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Tips on management from three of the best

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Mike Krzyzewski: Have standards, not rules

A Hall of Fame US university basketball coach, a management guru and a surgeon who is also a TV host shared their tips on getting the best out of people at leading human resources event in Las Vegas.

Mike “Coach K” Krzyzewski, Marcus Buckingham, and Dr Mehmet Oz had some sage advice from their widely differing experience for more than 15,500 delegates at The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) annual conference.

There were over 1,025 international attendees representing 85 countries, including 12 from Bermuda.

The opening keynote was delivered by “Coach K” Krzyzewski, head men’s basketball coach, Duke University. Mr Krzyzewski is in his 34th year as the Hall of Fame head coach of the Duke Blue Devils.

Coach K became the coach with the most wins in NCAA Division 1 history in 2011. This year Mr Krzyzewski became the first Division 1 men’s basketball coach to reach 1,000 career wins. He is only the second college basketball coach to win five national championships. He was also coach of the US Olympic teams that won gold medals in 2008 and 2012.

His emphases were coaching and teamwork. A key goal of Mr Krzyzewski’s is to make sure everybody feels important. This equally applies to people in the HR field. It helps to know things about your team.

Some of the advice he provided was “say please and thank you” and to put the emphasis on “we” and “us” not “you”.

He said: “We don’t have rules in my team, we have standards instead.”

The reasoning behind this is that a team can own a standard whereas a rule is imposed. A standard is the way you do things all the time. “When we talk to each other, we look each other in the eyes,” he said. “We always tell each other the truth.”

Mr Krzyzewski referred to three important concepts in teamwork:

• Adaptability — adapt to people and different situations.

• Ownership — get people to own what they are doing.

• Feeling — get people to open up their hearts and feelings.

When he was national coach, he said his players would do America’s fight song (national anthem) twice. “The second time there will be medals around your neck,” he told his team.

For effective teamwork it is important to have the three EEEs, which he defined as enthusiasm, energy and emotion. Coach K left his HR audience with some excellent ideas on coaching and teamwork.

His parting words were, appropriately, “It’s time to go, it’s time to win”.

Marcus Buckingham, another keynote speaker, is the founder of The Marcus Buckingham Company, an author and management guru.

Mr Buckingham started by talking about a radical shift happening in the workplace. He said this shift includes moving the focus from the organisation level to a focus on the team leader.

“So goes the team leader, so goes the organisation,” he said as “it’s the leader of that team that makes the difference.”

He said team leaders should be in a position to answer the following three questions: “What are the strengths of my people? What are they doing right now? How are they feeling?”

Being able to answer these questions puts the team leader in a better position to lead.

The shift he referred to also includes moving the focus from a reliance on big data to real-time, reliable data.

These data will help move the organisation forward. Such data are necessary to help the organisation make decisions. While working for an international financial institution a number of years ago, the CEO indicated that he needed performance data to help him make promotional decisions.

The shift further includes changing the mission of team leaders from feedback to coaching. Weekly sessions with team members provide a regular check-in and a performance snapshot. These coaching sessions help team members to improve.

Mr Buckingham spoke at length about performance management. He said five-point scales have gone to nine-point scales. He spoke of the difficulty of measuring performance and the range in performance metrics. He referred to the idiosyncratic rater effect, which he said accounts for 61 per cent of a performance rating. That is, the rating is more a reflection of the rater’s perception than the ratee’s performance.

He said that actual performance accounts for approximately a fifth of the variation. “Ratings reveal more about the rater than they do about the ratee,” he said.

He added: “You cannot get rid of ratings because you then have to sneak them back in.” But “we have to get rid of the curve”. This is the forced distribution many organisations still use to allocate the various ratings.

A typical distribution is as follows: poor, 5 per cent; fair, 10 per cent; average, 70 per cent; very good, 10 per cent; excellent 5 per cent. I agree that the curve must go, as it is an artificial anomaly.

Human performance is much too complicated to be reduced to a forced distribution curve. It is simply an easy way out for many managers when it comes to difficult decision making.

Mr Buckingham suggested conducting a survey among employees. The questions should be numerically anchored. Some of the questions in the survey could be:

• I am really enthusiastic about the mission of my company

• At work I clearly understand what is expected of me

• In my team, I am surrounded by people who share my values

• I have a chance to use my strengths every day at work

• I know I will be recognised for excellent work

• I have confidence in my team leader.

The completed survey could provide a lot of useful information to team leaders to help them become more effective.

In summary, Mr Buckingham said the radical shifts were necessary to help team leaders manage performance and improve engagement in the workplace.

The closing keynote was delivered by Dr Mehmet Oz, cardiothoracic surgeon, TV show host and best-selling author. He started by suggesting attendees text three people who like them and ask them why. He was sure people would get illuminating replies.

Dr Oz talked about changes and informed us that what holds us back from changing is time, money, lack of knowledge and fear of change. To enable change he suggested: make it easy to do the right thing, adore your solutions and live the good life. Feelings change minds more than facts.

He outlined five major life adjustments to help people live healthier lives:

• Watch blood pressure (ideal 115/75).

• Exercise 30 minutes daily.

• Have a healthy diet that’s easy to love.

• Control stress & get sufficient sleep.

• Curtail addictions.

He stopped telling his patients to eat healthily. Instead he asked them to eat food they love that’s healthy, eg dark chocolate and nuts. He additionally emphasised the importance of sleep. Therefore, a healthy life depends on a healthy diet, sufficient sleep and enough exercise, which is what I’ve been telling participants in my stress management seminars for years.

Dr Oz told us that most people die on Monday mornings. I don’t think too many people were surprised by that fact. The most important question you can ask is: “What do I do about it?” — and then do something. He informed us that one in three people in the US have a problem with diabetes. He spoke of the danger of smoking and of the damage it does to the body.

Dr Oz discussed weight in detail. Many people suffering from stress force themselves to eat. He emphasised the importance of watching our waist lines and said that “waist not weight better predicts health risks”, so watch “the tight belt syndrome”.

While conventional diets depend on willpower, biology always beats willpower. He praised spicy food and nuts and said “never leave home without nuts in your pocket”.

Diet soda doesn’t work, according to Dr Oz. The average American consumes 142lb of sugar a year. This diet makes it difficult to lose weight. He said that “if we don’t deal with obesity, nothing will work”.

He recommended relaxation techniques. One suggestion was to put a wine cork in your mouth between your teeth as it relaxes your jaw. When breathing, he suggested, pulling your belly towards your spine and using deep breaths to calm yourself. He advised the attendees not to get disillusioned as we all make mistakes so we must simply get back on track and realise that getting back is a marathon, not a sprint.

HR professionals are in a good position to know how employees in their organisations are doing with regard to their health issues and should use this opportunity to help these employee change to become more healthy. A more healthy employee is a more productive employee.

He left us with the thought that “your heart needs a reason to keep beating”.

Next year’s conference will be held in Washington, DC from June 19 to 22. This should make it more convenient for Bermudians.

Paul Loftus is an industrial/organisational psychologist, an intercultural consultant and a freelance journalist. He has been conducting both public and in-company management development seminars in Bermuda for over 20 years. He can be reached at (514) 282-9111; ploftus@colba.net; www.paulloftus.ca

Dr Mehmet Oz: Eat healthy food that you love
Marcus Buckingham: Team leaders make the difference