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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Handling an Employee Who Disagrees 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!

Peter Mclees

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What makes a good manager?

No single answer may fit everyone, but certain traits are common among all respected leaders.

Whether you’re looking for management potential in your employees, or trying to improve your own performance, focus on these key characteristics:

·        Humility. Don’t adopt an arrogant, know-it-all attitude. Although you may be more experienced and knowledgeable than your employees, they’ll respect you more if you show a willingness to listen and learn instead of expecting unquestioning obedience.

·        Flexibility. One size rarely fits all in the workplace. You have to enforce rules and procedures consistently, but don’t treat every employee, and every situation, as indistinguishable from the rest. Look for solutions that meet individual needs as much as possible.

·        Honesty. Tell employees the truth about what’s going on in the organization. Yes, some information may be confidential, but share as much as you can about problems, opportunities, and performance so employees know you trust them and so they can make good decisions.

·        Planning. Try not to just react to what’s going on right now. Keep your eyes focused on the future, and share your strategy with your employees so they can feel confident about your leadership.

·        Patience. Do your best to stay calm under pressure. If employees worry that you’ll lose your temper or lash out at them, they won’t be comfortable alerting you to problems you need to know about. Learn how to deal with stress so you can keep a clear head no matter what happens.

All the success!

Peter Mclees

Friday, January 4, 2013

10 Surefire Ways to Create a Team of Winners

Want to be an excellent leader? A truly inspirational, effective agent of your team’s success? There is literally nothing harder – or more important – in the world of work. That’s why effective leaders are so rare in real life.

If that discourages you, them maybe you don’t have what it takes to lead after all. If it motivates you instead? Well, then, here are a few tips to take it from “in charge guy/gal” to “excellent leader !”

1. Repeat after me (to your team): “My job is to help you be successful by making your job easier.”

No, your job is not to give them the day off to shop while you finish up their work for them. But your job as leader – your only job, as leader – is to remove impediments and provide the tools for your people’s success. Take the obstacles out of their way and give them the resources so they can do the important work of your company: serving your customers!

2. Foster friendships among your staff.

After work socialization is important – it is! But nothing builds camaraderie and team spirit like shared success as the result of shared struggle. What’s your team’s greater goal? What significant challenges are you confronting that all of you can be proud of overcoming together?

3. Reward for the big things. And the medium things. And even the itty-bitty little things.

We like praise. We want recognition. One winner-takes-all vacation or mega-bonus for the year’s top performer is great and all, but how about a $5 Starbucks, or even a made-up certificate from your printer, because someone filed her report on time?

4. Push them.

People of quality want to be good at their jobs. Kindly help them to improve. …Kindly, but maybe not gently.

5. Release the “Just Enoughers” to other “opportunities.”
We all know the “Just Enoughers.” Employees that do just enough to avoid getting fired. No one likes to work with slackers – except other slackers. Redeploy them sooner than later. As the old saying goes, “If it’s inevitable, make it immediate.”

6. Hire slowly and caaaaarefully!

Show your current team members and your new recruits that not just anybody belongs on your team. If you want to build an elite group, hire top performers. You’ll have to kiss a lot of frogs as you vet the talent pond.

7. Give them something important to get up for in the morning.

Remember number 2, with the part about shared challenges? Pick a lofty goal. Then make pursuit of that the rallying cry of your team. Change lives, change how business is done; don’t just settle to change who wins this year’s sales contest.

8. Talk up your people to others.

Talk your team up to your peers, to their peers, to your boss and her boss and heck, to the security guard, too. Be proud of each of them, and share that pride with anyone who’ll listen. Word will filter back to them, and as it does, it will have have a major impact.

9. Expect the world of them.

Establish with your team how highly you respect and admire them. Expect big things from them. They will live up to your image of them, no matter what it takes.

10. Be worthy of their effort.

Want to really be the best, most effective leader ever? Work to improve yourself every day, in every way that is important to your team’s success. In order to lead a group of champions to new heights, you as leader must be worthyof the team’s time and energy. And that’s a lot more than we have room for in one blog post.

You will never be as good as you can be as a leader. But every hour of every day, if you’re sufficiently devoted to the success of your team, you can improve. Keep at it, and your people will start bragging about you – to their peers, your peers, your boss and her boss. And yes, even to the security guards.

When it percolates back to you how admired you are by those you serve as leader… you’ll be infinitely prouder than if they told you themselves!

All the success!

Peter McLees

13 Ways to Soar in 2013

Improving your professional results in 2013 might appear to be a heavy task that takes a lot of time. But, in truth, it all starts with a small step in the right direction. Below are thirteen of my favorite tips to help you do just that.

1.     People Have Done More, With Less
Remember this every time you feel like the cards are stacked against you or you don't have what it takes. You not only have the goods, but you most likely have more than what thousands of other successful people had before you. With much less than what we enjoy today, people have created lives of health, wealth, success, and happiness.

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

5.     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.

However, there is a solution. There is actually a proven method to tapping into your unique path to happiness and uncovering all of your goals, dreams, and true purpose in life.

6.   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. Go a step further. Don’t merely name the things that motivate you-- 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.

7.      Motivate Others
When you help others, they will in turn be helping you. If a friend or family member is in need of a little motivation, make it your personal goal to help them achieve success. Motivating your friend will help you to learn about motivation from an entirely different viewpoint.

8.     Write Out Your Excuses
Make a written list of the reasons you normally use for not doing something that you should-or want-to do. Consider each area of your life: your job, your family, your money, your health, etc.

If you're not working as diligently as you should be, what's your reason?

Next to each item on your list, brainstorm for solutions. For example, if you wrote down that you put off your goal because you have a full-time job, you could write that you still have five to six hours per night to work on your tasks after work. If you're smart enough to come up with these excuses, you're smart enough to tear them apart.

9.    Make it a Game
We are hardwired to meet a challenge. So when you have to complete some simple task or project, make it a game. This will reframe the situation from a dreaded job to a personal competition. Have to clean the house? See if you can do it in under two hours. Need to write that report? Finish a paragraph before the next commercial break.

10.  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.

11.  Discomfort, Anyone?
Do something that makes you uncomfortable at least once a week. Once a day if you're ambitious. Eleanor Roosevelt echoed this sentiment when she remarked, “Do at least one thing everyday that scares you.”


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.

Check out our blog on why discomfort is good for you:

12.  Who Did This?
You're unique, no question about it. Even so, I have a feeling 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 careers and adores the new direction.

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.

13.  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 1992 En Vogue song, “Free your mind and the rest will follow.

All the success!

Peter Mclees