Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘feedback

Encourage Questions to Improve Open Communication

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Leaders are confident that they are capable, through their actions and attitudes, of creating a healthy work environment. They foster open communication that encourages employees to freely ask questions and discuss any concerns.

True leadership requires open and regular interaction between leaders and employees. Leaders understand that they cannot lead from their office or behind a desk: to get a sense of what is actually happening in their organization, they must be actively involved.

It is important to understand that good leadership doesn’t demand leaders directly help employees perform their jobs. Rather, by simply maintaining an active awareness of what is going on in their organization, leaders can anticipate problems and opportunities, and respond accordingly. Furthermore, when leaders communicate and maintain a presence with their employees, they establish great rapport. As a result, employee trust and loyalty deepens and organizational cohesiveness broadens.

Leaders can encourage open communication with their employees by practicing the following techniques.

Encourage Questions

Leaders work with employees who have various levels of self-confidence and self-esteem. They must encourage everyone to regularly ask questions. This kind of interaction makes employees more comfortable with the concept of speaking up, and it also gives them confidence to approach the leader without hesitation or procrastination when the need arises.

Besides vocally encouraging employees, leaders must also support their people with actions. Specifically, leaders should be open and receptive when approached with a question, no matter how trivial the subject. Leaders who simply brush-off the questioner openly convey that questions are not welcome or there is no time to discuss them. Consequently, they undermine the process of open communication.

Look for Opportunities to Ask Questions

Leaders must not passively wait for their employees to come to them with questions. The nature of leadership demands being out among employees, asking questions and soliciting input. In this fashion, leaders can communicate their interests to each employee while keeping tabs on the activities and direction of the organization. Thus, they can anticipate and handle an issue before it explodes into a major problem.

Moreover, when leaders actively solicit questions and answers, they communicate care and concern for their employees and the entire organization.

Ask ‘Personally’

In the age of instant electronic communication, it is important for leaders to ask questions in person. Email doesn’t communicate the tone and nonverbal cues that people often require to fully understand a question. Additionally, face-to-face questions give leaders the opportunity to clearly explain their intentions and get a more comprehensive answer.

While email may be efficient, leaders should understand that not all employees are good writers and, therefore, some may not have the ability to communicate adequately in this medium. Many employees who are uncomfortable with email might not even attempt to reply unless forced to; in which case, responses will tend to be short and/or incomplete.

Respect the Questioner

In the daily workplace routine, it is not uncommon for a leader to hear a range of questions, from trivial to extremely important. In an open communication environment, leaders know they must treat every question and questioner with respect, even if the topic is trivial or lacks urgency. Rather than embarrass or alienate the questioner, good leaders validate the specific question and thank the employee for bringing it to their attention.

Listen Actively

When approached with a question, leaders know that it is important to give the employee their undivided attention. However, if the leader’s attention is necessitated elsewhere, they should ask the employee if the question could be discussed later, at a specific time convenient for both. The time selected must be sufficient for a full discussion, without any urgency to hurry the process along. Once the appointment is set, leaders make a point to keep it.

Again, effective leaders strive to always encourage open communication through their actions and receptivity to questions. However, circumstances and the workplace environment may not always make this practical. In such cases, rather than be short and appear to disregard the employee’s question, leaders need to explain that the timing is simply not right and that they would like to talk when they can provide the needed time and attention both the employee and the question deserves.

When finally discussing a question in-depth, leaders should paraphrase parts of the question or the entire question back to the employee to help clarify and understand the concerns being raised.

Be Cooperative

In most workplace environments, leaders are dealing with daily problems and issues that produce varying degrees of stress. Under these circumstances, it is easy for any individual to appear defensive or adversarial when asked a question, especially an unexpected one.

Effective leaders, however, will maintain a consistent attitude and posture that fosters a cooperative spirit within their organizational unit. They keep a friendly and open demeanor with their employees by paying attention to their own moods, habits, attitudes, body language and tone of voice.

