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Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Archive for the ‘Expectations’ Category

Do Institutionalized Management Practices Create Formidable Obstacles to Change?

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fearfulman

Every organization must adapt to change whether they like it or not. Customers, competition and technology compel organizations to adjust. The success and speed of change is dependent upon several key factors that are closely associated with leadership.

However, institutionalized management practices and structures can create formidable obstacles to internal change and can prevent organizations from taking advantage of short windows of opportunity. These obstacles present a challenge to all managers.

In most organizations individuals are taught to manage not by leading but by controlling and directing. Within these organizational cultures, this style of management is often equated with leadership. This key fallacy often prevents organizations from effecting change and taking advantage of afforded opportunities.

Management is a precise set of processes that keeps a complicated system of people, resources and technology running smoothly and, hopefully, without problems. These processes include functions such as planning, budgeting, organizing and controlling. Yet management as leadership goes well beyond these activities to include the set of processes that initially creates an organization and allows it to adapt to a variety of changing circumstances.

It is important for managers to understand the difference between the two processes. Leadership is what defines the future for the organization, aligns people with a vision and motivates them to carry on despite the obstacles. Transforming an organization in the face of change requires a majority of leadership skills and a minority of controlling and directing skills. While management in the traditional sense was required to build and staff the large corporate organizations of the past, leadership is what is required to transform them in the face of change for the future.

The key factors of change within any organization are all leadership-based. In the past, management was essential to internally build and maintain large organizations and bureaucracies. While such management is still important, organizations faced with rapidly changing technologies, markets and competition must focus their efforts externally to effectively handle change and take advantage of the subsequent opportunities. This external focus is part of leadership.

The reasons behind this strategy are self-evident. Internally-focused managers and employees tend to be myopic in their thinking, which makes it difficult for them to identify the external forces presenting both threats and opportunities to the organization. Insular thinking is designed to protect internal bureaucracies and political power bases; thus, it denies the existence of the forces of change that are buffeting the organization.

Since they disregard the forces of change, these managers are highly resistant to alterations and build walls within the organization. These barriers are difficult for managers as leaders to overcome. Before they can emerge to challenge these internal barriers, they must understand how the key factors of leadership compare with the traditional management structure, and how the two vary in style and approach to change. While controlling and directing management can support leadership in the accomplishment of goals and objectives, most organizational cultures have traditional managers dictating what managers as leaders should and can do; this is the opposite of what should be happening. The following comparisons are where many of the directing/leading conflicts occur with traditional management imposing its principles and constraints upon leadership.

Planning and Budgeting vs. Establishing Direction

The role of management in the traditional sense is to establish detailed steps and schedules that direct the organization toward the accomplishment of its goals and objectives. Individuals and organizational resources are allotted according to need and assigned to specific tasks.

The role of management as leadership is to develop and define an organizational vision for the future. Managers initiate strategies to produce the necessary changes required to achieve their vision.

The conflict in traditional manager-run organizations is that they wish to have managers who lead work within the constraints of the established plans and budgets, which limits their ability to act and effect overall change. Rather, planning and budgeting should be used to support the manager’s goals and vision to implement necessary organizational change. This presents a challenge for managers as leaders: they must effect internal change before they can achieve external change.

Organizing and Staffing vs. Aligning People

The conflict between organizing and staffing on the one hand, and aligning people on the other, is an argument of form over function. Many entrenched managers have institutionalized a number of management functions, which creates highly structured programs that help the organization to achieve its institutionalized goals and objectives. Employees and resources of the organization are controlled and directed through these goals related to policies, procedures, methods and systems.

While managers as leaders understand the validity of a management structure and a need for it to support a leader’s vision, goals and objectives, they are primarily guided by the principles of aligning people to their vision. Managers who lead accomplish their goals by communicating direction, via words and deeds, to everyone whose cooperation is needed for the creation of teams and coalitions that understand the vision and accept its validity.

Once teams and coalitions are internally established, managers understand the need for the functions of organizing and staffing that support these efforts, but are not constrained by them.

Controlling and Problem Solving vs. Motivating and Inspiring

The use of control methods and techniques is management’s way to monitor results and identify deviations from the plan. Problem solving techniques are instituted to use the organizational resources that resolve the problem.

