Are some of the people that report to you less than impressive?
Sure, some are great. Rockstars, even. They’re ambitious, consistent, collaborative, result-producers. The CEO loves them and you wish everyone else on your team was like them. Hell, they even remind you of you. You are proud of them. After all, they are your star children!
But, what about your other, quote unquote children? Oh, you so know about whom I’m talking. The direct reports that you like less than your favorites. You have a list of them and a list on them. Maybe, you even have a nickname for them. Let’s for a moment forget the age-old expression that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and get brutally honest about your team, part-by-part, kid-by-kid.
Do any of these non-rockstar-like, direct reports (or, for the sake of the metaphor, spawn) sound familiar?
In case you just got irked by my comparing your direct reports to offspring, please know 1) I know this is not so PC of me, but thought the comparison funnier than farkakta (Yiddish for exactly how it sounds). 2) I’m a parent and boss myself; and, 3) even if they aren’t at all kid-like to you, please compare them to what works best for you and keep breathing and reading.
THE STEP CHILD
These are the employees/kids you inherited. You never would have picked them yourself. They don’t produce a ton of results. You compare them to your rockstars, and even worry that they may be a bad influence on the good ones. You wish you could get rid of them, but you’re stuck with them for the foreseeable future, unless they screw up big time, which you are sorta hoping happens.
THE CHILD WITH POTENTIAL
These people aren’t bad. They’re average. They have potential. You like them. You want them to succeed and are rooting for them, but are not sure which way it’s going to go.
These young ones you got for a good price. It’s their first real job. They don’t know what they’re doing. They’re all over the place. You can’t really train them. You hope they grow up and show up someday, sooner rather than later.
THE (OCCASIONALLY) GIFTED CHILD
These are your people who are rockstars in certain areas, only. For example, they’re amazing with numbers and procedures, but condescending and horrible at managing people. One week they’re landing big deals and the next week they’re making messes. You are frustrated with them, but keep trying to weigh their good behavior heavier than their bad. You wish they’d figure it out already.
Even, if none of these examples sound exactly like your particular team/spawn, I bet you could describe how your particular parts mess with your whole.
Speaking of your hole…
Yes, that’s right. In order to fix your team, guess whom I am coming after first: YOU.
Sure, your direct reports need work. But, even if you yourself are a true rockstar in many areas of your life, more than likely, there are areas in your life where you are not. And, to be a great leader and boss, it’s that much easier to ask your direct reports to step up directly, if you ask of yourself the same.
In all fairness, allow me to go first.
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WHAT? WHO ME?
Now, when it comes to coaching corporate clients, leading workshops, Personal Integrity®, keeping promises and managing the physical world, I’m a rockstar. I’m Co-Founder of Handel Group with my sister Lauren Handel Zander, and the President of Corporate and the Sports Division. Together we grew our company from the two of us to 59 coaches, CITS and employees.
But, I can also be somewhat of a structure-aholic who doesn’t particularly (I’m being kind here) like change so much. Over a year ago, we named my brother-in-law, who is married to my other sister, Shir Nir, the CEO of Handel Group. And, once Shir took over, I started to have to report to him. In the past, no matter who was the CEO, I always reported to Lauren. That was how we did it. I liked it that way. It worked for me.
Uh oh, is right.
And, even though I loved him and voted him in, I didn’t love that change very much. l didn’t want to report to him. I wanted to continue reporting to Lauren. I was like who are you? I founded this company. Leave me alone.
Yes, that was my attitude. Nice, right? It gets worse.
One of the first changes he implemented as CEO was a whole new reporting structure for the executive meetings. My response, “What? I liked the old way we did. I don’t like this new report.”
Well, one day we were on a conference call with all the executives and he’s training us how to do the new report and I’m a bit annoyed and start asking questions, but not questions to get resolved. You see, besides my structure-aholic trait, I have a confused trait that, when triggered (in this case, when my structure is being messed with), it asks a ton of annoying questions, pretending to want answers, but, really, has zippo intent to learn anything. It’s like a cup with a hole in it. No matter how much liquid (answers) you pour in it, nothing gets retained, on purpose. That’s exactly what I was doing with Shir.
And, as compassionate as Shir was being with me and explaining everything to me, there was a point that I clearly (and rightfully) maxed out his patience and he could only stop and say, “Beth, really?!”
At this point, I also I got a text from one of the executives sitting at the meeting with us, that said, “Beth, no pass with how you’re being with the CEO.”
So, I say to Shir, “Okay, fine, let’s take this offline.”
I did not apologize, did not own being a jerk or how I sucked with him. I just said let’s take this offline. I made a mess of the whole call. After the meeting, Shir calls me and says, “What the f*#k?”
And, it hits me. I had been a complete asshole to him. “Oh my god, you’re so right, I was disgusting. I’m so sorry.”
I looked at my behavior and saw that I had never had to report to anyone other than my sister and I didn’t like it. Even though I voted him to be the CEO and wanted him as CEO, I was a complete friggin’ brat. I promised him in that moment that he will never have that experience of me again and that I will honor him, manage up, support him, root for him and do whatever he wants me to do. And, if I’m resistant to any other changes he makes, I’ll be great about how I handle it. On the next call, I also apologized to the whole executive team for my behavior and let them know my promise to never do that again.
You wouldn’t have the position you do, if you weren’t a rockstar. But, how can you deal with your people successfully, if you’re not necessarily dealing with your own suckage first? How could I successfully manage and work with my executive team on their weaknesses, if I didn’t own and deal with my own weaknesses?
Answer: I can’t. And, that means you can’t either.
Assignment for Part One
1) Look at yourself and make a list, of everywhere you are not living true to your ideal.
a) Where are you not being a rockstar at work?
b) Where are you not being a rockstar in your personal life?
Now, some of you may think you’re pretty amazing and suck less than most. If that’s your thought, just know that’s possibly where you suck.
Think about that.
For those of you who are stuck. Here are a few examples of where to look for your non-rockstar-ness to get you started.
- Your relationship with your boss.
- You can’t stand one of your colleagues and are not great with him.
- You text when you drive.
- You haven’t taken your mate out to a romantic dinner in god knows how long.
- You don’t play with your (actual) kids without your phone.
- You show up late to work.
2) If you’re brave enough, go ask your spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, children, and 2 to 3 of your direct reports/peers, where you are not necessarily being rockstar-like. And, make that list.
Remember, change starts at the top.
Go digging for what you need to deal with, because once you see it, you can start to do something about it for yourself, which I guarantee is the first step to impacting your team.
Stay tuned for my next blog, where I’ll show you how to take what you’ve discovered and help you develop you and your reports.