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RETENTION AND RECOGNITION STRATEGIES

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You get the knock on the door, “Got a minute”? One of your star performers walks in and starts telling you that they are leaving the organization. Ouch, this was quite unexpected and this person is an integral part of the team.  What should we do next? How can we prevent this of type of “bad turnover” from happening again?

Which comes first, employee retention strategy or recognition? Voltage CEO Jeff Smith and I did a recent radio show, Illuminating Leadership on this very topic. Below are some of the tips and tools we talked about.

For answers to the questions above and a deeper dive into Recognition and Retention Strategies please click this link:

                                                Recognition IS a Retention Strategy                                                                                             The Big “3” F-R-C

1.  Feedback – “Retained” employees want and need consistent honest feedback about how they are doing.

2.  Recognition – Ignoring star performers paves the way for them to be recognized by another employer.

3.  Caring – “Retained” employees feel a real sense of integrity from their reporting relationship.

                                     How to practice Recognition as a Retention Strategy

  • Find out what do employees want from their culture. It’s your job as a leader to create space for the retention discussion to consistently happen! Be inquisitive, get behind the Manager’s closed door and understand their satisfiers and dissatisfiers.

  • Don’t get hung up on trying to have the “perfect” retention program. Don’t delay on starting to recognize top performers and keep it simple. Even with little or no budget just do it.

  • Avoid the “Iceberg of Ignorance” - Ask staff and teammates, “what should we be doing differently”? Some data suggest that only 4% of “true” organizational problems are understood at the “C” level while 75 – 100% of the front-line managers and staff live with them every day!

  • Practice Re-Recruiting – Treat them as if you wanted to join your Team. What would you do differently?

Recognition ideas:

  • Lunch with the boss – Make it about them, not a defacto session

  • Don’t forget their birthday – simple, but many forget this simple opportunity

  • Peer to peer recognition – Build esprit ‘d corp by setting the example to follow

  • Hand written notes to the employee’s home / spouse, (with gift card / dinner etc)

  • The Travelling Trophy -Simple, fun and never goes out of style, (take their picture with it)

  • Give Time Back – ie, Time off to let them participate causes they care deeply about

  • March Madness – For fun only, tap the passion and excitement of the road to the final four

  • Let vacation be vacation -  And when they return, let them adjust a little as they “re-enter”

  • Work from Home day – Trust them to do what they need to. Give them the freedom to be who they are.


For additional leadership content click here

Lee Hubert is a Speaker, Facilitator, Trainer and founder of iTrainManagerforSuccess affiliate of Voltage Leadership, with over 20 years of experience in human resources development in healthcare, technology, financial and energy sectors. 

BLINDFOLDED DARTS: THREE REASONS WE NEED CLEAR EXPECTATIONS

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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.

 

Retention and Recognition Strategies

You get the knock on the door, “Got a minute”? One of your star performers walks in and starts telling you that they are leaving the organization. Ouch, this was quite unexpected and this person is an integral part of the team.  What should we do next? How can we prevent this of type of “bad turnover” from happening again?

Which comes first, employee retention strategy or recognition? Voltage CEO Jeff Smith and I did a recent radio show, Illuminating Leadership on this very topic. Below are some of the tips and tools we talked about.

For answers to the questions above and a deeper dive into Recognition and Retention Strategies please click this link:

                                                Recognition IS a Retention Strategy                                                                                             The Big “3” F-R-C

1.  Feedback – “Retained” employees want and need consistent honest feedback about how they are doing.

2.  Recognition – Ignoring star performers paves the way for them to be recognized by another employer.

3.  Caring – “Retained” employees feel a real sense of integrity from their reporting relationship.

                                     How to practice Recognition as a Retention Strategy

  • Find out what do employees want from their culture. It’s your job as a leader to create space for the retention discussion to consistently happen! Be inquisitive, get behind the Manager’s closed door and understand their satisfiers and dissatisfiers.
  • Don’t get hung up on trying to have the “perfect” retention program. Don’t delay on starting to recognize top performers and keep it simple. Even with little or no budget just do it.
  • Avoid the “Iceberg of Ignorance” - Ask staff and teammates, “what should we be doing differently”? Some data suggest that only 4% of “true” organizational problems are understood at the “C” level while 75 – 100% of the front-line managers and staff live with them every day!
  • Practice Re-Recruiting – Treat them as if you wanted to join your Team. What would you do differently?