Take Responsibility, But Don’t Solve Every Problem

All people in every organization have limits and responsibilities. When approached with questions, a leader should not respond by doing the employee’s work for him or her. But there are times when the leader is responsible for developing a solution. The key is to understand the appropriate response for the particular question.

Leaders need to set firm and fair limits on what they are willing and able to do so that employees don’t place unreasonable demands on their time and energy. At the same time, it is unrealistic for leaders to expect their employees to solve every problem without guidance. Generally, the appropriate course of action is somewhere in the middle, where the employee and the leader brainstorm to arrive at an acceptable solution.

Follow Up

Open communication demands that leaders follow up on their responses to employee questions by making sure the solution is understood, acceptable and implemented. Obviously, the degree of follow-up needs to be proportionate to the question’s impact and importance. That is, small problems probably only need a simple follow-up question to make sure that things are going alright, while bigger problems could necessitate a series of subsequent meetings.

Follow-up keeps communication with employees open because it often triggers additional questions, input and feedback. In this way, the communication process becomes a continuous, effective loop.

If you are seeking proven expertise and best practices on improving communications within the workplace to train or educate your employees to solve problems and improve their performance in this area, refer to Improving Communication in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. Click here to learn more.

Related:

Six Ways to Enhance Your Personal Credibility

Eight Ways to Improve Communication

Your Personal Attitudes Shape Your Environment

Communication Must Be Personalized To Be Effective

Seven Styles of Questioning That Sharpen Critical Thinking Skills

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

16 Ways to Motivate Employees and to Celebrate Their Successes

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CelebratingSuccess

A leader’s primary function is to help employees develop a strong belief in the mission of the company and the importance of their individual jobs. Their secondary function is to ensure optimal results from delegated assignments and tasks given to employees. Excellent results spring from methods of motivation that help employees feel successful and increase their effort toward achieving goals and increasing performance.

Employees are the chief resource leaders can utilize to maintain and enhance their leadership abilities. Therefore, understanding and applying appropriate motivational methods for employees on delegated assignments is important for leaders. By motivating each employee to perform at his or her maximum level of efficiency, leaders also maximize their own success. Furthermore, as leaders motivate their people, they not only help the company gain financially, but also develop personal relationships between themselves and their employees.

Much research in behavioral science has focused on analyzing the factors that contribute to workplace motivation. Many studies indicate that the strongest factors are based upon individual self-determined needs. Aware of these factors, one can craft specific methods in the workplace to foster improvements in employee attitudes, their desire to excel and their feelings of success.

Leaders need to apply such motivational methods to effectively stimulate their organizational unit as a whole and the individuals within it. Once done, their units will reach peak performance, free from slowdowns and negative influences.

Motivational methods are effective when they are aimed at individual satisfaction. This is necessary to understand because methods that are positive motivators for some employees are not always effective for others. Each individual is driven by specific needs that determine their performance and whether or not they will accept new assignments. If specific needs are not met, it inhibits the employee’s desire to accept new challenges and delegated opportunities.

Outlined below are 16 major methods focused on individual needs and desires that leaders can use to effectively and consistently motivate their employees. When used by the leader intermittently, they produce high motivational success.

