Monday, 14 March 2016

The Art of Having Difficult Conversations at Work - Focus on the Behaviour not the Person

If you're a manager who feels that they spend 80% of their time dealing with 20% of their team members then you’re not alone. Often manager and supervisors can feel a little overwhelmed in how to deal with this effectively.

In our workshop Managing The Unmanageable, we offer the B.E.E.F. model that you can use to structure your conversation. In the first of four consecutive articles, lets begin by looking at behaviour.

Behaviour: Tell them exactly what the problem behaviour is. Remember that this may be the first time that anyone has pointed out to them that this behaviour is inappropriate. Or they may have fooled themselves into thinking that it is appropriate because no one has called them on it. It may take time for this new information to sink in. To help them out:

      - Introduce the problem with a clear statement
            - Be specific on what the issue is
-     - Select the most important issue and deal with that first

Remember also that, in order to avoid triggering a flight or fight response, it is key to keep the conversation focused on the problem and not to inadvertently stray into making the conversation about them as the individuals. This is harder than it sounds and requires discipline from you.

           - Avoid charged phrases such as “you are not measuring up” or “this is unacceptable”;

- Avoid shortcuts like “you’re slacking off” and continue to paint he full picture: for example, “when you left the work unfinished it left the project in jeopardy because …”

- Avoiding a reference to emotion at this stage, especially the emotions of others who are not present. For example “you offended Dianne when you made that comment” can allow the employee to debate the impact of the comment and Dianne’s reaction. This kind of comment is likely to be met with “well, she never said anything to me about it.”

       To check out more on the Managing the Unmanageable program click the link Managing the Unmanageable

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

The Mark of a Leader - Did Cam Newton Quit?

A lot has been written and spoken about Cam Newton's performance at Super Bowl 50 ... and he's come in for a lot of criticism. So having let the dust settle I thought I'd take a look at Cam Newton's performance from the standpoint of him being a leader and not just quarterback of the Carolina Panthers.

Now I admire Cam Newton's ability as an NFL quarterback, I like the way he plays the game, the Dab dance celebration, his enthusiasm is infectious. I mean he's the NFL MVP this season .. what's not to like? 

However, the more I reflect on the Super Bowl, the more I feel that unwittingly Cam Newton may have taught us all a salutary lesson in leadership.

Two instances stick in my mind - the pivotal sack and stripping of the ball by Von Miller in the fourth quarter and the press conference after the game. Let's consider the sack first.

It's late in the fourth quarter, the Panthers trail by six points and are backed up in the own end of the field. The ball is snapped, Newton drops back to pass and the Denver Broncos defence, as they had all game, converge on Newton with Von Miller stripping the ball away. The ball is loose on the ground, bodies flying to recover and Newton hesitates .... the Broncos recover the ball and a couple of plays later they score a touchdown and the game is over.

Newton later gave his reasons for not diving on the ball, all well and good, however, it got me thinking ... if the play had happened at the other end of the field with the Panthers threatening a game tying touchdown would he have dived on the ball then. We will never know for sure, but I have to admit I think he would. I feel that the Denver defence had got to Newton not just physically but mentally and at that point in the game he was at a loss what to do. So far this season everything had gone Newton's way, he was the MVP of the league, but at that point in the game he wasn't as sure of himself and he backed away from the challenge before him.

Lesson #1 - Toughing it out when the going gets tough

As a leader it's easy to be on the top of your game when everything is going well, everyone looks up to you, your team members and peers praise you. However, when the chips are down and things are not going well, it's easy to shrink back and look to others. But this is exactly the time when your colleagues are looking to you to stand tall.

Okay onto the second instance, the post match press conference. All season Newton had been a charismatic and talkative player in front of the press, in fact leading up to the Super Bowl he'd led the press like a modern day pied piper. However, following the game he sat with his hoodie pulled up, one and two word answers to the press corps questions. His reasoning, he doesn't like losing. Now I'm familiar with the old adage - show me someone who likes losing and I'll show you a loser, but as the leader and public face of the Carolina Panthers there was an onus on Newton to stand-up and answer the questions that came his way, instead he came across to me as a sulking star, if he'd had a stuffy he probably would have thrown it.

Lesson #2 - Not standing up and taking responsibility

There are times as a leader when you need to stand up and be counted. It may not be easy or pleasant but it comes with the territory to step up and take responsibility. Many of us who've been in leadership roles may often have wished that we could pull a hoodie over our head, but circumstances and our teams needed us to step forward. People remember the leaders who do and those who don't. I remember one organization I worked with when a senior leader left work early the day his team were told they were being laid off, leaving it to his deputy to make announcement and manage the fall out. At least Can Newton hadn't stooped that low!
Lesson #3 - Learn from your mistakes  

Hopefully Newton learns from this, as leaders we don't always get it right, however we can learn from our mistakes and seek to be even better next time around. Leaders aren't perfect, they're often doing the best they can with what they have in front of them.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

