Category Archives: communication

Now what?

You’ve hired good people, set goals, helped them identify development opportunities, scheduled and held performance reviews, managed workloads, and overall avoided the “bad manager” actions Dee Anne described. What else do you need to do to build organizational talent and help your people succeed? Give them feedback on how they are doing!

In his white paper, The Hard Truth About Effective Performance Management, Marc Effron highlights the evidence that on-going coaching and feedback is a requirement for effective performance management. To truly help people improve their performance, coaching must be focused and delivered regularly. To help busy managers coach effectively Effron recommends a process called 2 + 2 Coaching. It has four steps:

  1. Have a dedicated coaching conversation once a quarter.
  2. Schedule it for 15 minutes.
  3. Provide two comments to the employee on their progress towards their goals.
  4. Provide two comments to the employee on what they could do more or less of in the future to be more effective.

Clear and direct feedback has been shown to be a crucial element for high performance and goal attainment. Clearly you will be working with your people to solve problems, develop ideas, complete projects and other on-going tasks. However, carving out time for dedicated coaching and feedback on goals will help you effectively develop and build organizational talent and increase the performance of your people and your team.

Todd Thorsgaard

 

GOOOOOOOOAL!!

Every four years I am captivated by the amazing performances of the World Cup soccer players. Add the famous GOOOOOOAL call by announcer Andres Cantor and it is “must see TV!”

Big goals also lead to high performance in the world of work. In Marc Effron’s soon to be released book, 8 Steps to High Performance:Focus on What You Can Change (Ignore the Rest), he highlights the science behind goal setting:

  • Specific goals improve performance.
  • Bigger goals are more motivating than smaller goals.
  • Fewer goals lead to higher performance.

Based on this research he describes a four step process to set goals with your people to help them perform at the highest level.

  1. Align – individual goals need to directly contribute to what is most important to your institution’s success.
  2. Promise – limit individual goals to those important few that an individual is emotionally committed to and willing to “promise” to complete.
  3. Increase – individual goals need to focus on concrete improvement in performance.
  4. Frame – write the goals so they are clear, easy to understand and succinct.

Not everyone gets to score a goal in the World Cup but you can help all your people be star performers in their own way.

Todd Thorsgaard

Help your staff grow

Over the last few weeks I’ve been conducting annual performance reviews with my staff. In preparation for our conversations, I ask my staff to not only document their accomplishments and performance goals, but to think about their professional development goals as well. Helping my staff grow and learn is highly satisfying. And according to career development expert and author Beverley Kaye, it is essential to retaining high performing individuals.

In her book, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go, Kaye offers up simple strategies that leaders can use help their staff grow in their careers, including:

  • Have short, frequent conversations with your staff about their career development
  • Listen attentively. Let your employees do 90% of the talking in your personal sessions.
  • Be curious and encourage curiosity. You do not need to have all the answers.
  • Provide constructive feedback regularly.
  • Discuss career development as a “rock-climbing wall” where employees can move up, down or sideways – or hang on and stay put

Kaye also recommends employing hindsight, foresight, and insight conversations:

  • During hindsight conversations, encourage people to look within themselves and examine where they’ve been in the past
  • During foresight conversations, ask staff to look outside of themselves and consider their future paths
  • Use insight conversations to combine hindsight and foresight

While professional development conversations between supervisors and their direct reports shouldn’t be limited to once a year, I find annual  performance reviews a helpful time to focus on professional development conversations. It gives my staff an opportunity to discuss how they are wanting to grow their careers and it gives me a chance to encourage them and provide additional ideas for development that might include stretch assignments, new work projects, professional certifications, continuing education, and service opportunities.

How do you help your employees grow?

Anita Rios

 

Want high performance? Build a learning culture!

According to David Mallon of Bersin & Associates, if you want a high performance organization, it’s imperative that you build a learning culture. In his research of successful, high performing organizations, he’s found that “a culture of learning and a culture of high performance are significantly linked.”  Intuitively, it makes sense that the smarter your organization is the better it can perform.

So, what is a learning culture, you might ask?  Bersin & Associates define it as a  “collective set of organizational values, conventions, processes and practices that continuously impels organizations and individuals to build knowledge, competence and performance.” And while a learning culture supports training and leadership development, it isn’t limited to formal development programs.

