Friday, November 21, 2014

Performance Reviews for Managers

Instead of approaching this task as a chore or an obligation, let's begin by changing your mindset! This is an OPPORTUNITY to thank your team for making you look good all year! It's a chance to make them feel appreciated and cared for, which ultimately serves to motivate them and make them more loyal, productive members of your team. If you succeed at motivating your employees, a little time spent can propel your team to the next level… thus making you look even better! Using Helen Keller quote below, is a great way to begin thinking about this process.

Performance reviews are the time to motivate your high performers and encourage your average people to do better. Low level performers should be dealt with throughout the year. Performance issues need to be dealt with as they happen.

Do your homework. This member of your team has been waiting all year, do not take this process lightly. Ideally, you have been journaling about your team's highs and lows throughout the year. I do this using the notes feature in MS Outlook. It's a quick and easy way to keep track. Each member of my team has a bunch of notes that I convert at year end to a document. I use this document to include real examples of their performance. This practice has meant more meaningful exchanges between us.

Real examples give your conversation credibility.
Don't forget to review your remarks from last year. Did they meet their goals? If not, what prevented them from achieving them? Was it something you put on their plate that stopped them from getting there? This is an important factor in this conversation.

Part of your homework is to speak with others who interact with this person. Other managers, peers and in some instances, customers… if you can get 360 degree feedback, this will also add credibility to your conversation. Whether the news is good or mediocre, real information is far better than the old, "good job this year". If there is a difference in how different people see this employee, that can be a point of exploration during your performance discussion.

Be aware of your own biases. Have you had issues with this employee before? Do not carry negative feelings forward. Do you believe certain employees are more important than others? Of course, some may have more inherent value than others, but be sure you are fairly assessing each, based on the requirements of their job. Be sure you are being objective.

Think about THIS employee; What are their career goals? How can you, keeping in mind your company and departmental goals, help him/her achieve these goals? Has this employee has been overworked. Have they been given the opportunity to work to their potential? Have they been proactive and taken on any additional assignments? OR; have they just gotten by, meeting only the most basic requirements of their job? If it's the latter, hopefully you have spoken to them during the course of the year. Remember, it's never good to for someone to hear negatives for the first time when they are anchored to their raise and bonus. Performance should be an ongoing conversation throughout the year. Surprises are a bad thing at year end!

Here are easy steps to get performance reviews right.

1. Begin with updating the employee's job description. I email each person a copy of their job description prior to our meeting and ask them to make any necessary edits. This serves you in two ways; you always have it on hand for reference and it makes sure you are aware of any additional tasks/responsibilities the employee has taken on. Reaching out and getting information from your employee prior to sitting down helps you get a broader focus… you will see things from their perspective BEFORE you sit down. I like to give the employee at least one week to complete their prep for our meeting. Your meeting should be scheduled at this time and ideally the conversation should last at least one-half hour to one full-hour of uninterrupted time.

2. Ask the employee which 3 things the employee likes best about their job and which 3 areas related their job, the department or the company could use improvement. On the items they list for improvement, listen to their ideas on how to improve… if you are unable to use their ideas, discuss why with them. This allows for a good dialogue between you and your employee. It's important to understand both the motivators and de-motivators for each employee (and it can be different for each person). When you care enough about the employee to ask the right questions, you eventually develop a trusting relationship; a key attribute of good working rapport.

3. I always ask the employee if they are getting enough support. Is there anything I can be doing that would help them succeed? Do they have enough resources? If the answer is NO, make sure you get specific ideas on how this can change. When you ask questions during this conversation, they should be open ended to encourage further conversation.

4. I also ask for some goals. Goals should be related to the mission of the company, be appropriate for this employee and they also should be very specific. This is a collaborative process where you should include the input of the employee with your recommendations. S.M.A.R.T. goals are a good way to go. That is SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE, ACHIEVABLE, RESULTS-FOCUSED and TIME BOUND goals. When your goals are S.M.A.R.T. it is easy to discuss the progress toward and achievement of these goals. I use a goal setting sheet that discusses why the goal is in play, how life improves when the goal is achieved (it may be a benefit to the employee or to the company) and what obstacles we think may arise. Generally, in my group, each person gets 2-4 goals for the coming year. This process ensures that both of your expectations are addressed. This is also the time to discuss any formal training initiatives you may have planned.

