THE HALF LIFE OF COACHING

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

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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 COACH AND DEAL WITH DEFENSIVENESS EFFECTIVELY

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One of the most insidious challenges we must deal with as we continue our daily trek is the fact that most people would rather blame others for their circumstances than place at least part of the blame where it certainly belongs: With themselves. We even have a term for this: Defensiveness.

When I speak with audiences there is an almost universal agreement that this is one of the core challenges that they deal with on a daily basis. Whether they are speaking with a family member, or a peer, their boss, or perhaps an employee: we all struggle with the desire to help someone make progress. Unfortunately, too often they seem preoccupied with deflecting responsibility onto someone or something else.

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Some years ago one of my mentors, Bob Proctor, taught me that when we are presented with a new idea – or at least one that conflicts with what we believe to be true, we have a choice to make. We can choose to learn from that idea or we can choose to attack that idea and defend what we know to be true. But we cannot do both. Now if we were to be honest, most people would have to agree that it is hard to be open minded about ideas that are presented to us that conflict with what our experience has shown us to be true. And yet that is the very challenge we are faced with when people we seek to influence are defensive with what we communicate to them.

What we really want is for them to be open minded – in other words we want their mind to be open to the possibility that they could learn and that the idea may actually help them. Unfortunately, our process for getting them to change their minds is flawed.

Instead of opening their minds to the possibility that their understanding of what is happening is flawed, we instead encourage the very defensiveness that frustrates our ability to assist them in making a positive change. In other words, we try to argue people into changing their minds. Rarely does this work, so we up the ante and increase the volume and intensity of our dialogue. Even if this results in a temporary change in behavior – it is too often short lived, and the person reverts to their previous behavior pattern.

Note: To identify the areas you may need to help the team improve complete our Complimentary Team Assessment.

So then how do we coach positive change in another person?

It is actually easier than you may think.

As a leader, we are often told to ‘walk the talk’ or ‘model that which we expect from others’.

Unfortunately, we tend to interpret this in the narrowest sense – we should arrive on time if we want others to do so, we should work hard if we want others too etc. While all of these habits are a great start – they are really just the price of admission to being able to ‘lead effectively’.

So what should we do?

The answer is to model the very behaviors we desire in those we seek to lead. So, if we want people to be in ‘learning’ mode rather than ‘defensive’ mode – we need to model that behavior ourselves.

When faced with this challenge, leaders often look perplexed as they believe they already are in ‘learning’ mode. And, of course, they often are. The question is – are the in ‘learning’ mode when they are interacting with the people they seem to model the behavior for? That’s when it counts – when they see you making an effort to learn (interpret this as understand) their perspective on a change you are seeking them to make.

Try this experiment next time you are faced with defensiveness from another person: Set aside the need to be right and ask questions to understand their perspective. That does not mean they are right and you should accept their answers as facts, however it does mean that you listen and really try to understand why they feel the way they do. You will find that the emotion in the dialogue decreases, they open up and you actually can have a conversation rather than an argument.

The reason this works is that when we are in ‘defensive’ mode we are almost always talking. When we are in ‘learning’ mode we are almost always listening. So, to model ‘learning’ behavior we must listen. Only then will you understand how the other person sees the issue.

To learn how to increase your leadership skill and reinforce the core attributes of high performing teams, use our Complimentary Team Assessment and learn:

  • Whether there is sufficient trust for open dialogue
  • Whether your team engages in constructive conflict
  • Whether the team feels there is commitment to team decisions
  • Whether the team feels there is true accountability for results

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

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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!

MICROMANAGEMENT PHOBIA

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Management involves actively monitoring the progress of our people through the numerous twists and turns that they will encounter as they learn and master the skills necessary to achieve excellence in their jobs. And yet I can feel the fear emanate from leaders as we discuss coaching and following up. I know that leaders fear these tough conversations for a number of reasons – in fact too many to list in this blog.

The fear I would like to address here is what I call Micromanagement Phobia: The fear of being called a micromanager. Notice that did not say you were a micromanager. Just that you did not want to be called one. Leaders strive to be careful not to even create the perception that they are a micromanager, as they fear that people will accuse them of it behind their back.

Here’s the issue: Management involves follow up. To abdicate the right to follow up is to abdicate the position of a manager. Now I hate micromanagement as much as anyone. Perhaps more. I will not engage in it any more that I will tolerate it from another.

Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary defines micromanagement as “management especially with excessive control or attention on details”. The key here is ‘excessive’. A micromanager does not allow the employee to make decisions or take action that they are totally capable of without first checking with them. Now, you may ask: Who is to determine what is appropriate? Clearly that is the manager. If you have an employee that is chafing that you are not allowing enough empowerment, or that you are following up too often, then you are certainly at risk of being accused of micromanagement.

In Leadershift we discuss four levels of freedom that allow you to delegate the appropriate level of authority to employees, based on the type of task involved and also their personal competence.

  1. Implement – No Need to Inform
  2. Implement and Inform
  3. Consult Before Implementing
  4. Wait Until Told

Our goal as leaders should be to move individuals to as high a level of freedom as is possible.

INCREASING YOUR COACHABILITY

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As you set more aggressive goals, you will continue to experience problems and challenges that are new to you. There are two ways to overcome new challenges:

  1. Trial and error by yourself.
  2. Learn from the experiences and input of others.

In order to accelerate your progress on goals you have set, and minimize challenges and frustrations, high achievers become experts at learning from others. There simply is not enough time to learn everything by yourself.

At the Oxley Group, we call this an attitude of coachability. We define coachability as:

  1. An openness to the ideas of others.
  2. A willingness and ability to change your behavior.
  3. A willingness to change until your results improves.

An openness to the ideas of others:

Most individuals, when asked, would claim they are quite open minded. However, the same individuals would claim there are many people they interact with that are not open minded. In truth, how ‘open-minded’ we are depends on how emotionally vested we are in the idea that is being challenged.

When presented with a new idea, we only have two choices: we can choose to learn, or choose to defend why we are right. However, you cannot do both at the same time. If you choose to defend why you are right, all learning will cease. If you choose to learn, you must suspend the right to defend yourself, only asking questions to understand a different point of view.

Choosing to learn does not imply that you blindly accept another’s point of view. It means that you are willing to let go of being right and objectively analyze an opposing point of view.

A willingness and ability to change your behavior:

Change of any kind is difficult to implement. Changing habits can feel downright impossible unless it is approached correctly. People who struggle achieving behavior change often focus on why the change cannot occur. Goal achievers exhibit a willingness to change their behavior when provided with feedback.

A willingness to change until results improve:

Coachable people realize that until an improvement in results has taken place, there is still more growth, development and change necessary. The success or failure of individuals and organizations, hinges on an understanding of this critical concept. You must never lose sight of the fact that hard work and long hours are meaningless if we you do not change your results.

To finish the exercise download this form to understand your Coachability Index.

ACHIEVING WORK/LIFE BALANCE IN A BLACKBERRY CULTURE

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I still remember the ‘old guys’, Bas and Hans, at my first corporate job. They were standing at the fax machine lamenting about how it had changed everything. No longer did they have the luxury of fielding a client request and mailing a quote or proposal to them. Now the client wanted it that day. Perhaps even that hour. Or God forbid – right away! Things were moving too fast they said.

I wonder what they would think of today’s business environment, where the luxury of time and connected thought have become unfortunate casualties of the ‘blackberry culture’. In the ‘blackberry culture’ the business leader of today is constantly available, and hence always on call. There is very little down time. At the same time, as a society, we have a deep yearning to create some semblance of work/life balance. I hear this yearning resonating in groups that we work with across all demographics and geographies. It reaches it’s height in the first and second levels of supervision, and starts to decline in the more senior levels of management as leaders become accustomed to the culture of connection and resign themselves to their fate. Some brave souls have found the way to strike the delicate balance between their personal and professional life, but more often than not there is a quiet resignation to the reality of corporate life.

So if work/life balance is at all possible, how do people strike the balance? We asked 15 senior leaders this question. In the discussion that followed we discovered 5 myths that they had to honestly uncover within themselves and address.

Myth#1: I have to be accessible all the time.

The unfortunate reality is that cell phones and blackberry type devices have created an ‘electronic tether’ for high achievers that is highly seductive in it’s allure. This tether serves to massage our egos while allowing our need for control and constant contact to run amuk. Here are 4 ways to recognize and counter the allure of the ‘electronic tether’:

1. Reconcile yourself to the fact that you are not indispensable.

While there is no doubt that leaders make a valuable and significant contribution to the success of the teams they lead, only the most egocentric amongst us would deem themselves to be truly indispensable. In fact, it is a sobering reality that no matter how talented a person is, everyone will be replaced one day. The only question is when that day will occur. Every city has a piece of real estate full of people who once considered themselves indispensable. In fact, we would argue that if you are indispensable, you are not performing adequately as a leader – but more on that later.

