Total Pageviews

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Confronting Sarcasm on Your Team

From the Leader's Digest Mailbag

Dear Leader’s Digest,

I lead a team of six supervisors. Several of the supervisors use irony and humor to downplay their colleagues, and I strongly feel that this creates a bad atmosphere because most of the colleagues do not appreciate this way of talking. Should I confront the issue with the entire group or should I deal with the misbehaving supervisors individually?

Wisecrack manager

Dear Wisecrack,

This is an interesting challenge because it deals with the use of humor at its worst—humor used as a tool for taking shots at people, but done in a way that maintains plausible deniability.

"Hey, I was just kidding, can't you take a joke?"

I know a fair amount about this particular tactic because it was a huge part of my influence repertoire during, say, the first thirty years of my life. I—like most of my close friends—developed keen skills in the use of sarcasm and irony. It was a huge part of my identity. Then, one day, after my wife stumbled awkwardly and I retorted, "Smooth move, did you enjoy the trip?" she responded: "You know what? If you never again use sarcasm—until the day I die—that would be just fine with me. I don't like it and there's no place for it in our home."

"Hey! Who died and left you in charge?" I shouted boldly and firmly within the confines of my mind as a way of testing out my response before actually putting my foot in my mouth. Then I thought better and whined: "But I really like being sarcastic."

As the conversation unfolded, I learned that it's actually quite difficult to defend your right to take cheap shots, dole out insults, and cut people down—all in the name of humor. Trust me. You never want to be the defense attorney when sarcasm goes to court. So, maybe I needed to reconsider my stance. Perhaps, getting a laugh at the expense of a coworker, colleague, friend, or loved one isn't nearly as endearing as I had once thought it was.

Now, to your question as to whether you should bring up the problem individually or in a group. It's tempting to say something to the entire team. That way you don't have to accuse anyone directly, plus it's efficient. One conversation replaces five or six. But then again, you take several risks when you hold a team problem-solving discussion.

First, as you talk with a group, one or more of the people who abuse humor might conclude that you aren't talking to them. They, after all, are actually quite funny and their cute remarks are loved and appreciated by all. Or so they think.

Second, those who don't fall into the trap of abusing humor won't like being thrown into the pot with the actual offenders. Nobody likes being accused of a crime they haven't committed.

Third, it's hard to anchor your discussion in facts by pointing to the last instance of abusive humor when you're talking in general terms. When it comes to discussing problems in an effective way, you need to point to actual instances, preferably on the heels of the occurrence, so the person understands the exact nature of the offense.

It will take longer, but you need to talk to the offenders one-on-one.

Assume the best of others. Perhaps others do think they're only having fun and they're unaware that their use of humor can be hurtful. Respectfully and unemotionally describe the last instance, focusing on specific behaviors.

Ask if others see the problem differently. If others seem unmoved to drop their use of sarcasm and irony, explain the consequences of their actions in detail. Talk about how it has affected you. Suggest an alternative means of dealing with the issues.

Discuss the pros and cons. Jointly discuss the benefits of honestly and openly addressing problems rather than approaching them obliquely and possibly at the expense of others.

Thank others for their efforts. End by thanking them for the frank conversation and express your appreciation for their willingness to drop harsh humor from their repertoire.

You are right to confront this damaging behavior immediately, especially because a few supervisors are creating a bad atmosphere for the rest of your team. As you talk to each employee individually, don't let him or her use the excuse I mentioned above—"Hey, I was just kidding, can't you take a joke?" Make sure each employee is aware of the damage he or she is doing to morale, productivity, and results. Establish a zero tolerance policy and encourage employees to hold others accountable when they violate that policy.

All the success!

PM in the AM

Handling Personality Clashes: Lessons in Teamwork from the TV Show “Dual Survival”

Need some insights on how to foster collaboration between team members with clashing styles–say, the dominate (“D”) and analytical (“C”)? One place to get some insights is Discovery Channel’s survival reality series, Dual Survival.

