They asked: Performance management in small companies and Crucial Conversations

For my blog readers – the following is a post inspired by questions received from HR leaders that I will be talking with tomorrow as I share with them my talent scorecard presentation.  My pledge is that I will answer questions they have, and these were submitted as part of a survey I asked them to take.  It is in the vein of what I normally talk about, but exceeds my personal 200-300 word limit that I try and stick to because I want our conversation to fit into your busy schedule. 🙂

Question:  How do you create an employee development program specific to the needs of each employee?

I found out an interesting fact several months ago – 99.9% of organizations in the United States have less than 500 employees.   These organizations employ about half of the people in our economy.  This feeds into this question because the traditional answer to the question from training and development is to:  1) Develop job descriptions  2) Define competencies/measures for each role  3) Perform a gap analysis  4) Create a plan based on gaps  5) Revisit yearly with a performance evaluation.  Most organizations do not have the time, HR expertise, and patience to do all of these things.   Two things that are critical in developing people:  1) A trusting relationship between leader and follower  2)  A conversation around what they need (both company and individual) that is captured in a plan   2.5)  A follower ready to own the plan and a leader committed to supporting it.  Here is a link to the development plan and other templates I provide that will drive the right conversations and capture key information in a written form that can be managed.    fyi – it is that simple, but not necessarily easy.  I can blog on that at another time if you would like – just ask.  ANY size organization can put development plans in place for their people, and it is the key to helping people develop.

It states in Crucial Conversations that “one study of 500 stunningly productive organizations revealed that peak performance had absolutely nothing to do with forms, procedures, and policies that drive performance management.”  From my experience, I agree.  Please discuss how the process you are presenting makes a true difference in peak performance, including the aspects of the process which are most crucial to success. 

The reference to Crucial Conversations is a series of two books published by and sold by a consulting group called Vital Smarts.  My belief system on performance was actually born out of a conversation I had with one of their partners and a co-author from another book they published, Influencer.  I spent a couple of days with David Maxfield listening to him teach and working with him on a rollout plan.  Let me say the guy is brilliant, experienced, and their focus on helping organization/leaders become great at having difficult conversations is world class.  But in one conversation I asked “Do you assume that organizations you are trying to help already have a culture in place where regular one on one discussions are already happening, because it seems that is the key place where it would be easiest to practice what you are teaching.”  His answer was “Yes’.  What I knew based on my conversations with leaders in this growing organization was the one on one habit was not firmly in place.  As a result, the implementation of this key leadership skill was spotty at best.  I agree that conflict management is a critical leadership skill to enable great performance, but  I base performance/talent management on the relationship first, and then the other pieces/habits build off that.  I also agree that it is not policy, procedures first – – but I also know from experience that in order to Build Rhythm there has to be some structure in place.

I love talking to groups and want to make the conversation longer than an hour long keynote.  Feel free to comment or ask follow-up questions.  I welcome them.

3 Things Leaders Should Ask For More Of In 2012

I love the holidays because of the conversations that I have been a part of and the themes that come out as people reflect on the year.  Based on some of the things I am hearing, here are a few themes that have stood out for me as people I met reflected on work/life.  These are ideas for leaders to help make the lives of their people/teams better in 2012.

1. More Networking: I had 3 conversations with leaders/followers in very different employment situations, and yet they had one thing in common.  None of them did any purposeful networking.  When I mentioned LinkedIn to them, they all gave various answers of I am not looking for a job or I am happy where I am.  Let me yell two things from the rooftop right now:

  • Networking is not about finding a job – it is about getting smarter and helping others get smarter.
  • If you are not networking outside of your zip code regularly you are on the road to be marginalized (or you are already there).

What this might look like for a leader:

  • Encourage everyone on your team to develop a LinkedIn profile and join two professional groups.
  • Add a question to the beginning of every big decision that is What does your network say?. Whether it is buying software, looking for a great business book to read, or just finding a 10 minute energizer for your next sales meeting – mine for different ideas or different approaches.

