With Martin G. Moore

Episode #106

Live Mentoring Session #4: Enabling Your People

In this episode, we take a look at part of a mentoring session I did with a fantastic young leader named Kate.

Kate is a leader in a financial services company that supports a major global manufacturer. We covered a lot of ground in the session, so I actually found it really difficult to select the most valuable piece.

But the dialogue I liked best, is the part about enabling people. We go into some detail about what the 3 key things are to focus your leadership attention on each day, and of course, this invariably comes back to people’s performance.

How do you enable people to perform, without over-functioning for them? It’s simple conceptually, but whenever we’re dealing with issues that affect people’s lives, they’re tough to execute on.

A big thank you to Kate for allowing us to share this mentoring session with our leadership community!



Due to popular demand and the INCREDIBLE feedback received, we’ve decided to run a session of our virtual training:

The Burnout Fix: A Practical Roadmap to Taking Control of Your Workload 🙌

Join us on:

📅 Tuesday 12 September at 10AM AEST

In this 60-minute masterclass, I’ll share the exact strategies that I use as a leader to reduce my workload, so that I can focus my time and energy on what matters most! This is critical when you’re trying to avoid burnout or map a path out of it.

Then, join Em and I for a LIVE Q&A segment!

Will you be joining us?



Episode #106 Live Mentoring Session #4: Enabling Your People

Marty: Hey there, and welcome to Episode 106 of the No Bullsh!t Leadership podcast. This week’s episode: Live Mentoring Session #4: Enabling Your People. Way back in April, I had a live mentoring session with a fantastic young leader named Kate. Now Kate works in a captive financial company of a leading global manufacturer. In other words, her company is a subsidiary that provides financing solutions to the parent company’s customers. Sounds complicated, I know, but it’s sort of like when you go and buy a car at BMW, the salesman can walk you across the other side of the showroom to their finance department, who will organise a leasing package for you. That’s sort of the way it is for Kate, although she doesn’t work for BMW. Now in this session, we covered a hell of a lot of ground. So I actually found it really difficult to select the most valuable piece.

We spoke about how to manage Kate’s team in what was then, a very new environment of dealing with coronavirus restrictions. We talked through some of the considerations that needed to be made for distressed customers and how to know which customers to support and which ones to cut loose. We explored when the right time might be to adopt a more directive approach with team members. And we covered the value of an MBA and how education fits into your overall leadership repertoire.

But the piece I liked best and the extract of the conversation I’ve selected for our live mentoring session today is the part about enabling people. We went into some detail about what the key things are to focus your leadership attention on each day. And of course we invariably came back to people’s performance. We got a fair way into how to enable people to perform without over-functioning for them. Now it’s really simple conceptually, but whenever we’re dealing with issues that affect people’s lives, they are tough to execute on. I really appreciate Kate’s openness in allowing us to share this session and I know you’ll all get a lot out of it. So over to you, Kate,

Kate: So here’s a bit of a curly one, maybe. If I tried to focus on three things each day, what should those three things be? You know, if I had three things where I go make sure you focus on these, what types of things should they be knowing that, you know, I actually, I’m very career driven and I want to get as far as I can in my career.

Marty: Right. So what should you focus on each day? Yeah. I don’t know, I might come up with two or four. I might come up with six or seven, but, for everyone it’s different. So it depends on, it depends on where you are in terms of your own capability and what you’re trying to either improve or work on. So there’ll be those types of things that are specific and unique to you. What I would say though, is that if I was going to focus on, only a few things, here’s what I’d do. The number one thing is make sure that all of your people are working on the right things all the time. So don’t let all this work creep in that just doesn’t create any value. So the very first thing is go back to your value. Work out what the biggest value levers are that you can pull, in your environment, and get after those really hard and stop all the other shit, right. Now that that can be a full time job.