2. Check your ego at the door.

There is no doubt that successful leaders have a healthy self image and they draw on this belief in their own abilities to tackle challenges and obstacles that would seem daunting to others. The question that every leader must ask is this: What gives me my sense of self worth? Does it come from an inner sense of contribution to others and recognition that adding value is always recognized by others in any organization of value? Confident leaders can always afford to lavish well deserved praise on others. Jim Collins spoke to this issue with a concept he referred to as the window and the mirror. He related that his research of successful leaders showed that when things went well they went to the window and praised the people in the organization that had made it happen. When things did not go well, they would go the mirror and ask themselves what they could have done differently. In contrast, leaders who struggled would go the mirror when things went well and congratulate themselves. When things went badly, they would go to the window and chastise the culprits who, no doubt, had caused the poor results. Where do you go when things are going well – the mirror or the window? When was the last time you were at the window?

3. Recognize your addiction to being in control.

One of the disturbing trends that I see in many client groups is the growing addiction many leaders have for controlling every aspect of the business. The Blackberry Culture allows you to insert yourself in to aspects of the business that would have been impossible only a few years ago. Most leaders do not recognize this trend within themselves, but they do complain of one of the major symptoms of this trend – lack of engagement from their employee base. If you see this trend with your people it may be time for some self reflection as to it’s root cause.

4. Recognize your crisis orientation.

Leaders excel at problem solving. There is a sort of adrenaline rush that comes from being the one who is not stressed but energized by daunting tasks, by being the one person everyone knows will be able to pull the rabbit out of the hat at the last moment. In fact, most leaders (if they were honest) would admit to some degree of satisfaction from being the one who can handle the crises that others stress about. Leaders must learn to judge their success not by how many crises are addressed, but by how many are averted and/or handled by others.

Myth #2: I have to work the hours I do.

Do you? Think back 3-5 years, if you could go back in time, could you do that job in less time? Most leaders answer that question with an emphatic yes! Well, how did that change occur? For most leaders, it happened slowly as they gathered additional skill and knowledge. It happened in reaction to the demands of having to do more in less time.

Here is another question for you: Do you expect the demands on you to increase or decrease over the next year? That question usually evokes a chuckle from the audience. Of course, demands always increase. The problem is that we linearly increase our production capability in response to demand, rather than making a dramatic shift in the way we address our work.

What is required is a quantum shift in our thinking rather than a linear shift in our ability or, worse yet, more ‘effort’. Now, I am not peddling the ‘work smarter, not harder’ adage that is true, but not exactly helpful. Most people inwardly groan when a leader starts that pep rally speech. The problem is not that we want to work harder, but that we do not know how to work smarter. In fact, our thinking is limited by the challenges and problems we experience every day.

One of the best ways to make a quantum shift in your thinking is to make the status quo unacceptable. Here is one way to make this happen:

Sit down with at a quiet time and blank pad of paper, and answer the following question: If I had to double my group’s production in the next year, how would I make that happen? Now, I know what your immediate reaction will be – that’s impossible! Well, maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t. (I have seen it happen to many people who initially thought it so.) But, at the very least, looking for the answer to that question will take your thinking to a higher plane – to solutions that you would not have otherwise considered.

Once you have completed this exercise, determine one habit that you must change to move yourself in this new direction. Next, commit to making this habit change a reality – not tomorrow – today.

Oh, and one other thing: Give up on the idea that you have to work all those hours, and start asking yourself every day how you could do more in less time – unless, of course, you actually like the people at work more than the people at home.

Myth #3: My boss expects everything yesterday.

At VisionPoint, we have had the pleasure of working with thousands of leaders from all levels in many types of organizations. One of the key comments we hear from leaders is that everything is urgent and that their boss requires everything ‘yesterday’. Since we often work with different levels of the same organization concurrently, we decided to check this feedback out with the ‘boss’. What we have found is that the ‘boss’ was unaware of a problem and did not know that their demands were creating a culture of reactivity. To remedy this, leaders need to learn to push back more effectively on demands made by their boss, rather than just accepting all assignments without question. This is particularly hard for those of us that were raised with the belief that when the boss says jump – you ask “how high?” Although this is an admirable trait and will serve you well in many areas of life, it is not the response of a leader.

The truth of the matter is that the more competent a leader you are, the less your boss knows of what you have on your plate. In other words, your boss is NOT thinking of the other five projects you are working on when they assign the sixth. They are merely thinking of that project. The urgency they impart to their request may very well have more to do with the fact that it is the last thing they were working on than that it is of a higher priority than the other five projects. Their confidence in your ability allows them to focus on the matter at hand, because they know you will not only accomplish the other five, but in their mind they are already complete.

