THE HALF LIFE OF COACHING

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The Half Life of Coaching: How to Escape the Groundhog Day Coaching Experience

Groundhog_Day.png

How do you make sure that coaching does not end up being a circular exercise that saps your energy and yields virtually no results? In fact, you end up feeling like Bill Murray in the classic movie Groundhog Day. You know the one where he wakes up and relives the same day over and over until he can get it right. Well in your version of Groundhog Day you have the same coaching conversations over and over. And unlike Bill Murray, the conversations don’t usually end in a happy ending.

Coaching has got quite a bad rap lately as the term is often equated with long tedious converations that can make even the most experienced manager want to run for the exit. However the coaching process can and should yield positive long term results.

The good news is that it’s not your fault – you have just been using a broken process!

The process most companies utilize in coaching is; Coach, Measure – Repeat as Necessary on a 30 day cycle. Each time we ‘repeat’ we become just a little more frustrated and in fact start to become convinced that the employee is not going to work out. Given the fact that replacing a non performing employee can cost up to 9 times their salary, we should be heavily invested in correcting the situation quickly!

We have been counseliing clients how to address this cycle for over 20 years using a process we call the Half Life of Coaching.

Here is how the Half Life of Coaching works:

Step One: Identify the KPI

Identify the KPI that you want to improve. Make sure it is a leading indicator of success that can be measured easily and is objective. While a subjective KPI can work, it is far more difficult to gain agreement around and there is almost always an available objective KPI you can use. For more information on how to slect the correct KPI, see the earlier blog post on Turbocharging Your Coaching.

Step Two: Gain Agreement on the KPI and the Time Frame

Use effective coaching techniques to gain buy in from the employee on the KPI and the behaviors that will drive improvement. Now when we say ‘agreement’, it would be ideal if the employee was willing to work with you collaboratively and agree on the objective. While that is not always possible, even in difficult cases they can still be in ‘agreement’ that they know what the expectation is. You must also agree on a reasonable time period for follow up. While there is no ideal time frame, it should probably be in the order of a week. Longer than a week tends to encourage a lack of focus.

Step Three: Have the Employee Report Their Progress

At the end of the agreed upon time frame, have the employee report their progress to you. Of course, you scheduled a follow up coaching session at the end of last session, so the first order of business is to review the results the emplyee ahas achieved. Under no circumstances should you usurp the employee’s responsibility to report their results. If you do, you have now taken on the responsibility for them to change.

Step Four: Determine the Root Cause of a Lack of Progress

Assuming that the employee has not yet been able to achieve the desired results, coach them to an awareness of what is happening and the behaviors necessary to drive success. While the employee may try to take you down the rabbit hole of ‘reasons why I can’t…’, it is important that you keep focusing the conversation on how they can.

Step Five: Schedule a Follow Up Coaching Session at HALF the Last Time Interval

It is key to communicate that we are decreasing the time interval to help both of you determine the root cause of the challenge they are experiencing. It is of course possible that the goals you are expecting progress on are not reasonable, so you must be open to that possbility. If the goals are indeed reasonable, then the decrease in the follow up time frame will assist in:

  1. Providing clarity (for both you and employee) as to what the root cause of the problem is.
  2. Increasing the sense of urgency with which the problem must be addressed.
  3. Eliminating much of the ‘noise’ that clouds a review of what employees are really spending their time on. Quite often it is not a lack of effort that drives low performance – it is a lack of effort on the right things.

Step Six: Repeat or Celebrate!

If performance improves – resist the urge to jump back out to a 30 day follow up cycle. Remember that habits are not formed overnight. I would suggest you back out slowly toward a more regular follow up time frame.

However if performance does not improve, then go back to Step Five. Rarely do you need to get to more than daily check ins as the root cause is quickly identified with shorter time periods between coaching sessions.

Want to learn more about how to accelerate your progress and close the gap between where you are today and where you want to be? Click here or on the image below and let’s get started!

