"Lead, follow or get out of the way." - Laurence J. Peter
It's a well known story. A valued senior leader gets promoted. He was promoted based on a track record of success. But a funny (albeit not really funny) thing happened to this leader after he was promoted, he failed. He never thought it could happen, after all he knew the company really well and he was well liked. His performance had always been strong, so where did he go wrong?
He wasn't set up for success. All the risk and all the work fell to him. He was put in a difficult position, he took the place of the newly appointed president. And, the president had been in his old role a long time and his direct reports loved him, so much so that they were in mourning about the new boss--even though they knew the new leader and liked him. He found himself walking on eggshells when team members would say "that's not the way our old leader would do it." Red flag #1. There's no team support for the promotion.
His track record of success had been in sales and now he was being placed in a key marketing role. His direct reports were a well seasoned bunch used to dealing with the former leader and now president. They began to criticize the new leader's lack of knowledge, and rolled their eyes when he asked questions in meetings. To make matters worse, the new president still wanted to lead his old team. He came to meetings that should have been led by the new leader and undermined his authority when he didn't like the direction the new leader wanted to take things. Red flag #2. No support for a learning curve time line (short) and boundaries with others!
Things went from bad to worse when the business (which had reported 4 straight years of unprecedented success) took a tumble. The board got very nervous and requested the president take back the reins and get the business fixed, and fast! The new leader tried his best to make recommendations, rally the team and demonstrate the necessary actions needed to turn the business around. It was a losing battle as he began to hear things from HR and others about his need to "own an opinion and speak up". People began taking credit for his ideas even when he did make credible and innovative suggestions for how to fix the problems. Sadly, he realized too late that he had not detailed what he was up against, and rallied enough people to his vision for the future of the business. Red flag #3. A lack of vision and buy-in for direction.
What sets a leader up for success?
Despite how often, we see the above scenario happen, this doesn't have to happen this way. Organizations that understand the need to set people up for success focus on the following things when promoting leaders to bigger roles:
- Set realistic expectations for success and establish small wins to build confidence. What can the leader impact in the first few months? How long is the learning curve? What will it take to build support from the team members? Creating alignment for goals and priorities of the first 90 days is crucial to building the "wins" that establish credibility for a leader.
- Minimize the possible problems by illuminating what might happen. It wasn't a secret that the president was having some trouble letting go of his old role, or that the team was not behaving in a respectful way towards the new leader. What was surprising to the newly promoted leader was how little folks seemed to want to help him fix or deter the potential problems.
- Encourage and accept differences in styles of leadership or approach. The new leader had ideas, and they might have worked. But, too many people wanted to do it the old way or the way they were most comfortable.
- Demonstrate faith and belief in the new leader's capabilities. The biggest dagger in the new leader's back was the lack of confidence and support he felt from people he had believed had faith in him.
What happens to newly promoted leaders at your company? Is there a new leader onboarding program
to help them? Are they set up for success or failure? And, what does their failure do to your attitude towards the company?
"The thing about performance, even if it's only an illusion, is that it is a celebration of the fact that we do contain within ourselves infinite possibilities." - Sydney Smith, author
You never saw it coming. As a matter of fact, you thought you had a pretty good year, all things considered. Your results were strong and you made most of your goals for the year. So why do you feel so awful? You just had your performance review, and you were a "meets expectation", for the second year in a row.
Before coming to this company, you had always been a leader who receives an "exceeds expectation" and you really felt like this year things would be different. Instead, your boss is stressing something about you missing deadlines and not planning ahead. You ask him for some clarity and you realize, he's talking about something that happened 2 years ago when you first arrived at the company. You think to yourself, why am I here, doesn't he see how hard I've worked and the actual results I've produced. And, why is he talking about something that happened so long ago? You walk out, disillusioned and depressed, with a paltry 1.5% increase, which he tells you he fought hard to get for you. You begin to think about dusting off your resume and putting out feelers. You dread telling your spouse the news as you were both hoping for a bigger increase to help cover the cost of the kids' expenses that just went up again!
After you leave his office, your boss sits down at his desk and feels awful. He knows he was forced to change your rating from an "exceeds expectation" to a "meets expectation" because of the forced ranking system the company uses. Your boss already had one "exceeds" on the team and when he was forced to rank you or the other guy as #1 or #2, it changed the rating of your review. Your boss also knows that the company is only offering 2% increases to the highest performers, so he really did fight hard for your 1.5% raise. Your boss is puzzled by your questioning of his concern over you hitting deadlines though because he remembers clearly you blew that project 2 years ago.
