Are You Creating Boundaries or Constraints?

ConstraintsAs a leader you need to set boundaries of acceptable performance. This means defining what people’s roles and responsibilities are so they know what to do each day. Unfortunately there can be fine line between setting a realistic boundary for performance and creating a constraint that holds people back.

How do you know if you have crossed that line? Here are three questions to ask yourself to make sure you are not holding people back:

  1. Are you answering basic ‘how to’ questions? If experienced people keep asking basic questions about what they need to do then they are being constrained. When people are sure of their roles and responsibilities they understand the basic tasks.
  2. Do people constantly check with you on decisions? When people keep coming to you to check if they are making the right choices you have tied their hands or they don’t know enough to act independently.
  3. Is your team waiting for direction? If people are sitting around waiting to be told what to do next they aren’t feeling free to act.

The real difference between boundaries and constraints is linked directly to empowering your people to act independently. When people feel they are free to take action, make decisions, and get things done without the constant need to ‘check in’ they will be more productive, more engaged and generally happier with their work life. It feels great to know the boss trusts you to get on with your work without micromanaging you.

A couple of keys to empowering people:

  1. Clearly defined roles. People need to know what is theirs to do.
  2. Knowledge to do the job. Make sure your team has the training / knowledge they need to act independently.
  3. Tools to do the job. Things can only happen when people have the tools they need, be it software, computers, etc.
  4. Support from you. For people to truly go out and get things done effectively they need to know that you will support them when needed.
  5. Feedback on performance. Most everyone wants to know how they are doing, what is going well and what they can do differently so provide information on their performance.

Getting your team on track to perform well, without your hand constantly on the helm, will give you more time to get your own tasks done. If you have set clear boundaries of what people can and should be doing they can act freely. When you create constraints by setting the boundaries too tight you will be more involved in the day to day activities of your team which hinders both you and them.

There will be times when you have to limit the freedom to act, so be clear on what that limit is so people know when to check in with you. Up to that point give them the opportunity to work independently. If there is a check point required, explain what it is and why it’s necessary. Explaining it will help you be sure it is necessary and will help your team understand the need for it. It won’t feel like an arbitrary constraint designed to limit activity out of your control.

Creating boundaries will allow you team to move forward smoothly and efficiently. Constraints hold teams back form peak performance.

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Energize Your Leadership Book Coming April 20, 2015

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Real world stories and solutions for the challenges that leaders face everyday from 16 authors from around the world.

  • Discover how to bring energy back to yourself, your team, your workplace and your future
  • Ignite your passion for making a difference in the world
  • Break through the barriers holding you down

We’ve been there and in this book we share our struggles, our stories and the lessons we learned along the way. You’ll find that we didn’t get things right every time and yet through guts, grit and determination we all found ways to move forward. Our stories are shared to inspire, encourage and give hope to others going through the same struggles.

Inside you will find 16 ways with concrete ideas and actions you can take to bring energy back to your life. All the lessons and action steps are rooted in the real life experiences that transformed our lives.

Join us on April 20th 2015 to find new ways to Energize Your Leadership.

Authors:  Susan Mazza, Terri Klass, Barry Smith, Tony Venegrove, Karin Hurt, Alli Polin, Carol Dougherty, Daniel Buhr, Lalita Raman, Dr. Hoda Maalouf, Scott Mabry, LaRae Quy, Jon Mertz,John Thurlbeck, Cynthia Bazin and Chery Gegelman

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Do You Go All In?

poker chips

As we neared the project deadline it was amazing to see the dedication and commitment of the team. People where putting in long hours if needed, helping out with things outside their responsibility and just looking for ways to ensure success. It was a great feeling, particularly when we hit a really ugly snag a couple of days before our deadline. When that happened it was amazing to watch everyone pull together, pull out all the stops and get things done. We hit our deadline to almost everyone’s amazement. The team members humbly told the stakeholders that they just did what had to be done.

This was a team where everyone was ‘all in’ when it came to the project. There were many different factors that created the conditions leading to the formation of such a high functioning team. One of the most critical pieces of that puzzle was the personal choices made by the team members to fully commit to the project.

Each person was 100% vested in the success of the project. This wasn’t something we discussed amongst ourselves, it was just how each of us showed up. Not everyone started off that way, a few went through the motions at first; they did just what was needed and not anything more. As time went on the team grew together and by the last few days everyone was on board and giving their all.

