5 Ways to Improve Remote Performance Evaluation Discussions

As we enter a new year, organizations continue to adjust to the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak, including an extension of work-from-home policies for many employees. As more time goes on between “what used to be” and “the new normal,” the need to establish updated procedures for employee-performance conversations has become imperative.

Employee performance conversations can be challenging for all involved, even without considerations related to working remotely during a pandemic. However, these conversations should still be a priority to ensure future productivity, maintain morale and let employees know you are invested in their performance as a member of the organization.

If your team is continuing with remote work, consider approaching performance conversations in a new way — thoughtfully, with compassion, and with a structured plan for mutually beneficial results.

Here are five ways to improve remote employee evaluations.

1-Check-in more often.

About three years ago, the University of Phoenix did away with annual performance reviews in favor of quarterly check-ins. It was a smart move then, and it makes even more sense now.

More frequent, structured conversations can help offset the lack of in-person connectivity that naturally occurs in an office setting. It also allows managers to gauge whether employees are receiving the support needed to complete tasks, meet objectives and succeed in their roles in their work-from-home environment.

These regular check-ins should be used to make sure that expectations are clearly understood and that progress is being made. Remember that in many cases, remote employees are likely not working straight through from 9 to 5 every day, so this measure no longer applies.

2-Be compassionate but firm.

Leadership in a time of uncertainty requires emotional intelligence. Every employee has challenges, some work-related and some not. From the stress of helping children with online learning to managing anxiety and depression to caring for an elderly parent, each stressor can affect an employee’s work.

Communicating with understanding lets employees know you care about their overall well-being and don’t view them as a cog in a machine. This does not mean employees should be absolved of expectations or responsibilities. It does mean you may have to think creatively and make adjustments to support their success.

For instance, managers may need to consider flexible deadlines instead of rigid ones for noncritical work or reallocate resources to see a project or assignment through to completion. Rather than changing expectations, find solutions to achieve goals. This ensures continuity for the organization and shows employees you value them. Your return on investment will be in loyalty from your employees.

3-Reflect on the past, but focus on the future.

Managers sometimes make the mistake of using performance conversations to look backward only, missing the opportunity to look forward. While evaluating an employee’s past performance is important, it shouldn’t be the sole focus of your conversation. The past can be instructive, but you cannot change it.

Instead, leverage past experiences as a way to create future successes. Performance conversations should be less about what happened during the past quarter and more about how to align to achieve success moving forward. A manager should leave a performance conversation knowing what the employee needs to effectively accomplish goals, and the employee should leave knowing the expectations. If you can effectively communicate on both ends, successful outcomes should follow.

4-Rethink your rating system.

Around the time we did away with annual reviews, UOPX also nixed the traditional rating system, such as “needs improvement, meets expectations,” etc.

Putting labels on employees does not add value. In fact, employees can become so focused on the performance review label that it distracts from what matters most in a performance conversation — setting the employee up for success.

The value is in the coaching and the feedback, not an arbitrary label or rating. That focus is even more important now as we balance the stresses of the pandemic.

5-Camera on or camera off?

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, I typically met with employees face-to-face for performance conversations, even if they telecommuted. There is value in seeing someone’s body language and hearing their tone of voice.

To personalize these conversations now, I prefer video calls to phone calls. It provides a sense of normalcy and allows for human connection. At the same time, I recognize that some employees may have reasons for keeping their camera off. In those situations, I always turn my camera on as the leader even if the employee feels more comfortable with their camera off. I want them to see they have my undivided attention.

While it may seem easier to delay performance conversations or even scrap them entirely, they are necessary now more than ever. Adjust your processes to best meet the needs of your employees, but do not do away with the opportunity to provide feedback and support for your team members.

Source:  Jeff Andes January 22, 2021, Chieflearningofficer.com

3 Ways to Be an Influential Leader

Leadership provides the opportunity to influence others. It is a great joy, but also an incredible responsibility. Influence is the ability to move others from where they are now into something new. However, influence is not a one-way transaction. We are influencing others and being influenced on a daily basis. When we race through life distracted and busy, we forfeit the opportunity to intentionally influence others. Thus, we must be intentional about what we take in and how we impact those around us.

