also more likely to shut down and stop participating, less likely to go above and beyond in their responsibilities, more likely to be frustrated and angry, and more likely to complain.

A leader’s brash communication style also has a domino effect on team morale and psyche. One employee of a large multinational company told us that his direct leaders were terrible in high-stakes conversations, and the more he tried to speak up and engage, the more verbally violent his leaders became. He and his front-line colleagues grew increasingly silent. It was so bad that people adopted the attitude: “They pay me just enough not to leave, and I work just hard enough for them not to fire me.” They also adopted the saying, “$1000/week for hide and seek.” It wasn’t that they were just a little disengaged; they deliberately avoided management, contributed as little as they could get away with, and picked up their check at the end of each week.

Our research reinforced this. One out of three leaders were seen by their direct reports as someone who can’t talk or engage in dialogue when the stakes grow high. And when leaders fail to practice effective dialogue under stress, their team members are more likely to consider leaving their job than teams managed by someone who can stay in dialogue when stressed. Team members are also more likely to shut down and stop participating, less likely to go above and beyond in their responsibilities, more likely to be frustrated and angry, and more likely to complain.

Let’s walk through an example to see how a few simple skills can help a leader be at their best even when the pressure is on. Imagine you’ve just come from a meeting with a customer, your boss, and your boss’s boss – and it didn’t go well. You thought your company’s agreement with the customer stipulated a 15-day order delivery. But that wasn’t what the contract actually specified. The timeframe was 10 days so you and your team have been missing the mark every time. Your boss and her boss were embarrassed and angry and as they left the meeting, put the onus on you to fix the situation ASAP. Now, you have to go back to your team, including the contract officer who originally misunderstood the contract, and get them to put in the evening and weekend work it will require to meet this week’s deadlines.

  • Determine what you really want. You’re humiliated and angry and you blame your contracting officer for the mistake. But before you allow your emotions to take over, stop and ask yourself, “What is it I really want long term, for myself, for the contracting officer, and for the team?” The answer to this question becomes your North Star, the purpose that guides your actions. In the moment, you might feel like proving to the contracting officer that you’re angry, but is that productive over the long term? Instead, focus on a positive destination like “Showing my best self” or “Making sure the team understands my appreciation for the sacrifice I’m going to ask them to make,” for example.
  • Challenge your story. It would be easy to make the contracting officer the villain. Not only does it sound plausible, but it would also make you blameless — a victim, even. You would feel justified in your anger. However, the best leaders challenge their stories. So you could ask, “Why might a rational, reasonable, and decent person make the mistake that she made?” and “What role did I have in allowing her mistake to go unnoticed and uncorrected?” These questions move us from angry judge to curious problem solver, and make us far more effective as leaders.
  • Start with facts. When we’re angry, we lead with our emotions, instead of with the facts. Skilled leaders tamp down the temptation to level accusations, and gather the facts. Specifically, focus on what you expected: the commitments, standards, policies, or targets that were missed. Then, add what you observed: the specific actions with dates, times, places, and circumstances as necessary. Don’t add your conclusions, opinions, or judgments. Because facts are neutral and verifiable, they become the common ground for problem solving.
  • Create safety. When you’re under pressure with your job or reputation on the line, how do you light a fire under your team without showing them your anger? Can you get your team to put in the overtime you’ll need from them without threatening them? The short answer is yes. Our study showed that teams work harder and more effectively if a boss doesn’t lose their temper with them. So you don’t have to threaten. Share your positive intent by saying something like, “This is not about blaming, it’s about fixing. I want us to focus on how we can solve our immediate problem. Then we can circle back to find ways to prevent it from happening again.” By framing your intent, you get your team focused on what they need to do, and not on how they are being mistreated.

When the heat turns up at work, most of us aren’t at our best. If you’ve lost your temper in the past, be easy on yourself. You may do it again. But don’t be discouraged – or complacent. Ask yourself, “When it matters most, who am I?” While it isn’t easy to step up to your best self under pressure, it is incredibly important. These are defining moments for you and for your team.

By David Maxfield and Justin Hale

Source: HBR