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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Constructive Criticism: 5 ways to get your point heard, every single time

One of the hardest parts of being an effective leader is communicating criticism to your employees. If you're too harsh, they'll react emotionally and won't hear you. If you're too vague, they won't hear the message.

The first thing you want to do before critiquing someone or their work is to ask yourself if it's really necessary. Determine if what you feel you need to say or do really warrants a correction. Are your employees just doing things differently and achieving the same, or even better, results?

If the criticism is justified, use these 5 tips for getting your point across:

1.   Let them own the mistake
If you're a generally nice guy or gal, it might be your inclination to coat criticism in compliments. But if you're dealing with a defensive person, this might not be an effective strategy. Don't rescue them. Let them work through that emotion until they own their mistake.

2.   Know how they handle criticism
Again, different personalities need different approaches. If you have a super-sensitive soul on your staff, proceed accordingly when offering criticism. Know who they are on the team and tread lightly when giving direct feedback as they will take it to heart, which may make them feel guilt and demotivate them. Fewer words are better with this individual.

3.  Ask questions before you give your feedback
Impressions and assumptions are insufficient sources of info for managers. Instead, get to the truth of the matter before you give feedback. For example, if you want to give someone feedback on not handling a customer request well, you could ask some questions about what they were hoping to accomplish in the interaction. What did they think the customer was really asking for? How did they did decide on their approach? You're assuming their best intentions -- something most people respond better to than an outright attack.

4.   Use discretion
Nobody likes to get criticized, but doing it in public is humiliating. Anyone on the receiving end of a public critique will focus on the embarrassment rather than the message. Instead, have these interactions in private. This will allow you to have a much more open and honest discussion with your employee.

5.  Avoid using the word "but"
It's a word often used to link a positive statement with a critical one, thereby rendering both less effective. Here’s an example: "Mary, you're very good at your job, but you've got to stop coming in late.” Instead, say something like: "Mary, you're very good at your job. We've noticed that you've been late three times this week, is everything okay with you?" This statement is both more direct and more sincere, and likely to spur an honest and productive response.

All the success!

PM in the AM

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Life and Leadership Secrets from Legendary NCAA Coach John Wooden

UCLA's John Wooden, the "Wizard of Westwood," is the most acclaimed basketball coach in the history of the NCAA. His teams won 10 National Championships including seven in a row from 1967 to 1973. At one point, his teams had a record winning streak of 88 consecutive games. They had four perfect 30-0 seasons. He also coached such superstars as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton.

Wooden called his system The Pyramid of Success.

Here are the six major elements of the Pyramid, along with strategies for tapping into them...

1. Industriousness

Wooden neither fostered nor condoned workaholism. He believed it led to burnout. Industriousness is more a function of focus than of time.

Wooden's basketball teams had the shortest practice sessions in the NCAA, lasting only 90 minutes. Two-and-a-half to three hours is typical for other teams. Thanks to Wooden's inspiration, the players made each second matter.
To improve industriousness...

Keep meticulous records of your work. Wooden kept careful notes about every practice session. This strict attention to detail allowed him to maximize his efforts by comparing what his team was doing at the identical point in past seasons. He used that insight to plan upcoming practices.
Make meetings productive. Everyone participated during Wooden's staff meetings. These always started on time and rarely lasted more than one hour. Wooden divided each meeting into three equal parts...
Brainstorming. A fast-paced, free-flowing examination of problems, opportunities and solutions. He solicited input from everyone.
Prioritization. The team broke into groups to clarify vague ideas and determine what should be put into action. Groups changed at each meeting.
Planning. Everyone left with clarity about their next steps.

Each meeting ended with recognition and appreciation for the team's efforts.

2. Enthusiasm

Wooden said that an average team is willing to give its best... a great team is eager to do so. To promote enthusiasm...

Find meaning in fundamentals. Connect mundane tasks to the larger success picture.
Example: Each season, Wooden lectured his players on how to put on their socks. The new players couldn't believe their legendary coach spent time on such trivia. But sore feet compromised performance. Over time, the players came to appreciate such detail.
Learn constantly -- no matter how well you are doing.
Example: Every off-season, Wooden selected a basketball topic to study for the next six months. Refining his knowledge reenergized Wooden for the new season.