2.  More of doing something besides your job: Efficiency for organizations has become a way of life, and it is time to recognize formally that everyone needs some of what I call Google-Time.  It is a reference to Google’s famous practice of spending a certain amount of time working on new ideas that have nothing to do with your job.  The message we send when we give people space is that “I care about you.”  I define Google-Time as work that re-energizes your body, your work, and our organization.

What this might look like for a leader:

  • In your one on ones, tell everyone on your team that you want to give them 8 hours a month to do whatever they want, and there are only 2 guidelines:
    • 4 hours must be spent working with someone on business renewal  – fixing something, reinventing something, rethinking/changing something.
    • 4 hours must be spent on personal renewal, maybe something you stopped doing because of work –   time with family, lunch with friends, exercise, sleep.
  • Ask for an update every month on where there Google-time was spent and what difference it made for them?
  • Don’t critique, just encourage.

3.  More feedback on how I am doing: I do lots of team development, and the topic of trust is always a big one.  One measure I give to leaders is How often do people disagree with your ideas? and How often do they change your mind?. I added the second question because I personally became tired of hearing the answer “Everyone argues with me” from leaders that I knew were feared.  The second question created discomfort for them, and led to richer conversations.

What this might look like for a leader:

  • In your monthly one on ones, add a 2 minute section around What are you hearing that I should know? or Of all the decisions we are facing (or I have made) – which one do you disagree with or have strong feelings about?
  • Listen (or be patient when this flops in Month 1 and 2, some people might be reluctant to share)
  • Make sure you emphasize with them that, as a leader, you often find things moving so fast and decisions being made quickly, so you appreciate it when people slow you down to re-think things every now and then.
  • Thank people for ideas / input – then do something with it.

Final direction – just pick one of these ideas to do. Remember most of your team is already trying to eat less, excercise more, pay off their credit cards, or just trying to deal with the general winter lack of sunlight.  Done for 3-6 months any one of these will make a difference.

trU Tips #16a – One on Ones and Leadership

Since you are my faithful readers that want to engage with me daily/weekly to talk about leadership – both of groups and self, with a splash of developing culture in organizations, I thought I would add some thoughts that did not make it past the 430 word trU Tip limit. (here is a link to trU Tip 16 if you missed it).

There are three things that are critical to making a One on One really work:

1. What is my job?  I am still surprised how hard it is for people to define this.  The list is either really long and detailed, or so generic that it would be impossible to use to recruit a new candidate or help with guidance/accountability for anyone in their job.  My goal over the next couple months is to create a tool to help people do this – – – if you have any input or want to help let me know.  I think it could be very cool, but maybe a bit scary to unleash a bunch of people with a clear sense of purpose or asking for just a little leadership from their manager.  More to come . . . .

2. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER Reschedule:  This might be impossible, but can we all agree on one thing – it is important that people Trust you as their leader, right?  In Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust, he makes the point that People judge themselves based on their intent, and judge others based on their actions. 

Here is a scenerio:  Leader tells everyone in a staff meeting how important they are and he/she will start doing one on ones to make sure they are getting support they need and any issues/changes that are happening get clarified quickly.  In first six meetings, three get cancelled.  Leader thinks:  We are doing one on ones just like the book!  I really care about my people.  People think:  He/She said it was important, but must not think it is that important.  Just another example of . . . . .   

3.  Make it a Followership tool:  Remember the ownership of this conversation rests with the individual, not the leader.  The leader’s job is to:  1) Show up  2) Follow-up (on commitments) 3) NOT Gobble up time (ie.  show some restraint from making their agenda the most important.

Recently I was talking to a leader that was kicking off an organization wide effort to help managers become coaches for their people.  The barrier I saw – they had no habit around one on ones and generally people did not have enough clarity in their roles to ask for help.  If they had this form/habit, their vision has a chance to be real.  Without this form/habit, it will be still be great training, but as for the ROI . . .

If you were going to add one thing to my list or one piece to my one on one form what would it be?