More recently I’ve been part of teams where there were a few members who just did the bare minimum. When their shift was over they left right away. These team members did what was mandated but did not go out of their way to do more or learn more. Sadly it meant there were many more issues as the project rolled out. The people who held back during the preparation ended up playing catch up later. Additionally they were surprised when there were problems and issues. These problems were obviously the fault of the rest of project team.

Why the difference in the commitment level of these two teams? Part of it is their personality, part the business culture and lastly the expectations of the project leaders. When expectations are set that each person is expected to be fully engaged it builds an environment where that is the norm not the exception. Team leaders must give 110%, hold people accountable for their commitments, and bring an energy that helps keep the team excited and going during the rough patches.

Yet each of us has a responsibility to bring our all to whatever we are part of each day. The most engaging, inspiring and exciting teams can still have people on them who just won’t go all in. This means they are missing some of the benefits of being fully engaged. There are three key things gained when you are fully engaged with your team.

  1. Experience: When you are willing to do more than expected you get the opportunity to experience new things, learn new skills and see things in different ways.
  2. Satisfaction: Most people want to know that what they are doing makes a difference. When you give your all you have the satisfaction of knowing that you did your best to create success. Whether you succeed or not you will know that your efforts mattered.
  3. Perception: Those who are seen as going all in on a project are seen as valuable team players. These are people who are get recognized as having potential because they can be counted on to get things done. This perception of dedication and ability can make your next career step a move up.

It’s so easy to say ‘let someone else do it’ or ‘it’s not my job’ or ‘someone else is responsible’ because it means less risk and less work. Yet it means you are creating limitations for what you can do, now and in the future. Holding back means boxing yourself in to a limited role. If you want to only be in a supporting role then only do what you are told. If you want to lead and grow you must break out of the box and show initiative, show commitment and go all in.

Like in poker when you go all in you can lose big or you can win big. However, you will never know how big a win it can be until you risk it all.

If you are ready to take the risk and go all in you can start today. Ask yourself what more can I do today to help create success? Is there something I can do to help someone get more done today? Where can I lend a hand?

Image from iStockPhoto.com

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End the Blame Game

team conflict

Over the years I’ve worked on a wide variety of projects and seen many times when things haven’t gone well.  At times the problems were due to unexpected issues, other times they were due to things that were overlooked.  There were even a few times when gaps were identified before they could wreck disaster on the project.  Unfortunately too often people get caught up in the blame game; before, during or after a problem occurs.

On one project a problem was found prior to the deadline and the root cause was a found to be a system design flaw.  Unfortunately the flaw was found right before our deadline so all we could do was implement a work-around initially.  Since the flaw didn’t impact the primary process it was missed because not all the processes that used this part of the system were mapped.  A couple of weeks before the deadline the gaps were found and the scrambling began.

At first there were a bunch of meetings about how this got missed and who was at fault.  Fingers were pointed and blame was placed.  This led the people who were blamed to spend time explaining how it wasn’t their fault and that they did their best.  We lost a week or more to these pointless conversations.  Negativity and defeat were prevalent.  Finally the emotions calmed enough for the team to focus on what needed to happen to meet our deadline.  In a few days we were able to identify fixes for all the gaps once the focus shifted to where we needed to go.  Sadly even as we started making progress a few folks would start to vent their frustration that these issues were identified sooner.  Negativity would start creeping in again.

Our project manager had to keep reminding everyone on the target – a successful implementation on our deadline.  Keeping the team looking forward and focused on the key tasks at hand was critical to our eventual success.  He set short-term and long-term priorities and kept us focused on what had to happen next and who could get it done.  He shut down the negative talk and kept us looking at the end goal.  As we came together to find solutions to the gaps we moved past the negativity and started to find the positive in an ugly situation.

We were able to be succeeded by following these three strategies:

  1. Shift the Focus: When you are looking at the problems all you see are problems.  As you start to focus on possible solutions it becomes easier to find the positive in the situation.  Success breeds success.
  2. Worry about Blame Later: It is important to determine what went wrong and how to avoid it in the future but solve the problems first.  Once the issues are resolved everyone can learn from looking at what could be done better in the future.
  3. Check Emotions at the Door: In the heat of the moment it’s easy to let our emotions get away from us.  When that happens, anger and frustration can take the lead side tracking progress and causing people to shut down.  Keep things focused on fixing the problems and not fixing people.

