BLC: When It Comes to Performance Management, Employees Want More, Not Less!

“What other ideas do you have to improve the quality of your performance management conversations?” Below is a blog post from Blanchard LeaderChat:

When It Comes to Performance Management, Employees Want More, Not Less!

More than 90 percent of major corporations have formal performance management systems in place. Yet recent research by Deloitte Consulting reported that only 8 percent of these organizations find their performance management process worth the time they put into it. Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity seems to fit here: “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Is the solution to abandon the process? Quite the contrary. A recent survey by The Ken Blanchard Companies found a 20 to 30 percent gap between what employees desired from their leaders during performance management conversations and what they were receiving. Simply put, employees want much more from their leaders than they’re getting!

So what do direct reports want more of?

  • More specificity: Be clear on expectations. People want to know what their key responsibility areas are, how they are going to be measured, and what a good job looks like.
  • More coaching: People are looking for regular ongoing coaching aimed at helping them to be successful in their job. This includes timely, constructive feedback, regular one-on-ones, and specific, meaningful praise.
  • More frequent evaluation: People want to know how they’re doing and what they can do to get better. Don’t wait until the end of the year—make evaluation at least a quarterly conversation. Do your homework and take the time to give meaningful feedback.
  • More time spent on career development: Show an interest in your direct reports’ career aspirations. Provide development opportunities. When they participate in a learning event, follow up to see what they learned and have them share their action plan. Chat regularly to check their progress and offer assistance.

No matter what your organization’s performance management process, remember that employees want more and better quality conversations. Take the time to meet with people on a regular basis to discuss performance and help them be successful.

What other ideas do you have to improve the quality of your performance management conversations?

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In Praise of Wasting Time

In Praise of Wasting Time by Alan Lightman is an excellent quick read. Below is an excerpt from the book:

In Praise of Wasting Time

To develop new habits of mind, different groups must use different methods. I have some recommendations, which should be viewed as starting points rather than comprehensive solutions to the problem:

• For K-12 students, a ten-minute period of silence sometime during the school day. Such a period could occur while students are in homeroom. Students could quietly write down thoughts in a notebook during this time. Different schools have different cultures, and each school will know how best to institute this period of silence.

• For college students, “introspective intensive” courses created by each academic department. Each student would berequired to take at least one such course each semester. Introspective courses, while based in the particular subject matter of the department—for example, history or chemistry, would have a reduced load of reading and assignments and encourage students to use the free time to reflect on what they are learning and relate it to their lives and life goals. Such reflections might beexpressed in essays or other creative activities.

• In the workplace, a “quiet room” or similar space where employees are permitted and encouraged to spend a half hour each day meditating, reflecting, or simply being silent. Smartphones and computers would not be allowed in the quiet room. This period of quiet would not be part of the regular lunch break. A number of companies have already instituted meditation as part of the workday.

• For families, an “unplugged” hour during the evening, perhaps during dinner, in which all phones, smartphones, computers, and other devices are turned off. Dinner should not be gulped down but should be a time for quiet conversation. • Individuals should think about how they spend their time each day and try to build in a half hour away from the wired world, such as taking a walk while unplugged, reading, or simply sitting quietly.

• For society as a whole, mandated“screen-free zones” in public spaces, where digital devices are forbidden, and labor laws in which workers are guaranteed a half hour each day of quiet time at the workplace.

CT: There’s a Reason Why No One’s Reading Your Emails

“With the volume of email we all receive, you can’ afford to keep writing bad emails that get ignored or deleted. When you follow all of these steps, you will maximize the chances of your emails getting opened, read, and acted upon!” Below is a blog by Carson Tate:

There’s a Reason Why No One’s Reading Your Emails

Are people not reading your emails? It’s frustrating when people don’t respond to emails. Your coworkers may never get that important information about a project you’re working on, and your boss may never answer the urgent question you have. Why? They probably get so many emails every day that they choose to ignore some of them to save time. Some of your emails may even get deleted without your recipient ever reading the message.

How to Get People to Read Your Emails

You need to figure out a way to make your recipients want to read your emails. Here are some simple tips to maximize the likelihood of your recipients reading your emails and actually taking the action you want them to.

