Developmental Feedback – Pointing Out the Positive

By: Andrew Day, August 28, 2014

When providing developmental feedback to employees, it is natural to focus on areas that require improvement. After all, by building competence in zones of weakness, an employee learns to perform more effectively in his or her job role. Still, people often reject criticism or get defensive in these situations. It’s not easy to listen to someone telling you what you are not good at—even if you know it’s true. In addition, development requires change and change is difficult for many people. It also takes effort and resources from leaders to ensure that the growth plans you implement for your employees are effective.

Developing employee weaknesses certainly provides valuable outcomes for organizations, but there are also good returns to be gained by focusing on employees’ strengths during feedback sessions.

Showcase their talents

  • All too often, strengths are not discussed at all during developmental feedback. Or sometimes they are quickly reviewed only as a way to prepare the recipient for the upcoming “bad news.” This is unfortunate because focusing on strengths provides benefits for employee and employer alike. Most people are more open to positive feedback than negative. When discussing an employee’s strengths, there is no pushback, no need to persuade the recipient to take ownership of his or her competence level. Therefore, there are typically no hurdles to overcome in getting employee buy-in. This makes it easier for employees to create and follow action plans that leverage their innate talents.
  • Focusing on your employees’ strengths during feedback helps them to see where their natural abilities and inclinations lie. It inspires them to utilize and hone the skills that already come easily.
  • Pointing out clear links between an employee’s strengths and important organizational outcomes will motivate that person to put forth extra effort in those areas. This has a positive impact on the entire company.

Ah-ha Moments

You may wonder: aren’t we just telling them what they already know? Some people are more self-aware than others, but it is not uncommon for individuals to have blind spots regarding important strengths they already possess. Enlightening employees about untapped potential is a valuable method for seeing quick improvement in the effectiveness of their talent. Collaborate with your employees on ways to apply their unrealized strengths to their job, and watch how those strengths positively benefit the organization.

If you are not currently discussing employee strengths as part of your standard developmental feedback, take some time to incorporate it into your process. A more complete approach to feedback will allow your workers to make full use of their abilities and ultimately this will help you meet your organizational objectives and goals.

Retention and Personal Equity

By: Joe Koczwara, August 21, 2014

It’s always comforting when competencies used in job models are validated in a research study. The most recent competency analyzed was the one used to predict Retention. The higher a candidate scores on the Retention competency, the more likely the candidate will stay with the hiring organization. But a look deeper into the competency reveals some interesting details.

Several factors compose the Retention competency, including bio-data questions, attitudinal questions and behavioral questions. In looking across many studies (meta-analysis), one of the statements that consistently ranks at the top of the list to predict Retention is:

“An employee of this organization referred me to this job.”

There are many reasons why this statement acts as a predictor of Retention:

  1. The current employee knows the organization and the job.
  2. The current employee knows the applicant and acts as an evaluator of the match.
  3. An element of personal equity comes into play.

You see this in the classic Net Promoter question, “How likely is it that you would recommend this product/service to a friend or colleague?” There is an inherent belief that the person will be a great evaluator of the product/service and your needs. But there is personal equity involved here too. Who wants to have a friend come back to them and ask, “What were you thinking? What you recommended was terrible!”

Personal equity can also be seen in social media, with “Likes” on Facebook and “Endorsements” on LinkedIn (although these Likes and Endorsements are to anyone and everyone, not a specific person).

Personal equity is a great incentive for authenticity. The bottom line is: When you are hiring, it pays to ask current employees if they know someone who would be a good fit for a particular position in your company. It puts their personal equity on the line.

Creating a Culture That Embraces Change

By: Narendra Rana, August 14, 2014

Organizations must continuously evolve in order to stay relevant in today’s shifting landscape of competition and market forces. The need to adapt is crucial for global expansion, global operation, and capturing deal value from partnerships and acquisitions.

Most companies develop strategic and tactical plans in an attempt to navigate these volatile conditions, but few realize that there is a huge risk of failure unless they also create a culture that supports change as an integral part of business.

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How to create a change-ready culture

Companies must cultivate an environment where people are aligned with the success of the organization and with one another. Any effort that involves transformation can only be as successful as the people implementing it. Many companies look only at what’s being changed – technologies, business processes and organizational hierarchies – rather than at the people who make the change happen. For a company to effectively drive a new strategy, collaboration across functions and commitment to common goals is essential.

Change is often difficult, but it’s even more challenging for human systems because individual goals aren’t always in step with team or organizational goals. The magic ingredient in getting employees committed and collaborating toward a common goal is alignment. Good leaders structure individual incentives to align with personal motivations and team performance, and they foster a culture of ownership and cooperation. Transformational leaders go a step further and inspire a shared vision, bringing employees into the process of architecting change instead of just implementing it. This creates a culture of collectivity within the organization—the first step in making it change-ready.

Investing in change

After setting the foundation for a change-ready culture, organizations need to invest in building employees’ capabilities for managing the new culture. Without getting teams and individuals culturally competent, even the best-designed strategies will fall short of delivering expected performance.

To become truly change-ready, companies should develop team-led competencies that encourage collaborative behavior, invest in individual assessments and training, and facilitate cross-functional communication of aligned missions. These investments in people will reduce your risk of failure more than any other measure. Organizations that ignore these steps will see their teams falter while executing change—even in the presence of sound strategy—and ultimately this reflects failure of leadership.

Framework and execution

Most companies rely on a structured change management framework that starts with defining goals and ends with a feedback loop. Leadership should set very specific change management goals and include clearly-defined initiatives. For instance, let’s say your transformation goal is to become a more customer-friendly organization. One initiative toward achieving this goal could be to embrace a more consultative sales approach in place of traditional prospecting.

