Tag Archives: Stephen Covey

Right Answers to the Wrong Questions?

A few weeks ago, I spoke to about 20 professionals attending a program about their future and the future of their organizations.

I talked about tomorrow. They were more worried about today.

I wanted to venture into tomorrow and look back to today. They just wanted to get through today.

I discussed purpose: Why? They were more concerned about strategies and tactics: How?

My metaphor was a blueprint. They wanted a to-do list.

I was thinking effective (doing the right things). Their concern was efficient (doing things right).

Leadership was my target. Management was their aim.

I quoted Stephen Covey on leadership, “Begin with the end in mind,” because leaders focus on the horizon, a vision for the future. They were thinking management (“Begin with the beginning in mind”), because managers stare down at their desk, facing their challenges du jour and being constantly interrupted with issues about operations and people.

THE MISTAKES WERE MINE!

Not theirs.

I misread my audience.

I was there to discuss change management, to talk about solving problem and capitalizing on opportunities as we move from today through tomorrows. (Note the “s” on “tomorrows.” You face a tomorrow every day – one at a time.)

See also: The Entrepreneur as Leader and Manager  

I should have realized that, as John Kotter put it, “management is still not leadership.”

He said: “In fact, management is a set of well-known processes, like planning, budgeting, structuring jobs, staffing jobs, measuring performance and problem-solving, which help an organization to predictably do what it knows how to do well. Management helps you to produce products and services as you have promised, of consistent quality, on budget, day after day, week after week. In organizations of any size and complexity, this is an enormously difficult task. We constantly underestimate how complex this task really is, especially if we are not in senior management jobs. So, management is crucial — but it’s not leadership.”

He added: “Leadership is entirely different. It is associated with taking an organization into the future, finding opportunities that are coming at it faster and faster and successfully exploiting those opportunities. Leadership is about vision, about people buying in, about empowerment and, most of all, about producing useful change. Leadership is not about attributes; it’s about behavior. And in an ever-faster-moving world, leadership is increasingly needed from more and more people, no matter where they are in a hierarchy. The notion that a few extraordinary people at the top can provide all the leadership needed today is ridiculous, and it’s a recipe for failure.”

Don’t repeat the mistakes I made with my audience. Be sure you know and understand the questions (both those being asked and those folks are afraid to ask) before you provide answers. Then make sure the answers you provide are correct and understood by the audience you serve. Communication is the negotiating of meaning. If the audience is not “catching” what you are “pitching” it might be well intended and thought provoking or ego or noise or a hope and a prayer but it is NOT COMMUNICATION!

See also: The Need for Agile, Collaborative Leaders  

As George Bernard Shaw stated so correctly, “The problem with communication is the illusion that it has occurred.”

Are you providing the right answer to the right questions? If not, start again!

4 Tips: How to Be a Manager, Not a Doer

No one can deny the great feeling you experience after earning that promotion. Not only does it validate the hard work you’ve done, but it’s proof that you excel at your job. It means that your organization values your contributions and believes that you’re ready to take on more responsibility.

Ready for the bad news? Being an effective manager is tough. Whether you were a claims representative, an underwriter, an agent or a broker, or serving in any other role in which you were an individual contributor on a larger team, your new role is entirely different. Your new responsibilities–managing and leading others–requires a whole different skill set that you likely never learned before.

See also: How to Unlock Group Insurance Market

It’s an all-too-common story. Studies say that up to 50% of new#managers fail within their first year on the job. Gallup says that only one in 10 people possesses the talent to manage. And there’s the notorious Peter principle–the idea that employees are promoted until they are no longer good at their jobs–a particularly common pitfall for first-time managers.

Those intimidating stats show just how jarring the transition to #management is for many people. But don’t let them scare you. Instead, use them as a reminder that, as a manager, you need to begin thinking differently about your job, your role and your skills.

Making a Successful Transition

Repeat after me: “It’s no longer my job to get things done. It’s now my job to make sure that things get done.”

This is undoubtedly the hardest concept for a star performer turned manager to grasp. It’s a subtle distinction, but understanding the difference could make or break your career as a manager. You’re no longer a doer–you’re a leader. The emphasis is no longer on working harder, it’s on working smarter. If you’re staying late to correct and touch up claims long after your employees have gone home, you may be working hard, but you’re not effectively managing your team.

It’s a big mindset adjustment. But once you start thinking in those terms, you’ll start utilizing more effective and sustainable management practices and be a better boss as a result. Here are four more ideas to help keep you on track as you go from doer to manager.