And the reason that can be a full time job is because, stamping out non value adding activity is like playing whack-a-mole. You know, that game, whack-a-mole, where they pop up out of the thing, you try and hit it before it drops down again? It’s like that. You’re just running around getting exhausted and not managing to necessarily corral all of that work. So the very first thing is define really clearly what value is and try and stop everything else.

The second thing is get close enough to your people that you know what they’re doing, you know what their capability is like, and they’ve got no excuses in terms of lack of support. So supporting them, not in a way that is over-functioning for them. If you’ve got people who need a cuddle every morning and they break down if you don’t give them two hours of your attention every day, that’s not what I’m talking about. They’re the wrong people, right? Or sorry, they may be the wrong people. But certainly being able to have that level of confidence in…people know what’s expected of them. They know how they’re going. They know when they’re doing a good job and they don’t feel as though there’s a lot of roadblocks to that. So they don’t have to wait for an extreme period of time for inputs from another team. They don’t have to wait for you to make your mind up about stuff. They don’t have to go through irrational or inefficient processes to get their jobs done. So it’s about that freeing up of your people’s headspace so they can then focus on those things you’ve already identified as being great value. So, I’d say focus on the value, focus on the people, and then understand what’s required above you, to make that all come together.

So make sure you understand the strategy. Make sure you can communicate. Make sure that you can translate it and interpret that strategy into what it means for your team. One of the most difficult things to do in any large organisation is to articulate the connections between the corporate strategy and then what your people do day to day. It’s sometimes really, really hard to connect. In fact, the two seem like they’re completely different organisations. So understanding well enough what that high order stuff is. Why are we here? Who do we serve? What’s our strategy? How do we compete? And then being able to translate that for your people so they can do something with it.

So that’s sort of just the very general, broad brush strokes area. You know, there’s all this stuff that you know about around accountability. Making sure you’ve got one head to pat and one ass to kick so that you can hold people to account. The making sure that people are appropriately included in decisions that they can contribute to effectively, without giving that up for decision making by consensus, which is always a horrible thing. Staying in your lane. So as we said before, not diving in and doing your people’s work. Letting them do it, but making sure that you can run the scoreboard, and see what their performance is like, very easily, without diving into their work. That’s really it. You know this stuff, but it’s about focusing on that each day when you’ve got so much that pops up that is detailed and urgent and requiring attention and focus.

Kate: How do you get close enough to your people to know sort of what they’re doing and what they’re capable of without getting into ‘the work’? As in, you don’t want to get into the weeds.

Marty: Yeah. So, this takes a while to do. And as we said before, every individual’s different. So the first thing is to set them a task that you think is reasonable and see how they go. So for a lot of them, you’ll know roughly what to expect in terms of timeframe and quality and so forth. Won’t have done every job that reports in below you, but you would have done enough to sort of be able to glean that a little bit or intuit that, and so set them a task and see how they go. Just make sure it’s set up well and really clearly.

So, here’s what we need delivered, this date, this timeframe, this scope, etc. See how they go. And if you’re doing it with checkpoints along the way or milestones along the way, you actually get to see early enough that you can help them before it becomes catastrophic. And when you see at those early checkpoints, how they’re doing, that’s super important because that’s when you’re going to give them guidance and direction about how to change what they’re doing. And you get to see how they respond to that, which is the most important thing. So not everyone’s going to think the same as you or approach problems the same as you do. But if you can get them early on and say, okay, I can see where this is heading. Remember this is the outcome we’re looking for. And so perhaps you might want to consider these things at this stage because these will make it more likely that you’ll get that result. So let’s think about those.

And then you’ll see what they do between that and the next milestone. And sometimes, it’s that they adapt really quickly. You give them direction they go, “Right Kate. I’ve got that. I’m away, right? Leave me alone. I’ll see you in a few weeks.” Bang. And they will just nail it. Others, they’ll come back at the next milestone, and you’ll find that when you had the last conversation with them, you may as well have been talking to an empty chair. And that happens too. So this is how you get to know your people in terms of how they react to feedback. Whether they have the intellectual capacity and the will to shift their thinking around stuff. And also what their capacity for work is. And you don’t find that out until you start loading stuff on. So most people when they give you a target date or a deadline, they’ll normally give you something that is in their heads, relatively easy to achieve.

