Welcome to The Leadership Corner

May 11, 2016

The purpose of The Leadership Corner is to provide valuable tips, research and connection to business leaders and managers who want to build their knowledge, skills and abilities together.  We also list free webinars and teleclasses on our Free Training Page.  Read more in About Us

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Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Change management, Collaboration, Communication, Conflict, Culture, Customer satisfaction, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, High performance team, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale, Peformance management, Personal development, Strategic planning, Teamwork.

Improve Performance with Meaningful Direction

February 6, 2012

How are most organizations doing when it comes to managing the performance of people in their companies? Not very well, according to Dr. Vicki Halsey of The Ken Blanchard Companies. In talking with managers and direct reports over the past year, Halsey has heard a lot of frustration with the process of leading others.

As she explains, “Managers are upset because their people aren’t doing what they think they should do. Direct reports are upset because they are not getting the direction that they need.”

Part of the problem comes from confusing competence with commitment, according to Halsey.

“When I ask managers what they most want from their people, I hear things like, ‘I want them to have a positive attitude. I want them to communicate better. I want them to be more of a team player.’

“So, managers are thinking about the traits that they would like their employees to exhibit, instead of the actions they would like them to be taking.”

That’s a challenge, according to Halsey, who points out that managing performance means identifying the goals that you are looking for from that teamwork, from that better attitude, etc. In Halsey’s experience, managers are not being clear enough with their direct reports about what they are supposed to do in terms of the specific tasks and goals. Managers may have a gut instinct about what they want their people doing, but they are not communicating it clearly to their people.

Without a clear sense of what to do and how to rank and accomplish their most important tasks, employees are left on their own to prioritize their work. But if people aren’t clear on what they are supposed to be doing, they won’t be as successful as they could be. They will be involved in a lot of activity, but the activity will not necessarily be in line with the organization’s overall goals.

That’s when morale problems arise. To feel important and valued, people have to see the alignment between their day-to-day work and what the organization is looking to achieve.

Managers are mistaking an employee’s need for direction and support as a lack of engagement. That incorrect diagnosis is leading managers to the mistaken belief that if they get their direct reports more fired up, they’ll get the work done. The real problem is that people want to know what their role is and how they are supposed to do it.

This leads to a “where do you start” situation with people wanting more communication and clarity about how their work aligns with overall organizational goals while managers are expecting people to know what to do and believing that if they can just encourage folks to be more positive and have a better attitude, they will figure out the rest on their own.

How Did We Get into This Situation?

According to Halsey, some of the problem stems from the fact that managers are busier than ever today. As she explains, “Most managers have their own task-related goals in addition to their people-management duties. When you are trying to juggle both, it’s easy to fall back into a mentality of, ‘I hired you to do this job and I expect you to get it done.’ And what I’m hearing from people is that managers are doing a great job of telling people what to do, but rarely are they doing a great job of telling people how to do it.”

To illustrate her point, Halsey describes a recent classroom situation where she asked participants to identify a “best boss” they had worked for and list the leadership behaviors of that person. One participant related his story about an early sales position he had with an organization and how the sales leader went on calls with him. As the participant described, “Each time we went out, he added something new that I had to do. He would show me what it was and then he modeled it for me with the next client we talked to. After that, with the next client, I would have to do it, and he would give me feedback. He took the time to develop me by not only telling me what I needed to do, but helping accelerate my development by showing me how to do it.”

A second factor is that today, more than ever, managers want to be perceived as supportive. In teaching Situational Leadership® II skills to hundreds of thousands of managers over the past 30 years, Halsey explains that the facilitators at The Ken Blanchard Companies have known for a long time that of the four leadership style possibilities—Directing, Coaching, Supporting, or Delegating, the dominant natural style of most managers is Supporting, which features a lot of supportive behaviors but little direction.

Supporting is not a “bad” style, but it can lead to frustration among people who are not getting the specifics they need about how to be successful. This can be confusing for managers, especially when employees complain that their manager is not communicating.

As Halsey asks managers who are faced with this situation, “Yes, you are communicating, but are you communicating about the right things, to the right people, at the right time?” She explains, “It is so exciting when you see a leader with a good plan for developing someone through all of the phases of development that employees go through. Most managers are pretty good at assigning the task and then celebrating success, but sometimes they don’t have everything in between figured out.”

So, What Can Managers Do?

Managing performance is challenging these days with all of the different things people need to do and with working managers pressed for time. But, savvy managers can improve the situation by focusing on three areas:

Clarify roles and goals. Create alignment between individual tasks and the organization’s initiatives. Use impact mapping to connect the dots.

Identify individual development levels and needed leader behaviors for each employee’s key tasks. What is the employee’s experience with this task? What does he or she need from a manager in terms of direction and support?

Schedule weekly one-on-ones. Don’t let time pressures get in the way of a weekly check-in with direct reports to see how they are doing. A short, weekly meeting where the agenda is driven by the direct report can work wonders in providing the appropriate combination of direction and support people need to be productive.

Get Clear on What’s Important

With time and resources at a premium, leaders need to focus their people on the critical tasks to be accomplished. Begin by identifying the goals and strategic imperatives of the organization. Next, clarify what each team and department needs to be doing to help the organization achieve its goals. Finally, break it down to individual tasks and goals to achieve the desired results.

People will get up to speed faster and produce the results your organization is looking for. In addition to increased productivity, your organization will also see an improvement in morale and engagement. As Halsey explains, “There’s a greater sense of pride in your work and everyone feels better when you’ve worked together to achieve a common goal.”

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Communication, Leadership, Leadership development, Performance Management.

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How to be a Leader at any Level

February 6, 2012

By John Baldoni

When purpose is clear, it provides something upon which to build for the future. Such a future depends on harnessing the talents of employees and developing them to lead into the future. In too many organizations, front-line managers are viewed as doers not deciders, implementers not contributors, and compliers not creators. If these precepts seem arcane, more in keeping with nineteenth-century management principles than twenty-first-century ways of managing, it is because they are, according to a recent study by McKinsey & Company. Unfortunately, this study found that these ideas are still au courant in today’s world of front-line management, particularly in distributed management locations – for example, retail, transportation, and real estate. McKinsey concludes that such practices are making organizations “less productive, less agile, and less profitable.”

Most corporations operate on principles of hierarchy. That is good for ensuring the development and execution of strategy, but it falls flat, as the McKinsey study and others like it have found, when it comes to being responsive to change and responsible for people. One highlight of the study noted that managers were spending more time on transaction than transformation-that is, more on administration than people. In contrast, “at best-practice companies, front-line managers allocated 60 to 70 per cent of their time to the floor, much of it in high-quality individual coaching.” Additionally, such managers had more opportunities to make decisions and “act on opportunities.” If I were a manager, I would use this information as my entree to advocate for more autonomy, or what we might call “leading from the middle.” Here are some ways to put your ideas into action:

Read on…

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Communication, High performance team, Leadership, Peformance management.

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Five Leadership Rules

June 22, 2011

1.  Have confidence in yourself.   Always believe in your abilities to be a great manager and leader.  Tackle all situations and dilemmas that come your way with enthusiasm and gusto.  The fact that you are reading this shows you have the desire and talent that exists within you.  Show you have the confidence and believe in yourself, and others will believe in you as well.  In time you will develop a sort of “instinct” when something needs attention, and a “presence” that people will find ensuring.  You will come across like a leader without even having to say a word.

