RSS

Category Archives: Leadership

How to give constructive feedback

I recently wrote a post about receiving feedback, because I think this is an important art that many leaders lack.  Even more important for a good leader is to master the art of giving meaningful (A.K.A. constructive) feedback.

Giving honest, meaningful feedback with the goal of helping others to improve will engage their hearts and minds and build your leadership credibility.  Unfortunately, giving constructive feedback is something that many leaders shy away from.  Others use the “seagull” style of feedback.  Here are some of the things I’ve learned about effective feedback. Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments!

I believe in all forms of feedback, three principles hold true: Feedback must be sincere, specific, and timely.  

Be Sincere. Think about the feedback that you’re giving.  What’s the purpose behind it? How will improvement help them and your business or team?  Is the feedback about something you’ve seen or experienced or is it second-hand (this is never as effective).  It is much more sincere to explain “I noticed you did ____” rather than “I heard that you did ____”.  If you have to use second hand information, make sure you fully understand the situation.  Start the discussion by asking them to tell you about what happened.  Probe for how it went, would they do anything differently, what did they learn.  Often, by simply asking thoughtful questions, you can get them to give themselves their own meaningful feedback.

Be Specific.  There’s nothing worse than getting feedback that your performance is substandard but not knowing what part of your performance is below standard.  Feedback without specifics will simply de-motivate, kill confidence, and lead to further substandard performance.

Be Timely.  Don’t wait until an annual performance review to give feedback for improvement.  Not only have you wasted a year of work that could have been improved, but you are not being fair.  Give feedback when it happens, regularly.  The more often you give feedback, the more comfortable it will be for you and for them.

Some ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s when giving meaningful feedback:

Do make it a two-way conversation.  Don’t practice seagull management (fly in, poop on them and then fly away).  Ask for their perspective, and whether they would do anything differently or whether they learned anything from the situation. Listen and respond with empathy.

Do think about what’s in it for them.  Don’t make it about you.  How will improving this help them develop and grow?  Watch out for turning this into a conversation about how you have improved or done things in the past.  It’s about their behaviour and how improving will help them.

Do maintain their self-esteem.  Don’t make it personal.  The feedback is about their actions or behaviour, not about the overall value they bring to the team.

Do be honest and direct.  Don’t give a “feedback sandwich”.  Managers are often taught to give positive feedback, slide in a little constructive feedback, and finish with more positive feedback.  Please don’t do this.  The outcome is that either they miss the constructive, meaningful piece, or they dismiss any of the positive.  Either way, you convolute the message and lose credibility.  Instead of sandwiching constructive feedback between to pieces of positive feedback, separate the two discussions.  Make the constructive feedback positive on its own by sharing your confidence in their ability to improve and committing to helping them.

Do meet them personally, in private. Don’t give this kind of feedback in public or by email.  Have enough respect for the person to meet face to face to give meaningful feedback.

Finally, don’t forget positive feedback!  Always take the opportunity to build confidence and positivity by recognizing work well done.  What you recognize will get repeated.  My three rules of sincere, specific, and timely feedback also apply to praise.

Pic by sxc user mzacha

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Listen Leaders! Show your people you value them

One of the most important elements of engagement is a feeling of being valued.  The problem is that many leaders don’t know how to show that they do value their teams.

When I’ve discussed this essential need of feeling valued, managers often think that they’ve done all they can to make employees feel valued.  “I got business cards made for her”, “He got the raise he asked for”, “I gave the whole team tickets to a baseball game last month,” “I don’t know what more they want.”

The funny thing is when I discuss the same need with the employee, they rarely mention any of these things.  What they want is to be listened to.  I often hear “I’ve been asking for a performance review for months now”, “He’s always too busy for me”, “She doesn’t care about my ideas or suggestions”.

Leaders often make the mistake of thinking that giving employees tangible things will make them feel valued, when what really makes a difference is taking the time to listen to them.

My advice for leaders: Listen!  

As long as your employees are paid fairly both internally and compared to market, that’s not the most effective way to engage them.  And in fact, the impact of giving them a raise will last no more than a couple of weeks.  So save a little money and spend a little time listening to members of your team.

Pic used with permission from Microsoft.

 

Tags: , , , ,

Do pyjama (pajama for my US friends) days build engagement?

I was chatting with friends the other night and one of them mentioned that morale was poor at their workplace, so they were having a “wear your pyjamas to work” day.

Pic used with permission from Microsoft

Will having a pyjama party actually improve morale?  No way.

