John Baldoni

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Internationally known executive coach, keynote speaker and leadership educator
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VIDEO: Listen to Your Inner Voice

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 12:29

All of us need to pay attention to our instincts. So often what we think is a good choice may indeed be the right choice.

Such a decision may not be deliberative, but it was the right call. And I think the lesson for leaders is that we need to trust ourselves to make the right call in the moment.

On the other hand, spur-of-the-moment decisions can be disastrous. Deciding to buy a house you cannot afford, quitting your job because you are mad, or marrying a partner after a first date may not be sound decisions. They may work out, but chances are they will not.

Your inner voice no doubt will point you in the right direction.

First posted on SmartBrief on 3/10/2017

Categories: Blogs

Fostering Trust Between Managers and Employees (HBR)

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 12:28

A colleague told recently me a story about a sales professional he knew who was struggling.

He was not making his draw and as a result was feeling tremendous pressure. His job seemed to be in jeopardy, save for one thing: his sales manager believed in his talent. The manager sat the young man down and told him to forget about not making the draw or repaying it. Focus on the customer. The young man did and, within weeks, his sales improved. Soon, he was the company’s top performer.

Stories such as these fuel the sales profession, but they have implications far beyond the sales transaction, including to those of us who have not sold anything except candy for a school fundraiser. The nut of the story demonstrates a key aspect of developing your people. Trust. We speak often of how managers need to earn the trust of those who report to them, but we don’t talk as much about how managers and employees need to trust one another. Here are some tips for fostering trust in the workplace.

Communicate openly. Just because you can speak doesn’t mean that you’re communicating. All of us are so pressed for time that we listen only when we are pushed against the proverbial wall. That’s too bad because when you take the time to listen — managers to employees, and employees to managers — you learn what’s really going on. Often you learn about problems before they occur; you may also learn ways to do things more simply and cost effectively.

Go with your gut. As with the story about the trusting sales manager, instinct plays a huge role in fostering trust. Managers who’ve been in the saddle for a couple of years soon learn to separate the strays from herd. They know who’s putting forth the effort and who’s just clocking time.

Tune your antennae. Watch for the warning signs – absenteeism, tardiness, and missed deadlines. But also watch for the positives – staying late, helping colleagues, and volunteering ideas and projects. Too often we focus on the negative (that’s our culture) to the detriment of looking for the good things people are doing.

Following these guidelines will help you foster mutual trust, but such pointers will not make up for the missed call. More than one manager – in fact most managers – have been burned by putting too much trust in an individual who did not deserve it. Your gut can deceive you, especially if you’re dealing with a crafty employee who knows how to pull one over on you. They know how to play you like a con-man coming in for a score. They specialize in emotional blackmail, getting the boss to feel bad for the employee’s inability to do the job.

As a result of these types, managers take a jaundiced eye at any employee, failing to provide them with the support they may need to succeed. It’s important to remember that the overwhelming majority of employees want to do a good job – chiefly because it’s in their best interest to do so – but also because their desire to succeed is grounded in their perception of self.

My advice to managers is simple: don’t let one or two connivers cause you to downplay the intentions and contributions of the people who really do work hard.

First posted on HBR.org 9/26/2008

Categories: Blogs

VIDEO: When a Leader Steps Down to Save the Company

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 16:07

John Riccardo was the CEO of Chrysler who hired Lee Iacocca.

Iacocca later wrote in his autobiography, “John was sacrificing himself to save the company. He was over his head and he knew it. He blew himself out of the water to bring Chrysler back to life.” Iacocca paid Riccardo the ultimate compliment by calling him “a real hero.”

Two things stand out in Iaccoca’s praise for Riccardo, and both are important to leadership. Let’s take them one at a time.

Self-awareness is a form of self-knowledge that emerges when you know your strengths as well as your weaknesses. A self-aware leader knows when he can succeed as well as when he’s licked. Such a leader has the strength of character to step aside in favor of a better alternative. It’s not quitting; it’s called sacrificing for a better alternative.

Sacrifice is a practice not much talked about in business. The concept of sacrifice when framed as doing the greater good is something we attribute to first-responders and service personnel.

It is not something business people get much credit for. But some like John Riccardo deserve our remembrance.

First posted on Smartbrief.com 2/17/2017

Categories: Blogs

Be a Better Manager: Add 300 Meetings to Your Schedule

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 16:07

One of the joys of teaching in a leadership development program is that we instructors learn from our participants. This was brought home to me last week when I was teaching at Banff Centre (www.banffcentre.ca) in Alberta, Canada.

Aside from the stunning location and the pleasant fact that Alberta’s economy is going up rather than down, the participants were eager to share their leadership lessons.

One lesson that resonated with me was from Andrew Solnordal, a regional manager at Gulf & Fraser, a credit union in British Columbia. Andrew is responsible for a nine-branch operation and more than eighty employees. He has committed himself to visiting with each and every employee once per quarter. Think about it – he’s adding 320+ meetings to his schedule per year. Not because he has to, but because he feels it’s the right thing to do. Here are three reasons why Solnordal’s idea may be a good one for you.