Proof Your Emails Before Hitting Send

Proofing an emailing usually takes just an extra minute of your time, so there’s really no excuse for not doing it. If you choose to send an email with little to no punctuation, poor grammar, or simple typos, it shows a lack of professionalism. You are conveying a lack of time and attention to your recipient. When they see your email, your recipient may wonder how much you actually care about them reading your email. If you can’t take the time to go back through your email and make sure it’s clear and correct, why should they bother to read that same message?

Grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors are distracting. They detract from the message you’re sending and, in some cases, confuse the reader. If you want to be an effective communicator, you should always read back through your emails and make any necessary adjustments before you hit send.

Be Brief, Succinct, and to the Point

Email was invented to communicate information instantly. It’s a time-saver. But when you send someone an email that’s pages and pages long, you’re taking advantage of that person’s time. Most of us are reading our emails on mobile devices now. All of the scrolling through tiny text makes it especially difficult to read lengthy emails. So if a person opens up an email you’ve sent and sees that you’ve written them a novel, they probably aren’t going to take the time to read through it. Your email will either get deleted or forgotten before it’s ever read. When you write an email, get to the post quickly. Don’t ramble about unrelated topics or unnecessary information. Figure out the point of your email and don’t stray far from it in your message.

If you really think that you can’t be concise with the email you’re sending, you’re not using the correct platform for your message. Remember that there are other ways to communicate. Just because email has become our go-to doesn’t mean it’s your only option. So if you sit down to write an email and find that you have a lot to say, don’t write the email. Instead pick up the phone or go talk to your recipient in person. You’ll save both of you time!

Make Your Subject Lines Reflect the Current Topic

Your email’s subject line is your recipient’s first impression of you. And it may be their last impression if you don’t grab their attention enough to make them open your email. One sure way to get a person to NOT read your email is by keeping a subject line in an old email conversation even if it doesn’t reflect the current topic. This is off-putting and lazy. For the most effective subject line possible, always include two things:

  1. What action you want the recipient to take
  2. The date by which this action needs to happen.

This information will clearly and accurately tell your recipient what your email is about, and that will make them more likely to open your emails in the future.

Send a Link to Access Attachments on a Shared Drive

Sending several attachments in an email is overwhelming and inconvenient. It takes up precious space in your recipient’s inbox, and they have to spend time going through each attachment and downloading them. Don’t overload your recipient’s inbox. Instead, when you have three or more attachments, send a link so your recipient can access the attachments on a shared drive. When your recipient opens your message, they’ll see one link instead of attachment after attachment after attachment. It’s much more convenient and shows your recipient you care.

Include the Project Name and Next Action Steps

Have you ever opened an email that has an attachment but no body text? How does it make you feel? You probably think that the sender is rude to not even acknowledge you in the email. You may also be confused about why you’re receiving that email and what the sender actually wants from you.

Remember this is you’re ever tempted to send an email without body text. It might save you a little time, but it’s lazy and confusing. Give your recipient context. Always include the name of the project the attachment pertains to and what the next action step for your recipient is in the body of your email. It shows the recipient that you’re a professional who cares about effective communication.

With the volume of email we all receive, you can’ afford to keep writing bad emails that get ignored or deleted. When you follow all of these steps, you will maximize the chances of your emails getting opened, read, and acted upon! Don’t continue writing poorly crafted emails that might confuse or irritate the recipient. Take action and write better emails.

Critical Questions for Becoming a More Effective Leader and Reaching Your Potential

Recently, I came across some notes from a book I read in 2011 that I’d like to share — What to Ask the Person in the Mirror: Critical Questions for Becoming a More Effective Leader and Reaching Your Potential by Robert S. Kaplan:

Critical Questions for Becoming a More Effective Leader and Reaching Your Potential

Vision and Priorities

In the press of day-to-day activities, leaders often fail to adequately communicate their vision to the organization, and in particular, they don’t communicate it in a way that helps their subordinates determine where to focus their own efforts.