 2.  Act the way you want others to act, walk the walk you talk, lead  by example, practice what you preach, etc.  These are old clichés but some of the most important tips to build respect within your organization.  If your team sees you working hard, they will work hard.  If they think your slacking, they will start slacking off.  If you tell them what to do, but you do it differently, they will not see you as an honest leader.  If you want an optimistic and positive team, then you need to always be optimistic and positive.  When your employees see that you act in the same manner you expect from them, a true sense of respect will begin to build.  These are just a few of some obvious, but extremely important, leadership skills.

 3.  Honesty and integrity is key.  People do not necessarily expect managers to always have a quick fix to solve the issues, but do expect fundamental leadership principles of honesty and goodness.  In due time you will earn credibility, which is a major leadership trait.  With the high level of integrity they will see in you as a leader, comes the trust that you are not the cause of the issues.  They will automatically know that you, as a manager, will truly do all you can to solve the issues.

4.  Emulate a person who you truly respect as a leader.  There must be someone you know whose leadership skills you thought were admirable.  It could be, or could have been, a boss, a teacher, a friend, or a relative who you admired as a person with respectable leadership characteristics.  Someone who inspired you to want to work hard, to not only try to impress, but to show you cared about the mission at hand.  Study how they made the right and effective decisions using certain facts, opinions, and ideas.  Look for the leadership qualities you would like to incorporate into your leadership style.  By remembering what it was about them that inspired you, you can emulate that style when your leadership skills are called upon.

5.  Listen more than talk.  You will earn a great deal of respect and credibility by actively listening, rather than just blowing your own hot air.  Let them share their passion, and when the time is right, you can interject with passion of your own about the subject at hand.

Question:  What is one of your leadership rules?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Culture, Employee engagement, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale, Peformance management, Personal development, Strategic planning, Teamwork.

Who Are Your ‘Eyes On the Ground’?

June 15, 2011

No matter how long we’ve been doing it, many of us who own and ride horses continue to take lessons from time to time.  The major reason is to see what we can’t see.  When you are in the saddle, you can feel your horse, move your horse and communicate with your horse.  And, your horse can feel, move and communicate with you.                           

Taking a lesson gives you ‘eyes on the ground’ . . . someone who can see what you are doing from a different perspective and view.  This person sees your hands, your legs, your posture, your movement, your reactions, your communication.  They also see what your horse is feeling, how he/she is moving and responding, what he/she is ‘saying’.  This different perspective helps you be your best so that your horse can be his/her best!  It increases the rider’s performance and confidence and increases the horse’s performance and satisfaction.  

Just like riders need eyes on the ground to continue to improve and grow, people who manage people can benefit from the same.  How do you know how well you are doing to bring out the best in your people?  How do you know what could be improved to increase your employee’s performance and satisfaction?  

Here are a few ways to gain perspective and to regularly assess and increase your effectiveness. 

  1. Ask your employees how you are doing.  Do they have the information, resources and support they need from you?  Do they understand your expectations and how well they are performing?  Are you available?  Are you communicating clearly?  What else do they need from you to be their best?
  2. Ask your peers.  What’s working, what could be improved?  If they could give you one piece of advice, what would it be? 
  3. Ask your manager.  Are you meeting expectations?  What are your strengths?  What is one thing that you could do better? 
  4. Complete a formal 360 process.  Work with your HR department or a management coach to source and conduct an anonymous feedback process on you where input is provided by your manager, your employees, your peers and you.
  5. Work with a management coach.    A coach can see you and be candid about what they see.  They can be your ‘eyes on the ground’.  During your regular conversations, they see your style, your reactions, your strengths, your confidence and how you manage stress.  They can also collect input from your employees, peers and/or manager, facilitate open dialog with you and others and teach you new skills to be a more effective leader and bring out the best in your people.   

Having ‘eyes on the ground’ will increase your awareness of your strengths and opportunities and increase your employees’ and your own performance and satisfaction.

Question:  How do you regularly assess your performance?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Culture, Leadership, Morale, Teamwork.

Are you a Strong Leader?

June 8, 2011

Being known as a strong leader is easy to obtain when you know in your heart you are doing the right thing for the “good of all.”  Here are five key points, which are the pillars to being a successful leader that you should absorb into your consciousness.   

 1.  Develop trust and credibility.  When people trust you, they will be more inclined to follow you.  If they follow you, and you have all the pieces of the puzzle in place, you will succeed.  A leader builds trust by considering the “good of all” when making decisions. Leaders do not abuse their power, but build trust by using it properly.  Trust fosters collaboration, which contributes to openly sharing information, which then creates a solid team who supports each other.  Trust is based on the respect and expectations of a leader who cares and acts with compassion in a most positive way.  With trust there is:  

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Compassion
  • Fairness
  • Good relationships

Incorporating these five traits will help guide you on the right path to strong leadership.

 2.  Share the vision with absolute clarity.  Leaders need to share the vision of what they want their department to achieve.  For example, a leader might share a vision like, “We will be a world class customer service organization that provides the benchmark for customer satisfaction.”  To get others to see and understand your vision, you need to motivate and inspire with the same enthusiasm and positivity you have inside you. 

It is vital, however, that your team understands the vision, and is 100% clear on the objectives.  People with a shared vision are more productive and have a greater sense of achievement. 

You also need to listen to what they are saying.  Doing all the talking does not let them participate in the vision quest with their ideas.   

Tracking and assessing successes, as well as failures, helps put the right goals and processes in place to reach the vision.  If the employees always know where they stand, they will know what part they played in achieving the vision. 

3.  Be there to help them succeed – Coaching, mentoring, communicating, and listening.  Great interpersonal skills are vital for a successful leader.  You don’t lead by sitting behind your desk.  Be out there and find the strengths and talents of your employees, and place them where they can shine.  They need to know how their strengths serve the objectives.  Show them the respect they deserve and that you have their interests at heart. 

The bottom line is that they need to know that you will be there to help them succeed.  You can do this by:

  • Coaching.  Try and help them improve their skills to do their job better.  Give them feedback on their performance with observations and give good advice.  Use specific statements rather than general comments, whether good or bad.
  • Mentoring.  Help them understand what you are all about, guide them for a better chance of promotion and have them learn about other aspects and functions of the business.
  • Communicating.  Clearly share your vision and goals, encourage individuals and groups, praise when praise is due and take the time for one-on-one meetings. 
  • Listening.  Let them share ideas, concerns and know you are approachable and caring without judgment.    

The most important aspect here is that you are always looking at ways to help develop your employees’ unique skills, both individually and as a group, for a better future including possible growth in the company.  This is a win for the company as well.  The company will gain more productive employees who are ready to take on new challenges and roles as they become available.  

4.  Make the decisions and be held accountable.  Make the right decisions and guide your department into the right direction. 

Clearly define the issue you are solving

  • Sift the data for facts and relevance. 
  • Look closely at the issue at hand while never losing sight of the big picture.
  • Talk to and involve subject experts if needed. 
  • Don’t make a decision too quickly unless necessary. 
  • Think about the cost-benefit for both short-term and long-term. 
  • Once a decision is made, do not be wishy-washy or unsure about yourself.  You will be seen as a person who can be easily persuaded with little confidence. 

