Are Your Meetings a Snoozefest?

employee motivation, meetingsWhat is the difference between a newsletter and a meeting?  You think this is a trick question?  It’s obvious, right? Apparently not so obvious to a lot of leaders.

Like a memo or newsletter, many meetings end up as simply a way to disseminate information.  Those attending go around the horn and update the others in the room about what’s going on in their respective areas of responsibility.  Or maybe during the meeting someone “trains” you on a new procedure, product, or service.  Thus, many meetings are simply newsletters in disguise.  If you are gathering others in a room or in a virtual meeting space to merely disseminate information, send a newsletter or memo instead.

In contrast, you should use a meeting format when there is a topic to discuss that is critical to the long-and short-term success of your organization.  As proposed in Patrick Lencioni’s Death by Meeting, every good meeting needs “conflict” . . . something that will spark all kinds of thought, discussion and disagreement, allow enough time to discuss the issue(s), and not mix administrative, tactical and strategic topics.

With multiple options for interfacing and communicating with others available today, it is even more important to determine whether or not a meeting (whether virtual or face-to-face) is really necessary. The main reasons to have a meeting:

1.       To check-in daily with those working with you.  This is a short 5-10 minute administrative meeting where a supervisor and her direct reports briefly huddle to exchange information regarding their top priorities of the day.  It allows for quick updates, coordination and coverage if needed.

2.       To report back on the progress of tactics that are being implemented and are based upon the goals generated during a strategy session.  This is a weekly meeting where an entire team meets to report on individual efforts to impact team and organization goals and to make new commitments for the coming week.  In addition to Lencioni’s book, I recommend The Four Disciplines of Execution by Chris Chesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling for a practical structure to these types of meetings.

3.       To discuss the current strategy related to the organization’s current business goals and the progress being made.    These can be held monthly or as needed and usually last from 2-4 hours.

4.       To do more in-depth organizational planning, including to review strategy, industry trends, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.  This can be a two- to three-day meeting held offsite and may include department heads and other senior leaders, who gather to brainstorm, analyze, prioritize, and discuss where the business is going with respect to its market, products, service, or structure.  Sometimes they also discuss internal talent and succession planning.

All of these meeting types require the participation of the attendees around a meaningful topic.

So reflect on the meetings you convene or attend.  If you lead the meetings, what can you do make them more engaging for the others in the room? What topics, central to your organization, need to be discussed more and would lend themselves to lively discussion and analysis?  Assuming little or no discussion is required, what straightforward information currently shared at your meetings can be shared in a way that doesn’t take meeting time?

In short, instead of holding a meeting where others are dragging in a few minutes late, dreading the time they will have to spend listening to the same old irrelevant information and hoping there will be someone else in the room they can text with under the table, what can you do to your meetings, so others can’t wait to come and participate . . . ?

It’s Spring. Time to Renew Your Commitment to Your Work

renew your commitment to workAs the hours of daylight increase and the outside temperature is warming up, I find myself leaving the behind the gray, unmotivated mood of winter and actually feeling . . . cheery.  What a great opportunity to renew my commitment to my work and to spread more sunshine throughout the office.  If you read Shawn Achor’s, The Happiness Advantage (2010), you’ll recognize these simple things you can do to stretch your happiness muscles:

1.    Consciously Re-Focus on the Positive.   It is well-established that we humans pay more attention to negative events than positive.   “ . . . [M]ost findings indicate that people react more strongly to bad than good events.  The evidence covers everything from minor everyday events and brief experimental exposure to objectionable odors to major life events and traumas.  Bad events produce more emotion, have bigger effects on adjustment measures, and have longer lasting effects.”  Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Finkenauer, Vohs (2001).

So, is it any wonder that we drive to work most mornings, dreading what might be in store for us at work?

Aware of this human tendency, you can now counteract the negative bias we all experience and consciously focus on the positive.  To do so, write down 3 good things that occur each day.  Or write about a positive experience at work for 20 minutes, 3 times per week.  Burton, C., & King, L. (2004), The health benefits of writing about intensely positive experiences.  Journal of Research in Personality, 38, 150-163.  (Concluding that writing about positive experiences for short periods of time led to increased happiness and even led to greater physical well-being).

2.    Reframe Your Work to Find Your Calling.  There’s nothing wrong with seeing your job as just a way to pay the bills.  It’s just more satisfying to think that you’re actually contributing to something larger in the world.  How can you find the meaning in the more unrewarding aspects of your job?  List a task you might define as meaningless.  Next, ask yourself what the purpose is for that task or what it accomplishes.  Keep asking yourself these questions about the task until you hit on a purpose or reason for the task that is more meaningful for you.   In other words, connect the task to something larger or with greater impact in the world.

