Thursday, November 16, 2017

5 Ways to Say Thank You


With the holidays coming and November being the month of gratitude, I thought I would share the best ways to say thanks. It’s a common platitude and often shared verbally, but we know that people want to feel appreciated in a variety of ways, so why not mix it up and try something new? It could lead to greater employee loyalty and coworker effort.

We all like to hear “thank you” after we have put in some effort or helped someone else out, but somehow it doesn’t really leave us with a true sense of appreciation. In fact, many people have their auto signature on emails say “Thank you” or “Thanks” just above their name. If I notice that you are sending that to everyone, how special do you think I feel? People value different things and what one person takes as a gesture of gratitude is different than someone else, even if you extend the exact same gesture to both. One might be over the moon. The other? Meh. To engage all different types of employees, we have to be creative in our approach.

1. Reciprocate. Instead of just saying thanks, do a favor in return. It’s always nice to hear, “Thanks for the ride to work today. As a thank you, I filed that stack of folders for you.” This exchanges an act of service with an act of service, instead of lip service.

2. Put it in writing. Some people really respond to written comments of appreciation. This doesn’t need to be a long letter or even a Hallmark card; sometimes a properly placed Post-It note with an earned compliment is worth gold to someone else.

3. Include recognition. Many employees would appreciate a public acknowledgment of something they did, perhaps in an internal memo or at a staff meeting. Others would be thrilled to see a LinkedIn review about them or a Tweet acknowledging them.

4. Specify the difference they made. Instead of a generic “Thanks” or “Great job” include some tangible outcomes that resulted from their effort. “Doing that extra research saved the department so much time, and helped us make the tight deadline!”

5. Give a tangible gift. It can be as small as a mug or a gift card or as big as personalized stationary or a round of golf, what matters is it shows you know them well and what they value most. You want them to feel the gift is perfect for them.    
 
If you aren’t sure which one of these would have the greatest impact on someone else, experiment. Try a few of them and watch the reaction you get. Once they feel truly appreciated, you will know it. Then keep it up beyond Thanksgiving so people feel valued all year long.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Most Common Reasons Training Programs Fail


We have all been the victim of a bad training event - and for some impossible to understand reason, it is often tolerated. Participants have come to expect that they will have to sit for too long, hear content that is too generic, and listen to speakers who are content experts but not trainers. Organizations tolerate bad training too, spending oodles of money on meetings and events with low expectations and little formal mechanism to measure any change in behavior.  The difference between bad training and good training can come down to some simple (but very critical) factors. Here are some of the most common reasons training initiatives fail, and what you can do to avoid them. 

Poor needs assessment.
It is critically important for an organization to take the time to identify the real development needs of the workforce instead of turning to one-size-fits all learning events. Consider offering learning tracks based on participant job specialties, years of experience, or open enrollment so participants can choose the session they know would benefit them the most.

Content that is too theoretical.
It is impossible to design an effective learning event from the comfort of your office. Program design is best done from the perspective of real field research, being in the field or office that the participants live in is the only way to truly understand the challenges they face on a daily basis.  

Trainers that want to check the box.
When training is seen as a singular event instead of one facet in an overall organizational development strategy, the learning is often disjointed, random and rarely leads to a direct improvement in performance. Every training event should build on a previous one; should add depth and layers to a developing competency; and should continuously increase in complexity.

No post-training reinforcement.
Training only creates awareness.  For true improvement to occur, participants need additional reinforcement in a real-life setting.  Consider providing participants with follow up options such as enrichment clinics 6 to 9 months after the completion of a program, job shadowing where coaches work onsite to provide participants with coaching and feedback on their application of the principles taught in the course and support in overcoming obstacles that impede performance, weekly or monthly email tips sent on practical ways to apply the learning content in day-to-day interactions.

No measurement of the behavior before the learning event.
It is impossible to know how much a participant is learning, growing or changing without a baseline measurement. Add knowledge surveys, skill evaluations, and self-assessments to your training process so you can better pre- and post-test to measure the results of your learning event. 

Lack of professional trainers.
When budgets are tight, it is a common practice for organizations to use subject matter experts as trainers. Learning specialists must have advanced speaking and facilitation skills that requires specific training. A learning event can become a complete disaster with untrained trainers leading the program. In this case, the delivery of the learning is paramount to the content - hands down.  

No adult learning theory.
Too many programs are based on a classroom model of training - the trainer speaks and the participants listen: Death by PowerPoint. Instead, it is critically important for content designers to understand the principals of how adults learn (which is very different than children) and ways to integrate various training methodology into the learning experience. Most adults don't sit in a chair for 8 straight hours with little opportunity for movement or discussion but in most training sessions, that is exactly what is expected. 

