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Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

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Eleven Factors That Affect the Team Environment

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Systematic observation and thorough analysis of the team process as it relates to individual members is essential for understanding how teams must shape their dynamics in order to improve overall performance. The team observation and analysis process focuses managers on the various ways individual members interact with one another within the team environment.

Teams respond to issues differently. Responses can result in disruptive conduct such as personal dominance, obstinacy, controlling, outright fighting and a host of other negative behaviors.

Task and maintenance roles allow individual teams to deal with issues and influences in a more structured and productive manner. However, managers must observe how their individual teams interact before and after structures are put into place in order to determine the increase in their performance output and productivity.

The team observation and analyzing process includes the following factors and components:

Membership

Leaders need to understand that individuals who comprise the makeup of an individual team have differences in personalities and backgrounds and that these—along with gender and age differences—all affect the group dynamics within the team structure. Differences in functional backgrounds and commitment to collective goals also contribute to a level of cohesion or overall conflict within the team environment.

Organizational Context

Successful teams need organizational direction, information and resources. Problems can occur when organizational missions are unclear, tasks poorly defined, and teams not given sufficient autonomy. Problems also result when rewards are given to individual members and not collectively to recognize overall team results.

Influencers, Communication and Participation

It is important for leaders to identify the influencers and established subgroups and coalitions within individual team environments. There is a natural tendency for individuals within the team to form alliances to the exclusion of other members, and most team environments will experience their influence and control. Influencers and alliances impact team communication patterns as certain individual input is sought and heard over and above other sources of dialogue, ideas, comments and suggestions.

As within any healthy team environment there is a balance of all opinions and feedback, leaders must be aware of who has the most impact on the team’s actions and decisions and take action to ensure those who have been ignored are heard.

Climate and Personal Behaviors

Leaders must observe individual team members for signs of anger, irritation, frustration, boredom, defensiveness and withdrawal. As within a healthy team environment, individual team members should be free to probe others with regard to their thoughts and feelings – such emotions are indicative of problems that must be addressed.

When reviewing the climate, it is essential for leaders to also determine whether conflict is suppressed or encouraged: solutions cannot be reached unless there is healthy debate and open conflict that allows individual teams to reach their optimal performance levels.

Minority Opinions

In most team environments there will be individual members who hold opinions and viewpoints that run counter to those of the majority. In a healthy team environment, these opinions are valued and sought out rather than suppressed and discouraged.

Leadership

Leaders should monitor the power structure within their teams to determine whether leadership responsibilities are assumed by one person or shared by the entire membership. They should be watchful for power struggles and conflicts resulting from a lack of leadership within the team environment.

Task and Maintenance Functions

Healthy teams have task flow and maintenance roles that are fulfilled by all members. Leaders should determine whether specific roles and responsibilities are being fulfilled competently and accurately, and whether the individuals assigned to these roles and tasks take their responsibilities seriously.

Decision Making

Leaders should be well acquainted with the decision making processes used within their individual teams. Key decisions are generally made during the first meeting, which often then tend to shape and determine progress. These key initial decisions are often hard to reverse. Leaders should also guard against groupthink, where pressure is put on all team members to agree and conform to the actions of the entire team and little or no dissention is allowed.

Conflict

Leaders should encourage useful, healthy and appropriate conflict over substantive issues, while taking time to improve personal relations among individual team members when negative emotional eruptions become apparent. Conflict is healthy only when personalities and personal issues are removed from the issue.

Emotional Issues

All individual team members come to the team setting with personal needs and issues that get played out within the environment, including:

  • Personal identity within the team
  • Goals and needs
  • Power and control
  • Intimacy

Atmosphere

Leaders should monitor the atmosphere created by their individual teams. Within some teams, members may prefer a business-only approach, while in others a more social atmosphere might be prevalent. The atmosphere is also shaped by whether a single individual controls the team or leadership is shared collectively.

Excerpt: Building Team Roles & Direction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI, 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:

How Personal Agendas Can Destroy a Team

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

When Performance Lags, Look to the Team Culture

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

How Well Are You Communicating Your Vision?

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blogCrystal-Ball

Vision communication can be thought of as expressing an ideal that represents or reflects the organization’s collectively shared values. Numerous studies have shown that leaders who enthusiastically promote and communicate their vision tend to create positive effects on employee performance, attitudes and perceptions.

Specific core components need to be incorporated to effectively communicate one’s vision. These are:

  • Displaying a charismatic, forceful, animated and confident communication style;
  • Taking action to support the implementation of the vision, such as by serving as an exemplary role model;
  • Intellectually stimulating employees and building their confidence while continuously promoting the vision.

A well thought-out vision concisely but openly expresses a leader’s values and energy. In this way, vision content is communicated through imagery that generates a vivid mental picture of possibilities in relationship to existing realities.

When communicating their vision, leaders should focus on detailing its strategic emphasis and response to necessary changes. This includes outlining expectations as to the vision’s degree of control over those changes and its relationship to employees’ self-interests, as well as combining specific needs and values into a unified and collaborative effort.

Describing the Vision in Terms of Mission, Values and Goals

Communicating a vision effectively needs to incorporate components of the leader’s organizational mission, strategy, values and goals. Leaders need to communicate the vision in such a way as to integrate all these elements and place them into a visual framework that works to guide future action. Communicating a vision needs to motivate the setting of specific task-related goals, which in turn affect and alter performance.