  • Have you developed a clear vision for your enterprise?
  • Have you identified three to five key priorities to achieve that vision?
  • Do you actively communicate this vision, and associated key priorities, to your organization?

Suggested Follow-up Steps

  • Write down, in three to four sentences, a clear vision for your enterprise or business unit.
  • List the three to five key priorities that are most critical to achieving this vision. These should be tasks that you must do extraordinarily well in order for you to succeed based on where you are positioned today
  • Ask yourself whether the vision (with priorities) is sufficiently clear and understandable. In addition, ask yourself whether you communicate the vision and priorities frequently enough that your key stakeholders (e.g., direct reports and employees) could repeat them back to you. Interview key employees to see whether they understand and can clearly rearticulate the vision and priorities.
  • Identify venues and occasions for the regular communication, reiteration, and discussion of the vision and priorities. Create opportunities for questions and
  • Assemble your executive team off-site to debate the vision and priorities. In particular, consider whether the vision and priorities still fit the competitive environment, changes in the world, and the needs of the business. Use the off-site to update your vision and priorities and to ensure buy-in on the part of your senior leadership team.

Managing Your Time

Leaders need to know how they’re spending their time. They also need to ensure that their time allocation (and that of their subordinates) matches their key priorities.

  • Do you know how you spend your time?
  • Does it match your key priorities?

Suggested Follow-up Steps

  • Track your time for two weeks and break down the results into major categories.
  • Compare how this breakdown matches or is mismatched versus your three to five key priorities. Make a list of the matches and mismatches. Regarding the mismatches, write down those time allocations that are 2s and 35 and could therefore be performed by others-or should not be performed at all.
  • Create an action plan for dealing with the mismatches.

For example, commit to delegating those tasks that could just as easily be performed by someone else. Decide, in advance, to say no to certain time requests that do not fit your key priorities.

  • After a few months, repeat the preceding three steps. Assess whether you are doing a better job of spending your time on critical priorities.
  • Encourage your subordinates to perform these same steps.

 

Giving and Getting Feedback

 

Leaders often fail to coach employees in a direct and timely fashion and, instead, wait until the year-end review. This approach may lead to unpleasant surprises and can undermine effective professional development. Just as important, leaders need to cultivate subordinates who can give them advice and feedback during the year.

  • Do you coach and actively develop your key people?
  • Is your feedback specific, timely, and actionable?
  • Do you solicit actionable feedback from your key subordinates?
  • Do you cultivate advisers who are able to confront you with criticisms that you may not want to hear?

Suggested Follow-up Steps

  • For each of your direct reports, write down three to five specific strengths. In addition, write down at least two or three specific skills or tasks that you believe they could improve on in order to improve their performance and advance their careers. Allocate time to directly observing their performance, and discreetly make inquiries to gather information and insights in order to prepare this analysis.
  • Schedule time with each subordinate, at least six months in advance of the year-end review, to discuss your observations and identify specific action steps that could help them improve and address their developmental needs and opportunities.
  • Write down a realistic list of your own strengths and weaknesses. Make a list of at least five subordinates from whom you could solicit feedback regarding your strengths and weaknesses. Meet with each subordinate individually and explain that you need their help. In your meetings, make sure to ask them to give you advice regarding at least one or two tasks or skills they believe you could improve on. Thank them for their help.
  • Write down an action plan for addressing your own weaknesses and developmental needs. If you have a direct superior (or trusted peer), consider soliciting advice regarding your developmental needs and potential action steps. Depending on your situation and level in the organization, consider the option of hiring an outside coach.
  • Encourage each of your direct reports to follow these same steps regarding their direct reports and themselves.

Succession Planning and Delegation

When leaders fail to actively plan for succession, they do not delegate sufficiently and may become decision-making bottlenecks. Key employees may leave if they are not actively groomed and challenged.

  • Do you have a succession-planning process for key positions?
  • Have you identified potential successors for your job?
  • If not, what is stopping you?
  • Do you delegate sufficiently-
  • Have you become a decision-making bottleneck?

