5 Reasons to Go The Extra Mile and Live Your Best Life

87681979For many years I aimed to go the extra mile in terms for customers and was extremely successful.

Setting a vision and outcomes in a working environment, it was pretty easy to set stretching and challenging objectives, not only to meet customer expectations, but to exceed them.

As I matured as a leader I began to realise that the jewels in my crown were my team and without them I simply wasn’t able to achieve what I wanted. I also realised that I needed to go the extra mile for them also, and sometimes unfortunately the ways I wanted to reward and motivate them weren’t always in my power. But what I could do was encourage, engage and give them as much as I could to help them do their job really well.

I would like to put my hands up and say I have always gone the extra mile for my family, both my children and my siblings. It hasn’t always been the case though. Don’t get me wrong, we are a tight knit family and care about each other a lot. I tend to go the extra mile on birthdays, Christmases and holidays. Family occasions feature highly. But do I go the extra mile all of the time?  Probably not, but I am working on it.   (Don’t we so often take our nearest and most loved people for granted?)

In my business I am determined to go the extra mile for my connections, customers and clients, and sometimes it can be a challenge to find out what will make people feel that they have received a brilliant service. Years ago, one of my stock answers would be to of course “Ask them”. That’s a good tactic, although we can get stuck in asking the wrong questions.

So for example asking what people want as an outcome is good: Better than trying to tell them what they need for sure. The really effective question though is along the lines of “What would make you believe that you had received the best and most excellent service from my company?”

Short of asking people, the next strategy is to observe. Try different things and see what delights people. Gauge reaction and be innovative.  Just seeing how people respond is valuable information!

I believe adopting the philosophy of going the extra mile is a great way of living, and there are for me five main reasons why everyone should consider living their lives by going the extra mile.

Going the Extra Mile:

  1. Makes you think hard about your contribution and the difference you are making. Our world is a matrix of giving and receiving. By going the extra mile you are bringing a sense of purposefulness into sharp focus.
  2. Surprises and delights people, and it’s always good to be a positive influence
  3. Increases your own energy. Energy breeds energy and the additional effort it takes to go the extra mile, helps you to increase your energy, output and commitment
  4. Attracts great energy back to you. What you give out, you get back. It was Newton who said “for every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction”
  5. Sets a great benchmark for yourself and others to aspire to.
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7 Essential Steps To Create A Winning People Strategy

 154965544A people strategy is essential if a business wants to drive up performance and get the best out of their people.

Underpinning business outcomes with a people strategy can be a pretty smart move.  Too often, business plans, aims and goals are set without any corresponding detail describing how people will help to deliver and achieve what the business has set out to do.

Developing a people strategy mustn’t be confused with an HR strategy.  Lack of understanding about terminology can make or break the success of a strategy, particularly around your people.   Too often an HR strategy is focussed on transactional and policy functions and this dilutes the emphasis about developing strategies to make sure the right people in the right roles deliver the right outcomes, in the right time.

In reality though it matters not what the strategy is called, except that it must be about people and not HR processes or transactions.   Making sure everyone is on the same page in respect of terminology being used when developing strategy is absolutely crucial.  A great people strategy will not only increase the odds of, but also accelerate the speed of, success.

Following these seven steps will help to maintain focus on what is needed to develop a great people strategy.

1.      Horizon scans internally and externally

Horizon scanning should not be a one-off event which is carried out to inform a proposed strategy, but an on-going knowledge/news bank preserved within a pre-determined framework to make sure new factors are identified at the earliest opportunity.  Organisations benefit from ensuring future scanning is a cultural norm.

There are a variety of horizon scanning models, used to pull external information together.  It is worth researching to find the best fit, but STEEP (PEST) is one of the most commonly used formats.

2.     Understand the business and its people

It is crucial the organisation’s business objectives, priorities and constraints are understood inside out. If the people strategy is being developed through the HR Department, then it’s essential that HR are involved in the formation and decision making of overall business strategy.   This is because HR will understand the capacity, capabilities and current potential of the people and such insights can temper and shape expectations around outcomes and any timelines being worked to.

3.      Establish the top five priorities

Establishing the top five people priorities is a key step, as they will contribute directly to help deliver on desired business outcomes and priorities.  Required cultural changes should not be sidestepped.  Quite often “the way we do things round here” can sabotage the most exacting and thought out outcome based people strategy.   Being tempted to include more than five priorities can be counterproductive, and using a Pareto Principle approach is more effective.  Too much detail dilutes efforts, while a vital few things will create the biggest impact.

4.      Involve others and share widely to gain maximum input at all stages

If HR is developing the strategy, make sure it is not perceived as being “owned” by HR.  The business must own the people strategy. The name must be carefully chosen, so it represents inclusion of everyone in the organisation.  Call it, the “people plan” or the “people element of the business plan”.

