High performing teams

Are You Missing the Two Most Important Steps in Giving Feedback?

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Do you struggle with giving candid, constructive feedback? Read on if you answered, “Yes.”

If you’re like most managers and leaders, you have the best intentions when you are giving feedback. You want to communicate clearly and constructively without damaging the relationship, ultimately improving performance. As you know, this can be easier said than done.

So, as a feedback provider, what can you do to set up the conversation for success? Well, as I’ve coached people over the years, I have noticed two areas that can make a big difference:

1. Describe what you observed.

When you are giving feedback, be sure to state the behavior you observed in objective terms. In other words, state the facts without interpreting them. This will make the person much more open to what you have to say and more likely to hear your underlying message.

Let’s use Jane as an example. From the past two team meetings you have attended you might think that Jane can’t control her temper when others don’t agree with her point of view. If you share your conclusion with her, it could immediately raise her defenses, resulting in a counterproductive argument.

Instead, focus on the sharing the facts without sharing your interpretation. For example, you could say, “In the past two team meetings, you raised your voice at Jim and Sue when they disagreed with your suggestions.”

2. Communicate the impact of the behavior.

Sometimes you can focus so much on communicating the behavior that you may overlook the importance of explaining its impact. So, challenge yourself to think about any quantitative or qualitative consequences, and come up with at least two or three to share. This will go a long way in reinforcing the importance of the feedback, and will offer clues about what may be required to resolve the situation at hand.

Building on Jane’s situation above, here are some examples: “Jim is embarrassed and does not want to attend future team meetings.” “Sue has concerns about working with you.” “The rest of the team does not want to bring up any ideas that you may disagree with.” “Other leaders have heard about these two meetings, and are questioning your management style.”

Although there are many other important steps involved in preparing to give feedback, I would encourage you to spend more time on these two. It can be the difference between a constructive and counterproductive conversation.

How Does Your Leadership Impact Team Performance?

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When I speak about high-performing teams, I often cite these key things any leader should think about:

1. Connecting the Dots

Remember that as a leader, you are always in the invisible spotlight. People are watching, listening, and constantly drawing conclusions about what it all means. Proactively communicate how you measure success and consistently Connect the Dots between your actions and your underlying intent. The more you do this, the less others will misunderstand your expectations and desired outcomes.

2. Set the right tone

Are you a leader who shields your group from the pressures that come from senior executives, or does it filter straight through you to your team? Recognize that how you show up sets the tone for the team. What do you look and sound like when you are under stress? Ask someone to give you feedback if you are unsure. Be mindful that your energy, positive or negative, can be contagious.

3. Create a clear line of sight

Help others see how what they do on a daily basis ties to the bigger picture. Give them specific feedback that allows them to understand how they are making a difference in the context of the overall business strategy and direction. To take it one step further, point out what they should keep, start, and stop doing to be more effective.

Think about how you want to show up and how you want others to view your leadership. Spending even a minute to consider this will help you take a more strategic approach.

 

© 2013 Neena Newberry | All rights reserved.

 

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Put Your Wisdom to Work

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I’ve noticed a theme that keeps emerging with my clients and others I meet. I’ve talked at length with several people about the importance of thinking big—and beyond our selves. In the midst of day-to-day life, it can be easy to forget how many people have helped us along the way, personally and professionally, and how much we have to offer.

So, instead of writing a full article on this subject, I want to challenge you to think about how you will put the power of your knowledge and wisdom to work to help someone else.

Take a look at the four questions below to get your wheels turning.

  1. Who do you see struggling that could use your support?

  2. Who do you see repeating the same mistakes because no one will give them the feedback they need to break the cycle?

  3. Who could benefit from your influence, perspective, expertise or contacts?

  4. What have you been excited about getting involved in that you just haven’t taken action on

So, before you dive back into your day, identify one thing you will do this week to pay it forward, leveraging your unique value and perspective. You might be surprised at how much you get from the experience.

Strategies to Create a High Performing Team

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Whether you are forming a new team for a specific project or leading an existing team, there are some very practical things you can do as a leader to develop a high-performing team. Here are four simple strategies to consider.

1. Toot your own horns

In the early stages, create a forum for team members to share their strengths and past experiences. This can be as simple as taking some time in a team meeting. Although some may be reluctant to toot their own horns, ask each person to share what she wants others to know or understand about her background and skills, and how that information can be useful to the team. This will help team members reach back into their past experiences, be more intentional about applying those experiences, and understand the variety and richness of the team’s collective capabilities.

2. Use the team experience to enable individual goals

Take time with each individual to understand what he wants to get from his participation on the team in the context of his professional goals. This will create more ownership and accountability — for you and for your team members — as they identify what they want to get out of the team experience, and as you proactively use this information to give them exposure to the areas of expressed interest.