 

 

TURBOCHARGE YOUR COACHING

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Turbocharge Your Coaching

So yCoaching.pngou know the drill: Your team (or a part thereof) needs to change, increase performance, communicate more, increase quality or (insert specific change here) – whatever – it does not matter. Whether you picked the team or not, it is your job as the leader to make it happen.

Every leader has faced this challenge. In fact, if you are not currently facing this challenge it is because:

  1. You have done an amazing job of attracting great talent, hiring, and then coaching them to amazing levels of productivity, or
  2. You are expecting far too little.

That is because the environment you are operating in continues to evolve, and as such, the expectations of your team will also evolve.

Now, unless you have been blessed with a perpetually huge budget to hire individuals whose skill set exceeds the job requirements (in which case you will have high turnover and need to hire again), you will have to find a way to increase the skill of your team and align their behaviors to the changing business needs.

So we resign ourselves to coaching the team member(s). When we ask our clients what comes to mind when they think of coaching employees, they often say:

  • It takes a long time
  • It is often not successful in driving long term change

Both of these beliefs are not only dangerous, they are also self fulfilling. 

So how do we ensure that our coaching doesn’t drain our energy by taking too long, and that it does lead to long term behavior change?

Note: If you have not read our post on increasing your coachability this might be a good time to make sure you are ‘walking the talk’.

Ok, back to you.

We are going to assume that there are a number of changes that your employee ‘Sue’ needs to make. Now, what we would typically do is make a list and download that list as soon as possible to Sue. Then we would follow up 30 days later. Then repeat for 3 cycles. The we determine that Sue is not a good fit and decide to either find a new Sue, or lower our expectations of Sue’s performance. Sound familiar?

Let me suggest a different approach.

When it comes to coaching, there is an almost inescapable temptation to fix everything NOW. While it is fine to make a list of the most important changes that need to be made, the next step should be to ignore everything on the list except the easiest item that will have some measurable impact. Now, I know this sounds crazy. I have had many managers tell me that they cannot just ignore all the other items that need to change. When I ask them why they can’t perhaps not ignore, but at least put them aside while we work on one item, they tell me that it all has to change NOW.

Well, you and I both know that most people change very little and certainly don’t change more than one thing at a time – so why would we set people up for failure by demanding they change a whole list of things? Now, I am in no way suggesting that the other items on the list be forgotten!

Once we get a change on the easist thing on the list that we have chosen – we will have something to praise the the person on and we can move on to the next easiest thing to change that will have a measurable impact.

On the other hand, if the person cannot make a change in this ‘easiest’ of things, then we may very well have hired a person that is not a good fit for the job… either in terms of behavior, attitude or skills.

Stay tuned for our next post where we will add even more boost to your coaching thru a concept called The Half Life of Coaching.

 

HOW TO GET A 237% INCREASE IN PRODUCTIVITY IN TWO MONTHS…

There has been a debate for years within the training industry on how you calculate the ROI of money spent on training and development. Articles have been written and theories advanced such as Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Measurement. Note: Don’t worry if you have no idea what that is – almost no one outside the training industry does!

The crazy thing is that all this complicated measurement theory does nothing to convince cynical leaders that spending time and energy on training is a truly worthwhile investment. While most operational leaders believe they should invest and train their people – they are cynical because they have a nagging feeling that much of that investment is wasted. As such, they are often reluctant to allocate critical resources (both time and money) to training their people. When they do decide to invest in developing their people, they often use the wrong measuring stick to see if it is effective. Too often companies survey participants after a training session with questions like: ‘Was the training effective?’ or ‘Did the trainer do a good job?’.

We have a far simpler solution. We believe that training dollars should indeed be an investment. And you do not have to guess if an investment is making money. It is a very simple calculation – what did you invest and what do you have now?

Based on this thinking, to calculate the ROI of training you would use the following formula: IMPACT ($) / COST ($) = ROI %

Here is what we tell operational leaders: You must raise your expectation of what you are getting for your training dollars. In fact, you must be crystal clear about what behaviors and skills need to change, how you will measure the change – and how much you expect those changes to impact the bottom line.