Involving as many people as possible is crucial to the success right at the formative stage.  Using focus groups made up of a cross-section of employees, employee representatives and external customers is an effective way to capture ideas and feedback.  Take constructive suggestions on board and if you don’t act on them, explain why.

5.      Benchmark across both industry specific and Non-specific companies

Identifying innovative and emerging people practices across a range of industries can help develop great ideas and create achievable standards and benchmarks.   Finding out about success stories in alternative industries can invoke creative and “out of the box” thinking and can lead to fresh parameters around best practice or introduce new processes.

6.      Monitor and measure progress

Setting specific, measureable, attainable, relevant and timely (SMART) criteria is essential to measure success.  Put in place a credible, simple and easy-to-compile measurement system to track progress in hitting specific goals. Link any people outcomes clearly with business outcomes   Monitor results using measureable milestones.

7.  Produce a user friendly working document in simple language

Present the final strategy in employee-friendly language so that everyone both inside and outside of the organisation can understand it. If it doesn’t fit on two sides of A4 paper at most, it’s too long and so will be put in a drawer and forgotten about. A teenager should be able to understand it.  Check it against the Flesch–Kincaid readability test which gives some ideas about how plain the English should be.

 

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7 Key Questions Astute Interviewers Should Ask Potential Candidates

 149045925 (1)Probing Questions can really dig out the best candidate for any job.

I was the recruitment campaign manager for a busy organisation in South East London for several years.  At that time, recruitment was a little like painting the Forth Bridge, it was a continuous task.  Not only was it difficult to consistently attract that elusive star candidate, but, an abundance of jobs and competitive salaries meant people moved on and up pretty quickly.

In those days the recruitment process was relatively simple, in that it consisted of  the candidate sending an application in the post and then being invited to face to face interviews.  I was trained in interviewing skills and had to reach a certain standard, you either passed or you were sent home in shame.   I was videoed, given detailed feedback and trained in past behavioral questioning techniques. Simplistically this meant acquiring the knack of helping the candidate enlarge on key specific examples which displayed whether or not they met the criteria we were looking for.

For the majority of jobs, the key criteria consisted of some pretty simple requirements too. For example, what the candidate considered when they made decisions, whether the candidate  took the initiative, made a difference, got on with the rest of the team and achieved results. There were more, but you get the picture. Although skill based criteria also had to be met, the main focus was about behaviours.

I took a break from interviewing for a couple of years, only to find that when I took up the reins again, it had all changed. Competence based interviewing had become the norm and the candidate expected an entirely different assessment process.

Always open minded about how to do things better, I embraced the concept, and learned all about the intricacy of competence standards, levels of competence, assessments, test and psychometrics.  Pretty complex stuff, and as things have evolved it can be pretty lengthy too.  One set of assessments I was involved in (I didn’t design it, I hasten to add) lasted three days.

Still, if it meant getting the right candidate, then time well spent.  Competency based assessment was fairer, the new thinking exclaimed, because it concentrated on the skillset, mind-set and knowledge.  Competency based interviewing would get the right people in the right job.   Right?

The problem is though; I don’t actually think it did.  When I think back to the type of people I recruited under past behaviour questioning, I hired people who took the initiative, made sound decisions, taking all the information into account.  They dealt with difficult people with skill, and were team players.   Very few got through the net that didn’t live up to their promise.  Because when they were expertly questioned in detail about what they did in certain circumstances, it was difficult for them to make it up.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think skill and knowledge is important too. I just think that quite often we choose people simply on qualifications, skills and knowledge and the skill in determining their propensity to behave in certain ways has become a bit of a lost art.

What is really needed is a qualitative combination of both competence and past behaviour.  Then the odds of getting the right candidate, has greatly increased by recruiting people with the right skills and the right behaviours.

So when recruiting, employers must of course set up the right selection method to get the right skills, competences and knowledge.

If it were me though, interviewing a key candidate, I would make a point of knowing the answers to the following questions, and if answered in the right way, I would be pretty sure I had the right person for the job.

1. Why this job? 

Tests, purpose, alignment with your vision and values, and how much they have found out about the job, and why they think it fits them.

2. What is your most significant achievement at work?

Tests, effort, capacity for achievement, as well as an awareness of their ability to make a difference.  It demonstrates their expectations about their contribution, and their ability to deliver results.

3.  How did you contribute value to your team?

Demonstrates an understanding and awareness of being a team player and the way they, as individuals, play a part in making the team work.