As a leader you must master the skills of saying no. In reality, you never say ‘no’ to your boss, however you must push back enough so that you can establish the true urgency and relative priority to the other projects/tasks you are working on.

Myth #4: I can’t take a vacation (without wishing I hadn’t when I get back).

One of the greatest joys of your life can be the time you take to pursue extended periods of relaxation or adventure away from work. The unfortunate reality for many leaders is that they neither relax while they are away, nor are they able to reenter work after a vacation without a tremendous amount of stress. In fact, I know of many leaders that deliberately go on a cruise for their vacation because there is no cell phone coverage at sea (read this – my job cannot reach me).

Contrary to what many people believe, the current state of their ‘vacations’ is not the problem.

It is a symptom of a much bigger problem. Here is the brutal truth about vacations: What you are experiencing during times of vacation is a logical extension of the way you conduct yourself on a day to day basis. If you wish to increase the quality of both your vacations (and the time after them when you return to work) you will have to restructure the way you lead long before you go on vacation.

And there is no quick fix.

You must make a decision about what you want to have your next vacation look like. Then, take deliberate steps to put in place the systems, processes and people to make that vacation a reality.

It can happen. And you will be a better leader for it.

Myth #5: My employees are not motivated

It is almost impossible to achieve work/life balance without a motivated support team. At the same time, recent research shows that 71% of the US workforce is either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged”. It bears consideration then, what we as leaders can do to make sure we have “highly engaged” employees.

Take this quick quiz:

  • List all your team members and rate their current motivation level on a scale from “1” to “10”.
  • Estimate what the effect would be on the team’s productivity (and your quality of life) if all team members were at least an “8”.

This is the hard part: Recent research (Gallup) shows that leaders can significantly increase the motivation of employees. Here are some of the reasons employees are disengaged that have the strongest link to business performance:

    • Employees don’t know what is expected of them at work.
    • Employees do not have the material and equipment they need to do their job properly.
    • Employees are not utilizing their key talents – they are ‘misaligned’ in the organization.
    • They do not receive recognition for good work.
    • No one at work is interested in them beyond the work they do.
    • No one at work seems to care about their development.

As leaders, we need to long take a look in the mirror and ask how much of the problem we could be contributing to. Be honest with yourself – that’s what leaders do.

Once you have your answers you will need to commit to addressing the challenges you have identified.

Now, establish 3 actions you need to take to evaluate and improve the motivation level of your team.

As I think back on my experiences with Bas and Hans at my first corporate job, I realize that they were hoping to get to retirement before change caught up with them. These days, for those of us farther than a few years from retirement, that is a race we will lose. The good news is that the path to effective leadership is available to those who will make daily self improvement a habit.

The choice is yours.

ROI: THE END OF TRAINING AS WE KNOW IT

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How do you measure the effectiveness of training initiatives?

Don’t believe anyone that tells you it can’t be done. It can.

In fact, if you want your people to take training intiatives seriously, you must find a way to connect them with the business results that are important to operational leaders.The challenge for most leaders is not that they expect too much from training, it is that they expect way too little. As a result, leaders are unwilling to put forth much effort in most training programs. The result is as predictable as it is sad: Wasted time, wasted effort and wasted money.

The question of how to measure the effectiveness of training has been increasingly posed to Human Resource Development (HRD) departments over the past decade. So much so, that nearly every HRD conference or convention has a slate of topics revolving around the issue. And the pressure to validate the return o n training dollars invested is only likely to intensify.

In fact, the general trend toward accountability could be the best thing that ever happened to training, but only if we start to think about training expenditures as investments, and demand a return on that investment. We must stop thinking that a successful training program is the one that trains the greatest number of people for the smallest amount of money. Training is irrelevant without a change in results.

And yet there are still lots of folks that would have us believe that training expenses should not be subjected to the same Return on Investment (ROI) decision making criteria as other business expenditures are. They would have us believe that you cannot measure or calculate the ROI of training initiatives. You know what I mean, they say things like “Yeah, it costs a lot of money, but -(insert excuse here)”. Well, the days of allowing training expenditures to made o n pure faith is over. And the training industry will be better for it!The truth of the matter is that training and development is not a mysterious art. It is a serious business discipline that should be conducted as any other business discipline is. Boiled down to it’s root elements, ROI training interventions are based on a very simple formula:

  1. Decide what business outcome we are looking to achieve and how we will measure our success (metrics).
  2. Determine the changes in behavior and application necessary to reach the business outcome.
  3. Identify the skills, knowledge and/or attitudinal shifts necessary for the necessary behaviors to be applied on the job.
  4. Design the intervention process based on the gaps identified.
  5. Measure the results in terms of the business outcomes impacted and calculate ROI.