The manager who leads will use these methods and techniques only after motivating and inspiring people to overcome the major internal and external barriers to change. A key difference is that controllers and directors use methods to implement solutions while leaders motivate people to change.

Predictability and Order vs. Change and Opportunity

The fundamental difference between controlling and leading management is in the final results.

Controlling management focuses on the short-term results that are expected by various stakeholders in the organization, such as meeting budgets and quotas and producing an adequate return on investment. Their focus is on predictability and order, which inhibits organizational adaptation and transformation to meet the forces of change.

Management as leadership aims to drive the organization through change vis-à-vis their vision. While this focus may alter the organization’s short-term goals, it has the potential to produce extremely useful change by taking advantage of emerging opportunities and transforming the organization in a positive manner. The results of this endeavor can produce new products, services, approaches and methods that positively impact the organization in the long-term.

Excerpt: Facilitating Change: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:

How Well Do You Set the Tone?

What Does Luck Have to Do With It?

Anticipating and Handling Employee Fears of Change

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Conflict is Inevitable With Persistent Resistance to Change

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headinhands

Resistance is experienced in most teams as they struggle with the concept of change. The purpose of creating teams is to tackle difficult issues and tough organizational problems. Invariably, the resulting solutions teams develop result in active transformations that disrupt the status quo and personal agendas, which also tends to remove personal positions of power. Consequently, there is a natural tendency for individual team members to resist pending changes.

The main challenge in leading teams is to allow the full complexity of individual personalities, talents, qualities and insights to emerge. These must be actively harnessed in order to achieve major team objectives.

While it is easy to set limits on verbal expressions and behaviors, doing so severely diminishes overall team potential and performance. Since various personality traits of individual members actively shape their general and immediate focus and perspectives, leaders who understand them are able to estimate their direct responses to change. Ultimately, with this related knowledge and understanding, they should be able to anticipate and minimize overall team member resistance. And they should be able to demonstrate that resistance results from differing perspectives that can be reconciled with the objectives of the entire team.

Resistance is an instinctive and energetic opposition to new ideas or someone’s expressed wishes to do something differently. If individual team members persist in their resistance, conflict becomes inevitable. Often resistance is framed as a struggle for control or as a problem that has been eliminated. The lines of conflict are often quickly drawn. Therefore, it is important for leaders to understand the concepts of resistance and conflict within their team environments and to learn how to harness and control them.

Avoidance of Conflict

Conflict should not be seen as something to be resolved, but as an experience to be explored. Opposing views in regard to team direction and change are never totally unrelated and can have great value when considered “different parts of the same story.” Leaders will often find that resistance and conflict are consistently initiated by many of the same individuals on their teams as a result of their inherent personality traits.

Avoidance of conflict either drains interest, enthusiasm and trust or results in concealed tension, internal fighting and impaired team performance. While some leaders meet resistance head on, others often do everything possible to avoid the attached conflicts. Rather than keep conflicts from erupting, avoidance causes increasing internal team resistance. It is extremely important to keep in mind that appeasement in order to diminish conflict is not effective, and instead creates a host of additional challenges to overcome.

Denial of Conflict

When leaders propose change and team members feign agreement, the actual degree of resistance can be immense. This often occurs when teams have strong norms, where dissention and negative views are rarely tolerated and expressed. The core of resistance lies with a particular side of the team or with individual leaders that no one is fully prepared to address or discuss.

While the denial of conflict might be considered a normal process within many team environments, it more often than not builds to the point of erupting into a far more serious problem. Therefore, when active resistance is initially encountered, leaders must ensure that conflicts within their team environments are not denied, but adequately addressed and worked through.

Anxiety

Avoidance and denial of conflict are rooted in personal anxiety. Oftentimes, members can be intimidated by their team environments, their lack of seniority and/or experience, or their own inherent personalities. The concept of change also frightens many people due to associated fears of the unknown and feelings about how change will personally and directly affect them.

It is important for leaders to recognize these factors and the subsequent anxieties that may be created within their team environments. These factors need to be identified and openly and fully discussed. Leaders must address the consequences of allowing anxieties to take root in order to diminish individual fear factors that tend to create undue apprehension, nervousness or panic. Once these issues are addressed and individuals fully understand the root causes and the impact these factors have on their team, personal anxieties will dissolve. When this is accomplished, individual stress levels are reduced.

