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Sunday, June 26, 2011

You Can't Fake Engagement

Quick Tips

“Engagement” may just be a fresh word for a familiar idea. Employees are more productive when they're happy and committed to your goals than when they're miserable and just trying to get by. But whatever you call it, you can't ignore the challenge.

Here’s how to drive engagement in your team:

·    Set clear expectations. Tell employees where your team is headed—its vision—and how you plan to get there. A clear sense of direction helps people see the connection between their daily work and the organization’s long-term success.

·    Pay attention to your culture. Engagement can’t thrive in an environment that ignores employees. Listen to your people; ask employees what resources and training they need to do their best work; and support them in developing their skills so they feel that you’re all on the same side. Provide simple, clear and regular feedback

·    Inspire your people. Employees want to know that their work is about more than making money for the executives and shareholders. Tell them why their work is important and how it helps customers, the community, and the world. Just be sure to back up your inspirational talks with decisions and actions that demonstrate you're not just mouthing slogans.

·    Hold everyone accountable. Employees who work hard are unhappy when they see others get away with careless mistakes, slacking off, insubordination, and other forms of inappropriate behavior. Set clear standards for performance and workplace behavior, and enforce them consistently, without favoritism. Employees want to know they can rely on coherent rules.

·     Be authentic. Your people won’t feel passionate about their work if they think you’re faking it. Express your own feelings about why the work is important. Celebrate successes, and be honest about setbacks. Sincerity is the foundation of engagement.

All the success!

PM in the AM

Three Ways Leaders Can Inspire an Engaged Workforce

First... As leaders, we need to commit to being engaged ourselves, regardless of circumstances.

Be what it is you want to see more of.

More enthusiasm. Less cynicism.
More approachable. Less eggshells.
More patience and kindness. Less grumpiness.
More encouragement. Less withholding.
More listening. Less telling.
More time, effort, and care.

Whatever you feel is most important to making a better experience for everyone (and achieving great results), model it. No exceptions. Fall off the horse? The moment you realize it, apologize (to others and yourself) and get back on it.

Second... Have more frequent and meaningful conversations about what it is you and your team do and the value it is you and your team bring to the world. Show people the big picture through any external feedback you might get from the people you serve (the good and the bad). Share it as much as possible in order to help people be more connected to that big picture (your purpose... your reason for being). Consider a quick daily team meeting (Try conducting the meeting standing up—it goes quicker!) that allows everyone to share what they're working on so people feel more connected to each other.

Third... Work to involve your people more in solving the challenges you face. Wherever possible, let them lead the effort to make that something special happen. Ask people more frequently to give you their thoughts on things (good and bad). Periodically, ask people how they would change things if they were running the place. Maybe do it over a cup of coffee or lunch to make more of a personal connection.

The key to all of this really comes down to caring about the people we work with... involving them the way we'd like to be involved if we were in their shoes... treating them the way we'd like to be treated.

Not rocket science (like most things), just the golden rule.

It's about making that commitment to your leadership efforts that you're asking your people to make to their work and the people they serve. (Can you do that?)

Model what you want to see.
Connect more with the people you lead.
Involve them as much as possible.

All the success!

 PM in the AM

Friday, June 24, 2011

Be Prepared for Employee Pushback to Your Feedback

Quick Tips

When you’ve got an employee whose performance needs some adjustment, delivering feedback is only one part of the process. You need to be prepared for pushback—excuses, blame, etc. Here’s how to respond:

·        Denial. Claims like “That didn’t happen,” or “I never do that” shouldn’t throw the conversation off track. Be sure you’ve got the facts, and stay focused on them, even if you have to repeat yourself once or twice. If the employee refuses to accept the truth, feedback may not be enough to resolve the situation.

·        Blame. Don’t let employees evade their own responsibility. It may be true that Sandra in accounting didn’t deliver the numbers, but that doesn’t let Simon off the hook for not following up. Emphasize behavior that you and the employee can control: “Next time, you could pick up the phone and talk to Sandra directly.”

·        Excuses. Often employees make excuses because they think you’re only interested in blaming them for their mistakes. Let them know that you only want to solve the problem—you don’t need to punish anyone as long as the mistake doesn’t get repeated. Focus on helping the employee identify more effective ways of getting the job done in the future.