Vacationer / Prisoner / Learner participants.
Every audience contains three types of participants: the Vacationer who is thrilled to get out of the office or the field for any reason and see a day of training as an escape from reality; the Prisoner who absolutely does not want to be there and sees training as an unwanted interruption from their priorities and resents the trainer for making them be there; and the third type is the Learner who is actively looking for ways to improve him or herself and will seek out takeaways to get value from any learning program.  Trainers must prepare for these three types of participants and build in engagement levers for each.  

These common mistakes are the main reasons why training initiatives fail in most organizations. They make proving any return-on-investment in a learning event impossible to document and give training events a bad reputation. Most employees dread the idea of being shut into a conference room or hotel ballroom for days and days with little attention being paid to their unique learning needs and preferences. A focused investment in time and effort by the learning and development team can make a very worthwhile impact on any event, not to mention the overall competence of your workforce. 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Months in a Minute

Walker Customer Experience Conference, San Antonio, TX; Nationwide Columbus, OH; Utah SHRM Crossroads Conference, Provo, Utah
We have to cover two months in this blog entry – I have been a little behind! September and October took us to clients and events in Manchester NH, Boston MA, Provo UT, San Antonio TX, Toronto CA, Pittsburgh PA, Salt Lake City UT, Gilbert AZ, and Columbus OH. Whenever I am at the conferences I speak at, I will usually attend another breakout or keynote session to keep myself abreast of current topics and trends in leadership. The themes of this Fall have included business acumen (knowing your business not just your job), identifying true customer engagement, successfully managing constant change, building resiliency, and self-leadership. Are these trends affecting you too?

Bermuda
A few years ago I did some work for one of our client’s in the hotel industry. We worked out a barter for a couple of nights at one of their resort properties in Bermuda. With my credits about to expire, David and I decided to go for a long weekend in October and I am so glad we did because it was gorgeous. The island is small and gasoline is $9 a gallon so the best way to get around is on a motor scooter. It’s relatively safe since the speed limit is no more than 35 MPH and there is only one lane going in each direction on almost all roads. However, if you are on a motorbike and traffic gets backed up, it is customary to pass cars to their right. Keep in mind that Bermuda is a British colony so they drive on the left side of the road. That means passing on the right puts you straddling the double yellow line and oncoming traffic. It was terrifying and thrilling at once. I have never ridden a motorcycle and not one for risking my ability to work so I almost chickened out of the whole thing. I am so glad I got out of my comfort zone because riding on the curving roads alongside the ocean in the warm breeze was heavenly. It also helps that David is a very good driver and was a good sport about the death grip I had on his waist!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Feedback After Failure


Obviously, no one wants to make a bad decision or make a mistake. Yet if we consider the things in life that have shaped us the most, there are likely more than a few failures and tough lessons on the list.  However, we rarely allow employees the benefit of this "fail forward" environment; the freedom to feel fully empowered to experiment and take risks.

Most leaders have difficulty letting go because of trust issues, image management motives, and/or a need to protect people from the deflating failure experience. However, to be a fully effective leader we are required to delegate and trust employees to take responsibility and accountability for their own decisions.  This is a significant distinguisher between management and leadership.  Are you directing or developing?

Rest assured that if you have an engaged employee who fails, no one will feel worse about it than they will, so your feedback through it will be vital. A borderline employee will need the post-mortem to collaboratively sift through the experience to find the valuable lessons they can leverage to improve their performance.  A poor performer will tire of the consistent communication, expectations, and accountability, and will likely pick up their anchor and move on. 

After all the recovery plans have been created and implemented, it is time to schedule the meeting to do a debrief. Here are some ideas:
  • Let them talk.  Think coaching, not instructing.  Ask questions that allow them to process what happened and self-discover any warning signs they may have missed.  A lesson learned personally has far greater power to change than accepting someone else's truth.
  • Don't play the blame game - and stop them from playing it too. If it really was their decision that led to failure they must own it, but you also need to ease up on your urge to lecture or say I told you so. If others truly were involved in the mistake or poor decision, allow this fact to be acknowledged on one condition. They must also acknowledge what they personally could have done to influence other's behavior to have achieved better results. How can they be more successful working with and through others going forward? 
  • What lessons have been learned - what can you both take away from the experience? 
  • Moving forward - how can you help them re-establish credibility or trust? Identify what resources may be missing to assist them. 
  • Remind them of past success - you don't want to make them fearful of risking again. Build their confidence. Remember that they will beat themselves up worse than you ever will. You can verbally communicate a safe environment, but if your actions at any point contradict this message, there will be no growth in performance or personal ownership. 
  • Check-in intermittently with your staff to ask how effective you are being in delivering a consistent message of safety in risk-taking.
The only way to delegate more is to trust more. The only way to build trust is to give people room to prove themselves, including the risk of failing.