Addressing the Concept of Change

In team environments there will always be members who desire change and members who wish to keep the status quo. Both of these positions give insight into what members perceive to be the true needs of their team. To ensure that insights are not lost, leaders need to ask themselves the following questions:

  • What is currently happening to and within the team?
  • What force for change is directly impacting the team?
  • Within the team, what counterbalancing forces seek to minimize change?

When leaders are able to identify these factors, both positions are respected, and those who resist change can be viewed as the guardians of the team’s traditional norms and beliefs.

Viewing Resistance as a Strength

Rather than something that must be actively overcome, leaders should be aware that resistance deserves respect for its ability to help teams discover how to change. Since resistance is characterized as a mobilization of energy, leaders must learn how to channel it in positive ways. Resistance should be viewed as a healthy and creative force that can be applied to effectively meet individual challenges. It can be used to frame problems and issues in new ways that all individual team members can appreciate and respect. The team process can be used to work through complex issues, tackle difficult problems and their attached implications and ramifications, and arrive at a consensus in regard to the most workable, practical and effective solutions.

Related:

Is Conflict Destructive to Your Organization?

The Challenge of Handling Conflict

When the Process of Change Spins Out of Control

Conflict Turns Decision Making Upside Down

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

When Motivating Employees, Expectations Are Everything

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smallgroup11

During the 1930s researchers from Harvard University conducted productivity studies at Western Electric’s Hawthorne facility that demonstrated how management attention generates immediate productivity increases. However sustained, long-term productivity is facilitated when management communicates the consistent message that employees will perform to the expectations of established standards.

More than 300 additional studies support the fact that an employee’s achievement goes beyond their individual personal ability and mirrors their manager’s expectations. These findings indicate that employees perform in accordance with what is expected of them, even above their own beliefs in their abilities. This fact can play a significant role when it comes to individual performance.

It is important for managers to understand that if they openly demonstrate they believe an employee to be competent and worthwhile, then he or she is likely to be more effective and perceive their job to be more rewarding. Managers reinforce this concept when they encourage and are responsive to their employees, provide them more challenging assignments, and offer additional assistance and support whenever needed.

The phenomenon commonly referred to as the Pygmalion Effect stresses that achievement mirrors expectations more than individual ability. An individual’s performance is affected by his or her self-image. This concept sets the boundaries of individual accomplishment. Its main principle supports the belief that employees can work up to and beyond their own perceived abilities by rising to meet the expectations managers have of them.

Managers have the ability to alter overall performance through expanding their employees’ self-confidence and by building their self-esteem. These actions impact performance by expanding individual personal perceptions of what one can accomplish.

The nature of business means employees must deal with daily stress and inevitable missteps and failures that impact their self-esteem and confidence. Managers can positively support their employees by keeping the Pygmalion Effect in mind. They can build expectations that employees will readily overcome any setbacks and continue to work toward success.

A manager’s attitude toward their employees also directly affects their performance. They are often astonished to discover that when employees are given a chance to prove themselves, they display more talent and ability than the manager initially imagined.

The second aspect of increasing productivity is the level of attention provided by managers. Attitudes, expectations and attention establish what gets done and how. The Hawthorne studies show that the time and attention invested by management is directly proportional to results. In most organizations time is the scarcest of available resources. Employees understand that when a manager is visible to them, he or she is investing a valuable personal resource in their performance. Consequently, a visible manager is an effective one.

When most people think about leadership, they perceive it to be found only at the top levels of an organization. However, in reality, effective leadership takes place on a one-to-one basis. Managers work directly with each of their employees to enhance their capabilities and personal commitment to achieve positive results. The power of a single manager’s attitude, expectations and attention can impact productivity and positive results more radically than anything else.

Organizational changes actually occur on individual levels. Good managers understand that success occurs slowly but consistently, one small change at a time. While each single change may not appear meaningful unto itself, when measured across time and the entire workplace, the impact is enormous.

When managers positively impact their employees’ performance to increase their productivity step-by-step, they begin to contribute consistently and successfully toward the achievement of the organization’s goals. Each small success builds ongoing commitment. Overall change occurs because everyone has a chance to commit and contribute to it. Progress is the result of many things being done differently—not major management decisions.

