D. Kevin Berchelmann
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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

I Want to Develop Somebody... but Who??

Recently, when discussing the details of succession planning (uh, oh, here he goes again...!) I was asked the following by a colleague:

“What general competencies, skills, attributes or potentials should we be seeking in someone worthy of developmental efforts, and how do we determine them in candidates? Are those things different for potential departmental/functional heads versus those being considered for C-level responsibilities?”

My shorter version of that same question: "Who the hell do I develop?"

First, I believe skills & attributes (or competencies, if you prefer) are relatively unique to the positions involved. Having said that, my same triad for hiring easily applies to significant development.

A developmental candidate must bring to the table:

1. Moral and ethical foundations. By now, the person's character and belief/value system is pretty much locked in by past interactions with family, friends, colleagues, and school. They need to bring ethics appropriate for your position with them...

Look for evidence of successful, difficult decision-making, and drill into the thinking that took place. Uncover judgment errors and do the same drilling.

2. Work ethic. This is ingrained in people by the age of 4. Someone either has it or not. Bring it with you or move along. Examine evidence of "finishing what you start." Often times, well-intentioned people with a mediocre work ethic will promise the moon, and even begin subsequent implementation.

Many 'starts,' however, will die on the vine. Also investigate resourcefulness that shows a "can-do" sort of accomplishment attitude.

3. Intellect. Remember, you can't fix 'stupid.' You just can't. Many have tried in vain before you; learn that lesson quickly and judge accordingly. They must bring with them sufficient intelligence to perform future responsibilities without excess, preventable error. I don’t mean an IQ test, necessarily, but they must have the mental snap to learn what we need done.

Intellect possessed must match that required by the role. Repeated mistakes or errors in judgment, inability to grasp simple decision-making analyses, lack of confidence in personal actions and decisions frequently point to issues with intelligence.

So, spend some time and effort deciding who you really want to develop; a one-size-fits-all approach simply won't work, and will tire everyone out unnecessarily. Not every "Manager" has the wherewithal to be developed into a Director or VP, and certainly not every VP has the potential to become C-anything.

Cardinal rule of decision-making: Think, reduce, decide.

Don't make this any harder than it needs to be.

But that's just me...

Kevin Berchelmann

Friday, October 17, 2014

Leadership & Control: Symbiotic, not mutually exclusive

When we use control and leadership in the same sentence, our brows start to furrow. We see controlling behavior as an anathema to empowerment--something to be summarily eradicated, not embraced.

Well, yes, sort of.

Controlling behavior in leadership--when used within relationships--is clearly bad. The world doesn't need more micro-managers, we have plenty. But make the distinction clear: when used within relationships is the qualifier.

Personally controlling the controllable is something altogether different. And no, I'm not simply playing with words. Let me explain...

Relationships notwithstanding, there is a lot going on in a typical manager's world. Changes, innovations, developing people, idiotic boss demands... the list goes on. Add to that the occasional "he's touching me!" and we see quickly that the old, tired phrase "control is just an illusion" is neither old nor tired enough. In fact, it's still pretty damned active.

There are so many things--most things--over which leadership has little or no control, that for those things we can control, we should do so viciously and purposefully. Our own behavior, for example. The feedback I give others... whether I decide to mentor someone or not... how I act/react to challenges--do I show resilience, modeling that behavior for others, or do I run around shrieking and pulling my hair?

We don't control much in the big scheme of things, but we do control more than we often think. Grab those things you do control, make sure they happen as you want them to, and save the mental and emotional bandwidth for those things where control is simply a distant mirage, making us believe that water is just over the next sand dune.

But that's just me...


Kevin Berchelmann

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Leadership Apology--Satya Nadella Gets it Right

Big egos are have been the death of many a senior executive. It's such a waste, and it doesn't need to be that way.

Enter Microsoft's Satya Nadella.

During a recent conference, speaking to a group of women, Nadella said they should wait for pay raises to come when an organization recognizes them. Please note--he didn't say women should wait, or that women should do anything different than men. He just happened to be speaking to a women's group, and social media began flogging Nadella for his comments.

In context, his comments were fine. Taken out of context--the world in which public figures live, like it or not--his words sucked. At best, he misspoke (current political favorite); at worst, he screwed up.

Either way, he fixed it. It's never the first mistake or bad decision that gets us in trouble; it's the second--the one we make after we realize the first one was wrong. Nadella knocked that second one out of the park.

