5th Year Attendee at ASTD International Conference

Last week, my team and I attended ASTD (now ATD) international Conference in Washington DC. I have gone to ASTD just about every year I could. I love the people and the community. This year, there were more international people than ever before, and it was incredible to just hear the languages in the hall.

My first year, I remember I focused on anything cultural or internationally focused. The second year I went to every session I could find about social. Last  year my big focus was on Sales EnablementImage.

 

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This year I went to a few sessions for me but mostly I went to sessions to support my personal learning network (PLN). I had friends who had first time speaking opportunities this year, and I wanted to be in the stand supporting them (and tweeting about them!).

The one most interesting session I did attend was Marcus Buckingham about performance management systems. I was curious because at Microsoft we have just revamp our performance management systems, and I was interested to see what he had to say. Plus I have my performance reviews for my team coming up and I needed to take some notes on how to continue to improve the facilitation of the conversation.

After very thoughtful research and insights into why performance management systems don’t work (Long story short, providing feedback is hard and most people do it relative to themselves, and even in a 360 review its based off themselves instead of the people they are supposed to be evaluating. And if you don’t think feedback is hard, try giving some to your spouse or family member, the people whom you love the most…). He encouraged us that there was a way to engage our employees early and often.

He mentioned that feedBACK was fine but hard to give on past things, but we should focus on near term future focused coaching. Meeting with team members to understand what they are working on, how they can work on what they like to do, and if they and the team understand the definition you have of quality. He also went on to explain that quality could change based on the organization and possibly team. This aspect of quality is something I need to dig further into when setting expectations with my team and my leadership.

There was also 4 questions he would ask of managers for the employees every quarter.

  1. Would you hire them again?
  2. Would you want them on your team?
  3. Is this person ready for a promotion?
  4. Are there performance issues?

With laying the ground work with simple question that provided a better framework for evaluating a persons work it was a more subjective way to review someone. And a way I would like to be reviewed as well.

He made an interesting comment, that we need to make and create performance management systems that are based on the user strengths and not based on corporate objectives and use the system as a crutch to align with goals. I’d love to learn more about this, as this was one of the first sessions I’d been to focusing on performance management in the years I have been at ASTD.

What did you learn? What are you applying?

TRUE LIFE: Diaries of a Middle-Manager

So I get asked a lot how do I get my executives on social tools (see here), like Yammer. The people on the ground, the front line LOVE tools like this. Yet what I find most interesting is managing on Enterprise Social tools and what is the role of a manager in a networked community. This is  something I want to dig deeper than just my personal experiences, so if you have research, please share my way.

For a while, if not forever, managers had the role of dissemination of information. Similar to the role of parents to children, teaching their kids about the world in a way they think they should learn, however far away or close to reality that ends up being.

You’ll need to take note. I am a millennial. I manage millennials and Xers. I am managed by a Xer.

 

YES TEAM

You probably also have experienced this as well. Some roles of your organization are shifting. The role of IT. The role of Corp Communication. The role of Learning & Development. The role of Marketing…. To name a few.

I also think the role of the manager is changing as  well in the social space.

And I don’t mean, because I use twitter, I am a better manager (although that might make another good blog post). I mean internally social tools like Yammer break down the dissemination of information in ways that managers have been holding the keys for ages. What is the role of the manager when my CEO can simply read and “like” a message of my direct reports. How does that reflect on me? How does it reflect on them? Is it a good thing? And what does the role look like if my reports can interact with the CEO without my involvement? What DO they need me for?

 

Three areas for managers to focus —  team, individuals, the company.

  • Team operations – As a manager I have certain things that I liked to do when I attend meetings, as well as when I am participant at meetings. I create a space for us to co-author meeting minutes and notes. No more of everyone take their own notes and someone compile them at the end of the day (and sent over email). I also ask what are my teams “highs and lows” for the week in our Team Yammer group. I do this to see how they are doing and whats going on, what ends up happening is that the lows or the highs spark other conversations. When my team “wins” or does something great, I tag the conversation, this why at the end of the year /quarter or month we can celebrate the team (I used #YES_we_can because the team was the Yammer Education Services aka YES team).
  • Individuals – With allowing people to work out loud on their projects in a variety of groups openly, it allows me to never have to guess what my people are up to. Then during our 1:1s I can follow up on specific conversations or roadblocks and see how I can help remove them to get them to move forward faster. I also use the Praise functionality to give the pat on the back of something small or big, but something worth deserving.
  • The company – By staying connected to a variety of groups that might not be so relevant for my day to day job, it helps me keep an ear to the ground and a heart toward the future of the company. I know and find out things before most people do because I can peer into their groups or spaces and see what they are up to. This allows me to translate and share it with my team on how they should prepare or how our customers will be affected by the other work. As a remote manager this helps me stay connected and virtually walk the halls of other teams and projects.