·        Fear. You don’t want your feedback to paralyze employees with anxiety. As before, emphasize that your goal is to prevent future mistakes, not to place blame on anyone. Reassure the employee of your confidence, and discuss what to do differently.

All the success!

PM in the AM

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Delivering Tough Messages

Is failing to hold people accountable for high standards while allowing them to hold onto their dignity as human beings.

This denies employees the chance to learn and excel. And it sends a dangerous message to your staff that sub par performance or conduct is ok.

The art of delivering tough messages in a way that preserves the relationship is the subject of this week's Leader's Digest Mail Bag Q & A.

Dear Leader's Digest,

I sometimes struggle with the concern that I am "sugarcoating" an inherently tough message. How can I make it acceptable even when the results of the conversation will most likely be negative, such as talking about serious performance issues, letting an employee go, etc.?


Straight Talk

Dear Straight Talk,

What a great question! Your question shows you are right on track with trying to achieve the essence of a tough love conversation—absolute candor coupled with absolute respect. Far too many times people go through management or communications training and emerge with a dangerous misconception. They believe the point is to be "nice." And for them, "nice" means understating their point.

The most important challenge we suggest is the challenge to find a way to do both—to be both 100% honest and 100% respectful.

Now with that as your goal, there are two things to keep in mind as you measure your tough conversations progress:

Volatility is not honesty. Some people think that if their affect doesn't match their message, that they've sold out. It could be that you are doing a terrific job—and are not sugarcoating—but that in the past you were more vociferous, loud, and demonstrative. Now you worry that without the added volume, people might mistake your message. If that is the case, worry no more. The show of emotion many people use during touchy conversations often undermines their message rather than enhances it. It can come across as an attempt to control or manipulate others and distracts from the power of the message itself. That's not to say the ideal is to be emotionally flat. All we're suggesting is that excessive emotion is not a measure of candor—it's crossing a line into something else. You can say it respectfully and somewhat calmly, and have all the power with none of the defensiveness.

The measure of success is not that they like—or even agree with—the message. You ask, "How can I make it acceptable when the result of the conversation is going to be negative?" That very question demonstrates a misunderstanding of this key point. A tough love conversation does not mean everyone is happy at the end. It just means they are able to hear you and understand your point of view—and in the end, see how a "reasonable, rational, decent person" might think what you think—even if they disagree. There are times when your conversation might lead someone to revise their view of themselves, their world, etc. and that revision can be painful. They may want to deny the truth of what you share for a period of time in order to forestall the painful revision, but if the conditions for dialogue are present in the conversation, you'll significantly increase the likelihood that they will eventually get there.

Years ago, I had a tough conversation with an employee where my message was, "You're fired." I sat down with my employee and explained the facts of the situation. We caught him in a pattern of lies that were so egregious we needed to terminate his employment. It was just before the Christmas holidays and I was sick at the thought of how his dismissal would affect his family. But the truth was the truth. I laid out the facts and asked him if there was any other reasonable way to interpret them. His shoulders slumped and he confessed to what he had done. I told him I was letting him go as a result of his lack of integrity. And then I added, somewhat choked with emotion, "I am sorry. I know you love your family and I know this will break their hearts. I will help in any way I appropriately can through this." I then elaborated on some ways I thought I could help. He was fired and out of work. I am sure his family suffered. And yet a year later, I was happy to receive a note from him thanking me for how I handled things and reporting on the better direction of his life.

He did not like my message. But he heard it. And because he felt respected by me—felt I cared about his interests and cared about him—he was more capable of contemplating what I was sharing with him. That's the measure of whether we get it right.

All the success!

PM in the AM

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

7 Guidelines for Critiquing Performance Without Damaging Relations

Quick Tips

You can call it “constructive,” but sometimes feedback is just negative. You don’t want to demoralize employees, but you have to correct mistakes promptly and firmly.

Here are the guidelines:

1.   Don’t delay. Address the problem right away, while it’s still fresh in your minds. You’ll minimize the potential for arguments about what happened.