No qualifications, no equivocations... he just apologized. "I screwed up, I'm sorry."

It's that easy, folks. Take notes.

But that's just me...


Kevin Berchelmann

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Productivity and Time Management--NOT the same thing

Self-improvement gurus often look at productivity from a “time management” perspective. Absolute malarkey. BS. Balderdash. Pure unadulterated bunk.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Productivity isn’t about managing time, it’s a about discerning among options. In short, it’s about prioritization, not time.

Here are 3 productivity techniques I drill into my stretched-too-thin executive coaching clients :
  1. Decide in advance what’s important, but don’t build a list out of concrete. I know that sounds like a paradox, but we need to know, in calm times, what we believe is important—let’s identify that. But don’t be such a slave to your list that you cannot adapt opportunistically. Needing to read some staff-driven emails may be momentarily important, but don’t close your door when a highly-engaged, usually productive asks “do you have a minute?”
  2. If it isn’t important enough for a calendar, it’s not important enough to do. Deep-six the countless, burgeoning lists that inevitably create a monument for failure at the end of the day. If something needs to be done, put it on your calendar. Then, of course, pay attention to deadlines.
  3. My quote above from Star Wars’ Yoda is appropriate for individual productivity, particularly as it relates to procrastinating. Either do it, and do it now, or DON’T do it, and either do something else or give yourself permission to just relax, surf the web, or stare at the ceiling. Worrying incessantly about something you’re “supposed” to be—but not—doing is simply a time-sucker and entirely unproductive.
Identify and focus on what’s important, let your calendar then drive your day, and don’t beat yourself up when you can’t (or simply won’t) get to something. As a friend of mine is fond of saying, “sometimes it’s ok to delay… if you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute.”

But that's just me...
Kevin Berchelmann

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

So, are you micro-managing??

This is an interesting and pertinent topic to me, as many of my clients–some aware, some not–suffer from the micro-managing malady. 

It’s been my experience that micro-managers do so from perceived need. At least in their minds, they feel they have a need for acute attention to detail in one or more functions, or with one or more (or all) members of their staffs. From my experience, the underlying reasons driving this perceived need come from (a) real or perceived lack of competency of employee(s),  (b) real or perceived lack of trust, and/or  (c) an overdeveloped personal ego/sense of self-worth.

Realize that most people want to achieve the same results with fewer efforts, and micro-managing takes MORE effort, not less.  The dangers to me are straightforward: in times of economic scrutiny, we need employees to be thinking MORE, not less.

So, how can we tell if we've crossed that line into micro-managing? What do we look for, and what can we do?  Some indicators (and suggestions):

1. You frequently get questions about problems without recommended solutions. Employees–even really good ones–tire of doing the legwork for a micro-manager, so will simply ask questions instead of problem-solving. “What do you want me to do?” is a typical question, and they are essentially absolving themselves of all ownership and accountability. You decide, you own. They screw it up, you own it.

2. You regularly ask successful employees for status updates. Stop it. They didn't get there by being an idiot, and you frustrating them isn't helping. Set priorities and deadlines, and then allow employees room to do as you asked. Status updates, particularly those without major project milestones, are simply a display of distrust.

3. You're questioning others’ good decisions. Usually because you would have “done it differently,” or are uncomfortable you weren't involved in the decision. How about just saying “Good work, thanks...?” Learn to shut up; diarrhea of the mouth is a career limiter anyway... 

Eradicating micro-managing is the responsibility of both parties–the staffer being micro-managed, and the manager “doing” the micro-managing.

But that's just me...


Kevin Berchelmann

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Does Turnover Really Matter?

I mean really...

You only have 2 kinds of employee turnover: Involuntary (we whack 'em; this is a good thing) and Voluntary.

With Voluntary turnover, we then have Uncontrollable (planned relocations, illnesses, things like that, nothing we can do) and Controllable.

Controllable, the purview of leadership, has still 2 more categories: Inconsequential (no heartache here, good riddance, "see-ya," "Don't let the door hit you on the butt") and Consequential (Oh, crap, what do we do now??).

The only issue, from a turnover perspective, is the Consequentials. Losing those people we truly do not want to lose, and whose loss will significantly impact our organization. How big is that percentage? I'd argue fairly small. It had better be small, or our organization's survival is in jeopardy. The rest of the turnover is fundamentally a hiring/sourcing/recruitment issue...