Keep the conversation objective, make it safe for them to try new things and grow, and if things don't go as planned, ask what contingency plans he/she would have put in place knowing what they know now. How can you both use that information for the next time? Don't stop providing autonomy because of failure; be there to give them what they need, just when they need it. Someone somewhere gave you an important chance to learn and grow. Be that someone for your team.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Man Up


I don't know how it has happened exactly, but there seems to be an epidemic of employees who are lacking in personal accountability. I have observed it myself, and hear a lot of excuses when I ask someone why they didn't take control of their own actions. When talking with leaders, they say that finding employees who take responsibility for their behaviors or those of their team is getting harder and harder to find. So, where did accountability go and how do we increase it? First, as leaders, we must role model it, and second, we must hold people to their word. It takes some courage and persistence but remains a worthwhile focus area. Here are a few tips to assist you in your efforts.

Man Up

There is a dynamic going on in the workplace today: a shortage of people willing to step up and own their behaviors. The way it plays out is in employee's who blame others for their failures, get defensive, deflect responsibility or claim ignorance. There is a link between Self-Awareness and being accountable for our behavior. It requires self-reflection, and it requires seeing ourselves from another point of view. It requires manning up to apologize, even if not for the content of your message but for how you botched its delivery. Self-awareness helps you sense when your behavior is being disruptive and making efforts to remove yourself or use your self-control to minimize the negative impact on others.

To Increase Accountability:

  • Be a leader, role model for your team how to say, "I had no intention of misleading you, I don't think I was clear with my expectations and I am sorry it created confusion for you."
  • Stop telling people how to accomplish tasks: if they are simply carrying out your directives, it makes it impossible for them to take any ownership of its outcome or for you to hold them accountable to it.
  • Be self-deprecating.  Don't take yourself so seriously that you get defensive when given feedback. Be able to laugh at your own mistakes, especially in front of your team.
  • Any time you end up in a conflict or a difficult confrontation, really consider the part you played in it. Almost always, people's bad behavior is the reaction to something you have done (usually unintentionally). So reflect on what you did to get such a reaction from them, and own up to it with them and apologize.
  • Watch the blame game. No one wants to work with someone who is always pointing fingers at others as an explanation for their own failure. Do people let us down? Yes. Does workload sometimes feel unfair? Yes. Deal with it.



Should you apply some of these suggestions, you hold the power to change the behavior in your entire team by doing so.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

5 Ways to Be More Resilient at Work


Resilient employees adjust to unexpected change. They also remain positive after a setback. They can make the best of a situation without any special accommodation or drama. In short – they make a dream employee. This week’s blog provides 5 tips on how you can be one too.

Resilience is becoming a critical competency for employees at all levels to demonstrate. It can be seen as strength, stamina, grit, endurance, recovery, growth and hope. It is something that comes from deep within us, but it also can be enhanced and learned as you increase your EQ. Not only does being resilient help you if you are faced with a crisis, it also helps you better navigate day-to-day stress and build more risk tolerance and self-confidence.
  • Ask for stretch assignments.  How long has it been since you have taken on something new and challenging? Instead of adding more volume of the same work to your plate, ask for something that you’ve never done before. By volunteering for something small you can ease yourself in and grow the deliverables from there. You can also suggest things that you know you will be suited for or have an interest in.
  • React to new information as an optimist. Instead of allowing your first reaction to unexpected news to be negative, find ways to see the positive in change. What could you learn? How can this make your organization more competitive, thus giving you job security or new opportunities?
  • Get yourself engaged in your work. According to Gallup, over 60% of US employees are not engaged in the workplace which means they are coasting through the day without putting in extra effort or energy. Who is responsible for your engagement? YOU are. Reflect on why you might be lagging, identify what you need to do to re-engage and start a conversation with your manager. They will be happy to work with you; they want you to be engaged.
  • Build a support network.  Resilient people rely on others for help when they need it. Network both inside and outside your organization so you have colleagues who can provide advice, assistance or influence others on your behalf. Like everything, you get out of the network what you put into it, so be generous with them and they will be there when you need them.
  • Keep your perspective. Minimize the drama. Avoid gossip. Don’t worry about things that haven’t happened yet. All aspects of our work and home life have ups and downs. Hang in there with a smile and trust that nature seeks equilibrium. Don’t pass up opportunities because “the timing isn’t right.”
Resilient employees report 4 times higher job satisfaction. Building resilience doesn’t require psychotherapy (although that might not hurt!) but it does require mindful awareness and a willingness to leave the comfort zone behind. Small but consistent actions pay off in a big way! So, what are you waiting for?  

Thursday, September 28, 2017

I Call It Like I See It


I was working with a client a few weeks ago and heard him say, "I just call it like I see it..." in response to being called insensitive after giving some brutally honest feedback to a coworker.