Excerpt: Motivating Employees: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series. (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI, 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:

Five Critical Steps to Maximize Performance

Execution: Six Action Steps

Performance Plans Create Results and Maximizes Performance

Objectives Allow Managers to Focus on Obtaining Results

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Do These Four Common Pitfalls Undermine Your Meeting’s Effectiveness?

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smallgroup9

There is something about face-to-face meetings. They continue to perform much better and provide a greater usefulness than any other means. Today’s modern web casts, video conferences, online discussions and chats etc. have continually tried to replace or surpass them in terms of generating better outcomes, but have never succeeded. If no meetings existed, work related satisfaction as well as task attachment, and certainly, company loyalty, would be extremely limited or in some cases, non-existent. That is why it becomes imperative to avoid problems that can easily ruin potentially productive meetings, and spiral them into dismal, time-wasting ones.

Designated meeting times may be the only time you, the leader, will be viewed as a guiding force, rather than a task master that is associated with “simply doing your job”. That is why it is so important to plan for smoothness of operation and flow in order to take advantage of the opportunity a meeting provides.

Selection is Key

To remedy meeting concerns before becoming real problems, it is crucial to identify potential pitfalls upfront. One key issue to consider is who should be selected to attend the meeting and addressing why the person’s attendance is essential for what the meeting is designed to achieve. To accomplish this purpose, the first step should include a careful scrutiny of potential participants. Keep in mind that any meeting tends to define a specific team, group of individuals or unit. Those who participate will belong to it. Those not invited or involved in its interaction never will become a component of its pool of shared knowledge, insight, experience, judgment and experience.

Consider the Meeting’s Collective Aim

A meeting needs to be the place where every participant learns the collective aim of the group. Its members must be able to define the way in which personal and collective work is able to contribute to outcomes that will characterize its overall success. The process needs to be used as a ‘commitment vehicle’ for the decisions being made through the group of its participants. It must also become a reinforcement tool for the objectives being pursued through it.

Newly Established Meetings Are More Challenging

An initial meeting gathering needs to be recognized and viewed as an “automatic status forum”. Initial encounters tend to evolve into an opportunity for its individual members to find out their relative standing within the group. Always expect some struggle for dominance and competition for top positioning, as well as some forceful attempts at intimidation to establish importance. Established meetings do not typically exhibit these same issues.

Focus on Maintaining Positive Discussions and Outcomes

One important function of a meeting is to become an interactive place where revisions, updates or additions take place to enhance and move forward its agenda or project etc., as well as what it knows as a group. It is necessary to allow this to take place within safe borders, well-defined standards and adhered to guidelines. Also remember that a meeting tends to establish its very own culture. This is why it is so important to give great consideration to what it is supposed to accomplish and how you want it accomplished.

Common Pitfalls:

Not Planning For the Total Process

Committee and subcommittee types of meetings including work groups, project teams and/or boards tend to constitute the greatest number of meetings taking place in today’s business environment. Distinctions other than those of size will directly affect their nature, so make it a point to include a meeting’s frequency, composition, motivation and problem solving process into your thinking and meeting development.

Not Establishing the Proper Size of a Meeting

Most meetings tend to become ineffective due to sizing problems. Positive outcomes tend to become seriously threatened when too many individuals are present at any one meeting. It is found to be best if four to seven people are assigned to attend an individual meeting. Some meetings can tolerate up to ten individuals, but then expect the number to slow the agenda and discussions down. Never expect to have a truly effective meeting with twelve or more attendees.

If numbers become a concern, there are several things you can try to get them down effectively.

Analyze Your Agenda

See if there is some way to segment the meeting time into various sections or segments. Perhaps you can arrange the agenda so that not everybody needs to be present for every item being listed on it. This may allow some individuals to leave at various points throughout the meeting, or provide a window for new ones to arrive for inclusion into certain points and topics of discussion, especially ones that are crucial for them to offer input or take away critical information.

Not Determining the Proper Number of Meetings

Determine if two or more separate but smaller meetings may be more effective in the long run than one larger span of time. Think through the agenda to notice where breaks in objectives occur. Perhaps multiple meetings may be the solution for enhancing outcomes and timetables. Most times these smaller ones tend to get more intense and as a result, get more done in a faster, meaningful way.

