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  • Writer's pictureLars Christensen

Getting the best from people by Martha I. Finney.

I finished this book in December 2022. I recommend this book 8/10.

The book is segmented into bite-sized nuggets on the many scenarios you run into as a people manager. From what your people want to fire and hire—it provides clear directions on steps you can take to become a great leader.

Get your copy here.

My notes and thoughts:

  • Pxi. Five human truths. "We need to be understood, feel special, feel as though we belong, feel that we're in control, and know that we have the chance to reach our potential.

  • P3. You don't need the carrot or the stick.

    • Engaged employees believe in the mission of their organization.

    • Engaged employees love what they do and understand how their job serves the bigger picture. Engaged employees need discipline; they need clarity, communication, and consistency.

    • Engaged employees augment their skill set with positive attitudes, focus, will, enthusiasm, creativity, and endurance.

    • Engaged employees can be trusted, and they trust each other.

    • Engaged employees respect their managers.

    • Engaged employees know that their managers respect them.

    • Engaged employees are a constant source of great new ideas.

    • Engaged employees will give you their best.

  • P10. If you're managing people, you're standing squarely on the intersection between corporate mission-critical objectives and the personal ambitions, passions, and drives of your employees. If there's going to be a 30-percent difference between your department and your colleagues' departments, you can either take the blame or take the credit. The choice is entirely yours. And so is the power to make a real difference—one person at a time.

  • P20. "Choosing not to do anything with the survey results is disengaging itself," says Jeffery Jolton, "How would you feel if I walked up to you and asked 'how are you?' and just as you start answering, I turned around and walked away? I don't acknowledge you. I don't respond. It's going to leave you feeling empty. Disconnected and weird. That's what happens when you give a survey to your people but then don't follow up. When you leave your people hanging, it creates a distraction.

  • P25. Your behaviors are your brand.

    • Do your personal habits demonstrate the quality standards you expect from your team? If you want a clean and organized department, how tidy is your own work area?

    • Do you treat your employees the same way you expect them to treat their customers? If you want a high level of customer service, you need to show a high level of customer service to your employees.

    • Do you fit into the overall company culture? Companies whose customers prefer a high-end, formal experience are best served by employees who behave in a high-end, formal way.

  • P36. Think you're a great leader? Think again.

    • Do I make sure my employees know how their jobs are tied to the organization's overall strategy?

    • Do I make a point of keeping them informed on all news and changes affecting the company and their jobs as soon as possible?

    • Do I get back to them immediately when they're waiting for a decision from me that affects their own lives—such as vacation leave requests and promotions?

    • Do all my actions reflect and support the company's values?

    • Do my behaviors set the example for the kind of healthy, collaborative culture I want to establish in my group?

    • Do I keep their personal issues confidential?

    • Do I speak positively about them to their coworkers?

    • Do I pay attention to each of my employees individually, demonstrating to them that I care about their personal and professional development?

    • Do I take all the necessary actions to show my employees—both as a group and as individuals—that I appreciate all they are doing for our department and the company as a whole?

    • Do I keep my promises to my people?

  • P45. Leadership potential was one of the selection criteria. And, because you're a manager, this is where you come in. What if you're obese yourself? Other unhealthful habits can also diminish your abilities to inspire and lead. Maybe you smoke? Or do you come back from lunch with alcohol on your breath? If your employees are likely to give in to their human nature and discriminate against their unhealthy coworkers, how effective is their working relationship with, say, you?

  • P46. As a leader, you're modeling more than performance standards for the work put to your team by the corporate objectives your group had agreed to take on. You're modeling your priorities and self-care behaviors that will show your team that you want them to take care of themselves as well. While some might say that healthful lifestyle habits should be out of your sphere of influence as a manager. You know, healthy eating at work. Daily exercise. The doctor appointments for checkups and then the necessary follow-ups. The regular vacations where you can truly clock out and be with your family—a total getaway from work. And you honor the rights of your direct reports to do the same thing.