Problems during projects are inevitable; however handling them well is possible.  It requires the right focus and the skills to manage people well.  When a team hits a challenge, the more time they spend on placing blame the longer it will take to get to a satisfactory solution.  Identify the source, focus on the fixes and then worry about the lessons to be learned.  Taking valuable time to find someone to blame is futile and counterproductive.  Solutions aren’t found and people become defensive, overall the entire team can get stuck.  Focus on moving forward and setting a positive tone.  The results from your team will be astounding.

What tips do you have for overcoming the blame game to move forward to success?

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Being Intense

FocusA couple of months ago several colleagues and I were having dinner after a long day and we were comparing notes on how our week and the project were going.  I commented that things had been “crazy and kind of…..” and I was at a loss for words.  Jack offered up “intense” as the word I was looking for to describe it all.  That was exactly how I felt.  He then commented that it was due to the fact that I was intense.

Honestly I think it was meant as a bit of a dig.  Jack tended to think I took my responsibilities a bit too seriously.  To me that wasn’t an insult at all, it was a compliment.  My role in the project was end-user training and we had just made the switch so I was really focused on making sure things were working for everyone.  The fact that I was fully focused on people’s success and experience made me a bit intense I guess.

If we are truly focused on an objective we can come across as intense or even obsessive to others.   Does that mean we should back off or tone it down?  Not in my world.  I am a believer in giving 110% to the things I am doing and I take my work very seriously.  There are people who find that intimidating and uncomfortable to be around.  When people are nervous or afraid they will act out of compliance to a request instead of getting onboard as a collaborator.  You need to know which is going to help you most in the situation, but I always prefer to work with someone who is committed to helping me instead of someone who is just doing what they are told to do.

It’s great to be focused and driving to a result or goal.  Unfortunately if we scare the folks we are working with we may end up being less effective.  Yet if we don’t appear committed or focused people think we don’t care about results.  So how do we strike the right level of intensity?

Here are 5 tips for managing intensity:

  1. Focus on one goal at a time: If you are pushing towards too many things all at once you will seem unorganized and unfocused.  At any one time work on one thing only.
  2. Remember to see the people: Often what we are doing involves others, either directly or indirectly, so remember that others can be frightened when you come on too strong.
  3. Breathe: Before you start rattling off a list of next steps or giving directions to others take a couple of deep breaths and slow down.  Going too fast will confuse people; make sure the others can keep up.
  4. Be clear on the true urgency: Just because you are excited and ready to roll doesn’t mean it’s urgent to those around you.  What is the real importance and urgency of the task at hand?  Is it critical to do now or can it be done soon?  Be clear on the true needs and people will respect your deadlines better.
  5. Smile: When you are going from meeting to meeting or talking with others smile at them and make eye contact.  When you are moving fast with your mind on the end goal you come across as remote and scary.  Relax and people will respond better to your requests.

Remember being intense means you care about what you are doing and you are focused on getting results.  Managing your intensity will allow you to pull others in with you so that you can get more done and have more fun doing it.  Focus on results and keep an eye on the people around you to make sure you aren’t burning them with your focus.  Sunlight is great until it’s focused so intensely that it starts a fire.

My philosophy: ‘Take your work more seriously than yourself’

I believe in getting things done but having fun while doing it.  As a result I’ve found most people to be willing to work with me, help me get things done even when I’m being a bit intense.  I will laugh at myself and my mistakes quickly and readily yet I’m always serious about the results I’m looking to achieve.

Have you ever been accused of being too intense?

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Finding My Way Back

Young woman flying with an umbrella under Paris

It’s been months since I’ve sat down at a keyboard to write a blog post.  Part of that was planned, okay really only the first couple of weeks, and the rest of the time is due to my desire for balance.  Back in early February I wrote a post and then planned on a week to two week absence as my family and I traveled to Washington DC for my father-in-laws burial at Arlington National Cemetery.  I figured that once I got back home we would get back into a routine and I would pick up writing.  Well, as they say the best laid plans…..