Learn what’s happening. Meeting with employees regularly gives the manager insights into the reality in which his people live and work. He can find out about customer preferences as well as their concerns. Too often senior leaders live in a cocoon; it’s necessary to break out of that and go speak with employees regularly.

Discover how to help. The principles of servant leadership call for leaders to enable others to succeed. This is not happy talk; it’s a philosophy based upon reciprocity. If I help you, you can help me. Together we both succeed. And when a senior leader sits down with a front-line employee asking, “how can I help?” he opens up the door to conversation.

Evaluate what you learn. Andrew says that he makes notes from his conversations, right down to noting the names of employees’ dogs. That degree of familiarity makes connections personal, but also gives a savvy manager insight into the challenges an employee may be facing. He is more ready to spot heavy-handed managers and intervene to improve the situation.

Andrew exemplifies a key leadership behavior: go where the work is. In lean thinking, this principle is referred to as gemba, going where the value is. For Andrew, the value is with his people. He learns their concerns as well as their insights into customers. From a leadership perspective he opens lines of genuine communication. He gains an insight into how people are dealing with issues as well as how they are being managed.

His visits are not perceived as intercessions from on high, but rather as opportunities to learn more and offer assistance. Such a time commitment is huge and it is not practical for everyone, but what Andrew teaches us is that if you expect to lead, you must exert yourself on behalf of your people. It’s a wonderful way to create greater levels of trust, something that every leader needs more of right now.

 

 

First posed on HBR.org on 10/03/2008

Categories: Blogs

VIDEO: Make a Difference. Be a Mentor!

Fri, 11/09/2018 - 16:07

Want to make a difference in someone’s life? Become a mentor.

Academia has a long tradition of mentorship, but the concept has become more widespread. Mentoring involves coaching techniques such as inquiry in order to discover an individual’s character and abilities, as well as areas of potential growth.

Mentors, like coaches, challenge assumptions and help individuals learn more about themselves in order to become more successful. Mentorship provides an avenue for individualized teaching as well as development.

Such an approach is especially appreciated by millennials, the 73 million or so individuals born between 1980 and 1996.

According to “What Millennials Want from Work and Life,” a new study by the Gallup Organization, young employees seek purpose as well as development that leverages their strengths so they can become better at what they do.

Mentors do matter, and in the process they feel enriched by the knowledge that they have enabled someone else to benefit from their personal commitment.

First posted on SmartBrief.com on 2/03/2017

Categories: Blogs

Managing Your Fears (HBR)

Fri, 11/09/2018 - 16:06

Fear is endemic in an organization facing hard times. But managers should not show fears they feel to their team. It sends the wrong signal and can cause employees to lose faith. Stoic, perhaps, but it is the reality of leading in an organization. Fear persists, however, so how leaders deal with it is important.

First and foremost, the leader needs to remain in control of himself and his team. Until told otherwise the manager must adopt the command position by knowing and acting on expectations for self and the team. Moving forward, here are things a leader can do to deal with the situation.

Be realistic. High achievers fear something more than business failure; they fear they will not perform up to expectations. It is critical to address that possibility. One way is to game it out in your mind. Play the “what happens if” scenario for each action step. If this happens, then what? Or if that happens, what do I do? Rolling the scenario out in your mind may give you comfort of knowing the consequences. So often the unknown is more fearful than the known. “Fear,” goes the German proverb, “makes the wolf bigger than he is.”

Confide in a friend. Talk it out with a friend, preferably not a subordinate. You can role play the scenario with her as a means of gaining perspective. Invite your colleague to ask you questions. So often the simple act of speaking out loud is helpful. Verbalizing the situation forces an individual to frame the situation in ways that can lead to greater clarity.

Look for inspiration. Find an outlet to release your fear. Exercise is always good; keeping yourself fit is healthy. Some find hope in their faith; others find it in doing something completely different, perhaps coaching a team, volunteering at a shelter, or organizing a food drive. These things can be fulfilling because they get you outside of yourself by helping others.

Lighten up. Dwelling in fear is a zero-sum game. You must abandon that mindset. Make light of the situation. Lampoon it. Take a cue from humorist, Dave Barry, who wrote, “All of us are born with a set of instinctive fears–of falling, of the dark, of lobsters, of falling on lobsters in the dark, or speaking before a Rotary Club, and of the words ‘Some Assembly Required.’” Absurdity never hurt anyone.

Fear is reality when dealing with tough times, but how you manage it is the measure of effective leadership. One who succumbs and gives up surrenders the ability to lead. Standing up to fear, acknowledging its presence, and resolving to move forward, requires determination, and yes courage. That’s the stuff of leaders.

 

 

First posted on HBR.org on 10.08.2008

Categories: Blogs