Suggested Follow-up Steps

  • Create a succession-planning depth chart for your business unit or organization. This document should include at least two or three potential successors for your own position.
  • For each potential successor, write down their key development needs and specific actions you might take in order to develop their capabilities in relation to potential future positions. Work to develop and shape these specific development plans.
  • For those key tasks that you have committed to finding a way to delegate, begin matching those tasks with specific candidates on the depth chart. Make assignments.
  • Categorize delegated tasks in terms of their levels of importance to your enterprise. Based on this analysis, note which tasks need to be done at extremely high levels of quality, and which can be done at “sufficient” levels of quality. Ask whether you have calibrated your level of involvement to this categorization, and remember that “involvement” should often take the form of coaching the subordinate, rather than a direct intervention. Make a commitment to “picking your spots,” to ensure that your direct interventions (beyond coaching) are justified by an appropriately high level of task importance.
  • Ask your business unit leaders to perform this same exercise with regard to their direct reports.

Evaluation and Alignment

The world is constantly changing, and leaders need to be able to adapt their businesses accordingly.

  • Is the design of your company still aligned with your vision and priorities?
  • If you had to design the enterprise today with a clean sheet of paper, how would you change the people, key tasks, organizational structure, culture, and your leadership style?
  • Why haven’t you made these changes?
  • Have you pushed yourself and your organization to do this clean-sheet-of-paper exercise?

Suggested Follow-up Steps

  • Identify a key business unit or function to tryout the clean-sheet-of-paper exercise. Create a small task force based on the selected names from the succession-planning depth chart exercise. Attempt to draw professionals from at least two to three different business units and/or functional areas. Give the team a specific assignment, and emphasize that they should assume that there are no sacred cows to be protected. Make clear to them that while you may not follow every piece of their advice, you want their candid views and most likely will implement at least some of their suggestions.
  • Agree on an appropriate time frame. Take into account that this assignment is not in place for doing their day jobs. Make clear that you are available to answer questions or give guidance, but you plan to stay away from this process in order to avoid influencing their analysis and conclusions.
  • Debrief the group regarding their findings. Also, conduct a post mortem to determine what you and the task force learned from the process of doing this exercise.
  • Develop a specific action plan for implementing at least some (if not all) of the group’s recommendations.

The Leader as Role Model

Your actions are closely observed by those around you. They send a powerful message about what you believe and what you truly value.

  • Do you act as a role model?
  • Do your behaviors match your words?
  • How do you conduct yourself under pressure?
  • Is your conduct consistent with your stated values?

Suggested Follow-up Steps

  • Write down two or three key messages you believe you send with your behavior (versus your speeches). Seek advice from key subordinates and advisers who directly observe your behavior, in order to answer this question: is there a disconnect between the messages you wish to send and those you are in fact sending?
  • Do this same exercise for your key direct reports. What messages is each of them sending about what is truly valued in your organization? Again, make discreet inquiries, if necessary, to do this analysis. Incorporate this work into your coaching of these executives.
  • Think of a situation in which you felt enormous stress at work and regretted your behavior. Write down the one or two issues that created the stress you were feeling- acknowledging that these issues may have had nothing to do with work. How would you behave differently if you could replay this situation? Write down one or two lessons you take away from this exercise.

Reaching Your Potential

Successful executives develop leadership styles that fit the needs of their business but also fit their own beliefs and personality.

  • Are you pursuing a path that is consistent with your assessment of your strengths, weaknesses, and passions?
  • If not, what are you waiting for?
  • Have you developed your own style at work?
  • Do you speak up, express your opinions, and conduct yourself with confidence?
  • Do you encourage your people to be authentic and express their opinions?

Suggested Follow-up Steps

  • Make a list of your three greatest strengths and your three greatest weaknesses. Get advice from your senior, peer, and junior coaches or advisers in order to make sure your list reflects “reality” in relation to your current job and aspirations.
  • Develop a specific action plan to work on your weaknesses. Action steps might include specific job assignments, seeking feedback within your organization, and/or getting an outside coach.
  • Encourage your subordinates to do this same analysis and action planning. Discuss these plans in your coaching sessions for subordinates.
  • Think of a situation in which you were at your best, when you performed extremely well and felt great about your impact. What were the elements of this situation? What tasks were you performing, what was your leadership approach, what was the context, and what other factors enhanced your performance? What lessons do you take from this, regarding your passions, values, and other key elements that help bring out your best performance?
  • Think of a time when you brought out the best in others. What was your motivational approach? What was your leadership style? What other elements allowed you to bring out the best in others? When you reflect on this situation, what lessons do you learn about yourself, including about your philosophy and values, as well as how you might best motivate others in the future?