In fact, my friend was dreading it, and thought it was somewhat impractical in a work environment where half of the employees worked in a warehouse setting.

Events like this only scratch the surface of employee engagement.  Unless you get to the root cause, you won’t make a long-lasting improvement.  In fact, you could make things worse.  My guess is some people may have fun that day, others (like my friend) may hate it.  Regardless, any positive impact this type of event will have will be temporary.

The trouble is, this is the direction many organizations turn when they want to increase employee engagement.  In a recent study by Aberdeen Group (2004), Employee Events was the most commonly used strategy to improve hourly employee retention, with 68% of companies investing in them.  The same study also found that this had the most uncertain return on investment.

The path to engagement is much more strategic, long-term, and challenging.  You have to engage their Hearts and Minds.

Here are a few ways to start.

Engage their minds:

  • Evaluate your compensation practices.  Are people paid fairly and equitably, both internally and compared to market?  Pay is not a motivator, but it can de-motivate people.
  • Improve your internal communication.  Do people have access to the information they need to complete their work?
  • Ensure that everyone has all of the necessary tools to do their job. Fix technology, provide access to resources.

AND Engage their hearts:

  • What is your organization’s vision, mission, etc.  Do they resonate with employees?  does everyone in the company know where your headed and what their role is in taking the organization there?
  • Take a look at all leaders’ style.  Make sure they’re aware of their strengths and opportunities.  Have them share this, candidly, with their teams.  An introspective look and a leader who is self-aware is much more able to flex their behaviour and engage people.
  • Empower people.  Hire people who are aligned to your vision, train them in your standards, and set them loose to do their jobs.
You can see all of these tactics are a lot more challenging and time-consuming than pyjama days, but I guarantee, if you invest in truly engaging your people, you will see a return on your investment.
 
 

Tags: , , , , ,

How to be a Superhero from TED Talks

I make a point of always smiling at people on the street, in the office, or wherever I may be.  I often have people commenting on this, and have actually wondered at times if it makes me come across as somewhat ‘simple’.

But then I saw this TED Talk by Ron Gutman, and realized it’s actually my superpower 🙂 Watch the talk and check out a few of my favourite points below.

Fav points:

A study of baseball cards found that the span of a player’s smile actually predicted longer life – if this is true, I’ll be living into my 100s, smiling away!

More than a third of us smile more than 20 times per day – I can easily say I do this, and actually think it’s quite low.

Children smile as many as 400 times per day – I think smiling makes me feel more youthful and brings fun into much of what I do!

Smiling helps reduce stress-inducing hormones and increase mood-enhancing hormones – it promotes health!  There have been many studies on this.

Smiling makes you appear more competent – True, and I mentioned this in my Jobseeker advice post.  Smile and people feel better around you and think you are confident and competent.

Darwin wrote: “Even the simulation of an emotion tends to arouse it in our minds.” – the act of smiling actually makes us feel better!  This one’s my favourite.  When I’m feeling down, I tend to spend some time with my dog or watch one of my go-to feel-good movies, and I find myself smiling and in a good mood very quickly.  I wonder if it’s actually just the act of smiling that’s doing it.  I will test this… now I need a bad mood to come along.  Perhaps if I frown?

What power have you found in a smile?  How often do you smile in a day?

 
 

Tags: , , ,

Get to know the people you don’t like

I ran across this quote from Abraham Lincoln, and it rang very true for me as a lesson I’ve learned over the years.

“I don’t like that man.  I must get to know him better.” 

For me, this speaks to the importance of understanding people with different perceptions and views from your own.  This leads to learning and outcomes that far surpass what you may have achieved on your own.

In my own career, I have found this to be very helpful.  One of my biggest advocates, and someone I support strongly, is a colleague whom I did not particularly like immediately.  My strategy?  I asked her to have coffee with me to chat about some of the projects we were each working on.  That first coffee was a challenge, but I did get a different perspective that helped with my work.  I continued this strategy and the outcome is that now, she and I are in an informal peer mentoring relationship, and we both support and advocate for each other every chance we get.

What have you learned from people you don’t like?

Pic from Flickr user George Eastman House

 
14 Comments

Posted by on June 1, 2011 in Leadership, Personal, Reflection

 

Tags: , ,

Fun gets results!

“The most wasted day is one in which we have not laughed”
– Anonymous

Some may scoff at this quote and insert “produces widgets/sales/results” instead of “laughed”, but fun can actually have a very positive impact on your business.   Take a look at successful organizations such as Zappos, SouthWest Airlines, Westjet, and of course, Pike Place Fish Market, where fun with customers and each other are part of what has made them successful.