  • P70. Choose authenticity every time. Authenticity gives you high returns on your investment of courage and backbone. It gives you clarity in uncertain, confusing times; it helps you be consistent in the way you establish your expectations from your people. And your people know what they can constantly expect from you. You are believed and trusted without suspicion of subtext and subterfuge. And when you make a mistake (and you will), you will be forgiven.

  • P73. Unless there's a death in the family, nothing is more important on your schedule than your new hire's first week.

    • Don't assign a buddy. Be the buddy.

    • Fill her lunch docket. Take the new hire out for a welcome-onboard lunch on her very first day.

    • Give her a project to complete in the first week. Give her something meaningful and moderately challenging to do so that she closes out her first five days with satisfaction.

    • Give her a break. Remember, your employee is under tremendous emotional pressure the first week. She is not herself yet.

    • Don't rush the process. Your new hire was the best choice from a long list of candidates for this position. Take the time it takes to coach the new person. You don't want to go through the hiring process again.

  • P80. Complainers might be your biggest supporter. Learn to love complaints. All employees are encouraged to "own" their roles in the organization. It's only fair because, unlike any other time in modern workplace history, they're directly responsible for their own outcomes. When an employee complains, it's a sign that they are looking out for their own self-interest. Annoying as that might be for you, that's actually a good thing.

  • P105. No one is in a dead-end job, not even those people who think they are. There is always a way out—even a way up—from any job. Help your employees find that line of sight between what they're doing now and what they'd like to be doing in the future. You are helping develop the future of your entire business.

  • P115. You lead better when you get off your pedestal. Managing today means involving and including employees where you might not have ordinarily done it in previous years. It means sharing your responsibilities with them and challenging them to step up and take more on both individually and as a team.

    • Treat people the way you want to be treated.

    • Create your own team employee value proposition.

    • Be willing to show your own vulnerability.

    • Know your people as individuals.

    • Let people know where they stand.

    • Spread the power throughout the team.

  • P119. There are three priorities of leadership, in this order: the organization, your people, and then you. What this actually requires of you is that you have to courage to stand up for what you know is right, even if your position might directly hurt you politically. If you want to build a workforce that is truly committed and dedicated, they have to believe that you, as a leader, are someone who they know they can trust and that you will have their backs. You have to hold people accountable to the expectations of the organization. In return, you're obligated to provide your people with the needs and expectations they have: respect, honesty, dignity, fairness, and equality. Which one of those elements is at odds with a company's best interest? None of them. Don't protect your people from the hard truths of your company's realities. They already know what's going on.

  • P129. Focusing on what's right can help solve what's wrong. Leading change is about aligning people's strengths so that their weaknesses become irrelevant. Either way, the message is this; if you want to build positive change, sharpening your team of attention strictly on what's wrong and needs to be changed is not going to motivate your team toward the better future. The ideal future is built on what's already great, highly functioning, healthy, and whole.

    • Phase 1. Frame the task in a positive, affirming way. Instead of asking, for instance, "How can we reduce this high turnover?" ask, "What is it about this organization that inspires people to stay?"

    • Phase 2. Focus on what is great about the organization as it is right now. Lead your team into discussing in as rich detail as possible all those elements that make up your organization's positive core.

    • Phase 3. Dream about what could be. Allow your team to brainstorm in as vividly as possible all the different ways the organization can improve to serve your customers even better.

    • Phase 4. This is the practical application phase. The dreams take a significant step closer to becoming real in the design phase. This is where the emotionally compelling ideals are translated into processes, outcomes, decisions, and systems.

    • Phase 5. The destiny phase calls upon the participants to actually commit themselves to all the actions necessary to transform the dreams they devised into the realities essential for moving their organization forward.

  • P132. Sometimes you have a star employee who has nowhere else to grow in your organization. Maybe this person is the member of a one-member team of uniquely needed skills. Maybe this person is next in line for your job, but you're not going anywhere. Your job is to find them motivating challenges that might lie beyond your organization. Give them some piece of the action that can motivate them to continue to develop. And when they leave for another opportunity, cheer them on, and know that you have one of your children out there praising you and your mentorship.

