007 ~ An Agent For Change – Think Oak! – 50th Post Edition

Agent, Change AgentAs both James Bond and myself are sharing a 50th anniversary I thought I’d discuss Agents, Change Agents and how we should all aspire to be one!

Firstly what is a Change Agent?

A Change Agent is a person who leads change within an organisation, by championing change and by helping to communicate the excitement, possibilities, and details of the change to others within the organisation. A change agent doesn’t need to be a full-time, formal role. It can be simply the way someone chooses to be in an organisation.

What are the personal qualities of the ‘007’ of Change Agents?

The Best  Change Agents ‘LIVE AND LET DIE’

L – Love Change!

Probably not a surprise to you that the best agents of change, love change! They thrive on being involved in new ideas, initiatives and projects and are not afraid to roll their sleeves up to get the job done.

I – Innovative

I’m not talking of their ability to develop exploding pens, but innovation in the way they communicate, engage and enrol others in the change effort. They don’t just come up with ideas, they know how to apply them.  Great Change Agents are curious, experimental, and they apply their discoveries to the organisation’s goals.

V – Visionary

Great change agents help to shape the future. They can see very clearly where the change effort needs to go and have a clear vision of what the future will feel and look like, and more importantly the key steps to take the organisation there.

E – Enthusiastic

Change Agents need have enthusiasm in abundance. It can often be a tough role and often requires a great deal self-motivation to keep momentum in an organisational change effort.

A – Articulate

Communication is THE most important part of being a good agent for change. The best of the best have the ability to articulate the WIIFM – ‘What’s In It For Me’ at all levels of the organisation. They know what makes people tick and know how change will impact individuals and teams alike.

N – Not afraid to speak the truth

This one is certainly near the top of my list for a killer Change Agent. Change Agents, by their very nature, speak to people on the shop floor right the way up to Chief Executive levels in organisations. They hear what the ‘troops’ are saying and they see how the senior management interact and behave. By being effective, and by speaking the ‘awful’ truth when necessary, they can be the conduit from bottom to the top of an organisation, conveying key news, good or bad, straight to the people who can change things for the better.

D – Deliver + 1%

Bond always delivers and then some. So do great Change Agents. They always go the extra mile to ensure that everyone that is impacted by change are engaged, enrolled and bought in to what is required of them. They work tirelessly to engage with the key influencers to ensure that the organisation is as prepared as they can be for change.

L – Listening

Those that are avid readers of Think Oak! know of my passion for generous or active listening. Great Change Agents are masters at listening for what is being said and more importantly for what is not being said, taking time to really understand the challenges that individuals, teams, departments and functions face. They take this feedback and tailor communications and training as well as feeding the learning back into the wider organisation.

E – Empathetic

To many people, change is unsettling, at best and to some downright scary. A solitary piece of generic communication to the organisation is unlikely to affect change and unlikely to address people’s questions or concerns. Change Agents invest time to understand people’s worries and address them with empathy to get the right results.

T – Trusted

For Change Agents to be effective, they have to a reputation of trust with their peers and others in the organisation. They always do what they say they’ll do.

D – Decisive

Change Agents can’t be procrastinators. Decisions often need to be made quickly especially around people issues and business impact challenges. Great Change Agents act with urgency and aren’t afraid to deliver difficult messages to senior management or management teams.

I – Influencer

Stakeholder awareness and management is crucial to the success of any major organisational change programme. An effective Change Agent is a key influencer in an organisation. The have the ability AND relationships, to overcome issues and barriers quickly. They very often anticipate the challenges ahead and engage with key stakeholders in advance to smooth the road ahead.

E – Egoless

Top Change Agents are not in it for themselves. They are 100% behind the change itself and the success of the organisation.

So whilst a ‘007’ Change Agent isn’t quite as glamorous an individual as James Bond, they’re still pretty special.

Hope you enjoyed the post. As always, would love to hear any feedback you may have.

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Fail to Learn, Learn to Fail

Failure

In this post I’d like to cover some common failures of leaders and managers. We all make mistakes, and that’s actually a good thing, as long as you learn from them…and learn quickly. I’m going to draw from my experiences and those of people I’ve met along the way and hopefully save you some time and some pain.

1)    Waiting too long to address under-performance

I’ve seen this so many times in my career and have been guilty of it myself in the past. Many of us like to think the best of people and think that with encouragement, coaching and focussed objectives everyone can make the grade or better. Not so, certainly not all the time. There comes a point when you have to take decisive action.

These situations almost always get worse if left alone. They never get better on their own. Understanding the real issues and taking action quickly leads to faster improvement and reduces the risk of unrecoverable failure for your team members and yourself.

You need to ask yourself the following questions?

a)     Does your team member know what is expected of them? Have they got SMART Objectives (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound)?

b)    Does your team member have the capability and skills to do what you need of them? Do you and they know what needs to be changed? Have you got time to get there?

c)     Are they passionate about what they do? Maybe they’re ‘a square peg in a round hole’ i.e. they’re in the wrong role for their skills.

d)    Have you ensured that they are receiving feedback? Don’t trust that just because you’ve discussed it with their manager, it’s happened…Follow up. Don’t trust that just because the words have come out of your mouth, they’ve got it. Get them to play back what they’ve heard and let them tell you what they’re doing about it.

e)     Is their performance impacting other members of the team negatively? Are you hearing this from more than one or two people?

Once you’ve got the answers to these questions, make a decision to act and then act. Stick to a plan. Set objectives, measure performance, give feedback, coach, give more feedback and if the person’s performance or behaviour doesn’t change, make a decision, and yes follow process, but move the person; either to a different role, or out of your business. It will be hard, but it is the right thing to do – Right for you, for the team, and in my experience, right for the individual.

2)    Not linking Strategy to Objectives or Pay

If you pay your sales team only on winning new business and you’re not setting objectives to any of your teams on retention or great customer service….you will fail.

If you incentivise your people on revenue, they won’t focus on profitability and you will fail.

If you want the best customer service in your industry and you pay people on lowest call times…you will fail.

If you want your executive team, or your management team to change the culture of the business for the long term, make sure that they are compensated on it, or you will fail.

You get the picture, but many don’t. If you want to shift the momentum of a department or a function or a full business, you need to align how people are compensated behind that vision.

3)    It’s ‘their’ fault

Let’s get something straight. If you take ownership for delivering something, big or small, it’s no-one else’s fault but your own. True ownership means, tenacity – not taking ‘no’ as an answer, not taking ‘it can’t be done’ as an answer. You keep going, keep pushing, you fight for resource, you fight for priority, you fight for your goals. You make yourself unpopular. Yes…but. No buts. If you agree to take ownership of something, you deliver it or you face the consequences. Stand by your goals!

4)    I thought they knew what they had to deliver

This is a big one. Communicating top priorities creates the basis of focus for an organisation, team or individual. However, without clear definitions of success, management and employees can be aiming for very different levels of performance. This creates significant risk in execution to committed operating plans and strategic projects.

Leaders need to be very precise in defining how they are going to measure success. What indicators are going to be used? What weight will be put on different measures? And what are the specific target levels for each of those measures that are expected?