While the above scenario is fictional, it is created from the hundreds of actual stories we've heard from our clients on both sides of the table. Performance reviews remain one of the toughest conversations that most leaders dread having with others.
So what can one do to have a positive experience during a performance review? What can a person do to take the difficult conversation around performance, money or expectations and change it into a more engaging one where both parties--the manager and the direct report--walk out feeling good about things?
4 Ways to Improve Performance Reviews
- Break annual goals into quarterly milestones and meet quarterly to review them. Whether you are the manager calling the meeting or the direct report, be sure this step happens so there are no year-end surprises. Make sure the quarterly goals align with annual performance numbers. Also, make sure your results deliver more than just the numbers. If you are a sales manager, you will be looking at the numbers consistently. But what about the specific behaviors that led up to those results? Did you establish and meet your quota on cold calls, or set and get the number of appointments you wanted to? Did you convert at a higher rate than last year? The more specifically you can tie behaviors to your numerical goals the better the conversation will go on both sides with an appreciation for the work it takes to achieve success.
- Ask for feedback on a regular consistent basis. As the employee, take responsibility for seeking feedback. Not just from your manager but from your peers, clients, direct reports. Learn to stand out in the crowd, by asking your manager for feedback before he gives it to you. After an important board meeting or sales call, circle back and invite him/her: "tell me a few things you think I did well and a few things I can do better next time". Thank your manger for the feedback!
- Be bold and request a 360 degree feedback assessment. As the employee, show your commitment to professional development by requesting a 360 degree feedback assessment. This is a great way to get some feedback in a more formal way and it is a great developmental tool that can improve your performance going forward. Make sure you build a plan to constructively leverage the 2-3 things you want to work on for the year after receiving your report. And, go back and thank your raters. Sharing with them what you are working to improve is a great way to create support for your development.
- Be prepared for the annual review by doing your homework. Both manager and employee should heed this key. From the direct report perspective, this means really bringing to the review what worked well for the year, what could have gone better and what you will focus on in the future. From the manager perspective, this means doing your homework upfront as well. Going the extra mile in sharing all the data with the review committee and challenging assumptions around the ranking system will really pay off for both your people and yourself. Being mindful of what it takes to motivate each member of your team requires understanding who they are as individuals. If you are using the same approach with all your people, you are missing out on the ways to motivate their performance. Consider requesting each team member complete a DiSC profile to help you learn how to approach each person according to their style, create more trust, and communicate in a more positive manner.
So what's your experience been like with performance reviews? Have you had one you'd rather forget? And, if so what did you do to turn it around next year?
National Signing Day is one of the most exciting days of the year for College Football Programs. This year the official day was February 5, 2014 and many colleges set up "war rooms" in preparation of signing day. The head football coach and assistant coaches have spent months, and sometimes years, scouting and building a relationship with these coveted recruits, his parents, relatives and just about anyone who exerts influence, in the hopes of landing them for their college team.
Recruits are ranked according to their position, skill set and performance in a system of 5-star, 4-star and 3-star rankings. Colleges certainly covet the game changing 5-star player who can turn a program completely around, but they also look for players based on the program's need - their own form of succession planning - by determining where they lack depth, who is graduating, and where they might need strong back-up.
After the day concludes, the caliber of each college program's talent is assessed and ranked, with sports analysts weighing in and debating who landed the top class. Of course, the class rankings are one thing and every program wants to rank in the top 10 or even 20 programs. But, after all the excitement dies down, there are 3 things that need to happen to get the most from the new players:
Is the treasured offensive lineman, defensive back or red shirt quarterback ready to block, work on his footwork, and learn the new system? Or, is he a player to be developed based on the depth chart, age, weight issues etc.?
- Accurate Talent Assessment
Are the coaches willing to do what's best for both the player and the program? Will they invest the time it takes to work with the new player?
- Commitment to Coaching by the Coaches
Will the player do what it takes to get better, seek feedback on where he needs to improve, be willing to take risks and even make mistakes in order to get better? Is he coachable? Or has the hype convinced him he knows all he needs to know?
- Player Acceptance of Coaching
This year's National Signing Day excitement got me thinking about how a company looks at talent. It's no secret that qualified, highly skilled labor that can stand out in a global, complex economy is in hot demand. In certain fields, these workers can call their own shots and are nurtured and wooed in a similar 5 star way. Companies have their own war rooms and approaches on how to land their top classes. They may invest in additional talent acquisition resources, increase the frequency of times they visit a college campus, or pull out all the stops when they have someone interview at the company headquarters.