In watching a few episodes, we saw why the show is reaping huge ratings with men, and how it inspires ideas about collaborative problem solving.  During testing, the producers were looking for chemistry and they found it with Dave and Cody. Most episodes are structured as scenarios, in fact–survival case studies.  Dave and Cody are given wilderness situations that have claimed lives. One episode places them in the Everglades in a stalled air boat under the blazing Florida sun; another shows how two lost hunters (it happens) can survive in the ultra-harsh climate of Tierra del Fuego, just 500 miles from Antartica.

No one is pretending that Cody and Dave aren’t getting out alive–the show’s disclaimer is refreshingly honest. However, we do learn how experts with different backgrounds, competencies, and learning styles effectively cooperate toward a concrete goal with a deadline: get rescued within a few days.  Here’s what we’ve picked up on their collaborative practices:
  • Each accepts his own limitations and defers to his partner. Dave recognizes Cody’s skills at making fires, and building shelters, while Cody defers to Dave’s hunting prowess when food is needed. In setting up a survival campsite–a goal on the route to their objective–they divvy up big tasks according to strengths. When each guy can be the lead dog on a different task, the two personalities are given room to breathe. In an office team, consider giving your polarized personalities stand alone tasks playing to their strengths, so their edgier personalities don’t interfere with subtler workings of the project.

  • They intimately know the other’s risk appetite: Dave will assume more risk than Cody to reach a desired destination faster.  In an episode shot on Montana’s Great Plains during winter, Dave favors a riskier straight descent down a steep, icy, hazardous slope to reach the river valley while Cody prefers a slower, circuitous path.  In another, Dave pushes Cody to take a short cut through a huge cave–and Cody agrees only after they talk through the costs and benefits of the alternatives. In a work team, colleagues with clashing styles need to learn who is more risk-averse. For example, in assigning deliverables, the more cautious team member can be given responsibility for a later phase of the project.
  • They use humor to ease tension when styles clash. Dave and Cody each draw on humor at tough moments when they get on each other’s nerves. In one episode, Dave is disgusted by Cody’s decision to drink water filtered through the socks he’s been wearing.  Dave is authentically taken aback, but laughs, “there’s plenty enough water around I don’t need to suck my socks.”

  • They are both fiercely committed–”we are not quitters”: While the narrative is artificial, Cody and Dave share a zeal and passion to finish the challenge.  “Me and Cody,” Canterbury said in their “Out of Africa” episode, “we’re not quitters. We don’t give up.”

  • They’re ready to turn for help if a particular task is going poorly. When one of the guys runs into trouble, and the goal is at stake, he asks for help. This is a higher order practice in work teams, particularly among polar opposites, but it’s a key interpersonal skill.

  • Above all, both take personal responsibility for surviving, learning, and adapting during an emergency. One distinction about the show is how eager Cody and Dave are to learn more about their craft.  In your workplace, focus on finding colleagues and direct reports who have the capability to learn on the job, self-teach, adapt and make adjustments–during this era of “creative destruction” in the economy and corporate life.

All the success!

PM in the AM

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs

Apple CEO Steve Jobs is famous for his stirring speeches at MacWorld Expos. The author of "The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs" lays out four simple strategies that will improve your next presentation.

Click here:

Inteview with Carmine Gallo posted on the BNET web site.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Top-Ten List of Life-Changing Quick Tips

Changing your life might appear to be a heavy task that takes months or even years.

But, in truth, it all starts with a small step in the right direction. Below are ten of our favorite tips to help you do just that.

1. Get Angry
It might sound strange, but getting angry about where you are is actually a very good thing. It's only when we get upset about something that we feel any motivation to change it. If you're not mad that it's broken, why bother fixing it?

Don't lose hope if you feel unsettled and unhappy with a part of your life. That's a good sign, a sign that you're getting ready to make a change.

2. Build the Muscle
Taking action is like a muscle; it's a skill that must be built and strengthened over time.

Start small. Set mini-goals for yourself, small tasks you can do in just a few minutes. Then, when the time comes to do something truly important, the habit of action you need will be there, ready to move you.

3. Strike When the Iron is Hot
Often, the moment bursting with the most drive and excitement is in the beginning, when a goal or idea first comes to mind.Your juices are flowing. Your mind is spinning with possibilities. A better life is just around the corner.

This is when you need to get moving. Right that instant. When the idea comes to you, take a step toward fulfilling it. Putting it off will only let that energy fade away.


