The Coach's Corner

World-class Feedback

June 3rd, 2019 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

is what Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor, is referring to when she describes how you can “Be a Kick-A__ Boss Without Losing Your Humanity.” If you’ve been a reader for awhile, you know that, on more than one occasion, I’ve encouraged team leaders to provide their associates with quality feedback. At Plante Moran, where I received great feedback from many different partners and associates (I didn’t say I always liked it), we referred to it as “Candor is Kindness.” Scott had the privilege of working for Apple and Google during their formative years and, per her book, both companies, although they used different styles, were havens for constructive feedback.

Here are two specific examples of quality, actionable feedback that I received. Early in my career, Plante Moran’s founding partner, Frank Moran, encouraged me to work on my grammar. I was a young hotshot, recent college graduate with a high grade point average, and Frank’s comments could have offended me. But he handled the situation in the most delicate way, and I’m forever grateful for his feedback. Another time, my team supervisor and mentor, Ken Kunkel — who provided hundreds of great suggestions — gently told me that I had coffee breath. I give these as simple but very personal examples. When I read Scott’s book, I was reminded of both Frank and Ken.

Based on my observations and experiences with privately owned businesses, I’ve found that many bosses aren’t providing good, actionable feedback to their team members.

If you own a business or are responsible for leading a team of people, I would highly recommend you read Radical Candor. Scott, whose mentor was/is Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, offers some great, practical examples and advice regarding feedback and career planning.

I’m going to leave it there and encourage you, after reading the book, to take the risk of giving your team members developmental feedback (stuff you’ve talked to your colleagues about, but have never shared with the specific person). If it would help, I would be happy to role-play a situation with you.

 

Have We Modified Our Behaviors After Listening to Susan Cain?

May 27th, 2019 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

In my November 10, 2014, post, called “The Power of Introverts,” I shared the epiphany I had after listening to Susan Cain’s landmark (at least to me) TED Talk.

Well, it’s almost five years later, and I continue to observe and read about innovative new workspace, collaboration, and brainstorming ideas. Something I’ve noticed, though, is that almost all of them totally ignore introverts. This stuff is written by very successful business executives and consultants, who get paid a lot of money, so it’s a bit disappointing to me to see this group completely overlooked.

Maybe I get it more because I’m an ambivert who leans slightly toward extrovert. Maybe because I can understand both personality types, I feel the pain of the introverts. As a result, I want to share two very practical suggestions:

Office Space. I know the latest rage is open-landscape office designs and, while this may be great for extroverts, I’d suggest that before you make a change to your office setup, you select a few of your high-performing introverts and meet with them privately. Let them know ahead of time, in writing, that you want their candid input on office design, specifically as it relates to privacy. Maybe list some possible solutions and ask them to add any ideas they have to your list. You can also encourage them to bring their list of suggestions to you one-on-one.

Brainstorming Meetings. Next time you conduct a brainstorming meeting, instead of sending a brief note stating the topic, send a more detailed write-up of the goal of the meeting and explain, in detail, what will occur during the session. Encourage the recipients to spend some (company) time thinking about the subject and recording their ideas. This will give the introverts a chance to think about the subject and write down their thoughts, rather than being put on the spot in the meeting. When the team arrives, collect the sheets and record the ideas on the white board. The super extroverts may not hand in a list, but they’ll be pleased to share their ideas as the session proceeds.

Following the session, send out another communication, this time summarizing the meeting. Again, ask the team members — especially the introverts — whether they have any additional thoughts they’d like to share after spending the day together and having a few days to think about the conversation.

Basically half the population consists of extroverts and the other half are introverts, with a few token ambiverts thrown into the mix. If you want to get creative, innovative ideas from your introverts — who definitely have some great ideas — then converse with them in their own language, so to speak.

I apologize for being so direct, but I hear so much about the need for new ideas and I sincerely believe this is a way to double them at no extra cost.

Some Great Advice Regarding Gossip

April 29th, 2019 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

Recently, Barbara was meeting with a client who shared their gossip policy. In my decades of business experience, I’ve found that gossip is like cancer in large and small companies alike. The policy below is so well-written that, with our client’s permission, I’ve included it, intact, with only a few editorial comments. If you haven’t addressed this issue in your workplace, consider adopting a similar policy.

NO-GOSSIP POLICY

In the workplace, gossip is an activity that can drain, distract and downshift employee job satisfaction. We all have participated in this, yet most of us say we don’t like it. In order to create a more professional workplace, we the undersigned are making a commitment to change our atmosphere to be gossip-free.

gos·sip n. Rumor or talk of a personal, sensational, or intimate nature. A person who habitually spreads intimate or private rumors or facts. Trivial, chatty talk or writing.

You’ll notice that gossip is a noun — which means it’s something you DO. That also means it’s something you choose to do — and you can choose NOT to do it. You enter into gossip by choice — you can opt out of the activity at work. In order to end gossip, you must end a particular type of communication — and that can be talk or email communications (Editorial comment: or text messages).

• Gossip always involves a person who is not present.
• Unwelcome and negative gossip involves criticizing another person.
• Gossip often is about conjecture that can injure another person’s credibility or reputation.

