Category Archives: Manage to Lead

Managed to Lead posts are organized into the categories below and are about what can be managed in order to be a better leader. There is a category for each of seven actions motivated by seven simple truths about leaders and organizations which, if followed, can help you change the world.

Key to Operating Success in a Crisis

With baby boomers entering their last stages, Private Equity invested in senior residences ahead of the certain increase in demand as an aging population would surely seek community, comfort, support, and safety from communal living. COVID-19 changed the calculus overnight. WeWork and Airbnb represent two more niches that are forever changed…as are many more.

The time-honored formula for managing operations in crisis is simple and straightforward:

  1. Shrink to the size you can afford
  2. Prepare to grow
  3. Grow
Watch this video for an explanation of how to avoid “death by a thousand cuts” and come out strong instead in a crisis!

While shrinking to size takes force of will, it can be done by just deciding to do it. Preparing to grow is harder and takes careful thought and planning.

IntelliVen is management’s guide, especially in a crisis, to maturing operations in sync with stage of venture evolution to create maximum value in minimal time. 

In this time of crisis, we want to share what we have learned with you and your team. Join us on April 7 for a FREE online session. 

 

WORK FROM HOME PRACTICES THAT WORK

With COVID-19 driving so many to work remotely, we want to share tips and best practices collected from having worked remotely almost exclusively over the past few years as well as from recent research. Our goal is to maintain high performance for members of our community while fostering safe, productive, and sustainable working conditions for everyone.

WHAT

This document provides insight and data on “evidence-based” practices from personal experience as well as from researching a variety of sources including Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and The American Psychological Association. Our guide is organized into four sections:

  • Security & Privacy
  • Productivity & Communications
  • Team Dynamics
  • Leadership

Security and Privacy

Since the primary goal of remote work is to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus for both individual and community safety, make arrangements to work from home, rather than in public locations like a coffee shop or even a public library. So doing increases your safety, the safety of others, and the security of sensitive information you may be working with.

  • Provide a Virtual Private Network for employees to access if resources permit, along with requisite software and configurations.

  • Do NOT use public wifi

  • Set up strong home WiFi passwords that are different from the default router setting.

  • If you can arrange it, use a wired connection for increased stability and speed. An internet data transfer speed of at least 20 Mbps down / 20 Mbps up is recommended, but as low as 5 Mbps is okay.

  • If anyone can see your display screen, including  roommates, use a privacy screen and/or reposition yourself and/or your display so others can no longer see your work.

  • Lock your screen when you step away; even if at home and even if for just a moment. NEVER leave your laptop unattended in a public place.

Productivity & Communications

  • Share with your team (e.g., via Slack status and/or Google Calendar) how you plan to spend the day and to indicate when you may be available to connect in real-time. 

  • Communicate proactively with your team. When in doubt, over-communicate. Using a team slack-channel is encouraged.

  • Document work, processes, updates more than normal. 

  • Stay responsive during working hours. If you are unclear as to your managers’ and/or team members’ expectations of you when working remotely, ASK, and document the reply in a team charter.

  • Follow meeting best practices
    • Prepare and share an agenda ahead of time in the calendar invitation.

    • Take and promptly post meeting notes.

    • Pause frequently to allow people to engage and not talk over each other.

    • Keep your video display on in your Hangouts and/or Zoom meetings. 

  • Online video meeting platforms have soared in terms of ease of use, quality, and functionality over the past two years. While the experience is still improving with ever more features, it is already hard to see the advantage of meeting in person anymore. If you haven’t tried it, now is the time.

    Follow these online meeting best practices for the best experience:

    • Use your own (vs. a shared display) laptop or desktop computer (vs. a phone or pad).

    • Set up with a light source in front of you and not behind so you will be well-lit and not appear in silhouette due to an open window letting in daylight.

    • Video camera technology has come a long way recently. Get and use a good one (such as this one); they are not terribly expensive and make a huge difference. 

    • Minimize distractions;  be comfortably settled in an ergonomic posture in a quiet place (i.e., not in a coffee shop or while commuting).

    • A good microphone is a big plus but not essential. You can use the microphone and speaker that comes with your computer for regular, non-production use. If you are a major presenter/speaker or if you are being recorded it would be good to get a not too expensive decent quality microphone.

    • Use a headset with built in microphone primarily to hear better and more clearly in noise, but also so that what you are listening to will not be a bother to others near your. Here is a one that has served us well.