  • P160. Performance appraisals are really about you.

    • The review meeting should hold no surprises—especially unpleasant ones.

    • Use the meeting as a way to model excellent customer service. This meeting is their point of purchase with you. Whether it's explicit or not, one of the outcomes of the meeting will be their determination as to whether they want to continue doing business with you for another 12 months.

    • Remember that this is a review, not a disciplinary action. It can't all be negative; make sure you also talk about the wins.

    • Set your expectations high, positive, and inspiring.

  • P168. Terminations are an engagement tool.

    • Remember that your employees are watching how you hold up the employment brand promise through the way you terminate unwanted talent and how you behave afterward. Just because someone has left, that doesn't make that employee irrelevant to the commitment and passion of your remaining employees. Their own engagement might start to unravel if they observe you're betraying the values and integrity of your team culture.

    • Don't speak negatively about your recently departed to your team. They will conclude that you can't be trusted. They'll be gone on of the these days themselves. And what will you say about them then? If you must speak of the newly absent, reserve your comments for either neutral or positive thoughts. You're not protecting the departed. You are, through your actions, demonstrating to the remaining that their reputations are safe with you.

  • P174. Find ways to help your employees remember the meaning of their work. People are most creative when they care about their work, and they're stretching their skills. Never let your employees lose sight of the meaning behind the work they do. No matter what your employees do, if they do it successfully, they're making life better and easier for someone. So bring some of your employees' customers into your organization so that they can tell the story of how your product or service made a difference to them. When you make sure they don't lose sight of that fact, you nurture their potential for creativity.

  • P184. Give your team a chance to develop itself as a unit. Your people know each other.

  • They know their strengths and weaknesses probably better than you do. In addition to developing each employee as a freestanding individual on his or how own career path, think of the entire team as a micro-enterprise, with each player adding knowledge and ability to the whole. Work with your team to identify its strengths and weakness and who might be the best team member to develop to strengthen those weaknesses. Even consider sending some members out into the larger organization "on loan," so to speak, so they can receive essential developmental experiences that will strengthen the team's abilities when the loaners return to the fold. Imagine how much stronger your entire corporation would be with that kind of exchange system in place. Silos would dissolve quickly, and cross-departmental, mutually inspired collaboration could enhance all operations.

  • P199. Be specific about what your team needs to do its job well. More time for each project? Assignments that are more appropriate to employees' skills, interests, and talents? A clear, unshifting set of priorities? In return, find out what your boss needs from you. Maybe a weekly report will provide reassurance that everything is on track. A phone call might be all that's necessary. Or a spreadsheet would show at a glance that your department is already working at capacity on very important projects. That spreadsheet, by the way, could help your boss make a case to the leadership up the ranks that your department deserves more resources and fewer assignments—at least for the immediate time being. You could be doing your boss a favor with this meeting. It's possible that she's been worrying about how to tell her boss to back off and let her do her job. And you've just modeled a way for her to do it.

  • P207. Silently congratulate yourself on what your employees are venting to you. You may not necessarily like what you're hearing. But at least you're hearing it. It takes a lot of nerve (and trust) to unload on someone who has the power to say, "Well, then, perhaps you might be more happily employed elsewhere."

    • Listen hard. Don't speak until they have had their complete say. Listen to what they are really trying to tell you inside the torrent of words and frustration.

    • Make sure you get it right. When they're done, try to rephrase what you think you heard in your own words and ask them if you understand them correctly.

    • Calmly ask additional questions for clarity. Ask them if they have any solutions to the problem in mind. Do they see a better way of approaching the problem? Or a better, more appropriate person to assign the troublesome project to?

    • Promise them only one thing: you'll get back to them and when. Don't be surprised if they try to push you for more definitive action. If they have worked for untrustworthy managers before, they might take "I'll get back to you" as manager-speak for "You've had your say. Now get out."