Highly visionary leaders struggle with this more than most. They tend to be heavy on pitching big ideas, but very light on communicating priority and specific expectations.

a)     What’s the big idea?

Visionaries get this. They have the idea. They have the passion. They feel they have communicated it. But your team may not.

b)    What are the under-pinning principles?

What guiding principles underpin the big idea? No more than 5 – In priority order if possible. These principles will help your people define the boundaries of the big idea. Make sure that your people, especially your influencers understand the big idea AND the principles.

c)     Get your people to shape the plan

Ok, so your key players understand the big idea, they’ve thrashed out principles and priorities with your help. Let them build the plan. You sign it off. But let them ‘own’ the plan…and the targets.

d)    Review and feedback

Keep on top of the plan, regularly. Give feedback, but don’t take over. If you’ve got the wrong people on the team, change them. If the numbers aren’t coming, evaluate what you’re doing and either change your course or focus extra energy on results.

5)    Accepting the status quo

I’ve spent my whole career being frustrated by the status quo. No system is perfect. If it was, the animal kingdom would not have evolved. Competition would not exist. Siblings would not try to out-do each other. There would be no Olympic Games or Premier League. Business is no different.

I’m amazed at the lack of attention to detail in business. We get feedback every day from our customers – directly or indirectly. Do ‘we’ listen to the news, surveys, research, phone calls, letters of complaint….?

Only the best businesses truly listen to feedback and act upon it. And by business I mean, every part, every person in the business listens and more importantly ACT on feedback.

Companies that stick with the status quo, fail.

6)    Stop communicating – Engage, Enrol, Involve

People are not stupid. They have lives, they have mortgages, they have complicated relationships, they have children, they have debts, they have secrets, they have dreams. Don’t give them a mouse mat or a piece of paper and expect them to ‘vote’ for your strategy. Talk to them, listen to them, find out what they care about, let them help you with your strategy. Listen to their ideas. Morph your strategy to the best ideas. Bring the most enthusiastic into your inner circle, no matter what their grade.

Forget emails, slides, videos, intranets and 3 minutes at a team briefing in isolation. If you only use these methods without truly engaging with your people and getting their buy-in and belief, you will fail.

7)    I won’t tell them, it’s in their best interests.

Rightly or wrongly, businesses often hide the truth from their people and often for the ‘right’ reasons. The days of mass union action have gone. Some will disagree.

Everyone that has an element of commercial awareness, knows that sometimes, tough decisions have to be made. One day that could impact you.

I don’t know about you, but I would rather know. I would then have time to make plans.

My advice, some would say naively, tell people the truth. Give them enough time to make plans or change direction.

I hope this post provoked some thought and hopefully some ideas to help you reflect on past failures and how you may improve, going forward.

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

The Need for Speed ~ Driving Pace in Your Organisation ~ Part 4

Execution of the Plan

In part 3 of this four part series of blogs I covered the importance of PACE to improve organisational effectiveness and speed and specifically Communication:

PACE = Planning + Alignment + Communication + Execution

The fourth and final part of The Need for Speed ~ Driving Pace in Your Organisation will focus on Execution of your plan to acheive your One Magnificent Goal, your OMG!

Execution

Thomas Edison famously said, “Vision without execution is hallucination.” It’s true. And as the hallucinations of countless business leaders have proved, knowing what you want to do or where you want the company to be may be less than half the battle.

a) Co-ordination and control of programmes and projects

Failure to execute has several root causes. Below are several common reasons why companies fail to execute their strategic plans fully:

  • Poor prioritisation of resource – Every goal cannot be the top priority, but we set ourselves up for failure by treating them all as if they were equal. Organisations lack the energy or focus to take on too many goals at once. Even if the capacity were there to take on unlimited amounts of work associated with implementation of strategic goals – it is a bad idea to over extend.
  • Lack of detail planning to support goal achievement – Detailed planning involves breaking down work into smaller parts. It is far easier to solve a small puzzle than to launch into solving a massive one. Inch Pebbles not Mile Stones!
  • Poor communication and coordination – Failure to communicate and educate is a huge factor in many failed plans. Employees who are responsible and accountable for their scope of execution must understand what is to be done, when and how that affects the overall outcome.
  • Strategy and culture misalignment – Execution cannot be planned without consideration of the organisation’s culture.
  • Accountability missing from goals – Everyone is accountable in accomplishing their individual tasks that are required to achieve the overarching OMG and some, including the CEO, may be accountable for reinforcement of the tasks.
  • Poor governance – Governance enables organisations to manage the interrelationships of all underlying initiatives comprising their OMG. Governance also provides the boundaries and check points needed to keep programs in alignment with the plan.
  • Ill-defined initiatives – Once ambiguity creeps into the scope of any initiative, it leads to confusion and failure in execution. The language used to state goals is usually where the problems start. Initiatives must be carefully constructed in order to be crisp and well understood. In addition, they must be measurable.

To be successful a project must:

· Deliver the outcomes and benefits required by the organisation

· Create and implement deliverables that meet agreed requirements;

· Meet time targets and stay within financial budgets;

· Involve all the right people;

· Make best use of resources in the organisation and elsewhere;

· Take account of changes in the way the organisation operates;

· Manage any risks that could jeopardise success;

· Take into account the needs of staff and other stakeholders who will be impacted by the changes brought about by the project.

· Keep stakeholders and staff in the loop as to your progress and get them ready for any impacts of the project.

b) Ownership and accountability

At work, people who have a high level of accountability will take initiative to ensure the success of a project, provide early warning of potential problems, and try to resolve a problem even if it is not their fault.

One reason we hesitate to tackle the accountability problem in a timely way is a lack of clarity on what the person is accountable for in the first place. Discussions about accountability can be straightforward and potential conflicts less intense when everyone knows ahead of time what is expected and how success will be measured. Establishing this clarity also reduces the likelihood of having to have the discussions in the first place.

Being accountable comes naturally to some people. For many of us, however, the more natural tendency is to justify and explain why we are not responsible when things go wrong. Although you cannot change human nature, those of us in a managerial or leadership role can help create an environment that enables others to operate at a higher level of responsibility. The key is to set people up for success by clarifying expectations up front and building in time to make course corrections before the deadline. This helps avoid the need to make excuses.

When targets are missed, asking three questions can solve the problem: What can you do right now to get back on track? How did you contribute to this situation? What can you do in the future to ensure this will not happen again? This approach doesn’t try to pinpoint blame and helps minimise the threat to the person’s self-image. These three questions, along with techniques to deal with a defensive response effectively, also minimises the need to make excuses as you and the other person collaborate on finding a solution.

c) Rapid and Effective Decision Making

There are three things you can do to improve the quality and speed of decisions.

a) Make sure that people closest to the action are making the decisions. This can require a change in organisational structure and, when this is not possible, empowering people and holding them accountable for taking the initiative and addressing issues when they arise.

b) Involve the right people in decisions. This helps ensure that you include perspectives and experiences other than your own and also helps fill in relevant data that you might not possess.

c) Use an objective, systematic process so that you won’t let emotion or bias cloud the issues or simply default to the kinds of decisions you’ve made in the past. This will also force you to incorporate risk assessment in your decision-making.