3. Determination

Determination in the face of adversity is the ability to pursue goals actively even when prospects for success seem dim.

When you think of Wooden's unparalleled record, it's easy to forget that he coached at the college level for 18 years before he won his first championship.

He told his players that their greatest challenge wasn't their opponents or the limitations of their talent -- but their own self-doubt.

To master determination...

Ask questions that fill you with positive expectation, rather than those that engender doubt or fear.
Example: In the 1967–1968 season, the NCAA banned dunk shots. It was widely believed that the change was instituted to lessen UCLA's star center Abdul-Jabbar's dominance on the court. Wooden insisted that Abdul-Jabbar see the ruling as an opportunity to build his other skills. That season, Abdul-Jabbar perfected his famous hook shot, which made him more valuable when he went pro.

If you find yourself asking doubting questions, such as Will this work?, put a positive twist on your self-talk -- How will I make this work?

4. Alertness

Alertness boosts creativity. To keep your brain sharp...

Be fully present when listening to someone. When your mind drifts, you miss information and the speaker senses your distance. Don't tune out the speaker's final sentence to formulate your response. Listen until the very end.
Take a breath before responding. Your conversation partner will be more receptive to what you say.
Focus on what's useful. Each of us has a Reticular Activating System (RAS) -- a cluster of cells at the base of the brain that helps filter out unnecessary stimuli and enables us to focus on information of interest.
Example: As soon as you have selected a new car to buy, you suddenly notice that type of car everywhere you go.

To engage your RAS to help with a problem, imagine your desired outcome.

Warning: The RAS works both ways. If you become fixated on what you don't want, your RAS focuses on information that confirms your fears. That's why you must not dwell on problems.

5. Confidence

Confidence is the knowledge that everything works out for the best when you are free to be yourself and others are free to be themselves.

Wooden noticed that his players were often full of doubt. He strove to build on moments of confidence they could carry with them, regardless of the situation.

To build confidence...

Use anchoring. Anchors are triggers for conditioned emotional responses. Use them to inspire yourself at challenging times. How it works...
Write a brief description of five to 10 personal victories. List a few emotionally charged words to express your feelings about each victory.
Create a physical anchor for your personal victories. For example, some of Wooden's players would think of their game-winning baskets and clench their right fists. Strengthen the anchor with additional elements, such as imagining the roar of the crowd or exclaiming in an inner voice, Yes!
Reread your personal victory descriptions. Visualize each event as if it were actually happening. When you feel your emotions surge, invoke your physical anchor. Whenever you need a confidence boost, repeat a favorite trigger three times.

6. Competiveness Greatness

Wooden believed that his players could accomplish only so much through talent and effort. To soar beyond that, they had to change their narrow definition of success. Wooden encouraged players to see success as peace of mind, available every day and in need of replenishing. To achieve competitive greatness...

View your competition not as a threat, but as a catalyst for your talent, energy and determination. The greater the efforts of your opponents, the more you derive from the challenge.
Devote yourself to a purpose that reaches beyond you. Sure, Wooden's players wanted to win. But they had loftier goals as well -- they wanted to secure UCLA's place in history and improve themselves as human beings.

All the success!

PM in the AM

Take Your Leadership to the Next Level: Craft Your Own Personal Leadership Model

Dunham and Pierce's Leadership Process Model Offers a Long Term and Lasting Approach to Leadership Development

This model highlights the dynamic nature of leadership.

Leadership is about setting direction and helping people do the right things. However, it can involve so much more than this!

In particular, leadership is a long-term process in which - in a very real and practical way - all actions have consequences, and "what goes around comes around."

Dunham and Pierce's Leadership Process Model helps you think about this, and understand why it's important to adopt a positive and long-term approach to leadership.
We'll look at the model in this article, and we'll explore why it's so important to understand it. We'll also look at how you can apply the model's lessons to your own situation.

What is the Leadership Process Model?

The Leadership Process Model was developed by Randall B. Dunham and Jon Pierce, and was published in their 1989 book "Managing." You can see our interpretation of the model in figure 1, below. (We've redrawn this for clarity.)

