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Managing People Archive

Don’t Like the Word Negative? Say Upgrade Instead.

People don’t like the phrase “negative feedback” because it is, well, negative. So, someone came up with “constructive feedback”, i.e., “I have some constructive feedback for you.” I don’t particularly like that either. The definition of constructive is useful, and I think all feedback should be useful. I like the word “upgrade” instead. Upgrade implies the need for improvement, but it isn’t negative. The question is, which comes first, positive or upgrade feedback?

I always give positive feedback first. Not to make people feel better, but to ensure they hear the positive feedback. Most people want to be perfect. We want others to think well of us. Negative feedback calls our perfection into question and thus is hard to hear. When people get negative feedback, they naturally become defensive. It’s hard to listen when you’re defending yourself. If positive feedback comes after negative feedback, the positive feedback isn’t even heard. The negative feedback is all consuming.

When giving feedback, I tell people, “I have positive and upgrade feedback for you today. I’m going to give you the positive feedback first.” I give positive feedback, then I give upgrade feedback, and then I remind the person about the positive feedback, because I know the person is now consumed thinking about the negative feedback.

Think about yourself. If you receive seven pieces of positive feedback and one piece of upgrade feedback, what do you think about for the rest of the day? If you’re like most people, the rest of your day is about the upgrade feedback. We want to do good work and be thought well of, and negative feedback calls all of that into question and is thus, hard to hear.

Give positive feedback first, then give upgrade feedback, then remind the person about the positive feedback. People can handle feedback when it’s delivered by a trusted person in an objective way.


Make Feedback Short and Fast – Do It Differently in 2023

Most of us wait too long to give feedback. We worry, the conversation will take too long. The recipient will get upset and not want to work with us. Or we’ll get in trouble for giving feedback. So, we wait for the right moment, or performance appraisals, when the conversation becomes unavoidable.

Those of you who have had feedback training with me know you can deliver effective feedback in two minutes. Some of you have practiced giving feedback in 40 seconds.

We all know that exercising for 30-minutes a day is better than exercising once a week for two hours. Recency and frequency works with exercise and feedback. Shorter is better. Rather than waiting for the right time to give feedback, which will never come, create a structure to make feedback quicker, more timely, and as a result, easier.

Feedback is like your car’s GPS; it’s designed to help people achieve goals efficiently. If your GPS waited six weeks or six months to give you feedback, where would you and your car be? Peru?

Next year, do it differently. Create a structure now for 2023. Agree to give feedback weekly for five or ten minutes. Talk about what worked and what didn’t work in the past week. If you can discipline yourself to spend five minutes giving feedback as work is completed, feedback conversation will be more useful, less painful, and easier.

Make a change next year – recency and frequency.


You Can’t Yoga Your Way Out of Burnout – How to Really Prevent Burnout

Yoga, wellness programs, and mindfulness will not prevent or eliminate burnout. Burnout is an organizational issue. If you want to prevent and eliminate burnout, focus on your organization, not individuals.

Burnout comes from a lack of role clarity and employees feeling like they can’t be successful at work, either because they consistently have more work than can be done in a regular work week or because they work for a manager who is a perfectionist, and nothing is ever good enough. Employees who constantly feel pressured at work or feel like they’re failing, regardless of the amount or level of work they produce, are susceptible to burnout.

Have you ever gone on vacation, had a relaxing time, and two days after you returned to your regular life, forgot all about that vacation? That’s like burnout. When the yoga class or vacation is over, you go back to your job with unrealistic expectations. Nothing has been solved.

Companies try to make employees’ experience more manageable with programs and perks, but what employees really need is a manager who clarifies roles so everyone knows who does what, helps employees manage their workload, and creates open relationships so employees feel comfortable saying when they’re overwhelmed.