These last two actions ensure that we have access to a range of perspectives and information that might not otherwise be available to us, and increases the likelihood that we will be more thoughtful when making choices.

Organisations that are the best at execution also create operating plans that are coordinated across departments and levels, expect and encourage top performance from everyone, hold people accountable for results, make high-quality decisions by ensuring that the right people are talking about the right things at the right time.

In summary, PACE – Planning, Alignment, Communication and Execution will drive speed in your organisation. You as a leader will need High Energy and Focus to keep PACE on track and you’ll need a strong team around you to deliver your OMG. The rewards in achieving your OMG will be worth it!

That concludes the final part of The Need for Speed ~ Driving Pace in Your Organisation. If you missed the first three parts please click Part 1 – Planning, Part 2 – Alignment and Part 3 – Communication.

The Need for Speed ~ Driving Pace in Your Organisation ~ Part 3

communication and collaborationIn part 2 of this four part series of blogs, I covered the importance of PACE to improve organisational effectiveness and speed and specifically Alignment:

PACE = Planning + Alignment + Communication + Execution

The third part of The Need for Speed ~ Driving Pace in Your Organisation will focus on Communication of your plan, your organisational structure, your people and your rewards and performance management capability.

Communication

a) Senior management creating a sense of purpose

All of us are in search of a clear and driving purpose for our lives; we want to contribute to something bigger than ourselves.  The workplace offers a great opportunity for people to connect with a purpose, your One Magnificent Goal, your OMG!

The reality is that people care less about working for a company and much more about working for a ‘noble’ cause. Without a purpose, your employees are just putting in time. Their minds might be engaged, but their hearts will not be. A team without a purpose is a team without passion. Your team members may achieve short-term results, but they won’t have the heart to go the distance.

The first strategy to satisfy this basic need is to give employees a ‘noble’ purpose and then help them connect with it emotionally.

Take a close look at what your people are doing day in and day out. You might find that their hearts are much bigger than their jobs. Get team members inspired about your OMG, and their hearts will follow.

Implementing improvement requires constantly reviewing the dynamic forces that drive an organisation. Understanding these dynamics, anticipating their consequences, and acting to accelerate, or redirect them is a complex task. The complexity is further compounded when companies engage in improvement efforts without viewing them as part of their strategic thinking. Assumptions as to what’s involved in change often understate the difficulty and miscalculate the amount of energy, preparation, and time required. Without proper attention, diagnosis may be inadequate and off the mark, leading to ill-fated plans.

Improvement efforts with an OMG often not only require readjusting the way that organisation leaders and employees think, they also require substantially changing behaviour. They require business leaders to manage energy in new ways and make difficult choices. Because these are often needed in the areas of employee empowerment and involvement, they call for new forms of courage. Many within the organisation have to make higher-risk decisions, requiring greater levels of personal development. Improvement efforts mean that cross-functional teamwork, innovation, and personal initiative become part of the defining values of the organisation.

To be successful, it is crucial that your senior management team are 100% behind your OMG, that they actively engage with their teams on a regular basis about your OMG, and that they make the OMG real for the people in their function – tailoring the messages for their people’s specific roles and responsibilities, and tackling the ‘What’s In It For Me?’ questions. They need to be passionate, committed and demonstrate the behaviours underpinning your OMG for it to be taken seriously by their teams. Paying ‘Lip-Service’ to your OMG will work for a while, but destroyed on the 2nd or 3rd occasion that a senior manager strays from this path.

b) Communication and Collaboration

Effective communication is vital in driving pace in your organisation. Improved communication and collaboration across your organisation represents your best opportunity to tap the full range of talents of your people, move with greater speed and flexibility, and compete to win over the next decade.

Building a collaborative organisation requires a transformative approach to culture, processes and technology—along with an unwavering commitment from top to bottom. The working environment is changing; there is an increase in flexible working, home working and mobile working and a blurring of all three. A clear collaboration strategy will ensure that productivity is not lost and employees feel as much part of the organisation as their colleagues based in head office. Optimising team performance can be achieved by building trust and strengthening relationships across geography and cultures; encouraging participation and knowledge/expertise through the use of communities; locating experts within real-time and accelerating decision-making; and using availability and presence tools to help reduce budget by meeting virtually. If you foster a culture that encourages collaborative behaviours, put processes in place to help people work better together and adopt technologies that facilitate collaboration, your efforts will be rewarded with an energised organisation that can adapt quickly to changing markets and deliver results.

c) Communications Approach

To achieve real organisational buy-in to your One Magnificent Goal you must inform, inspire and involve employees so they will choose to go where you are attempting to lead them.

Inform

Informing is the first step in aligning employees and getting buy-in.  It starts with sharing the why, what and how of your OMG.  Then discuss and get clear on individual roles in meeting the goals necessary to achieve the plan.

To feel informed, today’s employees need clarity on:

  • Why you exist as a business
  • How you will behave
  • What you offer to key stakeholders
  • Where you are going in one to three years
  • Key areas of focus for the entire organisation

Although the need to communicate has not changed over the years, the tools we use to communicate have.  Thanks to the internet and other new technologies, today’s leaders can (and should) communicate in many different ways.

The old standbys — memos, meetings and newsletters — still have their place, only in most cases these have gone digital.  In addition to these tools, today’s leaders and managers use e-mail, intranets and online newsletters to communicate quickly and effectively with employees.  They also use blogs, webinars and video clips to educate and update employees about company goals and objectives.

Companies with geographically dispersed workforces use conference calls and video teleconferencing to simulate face-to-face interactions.  And the more tech-savvy companies, especially those with younger workforces, are using instant messaging tools like Microsoft LyncTwitter and corporate social media tools like Yammer or Chatter to stay connected.  Whatever technologies you employ, the key is to communicate often in many different ways to ensure that all employees are focused and aligned.

Inspire

Today’s employees want to believe that their work is making a difference in the world.  To inspire others:

  • Share a compelling vision of what tomorrow looks like.  How will that vision make the world a better place and improve their lives?
  • Constantly discuss the aspirational components of your OMG.  Why should employees aspire to achieve it?
  • Share why you believe the destination is compelling.  What is it about where the company is going that inspires you?
  • Communicate with enthusiasm and passion.  Become an evangelist for the organisational goals.
  • Ask employees what the OMG means to them.  Share their responses via e-mail, intranet and in company meetings.
  • Share positive customer feedback.  Give people reasons to feel good about what the company does.
  • Celebrate achievement of milestones.  We all want to be part of a winning team, so recognise the progress and success along the way to your goals.

The ultimate goal is to get employees talking about what the OMG mean to them individually.  The more they focus on these areas, the more likely you are to get buy-in and alignment.

Involve

When employees feel involved and engaged in the delivery of your OMG, they bring more than just their bodies to work.  They bring their hearts and souls as well as their best thinking.

  • Spend time with your team regularly to check on their progress.  Make sure all individual goals remain aligned with your OMG.
  • Share stories of how teams are aligned and achieving goals.  Highlight team accomplishments and link them to the strategy they support.
  • To measure employee understanding, commitment, inspiration and engagement, take quick surveys following team or company meetings.
  • Solicit questions via email or intranet and address them in open forums.  Publicly thank employees for raising the issues.