4. Raise Your Standards
We don't often defy our standards. If you're not the type of person who smokes, you can't imagine falling into the habit. It's just not who you are or who see yourself to be.
Take that idea and inject it into the rest of your goals.

No matter what you want, begin to think of yourself as someone who simply makes it happen. As you begin to raise your standards and see yourself as the person you hope to become, it will be harder and harder to procrastinate or back down from fear.

It's just not who you are.

Right about now you might be saying to yourself, 'Getting motivated sounds great, but what if I don't know what I want to get motivated to do? What if I don't know what I really want?'

This is one of the most important questions you'll ever ask, but if you're like most people, the answers you need are difficult to find.

5. Gather Your Personal Motivators
What books motivate you? What movies inspire you? What people, places, or things make you want to do the things you say you want to do?

We all have them, though few people take the time to identify in particular what they are. You can go a step further. You don't want  to merely name the things that motivate you--you want  to gather them into one place and create a motivation station of sorts.

When you find something that excites or inspires you, you've found gold. You can't let that slip to the side. You need to capture it so you can return to it whenever you need hope, encouragement, or confidence.

6. Clothes Do Matter
The way you dress affects the way you feel. The way you feel affects the way you act. Many at-home entrepreneurs make themselves dress for work each day as if they were heading to the office. By putting on the clothes of a successful CEO, they in turn carry themselves that way. They dress, then act, the part.

So dress the way you want to act. If you want to feel confident, wear clothes that make you feel confident. If you want to feel motivated, dress like someone who takes decisive action.

7. Get Organized
Plain and simple: A cluttered desk or home or office makes for a cluttered mind.
Get clear. Get focused. Get organized.

You'll create a state of mind that is not only relieved from all the clutter but also ready for action.

8. Discomfort, Anyone?
Do something that makes you uncomfortable at least once a week. Once a day if you're ambitious. Why? Because most of our goals push us to do things we don't normally do, to say things we don't normally say. That can be scary, so most people don't do it.

But if you force yourself into uncomfortable situations (talking to a stranger, for instance), you'll get good at pushing past your comfort zone. You'll also realize the world doesn't end when you do the things that scare you.

9. Who Did This?
You're unique, no question about it. Even so, chances are someone out there has been in your shoes. They shared your struggle and your dream, and they found a way.

Instead of reinventing the wheel and going at this alone, why not reach out to those people and find out how they did it?

If you want to improve your health, reach out to someone who already did it. If you want to start a business, email an entrepreneur. If you want to love your job, find someone who changed their thinking
 and now loves what they do.

You'll get two immediate rewards. First, you'll realize that you're not alone. There are other people out there just like you. Second, you'll learn how to actually achieve your goal, not through guesswork or hunches, but through actual proof.

10. Get It in Writing
I used to keep everything in my head. To-do lists, business ideas, schedules...everything I thought of or about squeezed its way into an already crowded space.

And it drove me crazy.

I was constantly going through mental lists, making sure I wasn't missing something important. Then I decided to empty my head of it all. I typed it into the computer and felt instant relief and clarity.

If your head is swirling with thoughts and ideas, write them all down on paper or record them all onto your computer.

In the words of a En Vogue song, “Free your mind and the rest will follow."

All the Success!

PM in the AM

Frequently, useful advice trumps a pep talk


Good leaders can be counted on to do what’s necessary under pressure—but exactly what they do can change from moment to moment.

In the 1968 National Basketball Association Eastern Division playoffs, Philadelphia took a commanding three-game lead over Boston in a best-of-seven series—one more win would eliminate Boston. During the next—and must-win—game, Boston fought back and had a two-point lead with seconds left. Bill Russell, Boston’s star center, was fouled and went to the free-throw line to shoot two baskets. If he could make just one, Boston would be far enough ahead to win the game even if Philadelphia scored again; but if he missed both, Philadelphia could tie the game with one basket. Russell, normally a cool competitor, missed his first shot—leaving Boston only one more chance to lock up the game.

Then Sam Jones, a Boston guard and team leader, whispered a few words to Russell. Russell promptly sank his remaining free throw and secured the victory. (Boston also went on to win the series.) Afterward, reporters clamored to know what Jones had said to Russell. Was it an inspirational gem that motivated Russell to do his best in the face of adversity?