It is essential to maintain clarity when communicating visional direction, with goals specifically detailed and explained. As part of this communication process, statements should include imagery that is specifically related to:

  • Performance
  • Achievement and improvement
  • Future time perspectives
  • Assumptions of personal responsibility
  • Initiatives and their acceptance
  • Anticipating future possibilities

Goals should be described in desirable terms that reflect ways to address challenges or the future orientation of the organization. For example, results-focused company goals may become the equivalent of task-specific targets such as “doubling production output within the next two years.”

The Importance of Modeling the Vision

While effective communication of a vision has a direct and obvious effect on performance, it is more likely to generate indirect impacts on motivation, acceptance, and perseverance in overcoming challenges and hindrances. Indirect positive results are realized when employees know the purpose behind the vision’s structure and understand its content, attributes and interrelationships from their own personal perspective.

As simply communicating a well-formulated vision is not enough to guarantee results, leaders within the organization must “walk the talk.” As part of the communication process, leaders need to reinforce the vision’s inherent values through consistent and animated positive role modeling as well as in the way they select and work with employees, acknowledge small changes and reward successes.

Vision Needs Visibility

Leaders often tend to articulate a vision taken straight from their organization’s strategic plan or their own personal planning process. When doing this, they begin to rewrite a modified or restructured vision and mission statement, or sometimes even find themselves devising and establishing an altogether new set of organizational values. Most times these efforts only muddy the visional communication process and leave employees confused. This in turn results in hindering the goals they desire to pursue, and effective ways to achieve them.

Communication of a vision does not rely on the underlying rationale as much as it does on making exciting possibilities “visible” within the organization. Leaders can accomplish this by openly communicating and stressing the following:

  • Inspiring with a sense of passion;
  • Employee well-being as a direct benefit of the vision;
  • Vision as an adaptive tool for organizational and group survival;
  • The necessity of building and maintaining work effectiveness;
  • Courage and a willingness to take a stand;
  • The rewards of ambition and perseverance;
  • Integrity, ethics and values;
  • Generating self-esteem and emotional stability;
  • Developing patience, endurance and tolerance for ambiguity;
  • Quality decision making;
  • The importance of stimulating creative thinking and innovation;
  • The intention to utilize all employees’ functional, technical and organizational skills in pursuit of the vision;
  • Priority setting as a necessary tool to accomplish assignments, projects and tasks in a timely and effective manner.

To align and communicate vision-related responsibilities, leaders utilize terms related to organizational values and mission, exciting challenges, unified efforts, and work-related incentives to help get the attention of employees. Doing this makes the vision concrete and tangible, and sets in motion key elements for reaching the necessary goals that steadily lead to its attainment.

Excerpt: Creating and Sustaining a Strong Vision: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $16.95 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

Anticipating and Handling Employee Fears of Change

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fearfulman

Before managers can successfully lead their organizational units through a transformational change, they must overcome existing general fears and negative attitudes. Most of these fears and attitudes have been formed over the past two decades by actions and decisions organizations have made that have detrimentally affected individual employees.

From the 1980s on, businesses have faced the greatest overall restructuring since the Industrial Revolution. The depth and scope of this restructuring has been painful. Many employees have experienced downsizing, layoffs and a host of management fads, including the chaos, uncertainty and heightened frustration of reengineering. The methods used often resulted in covering and masking a number of management actions and mistakes.

Pain was further increased by the visible unfairness and callousness of many employee layoffs. The result left for managers to deal with is an employee mindset that translates into a lack of willingness to contribute personal initiative and productive work. This reflects itself in less effective teaming efforts and a lower output of quality decisions and products, as well as decreasing the loyalty leaders require from their unit members to lead their organization through the ongoing transformational process.

This is important for managers to grasp because organizations competing in the twenty-first century need the willing help and assistance of intelligent, motivated, collaborative and enterprising employees. This presents leaders with a real challenge: they must first work with their employees to overcome the problems and sentiments of past organizational actions before moving forward into an active transformation. Organizational stakeholders and investors who want to see increased results and overall improvement further complicate the process.

The International Survey Research Corporation, which tracks employee satisfaction for Fortune 1000 companies, reported that since 1989 employees:

  • Feel that management fails to provide clear direction.
  • Do not believe what management says.
  • Are less sure about keeping their jobs.
  • Worry about their company’s future.
  • Fear being laid off.
  • Feel overall morale is lower.

These facts frame the starting point defining where many leaders find themselves in the face of transformational change in their organizations. While time heals all wounds, most managers do not have this luxury in the face of the chaotic events and issues.

The most practical answer to overcoming these fears and attitudes is increasing employee empowerment. However, this is not likely to work without the total commitment of everyone holding a leadership position. Leadership can come from the ranks of senior managers or from organizational unit and team leaders. Any major transition will not work without a commitment from each level.

In addition to employee empowerment, managers need to establish working teams to tackle ongoing problems and concerns. It is better to establish multiple teams than to create one involving every employee in the organizational unit; the best workable size is between five and six members. In many instances, teams can work on the same problems. This furnishes a method of developing multiple solutions and alternatives. A collaborative team can be established to select the best solution and then assign specific aspects of it to each team to address and implement.

Employing a team approach demands specific leadership skills, including:

  • Goal setting
  • Planning
  • Effective follow up procedures

If managers fail to develop one of these three skills or eliminate them from their leadership contributions, the team will break down.

Managers furthermore cannot assume that if they simply form a team, participants will decipher what needs to be done and how things need to be accomplished. They must train unit members in working together in teams, focusing on the important issues, dealing with other teammates, and getting results.