Train your managers to do these three things to prevent and reduce burnout:

  1. Clarify roles so people know what they’re accountable for and to eliminate redundancy. It’s very frustrating to feel overwhelmed, only to find that someone else on your team or in another department is working on the same project as you.
  2. Manage workload and set realistic deadlines. If an employee regularly has more to do than can be done in a 40-hour work week, eliminate something – change deadlines, reallocate work, and evaluate if everything being done is necessary. If you can’t eliminate a project, evaluate if it can be scaled back. Is every bell or whistle necessary?
  1. Create an atmosphere of psychological safety so employees are comfortable asking for help prioritizing work. Most employees suffer in silence until they’re so overwhelmed and exhausted, they quit. Finding employees’ resumes circulating on LinkedIn is predictable and thus preventable.
    • You can get employees talking by scheduling a short, weekly debrief – 10 minutes – of what’s working and not working.
    • Help employees prioritize responsibilities by assigning each priority a letter – A, B, or C – in order of urgency.
    • Ensure there are no consequences for sounding the alarm of needing help. Word gets around. If an employee is penalized for asking for help, other employees will learn not to do the same.

Allocate work to allow employees to be successful, focus on the projects that really matter and eliminate the rest, and create an organization in which it’s safe to tell the truth. That will solve burnout.


Making Hybrid Meetings Work – Anticipate and Prepare

Hybrid meetings are more complicated and more difficult to run. There are lots of pitfalls. But with advanced planning and preparation, hybrid meetings can be well run and efficient.

Hybrid meetings defined: Some participants are together in-person, other participants attend from different locations.

Some pitfalls of hybrid meetings:

  • Can the people attending virtually hear people who are attending in-person, from a conference room?
  • Are the people in the conference room ‘talking’ to each other with their eyes while the virtual attendees assume they’re ‘talking’ about them?
  • Are people participating equally, regardless of their location (not unique to hybrid meetings)?
  • Are people texting each other about their real thoughts versus saying them out loud (also not unique to hybrid meetings)?
  • Did the facilitator provide hard copies of documents to in-person attendees and forget to send documents to virtual attendees?

The keys to running effective hybrid meetings – anticipate and practice before the meetings.

Do a dry run of a hybrid meeting before you run one. I run a practice session for all hybrid trainings I facilitate, even with repeat clients and multiple sessions with the same client. It’s not worth leaving anything to chance. Have two people in a conference room and another person attend virtually. Test the sound. Move around the conference room; sit in different locations. Can the virtual attendee see and hear, regardless of where in-person attendees are sitting?

Assess if you need an external camera and microphone. Getting these items set up may feel intimidating at first, but you only need to do it once. Once the technology is set up, it’s ready to use for future meetings.

Most conference rooms – even small ones – will need an external microphone so in-person participants can be heard by virtual participants. Trust me. I’ve learned this the hard way. The microphone in your laptop won’t pick up sufficient sound for virtual attendees to hear in-person attendees. You can buy a microphone for $30 at Best Buy or Amazon.

Plan how you will elicit balanced participation from attendees in all locations. Will you call on people? Consider sharing facilitation of different topics, so people in multiple locations lead different parts of the meeting.

Set expectations for participation when meetings start – using the chat and raise-of-hands feature, microphones on or muted, no distractions, and no messaging fellow participants offline. Don’t assume people know or will follow the guidelines from past meetings. Set expectations at the beginning of every meeting, even recurrent meetings.

When breaking people into groups during hybrid meetings, it’s tempting to put people in groups based on location, putting the in-person people together and the virtual people together. This practice exacerbates proximity bias (a topic for a future blog). While it’s harder to group in-person and virtual attendees together, it is more equitable.

Cameras on or cameras off? Discuss, decide, and tell participants in advance so virtual attendees are prepared.

Talk about the pitfalls of hybrid meetings with all attendees. Tell people to avoid ‘talking’ with their eyes to fellow in-person participants. Avoid having a camera capture the side of your face while you watch a different screen. Use the blur-your-background feature in Zoom if your background is distracting.

The key to leading effective hybrid meetings? Anticipate potential breakdowns. Prepare in advance. Communicate expectations with participants. Debrief meetings after they end. Make necessary changes. Repeat.


Waited Too Long to Give Feedback?