I mentioned in an earlier At C-Level that we needed to hire more "A" - players and fewer "C" - players. If we're losing "C" employees, good riddance. If we lose even ONE "A" player, we need to find out what went wrong and do something different. "A" employees are too difficult to recruit and hire - their loss is clearly Consequential.

So, don't just blindly track "Turnover" as this holy grail of a metric. Track the turnover that matters. Another clear example of "measurement is easy; understanding those measures is hard." We have way too many measures and an insufficient understanding of how those measures translate into something actionable. But that's for another edition of At C-Level...


Kevin Berchelmann

Monday, August 11, 2014

Resolving Conflict--this isn't post-doctoral study, folks...

Conflict is a natural occurrence. In fact, it's frequently a really good thing, allowing organizational success by way of diverse thinking. My favorite phrase: When reasonably intelligent, well-intentioned people disagree, the organization is better served.

And I believe that. Of course, I could write a treatise on the reasonably intelligent and well-intentioned qualifiers, but that's for a different posting...

Instead, I'm just going to provide some tips and tidbits for combatting unhealthy conflict. Not to silent healthy conflict, mind you; I'm referring to the other kind. The simple, three-step model for conflict resolution has always been:

  1. Get all the facts on the table,
  2. Understand the others' positions, and 
  3. Find a win-win solution.

Now, I don't know about you, but that last step seemed to take a quantum leap of faith after the first two. Here are some specifics that may help to bring that leap of faith back to something closer to a normal acceptance of logic...
  • Listen. No, not that kind of listening... really listen. Listen to understand, not refute. Listen to find common ground, not to validate your position. Listen, hard.
  • Don't interrupt. Your parents told you that--you should have listened to them (see guidance above). Keep your blankety-blank trap shut and let someone talk. You can't listen if you don't, and the very act of obvious respect may act as a conflict-resolving catalyst. Stranger things have happened. And while we're discussing interruptions... opening your mouth, shaking your head, and otherwise demonstrating your desire to speak are all interruptions, even if no noise comes out of your pie hole. Don't do it.
  • Use "I" messages. Yes, we learned that ridiculously basic, 3-part feedback technique in Communications 101 (did you take notes?). They are as useful and viable as ever, and even more so when resolving conflict. 
    • "When you..."
    • "I feel..."
    • "Because..."
          Remember, our goal is to resolve conflict--really change
          behavior--not to simply win.
  • Ask. If you really want to know "what it will take" for someone to get over a conflict situation, it may be as simple as simply asking. Give it a shot.

Conflict may be necessary for successful organizations, but unhealthy conflict is never part of that need. As leaders, we must identify it, address it, deal with it.

But that's just me...


Kevin Berchelmann

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Soccer, Leadership and the Pony Express

It’s finally over. The World Cup, soccer’s Super Bowl, is done. Germany wins. Now, back to real sports on television (kidding, kidding…).

Though, obvious by my snide comment, soccer isn't “my thing,” it clearly has a world following. Mostly because other countries don't have baseball, football--the real one :)--or basketball to watch during off-seasons, but no matter… millions watch soccer.

So, what can we learn from watching those games (assuming you did watch them)? Well, aside from “don't bet on the home team” (7-1 Brazil… seriously??), there are some leadership lessons buried within that larger-than-a-football-field arena…

1.  Winning is not a one-man game. Soccer has stars, to be sure, but the players don’t have the luxury of quarters or periods. They go flat out for 45 minutes at a time. At any given time, one or more players are “flat-out,” while others are just “running hard,” the soccer version of on-field resting. 11 players on the field for each team, and it takes all 11 to win. The German team wasn't a collection of bought-and-paid-for stars (think Miami Heat), but a well-honed team of players who needed each other (synergy) to succeed.

2.  Short-term actions, long-term view. There are 54 total matches played during the World Cup. Germany eventually won the World Cup by beating Argentina (the long-term goal), but had to win six matches (games) before that just for the opportunity. Strategy is necessary, of course, as are long-term goals. But it’s execution of the tactical that takes us to the end. In short, both are necessary for success.

3.  Stopping the reverse pony-express. Long-term development of talent leads to long-term business success. A close friend of mine derides organizations for what he calls the “reverse pony-express syndrome,” whereby we ride a horse until it nearly drops, swap riders, and start again on the same horse. Germany is a great example of not doing that. As a true team, they relied on the collective versus one standout player; so much so that the MVP was actually awarded to a losing player. We don't need the best individuals to get the best results, we need folks who play well together and look out for the common good.