    • Join via computer audio so your voice and video will travel together to breakout groups in which you participate.

    • Test your microphone, speakers, and video display; update your display-name, if needed.

    • If Zoom (or equivalent) is already downloaded on your PC, check for updates to have the latest functionality as such applications are updated frequently.

    • Dedicate a primary tab/screen to the visual display; use another to access other resources during a meeting. 

    • Close all other browser tabs and apps for ease of use and speed.

    • Practice to get good at using available functions and features such as screen sharing, emojis to silently express feelings, annotation tools, white boards, chat, polls, breakout rooms, and managing participants.

    • Assign meeting roles, especially when the stakes are high. For example, it is a good idea for the meeting leader, in the role of Host, to assign a Co-Host and someone to monitor Group Chat for questions and responses, as well as someone proficient in technology to help those who are less equipped.

    • Ask for permission to record if so inclined and able to do so. While recording, it may be appropriate to pause or stop, while adjourning to online breakout groups, for example. Assign someone to remind the meeting host to restart the recording as it is common to be swept away in the moment and forget.

    • Set up the online meeting to allow those joining to convene ahead of the official start or when the meeting owner arrives in order to allow people to greet each other and say a few words…just like in an in-person meeting where it is abundantly clear that every meeting starts BEFORE it begins and ends well AFTER if is over!

  • Schedule more frequent than usual one-on-one and team check-ins.

  • Ensure no one else can view and/or overhear your work.

Team Dynamics

  • Remember to look for, and to provide, non-verbal cues as they are still the strongest way to manage communications and positive impressions.

  • Practice video call best practices:
    • Look directly into the camera when speaking. It’s uncomfortable at first but gets easier with practice.

    • Employ active listening . For example, repeat back what you heard before giving yourself permission to speak.

    • Mind how you show up. You don’t want to look like you just got out of bed (but don’t overdress either). High quality cameras show every stray hair on your face or head, so take time to neaten up and look your best.

    • Participate but don’t dominate.

    • Your environment is a reflection of you. Don’t have a distracting or disorderly background.

  • Minimize distracting, background noise.
    • Leave your video on to show others you are engaged, paying attention, and ready to actively participate.

    • Mute yourself when not talking especially when in a noisy area.

    • Turn phone off or on silent so as not to be disturbed.

    • Silence other app notifications (see how to silence Slack).

  • Consider time zone differences for meeting attendees. 
     
  • Be present. Do not multitask. If you have to respond or type to someone, mute yourself and turn off your video so people don’t hear or see you.

Leadership

  • Meet with your direct reports and/or your team. Build a plan of action for the next two weeks with clear owners, deadlines, and operating principles.

  • Build rapport by setting aside time in the beginning of  a meeting for casual, social conversation. These are normally “non-work related” topics (ice breakers are a great example).

  • Make sure everyone on the team has appropriate access to documents/folders to keep work moving.
  • Agree on the primary communication platform for how the team will stay up to date and make decisions.
  • Set a recurring cadence for team check-ins as needed.

  • For meetings, have an agenda ahead of time in the calendar invite. 

  • Get into the rhythm of documenting more than normal. Meeting notes and status emails, for example, strengthen alignment and help offset some of the communication lost from in-office working. 

  • Create (or modify any existing) status reports and make sure all team members have appropriate access.

  • Regularly revisit your agreed-upon action-plan and/or charter;  iterate as necessary.  

  • If you are a manager of managers, cascade your approach down through your organization to keep your approach consistent.  

  • Stay calm, focused, and optimistic. Remember that teams model their managers.  

If you have tips and best practices to add to these please let us know in the comments section below. Good luck with remote work and stay safe and secure!

About the Author

Ian Sander is an accomplished Organization Development & Leadership Development Partner with 5+ years operational and consulting experience at organizations ranging from Series B (60 employees) to global, Fortune 50 industry-leaders (14,000 employees).  

See Also

The importance of executive leadership team meetings and how to run them

ELTs Are Critical to Achieving Scale 

Executive Leadership Team meetings are critical to a business achieving scale. Even with infinite grit, determination, drive, and brilliance, leadership responsibilities must eventually be assigned such that a system to keep things coming together for collective leadership attention is required.