Recognition ideas:

  • Lunch with the boss – Make it about them, not a defacto session
  • Don’t forget their birthday – simple, but many forget this simple opportunity
  • Peer to peer recognition – Build esprit ‘d corp by setting the example to follow
  • Hand written notes to the employee’s home / spouse, (with gift card / dinner etc)
  • The Travelling Trophy -Simple, fun and never goes out of style, (take their picture with                       it)
  • Give Time Back – ie, Time off to let them participate causes they care deeply about
  • March Madness – For fun only, tap the passion and excitement of the road to the final                       four
  • Let vacation be vacation -  And when they return, let them adjust a little as they                                        “re-enter”
  • Work from Home day – Trust them to do what they need to. Give them the freedom to be who they are.
     

INNOVATION INC: 2 KEY INGREDIENTS FOR CREATING INNOVATION ENVIRONMENTS THAT WORK

What does it take to get people to bring their best new ideas to the table? How can leaders foster creativity and innovation in ways that deliver results? We hear all the catch phrases and buzz words, but the question I hear from leaders most often is simply, “How can I get started?”

There is a simple two word answer to that question, and it doesn’t require big capital investments and lots of infrastructure. It does take intentional effort.

Those two words are:  Time and Trust.

Time and trust: these two ingredients create climates within organizations, teams and individuals that allow them to engage in several practices critical to the creative process.

When time and trust are present, people can:

1.       think strategically, as opposed to reacting with fear or out of habit

2.       freely ask questions, give feedback and offer insights and ideas with a sense of open curiosity

3.       work on their ideas independently, without cumbersome restrictions or lengthy evaluative processes.

These creative environments tend to work with significant speed, and productivity is high because people love what they are doing. They work hard because they want to, and can think clearly more quickly because they are not feeling threatened by their colleagues or their leadership. Everyone is focused on the real external threats, not the unnecessary internal threats.

When time and trust are not present, people act out of fear, make reactive decisions, and self-protect instead of collaborate. Scared people might get up the motivation to work on a new idea, but the idea has been motivated externally by a threat-reward system. It’s an idea drenched in fear. Ultimately the organization loses.

In the fear-based organizations I encounter, I find creative people working at a fraction of their potential. Significant energy is spent developing political strategies to navigate the organization’s culture of intimidation, distrust, and infighting. These people work more and more in silos because it is safe, robbing themselves and their colleagues of the collective creativity, learning, knowledge and resources of the whole group. I come away thinking, “The brilliance of this team is being wasted.”

The dollar value of that lost intellectual power is staggering: all that time and energy misspent.

It isn’t only fear-based organizations that create underperformance. Underperformance is created simply be the absence of trust. High-trust teams tend to produce great quality work. But a climate of trust takes intentional effort to create. It does not happen by accident. Steps must be taken to actively build trust, collaboration and a strong sense of inter-dependence. When these steps are taken, people’s capacity to bring their best ideas forward and function at their full power and potential is released. Great things begin to happen in the presence of trust that were not possible in its absence.  

How do you build trust on teams?

It takes time and intentional effort. I’ll offer some further steps in my next blog posts, but here are a couple of things you can do today to begin to cultivate trust on your team:

1.       Begin with curiosity. When someone brings an idea, pause, reflect, then ask questions. Thank them for the idea. Wait a moment before you evaluate their idea. Your questions will give your team members time to think, question and learn for themselves, and your appreciation will ensure they keep thinking creatively.

2.       Give people permission to fail. Mistakes are proof that people are doing something: they are trying. When we experience errors as opportunities to learn, grow and change, people become more resilient, smarter about their choices and plans, and performance increases more quickly.

The most valuable asset you have is the imagination of your workforce. They won’t offer it to you unless they trust you, so be curious, ask questions, and give your people permission to try new things.

