Vera: Congratulations on your new book “Winning well”. Winning is assumed to be a good thing but your title suggests that’s not always the case. What does ‘’not winning well’’ look like?
David: Many managers and team leaders focus on winning – that is, getting results, regardless of the cost. They pursue today’s ‘win’ without regard to the impact on their people or whether they can repeat those results over time. Winning Well means that you sustain excellent performance over time, because you refuse to succumb to harsh, stress-inducing shortcuts that temporarily scare people into “performing.”
Vera: The manager of today clearly has a difficult job. In your experience, what are some of the really challenging situations that managers face that organizational leaders need to support them on and how might they do that?
David: One of the most challenging realities for managers is that they frequently are given responsibility without any training or skills to perform these new responsibilities. Some of the studies on this topic have found as many as half of managers and team leaders were never trained to lead or manage. It’s no wonder they struggle!
The number one thing organizational leaders can do to help their managers be more effective is to provide them with the training and skills they need. Winning Well, along with our online courses and in person trainings are great places to start. Beyond that, model the behaviours you want to see. Don’t ask your managers to collaborate with their colleagues when you shout down anyone who disagrees with you.
Vera: Some managers’ response to the evolution of more democratic workplaces is to tip toe around making the tough calls for fear of upsetting employees. How can a manager treat employees with dignity and care and call the shots at the same time in a good way?
David: Effective managers lead from internal values of confidence and humility. Teams need to have confidence in their manager and that means you need to have confidence in yourself – to express a big vision, to say ‘we can’, to make the tough decisions when you’ve taken time to listen first.
Vera: Having the right/effective conversations is one area of responsibility that managers struggle with. How does your “INSPIRE” accountability approach help?
David: It’s very common for managers to delay these conversations until they’re so frustrated that they explode…or else just avoid the conversation altogether. This isn’t healthy for the manager, it ruins your credibility with your team, and it erodes excellent results. One of the reasons managers avoid these conversations is because they don’t have the tools to conduct them and they get stressed out. That’s normal…people often don’t like hearing feedback – especially if you haven’t shared it when you should have.
The INSPIRE model helps by giving managers tools for drama-free accountability. With this tool you maintain a healthy professional relationship while also ensuring the person is aware of their performance (and that you know as well.) The key step here is the “N” – when you Notice the behavior, you use dispassionate facts – not accusations or labels (“I noticed you arrived at 9:15” rather than “You’re always late.”)
Vera: You use the term ‘’humility relationships’; what are these, how different are they from regular relationships at work and who needs to develop them?
David: Effective leaders combine the internal values of confidence and humility. They also combine an external focus on results and relationships. When we talk about humility, we mean that as a leader you have an accurate self-image and recognize the dignity in everyone you work with (you’re all human), you invite challenges to your thinking, and you admit when you’re wrong. This allows you to build healthy professional relationships at work where you connect with people, invest with them, and collaborate together.
Vera: Sometimes, managers/leaders can come across as living in a bubble; for example thinking that what they keep away from their staff remains unknown to the staff- which we know is not the case. What are some of the ‘’delusions/wrong assumptions’’ managers and leaders make that reduces their effectiveness?
David: A common delusion is that apologizing for a mistake will make you lose credibility or look weak. In truth, it’s the opposite. Your people know if you screwed up. When you apologize for a mistake you make it clear that you are strong and can be trusted. Another mistaken assumption many leaders make is that they have to have or to find all the answers. They don’t. You can be very effective by taking a decision or problem to your team, describe what success looks like, then ask your team for ideas about “How we can make this happen?”
Vera: One school of thought argues that motivation is more intrinsic than extrinsic. What’s your view on that and your thoughts on how organizational leaders can cultivate a motivating environment?
David: I think it’s pretty straightforward that motivation is internal. The only things in life any of us have to do are breathe, eliminate bodily waste, and die. After that, we have a choice about the rest. When organizational leaders understand that every employee, every day, chooses what effort to contribute and how much, it changes how they lead.
Leaders that want to cultivate a motivating environment do well to focus on:
- Meaning – Connect work to the reasons why that work is important.
- Growth – Help people to improve their skills and responsibilities according to their desire.
- Encouragement – Everyone wants recognition and feedback. Make sure it is specific, relevant to the work, and meaningful to the individual.
- Control – People’s motivation withers when they have no control over their life or circumstances. Create opportunities for people to have input, make decisions, and choose how to achieve desired outcomes.
Vera: Can anyone be a manager?
David: This is an interesting question – so often people ask if anyone can be a leader. And to that question I would answer yes. Yes, in so far as everyone can influence other people positively. Now with regards to being an effective manager…I suspect the answer is no. There are some people who simply have no desire to invest in both relationships and results and to lead from a inner core of confidence and humility. Without those values and that combined focus, I don’t think you can succeed. The good news is that I DO believe anyone who wants to do these, can do them.
Vera: Of all the ideas you have for managers to help them win well, if you could coach them in one thing, what would that be and why?
David: In my experience, 90% of the performance problems managers encounter stem from unclear or misunderstood expectations. Creating clarity around what success looks like and how everyone works together to achieve it is easily the one management skill I’d start with.
Vera: No doubt you’ve been a manager before and probably still are. What would you say was the competency, trait or skill that brought you success?
David: Investing in people. This begins by taking time to get to know them – what they value, what strengths and talents they bring to the work and helping them grow in their confidence and ability.
David Dye is President of Trailblaze, Inc., a leadership training and consulting firm. David works with leaders who want to get their team to the top without losing their soul (or mind) in the process. A former nonprofit executive, elected official, and award-winning author, David understands the challenges, headaches, and tensions business leaders face – and he also knows the rewards leaders experience when they lead well. David shares his expertise through keynote speaking, workshops, consulting, and coaching. Honored as a top leadership expert to follow in 2015, David is the author of The Seven Things Your Team Needs to Hear You Say and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul. Find out more about David’s book and work from WinningWellBook.com and www.trailblazeinc.com
For more information on Vera Ng’oma’s work and resources in leadership, personal and career development and excellence building, click here.