Expectations

BLINDFOLDED DARTS: THREE REASONS WE NEED CLEAR EXPECTATIONS

darts.jpg

Have you ever started a new role, project, or job and your leader says, “Thanks for being here.  I am sure you are going to do great!  Now, go get some results.”?   I do an exercise with my clients called Blindfolded Darts that sounds a lot like this.  In essence, I put a blindfold on them, give them darts, and say go get some results.  There is a dartboard in the room and peers to give them feedback.  What do you think happens? 

Often, the blindfolded person stands there and waits for more instruction while getting frustrated.  Sometimes, they throw darts blindly, which is a scary thing.  The feedback they receive is non-specific like booing, cheering, or good-job/bad-job. The blindfolded person gets frustrated, confused, and loses their motivation.

Does this sound like your workplace?  I find that leaders are so busy that they do this to their employees.  They have good intentions of setting clear expectations, explaining the results that are needed, and providing feedback.  However, the reality is that leaders are moving targets who often feel they only have time to give non-specific feedback like “good job” or “you need to do better”.  Furthermore, they have to cancel a lot of 1:1s and the employee is left blindfolded, trying to figure out what their leader really wants.

Three Reasons We Need Clear Expectations

·       It is hard to hit the bull’s-eye without a clear understanding of the purpose, tools to do the job, and goal and metrics to measure performance.

·       Employees want to innovate and do the work without a lot of guidance from you.  However, with unclear expectations, they do not know the resources available to them and do not understand how much of the project they can own.  Thus, they often end up waiting for guidance which could be viewed as resistance.  Often this resistance is just a lack of clarity.

·       Employees are self-motivated and can do great work without you but, if the expectations are unclear, then they are going to be knocking on your door asking for a lot of guidance.  Now you have a time management challenge that could have been avoided.

How do we get better at this?

·       Take time to set SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.)

·       Ask your employees what they need from you to be successful.

·       Be open to employee ideas, offer your suggestions, and set up a follow-up plan to offer feedback, encouragement, and recognition.

If you are able to follow these ideas, you should have a motivated and engaged employee that is capable to hitting the bull’s-eye consistently!

The Ten Best On-Boarding Practices

We have all heard the saying, “People are our greatest asset”. If this is so, then why do many organizations drop the ball with regards to their on-boarding? By the time we find them, tell them, sell them on joining our organization and ramp them up to productivity, we have invested a small fortune! Done well, on-boarding positively impacts culture and reduces bad turnover. Yet some think it’s acceptable to pay lip services to this crucial function. A good hire can be turned into a bad hire if proper on-boarding practices are not followed. Worst of all, it is often self-inflicted.

This applies to the new hire as well as the Team that that they are joining. The last thing we want to do is to do is to find the right fit for our Team, get everybody excited about them joining us and then leave them alone. By following the steps below, we are well on the way to the successful launch of our new colleague. And make no mistake, they will remember that experience, (good or bad).

Ensure your new hire stays and succeeds by using these 10 onboarding best practices:

1. (When possible) Reach Out to New Hires Before Their Start Date – Provide them with re-assurance
 of their “buying decision to join your organization. Ensure that they feel welcome. Setting up an onboarding portal that new hires can access online before their start date is a good way for them
to “buy in” and begin learning about the company on their own time. They may be able to get things like  benefit forms submitted and out of the way.

2. Make Their First Day Memorable – Whatever it is that you do, do something. It might be lunch
 with the new boss, a welcome card signed by all, or something thematically tied into Team values. You don’t get a second chance at a first impression, so make sure day one is a positive experience for all everyone!

3. Keep Schedules Tight at the Beginning – Start off on the right foot and be accessible. Your new hire is talented and may be chomping at the bit to make things happen. Get them up to speed gradually. Scheduling their first 2-3 weeks ahead of time has benefits. It builds trust and says, “We have you accounted for!”

4. Use the Entire Team in Onboarding – They were likely part of the interview process, so keep the continuity and momentum by involving all of the new work family members to ramp them up. Assigning
a buddy or mentor who works in the same department as your new hire is also a good idea. The new hire gets a point person to direct any questions, comments or concerns towards, and the mentor gets an opportunity to demonstrate leadership.

5. Spread Out the Paperwork – Allocate routine paperwork type activities to “down” times, ie those times when the new hire and Team are not involved in “people” work. If you drop all of the necessary forms on your new hire all at once, they could become disenchanted, or worse, overwhelmed.