Think about that statement: "I" call it like "I" see it. You can call it like you think it is but it still remains your perception, not someone else's reality. Honest feedback is important but the way it gets delivered makes all the difference in the world. It is easy to think that it is only about getting results from people. Why should you care about hurt feelings? You should care because your goal when giving feedback should be to get better results by changing someone else's behavior. You cannot do that until you change your own behavior first. 

This week we explore the EQ skill of Empathy. Empathy by definition is "identification with or vicarious experiencing of, the feelings or thoughts of another person" but in the context of Emotional Intelligence, it is deeper than that. It is about reading the emotional needs of someone else; fully connecting with them to understand how they think and prefer to communicate. 

Empathy is not sympathy, and it is not always agreeing with someone else's preferences. Empathy requires us to frame our message differently based on who we are with, and more importantly being able to recognize that the way the message is delivered can be more important than the message itself. We use Empathy when we select the most appropriate means of communication (email, phone, text, in person). Low Empathy sounds like: "I don't text so I am not doing that" and we expect others to adjust to us and what we are comfortable with. Low Empathy also sounds like: "the truth hurts" and "it's not personal, it's business." 

Exceptional leaders understand that people are the most motivated when they receive fair, clear, and respectful performance feedback. For those who just want employees to come in and check their feelings at the door, must remember that employees bring their head AND their heart to work - it's a package deal.  But here is a little secret - you can show Empathy even if you don't feel Empathy.

Here are some suggestions:

1. If your tendency is to walk into the office Monday morning and get right to task, assigning duties, asking for deliverables, and setting the priorities for the day - STOP. Many people in the office need to reconnect with you before they can move on to a task. Delay your needs by 120 seconds to ask how their weekend was and make some small talk. Likewise, if you are someone who enjoys 15 minutes of chit-chat with co-workers over your morning coffee, cut that down to 2 minutes and skip the gory details of your weekend with the person who just wants to get to work.

2. When you have to deliver bad news, consider in advance how it will sound to others. Some will want to hear it straight, with little superfluous data included. Others will need to be eased in, gently told, and will want to ask a lot of questions; feeling they have your support. Let go of your own preference for hearing tough messages and meet the needs of the other person first.

3. Body language speaks volumes: if you want to show Empathy you must give someone your undivided attention, use eye contact, show concern in your tone, resist the urge to speak and just listen to understand them. Don't judge or try and fix them. 

4. Ask yourself how often you are focused on your own needs and concerns without much thought to others? When communicating with others, be cognizant of how much time is spent talking about you and your opinions versus asking questions and listening to others.  

Part of being emotionally intelligent requires us to get out of our comfort zone - to meet others in theirs - and the pathway to get there is by demonstrating Empathy.

It can be difficult to see how this approach will get you what you need. However, even a small gesture goes a long way with others, and they will want to work with you when they see that it doesn't always have to be about you. As it has been said, the Golden Rule is to treat others the way you want to be treated. But the Platinum Rule is to treat others the way they want to be treated.      

Thursday, September 21, 2017

It's Hard to Breath in a Feedback Vacuum


Hearing feedback can be tough, especially information that we don't like or don't want to believe about ourselves. But those who are willing to face it gain a real opportunity to increase their overall effectiveness, influence and business results. I have had my fair share of days when I have thought that feedback is overrated and I am just fine, thank you very much. But I know that I don't help myself when I shut down data on how my behavior is impacting someone else and taking note of it makes it all the more valuable. And as you will see in this week's article, getting helpful feedback is key to avoiding career derailment, by a big amount.

A Feedback Vacuum 

The world today is filled with ambiguity: the economy, politics, terrorism, Wall Street. With so many factors out of your control, doesn't it make sense for you to ensure you are paying attention to what is in your control? Your own behaviors? What shifts can you make in your behavior to safeguard against possible ego pitfalls that could potentially hurt your career and reputation? What tactics can you employ to sharpen your emotional intelligence (EQ) and reap its proven benefits? It all starts with getting some feedback, especially if you are a leader.

To become a truly excellent formal or informal leader who creates exceptional results, a question that everyone needs to ask themselves from time to time is: "How am I doing as a leader and how do I know I have an accurate answer?" Followed by the all-important question: "How closely does my own opinion of how I'm doing match what my direct reports, my peers, and my boss would say about how I'm doing?" The reality is that your success in leading others requires alignment between your self-perception and your followers' perception. From a leadership standpoint, it's an important distinction. The continuum runs from "plugged in" to "clueless." Where you fall on this scale affects not only your leadership credibility but your effectiveness and ultimately your career.


 What leaders do is always more impactful than what leaders say. And regardless of intent, the message to followers when leaders exempt themselves from the feedback process is clearly, "Do as I say, not as I do" or worse, "I am okay, but you are not." My guess is that most leaders don't mean to make such statements intentionally. Yet when they forgo the feedback-gathering process for themselves, that's exactly what they are doing.

