It’s no surprise that a company will only ever be as strong as the people in it. Strong teams that collaborate, communicate and possess a strong drive and passion can help propel the company to new levels of growth and success. However, an underperforming team can have quite the opposite effect, not only decreasing productivity and profitability, but also the overall morale and company culture. And while leaders know this, it’s not as if they can just go clean house, especially today, when competition for talent in the market is fierce. So, what can they do? They can do what highly effective leaders always do—face the challenge head-on and learn how to manage it.
Leading an underperforming team can be complicated, to say the least. Whether it’s a team you’ve been working with for a while or you’ve just been brought on as a new lead, the threat of failure lurks just beyond every individual mistake, instance of poor communication, or strained relationship. But don’t throw in the towel just yet (would we really ever do that?). Here are a few tips to help turn your lackluster team into something that shines. Take a deep breath, walk in with a positive attitude, and commit to making clear-headed decisions, not reactive ones.
1. Start Small
The desire to get in there and make big changes will likely be compelling. However, rushing to judgment like this will only push team members further away—from you, from each other, and from the company. The more effective approach is to start small by listening, observing, and collecting as much information about what is going on with the team as possible. Get a better understanding of where the problems are, so that you can address them one at a time.
2. Provide a Safe Place
With all that we’ve been through, people are still struggling. And often, they are doing so silently. In fact, they may not even realize how much it is affecting their work. Provide your team members with a safe space to give feedback and voice their professional grievances or even personal issues (we all know they don’t stay outside the office door). Try to pick up patterns and pinpoint weaknesses, so that you can help redirect them on a more productive path. You can also promote a greater sense of unity and collective purpose by co-creating goals with your team that everyone can work toward together.
3. Don’t Forget Other Leaders
While weaknesses may be obvious among your entry- or mid-level team members, are they as clear with regard to your managers? Unfortunately, the answer is usually no. Take some time to explore how your management could be improved upon. If there was any criticism in your team’s feedback, take it seriously. Getting defensive does nothing but hurt the entire team. Think about what adjusting to their criticism would look like and what you are able to implement with your current management. You may also want to look into leadership training or coaching to help your managers understand their role more thoroughly and work better with the team.
4. Know When to Make Tough Decisions
A team could be underperforming for a wide variety of reasons. However, if performance does not improve after some time and effort, it may be time to consider going your separate ways. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, it just isn’t the right fit. And prolonging a bad relationship will only make it worse in the end. Be aware that terminating a team member can be a heavy blow to team morale in the here and now, but the long-term benefits will more than make up for it.
There’s no doubt that an underperforming team can be frustrating, creating its own unique set of challenges. With these tips and remembering that you can handle this responsibility, your team will rise to the challenge with you.
Barker Associates provides strategic guidance and outsourced CFO services to companies of all sizes. We can provide the higher level of strategy your company needs to grow. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.
Embracing Negotiations in Leadership How to Break Through Hesitation and Negotiate Your Best Solution
Negotiations are a crucial part of corporate strategy, but not (as some may think) merely for high-stake deals, such as mergers and acquisitions. In fact, leadership frequently requires negotiation on nearly a daily basis. And good leaders understand that negotiating is a skill that needs to be developed, just as with any other leadership attribute. Yet, many avoid it unnecessarily … and often, detrimentally. They tend to be more concerned about the objections and perceived conflict they believe negotiations brings about than with the feasible solutions they uncover. Some feel they lack the confidence to ask for what they want or need.
Underlying all of these concerns is age-old fear, and in particular, fear of failure or rejection. This is the fear that likes to stop us in our tracks, causing us to hesitate in the belief that we are safer that way. And, as we all know, the only way to grow and truly get what we want is to push that fear aside and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
In addition to the uncertainty and fear that can arise in preparing for negotiations, the pandemic has also actually affected how we negotiate. Non-verbal communication and body language are important elements in connecting with others, especially during negotiations. However, with the increase in virtual negotiations, our view of the other person is restricted to computer screens or smartphones. Without the ability to fully see a person’s body and, more specifically, his or her subtle movements, it becomes more challenging to anticipate their acceptance or objections and proactively work toward solutions. But while their individual preferences and comfort levels may be more difficult to ascertain, they are not impossible if we remain mindful of them throughout the process.
