Tag Archives: assessments

Shifting sands

time exposure of waves hitting shore

“Everything was working yesterday!”

The harsh reality is that often, as soon as you understand the culture you are in and are aligned with it, it shifts! Suddenly your leadership behaviors may not work as well as they did in the past. The on-going transitions that higher education, and all industries, are experiencing leads to continual shifts in culture. Your effectiveness as a leader depends on how quickly you recognize these shifts and how you adapt your leadership style and actions.

Peter Daly and Michael Watkins, authors of the First 90 Days books, have developed a framework that can help leaders understand the shifting cultures. Their transition assessment model identifies four common situations that exist in organizations, the related cultural implications, and potential leadership actions that are aligned with the culture.

  1. Start-ups: This occurs during times of new priorities, new programs or restructuring.
    • The culture is one of confusion.
    • Key leadership actions focus on providing clarity and direction.
  2. Turnarounds: This occurs when there has been a major set-back or shake-up.
    • The culture is one of despair.
    • Key leadership actions are to provide support and hope.
  3. Realignments: This occurs when priorities are shifting or there are predictable and expected changes happening.
    • The culture is one of denial or lack of awareness.
    • Key leadership actions are to expose reality and highlight the urgency of the situation.
  4. Sustaining Success: This occurs when “things are working” and results are strong.
    • The culture can slip into complacency.
    • Key leadership actions focus on continual development, reinforcing success and active searching for new opportunities.

The sands of culture are constantly shifting and require leaders to strategically assess and respond to leverage the best of their people.

Todd Thorsgaard

Get it right the first time

The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.”

Many of us have read the above quote or some version of it, yet thanks to the internet I discovered that we really don’t know who first said it! It is often attributed to the psychologist Albert Ellis, while others give credit to Mark Twain and even Shakespeare is believed to have made a similar comment.

What we do know is that using a structured behavioral-based interview gives you the best chance of making the right hiring decision the first time. Big data analytics at Google and multiple published studies confirm that asking candidates to describe what they actually have done and the outcome is the best predictor of success on the job. And bringing the right person onboard is a key part of building and sustaining an effective work team.

The steps to develop behavioral-based interview questions are:

  1. Identify the critical job related competencies required for success on the job.
    1. These include the knowledge, skills, abilities and characteristics necessary to do the job and to be a contributing member of the work team.
  2. Write questions that require the candidate to describe what they have actually done or said in a previous situation that demonstrates the application of each critical competency.
  3. Plan probing and follow-up questions to clarify what you are asking or to verify the answer provided.
    1. Probing and follow-up questions are based on the original question.
    2. Probing and follow-up questions are used to help the candidate understand the question and competency or to help you understand their answer.
  4. Establish a common criteria or rubric to be used in evaluating responses.
    1. The criteria will rate the quality of using the required competency or the actual demonstration of the competency.
    2. The criteria must be observable and applicable across candidates and interviewers.

We have created a set of behavioral-based interview questions that you can use as examples or a resource to develop your own – Behavioral based questions.

It takes work to develop and conduct effective structured behavior-based interviews but increasing your odds to get the right person the first time to join your team is a great payoff.

Todd Thorsgaard

Are you losing air?

It is one of the most depressing feelings while biking. I can be riding along; happy, outdoors, feeling strong and having fun. Everything is in synch and flowing until I feel myself slowing down and I can tell I am riding on a flat tire. I may hear a loud pop and a fast “whoosh” as all the air escapes at once or a soft, almost evil, hiss as my tire gradually goes flat. Or I may hear nothing at all and just have a soft tire. Either way it means I need to stop what I am doing, assess the situation, and take the appropriate action to refill my tire so I can get back to riding. Bike flat largeSometimes I have just gone too long without pumping up my tires and I  need to use my CO2 cartridge and add air, other times I have hit an unexpected bump in the road or run over a small sharp object and need to patch a hole before adding air. Occasionally my inner-tube has been neglected and ruptured in multiple places and I need to completely replace it with a new one before I can add air.

We go flat in our lives when we lose our work and life balance. How you refill yourself depends on the type of leak you are experiencing. Paul Blatz, founder and president of Good Leadership Enterprises, encourages leaders to utilize his 7Fs Wheel to understand where they may be leaking energy or if they have a major rupture to repair! The seven Fs that help us stay positive and moving forward as leaders are:

  • Future
  • Fun
  • Friends
  • Fitness
  • Finances
  • Family
  • Faith (spiritual)

Over time we can get distracted by the regular demands at work and lose track of our daily choices that keep us fulfilled in all seven areas. Then we may just need to take some small actions that “refill” all seven. Other times we hit a major bump and need to focus on one area that is losing air fast. When I travel for work I tend to ignore my extended family relationships and I need to remind myself to take the time to call my mom and check-in with her.

The Seven Fs Wheel (Seven Fs Tool) is an easy tool to carry with you and use to keep yourself “pumped up” and rolling along as a leader. TT and Ellie bike

Todd Thorsgaard

Ready, set, go!

As I watched the Sochi Olympics I was reminded of the importance of a good start. Races are not won at the start but they sure can be lost by a poor start. The same holds true for leading change. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have been called in to help leaders who are struggling with a change initiative and what we often discover is that they are focusing their energy on the wrong issue. They are training their people when what is needed is clear communication, or they are holding team meetings and exploring cultural issues instead of clearly defining short-term goals.