6. Announce the New Hire to the Entire Company – Job movement is big deal, so make a big deal
out of it. Set a positive tone in the organization for the new hire’s internal brand to grow around. It can also foster vital interdepartmental collaboration. If departments end up working together in the future, everyone will already be familiar with each other.

7. Set New Hire Expectations Early – Communicate clearly about roles, goals and expectations. Set short-term and long-term goals and have them check in regularly to see if they are being met. After a couple of months, a formal performance review should be scheduled to give new employees honest feedback on how they’re doing. And of course, don’t forget to heap praise on those who deserve it.

8. Allow Them to Give Feedback - Create “non-judgmental” space for them to provide feedback about how things are going. The onboarding process provides an opportunity that can benefit your entire organization. Should you implement their feedback, new hires will feel heard, and you’ll have made improvements because of it. That is a big win for everybody!

9. Reinforce Cultural Values Continuously – Be inquisitive and observant, (almost parental at the start). Get to know your new hire’s work habits and personality in order to guide them in integrating with your company’s culture. Remember, it’s a fore gone conclusion that the new hire brings technical expertise to the Team. Almost always when they run into difficulty it is the people side of the equation.

10. Don’t Allow New Hires to Go Too Fast -Too Soon – Remember, they don’t know what you know. And they don’t know what they don’t know. At the beginning its about people and systems. After about 60-75 days it moves on to “low hanging fruit”, connecting with stakeholders and possible talent assessments (if applicable). Then someplace between 100 -180 days, it’s time to rock and roll. Proper onboarding and new hire integration takes time. In this case, slow and steady really does win the race.

 

INNOVATION INC: MINDING THE COMMUNICATION GAP

Lately I have been curious about exploring the essential ingredients of creative, innovative environments: trust and time.

Today we turn to how to prevent the trust-killer miscommunication from arising. I’ll offer some steps to take when miscommunication, unfortunately and inevitably, occurs.

Here is a typical scenario. Can you see yourself in it?

1.       A conversation between two people takes place.

2.       One person leaves feeling they’ve made commitments or defined expectations in a certain way.

3.       The second person does not leave the conversation with the same understanding.

4.       In time, the difference in expectations between the two people bubbles up or boils over.

5.       In an instant, trust that may have taken years to cultivate is damaged.

6.       At times this hard-won trust is destroyed.

Miscommunication has a painful and perilous cost, and it’s a daily occurrence in most organizations.

Given the frequency of such missteps, it would stand to reason that we would have developed a good process for navigating this difficult terrain. But we haven’t. Instead people deal with the consequences of these miscommunications, typically in silence (or by telling many people except the person involved).

Often the story I hear begins something like this:

“He betrayed me. “

“After what she did yesterday, I don’t trust her anymore.”

“I used to think he meant what he said, now I know he doesn’t.”

“She doesn’t care about anything but herself and this business. I don’t matter.”

“He says one thing to one person and another to someone else. He can’t be trusted.”

“I don’t know what to think anymore. I used to trust her. Now, I just don’t know.”

Miscommunication and distrust wreak havoc on creativity. What can we do to prevent this? Take some time on the front end to avoid problems on the back end! Ensure the expectations are clear. Here’s how.

We need to do 2 things: Push and Pull.

              Push expectations by clearly communicating face-to-face and in writing, and then

              Pull for understanding of those expectations by asking questions.

It is both Push and Pull that create a communication loop between leaders and their team members.

·       If you are assigning work to others, set clear expectations. Preferably both in writing and orally. 

·       When you are assigned work, or assume a task or project leadership, ask questions to clarify expectations. 

·       Before leaving the conversation, ask what the other person understands those expectations to be. Make sure they match before you end the conversation.

·       Follow up in writing when practicable.

When we have both actions, Push and Pull, embedded in our communication habits, we hold ourselves to a more disciplined approach to communication, and we set our people up to be successful. 

Helpful Habits: 

Leaders: When you ask someone else to take on an assignment, take the time to ask what they understood you to have assigned. This provides 2 things:

1.       The other person has an opportunity to articulate in their own words what their assignment is.

2.       You have the chance to check that you have communicated well and been understood. This is the first step of shared ownership over a project or task. 

Colleagues and team members: You don’t have to wait for someone else to ask you what you heard them assign. Simply say: “I want to make sure I understood your clearly. Can I repeat it back to you for clarification? What I heard you say was…..”  This conversation is especially helpful if you have a highly creative leader. Creative leader’s often share a dozen ideas at a time, forgetting that their ideas feel like assignments to the people around them. Asking clarifying questions will help you learn to distinguish between the ideas for later and the assignments for today.