With these tools in your tool belt, you can begin building your very own Creativity INC.

IS IT TIME FOR A NEW LEADERSHIP PARADIGM?

Are you still using leadership methods, thinking and books from a previous generation? I think many of us probably are and I wonder if they are still serving us. I went to George Washington University for my Master’s in Adult and Leadership Development. We learned that it generally takes about 20-25 years for a concept to move from academia to accepted practice in the workplace. If that is the case and still true, then we are just now adopting the best practices from the late 80’s to mid 90’s.  Wow, let’s think about how much has changed since then. I started my professional career after graduating college in 1990. 

Here are a few things I remember about this time period:

1.      Inter-office envelopes

2.      Smoking allowed at each work station

3.      Wet bars in the leader’s offices; drinks offered to me at meetings starting after 4pm

4.      Coat and tie were expected every day

5.      No email

6.      Internet not used yet

7.      Videoconferencing barely available but not really used

8.      Leaders were expected to make all the decisions and held all the information

9.      I would describe the workplace as a command and control structure with lots of hierarchy; middle managers and not much transparency.

 

These were the formative years for a lot of the leaders in today’s workplace. Many of us learned how to be managers by watching what we were seeing and being trained in the classroom on the trends of this time period.

 

When was the last time you critically thought about leadership style, leadership brand and the behaviors you use to lead your team? Is it time for a check-up?

 

I see different things in the workplace today. Here are some of the best practices I see working with our clients:

1.      Set clear expectations and then give plenty of room for the person to perform. Employees need to understand where they are going but do not need to micro-managed each step of the way.

2.      Command and Control can be effective but cannot be your only style. If I am bleeding and coming into the emergency room, then I want someone to take charge and lead the situation. However, I also want that team to take time at the end of the shift to do an after action review and ask: Did we achieve our desired outcomes? What went well today? What could we have done better? Thus, a leader must be open to feedback to achieve optimal results.

3.      Purpose maters!!! People have a desire to understand the why behind their work. If you want engagement from your team members, tell them the purpose. Sure, we all have things that are delegated to us that we do not really want to do. However, if we understand why our work matters and who our works serves, it is much easier to do our best work and stay engaged.

4.      Feedback is a gift! Many leaders I work with are stuck in the old days—they say things like, “If I do not say anything to you, then you are doing a good job.” Or they think, “Nobody gave me feedback or cared about my development so why should I.” I say, “Too Bad!” Stop with the whining and instead think about what you wish you had received. Today’s workforce will have choices about where to work and they will stay where they have a chance to grow, develop, be engaged, recognized and succeed.

 

Good luck on your leadership style audit. Here are a couple of resources that I like to share with leaders to help them—Drive by Daniel Pink; Deep Work by Cal Newport and The Next Level by Scott Eblin. Let me know what you discover about your leadership style!

HOW TO CREATE A COACHING CULTURE INSIDE YOUR ORGANIZATION?

Culture can be loosely defined as the "connecting rod" that makes things happen. In other words, it's "the way we do things around here." It has a direct impact on a company's ability to deliver on its mission over the longer term. As economic conditions change, many organizations recognize that their legacy style culture may place them at a competitive disadvantage.

What is a coaching culture? A coaching culture allows people to:   

·       Take responsibility for their own actions

·       Take risks and contribute their own creative ideas

·       Treat mistakes and set-backs as valuable learning experiences

·       Speak up, challenge and express conflicting views

·       Offer constructive and motivating feedback

·       Feel appreciated and that their contribution matters

·       Raise motivation and performance to achieve better results

·       Form cohesive and high achieving teams

  

A coaching culture is the majority of people in the organization using coaching techniques and principles, including strong listening and questioning skills, to bring out the best in individuals and teams. It becomes the common way of engaging in conversations, rather than telling people what to do and how to do it.
 
If we accept that coaching cultures are desirable, what should we do implement one?  