Not Carefully Examining Meeting Program Points

Scrutinize your meeting points and program. See if it can be arranged and broken into several meeting components, rather than simply following one continuous meeting flow? Is it possible to give various members selective informational or decision-making points or items of importance that directly affect their particular area(s) of responsibility or work areas at least one week in advance in order to discuss and thrash out the predetermined topics or items? Follow this by perhaps allowing them to select one representative to join the actual meeting. This person becomes the total group representative, spokesperson and liaison.

Related:

7 Ways to Use Change to Increase Performance

The Four Building Blocks of Intelligent Decision-Making

Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving Problems

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Should Accountability Be a Primary Priority?

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womenspeaking

Today it seems that much of what we hear focuses on a lack of accountability. It resonates inside business practices as well as being far reaching in the character of influential people within our political environment, cultural role models and those responsible for influencing and teaching our children. Accountability is an important topic to consider, especially in business today. After all, a lack of accountability in the workplace does produce both intended and unintended consequences that can affect so many people in a brief amount time.

The choices we make and the paths we choose to take all come with associated levels of accountability and accompanied consequences. Many in the business setting tend to have extremely higher stakes and risks. The question is; “Should accountability be a number one priority in today’s business climate?”

Basic Definition of Accountability

The basic definition of accountability can be simply defined. It is being answerable to others.  In the work environment as managers and leaders, it is important for several reasons. Accountability is the means for applying checks and balances. These protect companies from internal and external vulnerabilities and competitive disadvantages. It enhances fairness for employees and limits disruptions and frustrations that slow their efforts and personal growth. Through accountability, everyone can be given the opportunity to share their ideas, motivate and encourage those around them. Perhaps it is time to look at accountability as a “positive business relationship factor” rather than a “judgment that defines individual progress and potential”.

Personal Accountability

Accountability inside the workplace needs to be considered as a positive principle to embrace. It motivates each of us to do our best. It presses us to be better managers of the time, talents, responsibilities and resources that have been awarded us to oversee. If it were not for being answerable to someone else, it would likely become a much more difficult task to foster personal growth and to become better at what we do along the way. Nothing hampers individual promotions and work relationships more than a lack of personal accountability, or the desire for it. If you look around and give it careful consideration, you will probably notice that most divisions and derisions within departments or work units can be directly traced back to issues of little to no accountability in regard to one or more people.

Why Many Will Openly or Silently Resist Accountability?

Being in a leadership position requires the knowledge of understanding why many employees and even peers will openly or silently resist accountability. It may be wise to formally address them as part of your company expectations or workplace standards reinforcement activities.

Some Employees Have an Aversion to Accountability 

They are inwardly or even at times outwardly rebellious to authority. They sometimes feel they know better than someone else, and will refuse to adhere to any rules or suggestions that they have had no input or say into their development or implementation.

Some Employees May Be Simply Lazy and Non-Performance Driven

Accountability interferes with the ability to continue in their comfort zones fordoing what they feel they want to do, when they desire to do it.

Some Employees May Fear the Loss of Their Jobs or Positions

Accountability implies a disclosure of their negative performance in areas where they may be compared to others, where positive outcomes will become undermined or overlooked.

Some Employees May Not Trust Their Mangers or Supervisors

They refuse to believe the accountability criteria they set will be fair, or feel it will be used appropriately.

Pride or Ego Highly Contributes to the Erosion and Resistance to Accountability

Some individuals believe that the means of their own personal feelings and belief system will forever tend to justify the ends and outcomes they wish to produce. Actions of accountability and support of everyone’s interests are not a necessary part of the process for getting something accomplished. These individuals usually feel they are above the need to display qualities of corporate responsibility, while being held to the same standards as everyone else.

Accountability Stimulates Individuals Do Their Very Best

These are sobering days for any business and especially those that function within them. Character, high standards for staying on course, upholding personal convictions, promoting truthful words and unwavering actions while displaying high levels of responsibility, are all an integral part of accountability.

While it is true that everyone is probably forced to do more with less, accountability needs to become a two way street. A buy-in to accountability can make a huge difference. Work relationships generally become stronger.  Responsibility becomes part of the company culture. Paths to individual success, progress and promotion are opened up. Corporate stability is sustained, which in turn allows for greater future growth and individual prosperity. Trust within the workplace is greatly enhanced. Loyalty increases.