  1. Help employees see the final results of their dedicated and consistent efforts as being part of advancing their own careers and futures.
  2. Develop and utilize incentive programs that have a definite purpose and meaning for each employee. Linking incentives to productivity and results tends to be a more effective motivator than many other methods.
  3. Take time to give employees deserved praise and meaningful recognition. However, effective leaders will utilize this method in moderation; otherwise, it becomes meaningless. Praise must always be specifically related to performance rather than vague comments like, “You’re doing OK.”
  4. Provide all employees with goal-oriented job descriptions. This method charts a course for them to go in with specific actions they should accomplish to achieve positive results, and guidelines for how to be successful in assignments.
  5. Give each employee the opportunity to achieve. Even small tasks and assignments can build success. Any taste of achievement is a great motivator.
  6. Aid employees in determining personal goals. Leaders should link these to the overall goals of the company.
  7. Help employees acquire and maintain a spirit of achievement. Careful planning and organization of tasks and assignments directed at meaningful results can accomplish this goal.
  8. Help employees set and achieve personal self-improvement goals. These need to be realistic and achievable for individuals to grow and develop skills and knowledge.
  9. Acknowledge and publicly recognize employees’ accomplishments to reinforce the fact that they are valuable and important—a key need for individuals.
  10. Help employees understand their value to the company, the leader and senior management. By verbalizing employees’ value or giving them letters of appreciation to acknowledge their efforts, leaders effectively reinforce that achievements are important to both the individual employee and others.
  11. Tell employees how and why they are performing valuable and useful work. This means giving them effective and useful feedback about their progress in a way that focuses on personal productivity and how to increase performance.
  12. Listen with interest to employees’ problems, ideas, suggestions and grievances. Remember, even if seemingly trivial or irrelevant, these things are important to the employee.
  13. Never neglect or ignore an employee. A failure to provide individual attention is one of the worst mistakes leaders can make in terms of motivating or supervising their employees.
  14. Enact a personal commitment to a vision and direction. Effective leaders show employees how to give personal effort and provide consistent performance to align themselves with the vision.
  15. Help employees develop an increased sense of responsibility. Acceptance of responsibility facilitates feelings of success and a greater sense of self-worth.
  16. Relieve the boredom of assignments and tasks, where possible. Doing so makes work more meaningful for employees and allows them to be more creative and attain greater job satisfaction. Furthermore, it builds inward security and fosters self-motivation.

Related:

Six Steps to Educate Employees About Delegated Tasks and Assignments

Feedback is the Foundation of Effective Coaching

When Building Trust, by All Means Avoid These Six Behaviors

Motivation Is More Than Money

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

Ten Steps You Need to Take to Effectively Sell Your Ideas

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Louis Gerstner - IBM

Louis Gerstner – IBM

Leaders have ideas and a personal vision of what they feel their organization is capable of accomplishing. Ideas and vision are meaningless unless a leader can effectively communicate them to others and win their approval.

When leaders introduce a new idea to an organization, they are not only selling that new idea, they are selling the concept of change.

In many organizations, the concept of change is not readily accepted and often takes time and patience to implement. This is where many leaders find their values and principles tested. Their ideas are often not accepted at first and they must present them over and over again until they are. However, during this period, each rejection causes the leader to reevaluate their position and refine their ideas until they find acceptance.

As facilitators of change, leaders will encounter many barriers and obstacles within their organization. It requires time, persistence and the ability to organize and effectively communicate new ideas and concepts. A true leader will not give up on their vision and the ideas and concepts that define it. They are convinced of the merit of their ideas and remain focused until they are able to see them implemented.

Leaders must use effective communication methods to implement their ideas including the following steps:

Evaluate

Before a leader can present and sell their idea to others, he or she must take the time to make sure it is carefully conceived and thought through. It is not sufficient to simply state an idea and then hope the organization implements it. Rather, before presenting a new idea or concept, the leader must examine it from all aspects, perspectives and viewpoints. He or she must determine if the idea is feasible in terms of time, money, personnel and other available resources.

A poorly conceived idea or proposal has little hope of a fair hearing, much less being approved.

Substantiate

A leader can best move an idea or concept forward by taking the time to research whether or not the idea has worked elsewhere. If it was tried at another company location or within the industry, there may be results and statistics that can be used for validation.

Leaders can substantiate their conclusions with impartial documentation cited in trade journals, magazines, newspapers, books and industry research papers. Naysayers will find it difficult to dispute a well-documented and conceived idea.