3. Prevent silos

Help people see beyond their areas of responsibility and notice relationships across the team. Try this simple exercise called “Visiting New Lands” to have your team walk in each other’s shoes. This can apply to a department with different functional areas or an entire team with different areas of responsibility. Start by taping off and labeling a section of the floor for each functional area. Then pick a functional area to start with and have everyone physically stand in it together. Then ask all members of the team except for the people who work in that function to collectively answer the two questions below as if they worked there (e.g., if standing in the Finance section, everyone but the Finance team members would answer these questions as if they worked in Finance):

1. What are your top three challenges?

2. What are your top three priorities?

After everyone has answered the questions for that particular area, the team members who do work in that functional area can share their actual challenges and priorities. Then move to the next area and repeat the exercise until you have discussed each area. This exercise can provide invaluable insight into each functional area, highlight common themes across the entire team, create empathy within the team, and ignite the team’s commitment to helping one another.

4. Drive alignment through team goals

Last but not least, don’t underestimate the importance of having a common definition of success for your team as a whole — i.e., team goals and guidelines. This will allow you to drive alignment within the team and depersonalize differences of opinion by allowing the deciding factor to be whether something enables or detracts from the team’s goals.

As you know, there are many strategies to develop a high-performing team — and many of these may be reminders of what you already know. I want to challenge you to put one of these into play over the next month, if you haven’t already.

 

© 2012 Neena Newberry | All rights reserved.

Helping Others Step Up

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Working to finalize three new products with my team was a good reminder for me about several key leadership principles. As I moved through the process with them, I realized I needed to keep the following in mind to ensure a successful outcome. These are things we all know, but sometimes don’t fully put into play.

1. Ensure everyone has the same definition of success

It sounds so simple, but people often forget the importance of defining and communicating what success looks like as they quickly dive into action mode. Taking this step can help you surface any differences in expectations that may exist in the team, and help all of you better understand what it will really take to achieve the ultimate goal. This step alone can vastly increase the likelihood of the team delivering the right outcome.

2. Keep things in perspective

When things go wrong, as they often do, think about the true underlying cause. Most people do not intentionally make mistakes. When you can identify what’s really going on, it will help you stay centered and able to solve the problem productively.

3. Keep things on track

Identify what’s working and what’s not, and take the time to help others understand that. In an effort to problem-solve, people often go straight to what needs to be fixed or addressed and overlook the importance of helping others see how to put what they are doing right into play even more. To give you a more balanced view and constructively share your thoughts, ask yourself what the person should keep, start, and stop doing to be more effective.

How you engage as a leader can be the difference between a painful path and a smooth road. Think about one principle you’d like to put into play more powerfully in the next week and one step you’ll take to do that. Remember that small steps can lead to big results.

© 2013 Neena Newberry | All rights reserved.

3 Ways to Build Trust With Colleagues

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Authenticity often comes up as a theme with my clients. As leaders, to get anything done we have to work with and through others. That is so much harder to do if our colleagues question our intentions.

Take a look at the three questions below to better understand how you “show up” and what that might say about your authenticity.

  1. Is what you say in sync with what you do? Take this example: You and a colleague agree on a course of action. In later discussions with others, you find out more information, realize that your original plan isn’t optimal, and set a new one. The next day, your colleague is caught off guard, hearing about your new plan at a meeting. Although you had good business reasons for changing direction, she now questions your motives. To prevent this from happening to you, don’t forget to close the loop to ensure that your actions and your intent are well understood.

  2. Do you always walk in with an agenda? A drive for results can often cause this common misstep. Are you more focused on getting what you need from the other person, forgetting to assess what’s going on in his world and adjusting accordingly? Remember to be in the moment and be flexible. Is this really the right time to press forward with what you need, or does the person in front of you need something else right now?

  3. Have you truly invested time to get to know your colleagues? Taking just a few minutes a week to find out what’s going on personally or professionally with colleagues or to offer help can go a long way. It will communicate a genuine interest and will increase their responsiveness when you need something.

From the questions above, choose one area to focus on in your interactions this week. You may find that minor tweaks to your approach can make a major difference in building trust. Remember small steps can lead to big results.

4 Ways to Lead by Lifting Others

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Lifting up others is an essential part of being a leader. Here are four quick ideas for adding a spirit of inspiration and service to your day.

1.Make yourself accessible.

One of the most meaningful ways you can lift another person is talking her through a situation where she feels stuck or where an outside perspective would be invaluable.

2.Show confidence and belief in someone else.

Your faith can make all the difference in encouraging someone to take a risk or pursue a passion. Sometimes just saying the words, “I believe in you” or “You can do it” can go a long way.

3.Bring humility and respect to your interactions with people at all levels.

When you engage with people as people and value what you can learn from them, it lifts them up and strengthens your relationships.

4.Keep your legacy in mind.

Finally, remind yourself of what you want your legacy to be in the lives of others as you go about your daily interactions.

From these lessons, pick one that you will integrate into how you work with others this week. Who might need you to be a voice of reason, reassurance, and comfort now? Who needs your vote of confidence? How can you bring more meaning and service to your daily interactions? Remember that small steps can lead to big results.