2.   Talk in private. Criticizing an employee in front of his or her colleagues and friends can be embarrassing, and it’ll damage your efforts to improve performance. Whenever possible, move the conversation someplace where others can’t hear.

3.   Clarify and confirm your expectations. Sometimes the problem starts when employees don’t understand what you want them to do. Review the job description and your instructions. If the employee is confused, don’t criticize the performance, but make sure he or she understands what’s required from here on out.

4.   Remain calm. If you’re angry, wait until you can control your emotions to discuss the situation. Anger will make employees defensive, and it interferes with your ability to focus on performance, not personalities.

5.   Describe the problem in specific terms. Don’t leave any room for doubts or misunderstandings. Explain the problem and its impact on the organization and other people in clear, emotion-free language.

6.   Describe the correct behavior. Again, using neutral and specific terms, tell the employee what you want. Discuss how to fix the mistake, and how to avoid repeating it.

7.   Praise any improvement you see. Negative feedback should be followed by positive reinforcement as soon as possible. Don’t make a big deal out of it, but when you see the employee performing correctly, let the person know you’ve noticed and that you appreciate it.

All the success!

PM in the PM

Monday, June 13, 2011

What Apple Can Learn from Legendary GM President Alfred P. Sloan

Steve Jobs, I have some advice for you!
   Click here:
21st-Century Strategy from Legend Alfred P. Sloan

By Matthew Debord
Sourced from the BNET website

Saturday, June 11, 2011

G-R-O-W Your People and They'll Grow the Business

The G-R-O-W Model: Coaching others to improve performance

One key role of any leader is to coach team members to achieve their best. As a "coach" or mentor, you will typically help your team members to solve problems, make better decisions, learn new skills or otherwise progress in their role or career.

Whilst some leaders are fortunate enough to get formal training in coaching skills, many are not. They have to develop these for themselves.

Now this may sound daunting. But if you arm yourself with some of proven techniques, find opportunities to practice and learn to trust your instincts, you can become an even better coach, and so enhance your team's performance.

One proven approach that helps with this it the GROW model. GROW is an acronym standing for Goal – Current Reality – Options – Will. The model is a simple yet powerful framework for structuring a coaching or mentoring session.

A useful metaphor for the GROW model is the plan you might make for an important journey. First, you start with a map: With this, you help your team member decide where they are going (their Goal) and establish where they currently are (their Current Reality). Then you explore various ways (the Options) of making the journey. In the final step, establishing the Will, you ensure your team member is committed to making the journey and is prepared for the conditions and obstacles they may meet on their way.

Tip 1: Know Your Own Role
In its traditional application, the GROW model assumes that the coach is not an expert in the mentee’s situation, and therefore must act as an objective facilitator, helping the mentee select the best options and not offering advice or direction.

However, when a leader coaches his or her team members, or acts as a mentor to them, other dynamics are in play: As a leader you will usually have some expert knowledge to offer. Also, it's your job to guide the selection of options which are best for your organization, and amend options that are not useful.

How to Use the Tool:

Use the following steps to structure a coaching session:
  1. Establish the Goal:
    First, with your team member, you must define and agree the goal or outcome to be achieved. You should help your team member define a goal that is specific, measurable and realistic.
In doing this, it is useful to ask questions like:
·         "How will you know that you have achieved that goal?"
·         "How will you know the problem is solved?"
  1. Examine Current Reality:
    Next, ask your team member to describe their Current Reality. This is a very important step: Too often, people try to solve a problem without fully considering their starting point, and often they are missing some of the information they need to solve the problem effectively.
As the team member tells you about his or her Current Reality, the solution may start to emerge.
Useful coaching questions include:
·         "What is happening now?"
·         "What, who, when, how often"
·         "What is the effect or result of that?"
  1. Explore the Options:
    Once you and your team member have explored the Current Reality, it's time to explore what is possible – meaning, all the many possible options you have for solving the problem. Help your team member generate as many good options as possible, and discuss these.
By all means, offer your own suggestions. But let your team member offer his or hers first, and let him or her do most of the talking.