Figure 1 – The Leadership Process

The model shows the relationship between four key factors that contribute to leadership success or failure. These are:

1.  The Leader: This is the person who takes charge, and directs the group's performance.
2.   Followers: These are the people who follow the leader's directions on tasks and projects.
3.  The Context: This is the situation in which the work is performed. For instance, it may be a regular workday, an emergency project, or a challenging, long-term assignment. Context can also cover the physical environment, resources available, and events in the wider organization.
4.  Outcomes: These are the results of the process. Outcomes could be reaching a particular goal, developing a high-quality product, or resolving a customer service issue. They can also include things like improved trust and respect between the leader and followers, or higher team morale.

Most importantly, the model highlights that leadership is a dynamic and ongoing process. Therefore, it's important to be flexible depending on the context and outcomes, and to invest continually in your relationship with your followers.

Essentially, everything affects everything else. In a very real way, negative actions feed back to negatively affect future performance, and positive actions feed back to improve future performance.

Dunham and Pierce used a different format for the diagram illustrating this model. You can see their version in Chapter 9 of the book "Leaders and the Leadership Process."

How to Apply the Model
Pierce and John W. Newstrom highlighted several ways that you can apply the insights from this framework to your own development as a leader, and to the development of your people:

1. Provide Regular Feedback
Probably the most important thing that the Leadership Process Model highlights is how important it is to give good feedback, so that your team can grow and develop.

When you give feedback to your team, it influences the context and helps to improve the outcome. This then cycles back to influence you and your team in a positive way.

Regular feedback also helps you take your people in the right direction, as outcomes and the context change.

2. Be Aware of Actions and Reactions
The model makes it clear that, no matter what you do, your decisions, behavior, and actions directly affect your followers. Every action has a reaction. You, your followers, the context, and the outcome are all tied together in a dynamic relationship.

As a leader, it's essential that you keep this in mind at all times. There will be consequences when you say something thoughtless, or lash out at a team member, even if you don't see them immediately. Those consequences might include diminished performance, reduced morale, increased absenteeism, and accelerated staff turnover.

This is why it's important to develop self-mastery, both of your thoughts and of your actions. Also, learn how to control your emotions at work, and be a good rile model.

3. Lead Honestly and Ethically
The model also illustrates the relationships between leader and followers. If this relationship is built on mutual trust and respect, then the context and outcomes will get better and better. However, if the relationship is based on animosity, resentment, or even fear, the effect on context and outcomes will be negative.

Your people need and deserve a leader who they can trust and look up to, which is why it's important to be an ethical leader.  Of course, your people may have to follow your instructions. However, if you're a leader who they trust to do the right thing, they'll want to follow you, and they'll go above and beyond for you because the relationship is deeper. This makes the difference between an average team and a great team.

Also, be authentic in your actions and communication, lead with integrity, and be humble. These qualities will inspire the trust of your people and strengthen the relationship you have with them.

It's also important to build trust actively with your team members. Do your best to support their needs, and always keep your word with them.

4. Lead with the Right Style
In business, transformational leadership is often the best leadership style to use. Transformational leaders have integrity, they set clear goals, they communicate well with their team members, and they inspire people with a shared vision of the future.

However, you'll occasionally need to adopt different leadership approaches to fit a particular follower, outcome, or context. This is why it helps to be able to use other leadership styles when appropriate.

5. Consciously Assign Tasks
Do your people get to use their skills and strengths on a regular basis? If you've been assigning tasks and projects in an ad-hoc way, then this answer might be "No".

We're all happiest when we can use our strongest skills. Try to assign tasks that fit the unique skills of everyone on your team.

6. Focus on Relationship Development
As a leader, you often depend on your people more than they depend on you. Your working relationships should therefore be built on trust, respect, and transparency. The deeper your relationship with your team, the better a leader you'll be.

Start by developing your emotional intelligence; this encompasses many of the traits that we've already mentioned. When you have high emotional intelligence, you are self-aware, you manage your emotions, and you act according to your ethics and values.

You also need to show empathy with members of your team. When your people see you as an empathic leader, they feel that you're on their side, and that you can see things from their perspective. This deepens the relationship they have with you.