A study of 39,000 global leaders by PDI Ninth House confirms that there is, in fact, a significant correlation between an "inability or unwillingness to see one's own faults" and career stalling or derailment. Those who were identified as "out of touch" with how their direct managers rated them were 629% more likely to "derail"(i.e., performing below the level of expected achievement, being demoted, or even being fired) than those who were in touch with how their direct manager rated them. Stop for a moment and re-read that number...629%! That's a big, career-imploding difference. If that stat doesn't make you stop to consider the importance of syncing up your own assessment of your performance with those around you - to gather and listen to feedback - what will?
  
Much of the time, daily feedback will be delivered to you in vague terms, tied to business issues, or masked within frivolous praise so as not to hurt your feelings, or, more often, so as not to have to deal with your reaction. So you'll need to listen for the cues and really observe what people are trying to communicate to you. If someone looks uncomfortable or hesitant while telling you something, a little red flag should pop up, encouraging you to tune in and ask more. You can also look for common themes among statements by your team members and use these as valuable clues on where your people may need you to adjust.

Feedback provides you with valuable input for how to ramp up your EQ in several key areas:

  • Recognize your own impulses before acting on them (self-awareness)
  • Relate better to others, meeting their needs when appropriate (empathy)
  • Moderate your own behavior (self-control) to avoid unproductive interactions and responses
While the ego tells us that a lack of constructive feedback is a sign that we are doing "great," EQ reminds us to stay grounded in what's true by soliciting feedback from others and using that feedback to create a more complete picture of our performance. A healthy dose of regular feedback from others can help to keep the ego in check and allow the benefits of EQ to flow. Remember that ego and EQ are mutually exclusive: you must make a conscious and daily choice about which one will dominate your conduct each day.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Great Divide: Our Inter-Generational Workplace


I remember watching the Superbowl one year with my daughter Annie. At the time she was 7-years-old, and after a few minutes she said to me, "They are just playing for fun, right?" and I said, "No, they are playing for real. They want to win." And she said, "But it's just a game so it doesn't matter who wins, right?" She was a soccer player on our town's recreational team, her team didn't keep score and everyone received a trophy at the end of the season; thus she thought all games were played that way.

This is a common mindset that we see in the generation who will be replacing the Baby Boomers. They are called Gen Y, Millenials or Trophy Kids.  The “everyone wins” philosophy poses some challenges in terms of how to best integrate younger talent with colleagues of other generations who see things very differently. 
Managing an Inter-Generational Workforce

We live during a unique time in workplace history. Walk into any business, and you might find three - sometimes four - generations working side by side: Millenials (born 1980-2000, also called Gen Y), Generation X (1965-1979), Baby Boomers (1943-1964), and Veterans or Silent Generation(pre-1942).

Research indicates that the generation in which an individual grew up influences his or her behaviors, motivators, expectations, and mindset about work. Consider the following vastly different factors.


And between generations, the outcome of those influences on an individual's work may be very different!

So how do you handle these differences in the workplace?

  • Focus on different benefits and aspects of the company in recruiting. When recruiting Boomers, focus on the company benefits and career paths. For Gen Xers focus on short term perks like gym memberships, flex time, monthly or quarterly bonuses, and cash incentives. Millenials care about the organization's commitment to being green, social networks available, community service opportunities, and the various places in the company in which they can work and learn.
  • Use a slightly different coaching approach for each generation. Offer formal training programs (including topics like flexibility, technology, and interpersonal skills) for Boomers. When coaching Gen Xers, discuss development ideas as peers, and then give them independence and empowerment to try new things. When coaching Millenials, allow them to work in teams, and give them specific and timely feedback on their performance.
  • Understand that different generations are motivated by different rewards. When possible, tailor your rewards to the individual who will receive it. For example, a Baby Boomer may prefer a small bonus or gift card, while a Millenial prefers an email thank you with a new, challenging assignment.
Remember that all employees, despite their generation, want to be treated fairly, managed with respect, and given an opportunity to grow.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Month in a Minute


School is back in session. The Fall routine starts again and we are heading into the last 100 days of the year. For those in Texas, Louisiana and now Florida, there has likely been a lot of business and personal life disruption. If you have been affected, keep that stress tolerance and optimism high and I wish you a speedy return to normalcy. For the rest of us, it’s time to decide what needs to be accomplished before we sing Auld Lang Syne to 2017. If I may make a suggestion, one of your year-end goals should be personal development. Pick a book to read. Attend a webinar. Listen to a podcast. Take an assessment. If your company offers free workshops or pays for you to attend offsite ones, do it. Never pass up an opportunity to invest in yourself.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Taking Stock: Leadership Credibility



This week's blog will help you take a good hard look in the performance mirror and take steps toward becoming the kind of leader people remember....in a good way. What are your leadership goals and challenges? Where should you focus your development? Where are your blind spots?