    • Keep your promise. Better yet, surprise them: Be early. No matter what you do, even if you have to disappoint them with your final decision, keep the date you promised.

  • P216. If you want your employees to give their all to their jobs, you must be willing to give your all to them—especially all the company information that's fit to share. That way, they'll be better positioned to make informed, adult decisions—one of which, preferably, will be to stay and continue giving their all for the company.

  • P225. Take every grievance seriously. If your employee is peeved enough to come to you, that's reason enough for you to listen. Bear in mind, though, that you who have a separate reason for this initial conversation. His is to vent and then, perhaps, seek a solution. Yours is to assess. If you're hearing evidence of harassment, threats of physical violence, bullying, or substance abuse, this meeting needs to be documented and kicked straight to your legal or HR department. This one is out of your hands. Even if complaints turn out to be laughably petty, don't belittle the employees—or their complaints—and then josh them on their way. Give them a serious and respectful hearing without taking sides. It may feel like a waste of time at the moment, but you're building your own reputation as someone who cares enough to listen. The next beef might not be so trivial, and you want to know about that one, too.

  • P226. Assuming that the complaint is relatively benign (Something that won't require the services of your attorneys, the police, or paramedics), encourage them to resolve the dispute without your intervention. Presumably, everyone is a grown-up in your office. So make it clear you respect your employees enough to expect them to act like adults.

  • P230. Games don't build teams.

    • Margarita nights can be a blast, with the potential for some great pictures afterward, except for the person who needs to stay away from tequila (and who doesn't want you to know about that, either). Forget about barbecues; you might have a stealth vegetarian onboard. Karaoke nights can be fun, except for the person who doesn't particularly want to look like an idiot. Anything after work can be a laugh riot, except for the people who have to get their kids from daycare. See a problem here?

    • Any group experience should be toward reinforcing pride, joy, trust, and respect among the team members so everyone can move forward with the confidence that his dignity is intact. There are plenty of bonding moments and chances for a good laugh as everyone pulls together on a shared vision of success. Ultimately, business results are what really matter. The best team-building experiences in the world are the ones that allow passionate, dedicated, and talented people to get a chance to give their best toward a common goal. If you don't have that as part of your daily workplace culture, no expensive, high-risk experiential event is going to make that happen. If you do have that as part of your workplace culture, save your money.

  • P232. Answers build teams.

    • Will we be working on challenging assignments that are meaningful to us, both personally and professionally?

    • Will we? Agree with each other most of the time about what excellence looks like in our goals and our behaviors.

    • Can I trust my teammates to have my best interests at heart?

    • Will I consistently care about my teammates to make the necessary sacrifices and exert the extra effort toward our shared goal?

    • Can we trust our manager to add only new hires to our team who share our standards of trustworthy, high-quality behaviors, and performance accountability?

    • Can I depend on my teammates to be accountable for their job responsibilities and actions? Will my teammates inspire me to perform at my very best levels—and hold me accountable for strong performance standards?

    • Can I trust my teammates to be tolerant and supportive if I fall short of a commitment or standard of behavior?

    • Can we trust our manager to provide us with everything we need to do our best work?

    • Can I count on being able to keep learning and continuing my professional development?

  • P234. Your team can lead you to greatness.

    • Let them know you want to intentionally pass on some of the power.

    • Brainstorm with your entire group on what shared leadership will look like in your team.

    • Work with your team members to discover what additional training they need to exercise their new leadership responsibilities well.

    • Learn to consider your team members as an advisory board.

  • P238. You're still the boss.

    • How can you use your company's culture of trust, caring, inspiration, belonging, and tradition of excellence to influence your people to perform at an elevated level?

    • Who can you reach up to in your organization for coaching and leadership support that will help you keep your team dedicated to achieving the goals you've set for yourselves but also the culture in which you want to achieve those goals?

    • Do you understand and believe in the company's mission?

    • What training do you need to strengthen your ability to lead with both inspiration and authority?

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