How Open Are You Really?

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Great leaders bring out the best in their team members. They create an environment in which employees feel inspired and empowered to go above and beyond their defined roles. Their passion, energy, and ideas are flowing.

Most of us aspire to this kind of leadership. After all, it's a lot more rewarding to unleash other people's potential than to simply direct what they do. But beware of a few stumbling blocks that may either keep you from being open to others' ideas or cause people to see you as unreceptive:

Block 1: You Never Stop Talking

Just. Stop. If you always talk far more than you listen, others may think that you just want an audience; that you're not interested in them or their ideas.

Block 2: You're Not Actively Listening

But there's a lot more to listening than simply not talking when someone else is. There’s a big difference between waiting to speak and being fully present to take in what the other person has to say. Be curious. Ask more questions to ensure you really understand the other person’s underlying intent and key messages.

Block 3: You Don't Explain What You're Thinking

As a high performer, you're adept at processing information quickly. When someone presents an idea during a meeting, you've probably evaluated its viability before they've even finished speaking. You may know right away that the idea won't work, or that it needs to go back to the drawing board. But others may not understand the reasons behind your decision unless you spell them out. Remember to "connect the dots" so that it's clear you are giving thought to ideas and not merely dismissing them.

Block 4: Your Follow-Up Falls Short

How do you follow up when someone shares an idea with you? Does your follow-up look different if you think the idea is good or bad? If you don’t like their idea, don’t just hope they never bring it up again. Help the person understand how it does or doesn’t fit in with the criteria for a feasible solution, and use it as a learning opportunity.

Block 5: You Micromanage

You might tell your team that you're open to their ideas, but if you return every proposal marked up with your "red pen," they will take away a very different message. This kind of micromanagement doesn’t really leverage the value you bring, and it definitely doesn't help develop your team members.

This week, notice how open you are to others — and how your actions affect their perception of your openness. Then pick one of these strategies to implement. For more on bringing out the best in others, check out my guide Building a Stronger Team. It's part of the Leadership EDGE SeriesSM.

Best of the Blog: Build Resilience in Just 2 Steps

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Have you ever caught yourself wondering why you can’t get over a setback, a mistake (yours or someone else’s), a conflict or a big change? Sometimes we easily shrug off frustrations or difficulties. Other times, they really get under our skin. We may stay stuck in frustration even as we push ourselves to move forward and show more resilience.

People often misunderstand resilience. It doesn’t mean that we will move past roadblocks effortlessly or just have to find a way to survive them. Instead, true resilience requires delving into our thoughts and feelings and taking a look at successes and failures – so we can learn from them and make different choices.

Recently, I worked with an executive coaching client to help her navigate a tough situation. Someone at her office “threw her under the bus” in a meeting by doing exactly the opposite of what he had committed to doing. Not only did his behavior fall short of my client’s expectations, it also felt dishonest and disrespectful.

She kept telling herself, “Fine, it happened. I’m not happy about it. But I need to just get over it.” Instead of allowing herself to fully explore her feelings, she kept trying to set them aside like they didn’t matter.

As you might expect, she just couldn’t. She kept replaying the scenario in her head again and again. Does this sound familiar? When you are stuck in anger or frustration for days, it’s typically an indicator that a core value that you hold near and dear is involved. By taking the time to identify which specific value was violated (in this case, honesty) instead of ignoring it, my client figured out how to work through this challenging situation. She gave the other party constructive feedback about what happened and how it affected her, which finally allowed her to move on.

To help her further develop her resilience, we used a simple two-step process. Here’s how it works.

Step 1: Increase Your Self-Awareness

Although it might seem counterintuitive, it’s important to ask yourself, “What am I feeling? Let it all out, uncensored. It’s OK to feel how you feel, even if you’re not feeling very kind in that moment! Acknowledging and naming your emotions, whatever they are, will go a long way toward helping you process them.

The next question to ask yourself is “What am I thinking?” Are you falling into any thinking traps, such as assuming you know what others are thinking or downplaying positives while exaggerating negatives? Notice the story you are telling yourself about what happened in this situation. Take a few minutes to write your specific thoughts and feelings down. It may help you make connections you otherwise might not notice.

Next, ask yourself “How am I framing the situation?” For example, maybe you’re framing a colleague’s lack of enthusiasm for your idea as dismissive or disrespectful. Look at the evidence to better understand how you’re interpreting the situation, and whether or not your interpretation is accurate. You might realize that your colleague’s behavior had nothing to do with you.

Step 2: Make a Different Choice

Once you’ve identified your feelings and thoughts, and how they are helping or getting in your way, you will notice more options in front of you. And remember that you get to decide how you want to show up in this situation, regardless of how others are showing up. You may still decide to let all your frustration go and just move on, but that’s very different than just “sucking it up” and repressing your feelings. Treating yourself with compassion and gaining more insight about yourself and others will serve you well. You’ll also be a lot happier and more effective without those repressed feelings threatening to bubble up at any moment.

