The hidden (and most important) information in every organization


hidden information

What is really happening here?

In my recent TEDx talk: Reclaiming Humanity at Work, I told a story about how when I started a new executive level job, that I wasn’t sure exactly what I was supposed to be doing.

A mentor told me, “Talk to everybody and you’ll know what to do”.

I took this quite literally, and in my first 2 weeks I did 100 one-one meetings.

In each of meetings I asked people, “What do you think is working and not working? What do you think we need to change or do differently? What do you think we should stop doing? What do you think is most important moving forward?”

This was life changing for me. After those 100 meetings I felt like I had a super power.

Not only did I know what I needed to do, but I had 100 people who were motivated to help me go do it because I had respected them enough to ask them “What do you think?”

I got the information about what was really going on.

I learned that we had duplicate competing efforts in the group.
I learned that I had a manager who was a bully on my team.
I learned that we were not effectively communicating across the organization.
I learned that we were waiting forever for commitments from another group.
I learned that people were unmotivated because they didn’t understand the strategy.
I learned that people did not know things that my managers told me that everyone knows.

The only way to uncover the secrets

The most important thing I learned is that the information about what is really happening is totally hidden from an executive if you only rely on your managers telling you things.

It’s not that the managers are actively trying to hide anything — most of the time they are not. It’s just that nothing can substitute for real interaction and getting information directly from people who are doing the work.

When I looked around and noticed that my peers were not doing this with their organizations, by comparison they looked like they were shooting in the dark — where I knew exactly what to do.

I have taken this approach of talking to everyone forever after — because it made me so much more competent, and it made everyone else so much more engaged and motivated.

When my organizations got bigger, I could not have thousands of 1-1 meetings but I always had some — every week. I always had small group meetings, and 1-1 meetings with some individuals every time I visited a site.

The ride in the car

One of the most valuable sources of information I got as an executive was from going to visit customers.

It was not anything that happened at the customer meeting itself, it was what I learned during the ride in the car to and from the airport with the sales rep.

If you want to know what is really happening in your business, spend some time with sales reps, sales engineers, and service people. Learn what they think, see and experience. They will tell you more about what business you are in than anything you can learn at headquarters.

Put aside the hierarchy for a minute

It is so important as a leader to step outside the hierarchy and to have real conversations with the people who are actually doing the work on a regular basis.

Those executives that instead, pretend to act like a big-shot all the time, and would never think of talking to people below them, are cutting off the most important source of information there is.

As I also mentioned in my talk…tragically, people have died on operating tables, and planes have crashed because the leader refused to step outside the hierarchy to listen to the people who actually knew what was going on.

You’ll never find this hidden, most information in your organization if you never take the time to have human to human conversations with the people doing the work.

Watch my TEDx Talk here: Reclaiming Humanity at Work

What do you think?

Join the conversation about this on my Facebook page Patty Azzarello Practical Business Advice for Humans.


About Patty
patty blog image crop

Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook

Reclaiming Humanity at Work: It’s here!


I’m happy to announce that my TEDx talk can now be viewed online!

“Who are your enemies?”

I have been asked that interview question for my whole life as I was growing my career.

I am recalling being in my twenties, sitting across the table from a grizzly and embittered executive who would ask me, “Who are your enemies?”

When I would fail to produce a list of enemies, the interviewer would look at me with disdain, like I was the most irrelevant person on the planet, implying, “How can you claim to be competent if you haven’t made powerful enemies?”

That scene seems so ridiculous to me now. Because, you know what? I ended up doing OK for myself without leaving a trail of bodies and enemies in my wake.

I built my own success by making friends, and helping others to succeed too.

Win-lose or win-win?

The idea that “for me to win, you have to lose”, never made sense to me. If I can win AND you can win, how does that hurt me? Why is that not better?

I have found that by respecting people’s humanity, and making them feel like winners and heroes, that you can build a tremendous amount of loyalty and power in your organization.

I was able to win because they were able to win.

Thank you

I am grateful to my mentors and to all of the people who jumped in the boat with me so that we could create success together.

And I am much prouder that I have a group of friends and supporters too long to list, than I am ashamed that I can not name my impressive list of enemies.

So I was grateful in this TEDx talk to have the opportunity to share this idea that is very important to me: Respecting Humanity at Work is not only good for the people, It’s good for business!

Hope you enjoy it and I’d love to know what you think.

What do you think?

Join the conversation about this on my Facebook page Patty Azzarello Practical Business Advice for Humans.


