Randy Ford: Welcome to the SuccessInSight podcast. Our guest today is John Bentley from Power 2 Transform and again that’s Power2Transform.com. John has been on with us a couple of times. It’s always a nice conversation so, John, welcome back to the podcast.
John Bentley: Oh, Randy, I’m excited. Thank you for having me back, and I’m looking forward to sharing this journey we’re going to have for a few minutes.
Randy Ford: What’s been going on since we talked to you last?
John Bentley: Well, I can tell you, I am mentally drained today. I just finished giving appraisal feedback to my employees, and I always enjoy it, but I also know that it’s so critical and important to do, and go about it in the right way that at the end of the day, my energy is drained.
Randy Ford: Yeah, well, I remember now that you mention this -- in one of our previous conversations, you mentioned just some of the logistical prep that you do for these meetings where you make sure that your email is off, your phone is unplugged, right, because you want your employee to know that they have your full focus?
John Bentley: Yeah, I think it’s important to set up the environment, and the way I like to do it as you mentioned, I unplug my phone, my computer’s turned off, my cell phone’s shut down, because I want them to know that they’re the most important person to me at that moment when they’re in my presence. That, I think, allows us to create a safe environment, but also it sets the opportunity for them to just be open and share with me as I provide feedback about their performance.
Randy Ford: What tone does that seem to set for them? Do you notice them come into it more open-minded or more eager for the meeting to be productive? Because there are a lot of these work places where these meetings are either just perfunctory or they are negative experiences for all the parties involved. It sounds like you go out of your way to change that.
John Bentley: I do, and also, I think it’s important for our listeners to understand at least the approach that works for me is I don’t have a lot of formal meetings just to meet. I’m communicating daily with the people that work with me, either face-to-face, or through our smartphones, or through electronics, so they’re well aware of their performance on a given project. I always like to share with them that with our project plans, we know where we’re going and what our milestones are. When we have our periodic check-ins, if we haven’t hit our milestone, here’s the question we ask ourselves: Is it something I control that I didn’t do that could’ve hit the milestone, and if the answer is yes, okay, what do we need to do to adjust course and get back on task to meet that milestone?
John Bentley: It’s not about what’s wrong with you, you’re terrible, I can’t believe you’ve done this. It’s a discussion about what happened, now what can we do to move forward? If it’s not within their control, well then, I need to step in and go, what resources do you need? What is out of your control? What support do you need so we can let you get back on task and not become frustrated? I think through those conversations, and then we meet quarterly and talk about performance, when they come in, they only surprise that they really have, and I say this because I got to told this today is, “Wow, you really took a lot of time to write this appraisal. There’s things on here that I didn’t know the impact I was making.”
John Bentley: Like when you write a word that says “solely responsible for this program” and that they’re leading it even though they’re not in a formal role, they’re responsible for managing it, keeping things on task, and keeping people informed, that you’re sharing with them how they make a difference versus just doing what’s written on the position description. I think that helps them feel proud about their work and what they do.
Randy Ford: Yeah, and I’m thinking from the employee position, that that must then also help them step up their responsibility and accountability throughout that quarter when they remember that the positive impacts and maybe the things that they need to work on have such an impact that it’s in your mind every day and to the point that you can remember it to get it on paper.
John Bentley: Absolutely, because most of the time, I find that our employees don’t necessarily know how to write or paint a true word picture of their performance. I think that’s critical versus just saying, I trained X amount of employees and got a 4.85 out of a 5 on a survey. Okay, that’s what we pay you to do, what happened after that? Did the employees go back and use that? Change their behavior? Have a business impact? I get them to thinking in terms of what I like to call “systems thinking.” I’ve got a piece in a big long project that I’m working, but how does my piece impact the overall outcome of what we’re trying to do for a customer delivering a service or a product?
John Bentley: I think I shared on our last podcast, I like to ask leaders, are your employees MAD? If they don’t know they’re MAD, you are part of the problem. Then I hush, because they’re thinking now, “Mad? Why would I want my employees mad?” Then I go, “Making a Difference”. Do they know beyond what they do daily that they’re having an impact out here in the world?”
Randy Ford: That they are MAD.
John Bentley: Absolutely. I know I was working with some HR personnel one time and just encouraging the people who were doing the hiring for firefighters, getting them to go out and spend a day with the firefighters and ride their equipment, look at what they have to wear for protective gear, gave them a whole new insight on how to go about recruiting firefighters for those jobs. It built a strong, positive trusting relationship with the people they were doing the hiring for, so it’s just little things like that of getting employees to realize what they’re doing beyond just showing up every day and pushing some papers or doing some emails.
Randy Ford: As you’re talking about this, I’m remembering it’s been years since I had this experience, but there was a bonus form that would be circulated once a year as often happens in a workplace where I was, and one of the questions, I know it was not worded with bad intentions, but the question said, “Sometimes we forget the contributions that every team member makes throughout the year. Now is your chance to remind us of those.” In middle management, I wanted it to be worded a little differently so that it didn’t seem like there wasn’t somebody paying attention every day or that I as a supervisor was not paying attention every day to what people were doing.