Lastly, reward your people for the good work that they do: even a simple "thank you" will show your appreciation.

Key Points
The Leadership Process Model highlights the dynamic and long-term nature of leadership. It shows how your actions and behaviors influence your people, just as their actions and behaviors influence you.

As well as having an awareness of the model, you can also apply lessons from it by doing the following:

1.               Providing regular feedback.
2.               Being aware of actions and reactions.
3.               Leading honestly and ethically.
4.               Leading with the right style.
5.               Assigning tasks consciously and intelligently.
6.               Focusing on relationship development.

Overall, the Leadership Process Model helps you see the interdependent nature of leadership and its effects on situations and outcomes. Use this framework to be aware of your actions and to deepen the relationships you have with your people.

All the success!

Peter Mclees

Motivation: The key to successful delegation

Delegating some key responsibilities to employees is an effective way let them know you trust their judgment and value their expertise. It also promotes a sense of partnership, which can boost employee engagement and retention.

Just follow these steps when you delegate:

·        Courtesy still counts. Saying, “I need your help,” will make workers feel included. Barking, “Do this!” will make them feel powerless. Whatever the assignment, treat employees with due respect—by saying “please” and “thank you,” for instance.

·        Don’t overload employees. As a supervisor, you should have a pretty good idea how much work your employees are already doing. Don’t make a special request of an employee you know is already overwhelmed with other responsibilities. Doing so would be more likely to earn you resentment than loyalty.

·        Collaborate on the right approach. Rather than simply assigning a task, tell employees you’d value their insight. Give them an overview of the problem, and ask them to suggest possible solutions. After they’ve invested some thought into the issue, they’ll be more willing to accept responsibility for the task.

·        Offer a choice. No matter how you position your request, employees may feel obligated to accept the assignment whether they want to or not. Try to insert an element of free will: Ask employees about their current projects, and tell them to be honest about their ability to take on something else. Make clear that you won’t penalize them for walking away from a job they can’t really handle.

·        Allow some breathing room. Don’t micro-manage. Once an employee has taken over a project or task, don’t hover or otherwise undermine the feelings of trust and empowerment you’re trying to instill. But do demonstrate an ongoing interest in the project. Remember to follow up periodically. Your attention will remind employees they’ve been trusted with an important assignment and you value their help.

All the success,

PM in the AM

Monday, March 12, 2012

4 Good Reasons Why Culture Is More Important Than Strategy

“Strategy will only succeed if it is supported by the appropriate cultural attributes.”

Late last year, Booz & Co. released research in Strategy +Business showing “Why Culture Is Key.”

The research is quite good, but these four key points in particular stood out (all quotes from the research):
1. Culture is more important than strategy
Culture matters, enormously. Studies have shown again and again that there may be no more critical source of business success or failure than a company’s culture – it trumps strategy. That isn’t to say strategy doesn’t matter, but rather that the particular strategy a company employs will succeed only if it is supported by the appropriate cultural attributes.”

Think about this in terms of Zappos, for example. Zappos strategy is to be the best in customer service. To achieve that strategy, Zappos created a culture of happiness (their term). That culture is reliant on training employees well, trusting them to do their jobs well, and respecting the decisions they make.
2. Companies who align culture & strategy are more successful
The data shows that companies with unsupportive cultures and poor strategic alignment significantly under perform their competitors…. In fact, companies with both highly aligned cultures and highly aligned innovation strategies have 30% higher enterprise value growth and 17% higher profit growth than companies with low degrees of alignment.”

Alignment is clearly critical, but an ever-greater struggle as priorities and strategies change more rapidly than ever before. Strategic employee recognition plays a foundational role in helping employees understand changing strategy so they can stay aligned with business needs in their every-day tasks. You can ensure employees stay aligned by adjusting the reasons for recognition in your strategic program and encouraging all employees to frequently and in-the-moment praise their colleagues for delivering on those expectations.

3. Encouraging individual cultural attributes is the key
We believe the way to [achieve much higher degrees of cultural and strategic alignment] lies in gaining a greater understanding of the cultural attributes that any given company needs to foster, given its particular innovation strategy.”