In order for this training to be successful, managers must make sure the following team elements are adhered to, including:

  • Clarity of goals
  • Good communications
  • Effective dissemination of business objectives so the team understands how it fits into the general business plan
  • An effective process to guide and direct the actions of the team

While empowerment and an effective team approach will not immediately resolve many of the nagging employee problems and attitudes a manager must actively deal with, it does establish a foundation for improved performance and participation. As leaders initially start the process, they will need to develop strategies to cope with and address the emotional baggage issues brought to the table by their employees. They must allow the venting of frustrations and criticisms, then eliminate each of these issues in turn until full participation is achieved.

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

Related:

Managing Change: The Transition From Chaos to Order

Barriers to Integrating Change

When the Process of Change Spins Out of Control

Managers as Facilitators 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 © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Five Ways to Establish Trust and Credibility

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A manager’s entire position must be predicated on trust and credibility. When either are removed from the equation, they are unable to perform. Both are required when dealing with their individual unit or department members.

Some managers feel trust and respect come with the position, when in fact they must be earned through consistently ethical and professional behavior. Inconsistent behavior and an inability to fulfill promises and commitments will develop an atmosphere of mistrust with employees. Words and actions do have meaning and should be used and taken with great care.

Like everything else in life, there are consequences attached to most everything managers say and do. When trust and credibility are removed from the equation, managers will be unable to perform effectively, and they can also see their work undermined by a demotivated and angry team.

Trust and rapport with employees is something that takes time to develop. This is especially true if there have been problems in the past. In these instances, the manager must operate while experiencing open and unconcealed mistrust of his or her words and actions. However, trust and rapport can be established, and in certain cases reestablished, by using the guidelines below.

A manager’s behavior must be consistent. If they don’t want their motivations questioned, they must treat all of their people equally. Developing consistency can be achieved through:

Setting and Uniformly Applying Equitable Standards

Managers must establish consistent performance standards that apply to each individual member of their team. The standards must be applied equally to all without favoritism, and all must be evaluated without bias.

Communicating and Providing Feedback

Managers should be openly and frequently communicating with their employees, sharing insights and expertise and helping them achieve their goals. They must provide frequent feedback regarding their individual performance. Feedback should be based upon facts and free of subjective judgments regarding personal behaviors or attitudes.

Recognizing Performance

Managers should use the standards they have established as a benchmark and openly recognize the performance of the members of their unit or department. A simple word of acknowledgement and appreciation can go an extremely long way towards maintaining enthusiasm and motivation.

Keeping Commitments

When dealing with subordinates, it is easy to let commitments slide. While many managers feel there are no consequences to such actions, if they cannot be counted on to keep their commitments, they cannot be trusted. Their employees’ motivation will suffer, which will then foster a negative and unacceptable atmosphere. Managers creating these problems for themselves can use the following techniques to help overcome them:

  1. Managers should think very carefully about each commitment they intend to make. They should make sure adequate time and resources are available to meet the commitment.
  2. Once a commitment is made, managers should make sure it is completed both as and when promised.
  3. If a commitment cannot be completed when promised, the manager should not wait until the last minute but let their employee know as quickly as possible and revise the schedule accordingly.

Developing an Open Management Style

Developing an open and trusting management style might require a shift in thinking and attitude on the part of many managers. This includes:

Remaining Impartial

Before a manager deals with any employee or situation, they must avoid making rash judgments, eliminate all emotion and gather all pertinent facts.

Trusting Others

Managers must learn to take employees at their word until the facts prove otherwise. A manager who cannot trust either his people or customers will in turn fail to earn their trust.

Listening and Being Open

Managers must be able to listen—not only to gather facts and information, but to hear issues and concerns that may arise with their employees and customers. Listening includes empathizing and showing care and concern about their problems. Managers must be open to new ideas, concepts, feedback and criticism. Trust is earned when employees and customers understand that the manager is available and responsive to them.

Excerpt: Ethics and Integrity: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:

You Are Judged by the Actions You Take

Emotional Bonds are a Reflection of a Leader’s Effectiveness

Six Ways to Enhance Your Personal Credibility

 Can You Be Trusted? The Answer May Surprise You

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 © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Five Critical Factors of Team Success

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peoplemeeting

Critical team success factors consist of specific elements that are particularly valued for obtaining the best results possible. These tend to reflect five major key areas that include team leadership, shared vision, attitudes and commitment, mutual trust, and team collaboration.

If team critical success factors are not addressed or implemented correctly it will result in a failed team project. They are considered required and necessary for successful team project execution and improved team communication, focus and energy.

If applied and monitored consistently and judiciously, the critical factors of success will allow any team to achieve a high level of capability. Each has an impact on the major processes of: innovation, problem solving, decision-making, and implementation. These processes are the way the team applies its capabilities to get product results.

The First Critical Factor of Success: Leadership

Every team needs a leader who is able to focus its members on a project’s mission, purpose and goals. This individual must be committed to the team’s results and must be willing to be held accountable by the team’s sponsor and other stakeholders for leading the team through processes that ensure its goals are attained. The job of the team leader is to get team members to successfully evolve through each successive phase of a project life cycle. This implies that a keen awareness of the state of the team must be monitored and maintained. In addition, the milestones and long-term goals must be consistently reviewed with the team as a whole. A good leader makes sure that progress becomes the “property” of the group.