And to lift your mood even more, watch Shawn Achor talk about happiness in his 12-minute presentation he made at a TED conference.

Do You Have What It Takes to Lead Others?

what it takes to leadIt happens every day. Someone is put in the position of managing people for the first time and finds it is daunting and very different from what they expected. If this happened to you, you might have been completely unprepared for what it takes to lead other people. Just being the one in charge coupled with their own sparkling personality was supposed to make you a “hit” with your team, wasn’t it?

Au contraire, mon frere.

What does it take to lead employees in the workplace successfully? In addition to skills you can learn (how to interview, how to address behavior and performance issues, how to communicate better, etc.), it takes a couple of other qualities that usually come with maturity and are not always easily acquired:

1. Self-Awareness.

To maintain your composure under stressful situations at work (and at home), you must be aware of your underlying assumptions about people and work, your motivations, your own hot buttons, your talents, and your limitations. A tall order, I know, but without this basic awareness, you are prone to react (and over-react) to situations at work without producing the results you desire. In fact, without self-awareness, you’ll probably make the same mistakes over and over, producing exactly the opposite of what you desire. Becoming a manager is a great experience for learning these things about yourself. If you aren’t already self-aware, leading others will help you increase your self-awareness, but you have to be willing to recognize and own your “stuff”.

2. Balanced Ego.

You also must be self-aware enough to realize that even though you would like to believe you “deserved” the promotion to manager, the workplace is not always about merit. Maybe there are others who would be as good or an even better manager, but you were in the right place at the right time to be selected. Realize this, have some humility about it, and keep focusing on your own growth as a person to enhance your growth as a supervisor of people.

3. Appropriate and Flexible Boundaries.

Having flexible boundaries means you decide what to let into “your space” and what to keep out. Good but flexible boundaries make you resistant to influences that will get in the way of your ability to function as a healthy manager. As you understand your role as manager, you should come to understand that your role is to get the best out of those who work with you while enforcing all the rules of the organization. (Sometimes that means you will not be the most popular person around. You have to be OK with that.) As you create professional boundaries with your employees, you are establishing the ground rules for how you will behave and others are to behave around you. Having flexible boundaries means . . .

  • You build trust with your employees as you maintain confidences; are firm, fair, and consistent in your dealings with others; and admit when you make a mistake.
  • You understand that you and your employees have roles to play and that the decisions made and the actions taken at work are not designed to personally favor you or another individual.
  • You do not make decisions out of pity for others or just so your employees will like you.
  • You hold yourself and your employees accountable for expected performance and behavior in the workplace based on the business objectives for your work group.
4. Compassion.

Compassion is the ability to understand what someone else might be experiencing. It’s the ability to put yourself in their shoes. Compassion allows you to meet others where they are and assist them as they move to where they need to be based on what the work requires. In general, I think the more self-awareness one has, the more their compassion for others increases.

Becoming a manager/leader will be challenging and rewarding. Instead of validating your talent and wonderfulness, it is a wake-up call and a growth opportunity for most. Enjoy!

Copyright – Beth Strathman 2011-2018
All rights reserved

Don’t Believe Everything You Think

beliefsThroughout my career, I have learned that much of what is thought, is only in your own head and is not necessarily true.  Yep.  Humans make up a lot of stuff about the world. But creating clarity of thought comes only if you decrease the amount of our own interference with the information you take in.

The brain has been described as a pattern-making machine.  It looks for patterns everywhere (even where there aren’t any).  You have many THOUGHTS that come together in patterns, which eventually form BELIEFS about everything.  And although you like to think of yourself as a rational, logical being, you typically don’t investigate the objective TRUTH of those THOUGHTS and BELIEFS. In fact, most of our beliefs were formed before you were 7 years old.

Based on the way the brain is designed, the more you practice a belief, the more you see it in the world around you.  And if you don’t examine what is going through your mind, you can end up making decisions about or reacting to situations and people in ways that can look wacky to others and that don’t serve you in the long run.

In other words, you have filters in place that color what you see, hear, and experience. The more you use these “filters”, the stronger the neural connections become around a belief. In turn, these “filters” shape how we interpret our experiences.

To get clearer about your interpretation of things around you, become aware of a few of the negative thoughts or beliefs you hold about a situation or another individual at work.  Something for which you don’t have much of a factual basis.  Own up to the fact that the stories you tell yourself are often merely your interpretation of what happened and may not fully describe the entire situation.