About Patty
patty blog image crop

Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook

4 ways to have a better staff meeting


higher value horizontal

Why are we here?

In pretty much every company I work with, people complain about meetings. Too many meetings, useless meetings, a waste of time, I don’t really need to be there…

While you can’t improve the quality of every meeting you are invited to, you can improve the quality of the ones that you run with your staff.

I want to share 4 lessons I have learned and used with my own teams to make our meetings highly productive.

1. Laughter vs. formality

I read an article many years ago that said that people are more productive after they have been laughing.

I didn’t research that any further. It seemed instinctively right to me so I gave it a try.

In my next staff meeting before we got down to business, I asked if anything funny happened to anyone over the weekend. Someone told a great story and we all laughed.

Then, someone said, “That reminds me of a joke…” We all laughed again. After about 10 minutes of sharing and laughter, we launched into the meeting. It was the most productive meeting we ever had.

I stuck with it. That became part of my formula.

I used to invite people from other functions into my staff meetings. This by the way is a very effective (and lazy!) way to spread communications cross functionally.

Just invite someone from another team to attend your staff meeting. They absorb a bunch of what your team is doing and thinking about, and your team gets a chance to hear from them too. A great cross pollination of knowledge and ideas — and no extra effort!

Anyway, when my guests would experience the first 10 minutes of us telling jokes and stories and laughing, they would always be taken aback. I could see them thinking, “Why am I wasting my time here? These people aren’t working.”

But inevitably, after the meeting was over they would give me the feedback that “this was one of the most productive staff meetings I have ever been to!”

Try laughter first, it works.

2. Unstructured Conversation vs. Status

Last week I wrote about the importance of unstructured conversation.

Getting your team really talking about important things that everyone has a stake in, or what it will really take to implement a project or strategy, has a much higher value than merely reviewing status.

See also: Stop Having Status Meetings: 5 better things to talk about instead where I list 12 things to talk about instead of status.

3. Desired Outcome vs. Agenda

I have learned that merely having an agenda is not a predictor of a high quality meeting. The truly important thing to have is not a list of things to talk about, but a desired outcome to accomplish in the allotted time.

I never start a meeting without getting an agreement about, “What is our desired outcome for this meeting?”

Be declaring a desired outcome upfront (I actually prefer it to be in the meeting invite!) many positive things happen.

1. When you get off track you can say, “this is not helping us achieve our desired outcome, let’s talk about that another time”
2. You have a goal that you need to finish in time. It makes you get to the action sooner
3. You actually accomplish something specific in the meeting instead of just talking generally about the topic
4. If you are clear about the outcome up front, and the required people to achieve that outcome are not present, you can cancel/reschedule the meeting instead of wasting time
5. If you define the desired outcome up front, you know when you are finished. So if you reach the desired outcome early, you can end the meeting!

Meetings without a desired outcome defined up front waste time.

4. Start and finish on time

Speaking of time, this seems so simple, but the vast majority of meetings don’t start and end on time.

Or when people are late there is no consequence, and you have to start the meeting over again to catch them up.

Create a culture that at the very least your meetings start on time and make it clear that everyone is expected to be on time.

You will save an enormous amount of time and energy if you stick to this simple principle.

Also, if you can develop this habit, it will reinforce other good habits. See also: Getting big gains from small habits

What do you think?

Join the conversation about this on my Facebook page Patty Azzarello Practical Business Advice for Humans.


About Patty
patty blog image crop

Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook

Who should be the hero in your team?


hero

Lately I have been having a lot of conversations with clients about leadership and delegating.

Delegating is one of the most important things that effective leaders do.

But I have been noticing a stumbling block with some leaders when it comes to delegating that is a bit of a paradox.

Who is the smartest?

1. One of the most common reasons that most people think delegating is hard is because you are better at the thing you are delegating than the person is, so you are afraid it will not come out right. You would like to be able to delegate more, but you don’t trust the person to do a good enough job.

2. Some leaders feel like they should be, and remain the smartest person on the team, because being the smartest and most capable is the thing that will inspire their team.

Do you see the disconnect here?

The way to solve the delegating problem is to hire people who are smarter and more capable than you are, not less.

If you want work to get done, aren’t you better off finding someone who is really great at doing that work? Why would you want someone to help you that is NOT better at it than you are?

If you hire a plumber, a lawyer, an accountant, a dog groomer — you seek to find the person who is best at that job — better than you. Wouldn’t it be terrible if every person that you hired in every service capacity in your life was not as good as you. Imagine your haircut!