Typical questions used to establish the options are:
·         "What else could you do?"
·         "What if this or that constraint were removed?
·         "What are the benefits and downsides of each option?"
·         What factors will you use to weigh up the options?
  1. Establish the Will:
    By examining Current Reality and exploring the Options, your team member will now have a good idea of how he or she can achieve their Goal. That's great – but in itself, this may not be enough! So your final step as coach is to get you team member to commit to specific action. In so doing, you will help the team member establish his or her will and motivation.
Useful questions:
    • "So what will you do now and when?
    • "What could stop you moving forward?"
    • "And how will you overcome it?"
    • "Will this address your goal?"
    • "How likely is this option to succeed?"
    • "What else will you do?"
Tip 2: Practice by Coaching Yourself
A great way to practice using the model is to address your own challenges and issues. When you are 'stuck' with something, you can use the technique to coach yourself. By practicing on your own challenges and issues, you will learn how to ask the most helpful questions. Write down some stock questions as prompts for future coaching sessions.

Tip 3: Ask Great Questions and Listen Well
The two most important skills for a coach are the ability to ask good questions, and effective listening.

Don't ask closed questions: "Did that cause a problem?" Do ask open ones: "What affect did that have?" Be prepared with a list of questions to for each stage of the G-R-O-W process.

Listen well and let your mentee do most of the talking. Remember that silence is valuable thinking time: You don't always have to fill silence with the next question.
All the success!
PM in the AM

Friday, June 10, 2011

How a question can expand your perception

One of the world’s most famous paintings is Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch.” When curators hung it in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, they tried an experiment: They asked museum visitors to write down questions they had about the painting. The questions collected were varied: How much did the painting cost? Had it ever been forged? Are there any mistakes in the painting? Why did Rembrandt choose this subject to paint? Who were the people in the painting?

The curators then posted the questions, along with the answers, in a room next to the gallery where the painting hung. Visitors had to walk through that room before viewing the painting. To their surprise, curators found that the average length of time visitors spent looking at the painting jumped from about six minutes to half an hour. Art lovers walked back and forth, reading questions and then examining the painting. They told museum officials that reading the questions encouraged them to look closer and longer and to remember more details.

What does this story have to do with managers?

It shows the importance of questions—of the richness the answer to a question can add to our understanding of topics and situations, people and animals, and machines and operations. Whether you’re having an informal exchange with a colleague or listening to a staffer explain a glitch in a procedure, ask a question. Or two. See where it leads. As Albert Einstein said, “the universe has the answers, all we need to do is ask the right questions.”

All the success,


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Stuck in a Rut? 4 Simple Tricks to Break Free!

Feeling like you're (or the team you lead) just running through the motions every day? Doing the same old things that you've always done?

Get up, go to work, eat, sleep, repeat...Don't feel bad, you're not alone. Most people get sucked into letting routine run the show.

And it's easy to see why. It's not that everyone is lazy; routine is very, very strong, and even the best of us get trapped by it. Fortunately, there's a quick and easy way to beating this problem. The simple tips below will help you break free of habit and kick start an exciting and successful comeback.

1.      Don't Believe This
Despite what you may have heard, you're never too old or too young to change. If you're alive and kicking, you're more than welcome to go for it. There's no rule book on enjoying life. Any age is the perfect age to go for it.

We have read too many stories about people whowere supposed to be too old to do this or that - and they did it. It always has been, and always will be, a state of mind. So make sure your state of mind is clear about one thing - the right time is now. You, yes you, are the perfect age to do what you want to do.

After you've got the age issue in check, it's time to beef up on your imagineering skills...

2.      Can You See the Picture?
Life is a blank slate waiting for you to fill it up with your own thoughts, hopes, and ambitions. That's why it's important to master the art of imagination. The better you are at creating exciting and motivating pictures of your future, the more excited and motivated you will be to make them happen.

Let's say you want to refine your leadership style but can't seem to find the motivation you need to get things moving. Here's what you do. Imagine everything going exactly the way you want it from very first next day at work.

Picture yourself coming to work with a smile, making new connections with your people, and enabling others to do their jobs better.  Everything you want to do or become should have an exciting mental picture to go with it. Have you been using your imagination as often as you should be?

