The Meyer Group - Blog

On Monday I came in to my office to find no phone and no Internet. Again.

I took this project for myself, and spent almost an hour on my cell phone talking to - but not communicating with - AT&T support.

Ten hours later I'm looking at what I have learned while two technicians are wandering around outside waiting for another tech, somewhere else, to accomplish some task that was supposed to have been done hours ago. Besides offering these guys coffee there isn't much else to do for them. I can only do things for me.

So what have I learned? I've learned something about customer service. I've learned even more about me.

On customer service - I will never again tell a client to train the front line staff to listen, then to repeat what the customer said, and then to ignore the customer. These are intelligent people who work for AT&T. When I pointed out that they were listening and then ignoring what I said, almost every one of the employees agreed with me. They then ignored my comments about that as well.

I choose to help my clients do better than this. But that wasn't my real work on Monday. My work was to treat AT&T as it really is - unimportant.

And I mean that in the kindest way.

The company is an artifact. It was designed with historical standards to meet ancient perceived needs. AT&T is NOT a person. It's NOT alive. It cannot frustrate me. Only I can frustrate me.

I always ask my team to talk about what we will do, not what we can't do. I hold myself to the same standard. So my work is to focus on moving forward and not to deal with AT&T at all.

It starts with a deep mental breath. When one of the techs calls to say that he is lost and needs directions, and we both discover that he is the wrong tech for this problem and agree that he can't fix it, and then he ignores me, I get to take a very deep mental breath. There is absolutely no point in pushing my own buttons over this.

This isn't about AT&T. It is about any time I feel in the control of another company. It happens all the time with each of us as business owners or managers. We're in communities that have dozens of members who seem to want to have some form of control over us. They can be suppliers, competitors, customers, and partners. And they seem to be able to push our buttons. And then we do things that are unnatural for us.

What do I mean by unnatural? Giving the authority for our growth to another company is unnatural. Think about it. Most of the requests we get from companies are about solving an immediate need instead of supporting long-term progress. And every time we give authority to another person or company, we stunt our own progress.

On the other hand, what is natural? Guiding our own growth. And then exercising our own strengths to make them stronger.

Taking even 20 minutes of my day to get unhappy with AT&T is really about a wider question:
Am I giving my authority to a corporation?

In other words:
Am I performing an unnatural act?

When I look at what really is natural, I can think and feel my conviction of why I am here. I am here to grow, and help others do the same if they wish. I am here to consciously enjoy the fullness of what I am capable of doing.

My business is designed clearly and specifically to support growth for my clients, my team, and me. When I take that deep mental breath, I can enjoy that growth. And when I do, AT&T's problems evaporate just like mist in the sun.

What is the basic principle here? It's that I am governor of my fate. Not that I control AT&T, but that I control how I act around my sense of the company. The natural position is that my business uses them as my tool, but my business not dependent on them.

I work with lots of other businesses, but they do not govern what I do. They do not have lives of their own. I am the governor of my own business. When I take that position, I am stronger and my business reflects that in the top and bottom lines. My business and I grow naturally no matter what AT&T and other corporations do or don't do.

Friday, 21 July 2017 03:13

Grow Your Time and Business

Can you do both?

What is it worth to you to grow access to your time? Is it even possible?

Getting to the right answer starts with asking if you are growing or finding. Most managers ask if they can find time and then conserve it. When you ask if you can grow your access to it you are working from a different starting point.

Time is like any natural resource with which you build products. Like any other raw material, you use it but it's never in charge of you. Like a crop, assume that you manage your resources. When you start with that position, you can find that you can grow it.

Starting With Boundaries

In her role as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Tech CU in Silicon Valley, Barbara Kamm grows her access to time with boundaries and with confidence from self. She starts by scheduling time that she wants to have.

"We schedule meetings. We should also schedule other things that are important. If I want time to think or do some work, it doesn't (happen) unless I deliberately block it off."

For Barbara this is not about scheduling. It's about boundaries, and willingness to hold to them. "You have to set those boundaries. If you don't your schedule will be everybody else's schedule." That requires confidence in your ability to be in charge of your most important resource: Your self. That is from where she starts to grow time.

Barbara's boundaries are about prioritization and discipline. Part of the discipline is choosing what not to do. In the same way that a farmer improves her agricultural yield by not planting too much, you grow your available time by choosing what not to plant into your calendar.