Yes, it takes time to have these clarifying conversations. It’s an investment in relationship building and trust making. What do you gain by taking the time?

·       An accurate picture of the requests that are being made.

·       Some insight into how our colleagues think, listen and learn.

·       We learn what motivates people and what causes them to stop listening.

Learning to communicate effectively with the people on our teams provides something invaluable for the future: it creates the dividend of trust that pays off with speed, agility, engagement, and best of all, creativity in the future. It is time well spent.

Note of Caution: When it comes to performance or compensation, it is even more critical to ensure accurate communication. In these important conversations emotions tend to run hotter, even when they are easy “Great work!” conversations. When we talk performance or compensation people have their confidence, their lifestyle, and sometimes their identity wrapped up in the conversation. Asking what was heard is a great reality check for everyone involved.

Executive Presence: The “It” Factor

If our impact is 7% words, 38% tone of voice, and 55% body language, is it any wonder that leaders who learn how to say what they need to say end up getting better results?

I will never forget the lunch meeting I had several years ago. Our team was meeting at a restaurant located on a busy Chicago street. If you have experienced the lunch rush in downtown Chicago, you are familiar with the pace and volume of people walking hastily to their destinations in the lunch hour. This lunch was memorable because of what happened before I even reached the door.

When I arrived, I found the leader already waiting. Outside. He was standing just to the side of the front door at the sidewalk, so that he could meet and greet us and welcome us to the meeting. He greeted me, shook my hand, and thanked me for coming. After a few words, he gestured for me to continue inside to our table while he waited for the remaining people to arrive. This habit of hospitality made an impression. I left that meeting feeling appreciated and valued: he had stood outside and waited to greet me and thank me personally for taking the time to come. He respected my time as well as my thinking: during the lunch he made sure he heard from everyone at the table, he reviewed the agenda we had prepared, and he checked to see if there was anything new we needed to review.

The experience is a bright spot in a sea of professional interactions I’ve had over the years.

The number one differentiator between a good leader and a great leader is their capacity to attend to their impact and be intentional about designing and delivering messages that come across well.

Thinking about the experience you as a leader are delivering to the people you serve with is an important habit of mind. As you prepare for your next meeting, take a moment to think about the experience you want to deliver.

  • How can you communicate appreciation for the time people are taking to come together?
  • In what ways can you set shared parameters for the focus of the meeting so that everyone participates, time is used efficiently, and the best thinking emerges from around the table?

Simple acts of warm hospitality make people comfortable, and open up people’s state of mind to more naturally trust and share. Focus throughout the meeting keeps people on track and allows for bright, creative thinking to emerge. Good habits of discourse allow no one voice to dominate and all voices to be heard creating environments of collegiality and creativity.

To get the best thinking from all the people make a habit of Rounding.

Rounding is simple.  You set 3 expectations and ask a question:

1.       “We are going to go around the circle and hear from everyone in turn.”

2.       “Hold your questions and comments until we are done going around the room.”

3.       “Be concise with your comments, as we will have a deeper dive once we finish the round.” (You can even set a time limit for everyone. 30 seconds, a minute, two minutes, depending on the depth of thinking you are trying to bring into the room.)

Then, ask your question, and start your round!

One more tip for successful rounding, if you have an important problem to solve, send the question the day before so that the people who prefer to think through problems more thoroughly have the time to do so. This ensures equitable participation by everyone at the table.

What experience are you giving people when you show up?  Stop to think about how you and your habits are landing on your team, your colleagues, your leaders.   

Take a moment and design one of your interactions today. Simply stop and think about how you could best approach a situation. Look at it from the point of view of the other person.

Is there something you can change to better communicate? Think it through and try something new.

The High Potential Zone

The baseball season is winding to a close, and for this Cubs fan, the close of this season is both exciting and excruciating. What will happen next? I almost can’t look. So, in this particularly compelling season as a former Chicago northsider and in honor of my Chicago Cubs, Voltage Leadership brings you this baseball themed set of Peak Performance tips:

Welcome to the High Potential Zone!

The High Potential Zone is a ballfield where, with all the right moves you can advance your team across home plate by hitting all the bases: Roles, Recognition, Review and Refine.

 1.       Roles: Define Expectations

2.       Recognition: Appreciating Effort

3.       Review: Giving Feedback

4.       Refine: Teaching and Coaching so that the team achieves its next level of performance.

 We begin with the pitch across the plate.

 The first thing every employee or team needs is a clear role to play.

·       What is the assignment?

·       What is the objective?

·       Who do you need this person to be to get the job done successfully?

These are the questions your employees are asking when they step up to the plate.