This week, give yourself a little more space to process any setbacks, changes or frustrations that come your way. Take time to notice what you’re thinking and feeling — it’s the first step toward true resilience. And remember that small steps can lead to big results.

Stop Clashes that Stall Your Team

In this day and age, we all work in teams. There’s no getting away from it. Have you ever felt stuck in the middle when two of your team members can’t seem to get along?  

This kind of clash often creates silos and workarounds as people try to avoid each other, or suboptimal solutions because team members haven’t engaged in the right level of collaboration. It can put leaders in awkward situations, especially if they dislike conflict or expect their teams to just work it out.

As a leader, what you say and do in situations like this speaks volumes. Remember that you are always in the invisible spotlight. If you allow the situation to continue, people start wondering if you really know how to lead others. If you’re too involved in resolving the issue, people may ask if you know how to help your team members develop and grow.  Although there’s no cookie-cutter solution, let me share an example from one my executive coaching clients that may give you some insight.

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Reset Expectations and Focus on Common Goals

My client, Joe, had two team members who just couldn't get along, let alone collaborate to deliver a project. Almost every week, one of them would go to Joe and complain about the other team member. Not only did this create a negative work environment, it also took far too much of Joe’s valuable time. And with Joe in the center of the communication, it was easy for his employees to avoid each other and engage in passive-aggressive behavior, but difficult for Joe to figure out what was really going on.

Joe knew that something had to change. So, we evaluated his role in the process. As long as he continued to meet individually with each team member, we knew this endless cycle would continue. To shift the dynamics, he decided to meet with both team members together to tackle the situation head on.

Joe acknowledged the differences in his team members’ working styles but also shared what he saw as their complementary strengths and experiences, and what they could learn from each other. He then clarified the criteria for a successful project, to refocus them on a common definition of success and the business results he expected them to deliver.

By the end of the meeting, he had cleared the air, refocused the team members on common goals, and shared how they could benefit from a better working relationship.

Let Go of Owning the Solution

Finally, we examined who really owned the resolution of the issues at hand. In this case it was Joe, not his employees.  Resisting the temptation to take over, he gave ownership of the solution back to them. He let them know that he expected them to work together, and when and how to engage him if they needed his support and guidance. In other words, he expected them to make a good faith effort to first resolve the issues themselves. He and HR were additional resources.

This week, think about whether any tension is brewing within your team. What can you do to get your team members back to a more constructive place? Do you need to evaluate your role, reset expectations, communicate shared goals, or shift ownership of the solution? Sometimes people simply need to know that, as their boss, you’ve noticed the problem and something has to change.

You can find more advice like this in the booklet "Building a Stronger a Team," part of my Leadership EDGE SeriesSM.

P.S. Know another leader who's grappling with a team conflict? Forward this article as a resource.

Feedback and Appreciation: Our Best Advice

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Group of friends showing feedback on speech bubble

Feedback and appreciation are some of the most requested topics. Here is a collection on giving feedback.

You can learn much more about giving feedback and other ways to help your team succeed in my book "Show Up. Step Up. Step Out. Leadership Through a New Lens." Follow the link to download five free chapters!

Six Types of Difficult People and How to Deal with Them

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We all encounter difficult people or situations that leave us frustrated, especially as we’re trying to get more done with fewer resources. Fortunately, you get to choose how you want to show up regardless of how others show up. Keeping this in mind can ground you and keep you centered when you need it most.  

Let's look at six common situations you might find yourself in with difficult people and some communication strategies for handling them. Customize your response for the situation at hand, but look at the intent of each suggested response below to help you find the words that work for you.

The Naysayer

Behavior: Always tells you why your ideas can't work.

How to respond: "I understand your concerns and appreciate your perspective. What would it take to make this idea work?"

The Complainer

Behavior: Has a knack for seeing the glass as half empty and complaining instead of resolving the problem.

How to respond: "Take five minutes to vent so you can get it all out, and then let’s focus on finding a solution." (NOTE: You may want to actually time it or look at your watch so you can convey that you're serious about it).

The Derailer

Behavior: Finds ways to distract others from the core issue at hand.

How to respond: "I appreciate your comment. Just so I’m clear, please help me understand how it ties to what we’re trying to accomplish?"

The Person Lost in the Weeds

Behavior: Gets bogged down in details and loses sight of what's really important.

How to respond: "Let's take a look at the bigger picture to make sure we’re considering the 'what' before we get into the 'how', and that we’re meeting our objectives."

The 'Yes' Person

Behavior: Creates a bottleneck by taking on too much and getting overwhelmed.

How to respond: "If you take on this work, how much time will it entail? How does that fit in with other priorities you already have? What support might you need?"

The Master Delegator

Behavior: Keeps sending things your way without considering your existing workload.

How to respond: "I understand that you want me to complete this additional project. How important is this relative to other things I am working on? What would you like me to put lower on the priority list, or push out further, to create capacity for this?"