People are always tuned in and observing our actions, words, and attitudes whether we realize it or not. We can choose intentional influence, and whether our influence is positive or negative.

As leaders, we cannot settle for influence that is good enough. Great opportunities and exceptional work are never born from settling for good enough. So, how do we have influence that far surpasses good-enough thinking?

1. Make the choice to be a positive influence. Great leaders understand that influence is equally as important as reputation. Reputation precedes us, and it creates an expectation of what is to come from you. Influence generates reputation and is what’s left behind after others interact with you. It’s the piece of you that you leave with others and the sentence that comes to mind when others think of you. Having a positive impact and leaving others with a positive sentiment is a conscious choice.

2. Accept responsibility for your influence. Good leaders understand their ability to influence others. Great leaders go beyond this and also accept responsibility for what is influencing them. They guard their intake and are vigilant about how they are being influenced. They are intentional about their inner circles and what information they consume. This is critical because, ultimately, we give out what we take in. We reproduce what we are.

3. Aspire to inspire. Great leaders are inspiring, especially during challenging times. They are able to bring out the best in others and instill hope that draws people in. Great leaders are equally inspiring as they are inspired themselves. They know the purpose that drives them and tap into their mission to motivate others.

Influence is a two-way street. How others pour into you will dictate how you pour into others. Being intentional about your influence takes you, and those around you, from good enough to great.

Sourced from Kevin Brown at leadercast.com

Leadership is influence. Nothing more. Nothing less. – John Maxwell

4 Ways to Encourage Others at Work…Use Your Words

The easiest way to have a positive impact on your colleagues is to tell them how much you value them. While supervisors and managers may try to use their words to encourage others, they often don’t do a great job. The good news is, using our words to encourage others is easily done, whether you are working onsite or remotely.

Here are a few simple tips to make your words of encouragement most effective and some common mistakes to avoid:

  1. Be personal and individualized. Statements of encouragement to a team are great, however, they are impersonal. Direct and specific communication to one person makes the affirmation more sincere.
  2. The more specific the better. One of the most common phrases team members don’t want to hear is “good job!”. The phrase is so generic it could be applied to any person at any time. Be sure to tell the employee specifically what you appreciate about them and their work.

Some specific suggestions:

  • Leave an encouraging voicemail.
  • Use sticky notes to write short messages of appreciation.
  • Recognize them during a meeting or conference call and give them an example of something they did well.
  • Tell them why what they did is important to you, the organization, or your clientele. While it may seem obvious why an employee’s work is valuable or desired, they often don’t understand the true impact of their actions. Framing encouragement in light of the big picture can make it more meaningful.
  • Keep in mind that words are not equally important to everyone. In a study with over 100,00 employees, less than 50% want appreciation through words. That tells us that 50% of employees want appreciation in ways other than words. Seek information from your employees regarding how they best experience encouragement and how receptive they are to other avenues of affirmation.

How do you encourage others at work?

Excerpt from Paul White from appreciationatwork.com

8 Tips for Effective Day-to-Day Communication

Although communication is vital, it often interrupts work flow. Valuing the time and attention of others when communicating is crucial. While keeping others in the loop is important, sharing everything is a distraction. That’s why it’s important to have effective methods for efficient communication.