Explore processes like The Work by Byron Katie  to help you question beliefs that especially cause you to react negatively with frustration, sadness, or anger.

As a leader, question a negative belief you have about someone at work.  Is it true?

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with leaders as they evolve into the leader they are meant to become and learn to maximize the people side of business. Learn more about her at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

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Self-Awareness Leads to Accountability

reflectionAs a leader, you are a role model of accountability.  So what does it take for you to hold yourself accountable?  To check how accountable you are as a leader, consider reflecting on the following questions for each (important) interaction you have:

Q1: What did I do that worked/didn’t work?  Why?

Take stock of your actions/reactions. Be honest with yourself.  If there was conflict or disappointment within the situation, resist the temptation to vindicate yourself.  Even if you think you were justified in whatever you did or didn’t do, what could you have done differently to decrease the conflict or increase the satisfaction with the situation for  yourself and others involved?

Q2: What do my actions/reactions tell me about myself?  What patterns do I see?

Reflecting on how you responded or reacted helps you to spot patterns that can lead to personal insights about what’s driving your reactions (motivation, fears, and desires).  Becoming aware of these deeper aspects of yourself and the behavioral patterns that emerge allows you to catch yourself in the act next time (or even before you act/react next time). This allows you to interject conscious thought to interrupt what might be a behavioral pattern that isn’t working for you. The split second it takes to think about what you are getting ready to do or say, allows you to exercise choice – the choice to stay stuck in our unconscious patterns or to consciously create new solutions without reacting unconsciously.

Q3: What excuses did I make (in my head or out loud) for bad results or failures?

Identify the “story” you tell yourself. What does this story say about the beliefs you have about yourself or others? Are those beliefs necessarily true?  When you examine the stories you tell yourself, you might just find that your reactions are based on unfounded beliefs about the situation. When you unpack those unfounded beliefs, you might find that they aren’t that true. Yet, they can cause you a lot of anger or stress.  In other words, you might not want to believe everything you think!

Q4: What did I do that might be part of my typical behavioral patterns?

Do you habitually tune out or retreat when stressed?  Do you often come across as overly-critical of others?  Do you consciously or unconsciously intimidate others?  No matter your behavioral patterns, you’re probably doing unto others what you don’t want done to you.  Be aware of these patterns and how they shape your interactions with others.

Q5: Who do I want to be? How do I want to come across instead? 

Once you’ve identified behavioral patterns that aren’t serving you, try an alternative way of responding.  Instead of frequently pushing yourself beyond your limits, what would happen if you took a breather once in a while or take a day off for fun?  Instead of fearing you’ll disappoint others, what if you said “no” more often or tried voicing concerns?  Instead of appearing intimidating, what would happen if you conceded a point to someone else without trying to justify yourself or let them “win”? Letting go of your usual way of being and doing is a practice that can help you realize that your typical maladaptive behaviors may have served you when you were younger, but they just might be getting in the way today.

Use these questions to raise your self-awareness. When you do, you’ll become more accountable to yourself and to your team. The more you model what real accountability is, the more likely your employees are to own their results without excuse, too.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with leaders as they evolve into the leader they are meant to become and learn to maximize the people side of business. Learn more about her at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Follow Beth:
YouTube: Firebrand Consulting LLC
LinkedIn: /company/firebrand-consulting-llc or /in/bethstrathman
Facebook: /firebrandleadershipconsulting

Enabling Versus Empowering in the Workplace

co-dependent managerDo you have employees who are poor performers or who don’t get along with others and who have been in your company for too long?  Why?

There is no reason why you should tolerate employees who continually produce substandard work, exhibit unsatisfactory attendance, or who behave badly as a general rule.  Yet, you, like most leaders, have at least a few of these employees.  The sad fact is that you have no one to blame but yourself.  Even in the public sector, where employees are entitled to “due process” before they are fired or demoted, it is very do-able to address the performance and behavior issues and even discharge someone, if warranted.

The issue is often includes a co-dependent manager, who would rather be liked than to hold the employee accountable.  Another word for it is “enabling”.  Enabling behavior encourages the “bad” employee to continue being bad.  It’s the same dynamic between loved ones and an addict, which prevents the addict from addressing her addiction –like allowing drug use in your home or giving the alcoholic money for rent because she used the rent money to buy booze.  If you are “walking on eggshells” around an employee in your organization and avoiding a necessary conversation about unmet expectations, chances are, you are part of an enabling dynamic.