It’s not unusual to wait too long to give feedback. Giving feedback often feels awkward and uncomfortable. What happens if the person cries, or gives us the cold shoulder, or worse, quits?

Working virtually over the past few years has exacerbated the waiting. Many managers who were accustomed to giving feedback in person hesitated to have hard conversations over the phone or via video.

Perhaps you waited so long to give feedback, you feel like you can’t.

It’s never too late. You just need to set the expectation that you’re going to give feedback and why.

One of the keys to being (more) comfortable giving feedback is to know that most people genuinely want to know how they’re doing. Working in the dark is frustrating. Not knowing the behaviors that impact us and our opportunities is also frustrating. Working on a project for months only to find out the work we did wasn’t what the other person wanted is ultimately frustrating.

Most people genuinely want feedback. They may struggle to hear feedback, they may get defensive, they may not take responsibility, but it doesn’t mean they don’t want to know.

If you want to give feedback but feel like you waited too long, say so. The conversation could sound like this:

Manager to direct report: “I realized that I haven’t been giving you enough feedback. I’d like to start doing a semi-monthly debrief, not because anything is wrong or has changed. I want you to learn and grow as a result of working with me, and you won’t if I’m not providing regular feedback”

Peer to peer: “I need to talk with you about something and I’ve realized that I’ve waited too long. As a result, I’m feeling awkward and hesitant. Is it ok if I speak freely?”

Talking with someone more senior than yourself: “I want to talk with you about something I’ve been seeing for a while. I should have said something sooner. I’m sorry I didn’t. Can I talk with you about it now?”

It’s ok if you waited too long. It’s ok not to say things perfectly. Authenticity goes a long way. Be real. If you’re nervous, say so. If you’re wondering if it’s ok to speak up, say so. If you waited too long, say so. Relationships are built on trust, and authenticity builds trust. The time to start is now.


Strengthen Your Organization’s Culture Quickly and Cheaply

Leaders with virtual and hybrid workforces are worried about losing their organization’s culture. Some organizations are calling employees back into the office to retain culture. Others are hosting in-person social events, retreats, and meetings to help employees reconnect and strengthen culture.

Getting together in person is nice but it isn’t always possible. And what happens when everyone goes home? Culture is built on a daily basis.

Organizational culture is an outcome of the decisions we make and how those decisions get made, how we treat people, and how we communicate and work together. If you want to strengthen your organization’s culture, do it every day.

To strengthen your culture, take small regular actions.

Start each meeting helping employees get to know each other better, from a work perspective.

Host town halls at least twice a year.

Host roundtable discussions between senior leaders and a diverse sample of your workforce.

Have leaders and managers leave employees a weekly voicemail. Share a recent success, challenge, or goals. Keep messages short and authentic. Set the tone for the week.

All of these actions can be done virtually or in a hybrid setting.

Give employees opportunities to talk to each other about the things that matter most at work. Do this regularly – at least a few times a year.

You don’t need to spend a lot of money to strengthen and retain your culture. Go small, go cheap – regularly.


Dump the Phrase “Quiet Quit”

The phrase Quiet Quitting is everywhere since appearing in a Tik-Tok video earlier in the year. Essentially quiet quitting is doing your job – just what is asked – not more and not less. Quiet quitters do good work during work hours, not on weekends and not at night. Quiet quitters don’t volunteer to do work outside the scope of their job, that they’re not paid to do.

Is there anything wrong with doing your assigned job and not more? No. Should you do it? If you want to. Should you use the phrase “quiet quit” at work or even with friends? No.

The definition of quiet quit is widely debated. Does it mean doing you minimal best, clocking it in, coasting, slacking, doing things other than work during work hours? It’s confusing and controversial.

The definition of the word quit is to leave, typically permanently. As a business owner who hires and works hard to retain team members, I don’t want my employees thinking of themselves as quiet quitters. It feels like a mentality – one foot out the door. And while the phrase quiet quit may not mean uncommitted, it has that connotation, so why use it?