12 Apps for a Better Life

The following applications and websites can be used to make your job and life better. These are just a few of the applications in the marketplace. I’ve used most of the services listed and may be contacted if you want more information.

Time Management

Pomodoro Technique

Pomodoro Technique is a time management method. The technique uses a timer to break down work into an interval of 25 minutes then take short breaks. This method is based on the idea that a frequent break improves mental agility.

RescueTime

RescueTime is a time tracking application that gives you an accurate picture of how you spend your time on your devices. This application highlights poor usage of your time. It can also set alarms to tell you how much time you spent on Facebook.

Doodle

Doodle is a cloud-based calendar tool for coordinating meetings. Users are surveyed to determine the best date and time to meet.

Remember the Milk (RTM)

RTM is a cloud-based task and time management. Some of the features are emailing your task to RTM. Also, it can be used to setup tags, locations and integrates with Outlook and Gmail.

IQTell

IQTell is a cloud-based task and time management application. It utilizes the concepts and techniques designed in GTD by David Allen. This application will sync with emails, Evernote and ICloud.

Collaboration

Slack

Slack is a cloud-based team collaboration tool. Slack allows a team or group to communicate on one platform. This platform allows communication without email or group texting.

Dropbox

Dropbox is a file hosting service. Dropbox can be used as a collaboration of files with other users. It’s a good application for sharing large files or photos with others.

Organization

Mind Mapping

Mind Mapping is a diagram used to visually organize information. This method is used in brainstorming, memory, visual thinking and problem solving. You can use paper or software to mind map.

IFTTT

IFTTT is a free web-based service that allows users to create chains of simple conditional statements, called “recipes”, which are triggered based on changes to other web services such as Gmail, Slack, Twitter, and Evernote. IFTTT is an abbreviation of “If This Then That”. Here are some of my recipes:

  • If new SMS received from [Phone Number], then post a message to a Slack channel.
  • Email me when the president signs a new law.
  • If the new final score for the Clemson Tigers, then send me an email at [Email].

Evernote

Evernote is an application that can be used to organize data and list by using notebooks and tags. The application allows users to create text, web pages, photographs, voice memos, or handwritten notes. Also, Evernote has a good search engine inside the application.

Trello

Trello is a cloud-based project management system. This uses boards (Projects) and cards (tasks). You can also set up teams for your projects.

Focus@Will

Focus@Will is a music based on human neuroscience. It helps you focus, reduce distractions maintaining your productivity, and retaining information when working, writing and reading. This is a paid subscriptions service, but other music services might offer Focus@Will playlists.

FOCUS: How Gritty Leaders Articulate Purpose

The Four Virtues of a Leader: Navigating the Hero’s Journey Through Risk to Results by Eric Kaufmann is a quick and enjoyable read. He talks about four key questions to keep you on track: What am I creating? What am I avoiding? What am I sustaining? What am I yielding? Below is an excerpt from the book:

FOCUSFour Virtues.jpg

Purpose is the focusing element we need to understand and develop among the building blocks of grit. Grit is a forward-facing principle. Running away from something isn’t grit; it’s fear. While fear provides a strong motivation to keep running and moving, it drives you from behind as it pushes you along. Grit, on the other hand, magnetizes you toward a long-term objective. Clarity of purpose is a critical element for successfully developing and enhancing your grittiness; this can be something as broad as your life purpose, or a more narrowly defined sense of purpose for your work, team, or project.

Purpose draws from your focus, from your answer to “What am I creating?” In formulating your focus, you keep attention toward the horizon, and in so doing forward becomes obvious and easy to press toward. Leadership is a constant vigilance toward the future, toward what’s coming, as well as to the present, to what’s happening now. Long-term goals feed grit. We persevere when the future plays an active role in moment-to-moment decision making.