So why is it so hard at work to let the people who work for us be better than us?

Make people feel like super-heroes

“Patty, When I worked for you, I thought I was Superman.”

I got that message awhile back from a former employee. It was wonderful to get that message. But additionally, those 10 words sum up for me, in a pretty profound way, what I believe being a good leader of a high performing team is about.

He continued… “I have occasionally reflected on why that was. Not sure I know all the answers, but the things I do know are that the environment was real, the energy was high and the crap was low.”

After getting that message, that idea became my measure of what my job was as a leader.

A leader should make the people on the team feel like super-heroes!

They way you do that is to get people in the right roles, give them important work, hard problems to solve, big decisions to make, then support them, get the crap out of the way, and let them be amazing.

Hero managers

Some managers struggle with this because they feel like they need to be the hero.

The reason this happens is one of values.

When you are an individual contributor, you need to be brilliant at the work itself to stand out. If you are, you get recognized and rewarded for that, and it is what you base your self-worth and self-confidence on.

But when you step into management, and each time you step up a level in fact, the job is a different job. And it’s important not to miss the transition. (I talk about this in my book RISE in the chapter “The Level Dilemma”.)

It is a necessary step in the evolution of a manager at each level to ask the question, what is my value based on now? To myself and to others.

Hint: It is not being the smartest one at doing the detailed work anymore.

What is inspiring?

If you tell yourself that the reason your team will be inspired and value you, is because you are the smartest one in the room… If you get your own sense of value from being the hero and always being the one to jump in and save the day when your team is not up to the challenge, you are not doing the job of a leader.

The job of a leader is to develop everyone else on your team competent enough to do the most important work, to save the day, and to feel like heroes — not claim that spotlight for yourself.
(and keep yourself over-busy because you should be delegating)

As a leader, you need to find satisfaction and base your personal view of what being valueable means to developing a high performing organization, not from being the smartest one on the team.

Think about it this way…

If smart leaders hire only even-smarter people, and those people hire only even-smarter people, the organization gets even stronger and smarter as it grows.

But if a leader wants to remain the smartest person on the team, and only hires people less smart than they are, and so on, the entire organization gets weaker and dumber over time.

The team can never be more capable than the leader. What a shame that is. Your team should make you bigger, you should not make your team smaller.

A leader who tries to do all the important work and make all the important decisions personally eventually stalls out, and is seen as ineffective because organization can’t deliver or scale.

Use your power for good…

If you are indeed the smartest one, that’s OK. But make sure you do not use that skill to make your people feel small.

Give yourself a detailed, technical project that is on the side, that does not interfere with the development of your team.

Use your skills to be a teacher. But be careful to not always be in the position of telling everyone that their work is not good enough and jumping in to fix it.

Teach them how to fix it. Teach them how to develop their skills.

If you can make 10 people as smart as you are (or smarter), you have added way more value to the company than making sure that you remain the smartest.

See also, how to manage your team when you don’t understand the work.

So back to delegating

As a leader, delegating is your best method for helping people to grow and making them feel like super-heroes.

Give them important work and support them. Don’t micromanage them, but delegate in a way that you have confidence you will get the right outcome.

Don’t think about delegating just as assigning work, but as developing your team.

Delegating = building capacity. Delegating = teaching. Delegating = opportunity to grow.

I offer a webinar on this called: Delegating for High Performance that you can find in the member library.

It’s free to members or available on the store.

Be a real hero

What makes a leader a real hero is building highly capabable, motivated team that can scale, and letting letting the people on the team be amazing.

See also, how to manage your team when you don’t understand the work.

What do you think?

Join the conversation about this on my Facebook page Patty Azzarello Practical Business Advice for Humans.


About Patty
patty blog image crop

Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook

Mastering Executive Communications


master exec comms

This month’s webinar was on Mastering Executive Communications.

Get the webinar

If you missed it you can download the recording.

Members of my professional mentoring program can…

You don’t get a chance to recover…

The ability to create and deliver clear, persuasive, high quality communications to executives is a critical skill to master in your career.

This is an important webinar to download if you:

  • Need to prepare and deliver effective presentations to impress or persuade executives
  • Are trying to get executive support and investment for your projects
  • Want to increase your confidence in dealing with big executives
  • Need to build credibility with this important audience who can advance (or block) your career

In this webinar: Managing Executive Communications you’ll learn how to think about and plan communications, prepare and deliver presentations and proposals, socialize comfortably, and build your credibility with executives.