3.      I Can Do That Too
One of the best ways to get excited about changing your own life is to learn about the life of someone else. Many of the great men and women we learn about in history class found their inspiration through the stories of those who came before them. They scratched their heads thinking, 'If one person could do all that, couldn't I do the things I want to do?'

Yes. Consider the things you want to do with your life and then get out there and learn about people who followed a similar path. Better yet, uncover the stories of people who went much farther than you are planning on going. It will motivate you to think about a bigger and better picture of tomorrow.

Just one more step...

4.      I'm Not Afraid Anymore
You may not want to admit it, but you're not doing the things you really want to do because a small - or large - part of you is afraid. It's okay. We're all afraid of leaving our comfort zone. It's universal. But that doesn't mean you have to let it beat you. You can work through the fear and get what you want.

The first key is focus. You need to know what you're afraid of instead of avoiding it like most people do. You know you can't fix a problem you can't even see. That's why you need to get clear about what's going on in your head.

When you do, you'll be amazed at what happens. Fears that linger beneath the surface take on a size that is much larger than reality. In other words, when you don't know what you're afraid of, it can feel like the fear is an enormous, overwhelming thing. But when you shine light on it, you see it for what it really is - a much smaller matter than you thought it was.

All the success!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Routine Can Kill Progress

Routine is the pattern of living that, like molten lava, slowly crawls into adulthood, covering and consuming our hopes, dreams, and ambitions.
It's doing the same thing every day because that's what we’ve always done. It's a vicious circle of repeating actions and events that leads to the same results.

It’s easy for anyone to get stuck in a routine: Every day following the same basic outline of living: wake, work, sleep, repeat. We may have new ideas, to be sure, but our actions are still old.

The sad reality is that many people never realize what’s happening until its too late. That is the skill and cunning of habit and routine. It wraps its arms around the minutes and hours of our lives, distracting and luring us into autopilot, into a dazed mode of living.

All the while, the little time we have to construct our ideal work or personal experiences is being sucked away, stolen. Routine is a murderer. It kills hope and the chance for change. It blinds us to the truth and with a scalpel cuts away our goals and ideas. Routine puts a hand in the face of growth and improvement, leaving room for nothing but the same.

The good news is that there is a way out of the routine. The way out can come in the form of a simple question. Ask yourself or the people you lead the following:

'If you continue to follow the same patterns, what are the chances you'll ever experience the things you want to do in your personal and work life and ever become the person you hope to be?

The answer is that our chances are slim to none. We will never do the things we had always thought about, never grow into the character we have hoped for. If we follow the same routines, the same patterns, we can expect pretty much what we’ve been getting. For some, this is the perfect scenario. But for others, we know how much life has to offer and we want to experience it all and live a life worth living again.

This brings us face to face with a truth that most men and women would rather avoid. It's relieving to let our goals live in 'someday.' We don't have to worry about never attaining them. Instead, we can put them off and fool ourselves.  It will happen someday.' No, it won't.

The truth is, if we you don't change our routines now; we will never reach those goals. We will never wake up to a life that matches the one in our minds. Never.

We don't need to hide from this. We can accept it. Embrace it. Use it to smash through the chains of routine which drive us into a new way of life, into a new pattern of progress.

We can jump start a positive change in our lives by simply changing the questions we ask of ourselves and others and then talking immediate action on the answers.

A wise person remarked, “A quality life comes from quality questions. Successful people ask better questions and as a result they get better answers.”

All the success!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

From the Leader's Digest Mailbag: Handling Employees Who Disagree with their Performance Review

Dear Leader’s Digest~

I held a performance review with one of my employees. The way we do it on my team is that we ask the employee to assess their performance before the review meeting. Next, we provide our review: the ratings and summaries to support them. It's not unusual for this particular employee to offer a higher evaluation than myself, but this time she rated herself much higher.

And here's the tricky part. At the end of the performance review I like to create improvement goals. I did, but she disagreed with all of them because she thinks she walks on water and I think she's under water. Now she's got goals I know she doesn't believe she needs to work on for the next review period.

What next?

