How to Avoid the Bird Box Challenge.

If you haven’t heard already, there is a new Netflix movie making all the buzz on social media called Bird Box. In this thrilling movie, in which humanity is under siege from a possessive, mind-controlling, mysterious mass that drives normal everyday people to harm themselves and others. If you haven’t already seen it, I’d strongly recommend watching the movie, but if not, read on anyway. Great stuff here!

As I watched the movie I couldn’t help but think about how this description and many of the scenes in the movie reflect the organizational culture many managers living in today. When managing a team, there are challenges (competition, buyer objections, etc.,) swirling about disrupting plans and strategies. Ironically, many managers are blindfolded by their organization’s culture, yet required to deliver expected outcomes (think of that blindfolded trip to the grocery store), so they bump into things, crash and ultimately come back with bad experiences that make them doubt their ability to coach effectively. This is the Bird Box Challenge for managers!

Let’s talk about the difference between a manager who obtains a commitment from employees and one who merely obtains compliance. The manager who gains commitment is coaching. In fact, some of the most effective managers/leaders see themselves as coaches rather than managers. In all reality, most employees want to be challenged. They also want to be recognized for their hard work. If you want them to be committed, they need to be led, not controlled. By managing with leadership, they are more enthusiastic to contribute and take on added responsibilities that will help them advance.

In many ways, Bird Box (the movie) simulates how ineffective managers coach their teams. They count on their high performers (Olympia and Tom – the children under the blanket ) to guide them to succeed because they are unsure of how to achieve success with the mid-and-low performance employees. They become distracted from the ultimate goals which are to coach and create a high-performance culture for all levels of performance. Achieving high-performance requires a strategy and alignment on how things get done, how decisions get made, what works and doesn’t work and what gets rewarded and how.

Here are some essentials in creating a high-performance culture and helping managers avoid the Bird Box Challenge in your organization:

  1. Clearly define success to your employees. Define what success looks like across the entire organization from an assortment of viewpoints – from sales to marketing to customer service, etc. No-one should be walking around “blindfolded”.
  2. Establish the company principles and values. This can be simply a set of principles or values to guide them, but the best managers and coaches go a step further by defining the specific behaviors that support these values.                 • Which facets of your current culture are you happy or unhappy with?
    • What ideal behaviors do you need to create the culture you want?
    • What behaviors will be rewarded?
    • What unacceptable behaviors will not be tolerated?
    • How do your workers measure up against these behaviors?
  3. Set clear targets. Employees generally want to rise to the targets set by you. In fact, the more you expect, the more they will achieve, but only from a good coaching perspective. Imagine sending your employees out in a car blindfolded, windows covered and expecting them to reach their destination successfully. Not going to happen. They will encounter bumps; swarms of distractions and inevitably, lose focus. Set clear targets and reward accomplishments.
  4. Share the vision. Connect employees to the bigger picture and be creative on the ways to reach the goal. The majority of your employees truly want to be a part of a successful team. They want to know what excellence looks and feels like. In order for your targets to be effective in inspiring teams, they must be connected to company ambitions. After all, if they don’t recognize the roles they play, they are much more likely to become bored and disengage. Make sure that they know precisely how their efforts connect to the company strategy.
  5. Increase performance through employee engagement. Once you start engaging your employees, they will begin to put their heart and soul into their job and give more than is required. You will notice a stronger sense of ownership for the goals and responsibilities they’ve been given. This allows them to build a sense of accomplishment and accountability – its empowering!
  6. Use the Power of Storytelling. This is one of your most powerful tools when driving change and performance improvement. Leaders must use stories to motivate their employees to achieve. Don’t know any? Learn some. Read. Research. Share stories of customer success based on interactions with your organization or employees. They are out there; you just need a strategy to obtain, document, then share them. You won’t regret having a few good stories in your back pocket.
  7. Celebrate milestones to boost morale. Always celebrate milestones once they have been reached. This acknowledges your team’s hard work, boosts morale and keeps up the momentum. If you want something to grow, pour a little water on it! Don’t be afraid to surprise the team with a catered lunch, or half-day off spontaneously after achieving a goal.

“The #1 trait of a good manager is that they are a good coach.”
–Dr. Lios Frankel

Apply the above strategies and notice the shift that begins to occur in your organization’s culture. Managing and coaching your employees well will leave them performing well and you able to deal with the other stuff. In the end, it’s all about overcoming obstacles and challenges with grace, building good relationships and generating an environment that enables growth, inspires trustworthiness, and endorses continuous learning.

I leave you with 5 key differences between a manager and a coach:

1. A coach spends more time listening and asking questions, whereas a manager spends more time talking and handing out directions.
2. A coach devotes time to observing, whereas a manager makes hasty assumptions.
3. A coach unearths problems to get to the root of the issue, whereas a manager takes the fastest road to deal with problems.
4. A coach helps in the acceptance of responsibility, whereas a manager only assigns blame.
5. A coach supports workers in developing their strategies, whereas a manager provides them with the plan and instructs them to follow it.

The bottom line is that we have all experienced variations of coach versus manager types in our employment. To be honest, it seems much simpler and more convenient to “manage” than to coach. However, research has shown that coaches have more engaged personnel and get better results. Do your managers know how to survive the Bird Box Challenge?

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