Defining those cultural attributes is unique to every organization. Think of these attributes as your core values. What are the behaviors and actions you need and expect from every employee in order to achieve your strategic objectives? Those behaviors are your cultural attributes.
4. Maintaining a successful culture takes careful attention, hard work
Yet even the most successful companies concede the difficulty of maintaining the cultures that led to their success. Palensky of 3M, certainly one of the most consistently innovative companies ever to exist, describes the challenge: ‘That’s the thing about cultures – they’re built up a brick at a time, a point at a time, over decades. You need consistency; you need persistence; you need gentle, behind-the-scenes encouragement in addition to top-down support. And you can lose it very quickly.’”

Corporate culture is a bit like a bonsai tree. It can be steadfast and strong, but it requires deliberate nurturing to grow in a particular way. One bad chop can also kill the culture you’ve worked for years to create.

How critical to success is company culture perceived in your organization?

All the success!

Peter Mclees

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Cialdini's Six Principles of Influence: Convincing Others to Say "Yes"

How do you influence others?

You've come up with a fantastic idea for a new product. Now you need to convince everyone to support it. However, you haven't had much success with this in the past. So, how can you get everyone to support your idea?

Influencing others is challenging, which is why it's worth understanding the psychological principles behind the influencing process.

This is where it's useful to know about Cialdini's Six Principles of Influence.
In this article, we'll examine these principles, and we'll look at how you can apply them to influence others. We'll also think about the ethics of doing this, and we'll explore how you can "see through" people who try to use these principles to manipulate you.

About the Six Principles
The Six Principles of Influence (also known as the Six Weapons of Influence) were created by Robert Cialdini, Regents' Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University. He published them in his respected 1984 book "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion."

Cialdini identified the six principles through experimental studies, and by immersing himself in the world of what he called "compliance professionals" – salespeople, fund raisers, recruiters, advertisers, marketers, and so on. (These are people skilled in the art of convincing and influencing others.)

The six principles are as follows:

1. Reciprocity
As humans, we generally aim to return favors, pay back debts, and treat others as they treat us. According to the idea of reciprocity, this can lead us to feel obliged to offer concessions or discounts to others if they have offered them to us. This is because we're uncomfortable with feeling indebted to them.

For example, if a colleague helps you when you're busy with a project, you might feel obliged to support her ideas for improving team processes. You might decide to buy more from a supplier if they have offered you an aggressive discount. Or, you might give money to a charity fundraiser who has given you a flower in the street.

2. Commitment (and Consistency)
Cialdini says that we have a deep desire to be consistent. For this reason, once we've committed to something, we're then more inclined to go through with it. For instance, you'd probably be more likely to support a colleague's project proposal if you had shown interest when he first talked to you about his ideas.

3. Social Proof
This principle relies on people's sense of "safety in numbers."  For example, we're more likely to work late if others in our team are doing the same, put a tip in a jar if it already contains money, or eat in a restaurant if it's busy. Here, we're assuming that if lots of other people are doing something, then it must be OK.

We're particularly susceptible to this principle when we're feeling uncertain, and we're even more likely to be influenced if the people we see seem to be similar to us. That's why commercials often use moms, not celebrities, to advertise household products.

4. Liking
Cialdini says that we're more likely to be influenced by people we like. Likability comes in many forms – people might be similar or familiar to us, they might give us compliments, or we may just simply trust them. Companies that use sales agents from within the community employ this principle with huge success. People are more likely to buy from people like themselves, from friends, and from people they know and respect.


5. Authority
We feel a sense of duty or obligation to people in positions of authority. This is why advertisers of pharmaceutical products employ doctors to front their campaigns, and why most of us will do most things that our manager requests. Job titles, uniforms, and even accessories like cars or gadgets can lend an air of authority, and can persuade us to accept what these people say.

6. Scarcity
This principle says that things are more attractive when their availability is limited, or when we stand to lose the opportunity to acquire them on favorable terms. For instance, we might buy something immediately if we're told that it's the last one, or that a special offer will soon expire.

Be careful how you use the six principles – it is very easy to use them to mislead or deceive people – for instance, to sell products at unfair prices, or to exert undue influence.
When you're using approaches like this, make sure that you use them honestly – by being completely truthful, and by persuading people to do things that are good for them. If you persuade people to do things that are wrong for them, then this is manipulative, and it's unethical. And it's clearly wrong to cheat or lie about these things – in fact, this may be fraudulent.