The Incomplete Little Prince

Guest blogger Ken Cameron, from Corporate CultureSHIFT, gives his thoughts on Dynamic Incompleteness. 
There's a wonderful metaphor in Theatre Calgary's world premiere production of Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry The Little Prince.
 The Pilot, who has crashed in the Sahara desert, is accosted by The Little Prince from outer space. The Prince insists that the pilot draw him a sheep.
 But every time The Little Prince is always dissatisfied with The Pilot's poor attempt at sheep-drawing. The Pilot's sheeps are either too old, too young, or otherwise not to The Prince's unspoken specifications.
 The Prince is not able to define what he wants, but he is certainly capable of saying what he DOESN'T want
Finally, in frustration, The Pilot draws a square and says "the sheep you're looking for is inside that box".
 The Little Prince is thrilled! He finally has the sheep he has the drawing of a sheep that he has always desired! He spends a lot of time from then on telling the pilot what the sheep is doing inside the box.
This is an example of what business writer Chris McGoff calls "dynamic incompleteness".

"Great leaders bring just enough vision to move and inspire people. They present their vision and invite others to contribute their ideas to fill in the gaps."

The next time you're bringing an idea forward to your team, be sure not to overthink it.
 Be sure not to fill in all the gaps.
 Leave room for your audience to use their own imagination.
 Allow them to see room for themselves in your vision.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

The Fallacy About Group Consensus in Consultation

I was working with a group recently and the discussion turned to a recent consultation exercise the organization had run last year. Many of the group were unhappy with the outcome decided upon by the Senior Management Team, a familiar refrain "Management didn't listen to us!" was heard around the room.

I probed a little deeper about what had happened ... "We were asked for our views" I was told, "But Management didn't listen...", "I didn't agree with their decision ...", "It wasn't the outcome I wanted ...".

"What were you expecting from a consultation exercise?" I asked. It transpired that what many people expected was to be asked their opinion and then management to implement a proposal that everyone agreed on, even though not everyone agreed on THE solution. It seemed to me that people had got themselves a little bogged down in what consensus following a consultation exercise actually is.

So I referred people to the explanation of consensus provided by Chris McGoff in his book "The Primes". Chris describes consensus as the following ...

"Process Satisfaction: Was the process used explicit, rational and fair?

Personal Treatment: Were you, personally, treated well? Did you have ample opportunity to be heard, to make your opinion known and to consider others opinions?

Outcome Satisfaction: Can you live with the outcome and commit to supporting the decisions of the group?"

Note the distinction in this last point between "live with" and "agree with". You don't have to agree with everything, but can you live with the decision?

Having explained Chris McGoff's thought process I asked them to review the recent consultation process in light of the Consensus Prime. Upon reflection the group, with a couple of exceptions, believed that the process had been fair, they had been listened to and they could live with the outcome. As one participant commented if "I'd known that consensus didn't necessairly mean agreement, this would have been an easier ride".

So perhaps a learning point for all ... be clear what you mean by consensus when consulting with your employees.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know your thoughts.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Are Appraisal's finished?

Picture this, it is the final quarter of the year and a manager's mind turns towards annual ritual that is the year end appraisal. Now I don't know about you but many employees and their managers dread this event. Research I undertook in 2012/3 found that of the 30+ companies I spoke to, respondents indicated that they felt that the appraisal systems utilized in their company was disproportionately expensive to administer, overly complex and a bureaucratic box ticking exercise that often failed to deliver value.
Although it was never intended this way, too many employees found that performance feedback from their manager wasn't always forthcoming during the year and it wasn't unusual for performance issues to be raised at the year end and the conversation would deteriorate into an 'argument' over a numeric performance rating, rather than a constructive discussion on past and future performance. Interestingly this was more prevalent in larger companies, with complex performance management systems, in comparison with smaller companies with a less formal. As one respondent said, "We don't really have a performance management system, I simply review individual and team objectives with my team each week and we work on areas which need extra support or assistance."
But since then have organizations taken the opportunity to rethink the way organizations assess and manage performance?
The Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) highlighted that midway last year services firm Accenture decided to scrap the annual appraisal for it's employees, joining companies such as Microsoft and Gap in moving towards a more informal methodology for feeding back on performance achievement. In addition companies such as Google, Facebook and Netflix have scrapped appraisals entirely. 
However, those companies doing away with formal appraisals aren’t abandoning performance management entirely. A culture of more regular, informal feedback was often the approach being used. By managers pointing out problems as they arise, employees have the opportunity to address issues proactively to make an immediate difference to the business. In our workshop Managing the Unmanageable we focus on developing and supporting managers to do just this in a supportive way.
However simply getting rid of appraisal reviews won't solve the problem, as CIPD, CEO, Peter Cheese says: “If you’ve got managers who think their job is telling people what to do, and beating staff up all the time, then just stripping out the formal procedures won’t work. You’ve got to build the organization’s dynamics to create a more trusting environment.”
What's your experience of annual appraisals?