They don’t care

Big executives are generally closed to new ideas.

They are busy, over worked, and travel-weary. They have big pressures and responsibilities. In reality, they only really care about what they already care about before you walk in the door.

Bottom line: They don’t care about your thing.

Get them to care

You need to think of your number 1 job as getting them to care. You need to get them to be personally motivated to engage.

You can develop this skill with practice — I did. I learned about this from getting wrong early in my career and then finally figuring out how to do it.

Here’s what the webinar covers:

In this webinar, I share what I learned and how I did it. We talked about why this matters so much, and what executives really expect from you, and how they judge you. Get it right. You might not have a chance to recover.

1. Effective Communications and Presentations

I talked about how to approach and plan for both the content and the delivery of your presentation. I included worksheets that provide an outline for a highly compelling 10 slide presentation, and also a really useful checklist for preparation.

Remember, executives are judging YOU as much (or maybe even more than) your content. Don’t get so attached to your content and your data that you forget you should be planning and practicing the delivery too.

2. Fitting in Socially in Executive Circles

It’s also very important to find a way to be comfortable at the big table. It’s important to engage and participate. If you seem nervous or fade into the background because you are uncomfortable, you will make them uncomfortable and seem like you don’t belong there.

We talked about ways to prepare yourself to be more comfortable and engage in an authentic way to establish your credibility. It’s important not to forget the social aspect with executives. Remember, they are people too.

4. Getting Executive Support and Buy-in

You can’t do great things if you don’t get them funded. You can’t do great things if you are the only one who cares. Getting support and sponsorship from executives is critical to your success.

In the webinar I outlined 3 steps to getting an executive to care and to actively give you support.

4. How to be visible but not annoying

The people who stand out with executives and whose bosses trust them to step in and deliver executive communications are the ones who get promoted.

It does not work to be visible, but is also does not work to be annoying!

I am not talking about shallow self promotion. It all starts with excellent work and real results. In the webinar I shared ideas for how to create positive visibility for your work and your team, and gave you simple checkpoints to guarantee it will not be annoying.

Developing your communication skills for executives is a critical skill necessary to getting resources, support, good people and good projects. It’s also required to getting your deserved recognition and career advancement.

Worksheets and outlines included

In the worksheets I give you the tools and templates to know what to do, so you can practice and get it right.

The worksheets for this webinar include outlines for how to prepare:

1. The content of an executive presentation that will be highly relevant and persuasive, and make sure you avoid common mistakes.

2. A checklist for the delivery of an executive presentation to make sure you win over the audience, hit the mark quickly, and don’t let your nerves or the wrong storyline get you sidelined or dismissed.

Members: Download this webinar for free

Non Members: You can purchase this individual webinar or podcast (links below).

There are also some other really valuable webinars related to this topic available for free to members:

So you might as well join and get them all for free!

So if you are not yet a member, you might as well join and get them all for free!

Join Now

Join Now.

Let me be your mentor

thumbnail.ashx

Members of the Azzarello Group program for Professional Development basically get me as their mentor.

Every month you get new insights and tools in the form of these webinars, as well as the chance to call into a monthly members-only coaching hour where you can get direct personal coaching from me.

People tell me that membership gives them a totally new way of thinking about their career, getting promotions, solving difficult problems with bosses, peers, employees, and other annoying people, communicating better, being more influential, becoming a stronger leader, and enjoying their work more. I love to hear this, and I love to help!

If you join now, you’ll not only get this webinar, but all the other webinars in the Member Library.

AND you’ll get the opportunity to participate in monthly Coaching Hour conference calls with me.

Check out what we talk about.

AND as a member you’ll get to download your copy of the Career Year of action Guide (a $30 value) for free.

Membership to Azzarello Group is a great resource (and a steal at $179 for a whole year) to help you advance your career.

Join Now

Join Now

thumbnail.ashx

Purchase just this webinar ($19.99)

Purchase just this podcast ($9.99)


What do you think?

Join the conversation about this on my Facebook page.

Was this useful?

If you found this article useful, please help me share it with others and encourage them to subscribe to this Blog for free.


About Patty
patty blog image crop

Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and CEO/Business Advisor. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion dollar software business at 35 and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk)

You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on twitter or facebook

Move thumb

Read MOVE

I’m really excited to share all the important ideas and tools I put in my book MOVE to help you get your team (at any level in any kind of organization) to execute your strategy more decisively.

You can download a free preview or order your copy now.
Click to download
Click to Order