Consider the following example. We were recently engaged by a regional diverse company with over 300 offices to help them increase their production numbers in a segment of their business. Based on an analysis of the key strengths and challenges of the client company, we assessed that the key was the development of their top 40 leaders. The business impact was dramatic. To date there has been a 237% Year on Year increase in production, with an ROI of over 1600%.

So. if you manage a P&L and you would like to learn how to maximize your ROI on training dollars – measure the impact to the bottom line. It’s the only ROI that really matters.

THE POWER OF WHY

There has been so much written about Vision and Mission that we hesitate to even use the words. We often wonder if the terminology was deliberately made so confusing so that consultants can hawk their services and perpetuate their revenue streams (present company excluded, of course!). What is a very easy to understand concept has been distorted and complicated to a point that most people roll their eyes when the subject is even brought up.

Let’s start with what a Vision is not:

  • It is not an all encompassing statement that explains everything about a company. These statements end up meaning nothing because they try to please everyone.
  • It is not made up of really big words or something you would see on most company’s walls
  • It is not meant to be arrived at completely democratically or solely by critical thinking. You have to engage the heart and be willing to ignore that which is not helpful.
  • It is not easy to come up with. At the same time, when you get it right, you and everyone else will know it.
  • It is not a marketing message repackaged as a vision. It must be true.
  • It is not achievable – at least not in totality. In other words, it is at it’s heart an ideal you are going to constantly strive for.

Ok. So what is it? The term Vision has been so maligned, that we prefer to think of it this way:

“Why do we exist” or “What would NOT happen if we did not exist?”

So how does a team or indeed an organization go about designing it’s Vision? By asking the above questions again and again until the answer resonates deeply with the team.

Occasionally, owners will point to the Profit and Loss statement and say “It’s all about making more money”. While there may be a small percentage of companies where this is actually the truth, the vast majority of company leaders would agree that profit is not the purpose of the business. For a for-profit venture – Profit is the first order of business, because without it you cannot stay in business. But it is not the purpose of the business.

The reason why so many companies seem to have lost their soul, is that employees do not know WHY the company exists and it seems to be about making as much money as we possibly can. This leads to low morale, low engagement levels, poor customer service, and ultimately low levels of productivity and profitability.

While determining your team’s Why can be daunting, we have found that it typically falls into one of a number of buckets.

The ‘Buckets’ That WHY Can Fall into…

  1. The Greater Cause: It is easy to see how non-profits can be connected to a cause greater than themselves. Think ‘end child abuse’ or ‘end world hunger’. However, for profit organizations can also have a WHY that falls into this category. For example, Southwest Airlines exists to democratize air travel, ensuring that average Americans have access to affordable air travel.
  2. Focus on The Customer: Often organizations find their WHY in those they seek to serve. They want to do something for their customers that either will not happen without them, or that is not happening for the customer the way they feel it should. Nurse Next Door is a home health company that saw the entire industry they were part of being focused on clinical health care. They decided that they wanted to change the customer experience to being more about caring and quality of life.
  3. Challengers and Disruptors: Some organizations see themselves as challengers/disruptors. They see the world (or perhaps the industry they are part of) as lacking something. They see their job as challenging the status quo in everything they do. Virgin, led by Sir Richard Branson is one such organization. Whatever they do, they challenge the preconceived notions of how things should happen in that industry. The Virgin Brand has become synonymous with challenging the status quo.
  4. The Experience: Some organizations look at a particular experience and look at every touch point they could have that makes that experience better. For example, an organization passionate about pets could be involved in every part of the experience associated with owning a pet. Many small entrepreneurial businesses fall into this category, as they were started by a person with a love for a particular hobby or knowledge of a particular field.
  5. Focus on the Employee: There are organizations that exist primarily to serve the needs of employees. For example, Goodwill is an organization that exists primarily to put people to work that may not be able to get work anywhere else. Another example, could be a company that sees it’s purpose as creating jobs in an area of a city that lacks solid opportunities, or a company that sees it’s purpose as giving people hope through solid employment.
  6. Improve the Community: Many organizations find their WHY in a desire to improve the communities they are part of. For example, an organization might be committed to the revitalization of a city’s downtown core.