Finding the answers to these weighty questions must begin with self-examination but then be tested by seeking outside perspective - discovering who we are in the eyes of others. Let your employees hold up the mirror and you may be surprised by what you see. Blind spots are our stumbling blocks, our bad habits that hold us back from being the kind of leader we aspire to be. Resolve to take a risk and learn how to lead from the ones who matter most – those following you.

There are many ways to help your employees open up and share their insight, some more formal like employee surveys, and some informal like an end-of-year leadership performance review. Yes, you read right, it's time to give your employee's a turn to review your performance and provide written and verbal feedback on your key leadership competencies.

Consider the following behaviors that crush leadership credibility and employee motivation (trends uncovered through employee focus groups and surveys across industries and levels):

Lack of direct feedback - Telling others about the person or saying nothing at all.
Common employee complaint: “You can tell they are unhappy with me but won’t talk to me directly about it”

Solitary decision making - Making decisions that impact others without soliciting their feedback.
Common employee complaint: “This directly affected my job but they didn’t think it was important enough to ask me what I think”

Talking out of both sides of your mouth - Being hypocritical, contradictory or overly political.
Common employee complaint: “Mixed messages”

Forgetfulness - Forgetting conversations and instructions given. Poor listening skills. Common employee complaint: “I have to take notes just to be sure I can prove later we had this conversation”

Unpredictable/Reactive - Crisis mentality, often adopting the reactions of others. 
Common employee complaint: “We’re headed one direction today, we’ll be headed the opposite direction tomorrow”

Fairweather boss - A fan one minute, a critic the next.
Common employee complaint: “You have their support until it becomes unpopular”

Unrealistic or assumed expectations - Expecting others to possess the same work ethic or assuming unspoken expectations will be met.
Common employee complaint: “I failed at something I didn’t even know I was being evaluated on and never got the chance to discuss it”

Not understanding their employee’s jobs - Assuming credibility can be earned without understanding the inner workings of the team.
Common employee complaint: “If they had any idea what we do they would make better decisions instead of making our jobs harder”

Breaking promises/poor follow through - Unreliability in all its ugly incarnations. Common employee complaint: “They hold us accountable but when it comes to them there are always exceptions and excuses”

Leadership behaviors that build credibility and employee motivation:


         Getting your hands dirty; working WITH them

         Assuming the best and delaying judgment

         Reliability in word and deed

         Soliciting their input in brainstorming and problem solving

         Challenging them to think outside their job description

         Taking a genuine interest in employees as individuals

         Delegating learning opportunities, not just problems

         Laughing at yourself and fessing up when you blow it

         Encouraging creativity

         Giving others the freedom to “fail forward”

         Operating from a hope of success rather than a fear of failure

         Asking “how am I doing?”

You can make great strides toward becoming the kind of leader you most admire. The first step is moving out of your comfort zone and asking for feedback on how others see you modeling these behaviors. Learning about how others perceive you will reveal ways you can be more effective and is surprisingly liberating.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

10 Conflict Management Strategies


This week’s blog gives some tips on dealing with the natural tensions and differences of opinion that arise when you put hard truths on the table. The days of harmony for harmony's sake are over - keep it authentic and keep it real.  At some point in every relationship - because we're human - we will experience conflict.

Conflict, in and of itself, is neither positive nor negative. Simply put, conflict occurs when two or more differing opinions or values meet. How we deal with the conflict is what affects our relationships and leaves us with a positive or negative experience.

So how do you deal with conflict that arises? Here are 10 pointers to consider the next time you find yourself in conflict.

1. Step back and define the root issue. Some conflicts may be ignited by a work task, but the real issue usually lies deeper. Perhaps an employee feels undervalued or micro-managed. If you never address the root issue, the conflict will continue to surface.

2. When seeking a conflict resolution be sure to include in your discussion the underlying issues (each person's goals, interests, and fears).

3. Choose the setting for a conflict conversation in advance and prepare discussion points beforehand; someplace neutral, quiet and private. 

4. Beware of the overuse of an "Accommodate" (go along to get along) or "Compete" (my way or no way) conflict response. Both have several disadvantages and can do serious damage to either the relationship or your credibility. Sometimes they are appropriate but proceed with caution. 

5. If possible, break down the conflict into multiple parts. Some pieces may be easier to resolve than others, so get those out of the way before tackling the more controversial issues.

6. As Dr. Phil says, "Somebody needs to be the hero." Sometimes the issue can be resolved in more than one "right" approach. If you're in a deadlock over two possible approaches, be the hero by doing what it takes to move forward, even if that means a little blow to the ego.

7. Choose your battles. Not every battle is worth fighting, so best to use this strategy when the relationship is more important to you than the issue.