So, you’ve now got your people on board, they’re informed, inspired and involved. In the final part of The Need for Speed – Driving Pace in Your Organisation,  I will be look at the fourth, and arguably the most important element of PACE, Execution.

The Need for Speed ~ Driving Pace in Your Organisation ~ Part 2

AlignmentIn part 1 of this four part series of blogs I covered the importance of PACE to improve organisational effectiveness and speed and specifically Planning:

PACE = Planning + Alignment + Communication + Execution

The second part of The Need for Speed ~ Driving Pace in Your Organisation will focus on Alignment of your organisational structure, your people and your rewards and performance management capability.

Alignment

a) Organise your teams around your One Magnificent Goal! – Your OMG!

The benefits of a well aligned team are no surprise to anyone. A great deal has been written about how to create better alignment within teams, through team building, incentives, and other management techniques. However, the first step in any effort to improve the alignment amongst a group must start with an honest evaluation of the current state, and a desire to improve and a clear view as to where you’re going.

Convene a group of key managers within your organisation to help you look at the impacts, both positive and negative, of your current organisation structure and how it might look when aligned to your OMG. When realigning, you want to ensure that you don’t lose any core competencies. You also want to ensure that any proposed changes will support the goals you have set as well as continue the things your business already does well. A group of managers who understand the detailed workings of your organisation will help you greatly.

Develop several alignment models from which to choose. Consider movements with your existing people, additions, subtractions and combinations of these things when devising different structures that might support your goals. Use organisational charts to help you express these models so they are clear and tangible.

Solicit input from other business leaders you know, respect and trust. Examine the financial, strategic and organisational culture impacts your various alignment ideas might create in order to help you to arrive at your decision. You also need to understand any Human Resources / Employment Law ramifications of your decisions before you begin to implement.

b) Align performance goals and rewards around your OMG

To ensure achievement of your OMG you must align all your teams’ performance goals and rewards to it. In so many organisations, individual departments have separate performance metrics that do not align to their OMG. More importantly people are often rewarded against Key Performance Indicators that are misaligned. Some common examples of this might be; Sales are paid on revenue and the OMG is to increase margin; Customer Services are rewarded against hitting call statistics when the OMG is around improving customer satisfaction. Neither is complete misalignment, but both can cause a big enough gap in behaviours for the OMG not to be achieved.

When metrics and rewards systems are not realigned with changes in structure and business processes, the impacts are predictable:

• Individual performance targets compete with the OMG.

• Roles and accountabilities are confused or continue to be aligned around the old organisation design.

• Decisions are made to optimise performance in one unit contrary to the needs of the larger organisation.

• The organisation is slow to act and burdened with internal conflicts.

• Leaders resist change (because it is rational to do so when incentives encourage old behaviours).

• Individuals begin to question the impact of the organisation design changes on their personal economic well-being, distracting them from winning in the new formation.

Again, sound out your leadership team to ensure that cross-organisation goals and rewards are not in conflict with each other before you implement. Talk to leaders and managers in other companies to get some broader context of what works and doesn’t work elsewhere.

It’s really important that the reward structures align from top to bottom within your organisation and there is an OMG specific payment when you achieve it – A Long Term Incentive. That encourages everyone from Executive to Admin Assistant to shoot for the OMG. Obviously the levels of reward might be different, but everyone wins when you achieve your goal!

c) Push decision-making authority as far down the organisation as possible

In the era of organisational flattening, there are less and less layers of management. We are happy about getting rid of hierarchies, but we are less good at understanding the associated challenges. If a layer of management disappears, decision-making should go to the lower level and not to the higher one. A reorganisation where layers go down from 6 to 3, but where senior management absorbs most of the decision rights that became available tends not to work effectively.

A consequence of decision-making being pushed down is that there are many new ‘decision homes’ where empowered people could make a decision on the spot. One of the big problems associated with decision rights flowing upstream, to a higher level, is that these decision rights tend to go or be deferred to the management bodies that only meet from time to time.

So, pushing the decision rights down to a lower level also means that many decisions could be taken ‘in real time’. Provided that people are empowered to do so, there is no reason why they should delay the decision-making process. Pushing decisions downstream and making decisions ‘in real time’ as much as you can are two simple disruptive rules. They won’t cost much but they have the power to transform your company on a big scale.

Some principles you should consider:

  • Implement decision-making at lower levels across the business, not just in one or two departments
  • If something can be decided at a lower level, it should. And you should make it lower and lower all the time.
  • If nothing can be decided at a lower level, you are the problem.
  • Your management goal is to decide less and less every day.

‘Closure’ and decisions made in meetings and committees may be efficient, but not necessarily effective if it could have been done at a lower level.

The amount of ‘deferred decisions’ (as opposed to real-time ones) in your organisation is a good indicator of your agility and empowerment. How many organisation even measure this I wonder?

d) Clearly defined roles & responsibilities

In order to effectively manage your people, it is important to provide them with a clear definition and understanding of their role, function, and responsibilities in the workplace. This will provide them with a good understanding of the job and tasks they are to perform as an individual and within any teams they are a part of. It also provides information on where they fit within the organisation and who they report to, helping to avoid disputes and misunderstandings over authority.

Failing to define workplace roles and responsibilities can create tension, miscommunication and inefficiency within your business. People may be unsure as to what jobs are their own and who they are required to report to. Mistakes and omissions can also occur where people are unsure of what is required of them, therefore creating inefficiencies which cost time and money.

e) Stopping projects / activities that don’t support the plan

Tighter goal alignment and goal visibility allows for quicker execution of organisation strategy by enabling your management team to more effectively allocate resources across various projects. By exposing business initiatives not aligned with your OMG, it also increases overall efficiency by ensuring employees are not duplicating the efforts of others. Plus, goal alignment strengthens the leadership at your company by allowing managers to:

  • Understand more clearly all responsibilities associated with specific goals
  • Eliminate redundancies across job titles
  • Focus their staffs on your company’s most pertinent goals

So, you’ve now got the right people, organisational structure and performance culture to deliver your plan. In Part 3 of The Need for Speed – Driving Pace in Your Organisation,  I will be look at the third element of PACE, Communication.

The Need for Speed ~ Driving Pace in Your Organisation ~ Part 1

Driving PACE in your organisationSucceeding in today’s competitive business environment requires that your organisation be agile enough to respond quickly to internal and external change. To stay ahead, you have to explore new ways to grow your business – for example, by launching a new product or service or targeting a different marketplace. Speed and focus could become your biggest competitive advantages.

For this to succeed, you will need to rapidly align resources and people so as to drive speed, efficiency, and profitability. But how do you achieve this level of organisational agility – and ensure focused execution across your business?

The key is driving organisational alignment – an elusive goal for many companies. This requires strong executive alignment, an organisational mind-set that values performance management, and the ability to perform effectively. Once these elements are in place, you need baseline information to devise the right strategies, a clear understanding of interdependencies, and insight into where to deploy personnel and budgets. To drive adoption, you must communicate strategies to employees in ways that they understand and embrace and that are within the context of their roles. You must provide the right tools and incentives to help them execute on a daily basis and in alignment with corporate strategies.