  1. Utilize Chat Tools. A single centralized chat tool (Such as Slack or Teams) keeps everything together and is a central source for the entire company. Email is an important external tool but doesn’t always need to be used internally. Zoom and Skype are good tools and in-person meetings should be used more sparingly.
  2. “What did you work on today?” Automatically ask yourself and your team members “What did you work on today?”. Share the responses with the company. This creates loose accountability and strong reflection. Writing up what you accomplished every day is a great way to reflect on how you spent your time.
  3. “What will you be working on this week?” A good way to start the week is to create an automatic ask, “What will you be working on this week?” This is a chance for everyone to talk about and see the big picture. It sets your mind, and the mind of your team, up for the work ahead and allows everyone to see what’s happening.
  4. “Social questions”. Every few weeks, ask your team “What books are you reading?” Or “Try anything new lately?” Or “Anything inspire you lately?” Keep these questions optional and use them sparingly. These help to create dialogue about things people love and want to share with others. This is especially beneficial for remote teams.
  5. Reflect every 6 weeks. Every ~6 weeks, summarize the big picture accomplishments and detail the importance of your work. Highlight any challenges or difficulties. This can be a good reminder that, yes, sometimes things do go wrong. Reflect on the job well done and the progress made for the entire team or group.
  6. Project every 6 weeks. Rather than reflect, projections state what the team will accomplish in the coming weeks. The detail specific work for a specific group but can be useful for the entire company. These should be broad and don’t include too many details.
  7. Announcements. Occasionally, announcements need to be made. Whether it’s about a change in policy or reiterating an old one, these can be very beneficial. Sending out a written form of an announcement means everyone sees and hears the same information.
  8. Day to day communication requires context. Saying the right thing, in the wrong place and omitting important details, doubles the work and number of messages. Separate communication places should be set for each project, so nothing gets missed. Everything communicated relating to that project is in the same location. Communications should be attached to what they are referring to.

What has been working well with your team?  We would love to hear!  Email us at aha@ahaleadership.com

Excerpt from Basecamp

September…the New January

September offers a clean slate, a new start, and represents a new beginning. Although this September is unlike others before, it is still a change in season with different challenges and opportunities. Due to the disruption of the pandemic, more than ever we have resolutions and habits we want to start. While January is the start of a new year, September/Fall often feels like a good time to make some much-needed changes.

Gretchen Rubin, author of Better Than Before, shares strategies of how to make and break habits. One helpful strategy is the “Strategy of the Clean Slate”. The pandemic has afforded us more time to evaluate our habits and behaviors and determine which ones are working for us and which ones may be holding us back. During times of big transition, old habits may be wiped away and we may be able to form new habits more easily. A change in personal relationships, surroundings such as moving to a new city, a life change like a new job or even minor changes like working in a new room can all offer a “clean slate” to develop new effective habits.

A previous research study has shown that 36% of people who were successful in making significant life changes in their career, education, or health behaviors, associated this success with a move to a new location. We want to take advantage of the start of a new season and take actionable steps toward change.

Take some time to consider: What new habits do I want to adopt this season? What old habits or behaviors could be holding me back from reaching my goals?

What one small, actionable step can I take this week to change or adopt a new habit?

Now is the time to make the changes we need the most.

Sourced from Gretchenrubin.com

How to Address Poor Performance and Improve Ability and Motivation

For every hundred men hacking away at the branches of a diseased tree, only one will stop to inspect the roots -Chinese Proverb

Are individual members of your team performing less well than you’d hoped for? How do you get them to improve their performance?

First, understand that performance is a function of both ability and motivation. It takes both to do a job well. So, before you address poor performance, you have to diagnose if it’s a lack of ability or low motivation.

Tips for addressing ability

  1. Resupply. Does your team member have what they need to get the job done? Ask them about additional resources. Listen for points causing frustration. Give the individual space to take responsibility and share their perspective.
  2. Retrain. Provide additional training to individuals lacking specific skills. It’s important to keep employees’ skills current to cure poor performance.
  3. Refit. If the first two steps aren’t curing the problem, consider refitting the job to the person. Are there components of the job that could be reassigned and new tasks for them to take on?
  4. Reassign. Consider reassigning the poor performer to another role. Is there another job within the company that would suit them better? Remember, this is not a punishment tactic, but a shift in skills and tasks.
  5. Release. As a final option, you may need to let the employee go. Sometimes there are not opportunities for refitting and reassignment within the organization. In these cases, the best decision may be for the individual to find other work.

Tips for improving motivation

  1. Set performance goals. Goal setting is an important aspect of performance improvement. Employees need to understand what’s expected of them and agree on the actions they must take to improve.
  2. Performance assistance. Once you’ve set performance goals, support your team member by reassessing their progress, providing necessary training, or additional resources. Encourage cooperation and assistance from other team members.
  3. Performance feedback. It’s important for the individual to understand where they stand in their performance and long-term expectations. Consider providing timely feedback, being open and honest, and encourage individuals with a reward system.