You as a leader are expected to take some chances and you might make some risky decisions.  In saying that, as people expect to be held accountable in their job performance, they also expect you to be held accountable as their leader.  If you fail or deny any wrong doing on your part, or place blame on someone else, you will lose credibility and not be seen as an effective leader. 

You also need to know when it is better to follow, rather than lead, by trusting your employees’ suggestions.  Leaders realize they can’t know all the answers, and earn respect when they seek advice of others when needed.    

Being held accountable is a positive thing, as you want to be known for the good things that you do.  The same goes for your employees as it makes them feel important and appreciated.  You do, however, need to allow people to sometimes fail or make mistakes during the process of achieving difficult goals.  You also need to confront them.  By using your management and leadership skills, people will admit their mistakes and accept accountability.  Your skills as leader will also help and coach them to improve.  

Make sure your decisions are always ethically sound.  Do not ask or expect your team to get the results unethically or use a “no matter what it takes” approach.

5.   Keep it all under control and headed in the right direction.  The objective of every leader should come with the mindset of striving for “mission accomplished.”  You, as leader and manager, need to focus on what’s most important related to the vision and goals of the organization.  You need to eliminate chaos and be known as a person with authority who can make the right decisions.  You might have 5 projects going on at once, but focusing more on the least important when the most important is in need of help will destroy your vision and miss your goals.  Make sure you get your team to focus on the most important and critical tasks to achieve the goals.  By delegating tasks to the right people, fulfillment of the vision will become more likely.

  Everyone needs to have the same focus and direction you have.  A sense of community within the team, with a common goal, is key.  If you waver and change your mind and direction continually, you will lose trust.  Consistency is key to maintaining control and keep things going in the right direction. 

 These “five key points” are the core competencies to strong leadership.  Which of these competencies are your strengths and what could you be doing better?

Question:  What do you think your employees would rate you on each of these competencies?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Conflict, Culture, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, High performance team, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale, Teamwork.

Another Lesson from the Horses

June 1, 2011

It was a gorgeous, warm day with LOTS of wind.  So I decided to work the horses in the round pen rather than go for a ride.  It also gave me an opportunity to work with both horses, rather than only take one out that day.  

The primary purpose of using the round pen is to teach your horse to listen and respect you.  You do this by talking to the horse in his language – body language – not by talking out loud.  Do you remember the cartoon Charlie Brown?  When the adults talked, all the kids heard was ‘blah blah blah . . . “  I think it’s the same with horses.  We want to believe that they understand ‘our’ language, and in some cases they do.  But if we really want our horses to listen and do what we want them to do, we need to speak their language.  

So, there we were in the round pen.  And, I was speaking their language and they were listening!  I worked with Buddy first and he was an angel.  I would point him in the direction I wanted him to go and he did exactly what I wanted.  I gave him the cue to trot and he did.  I cued him to canter and he did.  He was perfect.  When I stepped back and stopped moving, he turned towards me and stopped – perfect!  I would point him in the opposite direction and he did what I asked.  After a while, he started to get bored with the circling and I began to get frustrated that he was no longer being perfect.  My frustration led me to be inconsistent with my language with Buddy which led Buddy to get confused and frustrated with me.  We weren’t communicating and as hard as Buddy was trying to do what I was asking, he couldn’t perform.  I finally began to listen to Buddy, figured out what he needed to meet the expectations and we ended on a good note.  

Then it was Blue’s turn.  Lucky for Blue, I was a quick learner.  Buddy had taught me that I needed to listen and communicate consistently with him.  Because of that, Blue performed well, neither of us got frustrated or confused and we met the expectations for the day.   

Moral of this story

  1. Consistent communication – Communicate the expectations in a way that your employee can understand.  Speak their language, not yours, and make sure you are consistent in the way you communicate and reinforce the performance with rewards and consequences. 
  2. Listen – Check in with your employees on a regular basis to assess progress and offer support.  Listen to what’s working and where they may need some support. 
  3. Keep it under control – Manage your emotions – if things aren’t going well, point the finger towards yourself first.  Assess whether you have communicated the expectations clearly and if you have provided the necessary training and resources for your employee to be successful. 

Question:   How do you manage your emotions when expectations are not met?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Conflict, Culture, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale, Personal development, Teamwork.

Your Pursuit of Happiness

May 25, 2011

I’ve been thinking about happiness. Specifically, in the days since our World Class Life Conference ended, I’ve been pondering the keys to total happiness and a wonderful book by the Dalai Lama, “The Art of Happiness”. 

The Dalai Lama argues that, fundamentally, we all seek more and greater happiness in our lives and that the one really key questions in life is, “What makes me truly happy?” 

For many people, happiness is related to money, and happiness means accumulating wealth. For them, money has great value and they are motivated to work hard and smarter, and to use money in ways that make them happy.  But there are thousands of individual differences in the details of exactly how that works. Some make money and give it all away. Some make money and hoard it, even burying it in the backyard, while others invest it, and still others make a show of displaying a wealth of possessions.

For others, happiness has little to do with money, and they seek fulfillment in their creativity, or they find ultimate happiness in family relationships, or by serving others.

There are many paths up the mountain called “happiness”!

One of the most important distinctions the Dalai Lama makes is between happiness and pleasure. We can all think of experiences that bring us delightful pleasure but which utterly fail to make us “happy” in life. Almost everyone enjoys a fine meal, perhaps with good wine, but we all reject a life of gluttony and drunkenness.

 So the question:  What makes you truly happy? 

This is a central question for the World Class Life Conference because in order to have a GREAT life, we must first determine what it might look like. What are the key pieces of a great and joyful life FOR YOU? 

Almost 150 years ago, Henry Thoreau wrote that most people “live lives of quiet desperation”, and sadly, I think that’s still true. All our wealth and freedom, our education and power, even access to the greatest wisdom and literature of past generations, has not created a society in which most people seem truly happy. 

Indeed, many people seem to be incredibly unhappy. While some are overtly miserable, millions more are stressed, anxious, uncomfortable or angry. Some focus their discomfort on their work, others on politics or public policy, while some are simply annoyed by noise, pollution or road construction. Whatever the details, the question remains:

With our incredible freedom to create the life we truly want and live as we please, why aren’t more people happy? 

I think this is a vital question. It may even be THE question for modern adults to ponder and answer. Given that you can live almost anywhere you choose, read and learn almost any skill, and have pretty much any lifestyle you want, WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY? 

What are your happiest memories? What are your happiest fantasies, dreams and aspirations? Who do you know who seems to be truly, massively happy? 

What makes you happy? At the end of life, what will let you say, “I did it right. I made good choices. I am HAPPY with how I lived my life!” Whatever your answer, in the coming days and weeks, do more of that, and less of everything else.

by Phil Humbert

Question:  What makes YOU happy?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Culture, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale, Personal development.

A Gift in Disguise

May 18, 2011

All of us have had, and continue to have people/situations/occurrences/events in our lives that we interpret as good or bad, happy or sad.  We know how to handle the good and happy events in our lives.  We enjoy!

In each event we interpret as bad or sad, there is a gift disguised as a problem.  Each of us have had, and will periodically continue to have bad, sad or negative events/encounters in our lives.  In each of those situations, there is a lesson for us to learn, an opportunity to grow.

We normally feel the emotion of the event, which is natural.  However, many times we fail to learn the embedded lesson.  Often, we continue to feel the emotion long past what is healthy for us.  We re-live the situation over and over (Self-Talk).