For multiple reasons, accountability stimulates individuals do their best, versus doing only what is needed to get by. In the end accountability will ensure that all workers will begin to hold each other to set standards, and because of it, increase pride and more positive workplace attitudes. Individuals taking advantage of circumstances and situations tend to become far fewer. Challenges can be addressed and solved without the accompaniment of intimidation and fear. By placing accountability as a number one priority, there will be far fewer challenges to overcome but more privileges, promotions and positive rewards to offer.

Related:

Supporting Employees’ Need to Achieve Maximum Results

Assessing Employee Growth and Development

Nine Rules for Coaching Your Employees

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Employing an Effective Feedback Process

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smallgroup12

For feedback to be useful and productive, coaching managers need to pay close attention to possible consequences that can occur once it has been provided. Constructive feedback tends to enhance employee relationships by generating higher levels of trust, honesty, and genuine concern for another person’s welfare, professional development and growth.

Feedback continually needs to be checked in order to determine its degree of agreement, which is referred to as “consensual validation.” This consensual validation is what tends to define feedback’s value to both the sender and receiver.

If the receiver of feedback is uncertain as to the giver’s motives or intent, the uncertainty itself constitutes feedback. This is why detailing the need for feedback should be revealed before multiple problems begin to occur. It is always important to check one’s feedback for message content, sequencing, structure, and factual data to ensure that clear communication is taking place. One way of doing this is to ask the receiver to rephrase the feedback. Remember, regardless of feedback intent, it still remains potentially threatening and is subject to a great deal of distortion or misinterpretation.

Predicting How the Feedback Receiver Will React Is Part of the Process

As a coaching manager it is important to be aware of various types of negative responses to feedback in order to react to them appropriately when they surface. Following specific guidelines for offering effective feedback can go a long way to limit many kinds of negative reactions to it, especially critical or necessary intervention types of criticism.

Managers as coaches can expect numerous employees (as well as themselves) to automatically react in a negative manner to what they feel is intimidating, hostile or threatening feedback. This reaction can take various forms, such as:

  • Doubting the giver’s intentions or motives
  • Selectively receiving or perceiving the feedback message in a biased manner according to how the person feels it is intended
  • Rejecting or contradicting the facts or validity of the data that is applied or used within the feedback
  • Reducing, lessening or diminishing the feedback’s impact
  • Arguing, criticizing or verbally attacking the individual that is offering the feedback

Steps for Receiving Feedback in a Positive Manner

The first step to receiving usable, reliable feedback is to solicit it. As part of the process make certain to:

  • Maintain your self-confidence and self-esteem when listening to feedback
  • Maintain good rapport with the individual giving the feedback
  • Apply active listening during the feedback discussion, such as paraphrasing and stating your understanding of what you are hearing
  • Make sure to summarize the information and data
  • Give a good example of how to effectively receive and accept feedback

Key Strategies to Help Give and Get Effective, Reliable Feedback

There are several key strategies that tend to enhance the productive feedback process:

Focus the discussion on the information needed. For example, when bringing a situation to the attention of an employee, begin the coaching process by saying something like: “Samantha, I’ve noticed in the past several weeks that you’ve fallen behind on keeping the project assignment schedule up-to-date. Let’s figure out what we both can do to get the scheduling process back on track.”

Always remember to apply open-ended questions as they work best to continually expand the discussion. Ask something like: “You have always done an exceptional job of maintaining the schedule correctly and up to the minute—until about two weeks ago. Why has there been such a change?”

Use closed-ended questions to prompt for specific responses, such as, “What other projects are you currently working on that are taking away valuable time from working on this project?” When taking this approach remember that closed-ended can end up disguised as open-ended inquiries, like: “Are you going to struggle or have a problem when it comes to the completion of this project?”

Promote ongoing dialogue through eye contact and positive facial expressions. The process involves nodding in agreement, raising the eyes, smiling, leaning forward more closely toward the other person, and making verbal statements in order to acknowledge that what is being said or stated, is heard.

State your understanding of what you are hearing by briefly paraphrasing what the other person is saying. After the key points have been summarized, try to get some agreement on the next steps. In addition, make certain to show appreciation for the effort made so far.