Dear What Next,

Sounds like an awkward moment. One we've been in ourselves. It should be no surprise to those of us in leadership positions that we often have to confront people's illusions about themselves. The fact that human beings have an incredibly inflated sense of efficacy is also no surprise. I attended a friends' son's soccer game one day and smiled when I heard parents from both sides swearing vehemently that the ref was obviously playing for the other team. We all think we do better, deserve more, and are perfectly informed far more often than is the case. (Note: The ref did, in fact, favor the opposing team).

The tricky thing in performance appraisals is that even leaders might have an inflated sense of rightness (Unless you have accurate and complete documentation). And these leaders are reviewing someone who likely suffers from the same affliction. So how can two imperfect human beings muddle their way toward truth?

The answer is to trust the conversation and the facts. A better approximation of truth is much more likely to emerge through healthy dialogue that has an ample supply of concrete examples. So here are a few tips to help make the conversation productive in the emotionally charged atmosphere of a performance evaluation.

1. Decide how to decide. To avoid violated expectations and resentment, be clear up front that while your strong preference is to arrive at consensus about the rating and goals, at the end of the discussion you as the supervisor are charged with making the final decision. Do not overstate this—let your employee know that you are willing to spend the time and energy required to reach a common view of things and would only make an independent decision if it's clear you cannot do so in a reasonable amount of time.

2. Don't own the burden of proofshare it. Don't get cornered into feeling like you have to convince your employee that you are "right." That's not your job. Your job is simply to share your view. If you find yourself trying to convince the employee that your view is "right," then you've stepped out of dialogue and into monologue. You need to step away from your own conclusions and recognize that they are just one view of the truth. Take a few deep breaths and open yourself to a different perspective. Share the responsibility for arriving at the "right" conclusion. Let her know that you'd like her help in making sense of a substantial amount of data supporting your view and your rating.

3. Separate content and pattern. Often, the disconnect comes because the supervisor has seen a pattern and is attempting to help the employee recognize and take responsibility for this pattern. Yet the employee doesn't own up to these behaviors. Instead, he or she explains away one data point after another.

For example, you say, "On a number of occasions, customers have complained that you were brusque or impatient with them." There's the pattern you're trying to establish.

To which your employee says, "Can you give me an example?"

Now, here's where it gets slippery. At this point, you must give her examples. You can't expect her to just nod robotically to the pattern you're alleging she has demonstrated. So you give an example: "Last Friday a customer told me that after she complained to you about some moldy strawberries that you barely acknowledged him and walked away without saying a word." To which she says, "I remember that—and that's not what happened. Yes, I didn't say anything, but I smiled and waved and turned to get a phone call that had been on hold."

This is a tricky point in the conversation because something subtle just happened. If you don't catch it, you'll end this performance review feeling unsatisfied and at odds. You'll avoid this outcome if you can recognize what your employee just did. What was it?

She changed the subject from a pattern conversation to a content conversation. You're now discussing what happened last Friday rather than what happens as a pattern.

Here's what you have to do to move back to the right conversation: "I see—and I can see how you might have thought you handled things right in that instance. But what I need your help with is the pattern that has emerged. I can share three different examples with you—and there may be an extenuating circumstance in each—and yet the pattern is more consistent with you than with other members of the team. That's what I'd like us to discuss and resolve."

Do you see what just happened? First, we tried to share responsibility for addressing our mutual understanding of the issue. Second, we moved the conversation from content back to pattern. And finally, we set expectations that if she continues to give explanations for every element of the pattern, she'll still need to address why the pattern is different for her than for other employees.

Now, even if you do all of these things, you still may agree to disagree. In which case, you'll have to lean back on suggestion number one. You could end with something like: "Well, it seems like we see things differently. I appreciate your patience and hope you can see that I have sincerely wanted to understand your view, as well. Yet I still have to make my best judgment about what's going on and how to move ahead. I ask that you respect the position I'm in and make efforts to respond. I still believe this pattern of brusqueness with customers is an issue you should address. To do so, I ask you to do the following. . . and what ideas do you have?"

Your question demonstrates how seriously you take your coaching role. We applaud your efforts and wish you luck as you sort through your own self-illusions and work to be a positive influence on some of your similarly afflicted employees.

In the meantime, my buddy and I will keep trying to convince the ref that he's playing favorites!

All the success!