Effective team leadership is one of the most important factors for team success and positive results. This is because it tends to have the strongest impact on all aspects of team performance. Team leaders are responsible for engaging each team member in the processes of the team and building a platform of mutual trust that leads to: open debate, collaboration, individual commitment, and personal accountability.

Team leaders set the tone of the team and create the environment within which team members interact and do their work. In addition, they also support and influence key success factors that shape the team’s internal environment and structure. This in turn determines the team’s capability or capacity.

Some key success factors may be beyond the control of the team or the team leader. Such as, higher authority may select the team leader. Or, senior management may determine: team size, arrangement, and perhaps technology and resource support. However, most of the success factors fall under the team’s control and can be developed by it.

The Second Critical Factor of Success: Shared Vision

A shared vision is held together by a sense of passionate interest and value. At the same time it needs to focus on practical aspects such as:

  • Everyday problems
  • New tools
  • Ideas
  • Developments in the field
  • Things that work and other things that don’t

The first step in establishing a shared vision is to identify a related goal that makes a strong impact for and on change. This goal must be more complex than a simple definition and contain:

  • A challenge;
  • An appeal to personal pride;
  • A sense of needed comradery;
  • A call to action that provides an opportunity for the team to make a real difference, and know it.

Only if this can be done effectively will the goal become a powerful vision.

The Third Critical Factor of Success: Attitudes and Commitment

Attitudes and commitment are what make a significant difference in the eventual success of an assigned team project. It is the collective membership of a team that literally decides to succeed. This takes a positive attitude and a strong sense of commitment on the part of all team participants. However, once this mindset is attained it becomes a self-directed impetus for forward movement and goal attainment.

A genuine desire on the part of the team to be successful comes through the evolution of a shared attitude and commitment among the team members that the project will succeed no matter what. This attitude is both powerful and sustaining. An example of this belief comes from Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, who stresses: “If you think you can, you can. And if you think you can’t, you’re right.”

Teams that think they can are able to sustain their levels of commitment and positive attitudes by actually visualizing the project at its successful state of completion. In essence, team members are able to create the frame of mind necessary to get them through the inevitable obstacles that can be expected to emerge during every complex development stage and effort. Conversely, teams that lack positive attitudes and commitment effort will be stopped dead by seemingly impenetrable obstacles. It all comes down to the difference between doing difficult, creative thinking when it is necessary, or to simply accept defeat because the solution tends to require too much effort.

In some cases, a team literally decides to fail as in the book Peopleware, where Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister coined the term “teamacide.” This is where team participants plainly make a conscience decision, without openly addressing it, to cause the project to fail. This may be the result of personal conflicts, technical or departmental frustrations, or a lack of support.
Whatever the reason, the team undertakes a major negative shift in attitude, which becomes devastating to the team process as well as to the project itself.

Oftentimes even if only one individual develops a negative attitude, other team members become exposed and follow along. Before long, everyone on the team “catches” varying degrees of negativity and a loss of enthusiasm and commitment. The only truly effective remedy to overcome this is the attitude of the team leader, who must remain disciplined enough to guide the team through its various drops in morale.

The Fourth Critical Factor of Success: Mutual Trust

Mutual trust is considered to be the most important element of successful teamwork. As part of a team’s self direction, it is trust that enables the team to engage in open debate and decision making that leads to “a commitment of action” on the part of individual members of the team.

At times it is easier to instill and establish trust than it is to sustain it. Building high levels of trust requires an openness that allows team members to know and understand the beliefs and behaviors of all members of the team, so that team actions can be structured to take advantage of each member’s uniqueness and talents. As part of the process it is important for team participants to develop an understanding of how individual members of the team view themselves and how each responds to others within the team.

Teams thrive on trust. One of the main dynamics of a self-directed team is that part of its structure, practice and principles require that members ask for and offer help to one another to initiate and maintain mutual caring and sharing. Having open, frank and supportive discussions generates a strong bond and a sense of connection and trust among members.

Sometimes elements of trust become formalized within team guidelines and standards, which helps to sustain it. But often these elements simply remain “what everyone knows” about good and positive team practice. In the course of helping each other and sharing ideas, and collectively solving problems, “everybody” tends to become a trusted group of equal peers.

The Fifth Critical Factor of Success: Team Collaboration

An effective team consists of team members who are actively involved and engaged in the work and focus of the team. This requires all team members emotionally commit to actively and openly participating in the team’s processes and in the pursuit of the team’s goals. Each separate team member must willingly commit to carry out action plans that are necessary for the team to reach its defined goals. Each must also be dependable and willing to carry the full weight of personal responsibility to complete his or her individual commitments according to deadline.

An actively engaged team member tends to enthusiastically support others, which adds greater value to the team itself. When enthusiasm becomes combined into a high level of synergy, it is much easier to prepare and implement team processes. Because of the team’s ability to engage everyone in a positive manner, it also becomes part of the team’s self-directed focus to find solutions to issues and challenges both from an individual and team standpoint. All members will constantly seek to improve themselves for the benefit of the team and will refuse to quit or give up until the goal is attained.

The power of teamwork dynamics is engaged when team members come together to focus collectively on goals, issues, challenges, and problems. Team leaders must carefully manage the processes of team meetings in order to maximize the power of the collective knowledge and skills of the team members. As part of the collaboration process, more effective teams tend to follow a meeting methodology that both focuses on dealing with issues requiring the team’s attention and maximizes the power of collective knowledge and the skills of the team members.