Working on your team’s ‘WHY’ may be the most difficult project you have ever undertaken. It also promises to be the most rewarding and transformational. Remember Goethe’s couplet:

“Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men”

The Power of Why

There has been so much written about Vision and Mission that we hesitate to even use the words. We often wonder if the terminology was deliberately made so confusing so that consultants can hawk their services and perpetuate their revenue streams (present company excluded, of course!). What is a very easy to understand concept has been distorted and complicated to a point that most people roll their eyes when the subject is even brought up.

Let’s start with what a Vision is not:

  • It is not an all encompassing statement that explains everything about a company. These statements end up meaning nothing because they try to please everyone.
  • It is not made up of really big words or something you would see on most company’s walls
  • It is not meant to be arrived at completely democratically or solely by critical thinking. You have to engage the heart and be willing to ignore that which is not helpful.
  • It is not easy to come up with. At the same time, when you get it right, you and everyone else will know it.
  • It is not a marketing message repackaged as a vision. It must be true.
  • It is not achievable – at least not in totality. In other words, it is at it’s heart an ideal you are going to constantly strive for.

Ok. So what is it? The term Vision has been so maligned, that we prefer to think of it this way:

“Why do we exist” or “What would NOT happen if we did not exist?”

So how does a team or indeed an organization go about designing it’s Vision? By asking the above questions again and again until the answer resonates deeply with the team.

Occasionally, owners will point to the Profit and Loss statement and say “It’s all about making more money”. While there may be a small percentage of companies where this is actually the truth, the vast majority of company leaders would agree that profit is not the purpose of the business. For a for-profit venture – Profit is the first order of business, because without it you cannot stay in business. But it is not the purpose of the business.

The reason why so many companies seem to have lost their soul, is that employees do not know WHY the company exists and it seems to be about making as much money as we possibly can. This leads to low morale, low engagement levels, poor customer service, and ultimately low levels of productivity and profitability.

While determining your team’s Why can be daunting, we have found that it typically falls into one of a number of buckets.

The ‘Buckets’ That WHY Can Fall into…

  1. The Greater Cause: It is easy to see how non-profits can be connected to a cause greater than themselves. Think ‘end child abuse’ or ‘end world hunger’. However, for profit organizations can also have a WHY that falls into this category. For example, Southwest Airlines exists to democratize air travel, ensuring that average Americans have access to affordable air travel.
  2. Focus on The Customer: Often organizations find their WHY in those they seek to serve. They want to do something for their customers that either will not happen without them, or that is not happening for the customer the way they feel it should. Nurse Next Door is a home health company that saw the entire industry they were part of being focused on clinical health care. They decided that they wanted to change the customer experience to being more about caring and quality of life.
  3. Challengers and Disruptors: Some organizations see themselves as challengers/disruptors. They see the world (or perhaps the industry they are part of) as lacking something. They see their job as challenging the status quo in everything they do. Virgin, led by Sir Richard Branson is one such organization. Whatever they do, they challenge the preconceived notions of how things should happen in that industry. The Virgin Brand has become synonymous with challenging the status quo.
  4. The Experience: Some organizations look at a particular experience and look at every touch point they could have that makes that experience better. For example, an organization passionate about pets could be involved in every part of the experience associated with owning a pet. Many small entrepreneurial businesses fall into this category, as they were started by a person with a love for a particular hobby or knowledge of a particular field.
  5. Focus on the Employee: There are organizations that exist primarily to serve the needs of employees. For example, Goodwill is an organization that exists primarily to put people to work that may not be able to get work anywhere else. Another example, could be a company that sees it’s purpose as creating jobs in an area of a city that lacks solid opportunities, or a company that sees it’s purpose as giving people hope through solid employment.
  6. Improve the Community: Many organizations find their WHY in a desire to improve the communities they are part of. For example, an organization might be committed to the revitalization of a city’s downtown core.

Working on your team’s ‘WHY’ may be the most difficult project you have ever undertaken. It also promises to be the most rewarding and transformational. Remember Goethe’s couplet:

“Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men”

USING GOAL SETTING AS A DEVELOPMENT TOOL

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As a leader, one of your primary responsibilities is to guide your direct reports as they set goals for their development. Unfortunately, too often we set either general goals for our people like ‘become a better listener’ or metrics based goals like ‘increase customer service scores to 68%’.