Charles Rogers from technology leader Nexmo is finding the right boundary for himself and his team. He wants his direct employees to do things on their own but he wants some things done right every time. He recognizes that he can't grow his team, or himself, if he tries to manage what the team does in every important task. So he sets boundaries. He gives his staff great latitude right up until they produce customer-facing materials. Then he gets involved to check what the customer will see to ensure that it meets the standard that he sets.

This boundary is clear for the team. If the deliverable meets his standard, then he does not need to spend time on why and how. If it doesn't meet the standard, he can tell the individual what would meet the standard and to try again. If the work is not customer facing, he can keep a much looser hand on what is produced. Charles no longer does or even checks all the work his team produces. He reviews it later for his own understanding, and he invests his best time into work that is customer facing.

As Charles does this he is saying no to doing work that his team can and should do. Leaving something alone is difficult. Saying no to a meeting or a priority is not always easy. He does it because he feels confident in where he is taking himself. It works when he is confident from his core values, from self.

Charles is growing time for things that he wants on his schedule. By using boundaries and trust, Charles grows the time that he can access for critical issues that he should handle. He feels more ownership of his day.

Using Boundaries Like a
Jigsaw Puzzle Box Top


Making the choice to let people learn is about choosing and holding a boundary. Barbara and Charles work on the assumption that you can and should know the details of what is going on in key parts of your business. Their boundary is the line between knowing it and doing it. This is assigning a jigsaw puzzle, showing the box top and then letting the team assemble the pieces without your intervention. You define the box top. The team assembles the pieces their own way. You inspect the result. You don't invest time building it. Once you set the box top, you have set the boundaries and you can step away from the way it will get assembled.

Boundaries can be difficult. Holding boundaries requires self-confidence on your part and on your team's part. Helping your team can be an exercise in assisting them to recognize their own confidence. That means helping them see their internal strength.

As you do this, you may not get quick results. You will get to invest trust in them for a while before it pays off with them trusting themselves and then you. Investing in that now helps you grow more access to time later. The payoff is very worthwhile.

The Question That Divides Teams
and Limits Growth


I often make a simple request of teams. I ask them to tell me:

- "Can you ask yourself a question for which you cannot find an answer?"

Over hundreds of conversations in which I have asked that question, the answer was obvious to almost every person whom I asked. In most teams, members are shocked to find that their coworkers have a different answer than they do. That difference matters.

Consider: If you lead a team of people where half think the answer is yes and half say no, will that impact how the team works together? If they don't work as well together, what does that mean for your growth?

Either they know that they'll to find the answer, or they put themselves in a more restricted place where the answers have to come from outside themselves. If you want to grow your time, you'll want to get all of your key team members to agree on the same answer to that question. This is a core value. It defines boundaries which each individual chooses as real.

If your team does not agree on one answer to this question, you want to know now and not later. To grow your time, you need to understand how you and your team set boundaries.

We each set our own boundaries. When we do, we limit what we can and will do in a given set of situations. Ethical behavior is a boundary. Fiduciary responsibility is a boundary. So is the choice to not do the work of others. As is the choice to allow mistakes, starting with each of us allowing ourselves to err. We need boundaries in business to manage well. That question about capabilities shows a current boundary that we hold.

Each of us can do this. Each of us can set boundaries. Each of us is strong enough to enforce the boundaries we set. That strength comes from within, and with confidence from self.

That leads to a question on empowerment: Who empowers your team?

Who Empowers Your Team?

Another question I use to illuminate key boundaries is:
 - Are you empowered by the company, or
 - Are you empowered by your self?

The first is empowered by an outside power, the second empowered from within. There is no wrong answer. What is worth knowing is whether members of the same team have different answers. That disparity would make it hard to manage the team to the same goals. This is another core value for your team.

Managing that disparity in your team is time consuming, not time growing. It starts with you as the leader. You can address the question and grow your time, starting now.

Applying This In A Regulated Business

When Barbara took her CEO role, Tech CU was following a traditional path. The good news about most credit unions is that they have a predictable business model. They are retail businesses, working with individual savers and borrowers. The bad news is that in a difficult economy the retail business is like a one legged stool; it is unstable. In the case of her CU, "I believed that to stay exclusively on a retail platform was akin to a slow death."