Hardly. Knowing that Russell shot free throws better when he remembered to relax his muscles, Jones simply said, “Flex your knees, Bill.” As Russell puts it, “It was about as inspirational as a car manual, but it was the only thing I needed to hear at that moment for us to win.”

It’s a great lesson for high-pressure situations: Effective leaders figure out what to say—and sometimes that means saying only what’s absolutely necessary. The greatest inspiration may simply be quietly helping someone do his or her job better.

—Adapted from Russell Rules, by Bill Russell (New American Library)

All the Success!

PM in the AM

Coaching mistakes: Avoid these traps

Good coaching is an intensive process that calls for commitment and concentrated effort. It’s also fraught with a certain amount of danger because of mistaken assumptions about what coaching really is. To motivate and retain your best people, stay out of these common coaching traps:

·    “If I can do this, you can.” Skills can be taught, to a certain extent, but everyone has unique strengths and weaknesses. Coaching is about bringing those strengths to the forefront, not trying to create clones of “perfect” performers. Focus on maximizing what employees do well.

·    “I have the perfect coaching question.” Coaching isn’t a one-size–fits-all strategy. Questions are part of the process, but remember that you’re working in partnership with the employee. Ask lots of questions, and keep them focused on how to improve performance. Don’t obsess over finding the “right” thing to say during coaching sessions.

·    “That’s the wrong answer.” Part of asking questions in coaching is to explore possibilities and options—not to immediately find the single correct answer. Coaching sessions should be designed around helping employees take responsibility for setting goals and getting results, not telling them what to do.

·    “I can wing it during coaching sessions.” Coaching calls for open-ended discussion between you and the employee, but that doesn’t mean you should make it up as you go along. Every meeting should include some discussion of progress since your last session, and suggestions for areas to work on—both of which require you to invest some time in preparation before the discussion.

·    “I’m the boss.” Yes, you’re the supervisor and you set the direction, but employees need to trust that you’ve got their best interests at heart. Get to know each employee you coach, and tailor your approach to his or her personality as much as to your organization’s objectives.

See the Leader's Digest G.R.O.W. post for a proven coaching model that will help you develop your people.

Click here:

All the success!

PM in the AM

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Engagement Suffers When Supervisors Exhibit “Lead Singer Disease”

“Lead Singer Disease” describes a singer in a rock band whose ego grows unchecked and eventually breaks up the band. (Or starts judging American Idol.)

LSD can also describe any supervisor whose ego outstrips his or her performance.

Want to know if you have LSD? Diagnosing the condition is easy. In the last month, did you:
  • Make a mistake?
  • Admit you were wrong?
  • Have any bad ideas?
  • Say, “I’m sorry”?
If you answered “no” to all of the above (or, really, any of the above) you have LSD.

Here’s the cure:
  • Talk less — a lot less. No interrupting, no digressing, no hijacking conversations in progress. LSD runs screaming from silence — your silence.

  • Listen more. Ask employees for their opinion or input and then actually listen. Keep your thoughts and opinions to yourself.  If you must speak, only ask clarifying questions. You’ll be surprised by how smart your people really are once your LSD is into remission

  • Let others run with a task or project — and stay out of their way. A primary symptom of LSD is the compulsion to inject your own thoughts and suggestions into a crew member’s idea. When you do, you kill your employee's engagement and motivation. If their idea needs tweaking, ask leading questions to help them identify the necessary modifications themselves. In short: Let an employee’s idea remain the employee’s idea.

Feel free to convert LSD as applicable: Lead Manager, Lead CFO, Lead CEO, Lead District Manager… the LSD shoe can fit a lot of feet. Just make sure it doesn’t fit yours.

All the Success!

PM in the AM

Use these Elements to Build a Culture of Engagement

Employee engagement is like a box of Legos: You’ve got to fit a lot of different pieces together if you want to create something great.

A study of 100 organizations identified these pieces that are crucial to building a sense of engagement in your workforce:

·   Variety of skills used. Most employees want to use all their skills, not just one or two day after day. They’ll be more satisfied with their jobs if they have regular opportunities to use their full range of talent.