Best Practices for Offering Feedback

The following suggestions should be employed when offering feedback:

  • Make it a point to reveal and describe your own reactions or feelings as the feedback process progresses
  • Make certain to describe objective consequences that have or will occur
  • Stay clear of accusations
  • Focus on specific behavior the feedback is intended for, not the person
  • Make certain to present data to support your input
  • Be prepared to discuss additional alternatives
  • Rephrase comments to sound less intense, critical or insensitive
  • Take into account the needs of both the receiver and giver of feedback
  • Make certain that feedback is directed toward a behavior or action that the receiver can do something about or has control over

Avoid These Feedback Pitfalls

When you find yourself receiving feedback, especially critical feedback, it is important to avoid the following pitfalls:

  • Becoming defensive and closed-minded.
  • Not checking for possible misunderstanding. Instead always use a paraphrasing technique that begins with something like, “Let me repeat what I am hearing you say…”
  • Failing to gather information from other sources. It is far more advantageous to get as much input as possible from others to weigh and analyze the initial feedback received.
  • Overreacting, since it closes down constructive discussion, and hinders trust building and fact verification.
  • Not asking for feedback message clarification. It is essential to ask the person what the intent is behind the feedback in the first place, as well as making certain that there is total understanding on your part.

Related:

Supporting Employees’ Need to Achieve Maximum Results

Should Accountability Be a Primary Priority?

Assessing Employee Growth and Development

Nine Rules for Coaching Your Employees

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

“Leaders Should Set a Clear and Decisive Tone at the Top”

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Admiral Hyman Rickover, USN

Admiral Hyman Rickover, USN

The wealth, power and influence of the great leaders is widely known. How they achieved it is another issue unto itself. They were people of achievement, capability and resilience. They had their personal convictions continually tested as they faced countless and enormous difficulties and challenges. Yet, it was their character, ethics, morals and values that utterly defined them as great leaders. In the quest for wealth, fame and power, many individuals will tend to sacrifice these qualities on the altar of achievement.

Admiral Hyman Rickover in a 1977 speech stated, “There is abundant evidence around us to conclude that morals and ethics are becoming less prevalent in people’s lives. The standards of conduct, which lay deeply buried in accepted though for centuries no long are absolute. Many people seem unable to differentiate between physical relief and moral satisfaction; they confuse material success in life with virtue.” What distinguished the great leaders from typical ones was their refusal to sell themselves out, or to compromise their integrity for the sake of money, power or prestige.

Rickover was prophetic. Since his remarks, this country has seen corporate scandal after scandal occur, including a stable of well-known companies, such as Drexel Burnham, Enron, Arthur Anderson, WorldCom, Tyco International, Countrywide, AIG, and Lehman Brothers, just to list a few. The actions of a handful of wealthy and influential leaders  threw the country into a financial panic, as well as a lengthy and deep recession. It resulted in costing millions of individuals and families their homes, savings and retirements. It destroyed trust and credibility within our society. This was further exasperated when many of the companies and leaders who were directly responsible for such pain and misery became isolated from the consequences of their actions and behaviors through government bailouts, generous “golden parachutes,” and performance bonuses.

Sharon Allen, Chairman of Deloitte LLP wrote in the introduction to The Deloitte LLP 2010 Ethics & Workplace Survey, “Regardless of the economic environment, business leaders should be mindful of the significant impact that trust in the workplace… By establishing a values-based culture, organizations can cultivate the trust necessary to reduce turnover and mitigate unethical behavior…. Ultimately, an organization’s most senior leaders should set a clear and decisive tone at the top.”

“Ethics and moral judgment are not new concepts for leadership. They have been identified as critical characteristics of leadership over the last century. An organization’s leaders help define the culture, values, standards, and moral character of the organization having ramifications both inside and external to the organization. Ethical leaders have been found to display pride yet reject selfish and conceited behavior… Ethical leaders are not normally high-profile charismatic leaders but are quiet leaders moving ‘patiently, carefully, and incrementally…’”

The great leaders are defined by who they are as individuals. They have all been shaped by their character, morals, values, integrity and ethics. These are the values that define them as being truly great and valuable, whether or not they actually achieved publically recognized pinnacles of success.

  1. Admiral Rickover H.C., Thoughts on Man’s Purpose in Life (speech presented at the San Diego Rotary Club, 1977)
  2. The Deloitte LLP 2010 Ethics & Workplace Survey (Deloitte LLP, August, 2010)
  3. Scharff M.M., WorldCom: A Failure of Moral and Ethical Values (Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship, July 2005)

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

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Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
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