First determine what type of coaching would be beneficial to your organization and who should be trained? It might be coaching for skill development, coaching for performance, coaching to remove drama form the workforce, or coaching to translate strategic intent to the frontline. It often revolves around the art of asking great questions, keeping things safe to remain in dialog and just plain old when to leave people alone to figure it out. At Voltage, we have identified three of the fastest and most impactful ways to install a coaching culture. They are:

1) Leaders as Coaches: Voltage trains leaders to have coaching conversations with            direct reports and peers. Coaching leads to greater engagement, personal                    responsibility and accountability resulting in improved team performance.

2) Train the Trainer: The most efficient way to really learn something is to teach it.

3) Mentoring: Voltage provides on-going mentoring to help leaders address the unique challenges they face in creating a coaching culture. We provide feedback on their coaching, facilitation, and training skills.

For a deeper dive into establishing a Coaching Culture at your organization, listen to this episode (How do we create a coaching culture inside our organization?) of our VoltCast radio show, Illuminating Leadership.

CYA AND THE IMPACT ON YOUR TEAM

I bet you are thinking I’m referring to “Cover You’re a$$!” with CYA. Well, that one can definitely have negative ramifications on your team so I am writing about a different CYA.

Choose Your Attitude! Your team is often taking your lead on their mood based on your behaviors, mood and attitude.

I am working with a C-Level executive who had been starting all his meetings with the problems happening in his area.  The meeting started by listing where the team had missed the mark and then progressed to a general inquisition that occasionally resulted in a beheading. The form of punishment would last until you were either dead or decided to leave the department/organization.  While it was not quite that drastic, it felt that way to the participants of the meeting.  The leader’s mood would shift from inquisitive to frustrated to pissed off to victim to persecutor and generally wrapped up in resignation by the end of the meeting.  Have you ever attended a meeting like this?

How could this go differently? Let’s go all the way back to getting out of bed.  One exercise that I both utilize and recommend to my coaching clients is choosing a word or two for the day.  When I know I have a challenging meeting coming up, I might choose “curious.” This helps me stay interested in why people are feeling and acting the way they are acting.  When I have a busy day filled with coaching sessions, meetings, and kids’ soccer games, I might choose “energy” to help keep my energy up all day.  Another common word for me is “awesome”. I like to use this one after a so-so night of sleep.  It is easy to respond with “Fine (or okay) because I did not get a great night’s sleep” when you are asked how you are doing. However, when I say awesome, I feel a lift in my step and the other person looks at my quizzically. I generally then say something like I got to take my son to school today and I have 3-4 coaching sessions today that I am looking forward to.  Does this work every day, of course not! However, it does help me and my clients create their own story each day instead of showing up like a zombie just getting through the day and reacting to everything.

Okay, so now let’s get back to the team meeting. One recommendation I had for the leader was to get there 2-5 minutes early, and have a personal conversation with his teammates so he could connect better. Next, I asked him to consider starting the meeting with 2 questions for each person—“What has been going well in your area? What are your desired outcomes for this meeting?” These questions shift the mood from defending your areas to celebrating accomplishments and naming what you need help with.  This is the land of possibility vs. justification.  There are still problems that need to addressed, but the team will get to those after they understand the desired outcomes. The leader I was discussing started doing these two habits and his team is doing significantly better.  They feel like they really know him better and they want to come to work for him.  Before this started, several team members had confided in me that were looking outside the organization for a new job and they dreaded coming to work. They still know the meetings will be intense at times but that is okay because this team gets results. They feel much more supported now and they know their leader listens to them.

What is your attitude towards change? Do you embrace it or do you whine to your team about another area “making you and your team change.” I can promise you how you describe the change will impact how your followers will respond.  I am not saying that all change is easy to accept or that you like it, however, if you state the reasons for the change and why things will be changing, others will follow your attitude and lead. Yes, there will still be some whining but a lot less then when you get in the trenches and whine with your team.

One final thought—how often do you provide recognition vs. giving developmental feedback.  I encourage you to try to provide 5 pieces of positive recognition for every piece of developmental feedback you give. People will love this. Watch how your change in attitude will impact the team. So, what attitude will you bring to work tomorrow?  Have some fun with this and send me some feedback on what you see in your team. Good luck!

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!

 

WHAT IS YOUR INTERFERENCE?

