Some are remedial efforts; in other words, we’re trying to get an otherwise-valuable employee to step it up a bit in performance. These are challenging, but it’s positively great to watch the progress.
The rest are for those already operating near the top of their game. Those folks for whom we’re trying to give them that “extra” edge. That 1% improvement for which, in their hands, makes a significant difference in the success of the business.
These too are challenging, but for different reasons. This second category of folks doesn’t suffer fools lightly (including consultant-coaches), and is looking for real, actionable advice.
And here, I’ll show you the top four kernels of advice I begin with in coaching these high-performers:
1. 25% of your decisions should be wrong. No, I’m not advocating intentional stupidity. I am, however, advocating rapid, constant decision-making. No delays, unless the delay can reasonably be used for additional information. Otherwise, take the information at hand, and pull the trigger. When acting decisively, you’ll occasionally make a wrong decision.
I used to work for a man (2-star General), who said that if 25% of your decisions aren’t wrong, you’re simply not making enough decisions. Argue the numbers if you will, but the concept holds true.
2. You must exceed your authority to truly know your limits. I know, their bosses always cringe when they hear me say that, but it’s true. High-performers, especially, don’t know their upward limits of authority until they blow past them and someone slaps ’em in the back of the head with a “get back there…!”
The risk of their abusing this authority “reach” are slim; remember, they’re your “high-performers.”
3. Take responsibility for all decisions. Especially the bad ones. Too often we try and shift responsibility for the really hard decisions to our boss, his/her boss, or someone else in a detached leadership role. especially when we personally didn’t make the decision, or especially agree with the direction.
Stop that. Your personal credibility takes a hit each and every time you do so, as others begin to wonder if you even have any authority at all.
4. Sincere, unqualified apologies build your credibility as fast as anything else you can do. The key word there? Unqualified. Simply, “I screwed up, I’m sorry,” then shut up. Don’t add crap to the end of it like “…but if I had just known…” or stuff like that. It’s insincere, others know it, and you lose the value of the apology entirely.