It is said that we learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes.  If this is true, then we should view our mistakes or events in our lives as an opportunity to learn.

Certainly we need to feel the emotion.  And the more severe the event, the longer we will naturally feel the emotion.  However, at some point it is time to “Learn the Lesson” and move-on.

We are feeling beings.  We are also problem solving beings with the gift of “Original Thought”.  So, when the time is appropriate, we need to “Leave the Event” behind, and carry the lesson into our future.  We can then put the lessons learned into our tool-box of experience to deal with future events.

Use your skills to “Learn the Lesson – Leave the Event” and move-on.

By Michael Price

Question:  What are YOU learning this week?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Culture, Leadership, Morale, Personal development.

Lessons from my Horse

May 11, 2011

It still amazes me that I learn so much about myself and how to deal with others from spending time with my horses.  It happened again this weekend!

Blue and I were out riding with a friend and her horse.  It was a gorgeous day . . . blue sky, warm sunshine and no wind!  It was clear that the horses were enjoying getting out, too.

After a long ride, we were beginning our journey back to the trailer and decided to turn around and stay out a bit longer.  Blue did not want to turn around and started behaving badly.  My initial reaction was to scream at him and force him to do it my way.  Since all horses are different (just like people) this may have been the right response to correct that behavior for some.  For Blue, this would have stirred him up more and made the situation worse for both of us.

The good news is that I know my horse and knew that he wasn’t scared of something ahead –  this was a temper tantrum to get his own way.  I knew that I needed to help him understand that his behavior was unacceptable in a way that he could hear.  And, I needed to give him an expectation that he could meet.  I controlled my reaction and calmly turned Blue so that we could do circles around the small pine trees nearby.  He understood the expectation – to listen and follow my direction – and soon he and I were both calmly heading down the trail again.

Moral of this story

  1. Manage your response – Know that your behavior and reaction to a situation can have a positive or negative impact on the results.  Be aware, take a deep breath and consider the results you are after before you take action.
  2. Know your ‘audience’ – Understand the style and needs of the person you are trying to correct.  Some individuals may need a stronger message than others.  Be sure your style is one that they can hear and understand.
  3. Listen – Assess the situation – together. The person may have a different perspective and that information may lead you to a different, better solution.
  4. Set clear expectations that can be met and move forward.

Question:  How do you correct performance – yours and others?

    Categories: Attitude, Collaboration, Communication, Conflict, Employee engagement, Leadership, Peformance management, Personal development.

    Communication 101

    May 4, 2011

    Never talk over people, rarely talk at them, at the very least

    talk to them, and try to talk with them.

    Talking over = diatribe They’ll leave at the earliest opportunity because you’re insulting them by treating them as if they’re not there. They’re thinking: “What a buffoon, I’m outta’ here at the next break.” Never do this.

    Talking at = debate  They feel like you’re sticking your finger in their face. They’ll either: a) hunker down in a submissive pose with their chin tucked into their neck if they’re intimidated. It’s as if they’re saying: “Please don’t be angry at me;” or b) they’ll stick their chin out at you and narrow their eyes if they’re ticked off. It’s as if they’re saying: “You can’t talk to me like that!” Do this only in a situation such as being in overtime in the seventh game of the NBA finals, your players know you respect them and you need them to execute, not think.

    Talking to = discussion  They’ll nod from the neck up as if to say, “Yes, that makes sense,” and may or may not follow through. This is the language of doing business as usual. Use this as your usual mode of speaking.

    Talking with = dialogue They’ll relax their shoulders and neck as if you’ve moved over to their side and put your arm around their shoulder like a loving parent or grandparent. It’s as if you’ve told them: “It’ll be okay. We can work this out.” This is the language of intimacy. Aspire to this in matters of the heart and when possible in matters of the world.

    Question:  What’s your preferred communication style?

    Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Leadership, Leadership development, Morale.

    A Little Praise Goes a Long Way

    April 20, 2011

    by Sherry Law

     When I returned to my seat after saying a few words at my 94-year-old Uncle Bob’s memorial service, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I looked to my left and my cousin’s grandson Kai, age 3, leaned into my face and with a big smile said, “You did a great job!” Since Kai lives 1,300 miles from me and hadn’t seen me since he was 2, we are virtual strangers. Stifling giggles with my cousin, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if every CEO could communicate spontaneously like this little guy?”

    Recognition and celebration are too often forgotten in today’s lean-and-mean business environment. I’m not talking about formal reward programs, which are good and necessary but also generic and impersonal. I’m talking about informal, unrehearsed, from-the-heart communications that take less than a minute to bestow and cost nothing at all. Although all managers should be recognizing employees thoughtfully and regularly, we value praise most from the people we hold in the highest esteem-or in awe, like the CEO.

    Spontaneous appreciation may be the only employee benefit that increases employee engagement, enhances recruitment and retains talent-at zero cost.

    A little energy, a lot of value

    When behaviors are modeled by the CEO and other leaders, they are emulated down the line. So if you want to create a culture of recognition, it should start at the top. While it may take concentration at first, expressing appreciation is an easy habit to acquire. And you may find that it makes you feel as good as the people you recognize.

    What would it take one morning to surprise your assistant, who does the same routine things for you every day, with: “Thank you for reminding me about the day’s appointments when I walk in every morning; you always keep me on track and I don’t know what I’d do without you.” Or, maybe something outside the ordinary would lead you to say: “Thank you for playing host to the person waiting for me; I was proud of the positive impression you made of our company with your friendliness and concern.” You might even try appreciating people for ideas that didn’t succeed, but took some extra effort.

    Be spontaneous, sincere, and specific about what the employee did. If you add in how it made you feel, that’s even better. Acknowledge in public or private, or in a hand-written note, but make your comments either on-the-spot or very soon after. You’ll expend little energy while creating great value throughout your organization. You’ll be astonished at how fast good news travels, especially if it’s personal notice by the CEO.

    Tie it to desired performance

    If the ability to attract and retain the best talent isn’t reason enough to establish a more appreciative culture, there’s another hard core business benefit to spontaneous recognition. When you tie recognition to desired behaviors, you inspire employees to repeat those behaviors, and that increases overall performance. Author and recognition specialist Bob Nelson refers to this as “contingent” recognition.

    Companies that bring in doughnuts on Fridays and give people cards on their birthdays create an entitlement culture, says Nelson. If you do “nice” things, people begin to expect them. But if you make recognition contingent upon a specific behavior or performance, they’ll value the recognition more and you’ll get better results as people repeat or copy that behavior.  Just say, “Thank you.”

    Question:  What behaviors will you recognize with your employees this week?

    Categories: Communication, Culture, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Peformance management.

    Making the Goal!

    March 17, 2011

    Employee productivity is one of the first places where less-than-optimal management practices drain an organization of financial performance.  When employees don’t receive the clear direction and support that they need to accomplish their key tasks successfully, the result is wasted time, substandard results and costly rework.  The primary culprits?  Unclear expectations, lack of follow-up and ongoing feedback.

    An old organizational development saying is ‘you get what you measure’.  If we set clear expectations and don’t follow-up, employees may believe that the task is not as important as something else. 

    Following up helps to ensure that goals are on track and will be met.  It provides timely identification of potential obstacles in meeting those goals such as lack of tools, skills or resources and ensures that employees get the support needed to meet expectations.  Follow-up may also uncover lack of commitment or employee nonperformance issues. 