Keep these communication strategies in mind as you go about your week — I’m sure you’ll find an opportunity to use at least one. You can learn more about how to convey credibility and get your ideas heard in "Communicating With Impact," part of my Leadership EDGE SeriesSM.

The Secret to Creating an Engaged, Committed Team

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What's the No. 1 leadership quality when it comes to engaging employees? Providing lots of feedback? Inspiring them constantly with your vision? Implementing generous recognition or training programs?  

Actually, it's something much simpler. In her research, Christine Porath, an associate professor at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, found that treating employees with respect trumps all else.

"No other leadership behavior had a bigger effect on employees across the outcomes we measured," she writes in Harvard Business Review.

My own experiences as an executive coach echo her findings. Treating your team members with respect takes employee loyalty and engagement to a whole new level. Here are three ideas for infusing your work style with more respect.

Respect the Roles that Others Play

One of my clients works with a boss who micromanages her. But he doesn't stop there — he also micromanages employees a couple of levels below her. As you'd expect, it's driving everyone crazy.

Although his intent is positive (to help drive high quality work and provide input and guidance), his style indirectly conveys disrespect for the knowledge and expertise his team members bring to the table, as well as their roles. As a result, his direct reports feel mistrusted because he doesn’t allow them to do their jobs without his constant intervention and input.

Sometimes letting go can be difficult, so try some of these ideas to help your team members grow by delegating with development in mind. Just remember that when you give employees the leeway to figure out how to tackle their work, they typically gain more confidence and develop skills faster (not to mention the fact that it takes work off your plate when you decide not to get so involved). They may make some mistakes along the way, but that will also accelerate their learning.

Choose the Right Setting for Feedback

How and where you give feedback often matters just as much as the feedback itself. Giving negative feedback in a group setting, whether it’s a meeting or conference call, can leave the recipient feeling embarrassed and disrespected (and her level of respect for you might drop a couple of notches, too). This doesn't mean you should hold back on giving feedback. Just choose the right time and place, and deliver it in a way that conveys how much you want to help the individual be successful.

Watch Your Tone

Although most of us know that little things can affect executive presence in big ways, we may not stop to think about it for ourselves. Leaders are always in the “invisible spotlight.” As you contemplate your communication style, think about how much respect you convey with your tone of voice and body language. To get a better sense, notice how others respond to you. In particular, pay attention to how often your team members seek true coaching and advice vs. approval (there is a difference, so don’t mistake one for the other). Remember that if employees don't feel respected, they may still comply with your requests — they just won’t have a strong level of commitment, which is key to taking performance and results above and beyond.

This week, look for opportunities to put at least one of these three strategies into action. And remember that respect is just one part of helping your team members achieve their best results. You can find many more strategies in "Building a Stronger Team," part of the Leadership EDGE SeriesSM booklets.

The High Cost of Not Being Direct

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As a leader, are you clear with others?  

Are you sure?

I'm always surprised at the number of companies where their culture is to communicate indirectly. A recent survey of 1,000 U.S. workers about communication issues that hamper leadership found something striking: 57 percent of respondents complained that their leaders do not give clear directions. That was the second-most-cited issue in the whole survey. Other common complaints also show employees' dissatisfaction with leaders' lack of directness. Just over half of respondents said leaders simply refuse to talk to subordinates. And 39 percent said their leaders fail to offer constructive criticism.

Confusion and Missed Opportunities

In my work as an executive coach, I've seen similar issues play out at many companies. People who have a more direct, transparent communication style can have trouble in such an environment, and are often asked by others to "soften their message." They struggle with knowing what they can bring up and how to do it in a way that fits in with the culture.

I also hear from employees who get frustrated because their bosses send conflicting messages or don’t clearly state their expectations. A boss may say he expects one thing, but his actions indicate something completely different.

Leaders with an indirect style often miss opportunities to give their team members valuable feedback. When employees don't understand specifically what others value about what they do and how they do it, they underutilize their strengths – which has an impact on them and the company. On the other hand, some leaders shy away from giving constructive feedback because they worry about damaging the relationship with the employee. But, as the results from the employee survey affirm, the real damage comes when leaders aren't open and honest enough to tell their team members what's holding them back.

How to Navigate through a Culture of Indirectness

I advise clients who work in a culture of indirectness to pay attention to what others are doing, not just what they're saying. If your boss doesn't give you feedback, you'll find ideas in this blog post to help you succeed despite a lack of specific direction.

I also have an earlier blog post with tips to help leaders be direct when delivering difficult feedback. Just remember to offer the feedback in the spirit of generosity and to frame it in a way that shows how much you care about the employee's success ("If I were you, I'd want to know this …"). When you offer this kind of feedback, you build trust and strengthen your relationship with your team members.

This week, challenge yourself to be just a little more direct in your communication style by acknowledging that what you are sharing is valuable to the other person — and that it can be done with care and concern. By simply asking yourself “How do I want to show up in this conversation?” you’ll notice what’s most important to you and will focus on how to convey that. And for more tips about effective communication that helps you succeed, be sure to check out my book "Show Up. Step Up. Step Out." You can read an extended free sample on my website.