It’s important that you and the team member discuss and agree on the plan for improvement. Set specific goals with timelines and dates by which goals should be achieved. Monitor progress according to the tips above for improving ability and motivation. Goal setting, feedback and a supportive environment are necessary for improving poor performance. 

Source:  MindTools

5 Dos and Don’t for How to Lead with Respect

To gain respect, we must first give it. Respectful leadership takes us back to the basics. It is carrying ourselves with decency and treating others how they want to be treated. So, how do we lead with respect? Gregg Ward, author of The Respectful Leader: Seven Ways To Influence Without Intimidation, shares the dos and don’ts of respectful leadership: 

DO…

1. Be the first to respect. Respect is contagious. If leaders go out of their way to treat others with respect first, the people on the receiving end feel good because they were treated well. Those who receive this, then go on to treat others with respect. It is very powerful and infectious. This generates a culture of respect within the team and those who do not act respectfully will stand out and either modify their behavior or be pushed out. Holding people accountable for respectful behaviors generates productivity and partnerships. This does not mean that everyone walks on eggshells, it means that everyone follows the agreed-upon respectful norms. This behavior welcomes diversity and collaboration. 

2. Address disrespect immediately. Nipping disrespect in the bud early on is not always easy or comfortable. Molehills can become mountains quickly if disrespectful behaviors, even minor ones, are not addressed early on. As a leader, disrespectful behaviors can be addressed with what Gregg calls the SBI technique, which stands for situation, behavior, impact. For example, if an employee is consistently interrupting other team members during a meeting, after the meeting the leader should address this behavior noting the context, the behavior noticed, and the perceived impact of this behavior. Next, a request should be made for future behavior and how the team member can be held accountable. Defensiveness is normal in this stage, so empathy is vital from the leader. Additionally, these conversations should be private unless the entire group is involved in disrespectful behavior. 

3. Use a full-apology approach. If members on a team perceive the actions of the leader to be disrespectful, the same SBI approach can be used. The leader should fully apologize for the behavior by acknowledging the situation, the disrespect behavior, and the negative impact it had on the team or team member. Try not to rationalize, excuse the behavior, or use the word “but”. A genuine apology does not make excuses.  

DON’T…

1. Tolerate disrespect. The number one cause of disrespectful behavior in the workplace is stress. This is reflective of our actions and behavior. Respect helps people during stressful situations. Leaders should not tolerate disrespectful behaviors, especially during stressful periods. Maintaining respect while experiencing high-levels of stress, generates self-confidence, and reinforces the importance of respect within the team. This is not easy but is very powerful. 

2. Don’t be distracted. The biggest distraction when it comes to respectful leadership is our cellphones. Leaders can easily be distracted by others trying to communicate with them instead of the meeting in front of them. If leaders can’t focus on the meeting, it sends a message of disrespect to the team. Leaders cannot pay attention to others and external communication at the same time. 

Sustainable, respectful practices are really good for business and team productivity. The best leaders create an environment of respect, not only at work but also in life. 

Article source – leadercast.com

3 Tips for Successfully Leading Your Team Back to the Office

Reopening and going back to your workplace does not mean going ‘back to normal’– the workplace post-pandemic has forever changed.  Here are some Situational Leadership strategies that will leaders navigate “re-boarding” the new processes and expectations for how people will return to the workplace.

1. Reflect and Recalibrate. Businesses had to react almost immediately to adjust with the demands of the pandemic. Now is the time to reflect on the lessons learned and the new strategies that can be applied in the plan towards reopening.

  • Send a short reflection survey to your team to get feedback on specific processes that worked well and those that didn’t to decide which practices to continue moving forward.
  • Use targeted, purposeful survey questions to help your team members identify the next normal.

2. Assess the Current State. Businesses refined and created new solutions and procedures to perform their jobs during the pandemic.

  • Now, to get an assessment of the current state, identify and prioritize team members’ tasks.
  • Take time to determine skills and specific tasks that are now essential due to the changing work environment. Look for ways to leverage support, mentoring and delegation within the team.

3. Engage to Manage the Movement. If you haven’t already implemented 1:1 coaching practices, now is the time to do so. This coaching is vital to help team members navigate the fear that accompanies a changing environment.