Finding Opportunities to Negotiate
If you find yourself shying away from negotiations, it’s time to start thinking about why, and recognizing the numerous opportunities that surround you each day to do so. Like any skill, it takes practice and development. Utilizing average encounters will increase your confidence as you move into negotiations with higher stakes. Even asking for a discount on an item you are purchasing and asking your cell phone service provider for a better rate are, in fact, negotiations.
One could argue it’s not worth the effort or the time to engage in these activities, but that’s the fear talking again. Even if you don’t care about saving a few dollars at a store, the investment in building your negotiation skills and confidence is invaluable. Avoiding negotiations in these “not worth it” circumstances leads to avoiding them in other “very worth it” ones.
Going into any negotiation, you can also hone in on your skills by considering the following questions:
Is the situation fair?
Do I deserve a better outcome than the one I have been offered?
Am I feeling hesitant or confident?
How can I connect with the other person to come to a better resolution?
Tip 1: For in-person negotiations, pay close attention to the other person’s body language and try to anticipate and address objections before they ask them.
Tip 2: For virtual negotiations, take the pulse of the other person often. Repeat what they’ve said to ensure you are understanding correctly. Ask them if they have any questions throughout, and pay attention not only to their words, but to their tone.
How can I cultivate the relationship?
How can I close the deal?
Negotiating is really about making the conscious decision to do so, rather than avoiding it all together. Be mindful about recognizing and evaluating the potential for negotiations and that it may look a bit different today than it has in the past. But underlying it all is always relationships, confidence, and the mindset to put yourself in a position to strategically approach the deal. Ask for you what you want, be fair, work through the objections, and get better outcomes.
As with any skill, the more you practice – even with “low-stake” negotiations, the stronger your skills will become. If you need guidance, Barker Associates has experience working with CEOs on negotiation strategies and skills, particularly with finances, lending, and mergers and acquisitions. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.
Leadership – The Importance of Leading Your Mental Health First
I love people. I always have. And I am sure I always will. That being said, once I became a leader of an organization, one of the most difficult things for me to grasp was that my team, made up of colleagues who previously would join me for lunch or socialize after work hours, no longer seemed to want to be with me outside of meetings or the office. I wondered what I had done wrong … until I remembered that my new title brought along more with it than met the eye, and that it can be lonely at the top.
I have grown tremendously throughout my career and, through the process, have come to understand myself better. Moving from a CFO of an organization to a consultant and business owner catapulted my self-development to a new level. I have learned more about my strengths and, even more importantly, my weaknesses. Sure, I enjoy learning more about people. I ask tons of questions, not to be intrusive, but to get to know the other person better. And yes, I am an open book, even “honest to a fault,” so I had to learn to grasp that just because another person is not an open book does not mean they don’t like me.
Through this self-discovery, I am now someone who can better understand not only my own perspectives, but empathetically, those of others. I understand how much “me taking care of me” is required to be the best leader for my own organization. And I appreciate it even more after going through COVID-19.
Leading Ourselves to Better Mental Health
Recently, I listed to a great podcast that brought these points home for me. As I listened, I could completely relate to how the guest, Nick, talked about how hard his parents were on him (as my parents were on me). While it bothered him (and me) greatly in our younger years, there is nothing but acceptance and appreciation now for the person they molded me to be. Nick also talked about the feelings of isolation brought about by COVID-19 and how exhilarating it was to have the first business dinner meeting post-COVID. He was right. I’ve had a few meetings that don’t require a camera and Zoom over the past few months, and always felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders in doing so. After I listened to that podcast, I made sure to book more in-person business meetings, and it has already made a difference in how I feel.
Another area of change for me has to do with my physical health. Pre-COVID, I loved group exercise. When the gyms shut down, it was incredibly difficult for me to learn how to work out on my own and to get and stay motivated. But I didn’t stay in that space. Instead, I found several sources to help me, and now I have many options to deal with stress to ensure I exercise when I travel or even when I cannot make a scheduled exercise class.
You Don’t Have to Do it Alone
I have come across some amazing resources that have helped me maintain my mental health through life’s (and a pandemic’s) transitions. I do not receive affiliate income from any of the links I share here. I am sharing them with you in the hopes I can help make your path to self-discovery less bumpy than my own.