So, I may not be a soccer aficionado, and I may have screwed up some jargon above due to my ignorance (forgive me, European colleagues and friends), but the lessons are solid nonetheless, proving that even in the mind-numbingly boring, we can derive pearls of wisdom.

Did I mention I prefer real football?

But that’s just me…


Kevin Berchelmann

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Egalitarian folly

I recently read a blog posting from someone holding themselves out as a "contrarian" HR professional (consultant, of course).

I recently read a blog posting from someone holding themselves out as a "contrarian" HR professional (consultant, of course).

Now, I consider myself something of a contrarian myself, as many have used words like that (and sometimes even MORE colorful) to describe my rants, thinkings, and positions on various issues, and I'm OK with that.

This particular blog entry, however, brought a couple of things to light...

1. Can you really call yourself a contrarian? Isn't that for others to determine? Kind of like calling yourself "easy to get along with." Yeah, maybe... but who says??

Someone else, that's who.

2. The specific "contrarian" issue was about performance evaluations and pay. We can argue for hours about the concepts and ideas surrounding this, but the most significant (I'm guessing "contrarian") comment was:
"I am an advocate of 'when the team wins, we all win.' In my opinion when you reward individuals for their individual effort you can unconsciously promote a zero sum game where I win at another employee’s or the company’s expense."
Huh?? "When the team wins, we all win?" Maybe, but what if that "team" is being carried by just one or two super-performers? And of course employee pay is a zero-sum game; dollars (including payroll dollars) are fungible, not infinite. Dollars spent in one direction are potentially at the expense of another direction. Not everyone can be a star employee, and those who are should be rewarded -- those who aren't, well, shouldn't.

Let's not dumb-down performance management -- and subsequent pay initiatives -- to the lowest denominator. We should manage performance responsibly, and pay appropriately for the results and accountability defined.

This isn't rocket science. But it's not "everyone is the same" either.

But that's just me...


Kevin Berchelmann

Monday, May 5, 2014

Adam Silver… Good decision, mediocre leadership

The NBA’s Adam Silver is no demonstrably exceptional leader. At least given the recent example of decision-making without discernment. At best, he could be a negative example… something to hold up as a “kids, don’t do this” sort of thing.

Now, before everyone gets all huffy, hear me out; Donald Sterling is a moronic jerk. I can’t say for certain whether he’s a racist, though I can say that, assuming the recordings are valid and in context, he’s said some things that sure sounded racist. He damned sure needed to be punished, no question. I don't question Silver's decision, merely make a case that the decision was virtually faite accompli, and not representative of the type of lofty leadership with which others are giving credit.

Here’s the thing: making a reactionary decision, based on extraordinary public outcry on behavior that by all accounts was nothing new (numerous accounts of Sterling saying these things before) is far from an exhibition in leadership. It shows no vision (the behavior wasn't new) and it (forcing sale) wasn't even his decision to make. He simply decided to ask the owners to make that decision.

He’s being held up as courageous, in part, for making a decision to ask someone else to make a decision.

Corporate sponsors were bailing out, players (even the Clippers’) were talking boycott, and the media frenzy was threatening to sully the entire sport. Donald Sterling didn't “do” anything special (this time) except say something to a single person that was recorded. This entire hoopla is not based on Sterling’s previously well-known racist behaviors (e.g., discriminatory slumlord) or any such atrocity. This became an issue because dollars started being effected

In my view, Silver had no choice, and no-choice decisions--like bankruptcy, financial layoffs, closures, paying required taxes and making payroll on payday--are not “leadership,” no matter how necessary. In fact, they frequently represent quite the opposite.

Like all decisions, there are two camps in the aftermath. Those who believe a given decision was correct hail the decision-maker as smart and decisive; those who do not, see the decision as a poor one made in the heat of the moment without benefit of due consideration. I’m not weighing in behind either camp—I’m simply saying that this particular decision, though potentially necessary—was no specific indicator of leadership acumen and values.

Sort of like the optimist/pessimist argument: pessimists say the glass is half empty, optimists say the glass is half full. I’m a consultant; all I know is that you've got too much glass.

Now, to add insult to injury, Dennis Hof has banned Sterling from the Bunny Ranch brothel in Nevada. And he did it proactively, unwilling to jeopardize current clientele who might be present when Sterling paid a visit, using known evidence and incomplete information and without any media or public pressure.

Just something to think about.

But that’s just me…


Kevin Berchelmann