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to start working with a new client company right after we got home which changed the balance of my days.  Between my commitment to the client and my dedication to helping my family settle in to a new routine I found it difficult to carve out time to write.  As a result I made the decision to take a break for a while.  My family needed me and my work was very demanding and rewarding.  The next thing I knew 7+ months had passed.

In all honesty I’ve missed writing my blog and capturing my thoughts about leadership, personal development, time management and whatever else came to mind.  However, I decided that I needed to spend my time differently for a while.  It was very intentional on my part to step back from blogging, as well as actively participating in social media forums like Twitter, FaceBook and LinkedIn.  At the beginning of the year I spent a couple of hours a day in these activities and I made a choice to spend that time elsewhere.  While I missed the interaction with my friends and colleagues I am glad I chose to focus on my family and my client.

Balance and Intention

I’ve learned several important lessons over these months about how to create a balance in my life that is fulfilling and rewarding.  There will always be too many demands on my time and I have to pick and choose what I do, who I spend time with, and how I live my life.  I found I could focus on what was important, what was urgent or what was interesting.  Sadly it’s easy to just go with the flow, keep doing what I’ve been doing and let the outside world dictate our time.  This leads to frustration, disappointment and regrets.

To find a balance that worked for me I had to keep in mind what was important to, what actions supported those things and I had to say no.  I found the following actions critical to making this work for me:

  1. Be Clear on Priorities: When you know what is most important to you and where your priorities lay you can make choices that work best for you.  These can, and will, shift over time so think about what’s important to you right now.
  2. Weigh Demands against Priorities: Check requests for your time and attention against your priorities.  Are the demands aligned with what is most important right now?
  3. Do the Things that Matter Most: There will be things you want to do that just don’t align with your current priorities.  Be intentional about what you do and how you spend your time.
  4. Say No Kindly: You will have to say no to people and requests so be kind and considerate to those making the requests.  Remember the request is being driven by what’s important to someone else so be respectful of their request.  You don’t have to say yes just because it’s important to them, just say No kindly.
  5. Never Apologize: Taking care of the things that matter to you is something you should never apologize for doing.  Saying “Sorry I can’t help you” opens the door for others to negotiate or push you into helping.  Instead say “I wish I could help you, unfortunately I can’t at this time”.  This is respectful of their request while saying no.

When I stepped away from the keyboard back in February it was done to focus on my family and our healing.  It was absolutely the right thing to do.  When I started working with my client I wanted to give them my full attention so my days became focused on meeting a tight schedule and I decided to keep my evenings and weekends more open for my family and personal needs.  This meant that my time on social media was cut down drastically as my priorities shifted.  As I focused on the things that mattered most to me at the time I found I was happier than when I was stressed out over getting all the things done that I wanted to do.

To find balance in your life it’s important to be very intentional about your actions.  What do you intend to accomplish, what are your priorities and shift your focus to the things that matter most.  This applies across the spectrum of your day, from what you do at home and at work.  When you are true to what matters most to you it will feel like your life is in balance even when you are crazy busy.  That’s because you will be crazy busy with the important things.

To get started ask yourself these questions:

  • What’s most important to me right now?
  • Are the things I’m doing aligned with my priorities?
  • Which things should I stop doing to free up time for the important stuff?
  • How can I be more intentional in my actions?

Be intentional about your goals and your actions to find a better balance in your life.

How do you create balance?  Please share your tips in the comments below.

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Carol Dougherty

 

 

 

Looking forward to seeing you around much more frequently!

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Thought for Monday

Montain summerIn the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility. ~Eleanor Roosevelt

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The Best of Lead With Giants March 14

wpid-Best-of-LWG-Blog-Posts.jpgToday I’m excited to bring to you the best blog posts from the Lead With Giants group.  There are many interesting articles with great insights into leadership topics.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Best of Lead With Giants March 14

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Thoughts for Feb 4th

Lighthouse in the dusk

We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.
Eleanor Roosevelt

Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.
John F. Kennedy

How many a man has thrown up his hands at a time when a little more effort, a little more patience would have achieved success.
Elbert Hubbard

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The Best of Lead With Giants February 2014

wpid-Best-of-LWG-Blog-Posts.jpgToday I’m excited to bring to you the best blog posts from the Lead With Giants group.  There are many interesting articles with great insights into leadership topics.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Best of Lead With Giants February 14

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