To grow instead of die, Barbara chose to develop a commercial portfolio. Retail and commercial are two different kinds of business catering to two different kinds of customers. When one revenue stream is down, the other can cover for it.

Retail banking is about many similar transactions. These regulations are "cookie cutter." In the retail world, borrowers are treated as individuals but the CU does not address each transaction uniquely. Exceptions are to be minimized.

Commercial banking requires constant development and monitoring of individual transactions. Instead of groups of transactions, each loan is individually crafted and managed. The banker succeeds when he or she knows each customer well and is able to craft the package around each. In the commercial business exceptions are desirable.

Running that commercial business is entirely different from running a retail banking operation. Tech CU's team was expert in retail banking. The regulators responsible for ensuring that the CU is well run were just as expert in retail. However, they are unfamiliar with commercial.

When the CU added commercial loans "the regulators (started) to quake in their boots. They don't understand business loans. We have to be very patient about explaining what we are doing and why." The team's position is that they might be: ". . .training the regulators. We can help them learn." And it was and is clear that the overseers need to learn in their own way. They needed a good box top. They also need to work the puzzle on their own.

When the regulators come to the CU, the team there is both supportive and willing to hold to boundaries. The team members show their support when they are happy to help the regulators understand this different business.

The test comes when a regulator insists on treating commercial loans as though they are retail. An agency supervisor may insist on enforcement that would hurt the commercial customer, the loan, or the result to the credit union. When that happens the CU team member has to stand up and say that their commercial customer needs to be treated differently from a consumer loan. The team member has to enforce a boundary.

"We are not going to let the regulators run our business for us. We are going to keep moving forward and doing the right thing." Here is where success requires confidence from self. "We are going to be questioned, we going to be possibly written up on examinations. We have to go" to uncomfortable places. However Barbara is clear that the CU wants the regulators to understand and support Tech CU team in this growth to a different market. "We have to do what it takes to bring the regulators along with us."

Does this grow access to time? In the short run, no. However, any other alternative is going to set up a constant contention between the governing bodies and the credit union. If that happens the customers lose and the CU loses. To grow time, to grow the CU, Barbara's team has to hold to boundaries immediately. You can direct this, and help everyone on the team feel confident in the group and in himself or herself. When you help them to do the puzzle assembly without you, it will increase your access to more time.

Managing From Boundaries

Can you grow your access to time? Can you grow confidence from self? You can. As you do, your business is easier to manage and to keep on the right track for sustainable growth.

Today, Barbara is managing a financial institution into the next level where it can be more stable. That would normally suck up an immense amount of time. However, now she is increasing her available time to do that well. She chooses to set boundaries, and hold to them. This works because she is driven from within instead of driven by the people around her.

Barbara and Charles must work with their teams and help them by setting the direction. Then Charles and Barbara make the conscious decision to trust their teams to do the right things inside boundaries that they set. They lead by setting puzzle box tops, by helping the team members feel competent to act on their own. Is there any reason that you cannot do the same?

Barbara put it well when she quoted a former mentor:

"Leadership is about making people like themselves when they are in your presence"

People are more likely to like themselves, and be more productive, when they are learning and when they feel confident in themselves. When you set boundaries, when you govern, and when you model confidence from within, you are helping make that happen. You grow your own business, from within you. And you grow your own access to time in the same way. When you work from this perspective, you are in charge of your time and so is your team. That is key to being in charge of your business.

Peter Meyer is a founder and principal of The Meyer Group, a management consulting firm specializing in creating new markets. He has done speaking tours on management, technology, and strategies throughout the United States and in Europe, the Far East, and Australia. He has also twice addressed the Commonwealth Club of California and guest lectured at the University of California and at Santa Clara University. He has published articles in Excellence Essentials, The Wall Street Journal, The Canadian Business Review, Business Horizons, Dateline, Internet Business Journal, Executive Female, and The Recorder as well as a profile of him in Entrepreneur.

If you want to speed the growth of your business, you can and should guide it by choosing to measure outcomes, not just outputs. Carefully setting up key performance indicators (KPIs) and using them correctly helps you grow time, revenue, and people in ways that contribute most to overall business growth. Doing it systematically can make that growth more intentional and less episodic. Consciously making the choice in the present can help make business growth sustainable over a longer period. This commentary is about making that choice.