In Bersin’s comprehensive report, Mallon identifies 40 best practices and seven strategies that organizations can use to create a learning culture. Here is a sample:

  1. Assign staff to do jobs that surpass their skills and knowledge – Ask people to stretch. Use difficult assignments to encourage employees to push themselves to develop new skills and improve their old ones.
  2. Let people participate in selecting their assignments – Employees work hardest when their jobs and tasks interest them. Google takes advantage of this by permitting its engineers to devote a fifth of their time to personal projects.
  3. Recognize workers who learn new information and abilities – Provide rewards that show you care about each person’s learning.
  4. Value mistakes and failures – Employees learn best from their mistakes. Capitalize on errors as learning opportunities. And give people time to reflect on them.
  5. Emphasize learning as an important activity – Demonstrate its value in tangible ways; for example, make managers responsible for their staff’s professional development, not just their output. Actions always speak louder than words.
  6. Take a personal interest in the organizational capabilities of teams and individuals – Mentor the people you supervise.

During the next month, we’ll be exploring these ideas and more as we dive deeply into our next leadership competency of Building Organizational Talent. What strategies have you used to build a learning culture?

Anita Rios

Don’t surprise your customers. Delight them!

According to Thomas A. Stewart and Patricia O’Connell, authors of Woo, Wow, and Win: Service Design, Strategy, and the Art of Customer Delight, “Customers don’t want to be surprised, they want to be delighted!”

While I work in higher education, I am also a customer of higher education. My youngest daughter Sophie is entering college in the fall, and I can tell you that we have both been delighted by her new school.

Every communication with students and parents has been designed to welcome her and help her navigate the transition from high school to college. Her initial visit to the college wowed her with a tour of the program and demonstrations from current students in the architecture program. Upon acceptance, Sophie received a welcome package, complete with a swag bag of college-branded goodies to get her excited.

The school connects students with potential roommates and helps students register for dorm rooms online. With the help of social media, Sophie has been communicating with all the girls on her dorm floor and feels that she already knows them pretty well. Amazing, huh? I can tell you that she feels far more comfortable entering her freshman year than I did at her age when I knew no one.

As a parent, I’ve been completely informed about the admissions and orientation processes all along the way and I’ve recently been invited to join a Facebook group of parents for the class of 2022, where the current conversation among parents is “what type of computer is required for my son/daughter’s course of study?”

Just before Sophie graduated from high school, the college even sent her a branded top for her mortar board. What fun! And how delightful!

In their book, Stewart and O’Connell outline five principles of excellent service design, one of which is “Customers Want to Be Delighted.” To do that they recommend that you:

  • Meet their expectations with no guesses or surprises by providing an overall satisfying experience.
  • Define the delight you deliver to customers. Delight represents your customers’ experiences (how good were they?) multiplied by your “technical excellence” (how well did you deliver them?)
  • Ensure that customers know what to expect as they move from one touchpoint to another.

The authors say, that “such delight will “woo, wow, and win” customers.” I can certainly say that Sophie’s new college has wooed, wowed, and won me over completely through absolute delight!

What can you do to delight your customers?

Anita Rios

 

Dance with your customers

A critical step in customer service is to actually invite the customer to the table and include them in your problem-solving work. While this makes theoretical sense it can be challenging to do and takes leadership to ensure its success. Seth Godin, one of my favorite authors and bloggers, describes it as “dancing with customers in the act of co-creation” in a blog on customer service. It involves:

  • clearly inviting customers to work with you
  • focusing on engagement – not perfection
  • over communicating
  • speaking and listening to customers with respect
  • not making assumptions

Most leaders and employees are not used to working together with their customers. When I was working in the health care industry we decided to include patients in our work meetings as we designed the electronic visit follow-up document and communication process. At first that was very threatening to the doctors, physician assistants, nurses and intake staff. They were worried about “unreasonable” demands that patients would make. Surprisingly, everyone discovered that they enjoyed working together, both sides learned more about each other and the ideas shared ended up being practical and doable.