If anything has become clear in the last almost-three years, it’s that many people want a different life. Many of us discovered that we enjoy being home, don’t want to commute long distances, travel for work, or miss family and social events because our jobs require it. So, let’s talk about that at work.

Employees – find the words to tell your boss what you need rather than labeling yourself with a controversial and confusing descriptor. Managers, find a way to talk with employees about what they need to be satisfied and stay in a job.

Employees and managers are often uncomfortable talking about the things that matter personally. Employees are often afraid to say what they need, for fear of being sidelined or fired. Managers are often afraid to raise the subject of what employees really need for fear of not being able to meet those needs. So, employees quiet quit and managers quietly hope for the best.

How about doing this instead – managers and employees meet individually, virtually, or in-person, every few weeks. Make a work-life check in a regular part of the conversation. Put the topic on the agenda to normalize the discussion and make talking about how work impacts personal an expected part of the conversation. Then start the discussion with something like, “I want us to be able to talk about how work fits in and supports your desired personal life. I want this job to support the vision you have for your life. I may not always be able to give you want, but I certainly can’t if I don’t know what those needs are.”

The world has changed, we have changed, and our needs have changed. We need to be able to talk about those changes without hesitation, worry, and fear. Instead of quiet quitting, schedule a conversation and open the discussion with something like, “I really enjoy my work here. There are a few things I’m realizing I need. Can we talk about it?”


Manage People Who Give You ‘The Tone’ – Tone of Voice Communication

You know when someone gives you ‘the tone’, similar to when people roll their eyes at you? When you get ‘the tone’ you’re being told that the other person is exasperated.

Tone of voice is one of the hardest things to coach because we don’t hear ourselves. People who give people ‘the tone’ rarely know they’re doing it. One of the best ways I know to effectively coach tone of voice is to ask tone givers to tape themselves during phone calls. Then listen to the recording together and ask the tone giver, “If your grandmother called and someone spoke to her that way, would you be happy?” You can also read written correspondence out loud, adding the tone you ‘heard’, and ask the sender how she would have interpreted the message.

When given the tone, most people feel judged. And when people feel judged, conversations are constrained.

The way to avoid giving ‘the tone’ is to come from a place of curiosity. When you ask the question, “What were you thinking when you approached the customer that way,” you can sound curious or judgmental. Being judgmental evokes defensiveness, which shuts conversations down. Being curious creates discussion.

Consider asking questions like these to invite discussion:

• Tell me more about… • Help me understand what happened here… • What are your thoughts about… • What’s the history behind….

Any of these questions will lead to a good discussion, if you manage your tone.

If you want to get information or influence someone, ask questions and engage the person in a dialogue. We often try to persuade people by giving them information. This rarely works. Instead of overloading people with data, ask questions that evoke discussion. Through discussion, you might get to a different place. And if not, you’ll at least have learned why the other person thinks as they do, and you will have shared your point of view in a way that is inviting versus off-putting.

It’s easy to give people ‘the tone’ when we’re tired and frustrated. Try to avoid difficult conversations when you’re tired or stressed. Wait to have important conversations until you know you can manage yourself and your tone.

 


Don’t Send Them to Yelp – Get Better Customer and Employee Feedback

Many businesses are struggling to overcome negative and permanent online reviews on yelp, trip advisor, Glassdoor, etc. And they’re wondering why customers and employees go online vs. giving feedback directly. The answer is simple.

Giving feedback online is easy. Giving feedback directly is harder, for many reasons.  No one wants to be the person who complains. Feedback is likely to be received with a defensive at worst and explanatory at best response, and who really wants to deal with that? And we fear we’ll get “in trouble” for giving feedback, etc. etc. etc. I could go on and on.

If you want your customers and employees to give you feedback directly instead of blasting you online when they’re unhappy, make it easy to give you feedback, regularly.

