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Alicia Blain

Entries tagged with “C.A.R.E. System of Leadership”.


Quote“ If you’re not  uncomfortable in your work as a leader, it’s almost certain you’re not reaching your potential as a leader”  ~ Seth Godin in Tribes: We Need YOU to Lead Us

Being uncomfortable is how transformation begins.  When I first started hiring Millennials, I didn’t want to change.  The more they perplexed me, the more I dug my heels in my comfort zone.  It wasn’t until I decided to understand why they perplexed me that the transformation in my leadership style took place and led to the creation of the C.A.R.E. System for Next Generation Leadership. That led to first seeing the potential Millennials brought to the workplace then tapping it then capitalizing on it.

The first step in doing that is to CONNECT.   Many of us who cut our management teeth in the 20th Century approach leadership like this:  I, leader, have a certain leadership style that you, employee, will need to get comfortable with.  It is not my responsibility to figure you out or adapt my style to meet your needs.  You need to conform to my style and work effectively under that style. 

Really?  Do we really want to lead that way?  Does it work for us?  If we were honest with ourselves, we would admit that working for a boss that took the time to know us and spend quality time with us are the ones we liked working for and worked the hardest for.  Now more than ever, making a special connection with each of our employees is not only critical but expected.  The more removed we are from our staff, the less effective they will be and that will reflect back to us.  We also minimize our message and our vision.  We need that direct connection to our teams to spread our message and communicate our goals.

So how can you begin to CONNECT?   Let’s look at the Starbucks case study for real world examples. Here’s the link to the Information Week article. 

As the new CIO for Starbucks, one of the first things Stephen Gillett did was connect with the people in the trenches and with Starbuck’s customers.  How did he do that? He shadowed them by actually working in one of the retail stores. This is one of the key components in the C.A.R.E. System.   As a leader you need to spend time with your target audience whether it’s your employees or your customers.  It’s important for 3 reasons:

  1.  You see firsthand how employees work.  You can observe their thinking process as they complete their tasks.  How is that thought process unique and can you leverage it in other areas or functions in your team?  You also see how they do their tasks.  Are there shortcuts that they are taking and are unaware of that help speed up the work? Can those shortcuts be applied in other areas of your operation? Or perhaps they are missing important steps that require more training?  Is there duplication of work that you were not aware of?  No report or spreadsheet analysis will give you that kind of intelligence.
  2. You see if the process works or doesn’t.  In the case of Gillett, as he worked at a Starbucks store, he quickly realized that the point-of –sale (POS) system was broken.  Even though the Starbucks brass knew the limitations of the system they were more focused on growth strategies and opening stores.  They didn’t realize that the limitations of the POS were contributing to problems in opening new stores.
  3. You are able to make better and more intelligent decisions when prioritizing projects based on your firsthand experiences in the trenches.

If shadowing is effective downstream – working directly with your employees and/or customers, it is equally effective upstream – with your executive team.  After spending time shadowing downstream at a Starbucks store, Gillett decided to bring the same experience upstream, to the executive team. He created a Tech Derby which is really a live simulation of a problem showing the pain points and a proposed solution to the problem. The simulation acted as a shadowing opportunity. Through a large-screen display, the executive team, including the CEO, Howard Schultz, shadowed a barista painfully placing an order in the outdated POS system.  They got to see not just hear about how much time was wasted as the baristas had to translate orders so the POS system could capture them. Then, through a mock up of the proposed replacement system, the executive team was able to shadow the new process to see how much faster and more effective it was. 

According to the article, “When they showed both to Schultz, ‘he just turned around and said, When? And whatever you’re going to tell me, it has to be faster’”.  That’s how effective shadowing is and how powerful the concept of Connecting is to introduce change.

Imagine how connecting with your Millennials or others in your team can give you a bird’s eye view to what’s going on in the trenches.  Imagine how many things you’ll be able to discover, uncover and identify that can be game changers to your team and ultimately your organization.  The days when leaders could run teams by just interacting with their direct reports without a strong connection to their team members are disappearing quickly.  The opportunity for innovation and real transformation lie with the ideas and creativity of those closest to the problems your team faces every day.  You need to connect with them to tap and harness that creativity and find innovative solutions.

What examples do you have that illustrate how you CONNECT with your employees?

For those of you who subscribe to your local business journal, you probably find like I do that it contains great information.  Not only does it keep you up to date with the local goings-on in your city but I find they have short articles that often carry little nuggets of wisdom. These nuggets serve as great reminders of what we as leaders should be focusing on and often forget.

In the October 1-7, 2010 edition of the South Florida Business Journal there was one such article.  The title of the article is “Leaders who genuinely care get the most out fo their sales force” written by Sean Stormes, chief growth strategist of a company called Speed to Revenue

What struck me about the article is that Sean is observing the same type of trends in sales that I have observed in technology and in corporate America as a whole.  That is, if a leader disengages from his or her staff, the team will reciprocate by disengaging as well.  I like how Sean describes it by saying “unengaged [employees] going about their business zombielike”. It’s so true.  Over the many years of being in a leadership position in corporate I have sadly seen how uncaring & ineffective leaders turn their staff into zombies.  The really sad part is they don’t even know they are doing it.  They are not in-tune with what is going on in their team, the challenges they are facing and whether or not they have the right people doing the job.

These leaders are so focused on their own agendas – pleasing their bosses, keeping their jobs, fighting fires – that they completely miss countless opportunities to leverage the talent in their staff to innovate, to better serve their customers, to step out in front & lead the charge.  Employees are very savvy and they are constantly watching us to see what we do.  If we don’t walk the talk, they know it & a part of them shuts down & stops caring.  Can you blame them?

The article goes on to describe the stark difference with good leaders.  These are the ones that are engaged with their team, they inspire them & connect with them.  Most importantly, as Sean says,  good leaders “…take a genuine and intense interest in each [employee's] personal development”.  Showing you care is what makes all employees committed and engaged.  And yes, I can tell you from experience that this also includes the Gen Yers in your team.

When I present my C.A.R.E.  System of Leadership to my clients, I tell them the most important components are the C for Connect and the E for Experiment. Without a personal connection to their boss, most employees will exhibit varying degrees of that  zombie-like state that Sean referred to.  Can’t you remember situations in your own career where your boss was so disconnected or ineffective that you were not on your best game?  Maybe that’s happening to you now & unconsciously it’s being reflected in how you work with your team. 

The zombie reference in the article reminded me that Halloween is approaching. Why don’t we use the time leading up to it to reflect on whether or not the zombie workforce is increasing under our watch.  As I visit clients, I can see a lot of zombies walking around and sadly no one is doing anything about it.  As leaders we are often too close to see it.  That’s why it’s so important for us to step back often and see what others see.  If you ask others for feedback, they will always share.  The question is:  are you scared to try?