With scale comes the need for leaders to specialize and focus their span of control. ELT meetings are for leaders to connect and align across their areas of specialization. Even the best run $20M business will plateau on the path to $50M if leaders stick with an ad hoc approach to operations and governance.

The objective of a well-executed ELT meeting is to keep leaders informed, in sync, and aligned. 

As a business succeeds and gets larger, so too will the ranks of its top leaders and of the next level of leaders to include junior partners who may be geographically remote. In the face of expansion, the leadership team needs a forum and orderly process for information to flow up to, and out from, the ELT. The insights, agreements and decisions of the ELT flow throughout the organization, and need to be based on accurate and relevant decision making information from across the organization.

Proper Planning, Having Discipline, and Respecting Each Other’s Time Goes a Long Way

Schedule ELT meetings at a regular time that will, more often than not, be safe from the myriad of possible interruptions. Early Monday mornings is usually a good choice because there are usually few distractions at the beginning of the day and the week and it gives the rest of the week to follow up on meeting assignments. Monday mornings also give team members the weekend to reflect and to contemplate agenda items.

During meetings, it is critical to be disciplined. It is especially important for every member, especially the CEO, to make a firm commitment to stay mentally and physically present. That is: show-up and do not allow emails, texts, calls or any other interruptions during the meeting. Respecting each other’s time will go a long way towards building a high-performance leadership team.

Create an Effective Agenda

The CEO owns the ELT agenda, but each ELT member is co-author in that each has the responsibility, opportunity, and the right to add items to the agenda. Consider these tips to running an effective ELT meeting:

  • Send out a draft agenda a few days ahead of the meeting and invite comment and drive preparation.

  • Schedule time in each meeting to discuss topics that come up on-the-fly.

  • Every ELT member should agree to do their best to make meetings effective and to not complain about meeting content or how it is run.

  • End each meeting with a draft agenda of next meeting and invite members to comment.

  • Keep a running list between meetings of potential topics for up-coming meetings. 

elt meeting infographic - intelliven

ELT Meeting Best Practices

Members must prepare for agenda items they are to lead. Submit materials in advance to someone assigned to gather and distribute two-days ahead of the meeting to allow time for members to read through and develop a point of view on each topic.

If it is unavoidable, reschedule or cancel a meeting, but do not make it a habit. Only the most urgent matters should disrupt the ELT process. For example, a pending merger or acquisition or an HR catastrophe might justify disruption, but not much else. 

Keep meetings to an agreed upon length; 1.5 – 2 hours is plenty of time for a well-run ELT meeting.  

Start and end meetings on time. Discipline is paramount, or chaos will reign.

Agenda topics are of two types: Routine and Non-routine.

  • Routine items: Things that are covered in every meeting with standard advance materials conveying the state of each compiled and distributed in advance:
    • Upcoming key events.

    • Metrics

    • Headcount

  • Non-routine: One to three of the most important things going on in the business should be discussed in each meeting. Those leading each discussion need to be notified well in advance and have taken the time to prepare and distribute supporting materials in advance. For example:

    • ELT member 1 – walk us through the LAP business plan.

    • ELT member 2 – walk us through the BD plan for 2020 and 2021.

    • ELT member 3 – walk us through the facilities plan.

Invite non-ELT guests to prepare and present to the ELT from time to time to give up-and-coming leaders a forum in which to shine and for them to get input directly from the top team. 

  • Examples:
    • Talent Management Program leader – walk us through the Talent Manager program and update us on how it is going relative to plans.

    • Researcher – walk us through the research unit’s scale model.

    • Project Manager – walk us through the implementation progress and update us on how it is going relative to plan.

  • Treat guests as guests (just because they are invited to one ELT does not qualify them to be ELT members). Coach them to prepare and to provide details on what they are doing and how it is going. This is a presentation and they need to take preparation and presentation seriously.

  • Once the organization sees how guests are involved, there will be a step-function increase in performance from the guests. It will be seen as important to be invited to present to the ELT.

Remember: discipline is paramount, or chaos will reign.

About the Author

Eric Palmer has 30+ years of outstanding success as a lead operating executive in private, public, private equity owned, and venture capital backed companies. He is particularly adept at strategy formulation, operational execution, International operations, M&A, leveraged debt, IPOs, and working with professional funders.

