Constructive Feedback through This Medium Isn’t Caring and Can Be Misconstrued…

I started touring colleges this past week with my oldest son, a high schooler who’s pretty curious about the whole college experience.

I was excited about the first college we toured; I felt it suited him perfectly. We’d watched a few videos on YouTube about the school and its programs, as well as attended a virtual tour. When we got there, the first impression of the institution was solid but, within minutes, I hate to say it, the cracks in the veneer began to show.

I won’t go into details (discretion is the better form of valor), but I will say that I went from a huge fan of the college to a critical evaluator of the institute and its programs.

I started to write an email to admissions to let them know a few of my gripes, quips, and disappointments. Once the note was complete, and before I hit “send,” I re-read what I wrote and decided to hit delete. My note felt snarky and the tone just didn’t seem right. The feedback I wanted to share didn’t seem helpful and it just wasn’t meant for an email.

I opted for a phone call instead. Rather than a one-sided note flung through cyberspace, I felt that a conversation would be a better medium – it’d convey my respect, interest in helping improve the admissions process, and share helpful insight into my observations. (The call’s scheduled for this week.)

This brings me to the point of this email. I know many of us like to share feedback with others via email. I get it entirely – it feels safer to articulate our words in text and hit send than to have a face-to-face where conflict or disagreement might ensue. But have you ever thought that constructive feedback through this medium isn’t caring and can be misconstrued?

Here’s the deal – email is great for admin. You’ll need, though, either a phone call or a face-to-face when the following criteria apply:

  • You have to say something that could be taken the wrong way
  • You have critical/constructive feedback to deliver
  • There are stakes involved in the dialogue
  • You don’t want what you intend to put in writing to be printed and/or forwarded
  • The other person might feel disrespected if you don’t talk to them directly

Delivering feedback in this manner can be difficult … I know. Sometimes it’s hard to follow my own advice. But there are times when we have to remind ourselves that we’re leaders. Leaders do the hard stuff because they recognize that when things are uncomfortable, they’re stretching, growing, and probably doing the right thing.

Written by Angie Morgan via Leadstar. Visit Leadstar to read the full article.

The Counterintuitive Wisdom You Need to Get People to Embrace Change

Common wisdom in management science and practice has it that to build support for a change project, visionary leadership is needed to outline what is wrong with the current situation. By explaining how the envisioned change will result in a better and more appealing future, leaders can overcome resistance to change. But research, recently published in the Academy of Management Journal, leads us to add a very important caveat to this.

A root cause of resistance to change is that employees identify with and care for their organizations. People fear that after the change, the organization will no longer be the organization they value and identify with — and the higher the uncertainty surrounding the change, the more they anticipate such threats to the organizational identity they hold dear. Change leadership that emphasizes what is good about the envisioned change and bad about the current state of affairs typically fuels these fears because it signals that changes will be fundamental and far-reaching.

Counterintuitively, then, effective change leadership has to emphasize continuity — how what is central to “who we are” as an organization will be preserved, despite the uncertainty and changes on the horizon.

This is a straightforward and actionable notion that we put to the test in two studies. The first study was a survey of 209 employees and their supervisors from a number of organizations that announced organizational change plans (including relocations and business expansions, reorganizations, structural or technical changes, product changes, changes in leadership, and mergers). The focus was on how effective the leadership was in stimulating employee support for the change, measured through supervisor ratings of employee behavior. As predicted, results showed that leadership was more effective in building support for change the more that leaders also communicated a vision of continuity, because a vision of continuity instilled a sense of continuity of organizational identity in employees. These effects were larger when employees experienced more uncertainty at work (as measured by employee self-ratings).

In the second study, we tested the same idea using a laboratory experiment so that we could draw conclusions about causality. 208 business school students participated in the study, and the context was potential changes in the school’s curriculum. They received one of two messages allegedly from the dean of the business school. One conveyed a vision of change for the curriculum, and the other conveyed the same vision of change but also conveyed a vision of continuity of identity. Independent of which message they were exposed to, students received one of two versions of background information that suggested either low uncertainty or high uncertainty about change outcomes. We then assessed their sense of continuity of identity and their support for the change as expressed in actual behavior: help in drafting a letter to persuade other students to support the change. The results of this second study were similar to those of the first: Support for change was higher when the vision of change was accompanied by a vision of continuity, because in this case people’s sense of continuity of identity was higher. Again, the effects were stronger when uncertainty about the change was higher.

The implications of this research are straightforward. In overcoming resistance to change and building support for change, leaders need to communicate an appealing vision of change in combination with a vision of continuity. Unless they are able to ensure people that what defines the organization’s identity — “what makes us who we are” — will be preserved despite the changes, leaders may have to brace themselves for a wave of resistance.

Source: Harvard Business Review – by Merlijn Venus, Daan Stam, and Daan van Knippenberg

6 Tips to Help Your Team Burn Bright Instead of Burning Out

Organizational leaders may say they are committed to employee well-being, but unintentional messages and behaviors can signal otherwise, leading employees at all levels to default to their draining routines. How we leverage time and calendars can be a powerful, reinforcing message around valuing resilience and recharge.

Six ideas to get started are:

  1. Create a daily ‘away from the office’ routine — for example, during lunchtime — to set boundaries and manage expectations.
  2. Send no email after 7 p.m. local time or opt to use “delay send.”
  3. Walk as part of your meetings. If possible, skip the video in exchange for an old-school phone call and walk while talking. Build movement into your meetings, pausing every 60 minutes or so for everyone to take a brief stroll or stretch.
  4. Consider no-meeting Fridays. If that’s too bold, start with no-meeting Friday afternoons.
  5. Schedule shorter meetings to allow for a rejuvenating “commute” between video calls and meetings. For example, 25 instead of 30 minutes…or 50 instead of 60 minutes.
  6. Surprise and delight! Give a Friday off, an extra PTO day, or another reward that makes sense for your organization.