However, if your organisation is like most, there is a significant gap between strategy and execution because of breakdowns in one or more of these areas.

You need to consider how to implement PACE in your organisation: Planning, Alignment, Communication and Execution

This first post, in a 4 part series, will focus on:

Planning

Why is planning so important and why must it be done in parallel with strategy? From a macro perspective, business today gets done in a global marketplace. Change is occurring at an unprecedented pace. Time and distance continue to become less and less relevant thanks in great part to the explosive growth and convergence of technology and the internet.

There was a time when strategic planning was done by only the biggest companies, and those who lead change. Now it is a requirement just to survive. Leaders of business must be looking ahead, anticipating change, and developing a strategy to proactively and successfully navigate through the turbulence created by change.

a) Clarity of Strategic Goals and Markets

How are you going to get somewhere if you don’t know where you are going? Everyone in an organisation needs to know what you sell or do, who your target customers are, how you compete and in which markets you operate. A good strategy will balance revenue and margin generation with productivity initiatives. Without strategic planning, businesses simply drift, and are always reacting to the pressure of the day. Companies that don’t plan have exponentially higher rates of failure than those that plan and implement well.

For many business owners and leaders, creating a vision, company values, and a strategic plan can be a daunting task for reasons like time, energy, commitment and lack of experience. It requires business leaders to accept that yesterday’s success does not ensure success in the future. It requires challenging the status quo, potentially changing behaviours, implementing new procedures, hiring different people, and putting new systems in place in order to deliver on the strategy.

Make no mistake; the best plans and ideas without great execution are just plans or ideas, they don’t result in much of anything. Regardless of the size of a company, a strategic plan is the foundation on which all business activities can be connected and “aligned”.

b) OMG! – One Magnificent Goal!

The idea for One Magnificent Goal is derived from the fantastic book by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras; Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies – They termed it ‘BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal’

OMG is THE goal that really stretches you to think differently about how you do business. It’s THE goal that is going to help you transform your business, rather than being satisfied with incremental change. It’s THE goal that’s going to inspire you to do your best work and outshine your competition.

What is THE ONE BIG aspirational idea that your people can really get behind; that will really make them deliver +1%?

  • It could be Target Driven –  JFK’s – ‘this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.”
  • It could be Competitor Driven – Crush Adidas! (Nike, 1960s)
  • It could be Role-model Driven – Audi’s OMG in 2005: To match the exclusive image of mighty Benz and BMW
  • It could be a Business Transformation – Amazon.com: Every book, ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds

When you consider OMGs for your organisation here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • It should be so clear and compelling that it requires little or no explanation
  • It should fall well outside your comfort zone
  • It should be so bold and exciting in its own right that it will stimulate progress even if the leaders disappear
  • It should be consistent with the company’s core ideology

If your OMG doesn’t meet these criteria you should really think again!

c) The Plan Itself

If you are serious about reaching your OMG, you have to develop a plan that  clearly takes you through milestones or even better,  ‘Inch Pebbles’ to meet that OMG. If you don’t, you can’t even  expect to get close. You have to do more than you have ever done. You also have to look for  new and creative ways, to get to the result.

I’m not, in this post, going to be prescriptive about how you build a plan, but I would ask you to consider the following questions:

How do I bridge the gap? – How can you most effectively get from where you are now to where you want to go? And in what time-frame? What strategic initiatives are needed to bridge the gap?

What are the controls I need to put in place? What monitoring, project management, reporting, and performance management do I need to put in place to achieve these initiatives?

What people do I need to ensure I reach my OMG? Will the team you have today be enough to deliver your OMG? Do you need more people or different people? Do you need to change the people (training & development) or change the people (restructure & recruit)?

Can I afford to do this? What costs will be incurred in delivering the initiatives that will help you reach your OMG? Over what time frame? What would be the cost of not doing them? What contingencies do you need to put in place along the way if some of your initiatives fail?

Answering these questions will help you formulate your plan.

So, you understand the market place and your strategic ambition within it, your OMG. You have a plan to achieve it. Have you got the right people, organisational structure and culture to deliver it? In Part 2 of The Need for Speed – Driving Pace in Your Organisation,  I will be look at the second element of PACE, Alignment.

Playing Politics without the Politics

Politics without the Politics

Office politics is a fact of company life. Wherever there are two or more people working together, there will be politics and there will be opportunity for conflict. However, destructive office politics can demoralise people in an organisation, hamper productivity, and increase turnover of good staff,.

Much as you might like to avoid them, the best way to deal with political environments is to engage them, to turn toward them. To turn away is to abdicate your responsibilities as a leader and manager. It is to let down yourself, your team, and even the organisation as a whole.

Unless you reach out, engage others, and create active, on-going relationships — relationships you sustain even when there’s no immediate problem — you will lack the ability to exercise influence beyond your group. And even in your own world, your influence will be limited. If you’ve ever worked for a boss who lacked any organizational clout or credibility, you know how frustrating that is.

I’m not saying you have to play ‘politics’, but it’s important that you can see when it’s happening, build the right relationships and communicate effectively with key stakeholders in your organisation on an ongoing basis.

So how do you play politics without the politics? Be P.O.L.I.T.I.C.A.L.L.Y S.A.V.V.Y

1. Perform!

First and foremost, be a top performer. Do your job, plus 1%. Be known as a “Star”  — someone people want on their team. Volunteer for projects and new initiatives.

2. Observe behaviours

Observing your peers and managers act in certain situations can teach you a great deal about peoples’ inter-relationships, their allegiances and their battles. An understanding of these relationships and power struggles may help you in building the right relationships and avoiding unnecessary conflict in the future.

3. Lead by example

People in an organisation look to leadership to see how to act. Do you want your team to refrain from negative politics? Do you want to see collaboration and teamwork instead of petty rivalries, jealousy, and back-stabbing? Act the way you want your people to act, and they will follow you.

Stand for the right things. Reputations are hard to build and easy to destroy. Be known as a person who is trustworthy, reliable, honest and fair. Do what you say you will do. Speak up when you hear false rumours, unfair criticism or slurs. Even if you are not liked by everyone, you will be respected by most.

4. Invest in others’ success

We all have responsibilities and objectives, and those things should receive priority. Nonetheless, if it doesn’t take too much time, being helpful to others can reap benefits for you. Be willing to share your expertise, experience and insights with others. You’ll gain greater confidence as people develop and, as they advance, you’ll broaden your network and access to information, resources, etc. One way to convert your ‘competitors’ to allies: help them succeed.

5. Think Win – Win

Learn to think in terms of “how can we both win out of this situation?” This requires that you first understand the other party’s perspective and what’s in it for him or her. Next, understand what’s in it for you. Strive to seek out a resolution that is acceptable and beneficial to both parties. Doing this will ensure that everyone truly commit to the agree resolution and not pay only lip-service to it.

People simply don’t like to lose. You may get away with win-lose tactics once or twice, but very soon, you’ll find yourself without allies in the workplace. Thinking win-win is an enduring strategy that builds allies and help you win in the long-term.