If you choose to include customers it is important to make the invitation clear and describe the work you will be doing together. Customers are also not used to being asked to work with you! The project team for the design of our new Enterprise Resource Planning data system at Minnesota State has done that well (NextGen). They have invited all students, faculty and staff have to participate in envisioning the future NextGen experience. Through emails, in-person presentations and an intranet site they have clearly described the work to date and what opportunities we have, as customers, to work with the vendor to help design and build the system. In addition, given the geographic spread of our system and the variation in availability, they provided three different options to work together; an online review process, virtual Q & A sessions or onsite regional review sessions.

What opportunities can you find for you and your team to dance with your customers?

Todd Thorsgaard

Who are you?

The stressed-out demanding coworker, the skeptical regulatory agent, the overwhelmed student, the sick and crabby patient, the distracted team member, or the busy boss – what do these people all have in common? They are someone’s customer!

When I worked in health care we always had to stop and remind ourselves that the reason our customers (patients and their families) were acting stressed, confused, and unhappy was because they were sick or their family members were sick! Customer service can be easy when everyone is on their best behavior and interacting in a highly professional manner, but that isn’t reality. Leaders need to be able to listen and respond with respect even when people are being “difficult.”

Author Paul Meshanko in his book, The Respect Effect, highlights 12 Rules of Respect that can help you establish respect with your customers even in difficult situations. These rules are based on behaviors that have been shown to neurologically enhance human interactions even in stressful situations.

  1. Be aware of your nonverbal cues – are your behaviors supporting your desired message?
  2. Develop a curiosity about the perspective of others – actively demonstrate that you are interested in what or why or how others are feeling or thinking.
  3. Assume that everyone is smart about something – give people the benefit of the doubt.
  4. Become a better listener by shaking your “but” – using the word but dismisses anything said previously even if that isn’t what you mean.
  5. Look for opportunities to connect and support others – identify areas of agreement while acknowledging areas of difference.
  6. When you disagree, explain why – provide information that clarifies how you made a decision.
  7. Look for opportunities to grow, stretch and change – remind yourself that nothing is static and each of us has something new to learn.
  8. Learn to be wrong on occasion – consider other points of view, even when your idea will work, and demonstrate to others that it is ok to make a mistake at times.
  9. Never hesitate to say you are sorry – acknowledge when you have not been respectful. It happens!
  10. Intentionally engage others in ways that build their self-esteem – intentionally interact in ways that recognize the value others have.
  11. Be respectful of time – remember that other people have time commitments that you are not aware of, and they are important to them.
  12. Smile! – last but definitely not least. Even in difficult situations look for opportunities to recognize connection or forward movement with a genuine smile.

Customer interactions can be messy. Demonstrating respect gives you the foundation to move forward.

Todd Thorsgaard

Are you building or losing trust?

“There are no trust neutral interactions… you either build trust or lose trust.” I can’t remember the name of the person who said this at a conference I attended almost 20 years ago, but I can tell you the saying has stuck with me.

I’ve found that I can walk away from each meeting or conversation I have with others and use the simple measuring stick: Did I build trust? Or did I lose trust?

Still, building trust is not always simple. For example, it can be challenging to focus on building trust when confronting an individual or group about a difficult issue. Add to that an emotionally charged discussion and your amygdala can be hijacked, sending out warning signals to protect yourself and shutting down the ability of your pre-frontal cortex to think constructively.

In those situations, it begs the questions: how do you have healthy conversations when you feel pushed to the edge? And more importantly, how do we deal with others to build relationships rather than erode them?

In her book, Conversational Intelligence, Judith Glaser shares how she has coached leaders to build trust by moving from an I-centric to WE-centric focus in her TRUST model below. Her approach integrates how each step impacts our brains in creating safety and allowing the pre-frontal cortex to engage in greater candor, cooperation, and collaboration.

T – Transparency – create transparency which signals “safety” to the amygdala

  • I-centric: secrecy, threats, lack of clarity, lack of alignment
  • WE-centric: openness, sharing of threats, intentions, aspirations, and objectives; movement toward establishing common, aligned objectives

R- Relationships – focus on connecting with others first, which signals “friend” not “foe”

  • I-centric: rejection, resistance, retribution, adversarial relationships, suspicion
  • WE-centric: respect, rapport, caring, candor, nonjudgmental listening to deeply connect and build partnership

U – Understanding – see the world from another’s eyes, enhancing bonding and a feeling that “we’re all in this together”

