Category Archives: Evaluation

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

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The annual review!

time-for-reviewDo those three words cause your heart to race, a smile to creep across your face, or a panicked look at your calendar as you search for time to prepare? Well, either by luck or remarkable planning, I am scheduled to have my annual performance review later today and I have experienced all three in the last few days.

When you cut through all the information and opinions from the hundreds of articles, blogs, consulting firms, books, processes, procedures and policies on performance reviews you end up with two elements; the process and the people or human interaction. The process is usually determined by your institution, but you, the leader, can determine the quality of the human interaction with your team member. And a recent study by the Gallop organization indicates that the human interaction is what actually drives employee performance and the effectiveness of the performance review, not the process and forms!

The study found the following four managerial actions made a significant difference in the effectiveness of any performance review process:

  1. Clearly communicating performance standards and what good performance looks like
  2. Focusing on employee strengths rather than weaknesses
  3. Emphasizing that the purpose of the review is to support and aid their development and success, not just an HR requirement
  4. Communicating performance expectations throughout the year, not just at the annual review

Other tips that focus on the people or human interaction element include:

  • Make it a two-way conversation by starting with an open-ended question
    • Over the past year, what accomplishments are you most proud of, and why?
    • Describe how your work supported the mission of the college or of your department/office.
  • Keep your feedback:
    • Helpful
    • Unbiased
    • Balanced
    • Specific

And a final general rule of thumb that I have found helpful is to balance the focus of the review to:

  • 10% on the past year
  • 30% on the current expectations and needs of the department, team and institution
  • 60% on the goals, expectations and development over the next year

As I said earlier, today is my review and I am looking forward to a genuine two-way conversation with my manager, Anita. She demonstrates the importance of the human interaction and I always walk out of her office fully engaged and with a clear picture of the year ahead and how I can succeed!

Let us know what good ideas or tips you have used to improve the quality of the human interaction in your performance reviews.

Todd Thorsgaard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do (did) we face in 2014?

Best of 2014, first published on January 29, 2014.
Happy New Year’s Eve! Before you set your resolutions and goals for 2015 take time to look back, reflect and learn from what happened in 2014. How did you react to change, what worked well, what didn’t work as well? What do you want to continue to do in 2015? What do you want to do differently? Through reflection leaders can grow and not just repeat experiences — Todd Thorsgaard

Successful leaders are vigilant and pay attention to factors, large and small, that will have an impact on their people and themselves. It is almost impossible to not be awafuture signsre of the key issues that exist in higher education that will be driving change over the next year. Yet as leaders it is also important to be continually scanning the entire environment and using that information to help you lead your people during change.

In conjunction with leadership consultant Sarah Bridges, we have created a Situational Awareness Worksheet that can be used to help you conduct an “environmental scan” to identify external factors that will need to be a part of your overall change leadership strategy. One factor when leading change is an awareness of the workplace culture. Each institution and each work team has its own culture but a recent article from the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychologists provides a Top 10 List Workplace Trends for 2014 that can be used as a starting point when you scan your environment.

Trend #6, Integrating Technology into the Workplace, is one that will be very important in my work leading change over the next year. I have discovered that new technology often feels like a threat and that reaction can derail change efforts. What I view as a tech enhancement and a positive change is viewed as a condemnation of past practice and stops collaboration and change! Including that knowledge into the change plan ensures that it is not overlooked and the concerns addresses.

What trends will be most important for you as you lead change in 2014?

Todd Thorsgaard

Feedback is a gift

feedback giftYesterday, I was reviewing survey feedback about staffing services delivery for our colleges and universities. Part of the survey focused on some process changes that had been implemented last year. The question asked key stakeholders to provide feedback about their:

  1. level of understanding of the new process steps
  2. degree of satisfaction with the new process

The survey also assessed what improvements had resulted from the process change, such as reduced turnaround time. While digging into the quantitative data and the qualitative feedback stakeholders gave, it reminded me of a simple truism: feedback is a gift.

People who responded to the survey with specific examples of what was working well and what was not, gave us a gift of their time, experience, and perspective. Often when we review feedback that is not particularly positive, it is easy to deflect it, explain it away, or become offended. The challenge is to remain open and embrace feedback as a way to improve any change effort.

Specific feedback, whether gathered through surveys, focus groups, or targeted one-on-one interviews, can help us not only better evaluate the change efforts we implement, but can give us the tools we need to craft future improvements. I’m looking forward to using what we’ve learned from the survey feedback to improve service delivery.

Is there a change effort that you are working on that would benefit from feedback?

Anita Rios

Do we really mean it?

I got zapped a few weeks ago! I was facilitating a day long program and I had assurances that my participants could park in the adjoining lot and we would not be tagged. Look what we found on our cars at the end of the day. tickets2Oops, I guess the change in ticketing policy wasn’t backed up by a change in procedure for the parking attendant that was on duty that day. We all did what we thought we were supposed to do but we paid a price, literally!

A powerful way for leaders to evaluate whether a change effort has actually led to successful change is to examine your organizational policies and procedures. Have they been changed to aligned with the new normal? Do they reflect your new values and expected behaviors and reinforce desired performance?  Or do they make it hard for your people to “do the right thing?”

The nuts and bolts of daily activity are guided by the formal infrastructure you create. Your policies, procedures, handbooks, training programs, recognition programs and other guidelines are concrete examples of your culture. While culture can be hard to measure, policies are “black and white” and provide a clear picture of success or failure.

Don’t ticket your people for doing the right thing! Tickets1

Todd Thorsgaard

 

 

What did we do?

35mm-filmMy daughter is taking a photography class at her high school and they are using pin-hole cameras and 35 mm film cameras. She and her friends keep looking at the back of their cameras expecting to see the results of their shots immediately and there is nothing there! During our dinner conversations I have been sharing my memories of waiting for your pictures to be developed after you finished the entire roll of film. The excitement of picking them up, looking at each picture, loving some of them, being depressed at how bad some turned out, and then trying to remember what you did on each shot so the next roll would have all great pictures.

I think that leading change is a lot like using a 35 mm camera. We don’t get to evaluate the overall results until the end of the entire effort but the many small actions taken during the change are what determine success or failure. And it is hard to remember what they were and, more importantly, what you learned that can help you during your next change.

pocket notebookMy father taught me to carry a small notebook, or a “lessons learned log,” when we used to shoot with film. I would record the f-stop, shutter speed and other details for each shot and then refer to it when the entire roll of film was developed – often weeks or months later.

Taking time during your change efforts to document the “lessons” you are learning will both help you evaluate the results and remember what to do and what not to do in future change efforts.

I hope you capture some great shots!

Todd Thorsgaard