Brian knows when you lead a team, you must strike a delicate balance in order to drive them to success. If you’re too unstructured, your team may flounder and not hit their marks. If you’re too rigid, you may fuel resentment and not allow enough creativity and growth. So how, as a leader, can you best lead your employees to succeed beyond everyone’s expectations?
There are lots of ways. We all know what personal and team success looks like—trust, easy flowing communication, making decisions with appropriate urgency, getting things done, positive coaching. We also know what dysfunction looks like—people who won’t work together, in an “un-flowing” environment, where team members are often angry and mistrusting of each other.
Brian Fishel, Chief Talent Officer at KeyBank in Cleveland, Ohio, and Co-Chairman of the BPI Senior Executive Board, narrowed true success down to these four main points: explicit, engrained, energizing, and enduring. Focusing on these four things is key to success in leading individuals and teams.
1. Be Explicit Even Before Hiring
Set very clear expectations before the person is even hired—explain the what, how and why of the work to be accomplished. These explicit expectations must be known across the board also to those who will be interviewing and working with this person. Before the new employee even walks in the door, there should be clearly defined accountabilities and responsibilities. This means explicitly outlining what the job is going to entail, and how people must behave to be successful—individually and as part of a group.
When hired and the candidate becomes an employee, the feedback gathered on them during the interview process against these expectations and requirements must be shared with them very early on in their tenure. Once in the position, give direct and candid feedback often; at review time and more importantly real time in the moment. Offer your concrete observations, as well as actionable instructions about how to change.
WHEN BRIAN STARTED ONE OF HIS TOP EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP POSITIONS, HE WAS TOLD AN EXISTING EMPLOYEE, SHERI, HAD POTENTIAL
One-on-one with her, she told him that she was underutilized and underpaid. She had excelled at her previous job, so why not now? Brian told her very directly his view on her, and he told her prove herself. He laid out the ground rules of what he needed her to do—what she needed to deliver and by when as well as how she needed to demonstrate a different set of leadership behaviors with her teammates.
He also clearly articulated how he would help her be successful. He then communicated as such to her critical internal business stakeholders. Due to the clear direction and her drive, she was promoted continuously with substantial increases in responsibility and pay, exceeded her performance expectations and became one of his top High Potential Leaders.
2. Enable Behaviors That Are Engrained
Now it’s time to make sure what you have made explicit becomes engrained. Catching your team doing what you have asked is what perpetuates this behavior. However, generalizations like “nice job” don’t make the mark. Offer meaningful, specific, authentic praise privately and publicly.
Make sure to match output and behavior—praise and recognize your team for output as well as behavior, so they understand the connection between and the importance of the two factors. Reinforce your expectations at every opportunity. Hold them accountable and coach them when they are off the mark. Talk to them one-on-one about what they need to work on. Help them feel accountability for their own success, the success of their teammates and the company overall. In addition, key stakeholders need to know the parameters and how to approach and reinforce what you are doing. Put all personal or “organization territorial” issues aside and candidly discuss performance and challenges.
Make sure the environment lends itself to openness and candor, and people feel free to share their opinions in open discussion. They will rise to their potential.
NO ONE EXPECTED BOB TO GO FAR. THERE WAS TOO MUCH STACKED AGAINST HIM. BUT BRIAN KNEW HE HAD POTENTIAL
Brian assigned him to lead a highly visible cross-functional project. Brian worked with Bob to scope and define the project outputs and path to success, and identify and rally key stakeholders to get support, and fast! In the end, Bob succeeded beyond everyone’s expectations, including his own.
The team he led became one of the highest performing teams and brought in substantial new revenue growth for the company due to cross-selling initiatives. Giving employees the opportunity to prove themselves before they think they are ready is key. You unleash their capabilities.
3. Energize Individuals and Teams
Create a sense of urgency and passion with the people with whom you work. Set the bar high—very high, in fact, so it’s a stretch to get over. Explain why you believe they can get there. Explain to them why you believe they are ready for what comes next. Articulate the purpose of what you are trying to do. It will energize them.
Lead by example. When explaining to them why you believe they are ready for what comes next, it will bring out of them the potential that is untapped and will reinforce and demonstrate that you trust them. Your energy will create energy in your team. If you want your team to outperform, then set the bar high and give them opportunities and the room and freedom to shine.
ONE OF BRIAN’S TEAM MEMBERS, JOE, HAD BEEN RATED AS A TOP PERFORMER BEFORE COMING ON BOARD, BUT THEN ONE YEAR IN, HE WAS JUST AVERAGE
Why? Brian explained to Joe how their company had different standards. The bar was set very high. Brian praised what Joe had done, then outlined very clearly and explicitly how he could be a top performer. He committed to coaching and helping him succeed and reach this new bar. Joe found these high standards liberating.
Over the next few months, Brian helped Joe realize how to better run the leadership audience by better understanding the audience’s requirements. A year later, Joe had met the high standards. Why? He was energized by the high expectations. They had agreed to what success looked like, which created energy and focus.
4. Teach So Others Can Endure No Matter What
Creating a process that is sustainable is key. Teach your team well, and they can take what they learn and run with it on their own. A team that follows a proven system will be able to endure, even if you as the leader moves on. Enduring means team members grow, progress, have more responsibilities added to their current roles, are promoted, and develop into bigger roles. They take what is asked of them and grow.
This saying applies here: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” We aren’t just getting through the day or creating one product with our team and calling it a day. We are teaching them endurance and resilience. We are helping them learn to stretch their capacity much like a serial marathoner pounds the pavement every day, celebrates his race victory, and then goes out and does it again. And as they go along, they are learning from their failures and their successes.
Success can be measured in many ways, but what it comes down to is this: you know it when you see it. When a team is unstoppable they communicate, are highly productive, are incredibly creative and are unhindered. How is it done? These four areas—explicit, engrained, energizing, enduring—will help you do what it takes. Create accountability, move with urgency, and your team will grow in ways no one would ever have expected.
Brian Fishel has over 25 years of broad Human Resources experience across multiple industries. He has specific expertise in the areas of Global Talent Management, Executive Assessment, Development and Coaching, Succession Planning and Team Effectiveness, and Merger-Acquisition and Culture Integration at the senior most levels of organizations, as well as Staffing and Organization Development. In his current role, Brian is the Chief Talent Officer of Key Bank. Prior to joining Key in 2013, Brian spent 15 years with Bank of America in various senior level talent management and organization development roles, including the Global Head of Executive Development and Chief Learning Officer for the enterprise. Prior to Bank of America, Mr. Fishel held various senior-level Human Resource Generalist roles with The Coca-Cola Company providing human capital advisory support for their Global Marketing, Communications and Finance Functions, The Minute Maid Group, and International Bottling operations. Before Coca-Cola, Brian worked for Pizza Hut, at the time a subsidiary of PepsiCo. He was responsible for designing and delivering Pizza Hut’s executive development curriculum targeted at their senior level field sales and operations executives throughout North America.
He also led their U.S. field sales and operations training organization. Brian is a frequent national speaker on the topics of Talent Management and Executive Development. He is a founding member of the Best Practice Institute’s Senior Executive Board, and has served on the Harvard Publishing Advisory Committee and the Conference Board’s Learning and Organizational Performance roundtable. He has written and published several articles and chapters in various books and magazines on an variety of Leadership topics. Brian holds both a Bachelors and Masters of Science in Education from Miami University of Ohio.