Your teams need you to serve them. To motivate. To remove and unblock barriers. To help plan and prioritize. And to get into the action, offer up your own hands to get dirty in the work when you need to. Your team needs to be that connecter, and not to stand in the way of connecting the dots for them as they grow and succeed. You need  to help build their networks. And they also need you to get out of the way, and have the opportunity to do it themselves, no matter how much you want to just do it.  And this is amplified in a social networked world. They don’t need you to horde or disseminate the information. If you are like me, my team is educated and has good intention. They don’t need me to be a blocker, they need me to open  the doors and get out of the way. Because at the end of the day, its not about you, it should be about them.

 

Last week I attended ASTD (Now ATD) International conference and I sat in a session with Marcus Buckingham about performance management. His whole talk revolved around the manager employee relationship. He asked managers to ask their employees early and often: 1. At work, do you have a chance to do your best every day? 2. Do you know what is expected of you? 3. Are you colleagues committed to quality (with the definition of quality varying in each organization and team).  Help your employees find their strengths, focus on their strengths and understand the expectations of the quality that the organization needs. You can’t have this level of conversation without actually knowing your team, and really understanding them for who there are and where they’ve been.

 

How do you lead? How do you manage people on social networking tools like Yammer? Do you have anything else to add?

Yammer Edition: Enterprise Social skills leaders need to have

I am on this kick right now of educating leaders and managers about how social can amplify their leadership ability using social tools. I feel like I have written about this before, if not I am sure I wrote myself a note to write that. Recently McKinsey Quarterly came out with a study about the Six Social-media Skills every leader needs (Deiser, Newton). As I was reading this article, and I was highlighting it, scribbling all over it (I know I still print articles that I was to dissect later).

The article speaks about leaders on a personal level to be authentic and to navigate in their own comfort and the information overload. And at the organizational level to think through how to be a role model and stay ahead of the shifts. “Leaders need to excel at co-creation and collaboration – the currencies of the social media world.” Charlene Li in her book Open Leadership, she talks about how leaders are expected to be Open, Social and Transparent – which is probably how they got to where they are today. I see this every day. And mostly I see fear in executives eyes of “What if I say the wrong thing?” Or “What if I spell something wrong” to them I say, it shows that you are human too. And people want to see that. And more importantly, what if you DON’T say anything. I think that’s worse.

So I’d like to dig into these 6 skills and show a bit of tactical and give the nuts and bolts advice for leaders who are using enterprise social tools, like Yammer.

1. The Leader as a producer: Creating Compelling Content

– Its all about short stories. Its about what you are learning from your customer visits. Its about recognition. Video is pretty hot right now and easy to and upload to Yammer for people to watch, like and comment. Its like you are welcoming your teams to come and have a cup of coffee with you as you tell them about your day. Your day, which may seem hectic, and unimportant to the minions below you, they actually do want to hear what you have to say, in a non-scripted way. Video not your thing? No worries, create a Yammer Group – like the CEO Corner or The Leaders Lounge – where you can share detailed updates about what you are learning on the road when you visited your customer. Share what you can. Even the unimportant details are giving the rest of the organization a glimpse of what’s important to you helping them focus on whats important to the business as a whole. Finally within social tools like Yammer its easy to recognize someone for a job well done. And its pretty much free. See this blog post about social recognition (but secret tip — millennials would much rather have a shout out from their leader in a public setting versus some corporate branded Tchotchke.

2. The leader as a distributer: Leveraging dissemination dynamics.

Disrabution competence – the ability to influence the way message move through the organizations – becomes as important as the ability to create compelling content.” So if you, as a leader find a nugget worth gold on your Yammer network, share it with other leaders. This will allow you to start to figure out the different ways the informations literally flies through your organization. I was speaking with a customer, and she mentioned that at a Gartner conference she attended and her big light bulb moment was when she figure out that “the speed at which information and knowledge transfers happen within their organization will be their competitive advantage for the future.” So the speed at which things are shared and transferred can become your biggest threat or opportunity depending on the systems you have in place. It also becomes apparent very quickly who are the infleuncers within your organization. These are the movers and shakers – they might not have the fancy titles that call them influencers – but these are the people who pick where to go for lunch and everyone follows. More importantly these are the people that will start to tip the needle in getting the content pushed to through the right channels – social tools or not.