Develop Scenarios

Before formally presenting a new idea or concept, leaders should take the time to develop a best- and worst-case scenario. Typically, neither the best- nor worst-case scenario will occur. Actual results will normally fall somewhere between the two extremes, but before a final decision is made it is important to identify the exposure to the organization.

It should be noted that when leaders develop scenarios, the assumptions on which they are based are critical. The more realistic and substantiated the assumptions, the more reliable the scenario. Faulty assumptions can produce a skewed, unrealistic and therefore unreliable scenario.

Solicit Feedback and Support

Before making a formal presentation, astute leaders will solicit feedback from allies and associates. This provides an initial forum to test their ideas and concepts while gathering additional feedback in order to make modifications and improvements before a formal presentation is made. It also allows leaders to build the internal support they need to move their ideas and concepts forward.

Link Benefits to Idea

Individuals will support a new concept or idea when they grasp the benefits to be derived from it. Everyone wants to know, “What’s in it for me?”  Leaders can use this reality to their advantage by clearly outlining and communicating the benefits of their idea to the organization, employees and customers. This allows leaders to build internal support as individuals realize the personal benefits they will experience from the idea once it is implemented.

Review Timing

New ideas and concepts can be welcomed at certain times and ignored at others. If the organization is dealing with many other issues or it is the end of the budget, new ideas and concepts may not be received or tabled until circumstances change. These circumstances can affect whether a new proposal is even reviewed.

Leaders must be aware of the timing of their presentation so that it is well received. They understand the priorities of their organization and wait until they know their ideas will be received and allocated the time and resources to fully evaluate them.

Communicate with Passion

The creation of new ideas and concepts are part of a leader’s vision for the organization. They must communicate their ideas with passion and paint a vivid picture of their vision in order for the audience to appreciate the positive changes that will come with it. A lackluster presentation makes for lackluster results.

Anticipate Objections

An effective communicator will anticipate objections to their idea(s). Rather than passively wait for these negative comments to occur, he or she will immediately address them at the beginning of the presentation with documented facts and figures. By anticipating and addressing objections up front, fewer objections will occur later. Problems arise when leaders attempt to hide and mask negative information, problems and implications. This renders their presentation suspect and subject to more intense scrutiny.

Identify Best Communications Method

Depending upon the scope and complexity of a new idea or concept, there may be multiple ways to present an idea to superiors, associates and employees. Leaders must determine what will be the most effective manner of communicating their ideas, whether it be a memo, report or a physical presentation to a group or committee. The optimal mode of communication will vary, but leaders should consider that which will best convey their new idea or concept to the decision making individual or body.

Request an Evaluation

When leaders encounter resistance to the implementation of an idea or concept, they request a controlled evaluation to be conducted on a limited basis. This provides the decision maker(s) with concrete facts on which to base their final decision.

Excerpt: Improving Communications in the Workplace: 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

Employing an Effective Feedback Process

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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

Feedback is the Foundation of Effective Coaching

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peopleinteracting

A manager that wishes to communicate effectively must receive and impart reliable and honest input by observing, questioning and opening up productive two-way dialogue. Feedback is a major part of the total communication process that requires presenting ideas, thoughts and messages clearly and distinctly.

Within the workplace, opportunities generally surface that make it easier and faster to obtain and gather information through an informal feedback process. Informal feedback consists of the information that is provided to one another during normal workplace communications. It can be as simple as a supervisor or coworker commenting on a procedural flaw or an incorrectly completed procedure. Employees often dispense positive informal feedback by telling other coworkers when they did something well. Through daily interactions and informal feedback, leaders and managers are able to effectively establish key interpersonal-relationship connections.

The Purpose of Feedback

Before offering feedback it is essential to know just why you need it and what you intend to do with it. Below are some questions you should answer before offering one of your employees or anyone else specific feedback.

  • What is my reason or purpose for giving this feedback, and how do I intend to use it?
  • What specific actions or behaviors do I need to reinforce, alter, modify or correct?
  • What do I want to accomplish through this feedback and discussion session?
  • What specific information do I need to find out or learn more about?
  • What specific questions do I require answers to?
  • What issues of timing, location, advance preparation, or other logistics do I need to consider?