But like those coveted recruits, landing the top talent or the key skilled player is only half the battle. It takes the proper assessment, coaching and coach ability to really get the most of the people you hire.
One of our favorite clients in healthcare models this approach exceptionally well. They have a team of several recruiters who recruit for a specific role and expertise. They spend months scouting for the leaders they want at their company with multiple college campus visits. They are very specific about the people they are looking for and the qualifications they need to possess to be successful at their company.
And, after the initial hiring, they really get busy making sure their talent is successful. The newly acquired leaders take part in several rotational assignments of 4-6 months in length over the course of the 2-3 year training program. They involve the senior leaders in the plan to make them successful. They offer specific leadership training that helps the newly acuired person know that they believe in developing leaders for the future. The best part about it- they have a track record of success. Turnover is low and people end up in the roles that best suit them leading to greater success.
Josh Bersin of Bersin by Deloitte just themed 2014 as "The Year of the Employee". Are you ready for it? What does your vision of a national signing day look like? And, will it attract the leaders you need to stay competitive in the future?
"Do Lipton employees take coffee breaks?" - Steven Wright
It's time, time to go back to work. The presents are all unwrapped and the dead Christmas trees line the curbs, looking like carcasses. Luckily, for some of us, the winter storm has delayed the inevitable thanks to a weather reprieve.
So what's really going on here? Do we look around and wonder about our motivation or the way we're working? Is this feeling of dread just a natural state after the euphoria of the holidays? Research over the past 3 years suggests that January 6th (the date most of us return from the holiday) is actually the most depressing day of the year.
Getting Our Work Mojo Back
Some of us may naturally look forward to the dawning of the new day at work, while others may drag themselves back in wondering about their commitment and their engagement levels. So what will help you get your work mojo back? Try action planning with these steps:
- Be Kind to Yourself - Go to bed earlier, take time to exercise before work and meditate 10 minutes in the morning prior to work. Set your alarm to get up at a reasonable time and don't continuously hit the snooze button!
- Take Stock of Your Work - What do you like about the work you do? Take time to find 3 things you can say are positive about your work. Remind yourself why you first decided to work at this organization.
- If you can't find 3 positive things about your job, vow to change things - Consider leaving or talking with your boss/peers about a way to increase your commitment to the job. Gauge the level of support from your boss/peers and be willing to do your part to make things better. If you decide that you do want to leave, make sure you have a plan in place to land your next job or even start your own business.
- Find a way to help others succeed at work - Be the one who raises the morale of the whole department or team. Assisting others with achieving their goals has a residual impact on ourselves and our moods. Look for what others are really good at and help them do more with their strengths.
- Finally, look for a way to connect the work you do with the enterprise mission, vision and values. When we see how important our contributions are in the grand scheme of the company's overall performance, we feel better about how we impact the bottom line.
What action planning steps are you taking to re-energize yourself at work this January?
"Employees are a company's greatest asset - they're your competitive advantage. You want to attract and retain the best; provide them with encouragement, stimulus, and make them feel that they are an integral part of the company's mission." - Anne M. Mulcahy
"In most situations, silos rise up not because of what executives are doing purposefully...but rather because of what they are failing to do: provide themselves and their employees with a compelling context for working together."- Patrick Lencioni
In continuing our holiday series on what employees want in organizations and sometimes what they don't want, we thought we would talk about one of the biggest things we hear leaders complain about and that's silo mentality. There is an inability to get work done in organizations where silos live and thrive. Cultures of silos tends to demonstrate:
- A lack of ability to solve problems- mostly because of functional supremacy and no appreciation for what other areas contribute to the organization.
- Backstabbing and finger pointing- people are always jockeying for power and blaming others when things go wrong.
- A lack of peer to peer accountability- this also affects relationships and builds mistrust.
- Hording of resources- best practices are not shared and efficiencies are not created because of a desire to compete, win at all costs, beat the inner competition.
Employees want to work for leaders and companies where silos can be avoided and in environments where leaders will call out that negative behavior. They want to work for companies where the context of why working together matters is clearly conveyed.
If you are the leader of your organization, what have you done to let others know about the how and why each function matters and contributes to the bottom line of the company? Have you made it obvious? Do each of your employees understand their role and the role of other functions?