Now, at their face, neither of these goals is a ‘bad’ goal. It’s just that they are not particularly helpful in assisting your direct report in what they need to do differently. Both ‘general’ goals and ‘metrics’ based need to be broken down into more helpful stages. In other words, take the result you desire and ask:
“What behaviors would move this person in the direction of this goal?”
Once you have established the behavior change you would like to see, use effective coaching techniques (see LeaderShift) to create buy-in from the employee on the change that is required. A good time frame to focus on these types of behavior changes for is about 2-3 weeks.

As you consider the behavior change goal you will work on the for the next few weeks, it is helpful to keep in mind the following:

Consider what is happening, and what needs to happen over the next three weeks.
Each time period in a business brings it’s own set of unique challenges. As you look out over the next few weeks, consider what what is already scheduled, and what projects are they already committed to. In addition, what needs to happen in order to move the organization forward?

What skills/ideas have they already been exposed to that could accelerate their progress?
Once you have clarity on what must happen over the next few weeks, the next thing you must do is consider what skills/ideas have they already been exposed to that could accelerate their progress.

Focus on Habits not Tasks
As you consider at what ideas they could apply to accelerate their progress, evaluate the ideas as to whether you have chosen a ‘task’. If so, ask yourself how they could accomplish that task differently utilizing skills/ideas have they already been exposed to. As you know, sometimes we focus on tasks and miss the intent of the task. For example, we can spin through Quality Assurance Coaching, and miss the intent of changing rep’s behaviors.
In many cases, the intent of the task is best accomplished by focusing on establishing certain habits. In our example above, the habit might be making sure that I deliver the feedback to the rep on a timely basis, asking them their thoughts on what they see in the file, and ensuring that I gain their buy-in on what behavior they plan to change.

Elements of a Good Habit Change Goal
1. Daily
Habits are changed by focusing on daily activity. Consider the behavior change you are focused on. How would you break this down into a daily behavior? If you have focused on a behavior you need for a specific meeting, what elements of that behavior might apply in other situations?
2. Proactive
Your goals should be proactive in that they should move you toward a better future. Be careful not to set goals that require someone else to act before you can take action on your goal.
3. Control
Your goal should be something you can do, not something someone else needs to do. If you need a behavior change to be made by another individual, ask yourself: What do I need to do to encourage this pattern of behavior in them?

First you make your habits…. then your habits make you!

USING GOAL SETTING AS A DEVELOPMENT TOOL

As a leader, one of your primary responsibilities is to guide your direct reports as they set goals for their development. Unfortunately, too often we set either general goals for our people like ‘become a better listener’ or metrics based goals like ‘increase customer service scores to 68%’.

Now, at their face, neither of these goals is a ‘bad’ goal. It’s just that they are not particularly helpful in assisting your direct report in what they need to do differently. Both ‘general’ goals and ‘metrics’ based need to be broken down into more helpful stages. In other words, take the result you desire and ask:
“What behaviors would move this person in the direction of this goal?”
Once you have established the behavior change you would like to see, use effective coaching techniques (see LeaderShift) to create buy-in from the employee on the change that is required. A good time frame to focus on these types of behavior changes for is about 2-3 weeks.

As you consider the behavior change goal you will work on the for the next few weeks, it is helpful to keep in mind the following:

Consider what is happening, and what needs to happen over the next three weeks.
Each time period in a business brings it’s own set of unique challenges. As you look out over the next few weeks, consider what what is already scheduled, and what projects are they already committed to. In addition, what needs to happen in order to move the organization forward?

What skills/ideas have they already been exposed to that could accelerate their progress?
Once you have clarity on what must happen over the next few weeks, the next thing you must do is consider what skills/ideas have they already been exposed to that could accelerate their progress.