Some Hmm . . . #’s – Appreciation at work, Tablet usage, If I were CFO

Some numbers this week that made me pause – and what they might mean to a leader

 

Employee Satisfaction (from current Inc magazine – source Global Workforce Mood Tracker; Staples.com)

Share of employees who say they feel underappreciated at work:      39% (up from 32% in Feb)

Leaders:  Do you have a Habit of doing one on ones monthly?  If no – Hmmmm . . . .    Here is a posting that might help you get started. 

 

If I were the CFO . . . . Employees top choices if allowed to make afew improvements to their work environment:

  • Eliminate office politics – 44%
  • Encourage telecommuting – 41%
  • Upgrade computers – 37%
  • Improve Office Furniture – 35%
  • Provide Private Work Areas – 34%
  • Allow More Flexible Hours – 34%

Leaders:  The first one on the list is FREE.  Are you great at communicating change?  Makes a big difference.  If you are spending money next year on stuff – what about some new computers?  A few $100 flat screens might go a long way. . .

 

Tablet Usage in the US (here is the link to all the numbers)

# of people who own tablets (IPads, etc.) :  54 Million (early 2012)                  108+ (1/3 of US population) by 2015

Leaders:  Are you at least experimenting with tablets for your teachers? salesforce? Anyone for 2012?  If you are – GREAT.  If not, hmm . . ..

Typical Tablet user:

  • Wealthy (50% have $100K+ income)
  • Male, Age 18-34
  • College graduate (51%)

Leader:  Who on the exec team uses them?  Don’t assume that number is the norm . . . ..

 

Executive:  It is a good habit every now and then to have your leaders go listen to people who are listening to what people outside your company are feeling and doing.  Then ask – Is it accurate?  Is it relevant?  What should we do with it?

I like to listen.  This is just some of what I heard this week that made me go Hmm . . .

A tool to help leaders listen

After my most recent post a colleague asked me “Do you have a tool for helping leaders to listen?”  I did not then, but 24 hours later here it is.  As with anything I load up on my website, you can have it if you use it, improve on it, and share it back.

The primary listening tool for leaders is the one on one TIME with your people.  If you have 10+ direct reports you might want to modify this for a team setting. (I would be happy to help with that)

First, remember what people need from you.  Ken Blanchard said “Leadership is an influence process.  It is about working with people to accomplish their goals and the goals of the organization.”  Listening is about making what the organization (ie. YOU) needs very clear and providing space for them to tell you what they need.  My one caveat is that this form assumes you have already had some sort of discussion around development with them. (here is a link to those templates – posted last month)

Here is a link to the form and four MUSTS for using it:

  1. The individual owns updating it and sharing a copy with the leader.
  2. The leader owns the effort to help define the core job duties, being clear about when they need a call on things, and showing up for the time. (ie.  make it a priority)
  3. Keep the time focused on celebrating greens or completes and hearing/devising plans to make reds turn yellow or green.
  4. Limit time to 15-30 minutes, and it can be done on the phone if needed – but if possible work in face time (even if it is Skype).

If you do not have a habit like this listening is extra hard, if not impossible. 

If you are wondering how the One on One fits into everything else you are asked to do as a leader around managing your people, I created a talent scorecard for leaders to get a free assessment of their habits and some feedback.  Here is a link.

Lead well!

How long do you listen?

I make it a habit of spending time with people smarter than I am.  This past year I went to see a neuropsychologist named Tim Royer talk and within a few seconds I knew I was in the right place. 🙂

He shared a startling fact:  On average, doctors diagnosing a brain disorder (ADD, ADHD, Depression, etc.) spent just under 7 minutes with their patients before making the diagnosis?

Really?  I was actually relieved because the other statistic I knew from a study was that when you visit the doctor’s they spend an average of 23 seconds listening before making a diagnosis. 

Good news:  The brain is complex so physicians spend more time (maybe 18x) before diagnosing you. (assuming the 7 minutes is spent listening, questioning, and observing)

Bad news:  Is that really enough?  For an organ that has 10,000 miles of neurons, 20 terrabytes of storage, and consumes 80% of the energy your body produces – is 7 minutes long enough?