The Problem with Feedback

For some individuals just the thought of receiving feedback from another person, especially a manager or supervisor, becomes a terrifying experience. This is because they typically expect the worst, not the best, when hearing something about themselves. In fact, some employees will automatically define feedback (especially “critical feedback”) as negatively opinionated. However the actual definition of critical feedback is “the art of evaluating or analyzing with knowledge and propriety with the intent of providing useful information for future decisions.” As such, it is generally far better to focus on the positive aspects of the feedback, and interject as little of the negative as possible, especially if changing another person’s attitude or behavior is at stake.

Another reason some individuals tend to resist critical feedback has to do with personal self-image. When individuals sense, feel or believe that someone sees them in a less-than-positive light, they may feel anywhere from uncomfortable to devastated.

People like to hear what is consistent with their own views and tend to ignore ideas that run counter to their belief structures and comfort levels. It takes an open mind to listen to an opposing view, which may include hearing that they may be doing something ineffectively or possess a skill deficiency.

The Qualities of Effective Feedback

Good, reliable and usable feedback tends to have several characteristics that make it highly beneficial and valuable. For any feedback to be effective, it should be:

  • Descriptive rather than evaluative, which typically avoids generating levels of defensiveness
  • Focused on describing and detailing one’s own reactions, which leaves the individual receiving it free to use it or not to use it as he or she chooses
  • Quite specific rather than general
  • Focused on behavior rather than the individual
  • Focused on the needs of not only the receiver, but also the giver of the feedback, which is to help, not chastise or hurt
  • Directed toward a specific behavior or something the receiver can do something about
  • Asked for and not imposed on a person

The Use and Abuse of Feedback

Feedback is most useful when it is timely or immediate. This implies that it is wisest to offer it soon after a specific action or behavior warrants eliciting it. It is important to keep in mind that even effective feedback, if it is presented at an inappropriate time, may do more harm than good.

Feedback should be used for sharing of information, rather than for simply providing directions, opinions and advice. The main idea behind giving feedback is that it is intended to allow the receiver to personally decide its validity or usefulness, which is inherently based on whether or not it is in agreement or harmony with the person’s own goals and needs. Keep in mind that when anyone provides advice by informing another person what to do, that individual to some degree or another ends up taking away the other person’s freedom.

Effective feedback usage involves structuring the amount of information the receiver can use, rather than the amount the imparter would like to give. Overloading an individual with feedback works to reduce the possibility that he or she may be able to effectively use what is received. When givers of feedback continually impart more informative feedback than can be effectively used, they are more often than not satisfying some need of their own, rather than giving it in order to help the other person.

Effective feedback usage tends to be concerned with what is said and done, or how—not why. The “why” involves assumptions regarding motive or intent and this tends to alienate the person getting the feedback, while generating elements of resentment, suspicion, and distrust.

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

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

Eight Problem Solving Traps

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groupconflict

The process of problem solving can at first blush appear relatively simple: the difficulty is defined, facts and evidence are collected and analyzed, and a solution agreed to. However, because imperfect people make decisions, the entire process is fraught with traps that can lead to serious errors in judgment.

Problem solving is not to be taken lightly: it is a step-by-step process that when properly sequenced and followed should produce solid results. Unskilled problem solvers will often misinterpret the issues, attempting to solve symptoms rather than root causes, and makes the situation more confusing than it has to be.

It is important for individuals to understand that effective problem solving often consumes more time than most people are willing to invest. Rather than go about it properly, many just want to react and deal with the problem quickly. However, the time invested to thoroughly investigate and solve a problem more often than not produces a more successful solution—and happier employees and customers.