·    Involvement with customers. This doesn’t necessarily mean sales or customer service, but a sense of really serving people: identifying customers’ needs and fulfilling them in meaningful ways, with the customer’s best interests in mind.

·    Coordination within the organization. Departments that work at cross-purposes to each other, or organizations where communication is inconsistent, don’t tend to attract and keep a highly committed workforce.

·    Training opportunities. Training should address personal development, not just job duties. Talk to employees about what they’d like to learn so they can continue to grow and contribute more to the organization.

·    Autonomy. Employees feel more engaged and fulfilled when they’re empowered to make decisions about how to do their jobs. Outline your organization’s priorities and assign tasks, but don’t micro-manage.

·    Relationship with managers. The best managers create engagement by demonstrating their expertise (technical and managerial), and earn their employees’ respect by listening to their opinions.

It’s important to note that an engaged workforce will create an engaged customer base.

All the Success!

PM in the AM

Find the attitude employees need to succeed

The technical skills your employees need are usually based on your organization’s industry and strategy, but when you’re hiring and managing people, you need to look beyond their ability to run the equipment.

Attitude is what separates your star employees from the mediocre ones. Look for, and reinforce, these five traits:

1.   Commitment. Your employees (and you, for that matter) should be doing more than just waiting for payday. In interviews and workplace conversations, find out about their interests and values so you can select the right people and steer them toward jobs and goals that feed their sense of commitment to something bigger than profits.

2.   Growth. Good employees are confident of their abilities, but not afraid to admit when they don’t know something or to seek out opportunities to learn more. Set the right example by being honest about your mistakes and ready to learn, and reward your people for taking chances and sharpening their skills.

3.   Responsibility. Your job is to set your expectations for employees clearly (with their input, as appropriate); your employees’ job is to do what’s necessary to meet those expectations without making excuses or cutting corners. Explain the job’s requirements, make sure the employee understands what you need, and hold workers accountable, rewarding them for success and addressing problems promptly.

4.   Motivation. Managers set the stage, but top people motivate themselves to perform. Look for candidates and employees with a history of taking the initiative and exceeding expectations. Recognize their drive, and you’ll spur repeated success in the future.

5.   Preparation. Top athletes practice every day, in season and out, so they’re ready to work hard when they’re given the chance. Encourage employees to stay on top of their game, always looking for opportunities to improve. And stay in charge of your own development so your skills don’t grow rusty.

All the success!

PM in the AM

7 Secrets to Erasing Your Stress

Stress, tension, frustration... Do you experience any of these feelings throughout your day? If so, you know just how hard it can be to get motivated and excited to improve your life when weighed down by these negatives.

Never fear, there is a solution! By putting just a handful of simple tips to use, you can break free from the stress and start each day with a clear mind, a relaxed body, and a motivated spirit!

Create a CD of Your Favorite Songs
Listening to your favorite music not only takes your mind off of your worries but also reduces blood pressure and a rapid heart beat.

Because music is so closely tied to memory, listening to music brings to mind happy memories, which in turn affects the part of the brain that regulates these and other automatic physical responses.

So make a list of your 15 favorite songs, visit an online music store to download each one, and create your very own stress-busting CD.

Control Your Breathing
Stressful situations lead to short and shallow breathing,which in turn leads to an increased heart rate and creates feelings of tension and anxiety.

To reverse these effects and reduce your stress, completely empty your lungs with a large sigh. Then, breathe in deeply from your belly on up, hold your breath, and exhale slowly. You may want to follow the 4-7-8 rule. (4-second inhale, 7-second hold, 8-second exhale.)

This simple exercise sends better oxygen content to your cells, improving your health and ridding yourself of the tension and stress.

Laugh Studies by Dr. Lee Berk and Dr. Stanley Tan have found that laughter 'lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, increases muscle flexion, and boosts immune function.'
It also triggers the release of endorphins, which act as the body's natural painkillers and produce a sense of well-being.

The lesson? Laugh! Expose yourself to humor as often as possible through jokes, funny stories, comic strips taped up in your work area, or anything else that makes you laugh.

Make Your List
Even though you may not realize it, there are most likely specific situations that cause stress time and again. By putting your finger on exactly what they are, you can begin to fix or avoid the things that constantly add stress and tension to your life.