Leaders: Are you delivering a clear understanding of your employee’s role today?

Tip: Ask!

Does your team know what they need to do to succeed in this season of your company’s life and leadership? Do they understand their Roles?

And have you asked yourself this question: Are they in the right Role in the right season?

When leaders ask their team members to describe their strategic role within the organization or project leaders discover the missing links in their own communication and can make course corrections early.

In baseball the batter needs to know if they need to bunt, hit a grounder to third, or swing for the fences. A good manager will send their player off to the batter’s box with a clear idea of what the assignment is and how it fits into the overall game strategy.

I recently met with a team that was not clear about the purpose of the game they were playing. That lack of clarity was slowing them down. People knew what the assignment was, but they did not understand why. After meeting with the team I immediately signaled the leader and let him know the problem: The team needed to understand their “Why?” They needed to know why they were doing what they were doing.

A lack of clarity about strategy (Why are we doing what we are doing?) can create a lot of unnecessary resistance.

The leader’s response was swift: he course-corrected, shared the vision for the future and the specific why for this assignment. The next time I was onsite the team was clipping around the bases at their normal speed.

To get the runner on base, Clarity Counts.

Once you have a batter on base, it is time for Recognition.

It is a big achievement to get on base. Now you don’t have a batter, you have something more: you have a runner! Celebrate the success, and keep them focused on the next goal: rounding the bases.

Recognition keeps things moving and lets your people know what to keep doing.

To continue to advance the runner, it is time for Review.

At second base the runner watches for signals from the third base coach so they know when and how hard to run. Even the best employees need to know how they are doing and what they need to do next to keep succeeding. One easy tool to use is a quick “Start, Stop, Continue” conversation. What do I need to start doing, what do I need to stop doing, and what do I need to continue doing to be successful and stay in the game?

Finally, we get to third base. It is time to Refine the skills.

At third base the player and the third base coach are together. It is a time for clear, specific coaching on how to cross home plate and score. It is time for direct one on one conversation that is specific and succinct. Refining skills means learning something new, taking a different approach, and preparing for the final stretch. The team is in scoring position, and all you need is for a couple things to go right and you can score another point and get ready for another trip around the bases.

Roles. Recognition. Review. Refine. When you are in the High Potential Zone, you get to do great work with great people and get great results.

Once you get around those bases once, keep it up! Leadership never stops, so keep going. Get better and better. Cheer for your team. And for this baseball fan that means: Go Cubs!

 

BLINDFOLDED DARTS: THREE REASONS WE NEED CLEAR EXPECTATIONS

Have you ever started a new role, project, or job and your leader says, “Thanks for being here.  I am sure you are going to do great!  Now, go get some results.”?   I do an exercise with my clients called Blindfolded Darts that sounds a lot like this.  In essence, I put a blindfold on them, give them darts, and say go get some results.  There is a dartboard in the room and peers to give them feedback.  What do you think happens? 

Often, the blindfolded person stands there and waits for more instruction while getting frustrated.  Sometimes, they throw darts blindly, which is a scary thing.  The feedback they receive is non-specific like booing, cheering, or good-job/bad-job. The blindfolded person gets frustrated, confused, and loses their motivation.

Does this sound like your workplace?  I find that leaders are so busy that they do this to their employees.  They have good intentions of setting clear expectations, explaining the results that are needed, and providing feedback.  However, the reality is that leaders are moving targets who often feel they only have time to give non-specific feedback like “good job” or “you need to do better”.  Furthermore, they have to cancel a lot of 1:1s and the employee is left blindfolded, trying to figure out what their leader really wants.

Three Reasons We Need Clear Expectations

·       It is hard to hit the bull’s-eye without a clear understanding of the purpose, tools to do the job, and goal and metrics to measure performance.

·       Employees want to innovate and do the work without a lot of guidance from you.  However, with unclear expectations, they do not know the resources available to them and do not understand how much of the project they can own.  Thus, they often end up waiting for guidance which could be viewed as resistance.  Often this resistance is just a lack of clarity.

·       Employees are self-motivated and can do great work without you but, if the expectations are unclear, then they are going to be knocking on your door asking for a lot of guidance.  Now you have a time management challenge that could have been avoided.

How do we get better at this?

·       Take time to set SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.)

·       Ask your employees what they need from you to be successful.

·       Be open to employee ideas, offer your suggestions, and set up a follow-up plan to offer feedback, encouragement, and recognition.

If you are able to follow these ideas, you should have a motivated and engaged employee that is capable to hitting the bull’s-eye consistently!