4. Give me an example of a time when you recognised an improvement in the workplace was needed and what you did about it

Shows their ability to take the initiative, recognise problems and how they take responsibility to put them right – they are part of the solution

5. Give me an example of the most difficult person you’ve encountered at work   and what you did

Demonstrates how they relate to others and their ability to handle difficult people

6. What has been your greatest learning curve at work?

Shows how they recognise and learn from situations or mistakes

7. Give me an example of when you have worked under pressure and what you did to manage the situation

Will show how they manage, if they take responsibility, are prepared to go the extra mile, and their attitude when the going gets tough.

There is a technique about how to give candidates the best opportunity to answer, such as allowing them time to remember, reframing questions and prompting them to explore their past.  Additionally, once they have got a specific example, its important to get them to talk about what they did, what they said and why.  This takes patience and great listening skills, as well as an ability to ask the same question in different ways.

 

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What If Everything Was OK?

blog pic 2What if things were really ok?

Two nights ago, I went swimming.  It was an activity I had been looking forward to all day.  I usually go quite late because it tends to be more peaceful and as I swim I can ruminate and contemplate.

Tired and tense for the first 10 lengths or so, instead or relaxing, I found my mind worrying about a number of pieces of work I had still to complete. The anticipated peaceful relaxing swim was eluding me

As I carried on, I remembered a technique I use quite frequently with clients.  It is the “What if” frame.  It’s a well-known Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) technique used to help people tap into their imagination and explore situations they otherwise might consider being impossible.   It is usually used to break down limiting beliefs.

For example, a friend of mine loves his sales job, but confessed once he sometimes felt frustrated because never seemed to earn more than £50k annually.  He had never exceeded this figure and was convinced it wouldn’t get any better.  When I asked why he thought that was, he explained he didn’t think the number of customers were available to exceed that limit.

I recognised his frustration because he had simply hit a limiting belief.  I asked “What If you wereable to find ways to exceed earnings of 50k?”  What would you have done differently, and what else could you do?  He furrowed his brow and started thinking.  What this technique does, is lift a person over the “I can’t” barrier, and helps open up possibilities, to incorporate ideas and suggestions, to achieve a different outcome.

Asking “what if” can be a powerful way to get your creative juices flowing.  So when my daughter’s friend was planning her wedding, she floundered about the kind of venue she wanted and the colour of the bridesmaid’s dresses etc.   So I asked her “what if, you had the wedding of your dreams, what would the surroundings look like?”  This and questions like it helped her to begin to describe her highest desires.  From there, she was able to begin to imagine and thus describe what would work for her.

When swimming, two nights ago, I didn’t need to use my imagination, or break down my limiting beliefs.  On the contrary, my imagination was working overtime, and it was my lack of limiting beliefs, (I know only too well the possibilities open to me!), that were actually overwhelming me and making me feel stressed.  So when the “ What if ” came to my mind it was in a different context again.

As I swam, I recalled the final way I use “What if” exercises with clients, which helps them to get in touch with feelings.  Used in this way asking “what if ” is used to switch feelings.  If you are feeling low because you are scared something isn’t going to happen, or things haven’t worked out in the first place, the state you are creating can become like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

For example, you’ve applied for a job, but you didn’t get through the last job interview, and your confidence took a dent.  Your anxiety about failing and the pressure you feel to be successful this time round simply intensifies.   You worry about it for days beforehand, and by the time you get in front of the interview panel, you are so nervous, they can’t help but wonder if actually you are up to the job because you have been wringing your hands, and stammered your way all through the interview, simply because your anxiety took over.

If, before the interview, you had asked yourself the question, “What if I were successful at getting this job?”  You imagine what it would feel like and get in touch with the joy, excitement, gratitude and enthusiasm you would experience.  If you took that experience/state into the interview room, believe me, your interviewers would also have a completely different experience of interviewing you.

Ten minutes into my swimming session, I simply asked myself.  “What if everything was OK?”  I immediately stopped worrying, the knots in my back started to relax, and suddenly my state felt peaceful.  As I swam on, I realised the worst thing I can do is not take my own advice.  What was almost certainly going to turn out a most stressful hour of battling against feeling overwhelmed and anxious, completely switched.  I realised if everything was OK, I could enjoy this hour, and simply unwind and relax.   So I transformed the next fifty minutes.

Why not transform your next hour and imagine “What if, everything was OK?”

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Managers – Is Your Performance Appraisal Regime Credible?

managersManagers who operate a credible performance appraisal regime will achieve the best results

Whether your performance appraisal system is newly introduced or has been operating for some years, a common issue for many organisations is whether or not it is credible with employees, stakeholders and customers.

Gaining credibility is absolutely vital if your performance system is linked to pay and reward  particularly.   The following 7 steps set out how you can gain the trust and confidence of all.

1. Your system is clear about the elements of performance to be reviewed and those elements which count towards a performance rating.

Not all performance will count towards a rating.  Managers might be required  to evaluate a number of different aspects of performance such as giving an individual feedback on their skill set, their ability to apply knowledge, or how they do their work.