6. Identify key players

To survive office politics, know who the key players are. Obviously, you can pick out the senior management team. There will be other people in the organisation who are looked to for answers and opinions, even by the boss. They may or may not be the most senior or experienced. You can pick them out because they will usually voice an opinion or provide input on most subjects. You will observe people going to them for counsel, advice and insight. Knowing who’s who in your organisation is important, as you need to learn from these people and understand what is being prized and rewarded.

7. Cast the right shadow

The best way to keep out of trouble politically is to be seen as someone who doesn’t play office politics. Do what you say you’re going to do, alert people to problems, and admit your mistakes. Others will respect you, even if they don’t always agree with you. More important, you have a lower chance of being a victim of politics.

8. Avoid Gossip

Gossiping is the fuel for workplace politics. Gossiping means that things are not dealt with directly and can be very damaging. Whatever has been said is usually distorted as it is passed around, whether intentionally or not. Be direct and deal with things professionally. Try not to gossip — and if someone tells you something, don’t pass it on. You can let your co-workers know (verbally or by your actions) that you don’t want to engage in gossip. This can be hard initially but once people see that you mean what you say, they will respect you for it. Take a step back and try and be objective — it will help you to keep a professional distance and avoid being pulled into politics yourself.

Resist the temptation to publicly blame and criticize those above you — they may not be
perfect but they’re probably doing what they believe is best. Work to see the whole picture of a situation but realise that you’re rarely privy to every piece of the puzzle.

9. Learn lessons fast

Be willing to own up to your mistakes and failures; people will respect (and, hopefully, forgive) you for your courage. Always look for the lessons learned so you don’t repeat them. If the company’s culture and politics are making you miserable, move on. Decide it’s time to go before you are asked to leave or before you have lost your self-esteem. When you leave, don’t burn your bridges. Use your lessons to find a role or company where you start with a clean slate and thrive.

10. Live and work by your values

It’s an unfortunate truth that there are those who’ll do anything to “win,” but character and credibility count. You don’t need to play underhanded games to rise through the ranks. According to research by the Political Skill at Work authors, the four competencies that demonstrate organisational political skill are: sincerity, networking, interpersonal influence and social astuteness.  These are all highly ethical and respectable behaviours, not the underhanded or unsavoury ones often associated with office politics.

11. Your inner voice is normally right

Learn to trust your instincts. They’re normally right.

12. Strengthen your Network

Few of us succeed without help. Cherish friends and supporters. Cultivate mentors and confidantes who will offer good counsel and share important information. Seek advice from people you can learn from, people who can influence your career. Ask for candid feedback regularly.

13. Anticipate

To get things done, you have to see the world through the eyes of others. Too many leaders spend too little time anticipating. They over-focus on what they’re trying to do and don’t think about the roadblocks others may put in their way. Before you say or do anything you have to understand the agendas of those around you. Anticipating the arguments they’ll make is the first of the skills you need.

14. Value your people

Imagine the success your business could achieve if you truly engaged and motivated your employees by developing a climate that provided them with absolute clarity about where the business was going and their contribution to the journey; a climate that inspired only standards of excellence where employees strived to offer nothing but their best and were free to innovate and create; a climate that recognised and rewarded individuals based not only upon their contribution to success but also tailored to satisfy their personal needs and values.

This type of climate cannot be achieved using a Terminator leadership style, which inadvertently kills employees enthusiasm and passion for the job that they do and the company they work for.

Business success today demands a different inspirational leadership style that understands the importance of finding out what makes employees tick.  A style that enables employees to understand why what they do is worthwhile and feel valued for doing it.  A style that develops employees who look forward to coming to work and who are willing to go to extreme lengths to deliver excellence in a job and company they are proud of.

15. Visibility with the Boss

Unless you have unique and irreplaceable knowledge or skills (or are related to the CEO), your boss has more power than you do.  Your manager also has greater access to key decision-makers.  So it’s better to have your boss as an advocate than an adversary.  Politically savvy people know how to “manage up”.

16. You have a choice!

Winning requires you to consciously choose your reactions to the situation. Recognise that no matter how bad the circumstances, you have a choice in choosing how you feel and react.

Thanks for taking time out to read ‘Playing Politics without the Politics’ – Hopefully you’re now a little more POLITICALLY SAVVY.

Would love to hear how you’ve dealt with Office Politics!

THE Key Performance Indicator – Keep People Inspired

Keep People InspiredBusiness is all about measurement. Peter Drucker was an influential writer, management consultant, and self-described “social ecologist” and his quote – “What gets measured gets managed” is never more true than in today’s tough economic climate. The use of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are at the heart of most high performing businesses. However, there is often one important KPI missing,  and that is Keeping People Inspired.

That might sound trite, but without measuring the motivation of your teams in your business on a regular basis, understanding and addressing the root cause of any areas of low morale, you could be setting yourself and your teams up to fail.

An easy and cheap way to measure the motivation of your employees is through observation of how enthusiastic they are about arriving at work, interacting with colleagues and engaging in tasks they are given. In addition, the level of motivation among the work force can also be measured by the improvements in performance appraisals, and the quality of work performed. For those people new to the work force, the motivated employees will likely be the ones who demonstrate initiative by asking for additional work or more challenging assignments. For seasoned employees, their motivation is obvious in the ways they offer assistance to new employees, and seek ways to improve company processes and procedures for better efficiency and effectiveness.

A more formal and effective way to measure how your team is feeling is to survey them in some way on a regular basis. This could take the form of an online or paper survey. There are numerous examples online to help you shape your survey and ask your managers and team members to input into questions. Alternatively you can use survey agencies to help you create, compile, collate and analyse the results. Surveys should be anonymous and the questions unambiguous to get the best results. It’s important that you understand the results fully and take note of even the smallest shift backwards in team motivation. Play back the results to your team and ask them for feedback on how areas can be improved. The most important element here is to ACT on agreed changes and ACT quickly. Not acting to improve areas for improvement will decrease morale and motivation further in your team.

Assuming you’ve got measurements in place and are acting upon the results, how do you personally Keep People Inspired (assuming they were inspired at all in the first place!)?

  1. Lead by example – Practice what you preach or don’t preach at all. Be the change you want to see in your business or organisation.  If you really want to inspire others to do something, then this should be a big part of your life.  You don’t necessarily need to be an expert, but you do need to be passionately involved.
  2. Be authentic – Find the courage to keep being yourself. It won’t always be easy.
  3. Be passionate – Passion is something you must be willing to express if you want to inspire others.  You can gain a lot of influence just by publicly expressing that you are excited and passionate about a topic.  Expressive passion is contagious because of the curiosity it stirs in others.  You’ll get people wondering why you love what you love so much.  Naturally, some of them will take the time necessary to understand what it is about the topic that moves you.
  4. Be great at what you do – People watch what you do more than they listen to what you say.  Be someone worth emulating.  Most people are inspired by GREAT musicians, writers, painters, speakers, entrepreneurs, engineers, mothers, fathers, athletes, etc.  There’s only one thing they all have in common: They excel at what they do.
  5. Genuinely care about people – Most people can see through a colleague, manager or leader that doesn’t genuinely care about them as individuals. Spend time talking to your team and be genuinely interested in who they are as people.
  6. Challenge people to be the best they can be – If people know we expect great things from them, they will often go to great lengths to live up to our expectations. You are letting your people down if you do not try to develop them and help them to meet their potential.
  7. Speak up for your people – We are very connected to each other in various ways, the most important of which is our thoughts.  Out of fear, or shyness, lots of people hesitate to articulate their thoughts.  If you take the risk and say the things others are holding back, you become the glue that brings people together.
  8. Make people feel good about themselves – People will rarely remember what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.  Start noticing what you like about others and tell them.  Go out of your way to personally acknowledge and complement the people who have gone out of their way to excel.
  9. Share your Lessons Learned – When you can, be a resource to those around you. Mine the experiences of your life and share the lessons you have learned in your career.  Be vulnerable.  Be willing to share your failures as well as your successes.
  10. Keep your promises – If you say you’re going to do something, DO IT!
  11. Listen intently to what others say (and also to what they don’t say) – Make people feel important, and inspire them by showing them that they are.
  12. Communicate, communicate, and communicate clearly – Keeping things to yourself does not inspire.  Share your vision and ideas often with those around you.