3. The leader as recipient: managing communication overflow.

This is a huge skill. Something that I think everyone, not just leaders struggle with. What I tell them is give it up – you aren’t going to read every message or every post. And nor should you. Most people can barely keep up with the amount of email they receive not counting the tweets and yams that could cross their computers. What I coach leaders is to focus on the groups that directly impact their jobs and leave the rest. They learn how to tap eachother on the shoulder to bring people and other leaders in when necessary, and to understand how to divde the network so that if there is a message or conversation that their team should see or be a part of the leadership team will be notified. Its also about figuring out what Yammer “feed” setting works for you. One lady I was working with had it set to ALL conversations – no wonder she couldn’t keep up with the messages in her network, she felt overwhelmed but its also because she was seeing non relevant conversations and felt the need to read every single post. Helping decipher these feeds and conversations is similar in real life, I am not sure why people think social should be any different. As a leader, you aren’t involved in every meeting or every conversation or every email sent (thank gosh or you might never get anything done!). Same thing goes for social.

4. The Leader as adviser and orchestrator: Driving strategic social-media utilization.

Its one thing for a leader to start to figure out “social” its another to back up the other social efforts that are going on within your organization to get the rest of your team members up to snuff. Its about figuring how to tap into people who “get it” and help them help others to have that aha moment. Working closely with a customer now who is focusing on reverse mentoring. I have seen it done and talked about in variety of forms but what it comes down to is regardless of age, rank or stature people are helping people up their “social literacy” and building their networks on and offline. So ask someone to help you if you don’t know or offer your help to someone. My guess is that they would gladly take some advice, plus I am sure you have a lot to share as well.

5. The leader as architect: Creating a enabling organizational infrastructure.

This is the age old org chart. Instead of going up the chains of command, which is still needed in some cases, you need to find the person with the right answer fastest, regardless of title or where they sit in the organization or sit physically. By posting and finding experts and answering questions on your Yammer network, this starts to happen without much effort. And leaders should celebrate when something is found, saved or discovered outside of traditional chain of command through tools like Yammer. The report mentions “The leaders tasks is to marry vertical accountability with networked horizontal collaboration in a way that is not mutually destructive”. Helping involve middle management is key at this stage.

6. Leader as analyst: Staying ahead of the curve

I feel like this is a great one for leaders and so hard to do with all of their other priorties. I recently had a C-level complete one of our Yammer Certification programs. She mentioned that she never would have had the chance to learn everything she did in that short time about Yammer and now she can speak more intelligently and work on getting her peers up to speed as well. Its highly unlikely that you , as execs have time for an all day classroom or training sessions, but I do encourage you to get educated and not just believe in the vision, but to roll up your sleeves and get to figuring out how YOU as a leader could be active on social tools. Normally my teams spends about 60-90 minutes with executives from all sorts of organizations. Sometimes we focus big picture and other times we make sure that they have Yammer on their phones and tablets. Sometimes we dig into the wins they are already seeing and other times we go over how to “tap” each other and search for what you are looking for. I think you need a bit of both context in order to help make some of this “social” stuff start to stick in your workflow as a leader.

The report concludes that “It takes guts to innovate radically” and I would add it takes courage a few people to be a bit brave to start to try something new. Regardless if its social or not. But right now, its not a fad. Its not going away. And if I were you – I would figure out where it fits in my toolbox of leadership skills and how to amplify my self as a good leader using the social technologies that we have at our fingertips.

So what about you? Do these skills resonate with the leaders you are or the leaders you have in your organization? Where is the biggest opportunity for growth?

Andy Stanley – Creating High Performing Teams

When I was at cataylyst I still have these voices ringing in my head from what was being said. There isn’t many times I can say that that has happened before. I think that when you are at the right spot at the right time you actually listen to whats being said and its like for the first time, you heard. That’s what happened to me or maybe I didn’t realize what happened to me.

 
On the second day of the conference Andy spoke to the masses about creating high performing teams. And it was one of those talks that I couldn’t write fast enough. I wanted to savor every tweetable moment – make sure that every blank was filled in and my notes are filled with scribbles of me trying to capture his every word. I think at this time I needed to hear the wisdom of someone who has done it before. You know someone who has a team of high performance players. And their secret sauce. I remember I just wanted to be a manager so bad that I think I forgot the opportunity of leadership that I was actually given.
 
I remember Jim Collin’s book from Good to Great – and he talks about not only getting the right people on the bus but getting them in the right seat. Andy kicks off with a similar concept and dug in deep. Something that I was trying doing not realizing it may or may not have been the best thing.
 