    The best way to follow-up with employees is to have regular one-on-ones with each of your employees.  Don’t let time pressures get in the way of a weekly check-in with your employees to see how they are doing.  A short, weekly meeting where the agenda is driven by the employee can work wonders in providing the appropriate combination of direction and support people need to be productive and meet expectations.

    While follow-up ensures goals are being met, feedback is essential for improving performance. Throughout the year, it is important to understand how you and your employees are performing.  Managers and employees should have a solid understanding of the areas where they are most effective, as well as the areas where they could improve. 

    Here are some keys to providing effective feedback:

    • Include the positive. To keep employees motivated, managers must recognize their accomplishments.
    • Make feedback frequent and informal. Going an entire year without feedback is like having a toothache in need of a dentist.  Employees need to know how they’re performing in their jobs – and this is especially true in the case of new employees or temporary workers, who need to have early feedback on a regular basis.
    • Keep documentation.  Records should be kept to document progress and accomplishments, as well as performance problems discussed. These records need to be dated and the corresponding expectations and next checkpoint noted. This information will make the formal review process simple and can also serve as documentation in the event of promotional opportunities or legal or disciplinary actions that could develop.

    As you can see, regular feedback and follow-up are key to ensuring individual and company goals are met.  See below for more information on purpose and process for an effective follow-up process – One-on-One meetings with your employees.

    Question:  How often do you follow-up on key goals with your employees?

    Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Morale, Peformance management, Teamwork.

    Follow-up with Regular Employee One-on-Ones

    March 17, 2011

    Outcome

    Individual goals/commitments are always met.

    Purpose

    • Provide a structure for opening up communication and monitoring performance. 
    • Review, assessment and planning to ensure goals are on-track or renegotiated.
    • Employee knows how they are doing, receives helpful feedback and coaching, participates in problem solving and feels valued for their contribution

     Guidelines

    • Short—15 to 30 minutes
    • Frequent—at least once every two weeks
    • Focused on individual goals and commitments
    • Individual owns bringing the necessary information to show results, issues and recommended solutions
    • Scheduled in advance (recommend a regularly scheduled meeting)
    • A top priority—If a meeting is postponed, it needs to be rescheduled promptly

     Agenda

    • Review goals/metrics and commitments

                      –  On-track?

                      –  If off-track, assess cause (resources, information, development need)

    • Create plan to address (owners, timeline, etc.)
    • Any urgent issues/needs? 
    • What support do they need from you?
    • Ask what else is on their mind
    • Schedule follow-up, as appropriate

    Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Communication, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Leadership development, Peformance management, Personal development.

    Setting Clear Goals

    March 9, 2011

    It’s hard to get great results and hold people accountable if we don’t clearly define expectations.     

    As discussed previously, one of the most important things that a manager can provide to an employee is clear expectations. The first step is a clear understanding of their job – the primary purpose, specific tasks and measures of success.  The job description is ‘the price of admission’, what an employee is expected to do.  

    Once an employee understands the expectations of their day-to-day job, it’s time to set some measurable goals and objectives.   Excellent goals and objectives are the tools that help employees link their daily tasks to the bigger picture, improve processes, develop skills to contribute at a higher level and be prepared for future career opportunities.  

    Some of us confuse goals with activities.  A well-stated goal clearly defines the expected outcome – the result.  A result defines what will be different once achieved and why it’s important.  Activities are a list of tasks that will be accomplished in order to achieve the goal – the how.  For example, an activity is “Take a finance class”; the expected result (goal) might be “Reduce expenses by 10%”.  

    Clearly stated individual goals should:

    • Be limited to 3-5 goals
    • Link to a specific company goal
    • Give an employee clear line of sight as to how their job impacts the bigger picture (company and/or customer and/or the world at large)
    • Be discussed and agreed to by both the manager and employee
    • Address developmental needs and/or desires of the employee
    • Be SMART

    -Specific and measurable – What does a good job look like?  What is expected result in  factual, quantitative or measurable terms?

    – Motivating – Is this intrinsically motivating?

    – Attainable / achievable – Does goal fall within employee’s reach yet demand significant effort?  Is it realistic, doable?

    – Relevant – Is goal meaningful and linked to company goals?

    – Trackable / timebound – Is there a way to measure progress on this goal?  Is there an agreed upon time-frame?

    • Be varied

     – Problem-solving, process improvement (innovative)

     – Developmental (new skill or behavior)

    • Focus on results to be achieved not activities to be performed (how) 

    Following these simple guidelines to ensure clear, agreed upon individual goals and objectives will have a significant impact on employee confidence, development and contribution.  Next week, we’ll address the importance of regular follow-up and feedback.

    Question:  Are you surprised when employees don’t achieve the expected results?  Are their goals and objectives clearly understood and agreed to?

    Categories: Communication, Culture, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Peformance management, Strategic planning, Uncategorized.

    What Is My Job?

    March 2, 2011

    Believe it or not, most of us do not have a job description for our current position.  And, even if we do, it doesn’t clearly state the real duties and expectations of our daily role. 

    As discussed last week, one of the most important things that a manager can provide to an employee is clear expectations.  Research shows that when employees have clear job expectations, they are more confident, don’t need as much direction and supervision and perform at a higher level.   Clear expectations also help employees see the importance and value of their work.    

    The first step to providing clear expectations is a good job description.  In addition to the job title, here are the key components of a good job description. 

    1.    Primary purpose – One sentence that describes the reason the job exists.  For example, the primary purpose of a Production Operator might be “Independently operate equipment to build quality parts per work order instructions and customer specifications.”  A manager’s primary purpose might be “Ensure the right people are in the right jobs working on the right stuff at the right time.” 

    2.    Duties and responsibilities – A list of tasks which begin with action words such as perform, produce, assist, provide and create.  All job descriptions should also include the following: 

    • Demonstrate company values and behaviors every day
    • Follow all safety rules and report any potential safety issues to the Safety Representative or Management
    • Perform other duties, as required

    3.    Measures of success – A list of expected results for the position. These measures help employees clearly understand the expectations pf the job and be able to assess their own performance against them.  All measures must have an associated process to easily show the results.  For example, measures for a Production Operator might include:

    • Zero rework / scrap
    • Completes all scheduled work on-time 

    4.    Qualifications – A list of qualifications for the specific position.  These include minimum skills and experience a candidate must have in order to be considered for the position.  It also includes a list of desired skills and experience which will assist in comparing and selecting candidates. 

    Other good reasons to have a current job description for every position are: 

    • to help employees who are interested in the position understand the duties and qualifications, to assess level of interest and
    • to develop the skills necessary when/if position becomes open, 
    • to use in  the hiring and selection process, and 
    • to assess current employee skills and assist in development.

    Providing a clear job description will have a significant impact on employee confidence, and their ability to work independently and see the value of their day-day work.  Next week, we’ll cover how to set clear goals and objectives.  See you then!

    Question:  What’s the primary purpose of your job? 

    Categories: Communication, Culture, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Peformance management, Strategic planning.

    How Am I Doing?

    February 23, 2011

    Ever wonder if you’re doing a good job?  You’re not alone. 

     As a manager, one of the most important things you can provide to your employees is clear expectations.  Research shows that when employees have clear job expectations, they are more confident, don’t need as much direction and supervision and perform at a higher level.   Clear expectations also help employees see the importance and value of their work.    