8. Admit when you're wrong. The goal is not to prove who is right or wrong, but to move the team forward. If you realize that you were wrong, admit it quickly so everyone can spend time on the solution rather than trying to decide who's to blame.

9. Focus on moving forward: make mutual commitments, request collaboration and schedule a time to follow up with each other and do a progress report.

10.
Remember you're on the same team. At the end of the day, everyone wants the company to be successful and profitable. Approach conflict from this viewpoint: you're working together to resolve a problem, not against each other to prove who wins.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Promises to Keep


Promise yourself to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person you meet.
To make all of your friends feel that there is something special in them.
To look at the sunny side of everything, and to make your optimism come true.
To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievement of the future.
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.
To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear...and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

Christian D. Larson

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Emotionally Intelligent Team



The Emotionally Intelligent Team

Have you had that nagging feeling that something is missing on your team keeping you from achieving breakthrough results or keeping you in a chronic conflict cycle? Many leaders have sensed this and found the solution in what experts are calling the #1 predictor of life success: Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is a set of skills demonstrating the ability one has to recognize his or her behaviors, moods and impulses and to effectively manage them according to the situation or person they are dealing with. EQ is the demonstration of Sensibility

Someone with high EQ can manage their own impulses, can communicate with others effectively, can manage change well, is a good problem solver, uses humor to build rapport, has empathy and remains optimistic even in the face of difficulty.

These people can emotionally and mentally plug into others and can read the situation at hand and behave accordingly to get the best results for everyone.
 
To find out if EQ is missing from your team, take this short quiz: 

· Is there often a breakdown in team communication?
· Do you observe symptoms of low-stress tolerance?
· Do one or more of your team members struggle with or resist change - large or small?
· Are you needed to mediate conflict on a regular basis?
· Has pessimism taken over the work environment?
· Do team members say or do the wrong things at the wrong time? 

If you answered yes to more than two of these questions, it is worth your time to explore Emotional Intelligence. There are several case studies of how increasing EQ in a work group results in higher productivity and lower turnover (among other things). To begin, take a baseline of your team's EQ through observation, interaction, and assessment.

EQ is applicable to all types of teams: executive teams, project management teams, sales teams, cross-functional teams, manufacturing teams. In fact, a study of sixty work teams found the single most important dimension of success was how members interacted with each other and with those outside the team. Another found that emotional competencies distinguished "star teams" from the others studied, based on objective performance data.

Among those competencies were: flexibility in how they addressed tasks; unified effort; learning to improve by listening to performance feedback; open communication; setting expectations and confronting low performing team members.
Of course, with all development, it has to start with Self-Awareness. The team must be aware of its strengths and deficits. Here are some tips for developing a Self-Aware team:

1. Assign an observer for the next team meeting. That person should not participate, only observe and document. They should record when team members interrupt each other, when team members are non-participative, if the meeting starts and ends on time, team member body language, if the team stayed on agenda, etc. Have them share the observations at the end of the meeting. 

2. Use a facilitator to put the team through a business simulation activity. Team patterns of behavior will naturally emerge and become observable in new ways to the team members. 

3. Identify team members who have an "it will never work" mentality and offer some coaching for their verbal and nonverbal responses to new information.

4. Conduct an Emotional Intelligence assessment for the team members with a group roll up report. This can identify individual areas for development, and common areas of weakness that would be best addressed during a team intervention.

5. Don't avoid conflict to keep the peace. Vigorous discussion is healthy for a team, especially when attitudes and feelings are addressed, not just tasks and action items. 

6. If you are the team leader, you set the tone. If you are not role modeling Emotional Intelligence it will be impossible to expect it from the members. There are several resources available to you, just ask us for some suggestions.    

Emotional Intelligence is comprised of skills that can be learned, so identifying the areas for opportunity can result in tremendous R-O-I.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Month in a Minute

How is it possibly August already?

Goodbye old friend(sniff)
July was a fairly quiet business month, but it was a challenging month for me personally. I was able to come to an agreement with the buyers of my home mid-July, which left me about 2 weeks to get everything done to close the sale by the 28th. I thought I had done a lot of packing. I thought I had cleaned out the closets, drawers, and kitchen to the minimum so the final steps would not take too much time. I was SO wrong. It took 4-6 people four solid 15-hour days.

 Moving is stressful for everyone, and this one was really tough for me. I think part of the reason why is that house is the place I lived the longest since I was a little girl. It was where I raised my kids. It saw some of my happiest times and my darkest times. I wrote two books in the home office. When I moved in 12 years earlier, I had pictured us having big family gatherings with our grandchildren there. I know it is stupid to get an emotional attachment to an inanimate object, but it did feel like I was losing an old friend. Like I was packing up my things and leaving her behind. 