Fast, Easy Ways to Give the Recognition Your Employees Crave

Are you leveraging the power of recognition? Giving your team members feedback about what they're doing right and celebrating their achievements are simple but powerful leadership tools. 

And employees definitely notice when leaders fall short in offering recognition. In a recent poll, "not recognizing employee achievement" ranked first on a list of communication issues that prevent effective leadership. Sixty-three percent of the survey respondents in the poll said it was a problem for leaders at their company. Why is that number so high? Sometimes high-performing leaders tend to go without a break from one project to the next, not stopping to celebrate what everyone has achieved.   It takes only a small time investment, though, to make regular recognition a part of your leadership style. Here are a few ideas to try.

Use meetings to share successes.

Start team meetings by asking people to share their recent successes or what's been going well. This doesn't take long, and it makes people feel good because they start noticing what they're actually getting done. Your employees can emulate this practice in meetings with their own direct reports, which helps build a culture of recognition throughout your company. Besides boosting everyone's energy, getting into this habit gives you more information and insight about what is working.

Debrief often.

You don't have to block out time for a meeting to give employees feedback and recognition. Pull your team member aside for a few minutes after a meeting to talk about what she did well while the specifics are still fresh in your mind. Having these conversations is easier if you build a little breathing room into your schedule. Avoid back-to-back meetings so that you'll have time for these informal but valuable feedback sessions. You'll reap the benefits because employees will better understand what you value and want to see more of.

Write it down.

One of my coaching clients blocks out a few minutes every Friday to send a note praising someone for actions that were effective or that made a difference that week. My client even gives himself reminders to rotate the notes among different groups of employees so that recognition gets spread around. Think about how valued and motivated you could make your own team members feel with thoughtful emails or handwritten notes like the ones my client sends.

Recognize yourself, too.

Start keeping a log of your own accomplishments, no matter how small. Be sure to jot down the impact of each one so you recognize the “so what.” High performers frequently overlook their own value, so having strategies to help you notice your own is important. Use this information to proactively share your successes in a tasteful way. And take a look periodically to see what themes you notice. Reviewing this information can be a pick-me-up, especially when you don’t have a boss who gives you much feedback.

This week, choose one or more of these strategies to recognize your team members for their achievements. Even if you can invest only a few minutes, you'll start to see the impact quickly. For more ideas for your team, check out "Building a Strong Team," part of our Leadership EDGE SeriesSM. In this quick read, you'll find more easy-to-implement strategies.

How to Turn Conflict Into Teamwork

It isn't enough to talk about peace, one must believe it.And it isn't enough to believe in it, one must work for it.                                                                             - Eleanor Roosevelt

One of my clients is in a predicament that will feel familiar to a lot of leaders. On her team, two peers aren't collaborating, and they keep escalating their conflict. When she tries to intervene, they just dig in deeper.

This situation is an example of how a leader can set the tone. That's a theme we've been looking at throughout March in honor of Women's History Month. In this case, your leadership skills can make the difference in whether a conflict drags on (draining everyone's productivity) or gets resolved (boosting your team's results).

teamwork

teamwork

If you have a couple of team members who just can't seem to work together, try these ideas to get everyone back on track.

  1. Look at your role. How might you be enabling the conflict to continue? Has communication gotten fragmented between your quarreling team members because you've put yourself right in the middle of things? Remember that you can be supportive without being in the middle. Make it clear to the team members that while you can offer help, they own the problem and its resolution.

  1. Establish the big picture. One good way to help without getting stuck in the middle of the conflict is by giving your team members a perspective check. Let's say that one of them is accountable for creating the highest margins for the company while the other is accountable for customer satisfaction. The two of them are being rewarded for very different things that can lead to different business decisions, which might explain one of the sources of conflict in the first place. As a leader, you can remind them to think in terms of the company's overall success and how both goals can be met, not just how well their individual area performs.

  1. Help them see everyone's place in that picture. Talk with the team members about how they both fit into the company's larger goals, even though they are accountable for different things. Help them see how the big-picture success of the company might involve balancing their two individual goals. In our example, that could mean helping your team members understand that while margins are important, prices can't be so high that they run off customers. On the other hand, happy customers are vital, but so are sustainable margins. Sometimes as leaders we feel that employees should "just know" things like this and instinctively do what's right for the company. But you might have to help them connect the dots.

This week, take a look at whether there are any conflicts on your team that might come from team members being too focused on their own areas and not enough on the bigger picture. How can you help your feuding team members see beyond differences and align with higher level goals? This is a great opportunity to make a real impact with your leadership skills. In my online store, you can find many more resources to help your team members' leadership development, including the WOW! Highlight AudioSM.