I’ve seen a common pattern among people who are most effective at remaining on purpose. I’ve coined the acronym FOCUS as a thinking guide that reflects how gritty leaders articulate purpose. FOCUS is a way to concentrate your efforts forward and bring forth the elements that empower grit:

F-Fulfilling. Is your goal fulfilling to you? How does this long-term goal feed your spirit? How does it make you a better person? Beyond the things that we have to do that we find challenging and difficult, how is this work feeding your soul? My job is challenging. It takes lots of attention and energy. Yet I grow and learn and make extremely rich and meaningful connections. I can press through the challenges because my work is fulfilling. My grit-my perseverance for striving to improve professionally-is fed by the fulfillment of being of service, of touching people’s lives in a meaningful way.

O-Optimistic. My daughter has a glass on her desk half filled with water. She keeps it there because she wants to be gritty, and gritty folks choose to look at the glass as half full. It’s difficult to be gritty when you’re pessimistic about your goal in particular or future in general. You can learn and practice optimism, and the optimistic aspect of FOCUS isn’t just looking at the world positively, but looking forward and being engaged by the future. Being focused on the goal means that you direct yourself toward it; being optimistic about your goal means that you look forward to it. It’s nearly impossible to persevere toward something that you dread.

C-Challenging. Believe it or not, if the purpose is too easy or too ordinary, we lose interest in it. It’s paradoxical that grit-stamina and determination in the face of difficulty-is activated by the very presence of challenge and difficulty. Being challenged has a stimulating and energizing effect when the goal is also fulfilling; you strengthen grit when you know that you’re working toward something fulfilling and challenging.

U-Urgent. To stay on track with your purpose, it has to entail a sense of urgency. Urgency keeps your intention top of mind and your attention focused. This might sound counterintuitive, as grit refers to passion and perseverance for long-term goals. Yet if the long-term goal has no sense of urgency, then it simply languishes in the “would-be-nice-someday” category. When urgency turns to stress, though, it actually consumes the ability to be gritty. What builds purpose for true grit is your continued attention to the urgency of the goal while maintaining a rational detachment from the strain and stress of the deadline.

S-Specific. The final component of FOCUS is that the goal is specific; it’s restricted. During strategic planning, I refer to strategy as the “art of exclusion.” Being specific means honing in on one defined outcome and ignoring the other possibilities and temptations. Losing weight through diet and exercise can take a while, often longer than we wish, and saying, “I want to lose weight” is fairly useless. But saying “I want to weigh 140 pounds” is specific. “Hiring good talent” is vague; “hiring three experienced trainers” is specific.

SMART Goals

The practice of goal-setting is helpful in the pursuit of happiness. Psychologists tell us that people who make consistent progress toward meaningful goals live happier, more satisfied lives.

If you don’t have written goals, I encourage you to make an appointment on your calendar to work on them. You can get a rough draft done in as little as an hour or two. Few things in life pay such rich dividends for such a modest investment.

A SMART goal is an acronym for achieving your commitments. Below are the five meanings:

  • Specific—Your goals must identify exactly what you want to accomplish in as much specificity as you can muster.
  • Measurable—If possible, try to quantify the result. You want to know absolutely, positively whether or not you hit the goal.
  • Actionable—Every goal should start with an action verb (accomplish, organize, increase, develop, budget, etc.) rather than a to-be verb (am, be, have, etc.)
  • Realistic—A good goal should stretch you, but you have to add a dose of common sense. Go right up to the edge of your comfort zone and then step over it.
  • Time-bound—Every goal needs a date associated with Make sure that every goal ends with a “by when” date.[1]

Your next steps are as follows:

  1. Write them down. This is critical. There is huge power in writing down your goals.
  2. Review them frequently. Writing your goals down makes them real but the key is to review them on a regular basis and break them down into actionable tasks.
  3. Share them selectively. Sharing them with those that are important to you and someone to whom you can be accountable.

[1] Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy, Living forward : a proven plan to stop drifting and get the life you want (Baker Books, 2016), 95