Collaboration works to help establish personal accountability. Team goals will usually not be realized until individual commitments are completed and team members embrace a discipline to complete their commitments as scheduled. Through personal collaboration team members must agree to hold each other personally accountable for completing the commitments each person has made to the team.

Barriers to team and individual progress will occur in every team effort. However, collaboration works to effectively remove barriers and hurdles to ensure progress toward team goals and keep the team running smoothly and proactively. A highly collaborative team will make certain that each team member continuously reports the status of their open commitments to the team, so that barriers to completion can be identified early on. This allows the team leader and other team members the opportunity to deal with certain issues before overall milestones, timelines and deadlines are impacted.

Excerpt: Developing & Planning for Team Results: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

Related:

How Personal Agendas Can Destroy a Team

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

When Performance Lags, Look to the Team Culture

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 © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

October 25, 2013 at 10:22 am

Five Critical Steps to Maximize Performance

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planning

The application of performance management aligns all employees with the overall goals of the company. This enables each employee to understand both their role in the organization and how their efforts contribute to its success, as well as to work toward the mutual accomplishment of those goals.

The manager has an important role to play in the formation of a performance management program for his or her people. Goals must be clarified and clearly communicated, and the behaviors of the individual employees must be aligned in order to achieve the desired outcomes.

This is important for managers to appreciate as performance management demands not only time and patience to properly implement, but superior communication skills to close the informational gaps between the desires of senior management as expressed in their plans and the actual behaviors and efforts exhibited by employees.

Managers will find that once they are able to effectively close these gaps and clearly communicate established company goals to their people and align their behaviors accordingly, their programs will work very efficiently to produce a more productive unit.

The role of the manager in performance management is to clearly communicate the company’s goals, align their individual employees’ behavior with them and monitor performance. This includes:

Clarifying Goals

Research has shown that differences in overall performance among individual employees are directly proportional to the level of internal clarity in which goals and objectives are presented to them. This is because when goals are communicated and clarified, employees have a clear understanding of what needs to be done and how to do it, and they are unified in the pursuit of that goal.

Limit Priorities

Many managers can either get strategic goals intermingled with more tactical operational goals or have entirely too many “top priorities.” This blurs their focus and leads to a lack of clarity. It is the manager’s responsibility to narrow the focus of their priorities and limit their number to as little as five. They should also see that individual employees do the same thing. This assures that all are focused and crisp in their execution. Additionally, too many priorities scatters the individual efforts of the unit or department in a variety of unmanageable directions, ensuring that goals and desired outcomes will not be achieved.

Execution

Good execution only happens when an employee’s behavior is aligned with the company’s goals. Many managers fail to align their people with company objectives because they don’t know how to talk to them about change and poor performance. Additionally, many managers won’t align their employees because they find it uncomfortable to challenge them and give them candid feedback or don’t realize that successful execution will never happen without ongoing performance dialogue.

When employees understand how their work fits into overall company goals, they will appreciate how they need to align themselves with these efforts and make the appropriate adjustments in behavior. These changes in execution are not possible without performance feedback from the manager.

Communicating Clearly

Quite often the only feedback many employees receive over the course of the year is regarding how they are performing against their stated sales goals. It is important for managers to create the linkages between the individual employee and the company so that he or she can see not only how they fit in but also how their efforts are contributing to the company’s overall success.

Numerous studies have shown that when employees clearly understand how they fit into the organization and see how their efforts contribute to the company’s success, they are substantially more motivated and productive.

Managers should open up the channels of communication to their people—who oftentimes feel isolated from the company to begin with—in order to build a sense of community so that they can see how their efforts are part of the company’s overall success.

Proper Acknowledgment of Progress Toward Goals

Managers must ensure that they encourage employee behaviors that are consistent with the company’s goals. Employees’ behavior is easily modified by a change in how their efforts are acknowledged. They will do what produces the most recognition and positive reinforcement.

Excerpt: Performance Management: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 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

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Performance Management: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Maximizing Financial Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Improving Workplace Interaction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

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 © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Do Your Communications Have Room For Improvement?

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questionsdiscussions

Every leader has room for improvement in the way they communicate with both their superiors and employees. The fast-paced workplace environment and immediate but impersonal nature of electronic communication has diminished many leaders’ ability to effectively convey their message, gain valuable feedback and lead their organization.

Surveys often show employees are concerned with the quality of communications in the workplace. Many feel companies give lip service and are not sincere in the messages they communicate. Others feel the only way information is imparted is through memos on bulletin boards. Still others feel instructions or policies are vague and difficult to interpret and follow.

This is important to recognize because ineffective communication begets poor cooperation and internal coordination, decreased productivity, and increased tension, absenteeism and turnover. Voids in communication are then filled with extremely damaging gossip and rumors. These repercussions seriously undermine a leader’s efforts to facilitate change within their organization, a crucial ability in today’s business climate.

The following is a list of proven concepts and techniques leaders can use to improve communications with both superiors and employees.

Communication: A Two-Way Process⎯Not a Monologue

Leaders should understand that communication does not end when they are finished delivering their message. Whether with superiors or employees, it is a two-way process that involves both giving information and receiving feedback. It is an ongoing exchange as questions are answered, additional information is given, and further feedback and input solicited.

Emphasize Personal Communications

The convenience of voice and email has made impersonal communications a reality for many leaders. Rather than rely on these electronic media as well as bulletin boards, memos and other like methods of communication, leaders should rely on personal exchanges and stress face-to-face meetings where possible. This helps eliminate miscommunication as leaders can readily interpret nonverbal facial expressions and body language.