Turning Down an Employee Who's Not Ready for a Promotion

“People are definitely a company’s greatest asset. It doesn’t make any difference whether the product is cars or cosmetics. A company is only as good as the people it keeps.” — Mary Kay Ash

March is Women's History Month, so we've been celebrating the words of some great women leaders and taking a look at the impact and influence of your own leadership. The way you lead makes a huge difference in your team members' difficult moments. Today, let's look at a really tricky one: What should you do when an employee wants a promotion but just isn't ready? How you lead through this situation can help determine whether the employee keeps improving and stays with your company or disengages and moves on.

Leaders have to get skilled at the art of tough conversations, and this one is among the toughest I see my clients face. If you're currently dreading having a talk like this with an employee, I have three ideas that can make the conversation easier for you both and more likely to help your team member's career growth.

600futuregrowth

600futuregrowth

1. Set the stage.

How you frame this conversation is crucial. Communicate that you are here to help your team member succeed and that you're vested in her leadership development and her success. The key thing here is not just telling your employee that you're an ally, but reminding her of the evidence of how you've helped her develop and grow.

2. Agree on the criteria.

Lay out what the company is looking for from people at the level where she'd like to be. Then talk about your employee's strengths and where her gaps are. Maybe she's great at building a high-performing team, but she needs to improve her ability to focus on what matters most. Or she tends to get "in the weeds" with her direct reports while the position she wants requires more strategic thinking. Getting clear on criteria helps the conversation feel more objective and less personal.

3. Bring in the big picture.

People who are set on getting promoted often make the mistake of looking at it (and communicating about it) only from the standpoint of their own career path, not what's best for the company as a whole. If that's true of your employee, help her shift her thinking. The company is interested in making the highest and best use of her skills, and helping her grow and advance. It may seem a little counterintuitive to her, but when she focuses less on getting promoted and more on what’s best for the company, she will become more promotable.

If you have an employee who wants to move up but isn't ready, I encourage you to have this conversation as soon as you can. This is a difficult situation, but one where your leadership can really make the difference for the company and for your team member. In my online store, you can find many more resources to help your team members' leadership development, including the WOW! Highlight AudioSM.

Why Your Underperformer Isn't Changing

Have you ever been frustrated with a team member who isn't performing as you need — and who's showing no signs of changing?  

I've seen this issue come up several times lately with my executive coaching clients. And I've noticed that as frustrated as leaders are in this situation, sometimes they aren't giving employees the honest advice and specific feedback they need to change. They might be worried about damaging the relationship, or they think that an employee should "just know" what to do.

You can take an approach, though, that helps the employee (and keeps your relationship healthy) while getting you better results. Here's the process I advise for leaders who are dealing with a "stuck" employee.

600businesstalk

600businesstalk

Look at Your Mindset

Think about how you've been engaging with this employee. What role are you playing in the current situation? How are you enabling it to continue as it is? For example, I’ve noticed that when a leader starts showing frustration or micromanaging, it can put his team member in a place of fear and self-doubt. That can make it much more difficult for the employee to make change happen. What would help you get centered so you can address the situation in a more constructive way?

Set Clear Expectations

Sometimes leaders assume an employee should know, without being told, how to handle an assignment. Then they're disappointed when the employee doesn't read their mind and meet all of those unvoiced expectations. You'll do more to boost the employee's performance when you delegate with clear expectations. Spell out the deliverables, define their decision-making authority, and specify how often the employee should check in and any other key parameters of the project.

One of my clients has a boss who's discouraged by her performance but doesn't communicate expectations. He gives her assignments to test her capabilities – but doesn't tell her this upfront, or let her know what skills he's looking to assess or build. That approach hasn’t served either one of them well. He would improve his effectiveness if he communicated at the outset, "I'm giving you this assignment to see how you'll do and where I need to coach you, to help you be successful."

Give Specific Feedback

Think about whether you're offering the employee tangible, specific feedback. Are you communicating regularly about what's working and what's not? If you want her to make a shift in a certain area — say, being more strategic instead of tactical — are you letting her know this and explaining why this would help her succeed?

I teach my executive coaching clients a two-part formula for giving feedback. This approach gives the employee useful information she can take action on and keeps the emphasis on performance and results instead of personal criticism.

  1. As objectively as possible, tell the employee what you observed her doing. Share facts without interpreting them.

  1. Describe the impact of those actions. Your goal is to help the employee understand what she did and how it affected others. For example, did the actions she took (or didn't take) lead to a missed deadline? Misalignment of goals? Wasted time?

This week, apply at least one of these ideas to help a team member grow and improve. You'll find more ideas on giving feedback and helping your team members develop in Building a Strong Team, part of my Leadership EdgeSMseries. And you can get a sampling of the team-building advice from the WOW! Women on the Way to Peak Performance ProgramSMin the WOW! Highlight AudioSM. Start taking some small steps and you'll see big changes with your employee.

PS: If you're on the other side of this situation — dealing with a boss who's frustrated with you but not telling you how to improve — I'll have tips for you next week.

Making It Easier to Give Performance Feedback

performancereview

performancereview

Why is it so hard to give feedback?