Focus on Habits not Tasks
As you consider at what ideas they could apply to accelerate their progress, evaluate the ideas as to whether you have chosen a ‘task’. If so, ask yourself how they could accomplish that task differently utilizing skills/ideas have they already been exposed to. As you know, sometimes we focus on tasks and miss the intent of the task. For example, we can spin through Quality Assurance Coaching, and miss the intent of changing rep’s behaviors.
In many cases, the intent of the task is best accomplished by focusing on establishing certain habits. In our example above, the habit might be making sure that I deliver the feedback to the rep on a timely basis, asking them their thoughts on what they see in the file, and ensuring that I gain their buy-in on what behavior they plan to change.

Elements of a Good Habit Change Goal
1. Daily
Habits are changed by focusing on daily activity. Consider the behavior change you are focused on. How would you break this down into a daily behavior? If you have focused on a behavior you need for a specific meeting, what elements of that behavior might apply in other situations?
2. Proactive
Your goals should be proactive in that they should move you toward a better future. Be careful not to set goals that require someone else to act before you can take action on your goal.
3. Control
Your goal should be something you can do, not something someone else needs to do. If you need a behavior change to be made by another individual, ask yourself: What do I need to do to encourage this pattern of behavior in them?

First you make your habits…. then your habits make you!

Using Goal Setting as a Development Tool

,

As a leader, one of your primary responsibilities is to guide your direct reports as they set goals for their development. Unfortunately, too often we set either general goals for our people like ‘become a better listener’ or metrics based goals like ‘increase customer service scores to 68%’.

Now, at their face, neither of these goals is a ‘bad’ goal. It’s just that they are not particularly helpful in assisting your direct report in what they need to do differently. Both ‘general’ goals and ‘metrics’ based need to be broken down into more helpful stages. In other words, take the result you desire and ask:
“What behaviors would move this person in the direction of this goal?”
Once you have established the behavior change you would like to see, use effective coaching techniques (see LeaderShift) to create buy-in from the employee on the change that is required. A good time frame to focus on these types of behavior changes for is about 2-3 weeks.

As you consider the behavior change goal you will work on the for the next few weeks, it is helpful to keep in mind the following:

Consider what is happening, and what needs to happen over the next three weeks.
Each time period in a business brings it’s own set of unique challenges. As you look out over the next few weeks, consider what what is already scheduled, and what projects are they already committed to. In addition, what needs to happen in order to move the organization forward?

What skills/ideas have they already been exposed to that could accelerate their progress?
Once you have clarity on what must happen over the next few weeks, the next thing you must do is consider what skills/ideas have they already been exposed to that could accelerate their progress.

Focus on Habits not Tasks
As you consider at what ideas they could apply to accelerate their progress, evaluate the ideas as to whether you have chosen a ‘task’. If so, ask yourself how they could accomplish that task differently utilizing skills/ideas have they already been exposed to. As you know, sometimes we focus on tasks and miss the intent of the task. For example, we can spin through Quality Assurance Coaching, and miss the intent of changing rep’s behaviors.
In many cases, the intent of the task is best accomplished by focusing on establishing certain habits. In our example above, the habit might be making sure that I deliver the feedback to the rep on a timely basis, asking them their thoughts on what they see in the file, and ensuring that I gain their buy-in on what behavior they plan to change.

Elements of a Good Habit Change Goal
1. Daily
Habits are changed by focusing on daily activity. Consider the behavior change you are focused on. How would you break this down into a daily behavior? If you have focused on a behavior you need for a specific meeting, what elements of that behavior might apply in other situations?
2. Proactive
Your goals should be proactive in that they should move you toward a better future. Be careful not to set goals that require someone else to act before you can take action on your goal.
3. Control
Your goal should be something you can do, not something someone else needs to do. If you need a behavior change to be made by another individual, ask yourself: What do I need to do to encourage this pattern of behavior in them?

First you make your habits…. then your habits make you!

PROTECTING YOUR SOURCE: HOW TO HANDLE CRITICAL FEEDBACK WHILE MAINTAINING TRUST

I was reminded the other day of an important lesson that most leaders learn the hard way. The reason it is learned the hard way is that it is not typically taught in leadership programs, and the first time it is an issue for a leader it is usually handled badly.