5. At the end of the meeting, get buy-in. Many managers preach AT the employee rather than speak WITH the employee. That is a bad dynamic and it is not likely that the employee will feel motivated in the end. Your goal should be to come out with a job description and goals for the coming period that you both agree on. Does this work for you? With the changes we've made, is this description reasonable?

Buy-in is important! If you take the preach approach, the employee is not engaged and they have not agreed to the reasonableness of your assessment. Both parties need to agree if you want this process to be a success.

6. Finally, Thank them for their work. Appreciation is important! Employees leave their managers, not their companies. It is frequently the bad manager, the lack of opportunity for growth and development that pushes employees out the door. Remember, you couldn't do what you do without them and THEY NEED TO HEAR IT (they don't just know).

Managers, respect does not automatically come because you have a title. You need to show your people that you care about them and their aspirations. When you don't provide meaningful feedback, you wind up having employees that do not respect you, because in their minds, you don't respect them to engage. You are not aware of their accomplishments or their talents and when that happens, often, employees will take their talents elsewhere.

Use real examples of behaviors to ensure a clear understanding of your observations and have the guts to be honest. If you have been doing your job all year, this conversation will be a good one. Retain your top talent and move your team forward by taking performance reviews seriously, preparing in advance and giving your people the appreciation they deserve.

Monday, November 3, 2014

One Leadership Skill You Will Not Learn In School or Work

"Empathy with people is a key leadership quality — and it’s one many leaders don't have"

What is empathy?

Many people confuse empathy with sympathy, but the two are different in an important way. Sympathy means agreeing with or relating to the feelings someone else has about a particular situation. But empathy goes deeper. It means that, whether or not you agree with someone, you can understand what they are feeling and how that affects their perception and needs.

Empathy means you have the ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and put their needs ahead of yours when necessary.

There’s a business stereotype that doesn’t seem to want to die of the ruthless go-getter whose dogged pursuit of his goals leaves no room for him to worry about anyone but himself. But the truth is, sooner or later in business (and in life) everyone must rely on the relationships and connections they have established. The most successful leaders don’t operate in a vacuum; they rely on a support system to achieve their success.

Think of the captain who is the last to leave a sinking ship, or the unwritten rule that lowest ranking Marines are first in line at the mess tent, while their commanders eat last. That kind of leadership is about an innate understanding of putting the needs of others above your own.

Can empathy be taught?

There’s another longstanding myth that human beings are biologically wired to think only of ourselves, but science shows that’s simply untrue. We do have a reptile brain that promotes that “me first” thinking, but we also have something that sets us apart. Humans are social creatures, and our brains produce pleasure hormones, serotonin and oxytocin, to actually reward us for helping others.
Our brains actually reward us for practising empathy, and so it is definitely a skill that can be cultivated, not just an innate personality trait.

How to cultivate empathy:
  • Listen more than you speak.
  • Shift the focus from the story in your mind to the actual message being presented.
  • Take a personal interest in others.
  • Practice putting the needs of others above your own in the workplace.
  • Become the other person.
What’s fascinating is that these practises work well in almost all areas of business: in negotiations, influence, communications, sales, teaching, and so on. Empathy is the one overriding skill that can influence whether you become truly successful — or the next “greedy CEO” of some tabloid headline.

Qualities That Make An Exceptional Leader

Inspiring Others

Building a winning business is based on forecasting and research. No business is going to blindly go with an idea and just throw money at it. In addition to this you're going to need to be able to inspire your team and stakeholders to see the value and vision of what you are looking to achieve. The first step in achieving this is getting each person involved so they feel they are vital to the outcome. People you lead need responsibility to themselves and to each other. Tell that without their skills and experience you simply can't make the dream a reality.