Everything I own now fits in two PODS
I will tell you I was so ashamed of myself when I saw the dozens (and dozens) of trash bags we took to the dump. I keep a pretty clean house that is never cluttered, and yet I had so much garbage (old textbooks, 8-year-old school work from the kids elementary years, paint cans, 10-year-old Christmas cards, games with missing pieces, dried up bottles of nail polish, etc) lying in junk drawers, under the bathroom sinks, in the garage and the basement. Why hadn’t I gone through and cleaned some of that out years ago?
We also donated 7 or 8 bags of old clothes and about half of the furniture in the house. Why did I think I needed so much stuff? It really forced me to consider how much is enough and the importance of cleaning out and donating unnecessary items. Now that it is behind me, it feels good to have closed that chapter. I am excited about the new house I am building with David in Arizona. I am committed to decluttering and minimizing my possessions (okay, maybe not shoes).

So, if you had to move out in 2 weeks, could you do it? What is cluttering up your life that is no longer needed?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Most Common Reasons Training Programs Fail



Whether you are the executive leader responsible for a learning event or a front-line training specialist, this article is for you. Having spent my entire career in a training and development capacity I have seen and delivered exceptional learning experiences, but I have been part of some disastrous ones as well. With some forethought and an overall strategic approach to training, some principles can be followed to dramatically increase the overall effectiveness and value of any learning event you design.  

The Most Common Reasons
Training Programs Fail

We have all been the victim of a bad training event - and for some impossible to understand reason, it is often tolerated. Participants have come to expect that they will have to sit for too long, hear content that is too generic, and listen to speakers who are content experts but not trainers. Organizations tolerate bad training too, spending oodles of money on meetings and events with low expectations and little formal mechanism to measure any change in behavior.  The difference between bad training and good training can come down to some simple (but very critical) factors. Here are some of the most common reasons training initiatives fail, and what you can do to avoid them.

Poor needs assessment.

It is critically important for an organization to take the time to identify the real development needs of the workforce instead of turning to one-size-fits all learning events. Consider offering learning tracks based on participant job specialties, years of experience, or open enrollment so participants can choose the session they know would benefit them the most.  

Content that is too theoretical.
It is impossible to design an effective learning event from the comfort of your office. Program design is best done from the perspective of real field research, being in the field or office that the participants live in is the only way to truly understand the challenges they face on a daily basis. 


Trainers that want to check the box.
When training is seen as a singular event instead of one facet in an overall organizational development strategy, the learning is often disjointed, random and rarely leads to a direct improvement in performance. Every training event should build on a previous one; should add depth and layers to a developing competency; should continuously increase in complexity. 

No post-training reinforcement.
Training only creates awareness.  For true improvement to occur, participants need additional reinforcement in a real-life setting.  Consider providing participants with follow up options such as enrichment clinics 6 to 9 months after the completion of a program, job shadowing where coaches work onsite to provide participants with coaching and feedback on their application of the principles taught in the course and support in overcoming obstacles that impede performance, weekly or monthly email tips sent on practical ways to apply the learning content in day-to-day interactions.

No measurement of the behavior before the learning event.
It is impossible to know how much a participant is learning, growing or changing without a baseline measurement. Add knowledge surveys, skill evaluations, and self-assessments to your training process so you can better pre- and post-test to measure the results of your learning event.

Lack of professional trainers.
When budgets are tight, it is a common practice for organizations to use subject matter experts as trainers.  Learning specialists must have advanced speaking and facilitation skills that require specific training. A learning event can become a complete disaster with untrained trainers leading the program. In this case, the delivery of the learning is paramount to the content - hands down. 

No adult learning theory.
Too many programs are based on a classroom model of training - the trainer speaks and the participants listen. We've all fallen prey to Death by PowerPoint. Instead, it is critically important for content designers to understand the principals of how adults learn (which is very different than children) and ways to integrate various training methodology into the learning experience. Most adults don't sit in a chair for 8 straight hours with little opportunity for movement or discussion but in most training sessions, that is exactly what is expected.

Vacationer / Prisoner / Learner participants.
Every audience contains three types of participants: the Vacationer who is thrilled to get out of the office or the field for any reason and see a day of training as an escape from reality; the Prisoner who absolutely does not want to be there and sees training as an unwanted interruption from their priorities and resents the trainer for making them be there; and the third type is the Learner who is actively looking for ways to improve him or herself and will seek out takeaways to get value from any learning program.  Trainers must prepare for these three types of participants and build in engagement levels for each. 


These common mistakes are the main reasons why training initiatives fail in most organizations. They make proving any return-on-investment in a learning event impossible to document and give training events a bad reputation. Most employees dread the idea of being shut into a conference room or hotel ballroom for days and days with little attention being paid to their unique learning needs and preferences. A focused investment in time and effort by the learning and development team can make a very worthwhile impact on any event, not to mention the overall competence of your workforce.