Sustained, peak performance is achievable when individuals and organizations prioritize intentional recharging. Burnout is not an inevitable phase of our work life, nor a badge of honor to wear. With intention and attention, we can create the conditions for ourselves and our employees to burn bright.

What are ways you help your employees burn bright?  I would enjoy reading.  Email us at aha@ahaleadership.com

Excerpts from Chieflearningofficer, February 2021

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

8 Ways to Develop Millennial Leaders

Millennials are working their way into management and leadership positions. In fact, by 2025, millennials will make up 75 percent of the global workforce. They have a unique opportunity to learn critical things from previous generations that have tenured leadership experience under their belts.

Here are eight pieces of wisdom that are essential for new leaders (and, if you are not a millennial, ask yourself if these tips could apply to you too):

  1. Know what it means to be a leader. As a leader, you have a great amount of influence on those who report to you. How can you use that influence to help others improve? Frequently check in with your team and ask how you can help them. Understand that leadership isn’t all about you and strive to use your influence to serve others.
  2. Develop your soft skills. Growing as a leader is a long-term journey and so is developing your soft skills. Key soft skills include emotional intelligence, empathy, communication, and problem-solving. It’s important to be aware of yourself and how you engage with others. Set up feedback systems to learn and bring awareness to your blind spots. Get a coach who can help develop your weak areas.
  3. Embrace failure. As a leader, it can be especially challenging to admit to falling short on a project or goal. Leadership requires having the courage to take ownership, especially of your mistakes. Great leaders view failure as an opportunity for growth. Having a fear of failure can hold leaders back from taking risks that may propel the organization to the next level.
  4. Be clear. Without clarity, your team may feel like they are working through a fog. They don’t know what to do to achieve the missions or goals of the organization. They may also have a difficult time embracing change, which is imperative for growth. Teams need clarity on purpose, priorities, process, performance, and problem-solving. Check-in with your team to see where they may need more clarity.
  5. Seek diversity. To be innovative, you need to have lots of ideas. If you are homogeneous in your decision making, you will have gaps in your strategy. Seek to gain insights from people of all backgrounds and build a team with multiple perspectives.
  6. Delegate, but don’t micromanage. New managers often struggle to let go of old tasks and expect people to approach opportunities the same way they did. Be mindful to let go of old responsibilities and fight the urge to think ‘it’ll be easier if I just do it’. Allow the people below you to grow.
  7. Put in place a system of accountability. Now, more than ever, millennials are pushing for flexibility and remote work opportunities. However, there needs to be some structure for measuring performance and productivity. Clear accountability consists of mutually agreed upon expectations, definitions for meeting those expectations, how expectations can be measured and monitored, and, importantly, how to communicate along the way so there are no surprises.
  8. Be a student. Leadership and learning go together. Pay attention to those around you. Learn as much as you can about your people so you can lead them to the best of your ability. Be a student to the leaders before you and learn from their mistakes and wisdom.

Leadership is a life-long journey that builds with each generation. Be a learner. Be aware. Be intentional about your influence. Implement what you learn along the way and pay it forward. Be a leader worth following.

Excerpt sourced from Leadercast.com

3 Reasons to Invest in Online Leadership Training

While the pandemic has created many unknowns, there is one thing we know for sure: businesses and organizations will face more disruptive changes in the next year than they have in the past 20. The way we lead cannot stay the same as the environment around us changes.

Leadership development and training and are essential for organizations to stay competitive and thrive. With travel and group restrictions, training programs have been halted, leaving HR leaders to deal with the fallout from pay cuts, furloughs, and eliminations. As we learn how to change and recover from the pandemic crisis, organizations are rethinking their development strategies and turning towards an online platform.

Companies waiting for the return of in-person leadership training risk falling behind companies that continue to grow their skills using other methods. In fact, market research from the Center for Creative Leadership report that 82% of organizations feel investing in leadership training gives them an advantage over competitors.

While online learning is not new, this method of developmental delivery has skyrocketed in popularity. But not everyone’s on board. Organizations without previous experience with online training may remain skeptical of the advantages of online learning. Others may have had a subpar experience with online deliveries in the past and prefer face-to-face training as a result.  However, organizations cannot afford to wait for in-person development programs to resume. Online learning is here to stay, and these programs can create similar engagement and results as in-person programs.

There are many advantages to online leadership development.

  1. According to market research from the Center for Creative Leadership, satisfaction with virtual leadership development equals that of face-to-face training.  At Aha! Leadership, we have found our online classes have similar scores as in-person workshops as well.
  2. We’ve also seen similar positive results for learning objectives and achievements.
  3. Both formats deliver an engaging experience and include the same effective elements as our in-person training, with breakout rooms, polling, quality videos, etc. 
  4. In addition to the high impact of online training, virtual leadership development programs are easily scalable to be delivered to a number of leaders.
  5. Virtual training programs are also convenient for organizations and leaders, allowing them to participate from anywhere in the world without additional travel expenses.

Online leadership development joins the remote workplace in growing with the current times and challenges. At Aha! Leadership, we seek to help you navigate these times with effective and impactful training that generates the results your organization is looking for!

Reference from the Center for Creative Leadership

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