  • I-centric: uncertainty, focus on tasks, unrealistic expectations, disappointment, judgment
  • WE-centric: understanding, ability to stand in each other’s shoes, empathy for others’ context, seeing another perspective of reality, partnership; support

S – Shared Success – create a shared view of mutual success. Put words and pictures to what success looks like and signaling to the pre-frontal cortex that it’s safe to open up

  • I-centric: promotion of self-interest; focus on “I” and “me”; seeking of personal recognition and reward
  • WE-centric: bonding with others to create a vision of shared success; building a shared vision that holds space for mutual success; pursuit of shared interests and celebration of shared successes

T- Truth telling and testing assumptions – use candor and caring to build and expand trust

  • I-centric: reactions of anger, anxiety, withdrawal, resignation
  • WE-centric: regular, open, and nonjudgmental discussion of assumptions and disappointments as part of collaborative problem solving; identification of “reality gaps” and effort to close the gaps for mutual success; willingness to start over again if distrust emerges

Here’s my leadership challenge to you for today: Think about an upcoming difficult meeting or conversation that you are anticipating. How can you apply some of the WE-centric ideas above to your approach?

Anita Rios

 

 

 

 

 

“I knew you were going to do that!”

Predictability is a core foundation of trust. In fact it is a requirement if you want people to trust you. And in the world of work it is often where you, as a leader, have the best opportunity to earn the trust of the people you work with.

The Oxford Dictionary defines trust as “the firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone.” Or in my words, can you count on someone! Certainly being honest and having skills is important but what people are watching is your behavior. Do they have confidence in what you will do or say next – based on what you have done and said in the past.

Roger Fisher and Scott Brown in their book, Getting Together, highlight that personal predictability is the one constant that can maintain trust, even in complex and uncertain work environments. So how do leaders demonstrate predictability? You certainly can’t make guarantees and you can’t predict the future with 100% certainty but you can take the following actions:

  1. Don’t over commit. Carefully examine what what you are committing to do. Following through on a commitment is more important than making a large number of commitments.
  2. Document or note your commitments. In the chaos of leadership it is easy to lose track of statements you have made to people.
  3. Take time to review your commitments. It is easy to get distracted or to move on to your next task. Taking the time to review commitments and purposely finishing them makes you trustworthy to others.
  4. Provide updates. Let others know the behind the scenes progress you are making or share the reasons that priorities have changed. Don’t be a black hole.

There are few guarantees in the world but demonstrating that you can be counted on helps your people say, “Yes, I trust you!”

Todd Thorsgaard

Conversation-powered leadership

I thought it would be apropos to wrap up our month of exploring the fundamental leadership competence of effective communication by recommending the book Talk, Inc.  In it, authors Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind draw on the experience of leaders in organizations around the world, who are using the power of conversation to increase employee engagement and strategic alignment.

While top-down, one-way communication has been typically used in hierarchical organizations as a way to distribute news to internal and external audiences, it is a relic of a command-and-control model which no longer works.  Groysberg and Slind assert that  “…. people–and the energies and capabilities that lie inside them–are the ultimate source of optimal performance and sustainable competitive advantage.”  Given that, they have found thriving organizations that are using organizational conversation to engage the best in their people to drive performance.

Organizational conversation, in their words,  replicates the elements of good person-to-person conversation where the scale of the conversation is small and intimate; the structure of the conversation is dynamic and interactive; participation is equal and inclusive and the approach is focused and intentional.

Where they have seen organizational conversation flourishing, it has the following four elements:

Intimacy – leaders reduce the distance, institutional as well as spatial–that separate them from their employees. They do this by cultivating the art of listening to people at all levels of the organization and by learning to talk with those people in ways that are personal, honest, and authentic.

Interactivity – leaders talk with employees not just to them. Cultural norms are now favoring dialogue over monologue and changes in the technology of communication especially with social media, support this shift.

Inclusion – leaders invite all employees to add their ideas into the conversational mix. And they call upon employees to participate in the work of representing their organization as unofficial bloggers or trained brand ambassadors.

Intentionality – leaders promote conversation that develops and follows an agenda that aligns with the strategic objectives of their organization.

I’d encourage you to pick up a copy of the book in your local library or bookstore to learn more. Their insights about how to make organizational cultures more intimate, interactive, inclusive, and intentional through purposeful organizational conversation make it a good read.

Anita Rios