A performance rating, on the other hand, will likely be  based on employee contribution usually measured against whether they have achieved pre-determined objectives or specific tasks that are linked to business objectives.

2.   Feedback is grounded in facts and expressed impersonally

The review is likely to include both objective and subjective feedback.  Objective feedback is about facts, data and evidenced information. Subjective feedback is likely to be  relational and can be skewed by individual opinion. It is important that managers understand when giving subjective feedback they deal with behaviours, not personalities.  So for example.   “You are rude and it upsets the customers”, would be better expressed “What you said upset the customer and it resulted in a formal complaint”.

Some performance appraisal systems lose credibility because managers rate their employees based on subjective criteria.  Some poor behaviours can be clear cut, but more subtle problems can be subjective, for example in the above situation, one customer might have simply taken something said in all innocence the wrong way.

3. Understand different personalities have different needs

Managers benefit from being aware of their own and others’ different personality types. Understanding type is easy and an essential skill in a manager’s toolkit.  Simple understanding can save much conflict, resistance and misunderstanding, as people respond differently to differing styles of giving and receiving feedback depending on their individual needs.

4. Focus on conflict resolution

Unless you have a team made in heaven, inevitably, giving performance feedback has the potential to create conflict.  If managers understand their own conflict resolution style they can identify those likely situations and understand the best way to prevent, identify and resolve conflicts.

5. Ensure effective quality control

A credible quality control system is essential if performance pay is linked to performance review.  This might include for example:

  • Ensuring that HR or third party managers undertake independent reviews of findings
  • Introducing focus groups that can anonymously challenge results and ratings on behalf of both teams and/or individuals.

While some of these ideas may be time-consuming, they will prove worthwhile if individual or legal challenges are eliminated.

6. Sell the benefits

Sell the benefits of measuring and rewarding performance, eliminate the impression it is a “tick box” activity.  Celebrate success when the  system works, making it clear the objective is to help get the best out of people, give them credit for work done well, as well as boosting  performance and results.

Conversely, be careful not to let the system become identified with a hire-and-fire mentality. If you have big performance issues, sort them out separately and immediately, not through the performance management system. The performance management system should be seen as a tool to improve performance rather than to exit people.

7. Provide clear guidance

Make sure that your guidance, policies and procedures are simple and transparent so that everyone can understand and sign up to them.

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Great Leadership: The Dynamics Of Workplace Bullying

BullyingBullying or alleged bullying is always stressful

I don’t think I have ever been in a work situation where there has not been at least some discussion about whether behaviours can be construed as bullying.  I have been in some where bullying has occurred and people have experienced being bullied and it’s not pleasant.

In the CIPD Employee Outlook Survey 2010, 16% of people surveyed said they thought bullying by their line manager had increased due to the economic downturn and frankly I’m not surprised.   In the last Civil Service People Survey in 2011, 9% of employees said they had experienced bullying, although of those, only 28% said the bullying behaviour had been from their line manager.  It seems the allegation of bullying is not exclusively a line manager phenomenon.

In my own experience I have experienced “bullying behaviour” from line managers, customers and colleagues.   I have witnessed many allegations of bullying; some warranted and some not so.   Personally I’ve never been accused of bullying, it’s easy to perceive assertive behaviour as bullying when employees aren’t used to it, and I bet some of my actions could well have been construed as such with certain people, and in certain circumstances.

Bullying has a particular dynamic and it’s often not clear cut, which is why so much of the behaviour isn’t tackled adequately in the workplace.  Some of the dynamics of bullying I have witnessed are:

Bullying or being bullied is

  • An abuse of and giving up of power

Bullying behaviour is an assertion of power over someone else.  Mostly such behaviour is saying “I am more important than you and I know better” It’s a superiority trap, and it is borne of a fear of lack of inner power.

Being bullied is a giving up of power.  No-one can bully anyone without their permission.  If you believe in yourself and know your own worth, nothing anyone can say will shake your foundation.  When anyone accepts bullying behaviour, even though it can be difficult situation to grasp; they are giving up their power.

  • Rarely a conscious intention and can sometimes come as a surprise to both people involved.

Countless times I have witnessed people who have carried out bullying behaviour become extremely upset and appalled when they realise the effect they are having.  When you encounter such a reaction you know the behaviour will stop.

Sometimes I have witnessed a denial and astonishment that their behaviour could be construed as bullying.  These people have work to do, but awareness of their effect on others is often the starting point to change the behaviour forever.

People who are on the receiving end of bullying behaviour are often shocked at how vulnerable they are and how upsetting the behaviour is to them personally.  They are often ferocious in their condemnation of the “bully” and aghast at how awful any human being could act towards another.