Get out a sheet of paper and a pencil. Begin by thinking back to stressful times and what specific things caused them. Then, keep the list handy for two weeks and record the cause of any stress you experience during that period. After two weeks, create a master list of stress-causers and spend time thinking of specific remedies to each one. The solution may be as simple as taking a different route to work or getting up fifteen minutes earlier to handle tasks in the morning.

Focus on Now
Thinking about the next ten items on your list of things to do is enough to cause anyone stress. That's why it's vital that you focus on only one thing at a time. Allowing only one task into your thoughts at a time - the one thing you are involved with right now - will improve  your productivity, decrease mental mistakes, and relieve  your mind of feeling overwhelmed as well as your body of feeling physically stressed out and drained.

Hold a Pencil between Your Teeth
A recent study at the University of California found most people have a set of 'smile muscles' which, when activated, send signals to your brain that you are happy. In turn, your brain releases the chemical that register happiness.

In fact, you don't even need to personally feel happy at the moment to create the internal response of happiness.  Simply holding a pencil between your teeth can be enough to trick your brain into thinking you are happy and releasing the corresponding chemicals into your system.

Wake Up with the Sun
You're sound asleep and dreaming peacefully. And then, out of nowhere, you're shocked awake by the screeching of an  buzzing alarm. It's easy to see why such a routine can get  things started off on the wrong foot.

Instead of being startled every morning, try using natural light to wake you up. Studies have shown that the light of dawn alerts your body to wrap up your dreams, raises your body temperature, and begins releasing the hormones you need to function throughout the day.

So leave the blinds open tonight and wake up with the sun. (Afraid of oversleeping? Keep an alarm nearby set to five minutes after your normal wake time. This way, if the sun doesn't do its job on day, the alarm will.)

Shed the stress, get motivated, and create a richer, more rewarding life!

All the Success!

PM in the AM

When solving a communication problem, don't overlook your own involvement

Sometimes we run into what we think is someone else’s communication problem, only to find out otherwise later. Such was the case with a fellow who was worried that his wife was losing her hearing. So he asked his doctor how he should approach the subject with her.

The doctor said, “The first thing to find out is whether she really has a problem, and if she does, how serious it is. When you get home tonight, try a little experiment. Stand about 15 feet from her, and call her name in a normal tone of voice. If she doesn’t seem to hear you, come within 10 feet, then 5 feet, and so on until she responds to you.”

That evening, the husband found his wife in the living room, sitting on the couch reading, with her back to him. In a conversational tone he said, “Hi, I’m home.” Just as he feared, she didn’t turn around or show any sign of hearing him. He approached to 10 feet, spoke, and then to 5 feet. Still no response.

Finally, he walked to the back of the couch and said loudly, “I’m home!”
She turned around, irritated, and said, “Hi, yourself, as I’ve said three times. As I’ve also been saying, you need to get your hearing checked.”

Yes, it was the husband who couldn’t hear well. But like many people with communication problems, he never once considered the possibility that he was the one who needed help.

When it comes to communicating, always assume you’re part of the problem. Then commit to being part of the solution.

All the Success!