Calm App – This has become one of my go-to apps. And I love sleep stories. By far, my favorite is Wander with Mathew McConnaughy. I also have enjoyed the guided meditations that I can use throughout the day. The music is great with coffee in the morning and they also have a selection of music to play to help you concentrate while you work.
Jill Coleman (Instagram) – I love following Jill Coleman, a business coach for fitness professionals, on Instagram. I also listen to her podcast FITBIZU. She offers great advice about mindset around eating and exercising. Her fitness programs helped me make it through COVID-19 with an actual workout plan. She also offers business advice on her podcast, including how to run a sales call.
Katie Hammill (Instagram) – I follow Katie on Instagram, and work with her to review my weekly meal plans. She taught me that one of the most important aspects of a healthy lifestyle is a meal plan. We have implemented it in my household, helping to maintain calm in our daily lives. We always have a plan for dinner, rather than having a stressful conversation at 6 p.m. about what we are going to do. Another helpful hint to reduce stress around mealtime – make sure you have all the ingredients in the household when you make your meal plan!
Kathy’s Table – Kathy’s Table provides individually proportioned meals that are healthy and gluten free. We include these in our weekly plan at least two nights a week. After two minutes in the microwave, you have a healthy, and delicious, well-balanced meal. And, maybe even better yet, clean-up is fast and easy, which also eliminates daily stress.
Our mental health is impacted by much of our daily lives, especially with all that we have been through in the past fifteen months. And as leaders, we must also recognize our own impact on the mental health of our employees, who are looking to us to lead with more confidence and less stress. We must rid ourselves of the thought process that if we work harder and longer, without any care for ourselves, we will be more effective leaders. In fact, the opposite is true. Without taking care of ourselves, we will eventually burn out, leaving our team without a leader at all.
Leadership requires accountability not only of your subordinates, but of yourself. When you are overwhelmed with so many day-to-day responsibilities you may put self-care on the back burner. If you need a leadership coach to help you with this important aspect, and you are serious about the accountability to do so, click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100. We will work out the right coaching plan for you, and I will apply the $100 toward the package.
We talk a lot about leadership and how strong leadership is required for success in any organization. Strong leaders guide the company and the team along the mission-paved path, leading to the alluring vision of what the company will be one day. Strong leaders are confident enough to help grow skills in others without being intimidated. They can also manage various personalities and determine the strongest course of actions. But what happens when there is poor leadership? Is it just a matter of not liking the boss, or are there more dire consequences?
Think back to a time when you worked for a manager who didn’t know how to manage, was irritable, gave no direction, had unrealistic expectations, etc. You probably dreaded going to work every day. Maybe you even quit your job – a job you actually liked – because you just couldn’t stand working for this person one more day. You may have gotten out of a bad situation, but what effect did your leaving have on the company you worked for?
The Real Costs of Poor Leadership
Most people don’t realize how much poor leadership costs an organization. There are the more obvious financial implications caused by poor leaders such as bad decision-making, higher expenses, and lower revenue from an operational standpoint, but what about the cost in terms of the staff? Bad leaders can cost companies millions of dollars a year by negatively impacting employee retention, customer satisfaction, and productivity. The health of the team can quickly deteriorate right alongside the financial statements.
Bad leadership comes in many forms, but having poor communication skills is one of the worst. When leaders don’t know how to communicate effectively, they can’t adequately direct employees. Consequently, employees don’t truly understand the mission and vision of the organization and have difficulty visualizing their own goals. Instead, they become methodical in their accomplishment of tasks, with no innovation or stake in the outcome. This can lead to unmet deadlines, a reduction in productivity, and unhappy customers, all ultimately leading to a toxic environment and high staff turnover.
Staff turnover is more than inconvenient; it is extremely costly to a company. With additional exit interviews, followed by interviewing, hiring, onboarding, and training new employees, constant turnover can directly affect the bottom line. Statistics show that 57% of staff leave a company because of their boss. That’s more than half of the staff. Further, each staff turnaround costs an average of $5,500. So, in an organization of 100 employees, that costs the company $550,000 in staff turnover alone.