As a leader you are busy and need to put your energy into the right place to get a strong start to your change initiative. A change readiness assessment can help you create a clear picture of your current state and start you and your team moving towards your desired future state. Change readiness measures the technical and cultural factors that influence the speed and sustainability of any change implementation. Once you understand more about your current state of change readiness you can be more strategic using the elements of successful change.FINAL Change Image_Page_1 (see our post describing the elements here)

To help you get your change off to a strong start I want to share two resources that I have used during change initiatives. The first one provides a broad view of both the technical and cultural components of change readiness. It was created by Procsi Inc. (click here to open resource in a new window) and is based on their ADKAR model of change.  The second assessment is by William Bridges & Associates (click here to open resource in a new window). The Bridges change readiness assessment highlights the cultural side of change and helps identify what your people need to get to the start line of the change and where you need to focus your change management actions.

What you learn about the change readiness of your people and your organization will help you utilize the overall elements of successful change and get a clean fast start.

Todd Thorsgaard

Make it real!

Think back to any change you have experienced or led. What made it real? Actual new behavior! While we need to address the hearts and minds of the people on our teams and ourselves, we never know if a change has occurred until we can see different behaviors. In my old tech days we would say, what you see is what you get or logo_wysiwyg

In other words, to make it real, successful change requires the implementation and demonstration of desired new behaviors. The first element of change leadership is to assess the current state and how it is different from your desired future state. This gap analysis will drive your strategy for change and the successful demonstration of the desired new behaviors.

The Implementation Institute, a change management firm, highlights five organizational elements to include in your gap analysis:

  1. Organizational Strategy or Mission
  2. The Formal & Informal Systems of How Work Gets Done
  3. Your Organizational Structure and Hierarchy
  4. The Talent in Your Organization
  5. Your Organizational Culture or The Way Work Gets Done

Working with the people you lead to clearly describe where your team or institution is on each element (current state) and where you need to go (future state) will start to make the change real and provide a solid foundation for the work required to actually change behaviors.

Thinking about your crucial changes ahead, do you clearly know what your current state is? Equally importantly, do the people on your team?

Todd Thorsgaard

The ABCs of trust

I just returned from the international American Society for Training and Development conference (ASTD-ICE) and my head is full of ideas and information! There were hundreds of breakout sessions and the Expo was filled with vendors and resources. It reminded me of the onslaught of information and the demands a leader faces each day at work. With that in mind, I spent some time looking for practical ideas on trust and leadership that I could share with you that are clear, concise and easy to try. I think I succeeded!

Ken Blanchard, Cynthia Olmstead and Martha Lawrence have a new book titled, Trust Works! that defines four attributes of trust, the A, B, C and D of trust:

Able – can you do your job and do you get results?

Believable – do you demonstrate integrity?

Connected – do you develop sincere two-way relationships with people?

Dependable – do you walk your talk and follow-through?

What I found most valuable were the behavioral descriptions they provide for each attribute. Building trust is all about action and interaction with people. The behavioral descriptions make it easier to look at our own interactions, with an unbiased eye, to assess how we are doing building trust. To help get started, here is a link to their website and a short self-assessment you can take to identify your demonstrated trust-building strengths and opportunity areas – ABCD self-assessment

I learned I have some work to do in the connection domain. As an introvert it is my most challenging area and I can often overlook it and miss the impact it has on the relationships I have at work.

Give the assessment a try. I bet the results will help you identify your trust-building strengths and remind you of potential blind spots or trust busters! As leaders, we need all four attributes to build trust with our people.

Todd Thorsgaard

How well do you know yourself?

Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. – Tao Te Ching

How do you truly know yourself and your impact on those you lead?  In her last blog, Dee Anne talked about using various assessments to increase your self-awareness. I’ve found that seeking feedback from colleagues is also a powerful tool to increasing your leadership effectiveness and can provide a helpful complement to information you learn from assessments.

I often ask direct reports: “What can I do to support your success?”  or colleagues, “What can I do to make sure our working relationship goes smoothly?” Or bosses, “How did that (meeting, presentation, fill in the blank)  go and how can I improve?”

What I’ve learned as a result has been both helpful and humbling. Several years ago, I took an online 360 survey developed by Stephen M.R. Covey on how adept I am at building trust with others. You can find it at: http://whotrustsyou.com/

After asking several colleagues to take the survey and reviewing my results, I went to each colleague and thanked them for their feedback. I also asked for further feedback by saying, “I appreciate our working relationship and want to know how I can increase your trust and confidence in me.”  One brave colleague shared that he appreciated working with me, but that he had heard that I had spoken negatively about his team’s performance in a meeting. It had hurt him. He said that he expected that I would discuss something like that with him before speaking with others. Ouch!  That was hard to hear.  It took me a few moments to breathe, gather my thoughts, and apologize. It also was helpful feedback that made me reflect and examine how I might be eroding trust with others. You can be sure that I worked hard to regain his trust.

When seeking feedback, I’ve learned to invite candid responses, listen attentively, do everything I can to reduce my natural defenses, and be open to seeing from another perspective. It’s not easy, and I think I’m still learning.

Seeking feedback can make you feel vulnerable and expose weaknesses you weren’t aware of; it can also affirm strengths that you have and give you signals about what you are doing that is working well.

What advice do you have for others when seeking feedback?

Anita Rios