PM in the AM

Friday, July 8, 2011

8 Good Ways to Break Bad News

Sharing bad news isn't easy, but these tips can help ease the pain.
A manager asked us about the best way to share bad news, so we tried to share some useful guidelines. Much of this could apply to a manager sharing difficult news with an employee, as well as a corporate communicator with change management communication responsibilities.
1. Be empathetic
Stating the facts simply and directly is always a good place to start: "We recognize that this will be a significant loss…" and words to this effect can go a long way in building a bridge with your target audience.
2. Be proactive
This is getting out in front of the message. We want to avoid the element of surprise and provide as much warning as possible so that people have a chance to plan for the change. If the announcement involves pay or the reduction of an incentive, legal may require distribution of the message five months in advance of the actual curtailment, so plan accordingly. Test the message with a focus group to anticipate the responses of your wider target audience.
3. Get to the point
Avoid deception of any kind and be as forthright as possible. Avoid spin or beating around the bush. Get to the point quickly and effectively.
4. Anticipate reactions to the change
Simple question and answer communication can help you anticipate the issues and concerns of your target audience. By capturing feedback from a focus group well in advance of the communication, you can understand and address any issues or concerns before they come up.
5. Map the bad news to strategic corporate goals
Is there an enterprise-wide effort underway to reduce overhead in order to focus on new product marketing? Are there audits underway to reduce disproportionate spending on low priority program requirements? A meaningful sharing of strategy can help employees focus on the greater good. It will be useful to couch the message in these terms.
6. Focus on positives
When giving bad news, it's always a good idea to try to focus on the positives. Take the time to highlight the positives—not what's being taken away, but what remains. Are you taking away an incentive for a program, but not the career-pathing opportunity? Is the opportunity to refine or gain marketable skills still there? Talk about it. Stay away from spin, but do try to balance the bad news (what's changing) against the value or benefit of what's not changing. It usually makes sense to blend what's being preserved with what's being lost, in order to soften the blow.
7. Commit to listening and engaging
Employee focus groups serve another useful purpose—they send a clear message that senior management is willing to listen to employee feedback and concerns. It extends a sort of emotional empathy to the bad news process, which is always advisable. Finally, integrating employee feedback into the decision-making process builds toward a consensual decision-making model, and leads to an integrated two-way approach to communication.
8. Stay along for the ride
Stay in touch. Corporate culture and openness are big variables here, but using a subscription-based RSS feed with blog updates is certainly a great way for senior leaders to create a direct, ongoing connection with employees who wish to be updated as each stage of change unfolds.

All the success!

PM in the AM

Handling Employee Drama

From the Leader's Digest Mail Bag

Dear Leader’s Digest~

I inherited an employee that is challenged when it comes to communication, attitude, and accountability. Recently, one of my employees threw what I would call "an adult temper tantrum" after receiving her assignment. She complained loudly and inappropriately in front of the other employees. She also walked out of a huddle before I was finished—in front of the rest of the crew. I attempted to fix her assignment for her, as her objections were not unreasonable, but her behavior certainly was. She verbalized that she would keep the assignment as it was but had a very bad attitude for several hours.

I feel disrespected and embarrassed by her behavior. Since she was so emotional I chose not to confront her at the time. But I’m thinking I need to speak up now. Since she can be quite dramatic, can you give me some advice? I’m worried she’s influencing her crewmates against me.


Committed to Following Up

Dear Committed,

You've done a couple of things right already. First of all, you were wise to respond to the content of her concern in order to demonstrate that you cared about her problem. You were wise to not confront her in front of her peers, or to do so when her emotions were very strong. Had you done so, it would have been difficult for her to hear you, and your influence would have diminished significantly.

Second, offering to make appropriate adjustments to the assignment—so long as you weren't selling out by doing so—is a good way of mobilizing cooperation rather than resistance. It shows that you care about her interests and sets a foundation of mutual purpose and mutual respect.

But from there, we think you missed a big opportunity by not raising your concerns with her behavior at the same time you offered to respond to her complaints. The ideal moment to hold someone accountable is the moment they are least likely to misunderstand your intentions. And that moment was probably when you genuinely and sincerely attempted to listen to her issue.

With that said, all is not lost. But you must address this issue soon before you run the risk of seeming like you're dredging up old issues—or worse, before it happens again and you feel even more upset when you talk with her.

So do it soon. Do it privately. Do it at a time she agrees to and which is convenient for her. All of these situational factors will help reduce the likelihood of defensiveness. Begin by reminding her of the reasons she should know she should have confidence in you. Point out what you've done to address her frustrations, and reiterate that you will always be accommodating to personal needs when you can do so without being unfair to the rest of the team.

With that said, now it’s time to raise your concern. And this is the tricky part. You've got two things you've got to do to turn this into a healthy coaching or counseling conversation.
First, frame the issue positively. Ensure that she knows your intent is to address a problem and not to beat her up. For example, “I’d like to talk to you about something that happened when you were frustrated with the assignment I gave you. In doing so, I want you to know it will always be okay for you to tell me things don't work for you. What I’d like to address is how you did it. Because that was unacceptable. I'd like to describe my concern, ok?"