Here are four ways to help prevent negative online reviews and improve the data you get from customers and employees:

  1. Ask customers and employees for feedback regularly. Don’t wait until the end of the year or after a service has been provided to ask for feedback. Ask for feedback during the customer’s experience. Ask employees for feedback every 90-days. Marriott hotels is masterful at this. Hotel guests don’t get onto the hotel’s free Wi-Fi until answering one question about their hotel stay. If guest feedback has a negative component, a manager will call you immediately. Such smart business.
  2. If you’re going to send online surveys, keep them short. Never ask a customer more than five questions, and two is better. Ask a version of, “What are you appreciating about your experience? What could we change on your behalf?” What else do you need to know? Too many businesses send exhaustive and exhausting surveys to customers after a service has been provided. It’s unrealistic to expect customers to complete 30+ survey questions. Keep it short. You’ll see better response rates.
  3. Call 10% (or fewer if you have thousands of employees and customers) and ask for feedback. It’s such a rare occurrence to receive a phone call asking for feedback, it’s an immediate loyalty and relationship builder.
  4. Don’t request a positive score on a survey. Sending a survey and asking for a certain response type is a turnoff. Uber drivers who ask me to rate them a five never get that rating. The best way to get an awesome rating is to be awesome.

Ask for feedback early and often, and make it easy to give. P.S. And no anonymous surveys – a topic for another day.


Give and Receive Feedback for Better Results and Job Satisfaction

Most people wait way too long to give feedback. Instead of waiting to give feedback until you’re about to explode in frustration, or until a formal review, give feedback every time you meet with someone.

Managers, make it a practice to meet with each of your employees at least once a month. Short meetings twice a month or weekly would be better. But if you’re not doing one-on-one meetings now, start meeting monthly. If you’re meeting monthly, start meeting twice a month. Employees need one-on-one time with their boss. Team meetings and casual conversations do not replace individual meetings.

Direct Report One-on-One Meeting Agenda:

The direct report comes to the meeting ready to discuss:

1. What they are working on that is going well.
2. What they are working on that is not going well.
3. What they need help with.
4. Then the manager gives feedback on what went well since the last meeting and what could be improved.
5. The employee also gives the manager feedback on what has gone well since the last meeting and what could be improved.

Feedback goes both directions. Managers, if you want your employees to be open to your feedback, ask for feedback from your employees on what they need from you. Give feedback on both the work and your working relationship. A poor working relationship often motivates employees to leave a job, but it’s the last thing that gets discussed.

Feedback discussions should be short. You can say anything in two minutes or fewer. No one wants to be told they aren’t cutting it for 20 minutes. Say what you need to say and end the conversation or move on to another topic.

If you’re not giving your employees regular feedback, you can use this language to start:

“I’m realizing that I’m not giving you enough feedback. I want to be helpful to you. If I don’t provide regular, timely feedback, I’m not being as helpful as I could be. I’d like to start a regular practice of meeting monthly, getting an update from you on how things are going, and giving each other feedback on what went well and what could be improved since our last meeting.”

If you work for someone who is not forthcoming with feedback, ask for feedback. You’re 100% accountable for your career. Don’t wait for your manager, customers or peers to give you feedback. Ask for feedback on a regular basis.

Here’s how you can ask for feedback from your manager:

“Your feedback helps ensure I’m focused on the right work. Can we put a monthly meeting on the calendar, and I’ll tell you what I’m working on, where I do and don’t need help, and we can discuss how things are going?”

If meetings get cancelled, reschedule them. If your manager says these meetings aren’t necessary or they don’t have time, tell them, “Your regular input is helpful to me. What’s the best way to ensure we catch each other for a few minutes each month?” Meaning, push the issue.

If your manager still doesn’t make time for the meetings or doesn’t provide clear and specific feedback, even when you ask for examples, ask your internal and external customers and coworkers for feedback. The people you work closely with see you work and will likely give feedback, if asked.

No news is not necessarily good news. Waiting six months or a year to receive performance feedback is like going on a road trip from St. Louis to Los Angeles but not consulting a map until you arrive in New York, frustrated and far from your desired destination.

Managers: Meet with employees monthly, semi-monthly or weekly, and give feedback every time you meet.

Employees: Ask your managers, customers, and coworkers for regular feedback, and take control of your career.


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