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

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

5 Ways to Help Your Employees Manage Re-entry Anxiety

As many states are set to reopen, employers are developing new procedures to keep their teams and customers safe. While this includes a lot of logistical planning, the physical well-being of employees is not the only thing to consider. Employees will have different emotional and psychological responses to these changes. Regrettably, mental and emotional health is discussed less frequently.

Anxiety is a natural reaction to an uncertain future. Employees not only worry about their physical safety but their job security as well. If employers don’t help manage this anxiety in their employees, it will affect engagement and productivity.

Here are five things that employers can use as a framework to build re-entry plans and assess progress in their employees:

  1. Make employee’s well-being your top priority. Employees want reassurance that their companies will put people first. Companies are offering more support to frontline workers and more paid sick days. Addressing employee concerns and remaining committed to their health and safety, especially during difficult times, goes a long way.
  2. Be transparent. Employees want regular, timely updates with transparent information from their employers. Open two-way information is critical for employers to deal with the economic impact of the current pandemic. Organizations that are involved with their team and engage in ongoing dialogue will be better prepared for these difficult conversations.
  3. Take action to implement public health measures. According to the CDC recommendations, employers should: extensively clean and sanitize work areas, encourage sick employees to stay home and implement flexible sick-leave policies, promote personal hygiene, provide protective equipment, and screen employees before entering the workplace. Employees need to know what measures will be implemented and how they will be enforced. They need to be reassured that steps are being taken and measures will be updated as situations evolve.
  4. Train leaders and managers to support employees. Leaders and managers will shoulder much of the responsibility when returning to the workplace. Some companies are holding ‘re-entry training” to discuss topics such as dealing with ambiguity, building personal resilience, developing emotional intelligence, and leading hybrid teams. Managers will need to be familiar with signs of emotional distress and regularly check in with their staff.
  5. Offer flexibility. The large-scale work-from-home environment has demonstrated that work can be flexible and change with the environment. As workplaces reopen, leaders should expect pressure to maintain flexibility, particularly from employees with children and sick family members.

In efforts to keep employees physically safe, employers also need to consider the impact of the current pandemic on psychological health. Growing anxiety with re-entry will impact health and work performance. Taking interest and addressing this anxiety will help companies cope with this transition and perform better in the long run.

I would enjoy hearing what you are doing to help alleviate “re-entry” anxiety – email me at robyn@ahaleadership.com

Repurposed from  Harvard Business Review