Randy Ford: We did, we were to make just a minor tweak in that, that I think reflects what you’re saying of making sure that people remember that you’re watching them throughout the quarter, whether it’s with an eye to catch something bad or an eye to catch something positive.
John Bentley: Yeah, I think that’s very interesting, because I was doing some consulting one time, and I was down doing some focus groups with the employees and I ask, “How do you know when you’ve done something right?” It’s like the employees started looking at each other, not knowing what to say then one gentleman raised his hand in the back and says, “Well, I can tell you how I know when I’ve done something wrong. It’s like Bewitched twitched her nose and appeared right beside me, and they were pointing it out,” but they very rarely pointed out what went right.
Randy Ford: Right, yeah. How do you think without talking about any of their specifics, how do you hope your employees are thinking back on their appraisal time today? You said it was draining for you. What’s their experience like, or what do you hope it’s like when they go home and are at dinner talking about their day?
John Bentley: Well, I think what’s beautiful about that is there’s a couple things I do to get additional feedback. After we talk about the appraisal and the write up, I ask, “What do you hope to accomplish? What are your goals both personally and professionally for this next year? How do you think I can be a resource to help you accomplish that?” Right again, I’ve turned it back around to them and their career path, because we know today that a lot of folks don’t stay for 20, 30 years on a job anymore. They’re looking to be able to move and grow, and so getting them talking about that and how I can help, and I document that, but there’s also I close it out. I shift into another set of questions, and I use the word stop, start, and control, and this is about gaining feedback from me on how I am perceived and what I can do better or continue to do well.
John Bentley: The first question is, “What behavior do you want me to stop, or what do you want me to stop doing that may be causing difficulty for you and/or your teammates?” Then we have that discussion. Then the next question is, “What do you want me to start doing behaviorally that would be a positive impact on your and/or your teammates?” Now I’m gathering two data points, and then the last question is, “What do you want me to continue doing that is having a positive impact on you and your teammates?” I also ask if I can make notes throughout the process. I’ll gather that data, especially those last three questions, and I’ll look for common threads, and then next week I’ll bring the team together and say, “Here’s what I collected on the stop/start/continues, and here was the common thread in those, so here’s my commitment to you. I need your support when you see me not doing that. I don’t want you to go back to the past and beat me up but feed forward, ‘Hey John, remember our discussion and you said...’ ‘I got it, thank you for the reminder.’”
Randy Ford: Instead of waiting three months for that to come up again as part of the conversation and then being filed away.
John Bentley: Well, I think one of the biggest things that organizations struggle with today is helping employees and leaders feel psychologically safe enough to speak up, but we’ve got to help them speak up in a way -- and you already know what’s coming -- truthful and kind, and just getting people when they get feedback to say thank you, not justify, not defend, just thank you. And I’ll share with you when there was a stop today with one of the pieces of feedback I got, I really wanted to justify it, and I just kind of bit my lip and said, “The only thing you say, John, is thank you.” We can help people say thank you and then go back and reflect on that, then they can get clear for themselves how to go about changing that. The behavior when I say that, the behavior.
Randy Ford: I’m always fascinated to go back to your Air Force days a little bit, because I’m curious how this process is informed positively or negatively by the personnel review process within the military. I know it’s changed a little bit, but is that something that’s mirrored in other workplaces today?
John Bentley: I hope so. I can only tell you for me. What I chose to do was -- all the research tells us it’s important for people to get feedback on their work performance, because if they don’t get feedback on their work performance, they’re going to make up stories about it themselves. They’re going to, “Am I doing a good job? Am I not doing a good job?” What I learned from Chief White again, is I’ve got to create an environment where you feel safe enough to tell me anything. How you think, how you feel, your ideas, and be able to listen to that without judging you, without treating you like a child, and becoming a know-it-all parent. If I can create that environment where you are self-motivated, you’re going to give me more of your discretionary talents, you’re going to invest those talents in helping me achieve those goals. When we do have to stop a task that we’re on and jump on another one, you’re more than likely to say, “Yep, I know where I am. I realize that’s important, but here’s what the organization needs me to do right now.”
John Bentley: It’s about, I don’t believe I can motivate anyone. I think all I can do is create the environment where people are motivated, because I remember a friend of mine, his dad got called to school because he was making, I think he had three D’s and four F’s on his report card, and the principal shared, “Your son’s not motivated.” Father said, “Well, I beg to differ. He’s not motivated possibly for school, and that’s something I’ll work on, but let me share with you what Rob is motivated to do. Did you know that he’s purchased and refurbished three houses and he’s renting them out and he drawing X amount of dollars per month on those homes?”