1. Don’t solve every problem. If you’ve worked in your role long enough, chances are that you have the solutions to a lot of problems that creep up. In the past, your job was to solve them and move on. As a manager, your job is more to give your employees the skills and understanding they need to solve problems and keep them from coming up again. Approach every new scenario with direct reports as if you’re their teacher.

2. Study up. There’s a reason so many books are written on management. Most of them focus on what makes great leaders, not what makes great first-time managers, but regardless, management isn’t a natural skill for most people. Find reliable sources that teach you more about what it takes to be an effective manager and leader, whether it’s a book or two you can read over the summer or a comprehensive training session on management, like our Management Education at the Wisconsin School of Business program being held this October.

See also: How to Find, Keep Good Service Reps

3. Check your relationships. You may suddenly find yourself managing your long-time lunch buddy. Maybe your former boss is now a peer. How you handle these evolving relationships is key to your success as a first-time manager. In the Gallup study, researchers list five traits all great managers share. Notice that they all revolve around successfully handling relationships on the job:

  • They motivate every single employee to take action, and they engage employees with a compelling mission and vision.
  • They have the assertiveness to drive outcomes and the ability to overcome adversity and resistance.
  • They create a culture of clear accountability.
  • They build relationships that create trust, open dialogue and full transparency.
  • They make decisions based on productivity, not politics.

4. Don’t stop at managing. Once you’re a successful manager, you’re ready for the next challenge–becoming a leader. Managers are tactical. They put systems and logistics in place to make sure that things get done. Leaders are inspirational. They motivate and engage their teams to work hard and find new ways to get things done. Not all managers can be great leaders, but all leaders must possess at least a basic skill for managing. Dr. Stephen R. Covey, author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, sums up the distinction nicely: “Management works in the system. Leadership works on the system.”

Customer Insight: 4 Ways to Sway C-Suite

As more and more customer insight leaders rise in influence within blue chip companies, it seems timely to consider this question: How can they use their insights to influence senior management?

My last search on LinkedIn turned up nearly 50 customer insight directors (CIDs) in the UK (excluding research agencies, where this job title does not have the same seniority) and more than 700 of their American cousins, chief knowledge officers (CKOs), in the U.S. Whether or not you have risen to the seniority of being called a CID, you are, I hope, finding that your executives want to hear from you. So, when you get that call or regular appointment at the top table, what should you do?

Here are four tips I learned through getting it wrong to start with:

Find out what is on their agenda. To start with, don’t try to raise your own agenda topics, based on current work from the customer insight team. Instead, find out what is on their agenda. Bringing extra insight to one of their current dilemmas, a customer perspective that can be acted upon, will increase your influence. This is akin to Stephen Covey’s classic advice to focus on your circle of influence, not your circle of concern.

Bring a regular customer update. Being the voice of the customer at the top table is almost a moral responsibility for any organization’s customer insight leader. However, it’s important to focus on where you can add value to what they know already. I found one approach was to take responsibility for the existing customer metric that they track (whether that be net promoter score (NPS), customer satisfaction (CSat) or customer effort score (CES)) and then enhance that program to bring a more granular understanding, which enables follow-up actions and evidence of impact. For example, additional questions captured in line with your learning of top concerns from qualitative research, plus analytics about what happens when the experience is changed. If your data and controls are sufficient, you may even be able to evidence retention rate impact from customer experience improvements and, as a result, provide direct financial benefit.

Bring a regular commercial update. While not as expected from customer insight teams, an update on the performance of our targeted leads, direct marketing, etc. helped changed the perception of customer insight to being a commercial team. This was further improved by taking responsibility for measuring marketing effectiveness (with a combination of econometrics and other methods) and by sharing commercial targets. Once the top team realize how much of top line performance and retention impact is actually driven by targeting and insight-led media mix, the demand for updates on these parts of balanced scorecard increases, as does the team’s reputation.

Update jointly with marketing and operations. Most of the CEOs I have known over the years are looking to see the kind of behaviors from their leadership population that give them confidence in their leadership pipeline. One of these is the ability to take a cross-functional view, to not just be concerned with achieving your targets or the reputation of your function, but looking to the good of the whole organization. Updating jointly with marketing and operations and allowing them to take some of your glory is a way to demonstrate this. It focuses, rightly, on what you do with insight and shows your collaborative approach. I recommend taking this risk.

I hope that helps. What have you found helps you have most impact at your top table and get those big business decisions to be increasingly led by customer insight?