Individuals can easily fall into a number of common problem solving traps. The resulting consequences are often faulty decisions based on poorly framed questions, inadequate analysis and a host of other factors. Rather than solve anything, these traps often complicate the problem, making it more difficult to resolve.

‘Plunging In’

In this case, individuals begin to gather facts, data and information and form conclusions without thoroughly exploring the problem. They are in a reactive mode and desire to quickly dismiss the problem, which leads to faulty decisions based upon unsubstantiated assumptions. Such hastiness can worsen the situation and make the solution more elusive.

Wrong Problem

Individuals set out to resolve the wrong problem because they have established a mental framework for their decision with little or no forethought: they incorrectly frame the problem or use the wrong boundaries and reference points, causing them to overlook the best options or to lose focus on the issue.

Lack of Definition

Individuals fail to consciously define the problem in more than one way. In other instances, their definition is biased or unduly influenced by others.

Problems must be viewed and framed from a variety of perspectives to adequately define and resolve the problem. When definitions are limited, so are the available solutions.

Overconfidence

Individuals are too sure of their assumptions and opinions and they become overconfident, failing to collect key facts, data and information. They trust their intuition and the most readily available information or convenient facts without taking the time to fully investigate the problem.

Lack of Adequate Analysis

Rather than taking a systematic approach to problem solving, many individuals instead believe they can keep the facts straight in their heads. Consequently, they believe they are making intuitive judgments based upon the information available and don’t engage in careful analysis. Here, one often overlooks key evidence that can impact the ultimate solution.

Groups that fail to use good problem solving skills and processes can also fail to make sound decisions, or they fall into a groupthink mode where everyone agrees with one another without using critical thinking skills.

Faulty Interpretation

There are instances when people refuse to properly interpret the results of their analysis because it runs counter to their beliefs or does not fit their own set of assumptions. In other cases, pride gets in the way of arriving at an appropriate decision.

Failure to Keep Track

Many individuals assume they will automatically remember their past experiences. Research has demonstrated that when individuals maintain systematic records that they periodically review, they can distill valuable lessons that could be applied to later situations.

Failure to Have a Formal Process

People who fail to develop a formal problem solving process that they can use fairly and consistently will often repeatedly fall into the problem solving traps detailed in this lesson.

Excerpt: Problem Solving: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

Related:

Decision-Making Begins When an Action Needs to Be Taken

Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

Leaders Need to Focus on Questions Rather Than Offering Answers

Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving Problems

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Developing Critical Thinking Skills: The Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Conflict Resolution: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Series

Intelligent Decision Making: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Planning to Maximize 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

Actively Eliciting Feedback from Employees

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mantalking

Effective leadership is based on ongoing input and feedback. Where 20 years ago managers rarely asked for input, today effective leaders are regularly seeking and receiving employee feedback. Leaders elicit cooperation from employees and other individuals when they listen to them. To move employees forward, leaders first identify their needs by asking for their feedback. Identifying employee needs through feedback allows leaders to modify their behavior to serve the best interests of their employees and unit.

Feedback is an effective communication mechanism that enhances productivity and motivation. Leaders use it to create a positive sense of direction that increases efficiency and reduces stress among employees. It empowers employees and gives them ownership in both the ideas and direction driving the organization.

This is important for leaders to appreciate, as studies have shown that employees informed of the organization’s goals and progress are more productive and better able to persevere under difficult circumstances. These are indispensable qualities in the current business climate, as in challenging times the informed employee is more likely to work closely with leaders to resolve problems and stabilize situations. Sharing information rather than withholding it enhances a sense of positive, coordinated teamwork.

The essence of leadership is to persuade others rather than control them. Persuasion is not a one-way process but a continuous feedback loop from employee to leader. The loop incorporates listening, understanding the employee’s point of view and perspectives, and positively responding to their needs. In doing this, the effective leader and persuader is rarely able to change another individual’s behavior or point of view without altering their own approach and perceptions.