  • A dynamic which springs from fear of not being good enough on both sides

Someone displaying bullying behaviour is using the dynamic of force onto someone else.  Anyone who has to use force on another is fearful of their ability to negotiate, influence or gain the co-operation, understanding, approval or help from another.

Someone who feels bullied by someone else feels dis empowered to deal with the behaviour in order to achieve a positive outcome, and/or has an unconscious fear they are not good enough and that the bully might have a point.

  • A denial of the possibility of caring for each other

Caring about each other is our natural state.  Whenever we are not caring about other people we are in disassociation or denial about who we really are at our core.  The dynamic of bullying and being bullied is a blatant opposite dynamic of our natural inner urge to care about each other.

Often a bullying dynamic occurs because both” perpetrator and victim” don’t believe in the possibility of another caring enough about them to hear the other.

  • A dynamic of blame

When bullying behaviour surfaces; it is as a result of an inability to have the courage to take  personal responsibility on both sides.    The perpetrator is either consciously or unconsciously trying to change or intimidate the “victim” because they are “wrong”.  The person on the receiving end inevitably feels no choice but  to see the behaviour as an attack on them rather than see the fear or lack of awareness in the person displaying the behaviour.

While I have observed those behaviours, I also have to say that whenever either real or alleged bullying behaviour occurs it is always unacceptable, and always ugly to watch because there is always an impact.  Quite often assertive behaviour can be seen as bullying and often assertive people can be subjected to behaviour which can be designed to get them to submit to another.   Even in those situations, getting into the “who is right and who is wrong” debate is futile.

Bullying in the workplace must never be ignored, and there should always be a zero tolerance approach to such behaviour.  Tackling bullying should be implicit in all leadership and management learning programmes.

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Managing Performance Is An Emotional Business – Isn’t It? – Emotional Intelligence

emotional intelligenceGreat Leaders Have Emotional Intelligence:

One of the most important but underrated skills leaders and managers need to be able to manage performance well is emotional intelligence.  If you are predominately a thinking leader then you may well be sceptical about emotional intelligence, but please bear with me.

Three categories of performance management

If you are like most organisations the hierarchy of performance management falls into three broad categories:

People who:

a)      Underperform

b)      Perform averagely/competently

c)      Perform over and above requirements

A number of organisations give more focus to under-performance and over-performance.  Why?  Because unchecked under-performance permeates the rest of the organisation and multiplies as it impacts on every member of the team.  Over-performance cries out to be recognised.  Quite often organisations depend on and excel because of star performers, and with a mixture of gratitude and desire to keep performance at that level, reward systems are introduced.

The Employment Practices report by Xperthr which can be found here shows for nearly 70% of people surveyed, action for poor performance was taken for less than 5% of employees.   Although I don’t particularly subscribe to bell curve comparisons, some latest models advocate average rates of over-performance equate to some 16% of total workforce.  If you add both together then you are talking about 21% of your employees.   If you do the maths, there is a possibility that up to 79% of your employees are average or competent performers.

So yes, the figures are fairly subjective, but my guess is unless you are a top performer in your industry it’s likely that the majority of your people fall under the “average or competent performance” criteria.

As a performance manager you have distinct functions for each category of performer.  And you need to performance manage all of your people, not just extreme performers.   You will be more effective in achieving results if you use emotional intelligence techniques to enhance your management of each category.

Under-performance and emotional intelligence

Your aim is to either get your employee to perform to standard or to leave the organisation.  Whilst being very clear about your expectations in performing to standard; in order to avoid conflict and be effective, you need to be able to display at least two emotional skills:

a)      Detachment from the outcome.  In order to give your employee the best chance, you need to distance yourself from pre-empting the result.  If you do this, your employee will be able to self-select whether they are able to raise their game, or they will voluntarily leave as they know themselves they are in the wrong job.

b)      Put aside your feelings.  Quite often, poor performers cause you headaches and it’s common to assume an attitude about them.  Or conversely you worry about the consequences for them and this inhibits being assertive.  It is understandable, because under-performers increase stress levels, and utilise effort which could be directed elsewhere.  The majority of people who under-perform are just as horrified about the situation as you.  By putting aside your feelings and being impersonal and practical, you are in a position to listen and make sound win/win decisions.

Average performance and emotional intelligence

Managing is a stressful business and you have a multitude of tasks and issues to deal with; many decisions to make, planning to be done, well you don’t need me to tell you how busy it is.  The problem is, the majority of your people who don’t cause you problems, and get the work done are working in their comfort zone and it’s hard to find the time to raise the bar for them.  Your main task for this category is to use their talent, time and goodwill to drive up performance.   You can do this in a number of ways, but setting stretching objectives designed to drive up pockets of performance across the board is the key.  The EI skills needed to do this are:

a)      Put aside your limiting beliefs about your employees.  The biggest mistake is holding the belief that people have reached a limit of capability and capacity.  Often leaders make assumptions that people can’t or won’t do better.   But more often than not, if you genuinely believe in someone, and give them the right encouragement and support, they will rise to the challenge.

b)      Be patient about results.  We are creatures of habits.  When you raise expectations of your people, then it will take them a little while to change the way they have always done things.  If you are patient and encouraging and restate your belief in their ability to do better they will eventually get there and your business will benefit from all of that renewed effort.