At the end of the day, bad leadership causes damage that is difficult to repair. It incurs higher costs for a company and lower profits. But the good news is that being proactive can help eliminate these risks. Be aware of the following signs of poor leadership before an employee you value walks out the door:
disengagement by employees,
lack of cohesiveness among the team,
decrease in productivity, and
You might consider instituting employment surveys and manager reviews to help spot these signs faster. But remember nothing is a substitute for truly listening to your employees. And once you spot a problem, keep in mind that it is only half the battle – you also have to address it. And that may mean firing or reassigning a poor leader for the larger benefit of the whole team.
You can also prevent bad leaders from developing by investing in your future leaders. Provide meaningful opportunities to learn and improve leadership skills to even entry-level employees who show initiative and promise. A small investment at the outset can lead to improved staff retention, which leads to increased productivity, profits, and success. Remember the adage, “employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers.” Keep your employees around longer by developing managers they actually want to work for.
Barker Associates has extensive experience in leadership issues and their overall effect on the team. We can assist in determining effective solutions that will help your team stay engaged and onboard. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.
Leading with Trust Affects Your Team and Your Bottom Line A Little Trust goes a Long Way
We talked last week about the concept of being lonely at the top and more importantly, how not to be lonely at the top. And we found that one of the best ways is to increase collaboration with your team. However, to do so effectively, we need to earn their trust first.
Do you remember a time when you didn’t fully trust your leader? Maybe you could sense they weren’t authentic or credible, or you felt like you had to have your guard up for another reason. Your levels of performance and productivity were probably lower than usual. You also likely felt disconnected not only from your leader, but also from your team and even your own work. It may have led to internal conflict, poor communication, and decreased productivity. Overall, it wasn’t a thriving relationship. All because you didn’t trust them.
The Importance of Trust
Trust is a crucial component of any meaningful relationship, including those with our subordinates and colleagues. To be an effective, successful leader, you must have your team’s support, which can only happen after you have earned their trust. Earning trust is not necessarily an easy thing to do and not something that happens automatically. It takes work, authenticity, and consistency.
When you earn your team’s trust though, almost magically, amazing things begin to happen. It increases their commitment not only to you, but to the organization and its goals. They become more comfortable with change and more willing to embrace a new vision. Communication also improves with trust, increasing collaboration, creativity, and productivity. Trust even fosters smoother conflict resolution. And it’s a two-way street. When the synergy of trust flows both ways, leaders will empower their employees to do their own work and make their own decisions more, and employees will have the confidence and trust to do so.
According to a Harvard Business Review article, “Without a foundation of trust, people in the organization may comply outwardly with a leader’s wishes, but they’re much less likely to conform privately — to adopt the values, culture, and mission of the organization in a sincere, lasting way. Workplaces lacking in trust often have a culture of ‘every employee for himself,’ in which people feel that they must be vigilant about protecting their interests.”
So, the question becomes … how do we build trust as a leader?
One of the easiest and most effective ways to build trust and strong relationships is to give our full attention to others when they are speaking. Active listening tips include –
Silencing the distractions (physical, digital, and mental).
Repeating what they said and asking if you heard it correctly.
If not, asking them to repeat it.
Using verbal and non-verbal cues that your attention is on them only.
Listening with empathy and trying to meet them where they are.
Building trust also requires authenticity and transparency in your leadership methods. While transparency does not mean that you have to divulge everything to everyone, it does mean that what you do divulge is true and accurate. In this way, you are also modeling the behavior you expect from them. Another tip is to resist the urge to micromanage. Nothing screams, “I don’t trust you or your work” like micromanaging. Set parameters and expectations and hold your team members accountable. Overall, it creates a better working environment and increases the levels of success.
Building trust at work is not all about a mere feel-good initiative. Trust actually has also been found to enhance the bottom line. Trust Across America (an organization that tracks the performance of America’s most trustworthy public companies) found that the most trustworthy companies outperformed the S&P 500. Additionally, an Interaction Associates study showed that trustworthy companies are “2½ times more likely to be high performing revenue organizations than low-trust companies.”
Ultimately, it goes back to the old adage, “treat others the way you wish to be treated.” To build and maintain trust, treat your team members with integrity and respect, fostering open communications and a productive, efficient team. Trust is the glue that binds a leader to his or her team. And nothing provides the capacity for success and credibility more … trust me.