1. Select performance-oriented people and position them for maximum impact.
 — Recruit doers – not thinkers, “its much easier to educate a doer than to activate a thinker”.
This is great advice when seeking additional team members – Jim Collins mentions “Great vision without great people is irrelevant” . I have seen this within my own team the doers vs the thinkers. Andy talks about how you can hire the thinkers on a short term basis but you really need the doers in order to start to get the work done. And boy , do we have a lot of work to get done. I don’t need people who are going to just think about doing something, I need people who are just going to do it.
Put people where they can make their greatest contribution. Put your best people on your best opportunities. Andy goes on to say “Life’s not fair, isn’t that what we tell our children. Fair ended in the garden of eden.” I think sometimes I get so caught up in being fair that I miss an opportunity for someone to give their greatest impact because I was worried about the fairness of the situation – or the process behind it.  Andy also mentions you need people to wake up thinking about solving the problem. Someone so dedicated and focused on that problem that you don’t need remind, motivate or manage to get the work done. Boy would I dream for people who woke up thinking of the problems we were trying to solve versus thinking of it as an afterthought.
 
2. Clarify the what and the why 
 – Performance -oriented people like to win. Andy challenges the audience to think about what a “win” is and make sure that everyone knows it. I did this immediately with two teams I was leading. I thought to myself in the audience, Does my teams know when they are winning? Are we celebrating the wins? Are we celebrating the right wins? I wasn’t sure that we were celebrating the right wins because I don’t know if we ever laid out what our wins really are — So literally I had two team meetings and each meeting I talked about the concept of a win and what it means and why its important and had the teams write down what a “win” looks like for them. For the one group the each had the opportunity to really own up to the win and how they would make sure it would be a win. For my other team they listed out wins and then someone quickly started to say what does “failure” look like — and of course. I know what failure looks like, we all do. It was an interesting observation because it ended up being all of the opposites of the wins… funny how that works.
organize to the “what” – Andy asks “if you don’t know why its working whens its working, you won’t know how to fix it when its broke.” I stopped dead in my scribbling of that. Of course. That makes so much sense. Figure out what works and make sure that that everything revolves around that. Too much side ways energy (not focusing on the problem at hand) becomes a weakness to the organization.
 
3. Orchestrate and evaluate everything.
“This is how we do it here… until further notice.
I had trouble with this concept because people within my teams have the autonomy to do what they need to do to get their work done but I understand the concept. Make sure that if its working, we know what and how its working and then when its not we are evaluating ways to make it better.
create a feedback loop that keeps you close to critical events – I think I do this adequately now. I have surveys. I can check data and I hear stories. However I can always do better. Ive just come off a fantastic event. everything (well most everything went smooth). This is a great reminder to get reactions and feedback from the teams on how to make it better. Andy says, and I agree, Numbers don’t tell the whole story and information is often filtered as it makes its way up the org chart. This concept of evaluation is critical in making the problems we are trying to solve worth it because we know we are doing more than just solving the problem we are doing it better than before.
 
 
I think there is so much to unpack. And after almost 4 weeks of the conference rememeber and reflecting on what was so easy to do, act and try with my teams it seems as if there is still more to uncover about creating and leading high performing teams.
 
Do you lead teams? What was the best advice you’ve received when you were leading a team? Anything that you can share? I’d love to learn from you…

I have learned so much.

And I haven’t written anything down. Who am I? I used to blog all the time. I got my current job from a blog post I wrote. (more of the story here)

This past December I graduated with my Masters of Education, Technology and Leadership. I wrote about my FIRST semester in this post. (Oh my – I cant believe how fast/slow it went). I learned a lot in school. But probably not as much as I have learned this past year.

And by the last post I made it really doesn’t justify how much I have learned and been up to. Almost a year ago within a world I had no business being in I jumped in both feet. I leaned on a great coach, business adviser and consultant who became a dear friend. We tried things. Failed at things. Added new things. Took away the bad things and kept on adjusting. Like the angry birds method. “Aim. Fire. Adjust.”

So I guess thats what I will do with this blog going forward. Aim. Fire. Adjust.

I’d like to write about social enterprises because I see that every day. I’d like to write about my journey as a new manager (got lots of stories). I’d like to write about what its like being on the road all the time or how great it is to work from home (YOGA PANTS!). I’d like to write about the customers I see and the lightbulbs that go off. I’d like to write about what its like working for the largest software company in the world after working for a startup.

Is that OK with you? If that works – I will start there. 

No promises. But bug me to write more, ok?

And if you’d like to do a guest post let me know.