In many businesses, managers track myriad activities. That is partly because there's a lot going on, but it's also partly because managers may not take the time (or be willing) to choose which outcomes really matter. Intentionally choosing your desired outcomes will guide where your business grows. Jonathan Becher, a senior executive of the multinational software company SAP, put it well: "The story of what you become as you grow up is based on the KPIs you choose." It means measuring outcomes, not outputs.

Outputs May Not Be Outcomes
Let's take a moment to look at input, output, and outcome. Identifying key inputs for processes is easy with a critical path analysis. However, that does not help distinguish outputs from outcomes.

To distinguish them, consider that "outputs" are often activities and "outcomes" are desired results. For example, booking a sale is an essential output of the sales process, but collecting the revenue may be the outcome that you want your business to gain. Unfortunately for your business, if the sale is not solid or is for something that you can't provide, getting a booking may not result in revenue. This is just one example of how output does not always deliver the desired outcome. To grow your business along any sort of plan, you want your team focused on outcomes.

To explain output and outcome, consider the personal income for people who work in your business. What happens with salaries and spending can be an example of input, output, and outcome.

Your employees collect income in the form of salary, bonuses, and commissions. Many will spend most of that income to make ends meet each month. The input is easy to identify; they measure that in dollars. Many of your employees use their income to do or get what they need to build a fulfilled life. The input is financial. The output is products, services, or investments (perhaps a boat, a vacation, savings, or tutors for the children). The desired outcome is your employees feeling good about themselves and their families.

The output is money spent. Spending is a key activity to turn salary into a meaningful outcome. But who defines meaningful outcome? It has to be individual. Do your employees measure success by the money spent or the results of that spending? The output of money is a means to an end. Most of us define outcomes that reflect what we want after the money is spent. The real goal for most employees is choosing what they wish to do to achieve that end. That is the outcome.

Even if the outputs are similar, a good outcome for one employee would not work for her coworker and vice versa. One might want savings on which to retire and travel; another would design an investment program to support his children in college. Outcome is very individual.

Your employees individually choose their outputs—perhaps putting their money into savings or tutors or a vacation home. They base those investment choices on the outcomes they wish to enjoy.

And how can they be most likely to get their desired outcomes? By defining them in advance. If they know what outcomes they wish, fulfillment is going to come more quickly and with less effort.

Why Choose Outcomes at the Start?
In your business, you can either base your growth on hope or you can plan the pattern of your growth. Famously, hope is not a strategy. [Attributed to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, speaking at the Republican National convention, September 3, 2008.]

To systematically grow a business, the people involved should know what matters to the whole business. You want them to focus on important outcomes instead of everyday distractions. As the owner or manager, you get to broadcast desirable outcomes, not just focus on outputs. Planned growth can come from a conscious and specific choice of the outcomes that matter.

The Art of Choosing
But planning also means carefully choosing a few specific outcomes for your team to focus on. In putting this work together, I interviewed dozens of executives who successfully lead growth. Over and over I find that they rely on no more than five KPIs. Asking your team to work to more than five KPIs is asking them to be unfocused. Just as bad, it is asking them to think that you might be unfocused.

There are two traditional ways to choose what outputs and outcomes to measure. The more common is to measure myriad indicators. It seems safer, because by measuring a lot of things you're covering all the bases. But you don't get planned growth for your business by covering all the bases and hoping that growth will happen. You grow it sustainably by targeting the outcomes you wish.

Measuring everything reflects an uncomfortable truth: Picking many metrics is easy but narrowing the choices can be difficult. Measuring everything often results in watching and then overreacting to things that you cannot control. As the leader, you are not going to quickly and systematically grow your revenue, time, and people by reacting primarily to the actions of people outside your business. Predictable growth happens when you govern and direct your business, not when you "go with the flow." That means measuring outcomes that you can directly influence.

Another common way to choose what to measure is to select outputs that are easy to understand even if they don't actually deliver the desired outcomes. Focusing on outputs instead of outcomes is tempting for many managers. Outputs are easy to measure here and now; outcomes seem to be in the future and ethereal. You can ask a team to focus on outputs such as getting a report done on time or meeting a sales quota. These are in their control; an outcome like customer satisfaction or overall revenue may be beyond their reach. You can and should work with them to get the right outputs to help deliver the outcome, but you have to be clear on the outcome you desire.