Based on Kirkpatrick’s work almost 40 years ago on the four levels of training evaluation, the ROI model adds a fifth level: the impact of business results converted to a monetary value and compared to the costs of the training implementation. As with other measures of ROI, training ROI is typically expressed as a percentage (%). Table 1: Description of Evaluation Levels

Level Description

  1. Reaction and Planned Action Measures the reaction of the participant to the program and outlines the plan for implementation.
  2. Learning Measures skills, knowledge or attitude changes.
  3. Job Application Measures behavior change on the job and specific application of the program content.
  4. Business Results Measures the impact of behavior change in the business.
  5. OI Compares the monetary value of the business results to the costs for program implementation (%).

A model for calculating the return o n investment in HRD was proposed by Jack Phillips in his book ‘Return on Investment’. This model provides a methodology for simplifying a potentially complicated process to a series of sequential steps.

  1. Determine the purpose of the evaluation.
  2. Determine the instruments, timing and levels at which you propose to evaluate the effects of the initiative.
  3. Collect the data.
  4. Isolate the effects of the training.
  5. Convert the data to a monetary value that represents a conservative estimate of the benefits of the training. Keep a separate list of the intangible benefits of the training.
  6. Tabulate the program costs.
  7. Calculate the Return on Investment.

In these turbulent times, it is intuitive to many HRD professionals that top performers are looking to the company to invest in the development of their talents and abilities. These small-scale investments may not require the level of justification outlined above. However, it is our belief that the proper utilization of the ROI model is essential for the justification of large-scale HRD initiatives. only a realistic and believable ROI justification will ensure that HRD’s seat at the executive table is placed solidly in the front row.

ACCELERATING CHANGE IN AN UNCERTAIN WORLD

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Sooner or later it happens to every manager and leader. The group you seek to lead has been doing what they are doing for so long that they appear incapable of change.

And yet, change they must. You see the writing on the wall. If they do not change the very existence of the organization is at risk. Unfortunately for you, endless downsizing, rightsizing, re-organization, redeployment, layoffs and other management initiatives have left the management “trust” account empty. You know, the account that you draw on when you have to ask people to do that which is unpleasant. But you know that you need their buy-in for the objective to be accomplished.

But now the account is empty. No more opportunity to withdraw. And there is no time to make significant deposits. You need action now. You know that the situation deserves a long-term fix, but the luxury of time is not yours.

It’s the kind of scenario that is played out all too often in corporate America these days. In order to address this issue we must start at the beginning. To begin with the “end in mind” may be good speech material, but this group has heard too many promises and “feel good” approaches. No, in a case like this, the only thing that will work is to start at the beginning – with the people.

There is no such thing as a group reaction.

Groups or organizations are nothing more than a collection of individuals. So it is very dangerous to generalize about the way a group will react. The group doesn’t react. People do. Now that is not to say that there is no such thing as corporate culture, there is. But what is culture? Culture is the habitual way a group of individuals will act. And habits are nothing more than an unconscious response to a situation.

Three types of employees.

In our experience there are three types of employees; the superstar, the average performer, and those who quit along time ago – but are still collecting a paycheck.

The danger in managing a group through change is that the average performers are often being influenced by the low performers to react to change negatively. The major reason that we have so many average performers in a typical organization is that the manager is managing for “average performance” not “excellence”. We spend all our time trying to bring those with below average performance up to the average. The theory here is that by improving the weakest members of the team we will shift the average performance upward. Our experience has been that this hardly ever works.

The Plan Of Action.

In order to get a change initiative into high gear, the leader must move decisively to:

  1. Identify by objective measurable terms the criteria for membership in each group.
  2. Determine which employees are in each group.
  3. Clearly communicate the goals for “excellent” performance to all employees.
  4. Give objective one on one feedback to all employees as to where they are now. Offer alternate employment to anyone who is unwilling or unable to improve.
  5. Place the bottom 10% of employees on a “performance improvement plan”.
  6. Use a “performance management plan” to communicate progress on their goals to all other employees. Focus your attention on the best performing employees.
  7. Do not tolerate average performance for very long if there is not progress being made.
  8. Celebrate excellence at every opportunity.