Over-performance and emotional intelligence

I don’t know about you, but I have often nearly been on my knees with gratitude when self-starters have driven through tricky situations, or taken initiative and made my life easier, gotten great results and done a great job.  Given the choice wouldn’t we all like to have these people in our midst?  But while you need to hold the vibe of gratitude you need to remember your function for these people, and in this situation it is two-fold.  You need to reward great performance and you need to help these great performers get where they need to be. Hopefully that will be in a career in your company, but if it isn’t you still need to help them.  In order to achieve this effectively there are two attitudes you must hold and it takes some emotional maturity to achieve:

a)     Letting go.  Your star performers will more than likely move on.  One of the most emotionally intelligent stances you can achieve is recognising when someone you manage will likely progress their career further than yours.  Even trickier is realising that your star performer will move onto another business.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of limiting the help you give, or the development you make available to star performers, because they may leave taking all your investment with them.  But investment is never lost.  They will appreciate and give you accolades for the helping hand they received and your reputation as an employer of choice will grow.

b)     Understand each has their own path and guidance to follow.  I remember losing a star performer and thinking they were making a big mistake.  I also thought they were leaving for the wrong reasons.  I would like to say I used my emotional intelligence and gave them my blessing to leave, but I didn’t. I told them I thought they were making a mistake.  No much emotional intelligence there!  Did they change their mind? No.  They left and although a rocky road; they went on to even bigger and better things and leveraged change they might not have been able to had they stayed working for my company.  Respecting others’ own choices is key to great performance management, and in the long run your company will benefit, because your employees will know you have their best interests at heart.

 

 

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Do You Show Commitment? – Six Principles to Gain Trust

commitmentCommitment engenders trust

If you are a leader, you must gain the trust of your team if you are going to excel at getting results.  For some people, trust is gained over a period of time, and sometimes, time is not a commodity you have at your disposal, especially if you have been seconded into a role or brought in to spearhead a project for example which has limited time-span.  Commitment and the length of time you spend in your role can be a big deal for your followers as shown in the following example…..

After the retirement of a respected and long serving senior leader, his new bright-eyed replacement newly selected for the position visited the team.  The arrival of the thirty-something female whose career had been fast paced and widely reported was met with eager anticipation.  Not only was she completely different from the outgoing leader; she had a liveliness about her, which together with her highly acclaimed reputation, gave off an air of professional brilliance.

Upon her arrival, her new team were excited, hopeful and welcoming.   But the buoyant mood didn’t last. Within an hour the atmosphere had changed considerably.  In her opening speech, the new leader announced what she hoped to achieve in her time with the team, and in the same breath told them her intention was to stay for two years, by which time she would be moving on.

The team’s optimism was crushed.  In the new leader’s mind, she was being upfront and honest with them.  In their eyes she was planning her exit even before she had opened the entrance door, and she lacked commitment. The deciding factor for her followers was that the two years term suited the requirements of the wider organisation and had nothing to do with the leadership task at hand.

Whether you are committed or not may not be in question at all for you as a leader.  The question and the doubt raised by longevity in terms of your leadership might be more of an issue for your followers.

In this fast paced world, corporate and team leaders come and go.    Founder leaders of established companies are more likely to stay and give their followers welcome consistency.  There are many stories where founders have exited their leadership roles and their “dream” by selling out and moving on, only to find the business fails or falters within years, if not months, of their leaving.  Given the rate of change both in the business world and as our own goals and dreams change, what role does commitment play in our credibility as a leader?

I believe that whether you are trusted as a committed leader depends on many factors. As a leader you must fully understand the depth, length and purpose of the commitment required of you.  Additionally you need to be clear about the possibilities of your leadership term being terminated early for you, and the circumstances in which you might choose to leave before time.  Crucially, in the beginning, middle and end of your term of leadership you plan, communicate and position your intentions.

As a leader several principles are relevant in communicating and positioning your commitment in different circumstances.   Commitment is a crucial aspect of your leadership role which gives your followers the certainty they need to be able to develop a relationship with you and grow in trust.  You must position your particular leadership commitment so that you can manage expectations.