Being that leader who inspires a team is great for helping your business or your employers focus on a positive future and also things that are happening in the here and now. Sadly, worklife isn't always sunshine and buttercups, sometimes it's a drag, it's tiring so morale can drop and productivity can slow up. As a leader you need to know when people need a lift. Don't be afraid to praise the work that everyone has done for you, each other and the business. In your role as a leader it's your job to do this and do it publicly with a show of gratitude towards your teams and individuals.

Adopting A Creative Mindset

Every now and again the decisions you have to make can't rely on research. You'll always have those difficult times where you need to make a decision on the spot without notice. Being a creative thinker can save your bacon in these times. When the going gets tough your team will look to you for guidance and they'll be relying on you to make a decion that they can all believe in and draw confidence from you as a leader. It might be that you have two or three bad choices to pick from. In these circumstances don't jump at the choice you think will simply please everyone, just pause for a second and think. You can even ask your team for their opinion. By looking quickly at your options you can usually reach the end you wanted.

Trust Your Intuition
Difficult times are always just around the corner and no amount of experience is going to give you all the solutions. When times get tough, the higher the pressure on you to guide your ship through stormy times will be. In these dark times you have to trust your intuition. Your people will be looking to you to solve things quickly or at least be strong enough to get them through it. Regardless of your support network it'll be down to you to make the tough calls and this is where you'll need your gut feelings. You need to trust yourself before anyone else will.

Keeping your people in the game and motivated towards success after success is vital to the well being of your company. You need to keep people happy but that doesn't mean saying 'yes' all the time or giving in to demands but it does mean doing the nice things like providing snacks, coffee, tea, career advice, or even just laughs in the office. Let's face it, if your team is happy to be in work I'll wager that they'll be happy to do more and be more for the common cause.

Self Confidence
I can assure you that sooner or later your reputation will be on a downward spiral, it happens to the best of us. But's it not permanent! All our careers have ups and downs. All you need to do is take a deep breath and NOT panic. As a leader you need to maintain an air of confidence, an unwavering belief in your abilities, your teams skills and your companies core values and good name. Maintaining these things shows your people that you believe in what you're doing and they will feel the same way. The moment you doubt yourself and your people they will see the chink in your armour. If you radiate confidence, your team will pick up on it and in turn will also feel confident.

Be Committed
If your not willing to dig in and show commitment then don't expect anyone else to. Being hands on and grinding out a days performance is what people want to see. Lead by example because it’s important to show your commitment to your work and people. Work hard, harder than anyone else and be fair to your people. They'll respect you for it and stand with you against any challenge without question.

Be True And Honest
You have your own values and when you lead a team of people, its important to raise the bar even higher than your own values and expectations. Your business and teams performance is a direct reflection of you and if you make honest decisions, so will your people.

You know what you want to achieve and you know how to go about it but trying to get that message across to your charges is something else. Being able to communicate what you want done is imperative. If you can't make others understand you'll all end up working towards different variations of the same target and fall short at the deadline. Make it important to talk to your staff daily. Leave your door open.

Trust gets things done and done well. Trusting your team with your idea is a sign of strength and unity that everyone picks up on, even those not in your department. As your workload grows it's important to delegate work to others in your team and make sure that you give them worthwhile work to perform because then your people will volunteer for the worst jobs, because you trusted them with the important stuff.

When delegating work you should understand the great many strengths of your team. Knowing your team means knowing what each person in it enjoys doing. Working and delegating like this will show your team that you trust them and believe in them. It’s not always easy to delegate but it will speed things up and bring you closer to success.

Bang! Something has gone wrong. You've lost a client! Or perhaps your budget has been slashed. A sense of humor is as important as any skill you can pick up. Laugh at mistakes or bad news, don't feel sorry for yourself. If you can find the bright spots in the bad times, your team will fight through and become stronger and they won't dread turning in for work. Have a laugh with your team and bump up morale.