When you are an “enabler”, you prevent or interfere with holding the employee accountable to acquire new competencies.  It keeps her stuck in her unproductive performance and poor behavior.  Enabling keeps the employee believing she has no power or control over her life , her work, and her self-efficacy.  You become complicit in reinforcing unproductive behavior such as procrastination or passivity by not expecting more.  In short, if you are a co-dependent manager, you are silently communicating that the “bad” employee is not capable of changing and is not capable of taking responsibility for her performance or her actions.

Here are some examples:

  • Looking the other way when the employee mistreats a customer or co-worker.
  • Talking yourself out of addressing an issue as you pretend “it isn’t that bad”.
  • Giving the employee adequate performance reviews, so you don’t have to justify your observations of inadequate performance.

By avoiding the issue, you are effectively ignoring your duty to the organization and to the rest of the employees who are meeting company expectations.

If you are enabling an employee, you might fear the reaction from an under-performer if you address the work issues. Like the addict or alcoholic, the enabled employee will most likely have an emotional outburst that deflects the attention away from herself as she points the finger at others, including you.  Not a comfortable place to be.  In short, it’s just easier to tolerate the substandard employee and hope it doesn’t get any worse than it already is.

The healthier way of dealing with the substandard employee is to expect more of her by empowering her.  But this takes guts, an acknowledgment that it’s your job as a manager to do this, and a belief that it is better to respected than to be liked.

Empowering is behavior that expects the employee to acquire new competencies for better performance.  It increases the employee’s sense of control or power over a situation, and encourages the learning of new coping abilities to replace the unwanted behavior or performance.

What does empowering look like?  Good old-fashioned management:

  1. Talk to the employee about what you are experiencing, giving her a chance to explain;
  2. Restate your expectation for what acceptable work product or behavior looks like;
  3. Offer or require training if appropriate for the issue at hand;
  4. If applicable to the situation, ask the employee for options for how she can do things differently to achieve the results you expect;
  5. Follow up and follow through with the employee to make sure the necessary changes are taking place;
  6. If the necessary changes do not occur, start summarizing your conversations about performance or behavior with the employee in writing, and escalate the formality of the written summaries from a warning to reprimands to a letter of suspension or termination as warranted and according to your company policy.

As with many things, if you want an employee to change, you might have to change first.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with leaders who want to confidently become the leader they are meant to be as they maximize the “people side” of business. Learn more about her at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Delivering Performance Feedback without Performance Evaluation Forms

feedbackI often rail against the typical, formulaic performance evaluation.  So, if typical performance evaluation forms aren’t effective for communicating a manager’s desired performance from employees, then what is?

Simple . . . a little something I like to call, “communication”.  Assuming you did a decent job of hiring a qualified, sane person for the job.)

I’m a big proponent of the adage a la Oprah that when “people know better, they do better”.  And for employees to know what “better” looks like, managers have to talk to them.  In turn, for managers to talk to employees, managers can’t be conflict avoidant (see December 2010 blog entry , “3 Reasons Why Being a “Nice” Manager is “Mean””).  So here are some tips for giving performance feedback to your employees:

Focus on an employee’s strengths.

If possible, assign employees to work on tasks and projects that will utilize their strengths.  They still must be able to perform the essential job functions, but when there’s a choice steer them to what they do best.

Communicate clear expectations to employees.

One of the biggest misconceptions managers have is that the employee SHOULD know what to do and how to do it.  Or that the employee interpreted the boss’s directions exactly how the boss intended them.  Wrong.  That’s why we have managers to make sure everyone’s on the same page.

Talk to employees about their work daily, weekly, and monthly.

It’s a manager’s job to talk to employees about their work, whether things are going well or whether there are problems. To do this, meet with employees at the outset of a new project to clarify your expectations and to get their input; check in with the employee regularly on an on-going basis to see if changes are required; and after the work has been done debrief with the employee to help reflect on what went right, what didn’t turn out so well, and what might be done in the future to achieve the best possible outcome.

Put your observations about an employee’s work in writing.

Whether an employee excels at the work or whether the employee’s work is shoddy, have a conversation with the employee about their work and put your observations in writing (give a copy to the employee).  Letters of commendation, letters of warning, and letters of reprimand should also be placed in the employee’s personnel file.

By following these actions, managers are able to create performance feedback that is more effective, timely, and believable than using the typical pre-fab performance evaluation form.

Want help planning out what to say to an employee about their performance? Get my Conversation Planner.