There have been several studies on humour and fun in the workplace, and while I won’t quote them all here, a couple of points stuck with me:

A survey by Hodge-Cronin & Associates found that of 737 CEOs surveyed, 98 percent preferred job candidates with a sense of humor to those without.

Research by Still showed that a 13 percent increase in morale can lead to a 40 percent increase in productivity.

Check out this website dedicated to making the world a more fun place, created by Volkswagen: The Fun Theory.  Each example proves that fun can improve people’s lives.  I don’t know about you, but if I was CEO, I would be investigating options for integrating fun into my workplace. I can’t wait to visit Sweden and walk up the musical stairs.

I have seen fun in action and believe that not only can it improve morale, but it also improves productivity.  In my roles in human resources in a variety of companies each with unique cultures, I have worked with some great CEOs and we have found ways to integrate fun into the workplace.  Here are some examples of things we’ve done.

  • When communicating a change in policy or rollout of a new benefit, the CEO and HR Director would load up a cart with treats and the letters, and go around the office to mingle with everyone, giving them a brief heads up about what was being communicated
  • Many companies who allow people to go home early on Fridays before long weekends.  Often times, a Leader sends out an email telling everyone to enjoy the day.  One in particular would use fun in her emails, for example, telling everyone that “Spring Fever has arrived, and telling employees that if they were experiencing certain symptoms (like a desire to run in the field beside the office, putting on sunscreen for no reason, etc), then they must leave work at 2 pm.  The teams working for her were certainly more excited about getting a slightly longer weekend.
  •  At meetings or conferences, kicking off after breaks with a “Minute to Win It” game – it only takes a minute, breaks the ice and improves mood.
  • Holding a mini putt tournament in the office – Employees were to work in their departments to create their own mini putt hole, linking it to their function.  We gave them an hour of work time to create it.  Most teams stayed late and came in early to plan and build their holes.  When it came time to play, we extended the lunch hour by one hour, and everyone went around the office, playing all 9 holes, and interacting and asking questions of people they normally wouldn’t speak with.  The morale was visibly higher, and no productivity was lost.
  • Showing a video like “Fish” (I still enjoy it, even after seeing it more than 100 times) to all teams, and having them come up with ways they can have fun at work.  This is where the real magic comes, as employees are involved in creating the culture of the workplace.

The ways in which you have fun in your organization will depend on your culture, but I think that whether you work for a bank, a restaurant, or a manufacturing company, there are ways to add fun and see improved morale and productivity. 

What do you do to have fun at work?

A few links related to fun at work:
http://www.playfair.com/index.htm
http://www.workplaceissues.com/arhumor.htm
http://www.projectmagazine.com/leadership-skills/271-how-to-make-work-fun
 
Pic from Ookaboo user en:Coasterman1234 from English Wikipedia
 

Tags: , , ,

Lessons in corporate culture from the Royal Wedding

Joanne Royce, An HR colleague from the HRPA Halton recently posted a great blog about lessons from the Royal Wedding.  Here are my thoughts:

There are lots of ways that companies could have taken advantage of the Royal Wedding to engage employees. I heard of companies having “Royal Hat” day, and serving afternoon tea. At my company, we have TVs through our atrium, and the wedding was playing on them, so as employees were walking through, they would stop and watch. Although it wasn’t formal, it was great to see people who wouldn’t usually work together or probably speak to each other often connecting over their thoughts on the wedding.
As for lessons learned from the wedding itself, I think there’s a great lesson on corporate culture to be learned. Culture is built on the little things that leaders do, which are seen by others. Too often, leaders’ actions don’t demonstrate the culture they have decreed or written on the wall. I thought William and Kate’s wedding was a great demonstration of the “people’s” royal family that is Diana’s legacy. This was seen in the little things that helped to make them more like “real” people. The little joke that William shared with Kate’s father when they arrived, the smile on Harry’s face as he watched his big brother, the little stuffed toy in one of the flower girl’s hands in the wedding photo. And if you haven’t checked out what the Lip Reader said the Royal family was saying throughout the wedding, check out this article- http://huff.to/l3CtRd . All of these things help to communicate the culture of this new generation of Royal Family, and are great lessons about demonstrating the culture you want to lead in your company.

What do you think?  Did your company do something special to bring employees together through the Royal Wedding?

 
 

Tags: , ,