So if you work in a company where silos are prevalent, what can you do? Have you tried working with your leader to create a clearer picture of the interdependencies between other departments? Are you the first one to try and solve problems across functions without finger pointing or defensiveness?
Tearing down silos takes courage and creativity. It takes a willingness to address the bad behavior and replace it with new ways to create a compelling purpose where all people feel part of the company's mission, vision, values and bottom line.
In our continuing series on what kinds of gifts employees want from employers or their companies, we have been sharing what we hear people most want for the holidays or any time of year. Thus far, we shared that they want:
We now turn our attention to employee recognition. In addition to showing employees that you value them, you also need to find ways to praise and recognize them. And when you do, "let it show, let it show, let it show."
Years ago, I can still remember working well into the night to get ready for a major product meeting with the principals of the company. This was a major meeting for all the fall bookings and my team had work tirelessly by my side as we worked to get ready for the early morning meeting. This near all-nighter was in addition to the past three weeks of never ending meetings, brain-storming and number crunching we had done in preparation to present ideas and execute a plan that delivered the necessary receipts for the fall/holiday season--the biggest time of year for the retail industry.
Well, after a very successful meeting when it looked like we would not only deliver the receipts but pick up several million dollars in additional bookings, what did I do? I called them all in to a conference room and after a few niceties about the meeting, I asked them what we could do better next time!
I wondered why there was very little interaction after my query. Luckily for me, one of my team members pulled me aside and said, "How about a little recognition for how hard we all worked, a salute to what we accomplished, and an acknowledgment of what really worked this time--before you start asking us what we can do better next time!"
Wow! What was I thinking? In my haste to always keep on driving for new and better results, I forgot to take the time to appreciate and recognize what my amazing team had just accomplished. I needed to tell them how much their efforts meant to me and to the success of the fall bookings. I needed to specifically thank them for the things they had done to deliver those terrific results. It was a great lesson for me regarding what people really want from me or any of us as leaders or managers.
When it comes to doing great work, people want to know that you noticed and you appreciated their particular effort. Without recognition, people feel defeated, let down, and disengaged.
What have you done this week to specifically recognize the hard work and accomplishments of those you lead? What have you done to recognize and appreciate your peers or your boss? Take an important step to improving employee engagement at your organization and recognize your team members' hard work today!
'Tis the season to toast, roast and spend time with friends, family and colleagues. It can also mean year-end performance reviews at work or finally tackling a long delayed conversation with a peer, manager or team member. If you are like most of the folks interviewed for an online poll by Vitalsmarts, you are confronting some version of a difficult conversation.
We are curious about the difficult conversations in your work life. What is the topic you need to tackle and who do you need to have the conversation with in order to clear the air, move forward, or address a situation?
Take our short poll on Handling Difficult Conversations
and we'll share the results in a few weeks. It's 3 quick questions and only takes 2 minutes. Thank You!
In honor of the holiday spirit, I got to thinking about what employees or even future employees want from employers. And, I started thinking about it in terms of a gift. What gifts do your employees want from you as an employer? Certainly, we know that people want to feel empowered, trusted and valued. But, when they first start working for a company, what do they really want on day one?
Research tells us that almost 40% of new hires fail and those statistics seem to bear out whether the employee was promoted from within or hired from the outside. Couple this dismal news with the latest "engagement" scores of 70% or more employees are not engaged or are actively disengaged, and the stage for new ways of looking at the employee-employer relationship bears merit.
I can still remember my first day of work. I was hired out of college some thirty years ago and started out as a retail executive. I was asked to report to a training program and on my first day I met with my fellow trainees. About 25 of us to began to learn about the company and what we could do to grow in our careers. This was no one-day training session. I was to be in this program for over 2 months and then be placed in a store for my first department manager role.
During the two month program, I met several of the leaders of the company. They came in throughout the two month training, giving us their stories of what it took to be successful and sharing valuable lessons of their insights into the world of retailing. I was mesmerized. We rotated into different store assignments for on-the-job training. And, on that final day, we learned what store we were assigned to for our first managment role. While an elaborate training like this one seems to be a thing of the past, it is still possible and I would argue that this type of training is necessary to make people feel special and appreciated today.
So over the next 12 blogposts, we will share what we believe people want from their employers. To keep things fresh, we will create a 12 Days of Work Wish List.
On the first day of work, employees want to know they are valued!