I’d love to hear your stories of how you’ve been inspired and what motivates you?

The Brand New, Brand You! ~ Part 6

Measuring SuccessIn the sixth and final part in the series of The Brand New, Brand You, I will be covering the last step in the START process in Brand New, Brand You, Test.

So you’ve got to grips with Brand New, Brand You. You’ve developed your Brand – Your values and your Vision. You’ve started to build up your network of contacts and your personal brand with a wider audience. But what are people saying about your brand? Chances are, if you’ve been working with the STAR elements of START, people are talking about you and your brand already. How do you monitor these conversations both online and offline?

Online

Getting Started: How do people talk about you?

A good place to find how people know and speak about your brand is to look at the keywords and phrases they use to find your website.

You can find these metrics in the analytics package you’re using with your website. If you’re not using an analytics package like Google Analytics, Webtrends or Clicky, then brainstorm keywords and phrases that you may have heard clients/customers use in discussions you have had with them.

There are a large number of tools to choose from for monitoring Brand You and many are free to use. Here are a few free brand-monitoring tools that you may wish to try out.

Monitoring Tools

1: Google Email Alert System

You can sign up for Google Alerts quickly and easily. Using those keywords and phrases from your preliminary research, you can elect to have any instance of those keywords and phrases in combination with Brand You as Google finds them online sent straight to your inbox.

Enter the topic you wish to monitor, then click Preview to see the type of results you’ll receive.

Anytime Google indexes any mention in search results of the alerts you’re signed up for, you receive an email notification into your inbox. The notification is a direct hyperlink to the article, website, blog, product review, etc., wherein the keyword or phrase appeared. 

2: SocialMention

SocialMention allows you to easily track and measure what people are saying about you across the web’s social media landscape in real-time. SocialMention monitors 100+ social media properties directly, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Digg, Google, and many more.

It’s straightforward and easy to use. You simply type the brand, product, service name or keywords/phrase into the search field, select where you would like to search the social sphere for the search term(s) you have entered and click the Search button. I recommend searching all of the categories, but if you’re limited on time and resources, narrowing your search breadth and depth may be a good place to start.

SocialMention also provides the ability to narrow or broaden your brand monitoring as you like.

Based on your search criteria, SocialMention will return all of the mentions of your brand or keyword/phrase across the web.

Within the results, you’ll be provided a number of statistics, not just the instances of brand/keyword mentions. Based on SocialMention’s search metrics, they’ll provide you sentiment ratings, top keywords used in conjunction with your brand, top users of your brand name (those mentioning it the most), strength, passion, reach and more.

You’re able to click on the links where your brand is mentioned which facilitates a direct response to the person or party mentioning your brand or keyword/phrase.

While these provided metrics are not completely scientific, they’re a good reference point for understanding the nature of the types of conversations and comments surrounding your brand.

3: TweetDeck

To narrow down where you monitor your brand, TweetDeck offers you a simple way to view multiple conversations and searches from one location. You can use the dashboard in multiple locations such as laptop, desktop, smartphone and tablet.

TweetDeck is your personal real-time browser, connecting you with your contacts across Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and more.

You can monitor your brand mentions as they happen and respond just as quickly!

The power of TweetDeck and other similar dashboards like HootSuite is the ability to see tweets (conversations, comments, feedback) regarding your brand and keyword/phrases in real-time.

4: Technorati

To monitor the blogosphere for what bloggers are posting about your brand, I recommend Technorati. It’s an online tool that searches a blog directory of nearly 1.3 million blogs for all mentions of the brand or keyword/phrases that you enter in the search field.

Technorati is the world’s largest blog search engine and robust community blogging platform.

When the search results are compiled, you have a listing of posts for perusal to again determine what kinds of product and service reviews, comments, feedback, stories and more are being shared regarding your brand.

Using Technorati for monitoring your brand via blogs allows you to post comments and feedback on the blog posts. Yet another tool that permits you to join in the conversation about your brand.

The search results Technorati blog searches return can be a powerful tool in finding and building a network of blogger brand ambassadors. When you find your brand mentioned in a blog post, take the time to read it, and comment. If questions are raised about your brand on a blog post, feel free to answer the questions. Many bloggers who take the time to write about your brand will welcome your participation in the comments/conversation. Use these opportunities for involvement to build your network of brand ambassadors, as often these folks are some of your biggest fans and advocates!

5: Klout

Klout is tool used to measure and leverage your online influence based on your use of social media communication tools like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, and Google+. Wherever you have an online presence, you have the opportunity to influence people by creating or sharing content that inspires actions such as likes, retweets, shares, comments and more. The more engagement your posts receive, the more influential you are. Tracking this influence overtime, allows you to understand your brand resonance further, and basically, highlights what you should continue you doing, and what you should refrain from exploring.

6: Bit.ly

Bit.ly is a URL shortener that tracks clicks to a URL you shorten, regardless of where you shorten it, and lets you see how many clicks that link received. It’s also a good way for determine the engagement of your network, as well as the best times to post an article. For example, tweet a blog post at 8 a.m. with one bit.ly URL, then tweet it again with a different bit.ly URL at 1 p.m., and see which time gets you the most clicks. Do this a few times, and see if you can figure out what time of day is the best time to regularly publish your blog posts.

When deciding which online monitoring tools are best for your brand’s needs, take into account all of these considerations: what, where, how and why you are monitoring. This will help you plan for and hopefully succeed in brand monitoring and give you a roadmap for how and where to participate in the conversations about your brand online.

Offline

In short, ask for feedback; from your manager, their manager, your peers and your customers. Seek feedback on a regular basis, especially after you have identified Brand You improvements or areas of focus. Exchanging information and perceptions is an iterative process, not a single event. You can do this relatively informally by just asking for feedback face to face outside of any structured one-to-ones with your manager, or you can use more formal mechanisms such as 360 degree feedback questionnaires and personality testing.

Receiving feedback is a gift that provides you with honest information about people’s’ perception of your behaviours and performance – Be open to what you will hear!

1: Face to Face Feedback

A Face to face meeting is a great way to get quick feedback about the Brand New, Brand You. I’ve listed below a few Do’s and Don’ts for these types of feedback session.