With her consent, you must now describe her behavior but not your judgments. When we’re upset with others, we often make veiled attempts to punish them by describing their behavior in inflammatory ways. For example, it will not work to say, “You were hostile and insulting when you got your assignment.” Carefully plan out how you’ll describe her behavior, and carefully replace all the “hot words” with descriptive rather than judgmental language. For example, you might say, “After you received your assignment you said in a loud voice, ‘No way.’ You then put an order form were holding down on the shelf abruptly enough that it made a noticeable noise. And finally, you referred to me as unfair and "too big for my britches" who you said would not tell you what to do.”

It’s vital in reducing defensiveness (and increasing cooperation) that these words be spoken in a matter-of-fact tone of voice. They will carry far more weight in the conversation if you don't hurl them. Let the words do their own work. If they are true, your employee will hear them better without your added force.

Next, you need to tell her why this doesn't work for you. For example, “I've got two problems with what happened. First, it was done publicly. This affects morale in our team and encourages insubordination. That doesn't work for me. Second, it was accusatory. It seemed like you were turning this into a personal attack on me. You didn't need to. I will listen to your concerns when you have them. But this kind of behavior makes it harder for me to respond in a supportive way.”

Now you need to ask for her point of view. See if she remembers it differently or disagrees with your judgment of what happened. Once you've worked through your points of view, you must end by asking for her commitment to behave differently in the future.

Finally, if you think there is a chance this behavior will be an ongoing problem, you should ask for a chance to follow up and check in with her on two fronts: a) does she feel she’s getting support from you? and b) are you satisfied that she is supporting you? Agree on a specific date and then follow up.

Good luck with this situation. This should be enough to get you started. We commend your willingness to actually work on the problem rather than letting it slide.

All the success!

PM in the AM

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Building Accountability In Your Team

Building accountability is a key element to making a business sustainable over a long period of time. Not surprisingly, all high-performing organizations are moving toward more empowerment, enlightenment -- and creating organizational accountability.

So what is accountability? To some, it’s something you make people do, as in “making people accountable.” But as long as you think accountability can be purchased, mandated, or motivated, you’re trapped in trying to create high accountability -- in a low-accountability workforce.

So let’s consider what accountability is, and how we can create an organizational culture that encourages it.

By definition, accountability is being answerable or responsible for something. Accountability opens the door to ownership – not necessarily financial ownership, but certainly psychological ownership, where someone acknowledges they’re responsible for some aspect of the organization.

Accountability is not something you “make” people do – it has to be chosen or accepted by people within your organization. People must “buy into” being accountable and responsible. For many, this is a new, unfamiliar way to work. Most importantly: individual purpose and meaning come from assuming responsibility and accepting accountability.

With accountability comes a measure of discipline. Accountability is the opposite of permissiveness. Holding people accountable is really about the distribution of power and choice. When people have more choice, they are more responsible. When they become more responsible, they can have more freedom. That’s what accountability is all about.

So, how do you build accountability?

First, you stop doing things that undermine accountability—stop overseeing, legislating and micromanaging. Realize the power of reflective questioning, conversations, and collaborations. Companies that can clearly identify, articulate, and execute their strategic goals are well positioned to be able to create organizational accountability. To effectively achieve these goals, companies must measure and manage actual business performance against these goals in a highly coordinated manner.

A six-step framework to build accountability is to:
  1. Decide What’s Important (develop an authentic mission, vision, values, strategic position)
  2. Set Goals That Lead (planning that includes measures, targets, projects)
  3. Align Systems (streamline processes and resources so everything supports the goals)
  4. Execute the Plan (each employee’s plans and activities support the goals)
  5. Solve Problems Innovatively (get to root causes quicker, make more informed decisions)
  6. Develop Leadership (step back, assess results, develop leadership from within)
Building accountability requires not only a framework or a systematic methodology based on proven best practices. It also requires technologies that make the framework practical to use and implement on a daily, weekly, monthly quarterly and annual basis. In addition, it often takes an outside coach or strategic advisor to help you along the way to make it “stick” – to make it last. Finally, it takes an organization that is ready and able to accept accountability, the ownership and the freedom that comes with the new responsibility mindset.

Accountability and organizational change come through a new set of conversations. You can start having these conversations in your organization. Don’t wait - start today!

All the Success!

PM in the PM