The principles are:

  • When appointed for a specific leadership challenge, be clear about your outcomes and be prepared to see it through to the end
  • When appointed for a specific task, determine the part or phase of the task you will lead on, how long that will take and exactly which outcomes you will be responsible for delivering.
  • If you aren’t sure you will be reappointed, commit to a dedication to the vision, values and mission of the company while you are there. Be clear about your leadership outcomes during your first term
  • Where you are founder, a dedication to your own values and vision and a promise to do all within your power to put in place a sustainable plan after you leave.
  • A commitment to your followers that you will do the best you can for them while you are there
  • A commitment to doing your absolute best no matter how long your term as a leader lasts

I had no doubt that the new leader described above was committed, albeit for a predetermined period.  In retrospect she could have positioned her commitment to two years with a clear vision about her legacy, and what she could do for her followers in that time.

If you lead your team it’s vital you position your commitment.  If you doubt your commitment to any role, no matter how long it is then your followers will pick this up.  What is true for everyone, whether in a leadership role or not, if you doubt your propensity to stay the course, then simply commit yourself for a day at a time.  In that way you will retain your focus as will those around you.

 

 

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7 Deadly Workplace Sins

workplaceWhatever your role in the workplace, I’m betting you would like to go to work and be able to do your best in an environment which is fun, productive, friendly, happy, inspirational and positive, makes a difference, and has a great reputation (oh and pays enough to give you a decent standard of living).

Would I win my bet?  If not, please contact me right away as I will be fascinated to know the reason why!

I’ve been in a minority at times given the grouches people have about their workplaces, as I have worked in teams where the qualities listed above have been achieved.  The problem is when you have a workplace which works really well, it’s usually rare, and doesn’t always last.

More frequently I’ve worked in places which haven’t been so positive, even though they may have aspired to be.

I’m a “towards” motivated person and am generally positive,  so am more likely to begin by describing my vision or the positive qualities a leader should obtain, or even what makes a great team.

The other day someone asked me what were the biggest sins committed by organisations or teams which prevent them from realising a “dream team”.  It’s not a place I start from very often so it got me thinking. The “sins” listed below are what I came up with.

Teams or organisations aren’t likely to create a dream team if they are guilty of the following 7 deadly workplace sins:

They

1. Don’t know what  a “great” workplace looks like and so lack vision

The problem is, if an organisation has never been great there is nothing to compare with.   Most businesses have great vision about profitability, levels of service, and external customer services and products.  What they often don’t have is a vision about how their team will be working together.  It’s a little like a workaholic working all the hours he can and paying no attention to his health, eventually he will collapse.

2. Are just “good enough” and don’t stretch themselves 

Being in their comfort-zone can be one of the biggest barriers to achieving greatness for an organisation.  If an organisation is achieving good enough results then the imperative to grow beyond and above the cultural norm might be fairly weak.  People need a good reason to up the game.

3. Concentrate on meeting targets instead of using targets as a tool for better service

Measures and metrics are brilliant and a must when used in context.  Unfortunately when an organisation values hitting targets and profits margins above great customer service or quality teamwork then the result is likely lack of sustainability.  When an organisation is focused on great customer service and getting the best out of the team, and targets are used as a tool to assist, the rest follows naturally.

4. Recruit based on competence instead of excellence

I know in recruitment circles, competency based recruitment is meant positively. Competencies have helped job sponsors be specific about the skills, behaviours and knowledge they need to select an effective candidate.  Competencies in themselves though are often not quite right.  They often fail to miss the “x” factor needed for certain jobs and again and again, I have seen people recruited who meet all the competencies, but interviewers know they aren’t right for the organisation, or a specific role.  The first question a great organisation should ask is:  How can we attract excellence to raise the bar in the organisation?

5. Competitiveness across teams is fostered

I’m all for a little healthy competitiveness.  Comparisons across results are a must. The problem comes when results become the bottom line.  End of month or annual results might earn a team or an individual a bonus, but quite often fantastic teams can’t get good results for a number of reasons.  It might be because they are doing the right things, but it takes longer to get better results in the long run for example.   Results must be tempered with a balanced overview.  Unhealthy competitiveness comes in many guises, one of the worst is when a team will “protect” resources, or make decisions which aren’t for the greater good of the whole, but are simply to preserve status, resources, or accolades for the individual or a single team.

6. Inadequate leadership and management skills are tolerated.  

I know this is a common cry, but seriously, it only takes an organisation to get clear and get tough and the problem could be gone forever.  It’s quite unforgivable to let this situation carry on for any length of time.

7. Allowing familiarity to preside over undignified behaviour  

Dignity at work is for me one of the most important values an organisation can prize.   The problem is, if an organisation has people who have worked there for a number of years, it can become like a tired marriage and over time the tenet of “familiarity breeds contempt” can become a reality.  I have heard many managers when challenged about less than dignified behaviour of their employees towards one another say things like “that’s just billy, (or Brenda, or bob etc. etc. ), it’s just the way they are”.  Even worse if the employee feedback survey indicates even one member of staff feels like they are bullied, then inaction is tantamount to condoning unacceptable behaviour, or even the perception of it.