Barker Associates has extensive experience with collaborative management styles, assisting organizations as they achieve increased productivity and efficiency. Use this link to my calendar to choose the best time for your free 30-minute consultation.
Leadership: If it’s Lonely at the Top, it’s Time to Make a Change
“It’s lonely at the top!” We’ve heard that phrase circulated amidst leadership conversations for years. But what exactly does it mean? Is the perception different from the reality? And, more importantly, what does it say about our own leadership styles?
Clearly, it’s not a literal statement. As leaders, we are surrounded by other people (often more so than we may like). Rather, it is a statement born out of one’s personality, emotions, and ability to shift perspective. Loneliness in these terms is not referring to physical isolation, but from an inability to make connections at work due to the position itself. Maybe you’re not invited to lunch anymore. Maybe you’re not on the inside track of the office jokes that everyone else seems to get. But that’s okay. Ultimately, you’re not there to make friends.
Some leadership aspects lend themselves to justifying the phrase. Whether you’re the CEO, the CFO, or in another management position, leaders are the ones who bear much of the responsibilities in a constant attempt to balance the ever-increasing demands from both sides – higher management and staff. There are deadlines, operational issues, risk management issues, financials to be filed, and problems to be solved. This is particularly true for women leaders, who often struggle to find support from like-minded women who have the same abilities and the same challenges. It is also particularly true for financial leaders.
Financial leaders often struggle with discovering the right combination of leadership responsibilities and deadline based tactical responsibilities. They find it difficult to stay engaged with the professionals they lead, because, well, some deadline is usually fast-approaching. Yet, they understand that it is no longer possible to focus solely on the tactical aspects of their jobs. If they want to move up to the CFO level, they cannot do it alone. Rather, they must engage with those whom they lead.
Are We Doing Something Wrong?
Despite the reasons, the idea of being lonely as a leader still doesn’t sit right. In fact, John Maxwell has noted, “If you are lonely at the top, then you are doing something wrong.”
Consider this: if you are alone, it could be concluded that no one is following you. And if no one is following you, how can you lead effectively? Our job, as leaders, is to build relationships, build trust, and make those we lead better at what they do, helping them ascend, as we have. Once we fully accept those responsibilities, we understand that in order to achieve our goals, we must connect to those we lead in more impactful ways, including coaching and collaboration (with little time to be lonely).
The most obvious impacts of loneliness as a leader are on those we are leading, who may feel abandoned. However, it may also affect our own ability to do our jobs effectively. For example, good decisions never arise out of negative emotions, including loneliness. As such, decision-making, a crucial component of leadership, could also be affected when we shut ourselves off.
Lonely at the Top No More
While some of the physical circumstance may be unavoidable – you do have a separate office, you’re not privy to some of the same conversations, you may struggle to find support, strategies to stay engaged with your team abound. In their implementation, not only will you be less isolated, you’ll ultimately be leading in more effective ways.
Top Five Tips to Staying Engaged (and to not being lonely):
1. Be Visible. Your team needs to know you are there and accessible. Have an open-door policy and encourage others to use it.
2. Collaborate. No leader operates alone. You don’t have all the answers. None of us do. Increasing collaboration among the team not only increases creativity, it also increases the value placed on relationships and productivity.
3. Coach. Much of your responsibility as a leader rests with the development of others. Embrace that responsibility. Remember that in order for you to move up, others must do so as well.
4. Actively listen. Your team is valuable and so are their voices, whether they are in consensus or have diverse points of view, show them that you care about what they have to say.
5. Accept Change. Understand and accept that relationships will shift based on your leadership position, but those relationships still need cultivation.
Leaders shouldn’t sit in detached isolation at the top of the organizational chart. Rather, we should immerse ourselves into the organization’s culture and people. With bonding comes energy and with energy comes relationships. And only through those relationships can we bring out the best in others. Loneliness dissipates because we are highly engaged with those around us, not sitting alone behind the closed doors of a corner office.
Barker Associates has extensive experience with collaborative management styles, assisting organizations as they achieve increased productivity and efficiency. Use this link to my calendar to choose the best time for your free 30-minute consultation.