When leaders communicate they are in essence selling their ideas to others. To effectively accomplish this they must:

  • Create a dialogue around their idea or concept.
  • Convince others their idea is valid.
  • Actively interact with individuals to brainstorm and solicit new ideas, insights and viewpoints.
  • Build a relationship with them.

This is an extremely productive chain of feedback. It demonstrates to employees that the leader values and respects them. If a leader has failed to persuade others, they have also failed to understand their needs and concerns.

Leaders solicit their employees’ feedback for a number of reasons. Firstly, as imperfect people make decisions, feedback provides continuous testing of an idea or concept against actual conditions and underlying expectations. When leaders solicit feedback, they are asking their employees to question the assumptions behind the idea or concept, examine the expectations connected with it and assess the realistic impact it could have on their organization. This amounts to a mutual search for solutions yielding shared advantages to all parties.

The use of feedback by leaders also enhances their effectiveness. The Drucker Institute reported that when leaders–

  • Ask for input from their employees.
  • Learn from the feedback in a positive and non-defensive attitude.
  • Follow up in a focused and efficient manner.

–they become more effective and are perceived accordingly by their managers, employees and superiors.

The pitfall to avoid is the soliciting of feedback from employees, then reacting emotionally and negatively to any bad news or information, in essence “shooting the messenger.” This only serves to quickly close down communication and replace it with an atmosphere of mistrust and paranoia.

Excerpt: Improving Communication in the Workplace: 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

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

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

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

Motivation Is More Than Money

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dynamicsleadership

When the topic of workplace motivation arises, the two primary issues managers focus on are rewards and recognition. This recognition often takes the form of compensation, but can also be manifested as accurate and timely feedback that acknowledges both positive and negative performance.

Many managers have focused their motivational efforts on the financial compensation an employee receives for their efforts. However, many have failed to understand the impact that clearly defined tasks and fast and accurate feedback has on their workforce. Consequently, they fail to ensure that both positive and negative feedback provided to their employees is directly related to their performance.

Aside from financial and budgetary means, it is important for managers to understand that they can increase overall performance through effective motivational techniques that increase employee productivity.

Harvard Business School conducted a number of employee surveys in a variety of industries. The hypothesis was that the employees who were paid the highest salaries and who had the appropriate personality traits, including drive and confidence, would be the best performers.

This hypothesis was soon discovered to be faulty. The actual top performing employees were defined not only by money, but by the following three factors:

Personal Impact

The top performers had the personality to bring about results through their own efforts. Each was able to accomplish their goals through their individual drive.

Fast Feedback

The top performers knew quickly whether or not their efforts worked. The low motivation employees were unsure of their results and unable to gauge their performance.

Accurate Feedback

The top performers received truthful feedback that accurately reflected their personal impact on results. They knew exactly where they stood and received credit when it was due. The low motivation employees were neither recognized for their good work nor penalized for poor performance. The challenge was thus removed from their jobs, as it was of no consequence whether they excelled or failed.

The results of the Harvard Business School study reveal that the nature of the task and feedback ultimately determine the employee’s motivation. The study indicated that these two factors are more important motivators than compensation.

There are several steps a manager can take to apply this information to their workplace:

  • Ensure tasks assigned to employees are clear. The employees should know exactly what is expected of them. These expectations are inherently motivating.
  • Make the connection between the employee’s individual performance and the end result obvious.
  • Teach employees to evaluate their own work. Detail the critical factors of success and provide them with an evaluation form to use. Make it clear that employees are responsible for their own assessment, and that they can perform the evaluation as frequently as they find it necessary.
  • When providing feedback, managers should ask, rather than tell, employees what happened in specific situations, especially if the manager was not an eyewitness. This process is important since customer feedback is often perceived to be inaccurate. Basing feedback on inaccurate information often results in resentment.
  • • Educate employees regarding how to use feedback. If employees fail to understand how feedback relates to their performance, there is no context in which to place it in, and it becomes meaningless.

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

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

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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

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