As an employer, consider what signals you give your new hires or those you promote to a new role. Making someone feel valued and appreciated takes thoughtfulness. Create a checklist that includes:
- A smooth onboarding. Are the necessary forms easy to complete or even already part of a pre-boarding plan? Do they have access to a computer and a password that works? Do they have a security pass to get in and out of the building easily?
- A formal introduction of the employee to the organization. Have they been formally introduced to the organization? Has someone greeted them? Does their team know?
- A schedule of their first few weeks. Do they have a schedule of their first week or even their first day?
- A list of who they need to connect with in order of priority. Do they know who they should connect with and get to know in the first few weeks/month?
- A company organizational chart. Do they have an organizational chart so they can gain understanding of who people are and how they are connected?
- A training plan. Have they been informed about what training they will need? Is the training already scheduled?
All too often, in our work with leaders inside organizations, we hear how so few companies understand the need to make their people feel valued. So is it any wonder that engagement scores are lagging and leaders are failing in new roles?
Share with us what your company does or did to make you feel welcome on day one. And, if you have been with the company for awhile, share with us what they do to make you feel valued in your role today.
“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.”
― John F. Kennedy
As we turn our attention to the time of year when we celebrate family and eat a lot of turkey, let us take time to truly appreciate those we love. Stop and think about the people who have truly made a difference in your life--could be a family member, a partner, a husband, wife or child, a neighbor, a teacher, a policeman, a forgotten high school friend, a co-worker, your first boss, or the tough boss that pushed you too hard!
If you haven't seen this person in a while, think about what you might want to say to them. If you have seen them, think about what you've meaning to say but have never got around to saying. You may want to write your words down and send a note to them.
My note long over due would be to mother. The Mother-Daughter relationship can be a tough one and ours suffered greatly through my turbulent teen years. Couple the stress of those times, with the difference in the way my mother and I approach things and you have a situation rife with judgment and disdain. My mom is thoughtful and sweet, while I can be impatient and action-oriented. I am not proud of those times, but what I do know is that my mother never stopped being kind to me (almost to a fault). She role modeled for me-- wisdom, humility, kindness, grace, and a keen understanding of what was really happening between us. And, the older I get, the more I realize I would love to be more like her.
Who do you need to be thankful for this holiday season? Take the time to write them about your feelings of gratitude. You'll be glad you did.
"Teams share the burden, and divide the grief." - Doug Smith
We do a lot of work with teams and most of the time we are called in when a senior team is demonstrating some kind of dysfunction: conflict, poor business performance, a new change is not working, or a new leader is struggling. And, we do get asked to support teams who are highly functioning to help them build stronger bonds and align their purpose and business goals.
"None of us is as smart as all of us." - Ken Blanchard
As we head into the budget planning for next year, keep in mind how beneficial an annual team retreat can be for any team--those who are struggling or those who are thriving. In our opinion, it doesn't have to include outside facilitation. It can have some elements of team-building included such as a dinner shared afterwards, or a service oriented approach like helping in a soup kitchen or painting a school. So let's examine the 4 best reasons for a team to get together annually to improve team performance:
- Replay the team's best wins and biggest opportunities from the past year. Reviewing the track record of wins helps the team get credit for what worked and taking stock of mistakes helps the team learn what to do differently in the future. This exercise works best when teams are willling to truly assess the team's performance with accountability and a learning mindset.
- Re-energize for focus to build excitement and camraderie for the team. Today's teams are so focused on results and execution (both very important) that they can miss the value in simply getting everyone together to share the priorities for next year in a team setting.
- Re-commit to the team's vision/business goals/alignment. Teams have to know their purpose and vision, and today's dynamic corporate environments create the need to revisit these in order to make sure team members are aligned and the vision is still right for the anticipated year ahead.
- Re-connect with each other. Teams need time to build better relationships which helps repair conflicts and improve team unity. It's no secret that 60-80% of all conflict in an organization is not from absence of skill set, but rather from a lack of relationship with team members. (Daniel Dana, “Managing Differences: How to Build Better Relationships at Work and Home”)
Investing in your team is a smart thing to do. It doesn't have to be long, a half day is perfect. Including a team profile or assessment is also a good idea (we like DiSC, Strength Finders or MBTI) and most people love learning something new about how they prefer to work or engage with others. Feel free to share your best annual retreat story and the impact it had on your team.
"Good teams incorporate teamwork in their culture creating the building blocks for success." - Ted Sunduist