SEE ALSO:

Tips to consultants helping organization leaders create THEIR WHAT-WHO-WHY

Before leaders set out to change their organization, it helps to be ready to change. To get ready to change, leaders should be clear about their organization as it currently exists. A good place for them to start is with their organization’s purpose.

The purpose of an organization is to solve a problem for a customer. It follows that there must be a customer WHO has to solve a problem (WHY), with WHAT the organization provides to the customer.

As simple as it sounds, most every organization leader and top team finds it more than a little challenging to compile a clear, consistent, and articulate explanation of their WHAT-WHO-WHY. The following tips are to help third-party consultants work with organization leaders to get them ready for change by agreeing on their WHAT-WHO-WHY.

Create a WWW

  • Ask each top team member to create a WWW using this template. Make sure that each leader works alone to fill out the template off the top of their head.

  • Collect submitted WWWs and share them with the team without attribution. Insist that team members work the point and not the person; that is, it does not matter which of them said what…what matters is what is said.

  • Don’t worry if the first cuts are rough. Plan to iterate with the team, stakeholders, and outsiders to distill complexity (and ugliness) into simple, clear statements over time (weeks, months, even years).

  • Do not strive for brevity right away. Use all the words that come to mind to get points expressed before editing.

  • Encourage team members to not settle for what first comes to mind. Ask them to read and think carefully about each word. Ask for clarification. Parse each word carefully and iterate to achieve specificity, clarity, and accuracy.

  • Then dig even deeper, and keep digging until the team gets to the essential truth for each W.

  • Encourage the team to share their WWW with as many smart people as they can to get honest feedback. The more input they get, the better the result will be. “Group think” is their enemy.

  • Remember that more important than getting the WWW right is getting the team to reach agreement on any WWW

It is vital to cut through the dream and get to reality. The points below are to push on the WHO and the WHY to move past the obvious, hypothetical, or imagined answers and get to truth.

Work on WHO

  • Identify the buyer WHO makes the decision to purchase what the organization provides by role, not by industry or by organization.

  • Study people in the role to understand their persona. It is vital to understand the thinking of WHO makes the decision to purchase the product or service. Only once the actual customer is known can those responsible for sales find buyers and market to them.

  • The organization’s board of directors and investors are someday soon going to stare into their CEO’s eyes and ask: “Can YOU sell what the organization provides?” It is not possible to answer in the affirmative without the rigor associated with the research and analysis suggested here.

  • Once the team knows and understands WHO they are selling to, they can begin to answer WHAT and WHY; specifically: “WHAT does the buyer need/value?” and  “WHY does the buyer need/value it?”.  
  • Organization leaders rarely explicitly know exactly who their buyer is and what their buyer really wants. Once you really understand your WHO you will be able to “crack the code” and stand out compared to the crowd.

  • If there are multiple WHOs, have the team create a WWW for each WHAT-WHO-WHY combination by repeating the process documented here for each, and then facilitate the team deciding on which one to run with first.

Work on WHY

     If the answers to these questions are not known, then find them.

  • While there may be subordinate/secondary WHYs. It is critical to get to the primary one. Secondary reasons are good to understand and consider because they help differentiate the WHAT from other solutions, but the primary WHY makes the sale.

Stick to the three simple (but, by no means easy to answer) questions. 

Don’t modify them as there is no need:

  • WHAT does the customer buy?
  • WHO buys it?
  • WHY do they buy it?

About the Author

Eric Palmer has 30+ years of outstanding success as a lead operating executive in private, public, private equity owned, and venture capital backed companies. He is particularly adept at strategy formulation, operational execution, International operations, M&A, leveraged debt, IPOs, and working with professional funders.

Long-time IntelliVen Client Enrolls Five Teams in Exclusive Manage to Lead Immersion Program Cohort

A Washington DC based management consulting firm that helps organizations experiencing disruption to set their strategy and then align their culture with that strategy to achieve breakthrough performance improvement has chosen the Manage to Lead Immersion Program to serve as a foundational component of their leadership development and client delivery methodology.

The firm is unique in driving strategy by evolving culture and not viewing strategy and culture as separate, but rather, as interdependent things that must be done together for an organization to reach its potential to perform and grow. The Manage to Lead Program is a perfect fit to serve as the firm’s leadership development and as a cornerstone to its client delivery.

Continue reading Long-time IntelliVen Client Enrolls Five Teams in Exclusive Manage to Lead Immersion Program Cohort