     Here are a few ways that you can provide clarity around expectations for your employees. 

    1. Job description – Most managers think a job description is only used to post jobs in order to fill open positions.   Another important purpose for a job description is to provide an employee with a clear description of the duties and tasks associated with their job.  A good job description also includes the primary purpose of the position – why the job exists – and the measures of success – how we know when it’s done well.   
    2. Clear goals and objectives – Once an employee understands and meets the expectations of their day-to-day job, it’s time to set some measurable goals and objectives.  Every goal needs to help the employee link their work and objectives to the bigger picture.  The big picture could be the company goals, the impact on customers and /or the world at large.  All objectives need to be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant to goal and time bound). 
    3. Follow-up –Touching base with your employees regularly to assess progress, troubleshoot and remove obstacles to achieving the expected results is a key step in ensuring clear expectations.  This can be done through informal MBWA (management by wandering around), regularly scheduled one-on-ones or employee initiated discussions. 
    4. Regular feedback – Nearly all employees want and need to know how you think they are doing.  An important step in ensuring clear expectations is to provide regular feedback.  And, most of it needs to be positive – catching your employees doing something right.  This can be recognition of results that they have achieved, improvements they are making, desired behaviors that they are demonstrating.  If performance is off track, discuss with employee to assess why and correct.  Make sure that all feedback, positive and corrective, is timely, specific and consistent. 

    Following these simple steps to ensure clear, consistent expectations will have a significant impact on employee confidence, value and effectiveness.  The next step in employee development is capturing and recording employee accomplishments, and understanding and planning their development goals.

    Question: How well do you know the expectations or YOUR job?

    Categories: Communication, Culture, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Peformance management, Strategic planning.

    Managing All Employees Alike Can Be a Recipe for Disaster

    January 26, 2011

    By Mark Powers and Andy Kanefield

    It has been said that good people don’t leave good companies — they leave poor managers. No one wants to lose their best people, but in the midst of time pressures to produce better results, managers often cut corners — one of which is acknowledging the importance of managing according to the strengths of their people. 

    Many parents understand that their children are unique individuals and know when to treat one child differently than the others. Managing employees needs to be a similar journey of better understanding their unique strengths and learning how to maximize those strengths within the context of the shared goals of teams within the organization.

    Consider the following broad categories of people within an organization and the accompanying guidelines on how to manage them. 

    Futurist employees: These are employees who need to know what’s next. They have a directional focus; they’re looking at the horizon. While there are different types of futurists, there are certain principles that are important to manage any futurist.     
    •    Respecting their strengths means giving them an opportunity to help shape the future. Managers can give them roles that allow them to co-create what comes next for the team.
    •    Understanding their limitations means recognizing that some may need help implementing their ideas. Place them on teams with people who are good at execution.
    •    Helping them develop may mean reminding them that not everyone can see the same things they can and that they need to paint tangible pictures of what the future could look like. 

    Analysts: These are employees who excel at execution because they can see the steps needed to get things done. They’re the ones people depend on to get things done. How does one manage analysts?

    •    Respecting their strengths means giving them clear instructions of what your desired endpoint is and then giving them the opportunity to create the steps to get there.
    •    Understanding their limitations means recognizing that managers may need to check in with them occasionally to ensure the steps being executed are still leading toward the desired end result.
    •    Helping them develop may mean reminding them of the necessity to change at times and that the tried-and-true approaches of yesterday were at one time the new approaches. 

    Connectors: These are employees who view organizations as a network of people with a common cause, who see the need for a common rally cry or mantra that provides focus and energy. They are the cheerleaders of the organization.

    1.    Respecting their strengths means making sure that the team has a clearly articulated shared purpose and that they have a role in reinforcing it and helping keep people focused on it.
    2.    Understanding their limitations means avoiding overly conceptual and theoretical discussions that don’t directly relate to improving organizational or individual performance.
    3.    Helping them develop means reminding them that other members of the team can still be team players by contributing strengths in isolation that contribute toward team success. 

    Interpreters: These are employees who think first about the needs of customers or clients. If the organization is anticipating or going through a change, the first question an interpreter will ask is, “How will this affect our clients?”

    1.    Respecting their strengths means ensuring that the team listens to their customer insights. They may not have organized, empirical data for each conclusion, but don’t dismiss their conclusions due to lack of numbers.
    2.    Understanding their limitations means making sure that project priorities are clear. Interpreters want to help, and as such, they will overcommit. They need to understand the highest priorities and have timelines based in reality.
    3.    Helping them develop means reminding them that great ideas are truly great when you put them into practice. 

    Action plan

    1.  Look at your employees and your interactions with each of them.  Determine which of these  characteristics best describes each of them. 

    2. During your next interaction, modify your management style and see what happens. 

     Question:  What characteristics best describe YOUR style (Futurist, Analyst, Connector, Interpreter)? 

    Categories: Alignment, Attitude, Change management, Communication, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Leadership development, Peformance management.

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    Negative Feedback – Good, Bad or Gift?

    January 26, 2011

    Nothing makes for a bad day like negative feedback.  However, there is a role for positive negative feedback in your life, and according to Sam Chapman, CEO and author of The No Gossip Zone, negative feedback should be seen as a gift.

    “Without negative feedback, we would never improve ourselves and our lives,” said Sam Chapman. “And after enough practice at accepting negative feedback, you might even find yourself letting out an involuntary “hmm” noise as you realize the truth in a bit of negative feedback.”

    Step One: The Giver Is Not Your Enemy
    By accepting that everyone has something valuable they can teach us about who we are, we open up to a realm of creativity, growth and success that we never thought possible. This means accepting negative feedback with an open mind and discovering what it is that you need to improve about your performance.

    Step Two: Curb Your Natural Reaction to Be Defensive
    This will take some practice. It is our natural reaction to immediately leap to our own defense whenever someone puts us down. We immediately come up with several different rebuttals, all of which are aimed to prevent us from taking a single iota of responsibility for the situation at hand. However, if you can take a step back, a deep breath and remove yourself from the situation for a moment, you might realize that you are being told something worthwhile, something that can help you grow personally and professionally.

    Step Three: Allow Yourself to Feel Emotions, But Don’t Get Stuck
    You have the right to get upset whenever you hear negative feedback. It is perfectly natural to feel sad, angry or any variation thereof when you hear that your performance or behavior needs work. Allow yourself to feel those emotions, but don’t allow yourself to become them. Otherwise, you will be so busy “being” angry or sad that you won’t have the emotional energy or wherewithal to realize where you stand to improve.

    Step Four: Turn Your Complaint Into Requests
    At the end of this process, you are more than welcome to share your feedback with your giver; just make sure your feedback isn’t in the form of a complaint. The gift is much easier to receive when it’s in the form of a request rather than a complaint.

    Question:  How do you respond to negative feedback?

    Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Change management, Collaboration, Communication, Conflict, Leadership, Morale, Personal development.

    Tags: , , ,

    Great Expectations Make Great Lives

    January 11, 2011

    by Phil Humbert and Beth Papiano – January 2011

    There is a great old story that pretty much predicts the kind of year you’ll have in 2011.

     It’s about an older woman in a wheel chair who was moving into a retirement center. Her children had all moved away and her declining health made it impossible for her to live alone any longer. As she sat in the reception area waiting to be wheeled up to see her room for the first time, her daughter called and the nurse handed the woman the phone. As they chatted, the woman told her daughter the room was beautiful, and that she loved the new friends she was meeting.