Measuring those outputs allows you to easily rank and rate effort in the moment. For that, the direct link from input to output is important. But measuring what a person or team delivers often results in an organization that is active at an individual level but may not be productive as an enterprise. Active individuals and an unproductive business is a combination that does not lead to predictable growth. In the personal financial example, two families could both be saving the same amounts of money, but that money does not automatically lead to a desired outcome.

One employee might collect as much money as possible without a plan to use it later. The employee who identifies the outcome she wants in advance will speed the delivery of that outcome with those savings. The money held in a savings account is the output. Not having an outcome in mind might reduce the value of the output.

A much more successful strategy is to choose the desired outcome and measure it. If you want to set up growth that is less episodic and more sustainable, this is the starting point. To program revenue or any other kind of growth into the business, or to do effective planning, you need to determine the outcomes you want to experience.

Choosing Now to Guide the Future of Your Business: An Example
SAP is a company that has grown substantially in the past few decades. Today it is a 74,000-person organization that provides software that companies use to manage their business.

Jonathan Becher runs a business inside SAP that provides us with an example of using outcome-based measurements. SAP was built on selling enterprise-level software costing hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars to buy and implement. The process of doing that has been based on person-to-person selling.

But what SAP had not previously done is to scale these business offerings to individual consumers in a user-friendly, even no-touch way. Until now.

(SAP is used here purely as an example of KPI usage. The author does not have any business or personal connection to SAP or Becher.)

Becher's team was built to make it possible for individual consumers to easily take advantage of SAP software and education. The delivery vehicle is online sales and consumption and, increasingly, in-application purchase or upgrade.

Managing to Outcome
To guide the new online business, Becher is careful to separate compensating his team for outputs from compensating for outcomes. "I want the KPI measured on the outcomes," he says. "I want to reward people for [getting to] the destination, not the hard work that got us there."

Many organizations are dominated by financial metrics and by a focus on inputs and outputs. It is certainly a more accurate reflection of the individual contribution. In sales, you often compensate a representative on the revenue that he or she delivers in a territory. You find that same pattern in finance, engineering, and marketing contributors. It makes sense to observe outputs, but when you reward for them, you get a focus on these instead of outcomes. The individuals might succeed at the expense of the business.

Contributors often expect to be rewarded for activities. They can point to themselves as being a success whether or not the overall organization does well. It is easy to maximize effort to make the activity look great: the measurements help the contributor stand out, even when they don't actually support the outcome.

For example, a salesperson can book a sale that cannot be installed. He will have delivered the output as defined by his compensation plan, but that does not lead to the desired outcome: revenue. In general, you will get the outcomes that you reward. Becher calls these measurements "egometrics" when they measure and reward output instead of outcome. A better strategy is to reward for the desired outcome—in this case booking the revenue.

Growing a business requires drawing a line between what you measure and what you reward. Becher makes it clear to his team that he wants to know what they're doing. "I track them all," he explains. "I want to know how well the engine room is running. But my main focus is on outcomes and that is what I measure every day." However he is also clear that the key indicators for his business are the outcomes, not the activities.

But in order to reward the outputs that lead to key outcomes, you must first define the outcomes before you define the measurement system. This means you must make a commitment as to what is important in the future. If this is something that will be managed day by day. You'll want to heed the guideline to limit outcomes to no more than five KPIs.

Outputs will change often as your business changes. Your stated and desired outcomes should not. Invest the time to choose the right outcomes early, and then work to stick with them.

Choosing the right KPIs is choosing how your business and your people will grow. You can fall into this accidentally, or you can take the time up front to decide what kind of growth you want and then select the right outcomes to measure. Systematic growth comes from choosing to guide that growth from the very beginning. That is aided when you focus on five or fewer outcomes and hold to them.

Five is not a magic number. Some executives have limited their KPIs to three. It's an individual choice. Choose your limit based on what you think a manager or individual contributor will keep in mind during a very busy day. Asking him or her to focus on more than that is likely to fail. The busier your team is, the less capacity they have for more measurements to remember. The best practice is to keep the number small.

SAP Digital's Five KPIs
What exactly does Becher measure? His five key outcomes define his business future, and here is how he describes them.