People are complex.  Teams are complex.  How much time do you spend listening or trying to understand peers?  Your leader? People on your team?

Activity:  At your next staff meeting or one on one – Keep track of the following things: 

Number of questions you ask vs # of times you tell people something 

Time spent listening vs time spent  time talking (fyi:  doodling or answering texts is not actively listening)  

What does it tell you?

3 Habits To Help Great Leaders Be Good Managers

Managing is about being face to face with people and helping them work through the steps to success.  Great leadership is often draped in words like vision, inspiration, and determination.  But even great leaders have to put on the manager hat and address the needs of their direct staff.  Here are three habits that will make that happen.

1.  Get to know your people:  Building trust starts with knowing someone.  When I walk into start-up companies it is common for people to hire friends and family first.  They do that because the relationship is there, and with relationships comes speed in decision making and patience with stress behaviors/poor decisions.  One tool I use with all clients is what I call a Team Member Fact Sheet.  Use this in your onboarding process(after you hire) to get to know your people and for them to get to know you. 

2. Commit to regular/uninterrupted One on One Time:  At least monthly you should be sitting down with every direct report and checking in.  30 minutes is ideal, but 15 minutes is acceptable.  Two key things about these meetings.  First, you do not allow interruptions.  Show them your commitment by delaying calls from anyone (including spouse and CEO).  Secondly, give the agenda to them.  I will be publishing a template later this month to enable this, but this being their time is key.

3.  Memorize these questions: What do you need from me?  Outside of this task list, what other significant things are happening for you?  The focus of one on ones from a manager perspective is in the first question.  If the tasks are well defined and the success measures are in place the celebrations (getting things done) or problem solving (getting stuck/behind) will happen.  I NEED are two very powerful words for followers to say, and very difficult because too often NEED = WEAKNESS in the minds of people.  The second question allows you to learn what is happening outside of work.  Don’t be surprised if they start asking you this question.

Robert Hurley shared 5 principles leaders can adopt to demonstrate trustworthiness and increase trust across their organizations.  Here is the full post, but the 5 points were:

  • Show that your interests are the same.
  • Demonstrate concern for others
  • Deliver on your promises
  • Be consistent and honest
  • Communicate frequently, clearly and openly

These principles are embedded in the actions I shared. 

Lead well!  And manage a little along the way.

A trap: Over Leading and Under Caring

I have seen several recent posts about leadership vs management.  Here is a link to one from Seth Godin .  They made me think.  First let me say that when I see this topic come up I roll my eyes, because most discussions seem to elevate the importance of leadership and the confining nature of management.   Here is my take . . .

It is important to be a leader.  Vision has to be cast, the rallying cry needs to be heard, and the organization needs to see relentless energy towards the goal.  But, the relationships that make your team really go are built when you manage.  Managing is about connecting to people one on one, knowing their struggles, understanding their needs, and being familiar with their lives(distractions/support) outside work.  One piece of evidence I point to is something a peer shared with me about executive onboarding.   Her business is built 100% around helping executives make successful transitions.  Part is to highlight/fix communication issues and help navigate the complexities of organizations.  But part is to just bring some of the ‘other’ things into the discussion like:   What is my true job description? and How prepared is my family for this change?.

We need to be careful about outsourcing managing.  Is it wise to spend $xx,xxx on a successful transition of a $xxx,xxx executive?  An ROI can be easily proven based on the leader’s impact on the income statement and the balance sheet. 

The hidden benefit of spending a little time as a manager/CEO gives you a glimpse into the person, not the leader.  This is where the relationships are built.

I think back to a ‘relationship/leadership’ session I lead one time with a CEO and leadership group.  The day after that session the CEO quietly asked the HR team to assemble a list of  family members for all the people on the team.  I celebrated the request, but was reminded that some of these people had worked for him for 3+ years.

My advice for leaders – Don’t forget to manage a little.