I recently spoke to an executive who asked me about an issue that's probably troubled a lot of other leaders. She asked, “Why do leaders [at my company] continue to struggle with giving candid performance feedback although they've been given supporting tools and training time and again?”

It's an important question because feedback can make a huge difference in helping your people grow, and your company thrive.

I told her that no matter how much training people receive, it all starts with how you personally view the act of giving feedback. In other words, is feedback a gift that you give to someone or something painful for the other person to endure?

Mindset About Feedback

Let’s take a closer look at your thoughts about giving feedback. Which statements sound the most like you?

  1. I worry that negative feedback will hurt the other person’s feelings.

  2. I know how to depersonalize feedback by putting the focus on results and impact, rather than the individual’s personality.

  3. I hesitate because I don’t want negative feedback to strain my relationship with the other person.

  4. I see feedback as valuable information that someone should have.

  5. Giving feedback takes more energy and effort than it is worth.

  6. I don’t wait for annual performance reviews. I give feedback daily or weekly.

  7. I dread giving feedback because of how poorly it has been delivered to me in the past.

  8. If I prepare well, I can get more comfortable in giving feedback.

Feedback Tips

If the odd-numbered statements above resonated more with you than the even-numbered ones, you may be missing some valuable opportunities to help your employees grow through candid feedback. Here are a few ideas to make it easier for you.

  • Reframe feedback as key to success.

Feedback works best when you approach it with a spirit of generosity. You're not being the "bad guy" by criticizing. Instead, remember that you're giving the employee valuable information to help her be successful. Wouldn't you be grateful if someone took the time to tell you what you should know – how you get in your own way, or the impact you have on others with certain behaviors? Convey to the recipient that this conversation is about setting her up for success, and that she may not be aware that she's doing something that could limit that. Presenting feedback in this way can put both of you at more ease.

  • Use this feedback formula.

1. Describe what you observed the employee doing as objectively as possible by sharing the facts without interpreting them. 2. Describe at least 2-3 consequences of what you observed to help your employee understand the impact of her actions. This makes feedback sound less nitpicky by clarifying what’s really at stake. Your goal is to help your employee see that she has choices — and that there are consequences to each of them.

  • Seize the moment.

Feedback doesn't have to take a lot of time or buildup. Get in the habit of sharing what you noticed right after you observe it. Even a couple of minutes after a meeting to point out what worked well and what would have been more effective can go a long way.

  • Practice.

Giving feedback can be easier if you say it out loud before your actual conversation with the recipient. Ask someone you trust to role-play with you or to at least help you think through what might trigger your employee, based on how you've described the employee's personality. Anticipating the reactions the employee might have and how you would respond to them, will give you more confidence.

Giving feedback gets easier the more you do it and the more you see how helpful it is to recipients. If you usually feel uncomfortable giving feedback, challenge yourself to reframe it as something valuable, a gift. It will help you find the language you need to convey the intent of your feedback. You'll find more ideas on giving (and receiving) feedback in my book Show Up. Step Up. Step Out. Leadership Through a New Lens. Remember that small steps to improve how you give feedback can lead to big results, for you and others.

Fantasy Football: Time-waster or Team-Builder?

nfl.jpg

How is your fantasy football team doing? If you don't play fantasy football yourself, chances are you've heard colleagues who do talking about their lineups and trades at the office. The outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas estimates (with tongue somewhat in cheek) that all the fantasy football talk at work costs employers $13 billion a year in lost productivity.

Does that mean that workplaces should banish fantasy football? Let's call a timeout and talk about the issue a little more.

Team Players

Fantasy football (if managed well) can actually benefit a workplace. It brings a dose of fun and positive energy, and it strengthens relationships by helping co-workers get to know each better.

Allowing some football talk at the office also sends a message that leaders are flexible and trust employees to deliver quality results without micromanaging how and when they work.

All of that is important because it contributes to employee engagement. Deloitte Human Capital Research concluded that workplaces where employees are engaged and thriving share qualities including autonomy and a flexible, fun environment. And when your employees are engaged, your business is more successful.

By the way, what I'm saying here about fantasy football also applies to any other nonwork activity that helps your team bond, whether that's rehashing awards show fashions together or trading info on Black Friday sales.

Playing Fair

Of course, there are a few things to be mindful of if your team spends time on fantasy football or similar activities at the office. Keep an eye on whether deadlines or work quality suffer. If productivity problems do come up, look at whether they're an issue for the whole team or just certain individuals. Finally, make sure that the people who aren't part of the activity don't feel overtly excluded.

If you'd like to explore this topic more, check out my radio interviews on fantasy football at the office on KURV (McAllen, Texas) and WHBC (Canton, Ohio). And you can find more tips on strengthening your team in my new Leadership EDGE SeriesSM booklet, “Building a Stronger Team.” Sometimes the little touches, like giving employees enough flexibility to enjoy fantasy football or other fun activities at the office, can lead to big payoffs in engagement.