The persons signed below agree to the following:

In order to have a more professional, gossip-free workplace, we will:

1. Not speak or insinuate another person’s name when that person is not present unless it is to compliment or reference regarding (Editorial comment: factual) work matters.

2. Refuse to participate when another mentions a person who is not present in a negative light. I will change the subject or tell them I have agreed not to talk about another.

3. Choose not to respond to negative email or use email (Editorial comment: or text) to pass on private or derogatory information about any person in the agency.

4. While off the job, speak to another co-worker about people at work in a derogatory light. If I have feelings, I will select to talk to someone not at the workplace.

5. If another person in the department does something unethical, incorrect, against procedures, or disruptive I will use the proper channels to report this to the person in authority to take corrective action.

6. I will mind my own business, do good work, be a professional adult and expect the same from others.

Disclaimer: You may want to have an HR consultant or your labor attorney review your specific wording.

Should You Hire a COO?

April 8th, 2019 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

Probably one of the more common topics discussed with clients involves whether or not they should consider hiring a COO. Actually, just yesterday, one of my clients said, “I’ve built this company to a size where I need help managing it.”

A few years ago I read Make The Noise Go Away: The Power of An Effective Second-in-Command, by Larry G. Linne. Since then, I’ve recommended it to several clients. Just recently, I read Riding Shotgun: The Role of the COO, by Nathan Bennett and Stephen A. Miles. In their 2006 book, they observe that not much has been written about the role played by the COO.

Although I’ve been involved for years with hiring and working with COOs, I found the book to be a deep dive into the subject. Bennett and Miles appropriately point out that COOs are hired for different reasons. Unlike other positions, such as CFO or CIO, the COO’s role needs to be tailored to the situation. For example:

  1. Is the COO’s role to put an organization together around a young founder with a unique product/service who has innovative type technical skills and is a successful new-business developer and client-server?
  2. Is the COO brought in to run the organization (inside leader), while the CEO is more focused on strategy and new acquisitions?
  3. Will the COO become the next CEO?
  4. Is there a transition underway from one generation to the next, and is the COO responsible for grooming/developing the next generation so someone is prepared to lead the company as CEO?
  5. In anticipation of the sale of a company, is the team bringing in a COO who would be qualified to lead/run the company after the sale?
  6. Is a COO needed to assist a tired founder/CEO who would like to go on vacation and not have to spend a lot of time dealing with problems back home?

The authors offer some challenges faced by COOs in their jobs, and provide Q&A interviews with successful CEOs and COOs. Here are some of the topics they address:

  1. Developing a trusting relationship with the CEO. (Editorial comment: When advising clients, I have often said the CEO-COO relationship is similar to a marriage.)
  2. Developing a workable meeting and communication cadence that works for both executives. (Editorial comment: In this case, they’ll probably need more touchpoints early on.)
  3. The importance of clearly defining the COO’s authority and making it clear to the other executives. The authors offer some practical warnings for those instances where the COO position is new and the other executives, who previously reported to the CEO, now report to the COO. This poses a distinct risk of the executives going around the COO and continuing to report directly to the CEO. (Editorial comment: In my experience, this is extremely difficult, and the CEO and COO will need to work closely together to achieve the optimal situation.)
  4. Establishing boundaries to avoid micromanaging by the CEO, whose behavior needs to change.
  5. The fact that the COO will need to keep their ego in check.

This may sound self-serving, but I think getting outside help in hiring and onboarding the first COO will increase the chances for success. In my experience, it’s very emotional for the CEO, especially if that individual is also the company’s founder, and the outside advisor can help the CEO work though it. Obviously, Doescher Advisors would love to help!

Just Ask for the Business, Please

March 25th, 2019 // Tom Doescher //

Tom Doescher - Doescher Advisors

In writing the simple fictional narrative entitled The Asking Formula, author John Baker hit a lot of nerves. His book is all about the third phase of new business development, Closing, which follows Finding and Building a Relationship with a new prospective customer/client. See previous blog post

As a prospective customer, we’ve all had an experience where we think, Just tell me how much it costs, and then I’ll decide. In this short (99 pages in large font) book, the main character shares his simple formula for Closing. To be honest, I would be embarrassed to relate the many actual stories of instances where my colleagues and I should have used his simple formula.

I won’t ruin the book, but I will share the first two steps:

Step One — Know what you want. (Editorial comment: The best new business development professionals I know always are specific about what they want to accomplish in every meeting with the prospective client — which might even be to have the next meeting with the decision-maker.)

Step Two — Ask for it. (Editorial comment: Don’t laugh; it isn’t as easy as it sounds. I was fortunate because my mentors were so good at teaching and demonstrating this simple action.)

Baker states that “Directness is a rare thing these days.” Once again, I’ll quote my dad, who said, “Ask. What is the worst thing that can happen?” I also remember one of my successful new business development colleagues, who would say, “My goal in this meeting is to get to the ‘No.’ ” Once again, Baker and other sales gurus would say that most people spend too much time with prospects who are never going to purchase anything from them.

I have a suggestion: Consider buying multiple copies of his book and have your new business development team read it. Then, facilitate a discussion and maybe do some role-playing.

The Advisor’s Corner

Tom DoescherYou’ll find stories from the trenches, business lessons, and pertinent questions to help you find inspiration, professional growth, and leadership savvy.

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