Post tomorrow – 3 Habits That Will Help Leaders Manage Well

5 Habits To Build a Trust Savings Account

Lots is made about telling the truth.  As a parent of four children I vividly remember several occassions using the parent-ism “We are not leaving this room until someone tells me who . . . . . .  “.  It is amazing what can happen and nobody remembers how or why.  Maybe a pick your battles posting should be in the queue somewhere. 🙂

People want leaders to tell them the truth.  In this economic downturn I have been impressed by the many stories from clients and friends on the transparency moments that leaders have had with their people. 

The lesson we teach our children is the energy it takes and the damage it does to others when we keep a lie (or half truth) going.  As adults, this lesson does not leave us.  But there are times when we have to be evasive or withhold the truth.  Here are a couple examples:

  • Sale of a business / Negotiation of a purchase:  When a legal non-disclosure is in place we have to keep things secret.
  • Letting someone go because of bad behavior/poor performance – Call it professional courtesy, but we don’t always air dirty laundry and allow people to leave for better opportunities or personal reasons.

Dave Ramsey preaches an emergency fund in case we have an unforseen event and we do not want to overdraft our account.  Think of telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth as a deposit into a Trust Savings Account.  Here is the complexity, every person on our team has  separate account, and will add to it and withdraw at different rates. 

Here are 5 habits that help maximize money going into the truth emergency fund, and minimize overdrafts:

  1. Know the needs of your people around truth.  Some want straight talk, others want more one one on discussions, and still others want to know early.  The Birkman Method does a great job revealing these individual needs.
  2. If you are often out of the office – set aside time (Fri pm, Mon am) when people know you will be around to answer questions.  Make a habit to ask people What are you hearing?.
  3. Allow all your direct reports to see your schedule and add meetings if needed.
  4. Coach your leadership team to tell the same story you are telling and adopt the same habits.
  5. NEVER – roll out a big change to the organization without first telling your leaders and equipping them to tell the truth when asked all of the What?  Why? How? What about? questions.  Always have them follow-up with one on one conversations within 24 hours, especially when jobs are affected.

I know everyone has a story around this topic.  Anything to add to the list?

Followership: Moving/Leading up the model

We make models to define an idea – so that it can be discussed, challenged, shreaded, and refined.  I call this learning.

Yesterday I had a chance to talk through the Five Levels of Followership with a team and here are my highlights: (here is a link to my original post defining the idea)

1. “I see myself bouncing between levels 2, 3, 4, and sometimes 5 as a follower.  To do my job well requires me to work in different ways.”

2.  What does it take for a leader to help someone move from:

  • Level 1 – level 2:  Explain the tasks/success measures for the role and/or deliver the message that their presence is costing the team more than they are contributing.
  • Level 2 – Level 3:  Recognize the great doing / Challenge to look for moments to create fans with their energy and attitude.
  • Level 3 – Level 4:  Ask occassionally “What do you see that needs to be fixed/streamlined?  What would make your job or our jobs easier?”
  • Level 4 – Level 5:  Hmmm . . . . . .  . (no answer to this – you have one?)

3.  What does it take from the perspective of a follower to move from:

  • Level 1 – level 2:  An individual making the choice to approach their work differently.
  • Level 2 – Level 3:  An individual making an internal shift from duty to passion for their work and the impact they can make.
  • Level 3 – Level 4:  Thinking and experience in doing a task and knowing how it works today – then asking “What is possible here that would be better?”
  • Level 4 – Level 5:  Asking “What if?” at a higher level.   Knowing the vision for the group and being able to see a shift needed to move there.

It is a great discussion to get leaders and followers in a room to talk about what real teamwork looks like.  Invariably, followers leave seeing their role with greater clarity(and ownership) and leaders recognize they have a role, but do not have to shoulder the whole burden for performance (ie.  it is okay to ask for help!)

I love this topic and I also love how this video captures it.  Take a look at this one from TEDx – and it might be a good way to kick off your next leadership meeting, followed by the questions:

  • What does this say about leadership?
  • What does this say about followership?
  • What challenges to we face as a team that this speaks to?