They won’t put pressure on themselves unnecessarily. Because they don’t want to feel bad if they miss out on meeting their expectations and your expectations, which once they’ve agreed with you, they feel as though they need to do too, which is true. So they’ll normally set something they could reach in a canter. Maybe 70, 75% of their ability, they’ll double it and add the number they first thought of so that gives them a little bit more slack and then they’ll come to you and say, “Take this. This is how long it’s going to take.” Some even after doing that, miss their deadlines. So it’s really about being diligent about inspecting the outputs and when things don’t turn up the way they should to ask the questions. So why? And just remember, when someone comes to you before the deadline is due and says, “Kate, I’ve got a problem with this. Here’s the things have changed in my environment, or here’s an obstacle I wasn’t expecting to hit” and so forth. That’s what we call adult behaviour and good management. But that gives you a chance to do something about it ahead of time.

When they come to you after they’ve missed a deadline or even worse, if you have to go to them and say, “Hey, how did you go with this deadline?” And they say, “Oh, sorry Kate. I missed it.” Every word that comes out of their mouth after that should only be interpreted as “the dog ate my homework”. So coming ahead of the time, trying to anticipate, great management adult behaviour, after the fact dog ate my homework, right. Couldn’t care less what your excuse is. You either did it or you didn’t. You just got to be that harsh about the way you think about those things.

Kate: And how do you deal with the dog ate the homework type people?

Marty: Well, you sort of say, “Sounds like the dog ate your homework?” So well I would, anyway, it depends, maybe you can’t be as direct. If you’ve got good relation”ships with people, as you’ll recall probably me saying, “If your people trust and respect you there’s nothing you can’t say to them”. And so it depends whether it’s habitual or whether it’s a one off. So, you’ll work out how to do each of those, I’m sure. But the most important thing is to have consequences in place. So we’re back at the whole, challenge, coach, confront.

If you’re challenging and stretching your people, as we spoke about working out what the capacity is and making the workload appropriate for that, and you’re coaching them on the way through to help them on those milestone meetings, not doing their job for them, but “How are you going? What obstacles are you running into? Are you getting cooperation from this team over here that you’re getting your input from?” All those sorts of things. Then it’s very rare you have to get to that confront stage. But when you do, they’ll see it as being fair because you’ve done a good job in setting it up.

Kate: Yeah. So that probably brings me to another point, in terms of, I don’t remember where it came from, but you mentioned, you spent 80% of your time with your top 20% of your people. What I’m finding is that a lot of these dog ate my homework type people, you have to spend so much more time with them. So it goes against that whole spending the most time with those top 20% of your people. How do you balance and manage that?

Marty: So counterintuitive, isn’t it? So the thing is that most people feel as though it’s their responsibility to make their team perform. It’s not. As a leader what you have to do is set up the environment so that people can do their jobs, and you’ve got to set up the best way you can. That has a whole bunch of stuff in it. So it’s clarity of objectives. It’s strong accountability. It’s empowerment, support, and resources. It’s all those things that people need to do their job the best way they can, and the best way you can enable them. Once you’ve got that in place, people choose every day, how they behave and perform. They choose what they do when they come into the office or when they get out of bed and trudge, the 10 metres to the home office. They decide whether they’re going to get up and have a shower and shave and wash their hair and put on a business attire and treat it properly, or whether they’re going to slouch around and just get out of their night pyjamas and put their day pyjamas on, right? So it all comes to attitude, but really the people that are working for you have their accountability around that, and you can’t make someone perform.