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Making family friendly work for you – 5 mistakes and how to avoid them

family friendlyFamily Friendly is an employee and business benefit

If you struggle to get the very best people to come and work for you.   If you believe your employees aren’t giving their best, or are stressed because their working life and domestic life don’t work well together.  Or if you have a high rate of unexplained absence, then you may wish to consider reviewing your family friendly offer.

If you want to attract and retain top talent now and in the future;  to remain competitive in the talent marketplace you must consider a family friendly culture as a business benefit as well as an employee benefit.

The main reason why businesses don’t introduce a family friendly environment are three fold, they don’t know how; are afraid that it will detract from and impact negatively on achieving their outputs or results or don’t realise it’s important.

Enlightened organisations create a family friendly culture which fits their business model.  Being family friendly is the way forward and you will find  the best talent (who know they can pick and choose) will opt to work for businesses where they can operate in a way which fits their own personal circumstances.   My guess is you will find that this is the new contractual norm for talented people.

So what do I mean by family friendly?  There are a number of factors involved in creating a family friendly environment.  In short a combination of customs, practices and policies you can adopt to help your employee enjoy and attend to their home life as well as their work life.

Family friendly practices and policies can include:

  • Flexible working – including flexible hours, flexible location and flexible roles.
  • Time out – aimed at helping people care for dependants in the short and long term.
  • Work breaks – including career breaks and sabbaticals
  • Employee benefits – discounted childcare, elderly care, access to family health schemes, onsite crèches, after school clubs, holiday clubs.

Many enlightened organisations realise that a family friendly environment is a key factor in their employee attraction and retention strategy, but not many are easily able to articulate and implement family friendly practices effectively.

Effective implementation means not only do employees enjoy a work/life balance allowing them to attend to pressing domestic responsibilities and values, but also harnesses their loyalty, commitment and enthused effort.  Implemented well a synergistic effect of boosting motivation, leading to improved productivity, efficiency and profitability will result.

If you have tried to introduce a family friendly culture and are struggling, or you want to get started, here are 5 mistakes that business make, which you must avoid.

Mistake 1 – A vision setting out the factors involved in the family friendly offer is not clearly articulated.  The vision does not include what employees can expect, and importantly, omits expected benefits for the business.

Mistake 2 – The organisation doesn’t emphatically state  boundaries.  A family friendly culture must overall improve and energise the performance of the organisation.  There are limits and parameters.  If a family friendly culture begins to negatively impact it has overstepped accepted boundaries.

Mistake 3 – Managers only want to offer family friendly policies to best performers.  They fear some of the workforce will take advantage and not reciprocate by seeing it as a way to improve their contribution. This leads to managers unconsciously choosing who can and can’t take advantage of family friendly arrangements.

Mistake 4 – Managers do not assess workload impact of individual family friendly ways of working on the employee or on others in the team.  Thus adjusting the frame but not changing the internal picture.

Mistake 5 – Organisations don’t adequately train managers to a) understand the “bottom line”, b) harness a win/win result  c) review patterns and workloads d) be confident to say no, when it is fairer to do so and objectively justified

So now you know the pitfalls, here are some ways you can both avoid those mistakes and harness the best of both worlds, by getting the best out of your people, whilst improving their work/life balance.

  • Articulate accepted boundaries, and use as an acid test before you introduce any measure towards a family friendly culture.
  • Be clear about work patterns acceptable to you.  If compressed hours really don’t fit in your organisational model, don’t offer them.
  • Be clear about parameters of each measure. If time off for domestic emergencies is included in your family friendly package for example, make it clear it is not a default position.  Develop a framework to work through setting out alternatives an employee must consider.  If a situation develops which isn’t a one off; you and the employee need to agree an approach to deal with this.
  • Be imaginative about the extent of your work patterns and location framework.  Would extending to evening hours not only give employees some well needed flexible working solutions, but also benefit your customers?  Can employees work from home remotely, and could such a way of working ultimately cut accommodation overheads?
  • Be very clear your family friendly culture is a win/win offer.  You want to help employees with domestic responsibilities so they can be at their best at work, and give you maximum performance.
  •  Manage expectations of all employees.  Resentment can quite often fester when some of your workforce believe they are not included.  Manage perceptions; I once had someone tell me they thought my family friendly approach excluded them because they didn’t have children, or any dependants.  That was until she had to take time off because her dog needed a lifesaving operation.

If you are already going down the family friendly route, or intend to, then congratulations.  If devised and implemented thoughtfully through consultation with your strategists and your people, then it will be successful.  By being clear about your bottom line, you will gain the commitment, loyalty and best performance from your people and have people queuing up to work for you.

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