Here is the scenario: A person comes to you with information that is important for you to know, however they are nervous about telling you about it because it would impact them negatively if it became known that they were the source of the information.

Now, let me say first of all that we are going to make an assumptions here that the information being shared is not self serving to either party. In other words, neither of you is exploiting a situation that will hurt another person for your own personal gain. This is critical, because to use the information for personal gain and/or to hurt another individual would be unethical.

Alright, now with that assumption handled, the question is: What to do next? The challenge is that you know information that is not really actionable without violating the trust of your source.

Many leaders, when faced with this challenge, plow forward and address the issue directly. Although they may not mean to violate the trust of their source, that is exactly what they do. The rationalization here is that it is the ‘right’ thing to do, and it is in everybody’s best interest – at least in the long run. However, that is cold consolation to your source who will be unlikely to bring information to your attention in the future. In addition, others will watch the situation unfold and the effect that this has on the person who came to you with information in confidence, and will also be unlikely to share sensitive information with you in the future.

You see the problem don’t you? Leaders want to take action when a problem needs to be addressed, however in taking action you create a situation that alienates you from important insights as to what is happening in your group.

I think it was in KIng Lear that the King disguises himself the night before a big battle to walk amongst his troops to find out his soldiers really are thinking. He laments that it is hard to get good information when you are King. He was right. Too many leaders are isolated and the information they receive is tainted by a fear of how it might be used, and who might find out.
The solution to the dilemma the leader faces is simple in concept, but more difficult to execute. The difficulty is that it takes patience on the part of the leader, a trait that most leaders lack. Their preference is for action, and this is a huge asset in many situations – but not in this case.

The solution is that you must seek to ‘independently verify’ the information that has been shared with you. This may take some thought into who you need to talk to and what questions you need to ask.

While this is the more difficult path, you will be more likely to uncover the truth and to develop relationships of trust with those individuals who have insight that is important to you.

 

Protecting Your Source: How to Handle Critical Feedback While Maintaining Trust

I was reminded the other day of an important lesson that most leaders learn the hard way. The reason it is learned the hard way is that it is not typically taught in leadership programs, and the first time it is an issue for a leader it is usually handled badly.

Here is the scenario: A person comes to you with information that is important for you to know, however they are nervous about telling you about it because it would impact them negatively if it became known that they were the source of the information.

Now, let me say first of all that we are going to make an assumptions here that the information being shared is not self serving to either party. In other words, neither of you is exploiting a situation that will hurt another person for your own personal gain. This is critical, because to use the information for personal gain and/or to hurt another individual would be unethical.

Alright, now with that assumption handled, the question is: What to do next? The challenge is that you know information that is not really actionable without violating the trust of your source.

Many leaders, when faced with this challenge, plow forward and address the issue directly. Although they may not mean to violate the trust of their source, that is exactly what they do. The rationalization here is that it is the ‘right’ thing to do, and it is in everybody’s best interest – at least in the long run. However, that is cold consolation to your source who will be unlikely to bring information to your attention in the future. In addition, others will watch the situation unfold and the effect that this has on the person who came to you with information in confidence, and will also be unlikely to share sensitive information with you in the future.

You see the problem don’t you? Leaders want to take action when a problem needs to be addressed, however in taking action you create a situation that alienates you from important insights as to what is happening in your group.

I think it was in KIng Lear that the King disguises himself the night before a big battle to walk amongst his troops to find out his soldiers really are thinking. He laments that it is hard to get good information when you are King. He was right. Too many leaders are isolated and the information they receive is tainted by a fear of how it might be used, and who might find out.
The solution to the dilemma the leader faces is simple in concept, but more difficult to execute. The difficulty is that it takes patience on the part of the leader, a trait that most leaders lack. Their preference is for action, and this is a huge asset in many situations – but not in this case.

The solution is that you must seek to ‘independently verify’ the information that has been shared with you. This may take some thought into who you need to talk to and what questions you need to ask.

While this is the more difficult path, you will be more likely to uncover the truth and to develop relationships of trust with those individuals who have insight that is important to you.