Be Specific

Vague statements or instructions cause most miscommunication by failing to clearly and concisely direct or inform employees/superiors. Since vagueness is open to a variety of interpretations, confusion quickly sets in.

Every time a leader conveys a message or gives an instruction, they must ask if what they are communicating is clear, concise and specific. If not, they must restructure the communication so that it is.

Information Is… A Service

“Information is power” is a widely used phrase. The problem is, instead of sharing information, many managers and leaders hoard it as a method of wielding power over others.

Leaders should view the delivery and availability of information as a service to both their superiors and employees that enables them to be more productive and make better-informed decisions. It is in this service sense that information should be considered powerful.

Show Respect

Effective and open communication demands that all parties respect one another. This means that leaders, superiors and employees demonstrate respect for what each other has to say. They ask questions to show interest and further clarify key points. When this is done, all will feel an important part of a team and tend to be both more dedicated and productive.

An Open-Door Policy

Leaders don’t give lip service to an open-door policy, they practice it. They take the time to be among and interact with their employees. They keep their finger on the pulse of the organization by openly discussing needs and problems and allowing employees to disagree and contribute new ideas and insights.

This practice demonstrates a sincere concern for employees—and builds an endearing sense of loyalty. The impact it can have on a leader’s organization cannot be overemphasized. Actively and continually showing care and concern dramatically increases productivity and personal dedication.

One-on-One Meetings

Where possible leaders should have one-on-one meetings with their employees to develop insight and ideas regarding how to increase productivity within the organizational unit. Discussions should focus on ways leaders and employees can help one another be more productive.
Build Credibility

Without personal credibility, no matter how hard a leader tries he or she will fail to communicate. Unless leaders create a climate of credibility, they will not be trusted or believed by their employees. This destroys any ability or image of leadership. True leaders deliver on their promises and do what they say they will do.

Related:

Communication Must Be Personalized To Be Effective

Building Employee Support Requires Interactive Leadership

Encourage Questions to Improve Open Communication

Excerpt: Improving Communication in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95

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 © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

 

 

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The Concept of Change Means Leaders Must Communicate

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smallgroup7

Leaders are the facilitators of change within their organization. As such, in implementing an initiative or new direction, they must employ proven techniques and strategies to ensure good communication with their employees. This is true of the entire process of change—from beginning to end. Without open and effective communication, leaders can create problems and issues that hinder their efforts to make the needed changes.

Leaders should understand that change is uncomfortable, and adapting to change can be confusing and messy until the “kinks” are worked out. There is no way to communicate change to employees that makes it an enjoyable process. While planning for change can list tasks and responsibilities, it doesn’t lessen the discomfort of altering long-held behaviors and habits that comprise individual employee comfort zones.

Because change is in fact an ongoing, difficult process that pulls people out of their comfort zones, the importance of good communication is magnified. It becomes crucial for managers and leaders to gather outside sources of information, solicit employee feedback and perspectives, and use this information to create specific “plans of attack.” Every group is unique and a cookie cutter approach to communicating and managing change will not work.

Within the realm of a leader’s main responsibilities is the role of effectively conveying the need for change to his or her employees. The concept of change means that leaders must communicate during the planning, announcing, implementation and completion of the process of change within their organization.

Proven techniques for facilitating smooth and effective communication include:

Identify and Communicate the Results to Be Achieved

The communication of change means that leaders must clearly articulate the results they want and the specific means required to achieve them. Often leaders must communicate two messages simultaneously: the macro, or “big picture” of how the changes in their unit plays a role in the overall changes within the organization, and the micro, or detailed picture of the specific changes to be made.

When leaders communicate both the macro and micro views of change, they give their employees a balanced picture of how their contributions to facilitating change benefit the organization. Surveys have shown that employees are markedly more effective when they understand how their efforts contribute to the overall goals of the organization.

Simplify Jargon and Buzzwords

Many organizations and industries have developed their own jargon and buzzwords. Often managers, leaders and employees rely heavily on these specialized terms. However, many of these words lack real substance or meaning in their daily use. Words and phrases such as “responsive,” “employee friendly,” “customer focused,” “empowered” and others should have specific meanings. For instance, if an organization is responsive, what exactly does that mean to leaders and employees? What are the parameters defining this word’s use and application? The same is true for any other buzzword: tts definition should be plain to employees so they are clear on what the term means and how it applies in the workplace.

Share Information Early and Often

Managers and leaders should share as much information as possible with their employees.

In many large publicly owned organizations, the emphasis is placed on good communication with investors, not employees. While obviously the importance of the former cannot be argued, it is the latter that does the work of moving the organization forward.

Consequently, when employees learn of organizational changes and developments through the media or the rumor mill, they become more apprehensive and less productive until put at ease. Rather than lose time and revenue to this anxiety and uncertainty, managers and leaders communicate as much information as they can up front.

Maintain Quality and Consistency

Managers and leaders should maintain a consistent, quality flow of information to their employees. Due to the ease with which communication channels can get bogged down with meaningless information, leaders should filter their communications to ensure significant and substantial information is imparted to their employees.

Don’t Underestimate the Duration of Change

Many leaders fail to appreciate the length of time required to develop, nurture and maintain change within their organization. Effective change goes beyond its announcement or the introduction of new programs to implement it.

