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

Getting big gains from improving small habits


gears grey

The power of small habits

Doing hard things is hard!

Doing big things is hard!

Doing small things is not as hard.

The big idea for me, is that developing good habits on small, easy things, can have the direct effect of making bigger, harder things easier to do.

Organizations struggle with execution. Execution is hard!

One of things that sets organizations with a high capacity for execution apart from those that struggle, is that they also pay attention to creating good habits on small things.

Changing attitudes and expectations with small habits

One of the things that made me start observing this in business was reading about something described really well in Malcom Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point.

(I’ll paraphrase A LOT here, to get quickly to my point — I recommend reading this directly from The Tipping Point if you are interested.)

He talked about how serious crime in New York City was greatly reduced in the 80’s, not by directly going after the big crimes, but by making a concerted effort to eliminate two small crimes, 1. Jumping the turnstiles to avoid paying subway fare, and 2. Graffiti on the subways.

Police started relentlessly arresting people for turnstile jumping, and every single night, any train car with graffiti on it got pulled off the track and painted over.

The point is this: People with intentions to commit bigger crimes saw this enforcement of these minor things, and the culture changed. They sensed that “if they are that serious about these small offenses, they must be really serious about bigger ones. This is not an environment where crime is tolerated.”

It worked.

Small Corporate Crimes

Two small-crime analogies I see in corporations are late meetings, and not addressing missed deadlines.

1. Late Meetings

Late meetings may not seem like a big deal, in fact most organizations laugh it off, “yeah, we’re really bad about that around here”.

When everyone is chronically late to meetings, and you don’t address it, you are sending a cultural signal that: we are not serious about what we say we are going to do.

If, instead, you set and enforce an expectation that meetings will start and end on time, and they do – not only do you get the huge benefit of cost and time savings, and more productive meetings —

– You get the additional, even-bigger benefit of an expectation in your organization that it matters here what we say and commit to.

– If our reaction is this serious to someone being late to meeting, it’s going to be a really big deal if we don’t deliver!

The good, small habit of reinforcing on-time meetings can directly lead to the important bigger habits: We are very serious about managing our schedules, commitments, and business.

2. Missed Deadlines

The other related, rampant behavior I see is that deadlines come and go, and nothing happens…

Often it may seem like a small thing… We agreed to review the new website landing page on Thursday and we didn’t. The world did not come to an end.

So no one mentions it.

This seemingly small non-reaction to a small missed deadline, when multiplied over and over again, sends a very loud and strong signal that: There are no consequences here for missing deadlines.

By not communicating, you are communicating: We don’t really care about missed deadlines. It’s no big deal.

“This is Unacceptable”

No matter how small a deadline seems, if it is missed it should be addressed.

You don’t need to fire someone every time something goes wrong, but you do need to address it. Have the conversation.

This is unacceptable. You did not deliver. What happened? Do you realize the downstream problems this causes? What is your proposal to recover? How do you propose we now get this finished AND address the customer/sales/market issue this has created? How will you ensure this does not happen again?

Even if the end result seems the same…the new date has still slipped 2 weeks out, the fact that you had the conversation will resonate far beyond this one deadline.

If you always have the conversation, (a small habit that is easy to do) it will help your organization see and feel that you are serious about execution, and that schedules and commitments really do matter.

And then the next time people will think, if I miss a deadline, something uncomfortable is going to happen.

Sure, it can be uncomfortable to have a conversation about missed goals and consequences, but if you miss a goal, you should be uncomfortable! That’s the point.

People will start self-managing, and delivering on time, to avoid those conversations.

Having a conversation (a small habit) makes execution (a big, difficult thing) easier to manage.

Boring and Required (but worth it)

Sure, this is not the fun and exciting part of any job — keeping track of commitments and following through when things go wrong.

But I have found that it actually doesn’t take a lot of enforcement to create better habits, and move the culture in this direction.

The small things automatically drive the big things.

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

Avoiding Decision Stall: Debate vs. GO


debate vs go

Decision Stall

Many companies that I talk to have issues with effective decision making — They want to make better decisions. They want to make them faster. And they want them to stick.

While leaders often need to make decisions with incomplete data, one of the common issues I see is that decisions are made without learning all the data that IS knowable, and without enough support of the team.

Then the decisions are questioned, stalled, made over — and then questioned, and made over and over again.

The technique I use to avoid this decision stall is called Debate vs. Go.

This implies that there are two necessary and separate phases. The DEBATE phase and the GO phase.

The need for Debate

Many executives avoid opening up an issue for debate because they just want to be able to say, “Make it so,” and have their team execute.

They fear that if they open up a conversation, that it might raise conflict, doubt, disagreement and dissent.
And they see these things as a challenge to their authority, or a waste of time.

This is a shame.

Because in this type of environment, people who know important things won’t always speak up when they should, because they feel like their input is not welcome.

So important information that the leader really needs to know remains hidden, and people also feel dis-empowered. So both the decision and its execution are compromised.

Conflict improves decisions

But in reality, healthy debate and conflict is useful, as it yields the important information necessary to make a good decision.

When people are arguing, you get the deepest and richest understanding of an issue.

If the leader is unwilling to allow this open, rigorous conversation to happen, they are missing critical information about the issue.

The Debate Phase

By naming and creating a DEBATE phase, people feel like their inputs are welcome — and that they have permission, and won’t be punished for speaking up.

So at the end of debate phase, not only is everyone smarter, but also, everyone has had a chance to personally process the issue.

The debate itself gives everyone time to tune their belief systems to get ready to go, and they are more likely to be motivated since their opinions were considered.

Without the debate phase, you will not make the most informed decision, and your team will not be as ready or motivated to move forward.

The inability to progress

The other big issue that happens if you skip debate phase is that you don’t have a mechanism for ending the debate phase!

Management teams waste huge amounts of time by revisiting decisions over and over again, questioning the direction and circling back for more data.

The leaders might think they have made a decision, but the organization is reluctant to engage because you’re still talking about it!

Everyone perceives the continued discussion to mean that the issue is still in question, and well… open for debate.

So people wait for the final answer instead of moving forward. And they continue to add to the conversation, raising even more issues and questions. Decisions remain unmade.

The Transition to GO

One of the beautiful things about having a formal debate phase is that you can end it.

I make it clear that for every initiative or decision, there is DEBATE time and there is GO time.

1. Debate Time: Talking, Questions, Input, Arguments are welcome.

During debate time, I make it clear that I want to hear people’s opinions. I want to hear the arguments. I want everyone to fight for their point of view.

2. Make a Clear Decision

After debate time is over, I make it clear who owns the decision, and make sure the decision gets made.

3. Initiate GO Time

Go Time

Then I make it clear that we are in GO time. The decision is communicated and the action is officially kicked off. This is the time to engage in the work, not in the debate. The debate phase is over.

By setting this structure, you can make it clear that during debate time, the expected and valued behavior is to speak up.

Then once you announce the decision and make it clear that it’s GO time, people know that the expected and valued behavior is action, not more talking.

I talk more about Debate vs. GO and other ways to improve decision making in Chapter 21 of my book MOVE: Decision Stall. And the next chapter is how to identify and recover from setbacks.

You can get your copy of MOVE or download a preview:

What do you think?

Join the conversation about this on my Facebook page.

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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