A good reputation takes a long time to build. But, you can lose it in a moment!

How to Apply the Tool

You can use these principles whenever you want to influence or persuade others.
First make sure that you understand the people in your audience and that you know why you want to influence them. Think about your ultimate objectives, and decide which principles will be most useful in your situation.

We'll now explore some strategies you can use with each principle.

To use reciprocity to influence others, you'll need to identify your objectives, and think about what you want from the other person. You then need to identify what you can give to them in return.
Remember that you can sometimes use this principle by simply reminding the other person of how you have helped them in the past.

Here, try to get people's commitment early on, either verbally or in writing. For example, if you're building support for a project, talk about ideas early on with stakeholders, and take their comments and views into account.

Or, if you're selling a product, sell a very small quantity (a "taster"), or make it easy for people to change their mind once they've bought it. (Here, buying the product is the early commitment, even though they have the right to return it if they want to.)

Social Proof
You can use this principle by creating a "buzz" around your idea or product. For example, if you're trying to get support for a new project, work on generating support from influential people in your organization. (These may not always be managers.) Or, if you're selling a service, highlight the number of people using it, use plenty of relevant testimonials, encourage people to talk about it using social media, and publish case studies with current customers to demonstrate its success.

To build good relationships, ensure that you put in the time and effort needed to build trust and rapport with clients and people you work with, and behave with consistency. Develop your emotional intelligence (EI) and active listening skills, and remember that there is no "one-size-fits-all" approach when it comes to relating to others.  Also, don't try too hard to be liked by others – people can always spot a phony!

Here you can use both your own authority, and the authority of others, as influencers.
When you use your own authority, be careful not to use it negatively.

To use authority, get support from influential and powerful people, and ask for their help in backing the idea. If you're marketing a product or service, highlight well-known and respected customers, use comments from industry experts, and talk about impressive research or statistics. Brochures, professional presentations, impressive offices, and smart clothing can also lend authority.

With this principle, people need to know that they're missing out if they don't act quickly.
If you're selling a product, limit the availability of stock, set a closing date for the offer, or create special editions of products.

This principle can be trickier to apply within your organization if you're trying to influence others to support your ideas or projects. You can, however, use urgency to get support for your ideas. For example, you can highlight the possible urgent consequences of the problem that your idea helps to solve.

Resisting Influence
You can also use this tool when others are trying to influence you.
In these situations, bear the following points in mind:

·    Before accepting a free gift or a discounted service, or before agreeing to hear confidential information, ask yourself whether you're going to feel obliged to give the same or more in return. Should you decline, so that you don't feel indebted?
·    Before agreeing to a course of action, even at a very preliminary level, think about the consequences of your decision. Will you feel so invested in this new course of action that you won't want to change your mind?
·    Though everyone else is pursuing a particular route or buying a product, it may not be right for you. Avoid falling victim to the "herd mentality." You might decide that it's best to go against the trend.
·    When you feel tempted to buy a product or sign up for a service, ask yourself whether you've fallen under the spell of a particularly likable salesperson. Is the salesperson similar to you, familiar to you, or extremely complimentary?
·    Carefully note your reaction to authority figures. Has the person you're negotiating with triggered your respect for authority? Are you making your choice because you want to, or are you swayed by an "expert" opinion? And does this person genuinely have the authority he is implying, or is he merely using the symbols of that authority?

Before you fall for a sales pitch claiming that a product is running out of stock or that a discount deal is soon to expire, think again. Do you really want or need the product now, or has its lack of availability caught your attention?

Key Points
The Six Principles of Influence were created by Robert Cialdini, and published in his 1984 book, "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion."

The principles are: reciprocity, commitment, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity.
You can use the six principles whenever you want to influence or persuade others. However, it's also useful to use them with other tools. And, by knowing about the principles, you can become resistant to people who try to use them to manipulate you.

You also need to make sure that you don't misuse these principles – avoid using them to deceive or mislead people, and make sure that you use them for people's good, rather than to disadvantage them.

All the success!

PM in the AM