Do’s

1. Set-out to the person giving the feedback your reasons for wanting feedback and areas of Brand You that you would like feedback on, e.g. personal impact, quality of work, areas for improvement etc.

2. Encourage honest, straight talking and reassure the person that they don’t need to hold back.

3. Let the person finish what he or she is saying. Really listen to what is being said, and often more importantly, not said.

4. Try to summarise the feedback at key points in the conversation, to ensure that you have listened effectively

5. Ask clarifying questions, if you’re not sure what’s being said and ask for specifics, if not provided.

6. Take the time after the feedback session to evaluate the information and consider specific actions for improvements.

7. Teach yourself to recognise situations in which a certain behaviour needs to be altered. Feedback can help you self-monitor your behavior at times when you are less than optimally effective.

8. Use feedback to clarify goals, track progress toward those goals, and to improve the effectiveness of your behaviors over a period of time.

Don’ts:

1. Become defensive or explain your behavior. (You can either spend your time defending your actions or you can spend your time listening)

2. Interrupt the other person, unless you need clarification.

3. Be afraid to allow pauses and periods of silence when you receive feedback. This gives you time to understand what is being said and it gives the other person time to think about what they say.

 2: 360 Degree Feedback

360 Degree Feedback is a more formal system or process in which employees receive confidential, anonymous feedback from the people who work around them. This typically includes the employee’s manager, peers, and direct reports. Typically a mixture of about eight to twelve people fill out an anonymous online feedback form that asks questions covering a broad range of workplace competencies. The feedback forms include questions that are measured on a rating scale and also ask raters to provide written comments. The person receiving feedback also fills out a self-rating survey that includes the same survey questions that others receive in their forms.

Generally,  360 feedback systems automatically tabulates the results and present them in a format that helps the feedback recipient create a development plan. Individual responses are always combined with responses from other people in the same rater category (e.g. peer, direct report) in order to preserve anonymity and to give the employee a clear picture of his/her greatest overall strengths and weaknesses.

360 Feedback can also be a useful development tool for people who are not in a management role. Strictly speaking, a “non-manager” 360 assessment is not measuring feedback from 360 degrees since there are no direct reports, but the same principles still apply. 360 Feedback for non-managers is useful to help people be more effective in their current roles, and also to help them understand what areas they should focus on if they want to move into a management role.

360 Feedback methods tend to measure the following areas of Brand You:

  • Behaviours and competencies
  • How others perceive an employee
  • Skills such as listening, planning, and goal-setting
  • Subjective areas such as teamwork, character, and leadership effectiveness

Most company HR Departments will be able to help you perform a 360 assessment, but there are tools such as Appraisal 360 available for you to purchase online, but these can be relatively expensive.

3: Personality Tests

There are numerous personality and psychometric tests available which measure a skills such as verbal, numerical, abstract or mechanical reasoning (these are often called aptitude tests) and questionnaires used to find out about your personality type, learning style or career choices, which can help you and / or an employer make informed choices. Tests are often used by employers to give an objective assessment of a people’s abilities. They can also be used throughout your career to gauge areas for development.

There are plenty of management tools out there concerning personality types that you may wish to explore– Myers Briggs, DISC Strategy being the better ones in my experience.


That concludes the final step in START and the Brand New, Brand You series. Let me know you get on!

If you missed the first  five posts of The Brand New, Brand You please click Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5

An Elephant in the Room Part 1 – Management Breakthroughs

Listening for the unsaid!To paraphrase Wikipedia – An “Elephant in the room” has become a management saying meaning an obvious truth that is being ignored or goes unaddressed. It applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss and based on the idea that an elephant in a room would be impossible to overlook; thus, people in the room who pretend the elephant is not there have chosen to concern themselves with tangential or small and irrelevant issues rather than deal with the looming big one.

I don’t know whether it’s because elephants are now protected by law or not, but I’m coming across many more of them than I used to!

Tackling the difficult topics in business life is hard, really hard, especially if you’re not used to having these sorts of conversations. You can choose to ignore difficult conversations and still survive in business and many do! If you’re thinking, yep that’s me, then I’d advise you to think again. If you want to be the best you can be, then you absolutely need to read on. If not, this post is not for you.

The breadth of difficult conversations is huge, so I’m not going to be prescriptive. There are so many examples, but I’ll name a few, so that we’re on the same page:

  • Poor performance or capability
  • Discrimination
  • Bullying
  • Indirect aggression
  • Actual aggression
  • Sabotage
  • Poor relationship
I see two distinct types of Elephant in my line of work…and two ways of tackling them. The Management Elephant and the Leadership Elephant. This blog will focus on the former.
The Management Elephant
The Management Elephant tends to be when you have a member of your team that is exhibiting behaviours that are not what they need to be. I was going to write ‘behaviours that are not acceptable’, but therein lies the fundamental problem. Because these behaviours are often ignored, because the conversations that need to happen to change the behaviours are hard, and therefore don’t happen, makes the behaviours acceptable….that bit is your fault!
You owe it to your company, yourself and, if you want to be a good manager, your employee to have these conversations.
Below are some steps that I have found will help you to get the most from these often tough conversations:
1. Prepare
Whatever the conversation, don’t just turn up to the meeting without preparing, especially if you are angry about the situation. NEVER lose your temper. Believe me, YOU will feel worse about it afterwards, not them. Think about as many of the potential reactions and outcomes as you possibly think of and prepare your response.
2. Privacy
These sorts of conversations can often lead to the recipient being upset. Respect their privacy and ensure that the meetings are conducted in private and that they can exit the meeting into a safe environment.
3. Be direct
Get to the point, but talk about behaviours and impact. Be direct AND sensitive
Example:
Direct and Insensitive – You’re passing the buck. You have to change
Indirect and Sensitive – Have you thought at all how you interact with others?
Direct and Sensitive – Working with other departments is key to our success. I received feedback that others are having difficulty working with you and we need to explore how to improve these relationships.
4. Discuss consequences / impact
Depending on the issue being addressed, there could be a whole range of consequences from mild to serious. The fact you are trying to tackle the issue means that this is at least important to you and your relationship.
Many larger businesses have policies for capability / competence / performance etc and obviously there are potential legal ramifications for other more serious offences such as harassment or bullying.
Obviously if you are having the conversation early enough and in the right way, you can hopefully sort the problem before any of these consequences are invoked.
The key here is for you to convey the seriousness of the issue and what may happen if the behaviours are not altered.
5. Discuss action
Ensure that you work with your employee on an action plan  to rectify the behaviour and ensure this is time-bound and you have one or more follow-up conversations to ensure the issue is resolved. If it isn’t in a timely manner then you start to apply the consequences outlined above.
6. Be supportive
For some people, unacceptable behaviours may have been tolerated by previous management or they may be completely unaware on the impact their behaviour is having on others or the organisation. As a good manager you have an obligation to help them through the process and if you don’t feel equipped to deal with the situation, take advice from peers or a Human Resources expert (internally or externally).
Obviously if someone is breaking the law or in serious breach of their employment contract, then serious consequences must be considered and invoked immediately.
Be sure to read part 2 – Leadership Breakthroughs
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