Leaders must understand that organizational change means altering ingrained personal habits. This takes time, and open and active communication is required throughout the process. Leaders should not shortchange it with ineffective communication at critical, often later stages of change.

Use a Variety of Communication Pathways

Effective communication of change is as varied as each individual involved in the process. Many managers and leaders limit their communications during change to a single medium such as email or the intranet.

If managers and leaders wish to develop an effective communication program during the process of change, they should transmit their message through a variety of means, such as unit/company meetings, email/intranet updates and daily interactions.

Don’t Confuse Process with Communication

Managers and leaders should not confuse the process of change with communication. The process of change can include creating vision, developing teams, planning and countless meetings. Properly designed, these can be effective communication vehicles, but not sufficient to meet the communication requirements of organizational change.
Provide Ample Opportunity for Feedback and Concerns

Managers and leaders should provide their employees ample opportunities to share their fears and concerns, ask questions and share insights. Managers and leaders should make addressing employee concerns and following up with answers and informational updates a primary concern. This empowers employees and gives them ownership in ideas and concepts. It keeps key people from leaving, and often prevents those who remain from sabotaging the process of change.

Excerpt: Improving Communication in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD

Related:

Dealing With the Challenges of Change

Anticipating and Handling Employee Fears of Change

Use These Seven Strategies to Respond to Change

Communication Has to Start With Telling the Truth

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Facilitating Change: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Impact of Change on Individuals: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Dealing with the Challenges of Leadership: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Improving Workplace Interaction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Strengthening Leadership Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

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 © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

 

The Concept of Change Means Leaders Must Communicate

with 4 comments

womancrowd

Leaders are the facilitators of change within their organization. As such, in implementing an initiative or new direction, they must employ proven techniques and strategies to ensure good communication with their employees. This is true of the entire process of change—from beginning to end. Without open and effective communication, leaders can create problems and issues that hinder their efforts to make the needed changes.

Leaders should understand that change is uncomfortable, and adapting to change can be confusing and messy until the “kinks” are worked out. There is no way to communicate change to employees that makes it an enjoyable process. While planning for change can list tasks and responsibilities, it doesn’t lessen the discomfort of altering long-held behaviors and habits that comprise individual employee comfort zones.

Because change is in fact an ongoing, difficult process that pulls people out of their comfort zones, the importance of good communication is magnified. It becomes crucial for managers and leaders to gather outside sources of information, solicit employee feedback and perspectives, and use this information to create specific “plans of attack.” Every group is unique and a cookie cutter approach to communicating and managing change will not work.

Within the realm of a leader’s main responsibilities is the role of effectively conveying the need for change to his or her employees. The concept of change means that leaders must communicate during the planning, announcing, implementation and completion of the process of change within their organization.

Proven techniques for facilitating smooth and effective communication include:

Identify and Communicate the Results to Be Achieved

The communication of change means that leaders must clearly articulate the results they want and the specific means required to achieve them. Often leaders must communicate two messages simultaneously: the macro, or “big picture” of how the changes in their unit plays a role in the overall changes within the organization, and the micro, or detailed picture of the specific changes to be made.

When leaders communicate both the macro and micro views of change, they give their employees a balanced picture of how their contributions to facilitating change benefit the organization. Surveys have shown that employees are markedly more effective when they understand how their efforts contribute to the overall goals of the organization.

Simplify Jargon and Buzzwords

Many organizations and industries have developed their own jargon and buzzwords. Often managers, leaders and employees rely heavily on these specialized terms. However, many of these words lack real substance or meaning in their daily use. Words and phrases such as “responsive,” “employee friendly,” “customer focused,” “empowered” and others should have specific meanings. For instance, if an organization is responsive, what exactly does that mean to leaders and employees? What are the parameters defining this word’s use and application? The same is true for any other buzzword: tts definition should be plain to employees so they are clear on what the term means and how it applies in the workplace.

Share Information Early and Often

Managers and leaders should share as much information as possible with their employees.

In many large publicly owned organizations, the emphasis is placed on good communication with investors, not employees. While obviously the importance of the former cannot be argued, it is the latter that does the work of moving the organization forward.

Consequently, when employees learn of organizational changes and developments through the media or the rumor mill, they become more apprehensive and less productive until put at ease. Rather than lose time and revenue to this anxiety and uncertainty, managers and leaders communicate as much information as they can up front.

Maintain Quality and Consistency

Managers and leaders should maintain a consistent, quality flow of information to their employees. Due to the ease with which communication channels can get bogged down with meaningless information, leaders should filter their communications to ensure significant and substantial information is imparted to their employees.

Don’t Underestimate the Duration of Change

Many leaders fail to appreciate the length of time required to develop, nurture and maintain change within their organization. Effective change goes beyond its announcement or the introduction of new programs to implement it.

Leaders must understand that organizational change means altering ingrained personal habits. This takes time, and open and active communication is required throughout the process. Leaders should not shortchange it with ineffective communication at critical, often later stages of change.

Use a Variety of Communication Pathways

Effective communication of change is as varied as each individual involved in the process. Many managers and leaders limit their communications during change to a single medium such as email or the intranet.

If managers and leaders wish to develop an effective communication program during the process of change, they should transmit their message through a variety of means, such as unit/company meetings, email/intranet updates and daily interactions.

Don’t Confuse Process with Communication

Managers and leaders should not confuse the process of change with communication. The process of change can include creating vision, developing teams, planning and countless meetings. Properly designed, these can be effective communication vehicles, but not sufficient to meet the communication requirements of organizational change.