Do you have a friend or a co-worker that has amazing potential, but their actual performance consistently comes up short of their potential?  Do they understand why this is?  Can you put your finger on what their challenge is?  

One of the most frequent conversations that I have with leaders is regarding employee potential.  It begins, “Jeff, I have a person on my team that seems to have great potential, but their actual results come in below my expectations.  Can you spend some time with them and help me figure out what is going on?”

How about yourself:  do you feel that you have more potential than you are able to achieve?

Let’s start with one of my favorite formulas in leadership from Tim Gallwey, who described this formula in his book, The Inner Game of Tennis.

P = p - i

P = Performance

p = potential

i = interference

Performance = potential - interference

The goal is to be able to have your performance match your potential, but what gets in the way is your interference. 

Here are some common types of interference I see in my coaching clients: 

·       arrogance,

·       lack of building relationships,

·       overly task orientated,

·       lack of vision,

·       poor planning,

·       poor time management,

·       lack of ability to deliver feedback,

·       poor delegation skills,

·       trouble balancing work and home life,

·       alcohol or drugs and many other things.

Let me present a case study to highlight the challenge.  I am currently working with an executive who is a great problem solver with strong technical skills, strong experiences, great work ethic and who posts great results.  This is a promising beginning and a lot of great talents. What is the problem? This leader struggles to build relationships with peers and direct reports. His intensity, task focus and driving persona make it hard for others to connect with him. Thus, he gets great results on a project, but most people do not want to work with him again because of his intensity.  This interference is keeping him from being as effective as possible.  Additionally, it is keeping him from being promoted.  What should he do?

The good news is that he is aware of this part of his personality.  Next, I let him know that he judges himself by his intentions while others judge him by his impact and actions.  He would mean to start a meeting with an icebreaker question and he would mean to provide recognition at the end of the week.  However, he was not doing these things and his team was frustrated.  He now puts it on his calendar to provide recognition several times a week.  He also gets up a couple times a day and makes his way to see some of his team members.  He can sometimes still be a bit intense in these interactions, but he has worked hard on providing recognition and taking an interest in his team members and peers lives.  The results—people are starting to share more feedback with him, provide ideas and even seek him out. He is being more intentional with his calendar and the impact is positive for his team.

What is your interference that is keeping you from reaching your full potential?  Who can you feedback to help you reach your potential?

FEEDBACK IS A GIFT! IT IS JUST NOT EASILY RECEIVED!!!

In the last blog post we talked about delivering feedback. Delivering is full of stress—worrying about getting your words right and striking a balance between directness and compassion. Now, it is time to address being on the receiving end.  Many people say that delivering a speech is the most nerve racking thing they do in their professional lives.  I think a close second place is receiving feedback. We often feel like we are going to the principal’s office and we are in trouble.  However, the top performers I work with have been able to overcome this fear and embrace receiving feedback.  How do they do this?  Practice, practice and more practice!

First, understand the intent of the feedback. 

Generally speaking, people are giving you feedback for one of three purposes:

1.      Appreciation:  Yes, we did a great job.  We may blush and get flustered during this but it is a good feeling overall!

2.      Coaching:  The other person has seen something that we are doing and they either want to reinforce a behavior we are doing well or they want to offer feedback on ways to improve.

3.      Evaluation:  This feedback is an assessment of our performance and how we stack up against a standard.

One tip:  when someone asks to give you feedback, ask them what type of feedback they are providing.  This will help you to know how best to listen and what ways you want to clarify the feedback you received.

One of the traps that I see people fall into when they receive feedback is that they believe it is the truth.  You are receiving feedback and it is a gift, but that does not mean it is the truth.  This is another person’s perspective and it is valuable to listen, clarify and understand the intent of the feedback provider.  

The next step is to take a deep breath, thank the other person for their feedback and recap what you heard to make sure what you heard and what was said match. 

After this, you decide what you want the next step to be.  I personally get defensive when I first get feedback and try to explain my point of view.  On my best days, I take the breath, thank them and recap their feedback before seeking clarity.  On my normal days, I start my comebacks and rationalizations about 30 seconds into the feedback. However, with practice I have learned to breathe and know that the feedback will make me stronger.  The strategy that works best for me is to process overnight and so I ask if we can discuss the feedback again in a day or two.