John Bentley: You see, people do things for their reasons, not mine. When I know what those reasons are and I can connect those reasons to their talents and the organizational goals, which I work on to try to do that 50 to 60% of the time, because no job has a perfect fit, but we can help people see where their strengths fit in and also can help them know where they’re going to burn more energy and other tasks that are required. Now they can lead themselves effectively in those moments, and want to do it.
Randy Ford: It strikes me that you know, you mentioned earlier about how people leave positions more often now than maybe a generation or two ago, and tying those skills and finding what are the best things for each individual to add to the organization is helping them grow in that way, whereas, maybe and you tell me if I’m wrong, but generations ago, there would’ve been some trepidation from management in encouraging people away from what their core functions are if retention was something that they needed to keep up as opposed to accepting this reality that people aren’t going to be there forever.
John Bentley: I want to go back to kind of thinking about with your comment about the industrial age where everything was manufacturing and people came to a job and this is John’s terms, I’m not saying it’s true, but it was more robotic. I knew what my task was, and I did it over, and over and over, so if I’d lost one or two key people on that production line, it could impact the output that we want. Today and Peter Drucker said this in 1995, that in the information age, knowledge worker age, whatever we want to call it, that we are getting results by the way we think and collaborate and work with others. Therefore, people have to be able to lead and manage themselves more than ever before, because it’s not a manufacture base, it’s how do we provide services and products and do that quicker and faster?
Randy Ford: Speaking of services then, how does all of this work in today’s health care setting, where you do a lot of your individual and organizational coaching?
John Bentley: One of the big things I’m finding is that the ability to adapt to constant changes, which they face every day due to regulation changes, resource cuts through Medicare, Medicaid, or reimbursements as they call them, and the ability to collaborate and keep up with those changes is so key. If I can’t build rapport quickly, if I can’t communicate and connect with you quickly, that means the ability to execute change is going to be slowed down. Then what I see sometimes when that happens is then leadership tends to force what they want on the employees. I think the key is to be able to understand number one, how quick does this have to be done? Who do we need to be on board to help us solve that, and how do they need to operate and function to make that happen?
John Bentley: That sometimes is amiss when we bring a group together. What are our behavioral norms on how we’re going to communicate and treat each other? Let’s get those established and then when things aren’t going well, let’s go back to those, because that’s where mutual respect can come in, especially if we know the outcome of what we’re trying to achieve. I’ll give you an example with the hospital I worked in. The discharge process for patients going back to a nursing home, it’s three days was the max stay in the hospital. Well, they weren’t achieving that and they had lost $250,000 by keeping the patients for four or five days because they assumed the cost for that, and what we found out is the process wasn’t broken at all. It was the communication and the hand-off piece of when things should occur that was causing them not to get the patient discharged and where they needed to be.
John Bentley: That $250,000 cost avoidance went away in the first quarter just for getting them to focus on how they were going to work together to determine what was wrong in the process. That’s one way to go about that.
Randy Ford: Then that also was of course better for the patients as well, to get where they were needing to go. It is time for our Insight2Go, and as you know, this is anything that is on your mind, personal, professional, anything that you want to share, recommend.
John Bentley: Sure, soon after I was promoted with Chief White, I was sent in to conduct presentations for what we call a wing commander, which is similar to a mayor in a city. Four weeks in a row, I didn’t do a good job and my terminology here is I “got ripped a new one.” Of course, I took it personal. My self-esteem was still pretty weak and low, and finally, I caught the gentleman one day and I said, “Colonel, why are you ripping me a new one every time I brief you?” He said, “Bentley, Q-tip!” Well I thought, what the heck do those things I clean my ears with have to do with this?
John Bentley: Now here we go, he got truthful and kind again, he said, “John, quit taking it personal. Quit taking it personal, John. It has nothing to do with you. It has to do with the information I need to disseminate amongst these other leaders here in order for us to achieve our missions around the world. There’s another thing I want you to realize, John. We have a huge economic impact on Midwest City and Oklahoma City and the decisions we make here with resources determine how well we’re going to meet that economic impact and support, so quit taking it personal.” I think a lot of times our reaction is, is to take things personal because we feel threatened, or I’m not smart enough, I’m not good enough, or who is you as an employee to tell me as a leader I don’t know what I’m talking about?
John Bentley: When you take it personal, what you’re going to do is find a way to defend yourself or leave the situation. Just stop in that moment and ask yourself, “How would the leader I want to be do what I’m about to do?” When you focus on that behavior, what you really want from it versus to win, to be right, to save face, but when you focus on what would I do to be the leader I’m becoming, then you seek to understand, to listen, to build relationships, to gain trust. Trust is the fuel of any organization. Trust determines how fast an organization moves, and how much it costs to get their work done. The higher the trust, the lower the cost.
Randy Ford: And the Q-tip?
John Bentley: “Quit taking it personal.”
Randy Ford: Yep, got it. Well, thank you, John Bentley for being here on the SuccessInSight podcast. John Bentley from Power 2 Transform Consulting, it’s Power2Transform.com. We’ll talk to you next time on the SuccessInSight podcast.