Provide Ample Opportunity for Feedback and Concerns

Managers and leaders should provide their employees ample opportunities to share their fears and concerns, ask questions and share insights. Managers and leaders should make addressing employee concerns and following up with answers and informational updates a primary concern. This empowers employees and gives them ownership in ideas and concepts. It keeps key people from leaving, and often prevents those who remain from sabotaging the process of change.

Excerpt: Improving Communication in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD

Related:

Dealing With the Challenges of Change

Anticipating and Handling Employee Fears of Change

Use These Seven Strategies to Respond to Change

Communication Has to Start With Telling the Truth

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Facilitating Change: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Impact of Change on Individuals: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Dealing with the Challenges of Leadership: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Improving Workplace Interaction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Strengthening Leadership Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

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 © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Communication Starts With Respecting What Others Have To Say

with 2 comments

smallgroup7

As teams are composed of different personalities with different communication styles, communication problems will occur even when team structures are properly constructed and implemented.

Leaders must learn to deal with the practical elements of communication and overcome problems associated with group or team dynamics before moving ahead with more advanced communication issues.

It is important for leaders to understand that before teams can learn to communicate effectively, team members must first learn to communicate by each respecting what the other has to say. Leaders will find that this is the initial challenge that must be overcome after team formation.

Leaders should understand the common problems experienced by groups that can hinder the effectiveness and productivity of the team.

Floundering

Teams commonly have trouble intiating and ending discussions. Members flounder, wondering what actions to take next. Resistance is experienced as the team moves from one phase of the discussion to the next.

Problems from the onset suggest the team lacks clarity or is overwhelmed by the assignment. These startup problems suggest that team members are not comfortable enough with one another to engage in meaningful discussions.

Floundering during discussions suggests that the team has not arrived at a consensus. Team members can be reluctant to expose their work to review and criticism.

Overbearing Participants

Overbearing participants wield a disproportionate amount of influence over the team. They often have a senior rank within the company or possess in-depth technical knowledge. While most teams benefit from their participation, they can cause problems when they forbid any discussion that encroaches on their area of expertise or authority. Overbearing participants will tend to see such group solutions as unworkable, or they will use technical jargon signaling that the subject is off-limits to the group.

Leaders can minimize these problems by reinforcing to the team that, as long as it pertains to the current subject, no area is off-limits. Privately, leaders can talk with overbearing individuals to let them know that it is important for the group to explore the particular subject and for individuals to understand the process.

Dominating Participants

Some team members can consume a disproportionate amount of time by talking too much. Their excessive input inhibits other members of the team from participating. Leaders should structure discussions to encourage equal participation, and openly solicit input and contributions from all team members.

Reluctant Participants

Reluctant participants may feel shy or unsure of themselves in the team, and must be encouraged to contribute their ideas and perspectives. Problems can develop when there are no activities built-in to persuade these individuals to participate.

Leaders must act as gatekeepers to the discussion by openly and actively soliciting input and contributions from these individuals. These measures ensure balanced participation from the entire team.

Self-Assured Statements

Some individuals express personal beliefs and assumptions in a self-assured manner. These statements are so forceful that other team members assume they are hearing a presentation of facts. Consequently, members are reluctant to question these statements without facts and data to defend their position. They may also fear being wrong and thus losing face with the team.

Leaders cannot allow unquestioned acceptance of opinions as facts. They must use techniques and questions that compel members to support their statement with facts and to hold it up to the scrutiny of the entire team.

Rush to Accomplishment

Many teams will have individual members who are impatient and wish to rush through the training activity. These members will come to a decision before the team has had the time to discuss and consider alternative solutions. They will then urge the group to decide matters quickly, and will discourage any further efforts to analyze or discuss the matter. These members can communicate their impatience using nonverbal behavior or direct statements.

Leaders must remind the group of their focus and make sure that specific members do not exert pressure on the team to finish prematurely. If all else fails, leaders may need to directly confront the offender.

Attribution

As a way of bringing meaning to apparent disorder and confusion, people tend to attribute motives to individuals they disagree with or don’t understand. This behavior can lead to hostility in the team environment. Leaders must reaffirm the purpose, boundaries and framework of the training exercise and intervene when such behaviors are exhibited by team members.

Discounting

Discounting occurs when team members fail to assign other members’ ideas and options any validity, credence or credit. If discounting happens frequently, teams can experience hostility.

Every team member deserves respect and attention from the entire team. Leaders must ensure that the team is trained from the onset in active listening and other constructive behaviors. When possible, the leader should provide support to the discounted individual. Leaders will also need to privately discuss the matter with the team member who is responsible for discounting.

Digression and Tangents

Wide-ranging and unfocused team discussions are a natural tendency as teams stray from the topic. While some digressions may be entertaining, they divert the team from the purpose of the activity. Team facilitators are responsible for bringing these discussions back to the team’s agenda.

Feuding Team Members

Feuding team members can disrupt the entire team with their personal disagreements. Usually these feuds predate the team and are best dealt with outside of the team environment. Leaders can offer to facilitate a discussion to end the personal feud or at least arrive at an agreement concerning their behavior in the team setting.

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

Related:

Are Your Teams Really Working Groups?

Seven Negative Roles & Behaviors Which Undermine Team Performance

When Performance Lags, Look to the Team Culture

Strategies and Solutions for Solving Team 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 © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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