I find that taking the time to really hear the feedback and then come up with an action plan later has allowed me to be more present when receiving the feedback.

One final thought is that you do not have to do anything with the feedback you receive.  There have been times that I have been given feedback and I just saw the situation differently than the other person. I still thank them for the feedback and appreciate their taking the time to give me feedback.  However, I sometimes choose to hear the feedback and still continue the same action.  The feedback does help me think about how to approach a future situation and see if there is a better way to handle the situation.

I also appreciate all the people who take time to offer positive feedback to me and others.  The optimal level of positive to negative feedback is about 4-5 positive comments for every 1 negative.  I appreciate leaders that understand this and take time out of their busy days to acknowledge their team members.  You can see employees walk with a bounce in their step after getting authentic, positive feedback.

What can you do to better prepare for receiving feedback?  Who can you recognize this week for a job well done?  If you would like more information about giving and receiving feedback, I would encourage you to read Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Hahn. 

FEEDBACK IS A GIFT! Part 1

Feedback is essential for our growth, our development and our ability to hit our goals.  So why is it so hard for people to give it and receive it?  I am not immune to this dilemma myself.  When someone wants to give me feedback, I can feel my heart start to race and my breathing become a bit shallower, and I can get defensive and try to explain myself.  Even when the feedback is positive, I find myself blushing or cutting the person off so that I can get out of the situation.  I used to think I was alone in this challenge, but I see it every day with the people I coach and teach.  The question is, “What to do about feedback?”

We have to understand that we need to give feedback.  It is even more important in this digital age.  A text, tweet or email is generally not the best way to deliver feedback.  The best way is face to face, but that may not always be possible. 

·       Try to deliver improvement feedback either face to face or on Skype so you can see the other person’s reaction.

·       Aim for a balance between direct and compassionate.

I see many people who are nervous giving feedback and who take one of two tracks:

1.      Get direct and get out of there!  Well, it is over quicker that way, but the receiver is left feeling run over and unsure how to move forward.

2.      Get vague, talk in generalities and hope the receiver translates the message.  I tend to have this challenge. The problem is that, while it may make the deliverer feel better, the goal is really for the person and/or the process to improve.

Some of the best practices for effective feedback delivery include:

·       Have a clear intention for the feedback

·       Find a good time for both of you to be able to have a productive conversation

·       Find a good location

·       Be specific in the feedback

·       Ask for feedback from the recipient regarding what they think about the feedback they received

·       Determine the next steps and accountability for the next steps

·       Thank the recipient for participating.

Notice what type of feedback you normally give.   A good book to use is Leadership Conversations:  Challenging High Potential Managers to Become Great Leaders by Alan Berson and Richard Steiglitz.

 A model that I like from the book is ACE.  This describes three types of feedback:

1.    Appreciation

2.    Coaching

3.    Evaluation

All three types of feedback are critical, but it is important to know:

·       What type of feedback you are planning to give

·       Your intention for the session. 

If you plan on talking about performance and then spend most of the time in appreciation, the message about performance gets lost.  Similarly, if you only ever give me feedback about ways to improve and never provide recognition, I want to start avoiding you like the plague!  

Feedback Goals

·       Clarity

·       Provide all three types of feedback over the course of a year

·       Be open to feedback yourself.

One final note:  give feedback often.  One of my clients called me in to do a 3-way conversation because the top two leaders would battle each other. We were able to get to a good place after about three meetings over four days, but there were a lot of hurt feelings.  The root causes were that neither person really gave the other feedback, that each made assumptions about the way the other was acting, and that each leader was judging themselves by their intentions.  We were locked in a dramatic scene that could have been made into a movie.  However, once we set some clear expectations, shared some feedback, and looked for ways to recognize each other’s strengths, we were able to find common ground.  The two leaders now meet weekly to share feedback so that it does not build up so much.

Who do you think you want to give feedback to?  Take a moment to plan it out, take a deep breath and go do it.  

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!