  • Establishing proactive communication is essential to cultivate trust and personal connection.
  • Encourage your team to be accountable to their own performance and establish touchpoints to discuss current priorities, their status and what they need from you. Compare lists and develop a plan for direction and support.

What is one adjustment you can make, something to stop doing or start doing, to increase your effectiveness as a coach?

Repurposed from Situational.com

The Future Workforce – 8 Ways Today’s Crisis Will Change It

This year’s pandemic has created a universal shift and a subsequent ripple effect into relationships, education, technology, and importantly, the workforce.

The way we operate will forever change as the world transitions back to “normal”. The biggest changes will arguably affect the future of the workforce, Gen Z (those born after 1998). As they begin to enter the workforce, Gen Zers face challenges like no other generation before them, which will inevitably guide their decision making, behaviors and expectations. Just like 9/11 changed travel forever, this pandemic will change the workforce forever in eight major ways:

  1. Deeper dependence on technology. The world has made a dramatic shift from physical workspaces and in-person interactions to digital platforms and at-home workspaces. The new demand for technology, coupled with the technological-intelligence of Gen Z, will escalate the dependence on new technology in the workplace.
  2. Unconventional educational backgrounds. Over 290 million students around the world are impacted by school closures. Over 62 percent of students themselves report they would choose no college degree and unlimited internet access over a college degree and no internet access. Employers adapt as 90 percent say they are more open to accepting candidates without a four-year college degree. The value on higher education could erode for students, parents and employers as we know it.
  3. Entering careers sooner. There are more alternatives to a college education available now than ever before. Online certifications, digital portfolios and nano-degrees provide alternative learning and development. In fact, 62 percent of Gen Z report they are open to the idea of entering the workforce before completing a college degree.
  4. Enhanced value of learning and development. While Gen Z enters the workforce sooner, this will inevitably place emphasis on the employer to provide the necessary training for hard and soft skills. Employers who deliver learning that Gen Z uses, enjoys and applies will have the advantage.
  5. Revised view of employers. With remote working on the rise, work and life have fully merged. It’s becoming more difficult for Gen Z to distinguish where work stops, and life starts. Expect Gen Z to adapt by viewing employers as a means of support, wellness and education.
  6. Uncommon career paths. Gen Z workers are losing more work hours than any other demographic as 29 percent of Gen Z works have been put on leave. Given these numbers, Gen Z will experience diversification of income and participate more in gig jobs. As gig work becomes more accessible and lucrative, expect uncommon careers to be the future.
  7. Demand for emotionally intelligent leaders. Gen Z is the most anxious, stressed and lonely generation. After this time of uncertainty passes, Gen Z will look to their leaders for connection, assurance, and empathy delivered by emotionally intelligent leaders.
  8. Greater global unity. Not only is Gen Z more connected globally than any other generation, but they are also now experiencing a global health crisis. The number of Gen Zers who identify as a global citizen is likely to rise. The workforce will demand more diversity and inclusion from future leaders and employers.

Repurposed From entrepreneur.com

The measure of intelligence is the ability to change” – Albert Einstein

Listening is an Action – Will you Listen to Create Change?

Black Lives Matter 

At Aha! Leadership we stand in support with all humanity. In light of recent events, we unite with the black community and recognize that racism is real. 

Leaders must lead by being willing to engage in uncomfortable conversations that drive change. The next right step is to listen and learn. 

There is a difference between hearing and listening. Hearing happens when we’re able to recognize a sound. Listening happens when we put in the effort (action) to understand what it means.  And when we take action, change happens.

As a leader, ask yourself….

  • Are you willing to lead?
  • Are you willing to step into uncomfortable territory?  
  • Are you willing to really listen to others?  
  • Are you willing to act on what you learn? 

Being receptive and understanding others are key components to creating a respectful workplace. 

Please know, we are here to help your team listen, learn and create an inclusive workplace. 

Please email Stephanie Gibbons stephanie@ahaleadership.com or Robyn Marcotte robyn@ahaleadership.com.

“To understand and be understood – those are among life’s greatest gifts and every interaction is an opportunity to exchange them.”   – Maria Papova, writer