1 - "When we started out, the single most important KPI was percentage of orders that did straight-through processing. This means that an order was placed and went all the way through our process without exception or failure."

2 - "Second is the percentage of orders that go from purchase to productive within" the targeted time frame.

"For example, we have a product for individual sales reps and small teams. Since it's designed to be used without any help by IT, we have a target of going from purchase to productive use in under 30 minutes."

It is easy to measure the product downloads every day. What matters more is whether the user can make it work. The number of downloads is an output to observe. Becher's KPI is "purchase to productive."

3 -"Third is the percentage of trials that convert to paid orders. This is the current proxy for customer satisfaction."

Free trials are common in the software business. However, if a product does well in trial but does not convert to paid order, then the activity is not leading to the outcome Becher wants. An activity that does not lead to the correct outcome shows that there is a problem. If you were on Becher's team you'd want to know that.

4 - "Fourth is the percentage of orders that move from a 'teaser' (trial) period to a longer agreement. It is quite common in the digital business for someone to access a free version of a product for a promotional period but never to convert to a paying customer. We are intentionally focusing on this rate of adoption."

Looking at rate of transition from free to paid is a single indicator that replaces a number of "egometrics." The percentage is an easily measurable outcome that really matters to SAP.

5 - "Our ultimate measure of success is the percentage of people who grow their relationship. This could be buying (product for) more users, renewing their agreement for longer time periods, or unlocking more features and content."

For Becher, this outcome is about growing a connection. Downloads are important outputs to note, but growing customer relationships is the desired outcome.

The Outcomes You Choose Can Accelerate Your Growth
Choosing and measuring outcomes that matter—and limiting their number to only a very few—are the two techniques you should use to define where and how the business will grow. It may not be rocket science, but it's essential nonetheless. Choosing the right outcomes can be key to building your best strategy.

If you ask each team member to focus on just his or her own output, you may get operational excellence at the expense of business growth. This can happen if, for instance, the sales team books deals that cannot flow to revenue. The sales team looks good and gets rewarded. Your business suffers.

If you ask the entire team to focus on five or fewer outcomes that really matter, you increase your chances of being able to keep everyone on the same path. This accelerates your growth.

But focusing on outcomes does even more. By choosing today which outcomes you want to measure, you refine what matters to you and the people you depend on. That focus today will define what outcomes you produce tomorrow as well. The result can be growth that is both more predictable and targeted. It is investing your time now to get the right outcomes later.

This article was originally published in
B>Quest (Business Quest)
Courtesy of the Richards College of Business University of West Georgia.
This article copr. 2015 by Peter Meyer and the Richards College of Business, all rights reserved

 

Friday, 07 July 2017 03:20

Getting Growth from Giving Grace

You're here because you are looking for ways to help your business grow. Making that happen, even when it's difficult, is what this story is about.

Let's start with the problem. When Paula took a new management assignment at IBM, she found she had an employee who hadn't been performing for a long time. The direct manager, Bethanne, had been told not to take action because "We are all family. We help the weak ones."

You've seen it before. It seemed as though a manager was choosing to be liked instead of making a hard decision. When you want your people to grow, this is a terrible example to set; it festers in the organization. Paula wanted growth instead. Which of us would not? This posting is about her plan to move from disease to healthy growth. It is a great example.

This solution for growth comes from:
— A key starting point
— Engaging with people but not doing the work
— Giving grace

1. The Starting Point
You probably know at least one manager who was effectively fired by her own people. It's what happens when the employees stop respecting their manager. One of the fastest ways to engender resentment is to try to please everyone. As leaders, we sometimes define ourselves by how others see us. However, if you look at the successful managers and executives throughout these postings, you'll see individuals who define themselves from their core and their values. The executives who promote sustainable growth are the ones who define themselves from what they know is right. They don't define themselves from an external standard.

These leaders start with their own sense of what is right, and they hold tightly to that internal key. They look at their core values and what they stand for. That drives their decisions. Often, not always, it drives the social norm in that business. It is always key to successful growth. Paula was strong enough and aware enough to start from what she knew in her core was the right way to act and not react.

2. Engaging
The choice to shelter employees has never felt right for Paula. It hurts the business and it hurts the employees. Sheltering is usually a reaction based on fear, and you stifle growth when you let fear guide your choices. We and our businesses don't grow from fear; we grow from stretching to fulfill our potential. We don't grow from protecting; we grow from expanding our current abilities.