    When she hung up the phone, the nurse expressed surprise, saying she thought the woman had never seen the facility before. The woman replied, “Oh, I’ve never been in this building before, but I learned a long time ago that most things are about as pleasant and charming as I decide they are in my mind. So why should I wait for you to take me upstairs? I just decided I was going to love it here, and I bet I will.”

    In life our expectations, combined with our actions, pretty much predict our results.

    To make sure 2011 is a wonderful, prosperous and productive year, make sure you go into it with (1) great expectations, and (2) a great plan.

    Imagine a year of health, wealth and growth. Affirm that you will achieve your goals and that you’ll meet just the right people to help you along the way. Know, in advance that problems will be solved and that you’ll have all the resources you may need along the way.

    Sure, it may seem a little silly, and imagining a wonderful year may not “guarantee” it will happen, but it can’t hurt!   If you’re going to dream, why not dream the best?

    If, for whatever reason, you prefer to make yourself anxious or worried, of course you know how to do that. Just focus on a few things that could go wrong, or think about getting sick or failing, and most people can create a “recipe” for worry. But why would anyone expect trouble, when for with the same time and energy they could affirm something wonderful?

    Great expectations and great plans are a simple, two-step recipe that has tremendous power. Whether you use it to create a profitable business, a loving relationship or to reach some other personal goal, the key is to be clear about what you want and have the personal discipline to make it happen. In life, we usually get what we expect, especially if we use a great system to make it come true. Here’s to making 2011 a wonderful year!

    Action Plan

    1. Create a recipe for beauty, health, joy and prosperity.  It takes no more effort, you’ll feel better, and for all we know, it might actually create some sort of “energy field” or “vibrations” that will actually create a better 2011. Give it a try!
    2. Create a great system.  Dreams, by themselves, are not enough. Get a calendar and plot your strategy. Sit down and explain your “great expectations” to a trusted friend or colleague. There’s something magical and extremely powerful about telling your dreams to another person, especially someone who really “gets” it and will cheer you on all year long.

    Question:  What’s your great expectation for 2011?

    Designed by Tim Sainburg from Brambling Design

    Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Leadership, Personal development, Strategic planning.

    Tags: , ,

    Time for Your Annual Tune Up Part Two

    January 5, 2011

    It’s a new year – yea!  What a great time to set ourselves and our employees up for success to ensure we all meet our 2011 goals!  

    Last week, we shared the 6 Steps to a More Effective Strategic PlanThis week we’re sharing some supporting research and tips on the best ways to engage your employees.  

    4 Keys to Emotionally Engaged Employees 

    We know that emotionally engaged employees are more likely to recommend an employer’s products, support outreach efforts to the community and buy stock in the company, according to a new study from The Brand Union, a brand strategy and design consultancy.

    “Our findings demonstrate the importance of companies implementing programs that don’t just reward but further connect employees to their brand,” said Toby Southgate, managing director for The Brand Union. “In order to connect emotionally, employees need consistent and compelling experiences that help formulate a clear understanding of what the company represents.”

    The study concludes that emotional engagement drives job satisfaction and has a greater impact than intellectual understanding alone of a company’s mission, goals or financial benefits such as monetary compensation. These findings imply that employee engagement tactics that create dialogue, interaction and provide direction are more powerful and economically efficient in connecting employees with the company.

    Furthermore, one of the most critical times to engage employees is during the first six to 12 months of employment.  According to the study, this period represents the lowest engagement period in the relationship between employees and their employer.

    Proven strategies to increase engagement throughout the employee lifecycle include:

    1.  Link every employee’s day-day job and business goals to the company goals in order to create an understanding of how their work impacts the business and customer experience. 

    2.  Foster open sharing of information, to and from leadership and across departments.

    3.  Have a performance management system that provides clear expectations and frequent, informal reviews with each employee to build employee confidence and ensure success. 

    4.  Understand each employee’s development and career goals and provide opportunities for development and advancement.

    For ultimate success, leaders must be sensitive to the fact that one size does not fit all with employees.  Successful outcomes depend on understanding your employees, your team and how best to engage them.

     Action plan

    1. Ask your employees how their job impacts the business every day?  Our customers every day? 
    2. Based on their answers, implement new ways to keep them informed of their value and impact every day. 

    Question:  How do you add value and impact the business every day?

    Categories: Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Leadership development, Peformance management, Teamwork.

    Tags: , , , , , , ,

    Time for Your Annual Tune-up

    December 29, 2010

    In a few days we’ll begin a brand new year and two key questions are whether and how you will make it a better, fulfilled and more successful year than this one?  I hope you’ll answer these questions for your business and personal life.  Today, we’ll focus on the business side. 

    One important step to achieve a better, fulfilled and more successful business year is to have a solid plan.  Another is to engage your employees.  This week we’ll focus on the plan.  Next week, we’ll share some tips on best ways to engage your employees. 

    The most essential pieces to both of these plans are involvement and alignment

    6 Steps to a More Effective Annual Plan

    If you’ve done annual planning and goal setting as a ‘check-the-box’ exercise in the past, you know that it can be unnecessarily complex and marginally useful.  Here are 6 steps to help you create a more effective plan that gets you the intended results.  

    1.  Keep the plan simple and alive.  An effective annual plan provides clear direction for all employees.  It shows the goals as the target (the bulls-eye) and helps guide employee actions (the arrows) day to day.  As Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems once said, a good plan puts “all the wood behind one arrow”.   

    2.  Involve key stakeholders.  Ensure that the plan reflects the voice of the organization by including key stakeholders in the planning and goal setting process.  When you invite others to participate, they feel ownership of the plan and are more willing to focus their efforts on achieving the results.   

    3.  Clearly outline responsibilities and accountability.  If everyone owns it, no one owns it.  Without goal “owners” who develop and drive the action plan, the goals become everybody’s job with no clear accountability. An owner will take the lead in identifying a team, implementing tactics, monitoring progress and rewarding and recognizing desired behaviors and results.  

    4.  Review organizational performance frequently.  Ensure that measurement of actual performance against goals is agreed to at the time the goals are set.  Every measure should have a defined measurement interval (e.g. daily, monthly, quarterly) in order to correct and modify the plan along the way and ensure achievement.  If we only look at our performance at the end of the quarter, it is too late to take corrective action and hit the target.  

    5.  Assess your organization’s capabilities and capacities before setting goals.  Do you have the right people in the right jobs with the right skills to set aggressive goals?  Are senior leaders aligned and engaged in the journey?  Do you have the right tools and systems in place?   These answers will determine how aggressive your goals can be.  Part of your plan may include building new capabilities within the organization.  

    6.  Link company goals to all employees.  To ensure organizational alignment, every employee needs to have a clear line-of-sight as to how their job impacts the annual plan and the customer experience.   Use your formal and informal communication and performance management processes to ensure this insight and alignment.   

    Action Plan

    1. Review your plan and identify potential obstacles to success (personal and business).
    2. Determine what you can and will do to overcome them if these obstacles appear. 

    Question:  Which of your 2011 goals are the most important to you?

    Categories: Alignment, Attitude, Change management, Communication, Culture, Leadership, Leadership development, Peformance management, Strategic planning.

    Tags: , , , ,

    Best Gift You Can Give – Year Round!

