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The Champion Forum Podcast

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Thank you for listening to The Champion Forum Podcast with Jeff Hancher! This week we're talking about some of the practical conversations Jeff has been having with leaders like you. We're looking at the problems they are facing and the practical advice Jeff offered to help them overcome. This month, many of our discussions focused on excellence--finding excellent employees and upholding standards. If you've ever struggled with company culture, make sure you take great notes and utilize the questions in the show notes to create an improvement plan.

Finding the Right Opportunity for the Right Employee

I recently had a discussion with a client who was trying to put a high-performing employee into a leadership role. The problem is, that person was not ready to lead! Some people have a stronger natural ability to lead compared to others. Focus on finding opportunities that match the strengths of your team members or take the time to help them grow in weaker areas. Don’t be afraid to make people wait for a promotion until they have achieved excellence.

Q: If you had to pick one quality in the next person you promote, what would it be? Has someone in your company ever been promoted too quickly? How did you know? How did you, or that person’s boss, overcome that decision?

Defining Moments Define Your Leadership

One of my clients and I discussed the possibility of terminating an A-player because they were a poor fit in the company’s culture. It was not an easy decision! However, the choices we make in critical moments like these form us and inform others about our true nature. As a leader, you need to be passionate about your cause. Knowing your values will guide both what you do and how effective you are. Decide ahead of time who you really are. What are your core values? What are your guiding principles? When you know what you stand for, it will be easier to stand up and make the best decision for your business.

Q: What would you consider a defining moment? Describe a defining moment in your life or career. How would you respond if you were faced with that situation again? Have your values changed overtime? Why or why not?

Excuses are Fuel for Complacency

A leader I know was struggling with the majority of their team consistently showing up late for meetings. I told the leader that if it was the majority of the team, it was safe to say that the leader was being given excuses, not reasons.

A reason will tend to pinpoint accountability, but an excuse will deflect responsibility. The formula for handling an excuse is to first acknowledge it, then reframe or refocus on the problem and solution, and finally get a commitment from the team member to take the desired action. If you, as the leader, let people consistently fail to meet your expectations, it will erode your culture.

Q: Describe a time when someone held you accountable? Did you give them an excuse or a reason? How did they help you meet the expectation? Never apologize for excellence

I am working with a client who has taken over a new team. They believe that their standard may seem overbearing for the team that they inherited. I cautioned them to not lower the standard. Instead, they should show everyone the benefits of achieving that standard of excellence. Challenge your team! Define who you have. You will coach up some people and coach out others. The ones who you coach up will be forever grateful for your influence.

There is a significant difference between establishing an environment where excellence is expected and one where excellence is demanded. In the first case, the culture of the organization establishes the expectations for excellence, and the actions of your entire team will essentially “put pressure” on everyone to perform up to the standards. In the second case, where excellence is demanded, “pressure” from you is the only dynamic at play. Most people will push back. Push-back usually comes in the form of either passive-aggressive behavior or by working just hard enough to keep their job.

If you want a culture of excellence, you need to...

  • Recruit for it

  • Set the expectation for excellence early and often

  • Cast vision for what excellence looks like every day

  • Hold your people accountable

  • Model excellence in your own life every day

Q: Have you ever put pressure on someone to meet your expectation? Did they meet it? What other strategies can you use to help people meet expectations?

Application Activities:

  1. Prepare for succession by identifying the qualities and skills of your highest-level employees. Which of these can be improved by training? Which of these are innate characteristics? Then, compare these qualities against your current lower-level employees. Does anyone stand out? Or, do you need to actively invest more in some employees to prepare them for the future? Identify 1-2 employees who could one day be promoted and work with them to develop the leadership qualities and skills they do not currently possess.

  2. When was the last time you faced a defining moment in your leadership? What values came into play when you made your decision? What challenges were there to your values? How do you feel like you responded? Take some time to reflect on that decision. If you compromised any of your values, what did you think was more important? Did it work out? Make a plan for how you can protect your values in the future.

  3. How do the expectations you set for your team compare to your current culture? If you are not sure, make a list of your expectations. Then, ask your team members to rate how well they personally meet the expectations and how well the team as a whole meets the expectations. If necessary, set a meeting to “re-set” the expectations and create buy-in from the team as a whole.

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