We grow when we act, not react.

When you choose to help your team members while making your targets, you may feel your role changing. You will actively:

Structure meaningful problems for them to solve Engage with them as they solve these themselves Get the heck out of the way as they own the issue and learn

Growth happens when you are there, engaged, and managing the growth and not the activity.

Engaging with employees is not protecting them. Engaging is choosing the challenge they will face and then choosing to guide the learning and growth. It is acting to stay very involved the whole way but not doing the work for the team.

Paula wanted to give this employee a full chance to make things work. Bethanne "…did that, but after another 90 days we just knew that he could not do the work." Instead of protecting Bethanne and the team member, Paula decided on two strategies. The first was to make the change easier for Bethanne to address herself. The other was to structure this to become a learning experience for Bethanne.

"Having to deal with the bureaucracy and political burden of having to move somebody out of the business—that was not new. Firing someone in a Fortune 100 company where poor performers do not get moved out of the business—that was the hard work."

Paula chose to get and stay engaged on this but clearly not to do the work for Bethanne. She could have done the task, and done it faster, but instead she asked Bethanne to take each step while Paula stayed involved.

"Bethanne had to take reach out and then use a director-level Human Resources executive. From the HR advisor she got the technical information such as ‘this the process, these are the steps, this is the level of detail you will need to provide." Paula could have supplied that but Paula chose a different role: "From me she got the encouragement. I told her that this is the right thing to do. I provided the grace to do this."

3. Giving Grace to Get Growth
What does Paula mean by "providing grace?" This is how she explains it: "I recognized that this was going to be a demanding activity for Bethanne. It had to be executed excellently"—and with real sensitivity. For Bethanne to do this and to have "room" to grow, Bethanne needed more space from her everyday urgencies. That is the "grace" that Paula wanted to give.

Instead of saying something like "This is your job, and so is all the rest, get it all done" Paula looked at the best way to help Bethanne do this right. "There were some assignments that I would have had go to her. I didn't." Bethanne knew that Paula was involved, and was investing in her but never doing the work for her. Bethanne felt supported but also knew that she had the responsibility to get this issue right.

Paula made the decision to put Bethanne's development first. She gave Bethanne fewer urgencies while holding Bethanne to the challenge. Bethanne acted in the way that Paula hoped. "She responded to that by doing a complete job."

It feels like a luxury to give Bethanne time to think this all through, to work out the details. That meant a conscious decision to reduce her workload in an environment where workloads were increasing. That decision happened because Bethanne's development "…became a more important priority."

There is self-interest here. "It is important to me as her manager…she becomes more valuable to me. It is important to Bethanne because important skills are expanded, it is important to the corporation because they have one more skilled manager." No matter whether your team is small or large, having a skilled manager is going to be an advantage. You don't make or forge this skill; you grow it. You owe it first to yourself and then to your business and team to grow good managers. "Giving grace" is part of nourishing growth and growing your business.

Fostering Growth
Bethanne had a much better chance of success if she could have the grace and time to do this well. Paula's task, as she assigned it to herself, was to grow the time and offer the grace for Bethanne.

Did Paula challenge Bethanne? The answer is yes, giving grace includes giving a challenge to stretch to grow.

Engaging and giving grace are about being very present, but not doing their work. It is about knowing how to provide grace for the right priorities. And then doing so.

The truth is that when we work from our core, not from input of those around us, we will find that we can select the right priorities. Do you make growing people one of those important contributions to your business? Paula made that choice here. "Investing in her was the right thing to do. She was a good manager on the verge of becoming a great manager. What more important managerial job do I have? That is the top of the game for me."

Grace starts with working from your internal strength and values. The bad news is that you can't rely on anyone else to get it. The good news is that you don't need to rely on anyone else, and your team members don't need to rely on you. You can let them supply their own strength if you can give them the grace, sense of values, and engagement to do so. Grace is a gift that you can always give at the right time. To give someone room to grow when it really matters, to listen, to support without interfering or judging, is to do immense good for your business.

The principle is much as we said earlier: Progress is a changeless law. Individuals grow and you can't control that. But you can support it, assist it, and gain by it. Holding to your core value, engaging with your team, and giving grace for growth and action is a way to turn a problem into growth for your organization.