So, with everyone, they need the opportunity. They need the clarity of objectives, the coaching, and all that sort of stuff. Some people don’t respond to that. Now what most leaders do under those circumstances is they start flogging them. They’ll flog the donkey, right? Just remember, it’s a lot easier to rein in a stallion than it is to flog a donkey, right? But they start flogging the donkey. You’re not delivering, you’re not performing. What’s wrong. How can I help? What should I do? It’s my problem. I’m the leader, it’s my problem. And so they get in there and spend an inordinate amount of time trying to cajole, encourage and coerce one of their people to do something they don’t want to do. Simply don’t want to do. Very best thing you can do with the donkey who doesn’t want to do stuff is to say, “Here’s the standard of performance I’m setting. Here’s what we expect. Here’s where you are down here. You’ve got to change that. You’ve got to change that because it’s not going to be acceptable going forward”. And if you give them really, really clear feedback on the standard you’re setting and the standard they’re at, so first two points of our little trio, What are your expectations of me? Well there they are. How am I going against those expectations? Well, you know, you’re sort of down there. Then the rest is going to be up to them. As long as you’re leading them effectively. So that’s one way not to spend a lot of time.

But typically, as soon as you step into a performance management cycle, then you have to spend a lot of time with the individual to give them the appropriate opportunity and due process and everything else. That just going to suck up time. It is what it is. But that only has to be one to three months maximum. If you do it the right way, it doesn’t matter what organisation your in, what your enterprise agreements say, what the union environment’s like, who your owners are, it doesn’t matter. One to three months, max, you can sort it all out. I can’t believe how unbelievably worth it it is to go through that process. Your day and life is completely different, when you switch out someone who’s not doing their job and hire somebody who wants to do it. The amount of fresh air, the weight off your shoulders, the amount of time that you get back, just by having a competent and capable person, you don’t have to ride and flog, is every time I’ve seen someone below me, replace an individual like that, the very first thing they say to me is, “Oh, I can’t believe how good it is now that I’ve got Christine”. And I go, “Yeah, you could have done that 12 months ago. You know that.” Decisiveness.

Kate: That’s such a hard one.

Marty: Well, yes and no. Yes and no, it’s not that hard, right? The one big mental switch you have to make is feeling as though you’ve got to make them successful, as opposed to giving them, the accountability for what is their thing to do, right? Everyone makes their choices. They make their choices. How am I going to behave today? How am I going to perform? We all wake up every morning. I’ve got a bunch of choices starting with, do I still like my spouse? Sure. Let’s go for another day. Do I still like the house I’m living in? Sure. Do I still like the city I’m living in? Wow. Everything is great. I think I’ll go to work now.

We paint ourselves into a corner, Kate, because we don’t allow ourselves the choices because they’re either too hard or too disruptive to actually contemplate. So we feel as though we need to stay in a situation we’re in, including, keeping a nonperforming employee in our team.

Kate: Yeah. Very, very true. Yeah.

Marty: So it’s not, it’s not hard, conceptually. It’s just hard to execute because you’re dealing with people. People’s lives, right? You can’t take those lightly. But don’t over-function for people in terms of taking on their choices about how they behave and perform as your own thing to fix. You can’t change anyone.

Emma: I hope you love this session as much as I did. Kate was one of our 2019 Leadership Beyond the Theory students. So it’s brilliant to see her doing the work and taking her leadership career from strength to strength. If you want to work with Marty, in a one on one mentoring capacity, shoot me an email at: emma@yourceomentor.com. Now that the book manuscript is finished, hooray, we’ve finally got a little bit of mentoring client capacity for the next quarter.

Marty: All right, so that brings us to the end of Episode 106. I really hope you enjoyed that glimpse into Kate’s world. She’s a leader who works on the right things to get individual and team performance to where she knows they can be. Thanks so much for joining us. And remember, at Your CEO Mentor, our purpose is to improve the quality of leaders globally. So please do us a favour and share that in your leadership network so that we can get to even more leaders. I look forward to next week’s episode: Resilience, optimism, and hope.

Until then, I know you’ll take every opportunity you can, to be a No Bullsh!t Leader.


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