    December 22, 2010

    Want to give the gift that we all want and need – Give Gratitude!  It will help you feel great and create some positive impact! 

    The holidays can bring a special excitement to us, but it can also be a time of sadness and challenge for some people. The holidays can bring on all sorts of emotions. Regardless of how the holiday season impacts you, there is always something you can count on to help lift spirits and joy.  It’s free.  There’s no right way to do it.  You can be incredibly generous with it.  There is a limitless supply.  It creates a powerful impact.  It’s Gratitude.

    My challenge to you this holiday season is to reach out and “gratitude” someone. Go out and make an impact.  Not only on the people you know and love – but on the people you don’t.  Let them know how grateful you are for them.  Let them know that you see the things that they might think go unnoticed, that you care, that you’re grateful they’re a part of your organization, or your community, or your team.

    Whoever it is, engage with them from the heart.  See them.  Thank them.  Acknowledge them. Engage them.  Do whatever feels right and authentic to you.  It’s amazing how much a little nod of gratitude can matter.  And it’s even more amazing the ripple effects it can have.  So go, have fun and show some gratitude.  Be generous with it. 

    Action Plan

    Here are a few things you can do this holiday season to raise that holiday cheer even more and get ready for the New Year:

    • Appreciation Days:  Dedicate a full day to letting people know how much you appreciate them.
    • Team Appreciation Days:  Have your team members share at least 3 strengths for each team member that they are grateful for. 
    • Gratitude Rounds: Spend 10 minutes at the end of every week doing the “Gratitude Rounds”: make phone calls, write letters, go out of your way to thank the person at the coffee shop for making you that fabulous coffee every day.
    • Impact Gratitude: Thank your mentors, parents, kids, sibling, colleagues, spouse, teachers, team members, etc. for the impact they’ve had on you this year.
    • Break the funk: Whenever you are feeling in a “funk” or low or grumpy – think about what you have to be grateful for. Make a list and check it twice!
    • Start a gratitude journal:  Every day, write down 3 things that you are grateful for.

    There are many ways you can give gratitude.  Three rules: make it authentic, go out of your way to do it and make sure it’s heard!  HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

    Question:  Who are you most grateful for?

    Categories: Communication, Culture, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Morale, Teamwork.

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    Finding Meaning in Work

    December 15, 2010

    I recently had the pleasure of hearing Dave and Wendy Ulrich discuss their new book “The Why of Work”.  It was an inspiring hour for me mostly because I have long been a believer in their findings.  Now, thanks to them, I have the facts to back up my long-term beliefs! 

     When executives were asked “where have you found meaning?”, the answer never came back about work.  It’s typically about being a volunteer, helping their neighbors and friends or about their family. 

     As leaders, it is our job to help people find meaning in their work.   Meaning has bottom line benefits.  When we provide opportunities to engage employee’s hearts and feel a sense of contribution to something bigger than themselves or their individual jobs, people become more engaged and committed. 

    Finding meaning in our work does not have to be monumental, like curing cancer.  Most of us want to make a difference – it could be with the people we see every day, the work that we do, the experience we provide our customers.  Here are a few examples of finding meaning. 

    • A taxi driver who gave his fares a hot towel and bottle of water to make them more comfortable.
    • An individual who sold newspapers on the corner smiled and said “have a great day” to everyone he made eye contact with on the street. 
    • A brick layer who, when asked what he was doing, replied “building a cathedral” vs. ‘laying bricks’. 
    • A high school principle welcomed each student at the door with a handshake.  By the end of the year, he knew every one of his student’s names and his graduation rate grew as a result.  

    These individuals were connected to something bigger than their job.  They knew that they made a difference every day.  Here are just a few ways you can help your employees find meaning in their work. 

    1.  Create a sense of caring – share how they make a difference, how their job impacts others either in the company or outside with customers or others. 

    2.  Identify and build on your strengths – use your strengths to build the strengths of others.

    3.  Learn from your mistakes and help others learn from theirs.  When a mistake occurs, ask “what did you learn?  What do you feel best about how you handled it?”  Celebrate the learnings. 

    When we find meaning and purpose in our work, we tend to give more and strive to make a bigger contribution!   

    Action plan

    1.  Ask your employees how they think they make a difference every day. 

    2.  Select one of the 3 suggestions above to begin to help your employees find more meaning in work.

    Question:  Where have you found meaning?

    Categories: Communication, Culture, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Morale.

    Tags: , ,

    Are Your Employees Giving You the Silent Treatment?

    December 7, 2010

    If you’re like a lot of managers, you pride yourself on all the ways you signal to employees that you welcome their input, especially your open door. And you probably believe that you’re actually hearing what’s on their minds — after all, they speak up in meetings, talk openly with you in the hall and keep you informed by copying you on emails.  Well, you’re not hearing as much as you think or as much as you need to.

     Because employees sometimes talk, bosses are often unaware of their workers’ self-censorship.  They imagine they’re hearing what’s important when in fact they’re being met with silence they’re simply unaware of.  Think of the times you’ve kept your own mouth shut. There have probably been numerous instances, even if you’re generally candid. The combination of tight-lipped employees and oblivious bosses prevents the best ideas from bubbling up through the organization.

    In the latest phase of Harvard Business Journal’s decade’s worth of research on organizational silence, they piggybacked six questions onto the annual Cornell National Social Survey to explore how and when employees hold back.  As you’d expect, they clam up when they’re afraid that speaking could get them into trouble, but surprisingly, the most common reason for withholding input is a sense of futility rather than fear of retribution.

    The data from the 439 survey respondents who are full-time employees (not self-employed) shared a common reason for not speaking up.  It was NOT because they didn’t feel safe in doing so.  More than 25 percent say they withhold feedback on routine problems and opportunities for improvement to avoid wasting their time, not because they fear consequences.  They didn’t speak up because they didn’t think that anything would happen – be different or improved – as a result of their feedback. 

    Most of the time, employees have something to say about the everyday flow of operations. This is the world that each employee inhabits and knows intimately – the one where they engage their tasks, their coworkers, their customers and their boss. Unfortunately, when employees have opened a discussion with their boss about problems or potential solutions, employees may have been perceived that it had been received poorly.  Sometimes, by the immediately reaction by the boss – minimizing it, making the employee feel stupid.  Or, most of the time, because nothing happens with the informaton or recommendation that the employee shared. 

    In order to begin to change this ‘silent treatment’, managers must:

    1. Listen, ask questions – Make the employee feel heard.
    2. Understand the employee’s expectations – Ask the employee what they want you to do with the information and  focus on solutions and next steps. 
    3. Follow-up – Always follow-up with the employee on status of the employee’s actions and yours. 
    4. Be honest – If you are not able to use the information or recommendation at that time, help them understand why.  Make sure you thank them for bringing it to your attention and encourage them to continue to bring good information and recommendations to you.   

    Remember that your employees are the key to organizational success.  Silence on day-to-day issues keeps us from getting the information we need to prevent bigger problems — performance and otherwise — down the road.

    Action

    1. Look at your organization.  Have your employees given you feedback or suggestions on how to improve things?  If not, why not?
    2. What have you done with your employee’s feedback and suggestions over the past month?
    3. Determine one thing you can start to do today to eliminate the ‘silent treatment’ with your employees.   

    Question:  What are you not sharing with your boss?  Why?

    Categories: Attitude, Communication, Culture, Leadership, Morale.

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