After assessing teams and individuals for adaptability to change and identifying any competency gaps, you need to invest in special training or workshops to build the necessary skills inside the organization. For each change initiative, it’s critical to employ the right people in the right roles. The next step is to manage any redeployment, relocation or release of team members that lack the right skills and competencies. Managers then map out the processes and work activities that need changing, and evaluate if any new systems or tools are required. An assessment of risks and impact of the planned changes is undertaken and mitigating measures are identified.

The path to managing change starts with building a culture that embraces the need for change and then developing change-ready leaders and teams. The final but perhaps most definitive step is to build a sustainable process for execution, measurement and improvement of change initiatives. After that, you will have a culture that understands, embraces and effects change when needed.

Corporate Culture Under Construction

By: Darby Fazekas, August 7, 2014

Whether you are traveling ten miles or a thousand, there is a sign no driver wants to see:

Construction Zone Ahead.

Typically, this unwelcome notification is accompanied by others, such as: Reduce Speed, Road Work Next 5 Miles, Right Lane Closed, Be Prepared to Stop and the dreaded Detour! Most travelers don’t view these construction signs with enthusiasm. They don’t envision the finished project or appreciate the resources being spent to improve their road system. Instead, they are consumed with frustration over the impact this inconvenience is having on their journey.

Similar reactions occur when employees experience their Corporate Culture Under Construction. There are slowdowns, roadblocks and detours away from current work methods and processes while new information and practices are put into play. Initial enthusiasm toward a cultural shift is often squelched because change takes time, knowledge, resources and practice.

In order to reduce employee frustration and optimize results, leadership must manage cultural change efficiently. Company leaders should objectively measure the following:

  1. The gap between what your corporate culture is and what you are striving for it to become. On the highway, if a sign says Road Work Next 5 Miles, the expectation is vastly different than if the sign says Road Work Next 20 Miles. Know the distance your company needs to travel to reach its desired culture. Then, inform your employees so they have the proper perspective and expectations.
  2. The key behaviors: Response to Change and Openness to Learning. If people have been driving to work the same way for several years and now construction traffic slows them down, some will look for an alternate route while others will feel more comfortable sticking with their familiar routine. Leaders can more effectively guide their workforce through a transition by knowing who is and isn’t comfortable with learning new things and which employees are most open to change.
  3. The Engagement level of your team and organization. A person who takes pride in his or her community and shows enthusiasm for improvements will more easily accept the extra time or effort it takes to negotiate construction traffic. The same is true for an engaged employee. Very simply put, an engaged employee puts forth more effort than one who isn’t engaged (ambivalent) or who is actively disengaged.

If your company is investing in a cultural change, take time to set the proper expectations for your workforce. Give them fair warning that they have entered a “construction zone” and let them know they may have to reduce their speed or navigate a short-term detour. Above all, encourage and challenge employees to embrace the new company vision. Traveled wisely, time spent in the construction zone can actually strengthen your team and company in the end.

Organizational Change – From Burden to Blessing

By: Pamela Walters, July 31, 2014

When the business landscape changes, concerns often emerge about whether or not organizations will continue to meet their long-term growth goals. Senior management realizes that if the ship is not steered in the right direction, the company will flounder. Experts are brought in to explore options, risks, and opportunities. Discussions ensue about which product lines to expand or contract, and about delivery system changes, structure adjustments and emerging markets. Options are considered, statistical analyses presented, and assignments given. However, the most complex aspect of planning and implementing change centers around the workforce—a company’s most valuable asset in carrying out its vetted strategy.

Word gets out to employees about moves that must occur to ensure the health of the organization. Reaction by staff is varied as they process the proposed changes. Initially, the ideas sound reasonable. Closer analysis yields concerns, though, such as how to keep up demand while experiencing a new learning curve. Or how well senior management will understand the complexity of operational challenges that employees face. Or how much leniency will be given for mistakes made in the process.

So how do employees, managers and leaders remain open-minded and successfully navigate that which seems ominous? They must persist through the stages of change.

For an individual, personal growth and improvement is painful yet it yields a high sense of accomplishment. Consider mountain climbers who meticulously prepare for unplanned events and who knowingly subject themselves to physical and mental duress. They gain perspective, in a manner that few will ever experience, and through the process they learn how to push through pain to find focus, purpose and renewed vigor to chart a meaningful life course.

Pushing through the changes allows achievers to be unencumbered, receptive, and skilled. There is something about accomplishment that no longer is viewed as an event to overcome but as a stepping stone to the next experience.

As a business, how do you take the first step on this adventure? Draft 3-5 crisp vision statements describing how you will be shaped by the experience, such as:

  • I will be skilled at qualifying business opportunities through learning a diagnostic needs assessment approach. Prospects and clients will view me as a trusted advisor capable of solving their problems.
  • Through skilled use of new analytical tools, I will provide quick and decisive answers when negotiating contracts.
  • I will demonstrate measurable progress within 12 months to prepare for a management role.
  • I will achieve more yes’s and fewer no’s.

Stand tall and be that conditioned corporate soldier who achieves critical assignments due to keen focus and purpose. Rely on your teammates to optimize accomplishment. Commitment takes courage but it has a big payoff, both personally and organizationally. Be assured that with time and effort, the clouds of ambiguity will part and you will achieve goals, get timely results, influence buyers and see your customers serviced with excellence.

Sidebar: Feeling stuck? Here are a few self-coaching ideas:

  • One step… one day at a time
  • Ask questions
  • Step-up
  • Lean In
  • Celebrate the daily progress made, no matter how small
  • Do the next thing!
  • Read your personal vision statements aloud with passion