Call Shari 303-863-0948 or Email Us

Contact us for virtual speaking and training!

Posts Tagged ‘candid culture’

Ask for Specific Feedback – Make Performance Appraisals More Useful

My son’s first soccer coach would frequently tell the kids, “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.” As adults receiving performance appraisals, I think we can do better.

Performance appraisals are, for many, the most dreaded day of the year.  Most employees anticipate the meeting, wondering what their manager will say. In addition to hearing about the situations your manager and others in your organization observed throughout the year, why not tell your manager what you’d like to know?

It’s perfectly appropriate to tell your manager if you’d like feedback about a specific aspect of your performance or about your work on a certain project or piece of work. And the time to ask for this feedback is at least one month BEFORE your appraisal meeting.

Most people don’t like to be caught off guard or feel that they can’t answer a question. Asking for feedback in the moment, that your boss can’t address, may embarrass your manager. Don’t put managers on the spot. Set your boss and yourself up for success by asking for specific feedback BEFORE meetings, and give your manager a chance to observe you doing that kind of work.

If you want to know how you manage telling internal or external clients “no”, give your boss a chance to see or hear you do this. If you want feedback on how you built relationships with peers virtually this year, give your boss a chance to observe that behavior or time to ask your peers for input.

Ask a vague question, get a vague answer. Ask a specific question, get a specific answer. If you want specific feedback, let your manager know and give her time to observe you doing the actions you’re asking about BEFORE the feedback conversation.


Leaders – Encourage Employees to Disagree

A few years ago, I facilitated a company-wide training program for an 80-person organization. Early in the program, we were talking about career deal breakers and I asked someone in the group to share a deal breaker, so I knew that everyone was clear on what is and is not a true deal-breaker. An employee spoke up. She said, “I’ve been here six weeks. I’m overwhelmed and exhausted. If I don’t get some help soon, I’m leaving.” People in the room gasped audibly. And everyone surely thought the same thing – “She’s done. She’ll be gone by Friday.”

I ran into the organization’s CEO at the Denver airport two weeks later and we had dinner together. Over dinner, I asked if I could give him some advice. I said, “That woman who spoke up during the training did you a huge favor. You spent time and money to become a more candid organization; she gave you the opportunity to demonstrate whether or not you really mean it. Make sure nothing (bad) happens to her.”

It can be really hard when people disagree with us. Leaders institute a new practice, employees resist. Employees say they agree with a policy during a meeting but managers hear otherwise after the meeting.

It may feel easier to introduce a practice and ask employees to follow it without asking what they think. And sometimes it makes sense to do that. You don’t need to involve employees in every decision. But in an organization, it has to be safe to offer a counter-point-of-view. It must be safe to disagree.

Disagreement is hard. But silence and the fear of speaking up is dangerous. Organizations full of yes people don’t innovate. They don’t solve problems or find new ways to save costs. They don’t grow, develop, or change. Hearing the truth takes courage and persistence. Put your ego aside and ask – again and again and again.  

Every time I work with a new organization, at least one employee pulls me aside and tells me about the organization’s “list”. Employees who speak up and say things the leadership team disagree with get put on the “list”. And employees who make the “list” disappear from the organization. Mind you, no one has ever seen this “list”, but employees everywhere are convinced it exists. And this is a challenge for leaders.

Even leaders who do all the right things regarding asking for and being open to all kinds of input are up against the belief that it isn’t safe to tell the truth at work. There may be no consequences whatsoever for speaking up, but the perception of the negative consequence is what matters. And this perception is powerful and pervasive across organizations.

So what is to be done? How do leaders get the truth when employees are afraid, disbelieving, and perhaps cynical?

Below are seven practices for leaders and managers to get more truth in their organization:

  1. Put your ego aside. It hurts when people disagree with our beliefs or approach, and we’ll be fine. Let curiosity rather than your ego run the show.
  2. Ask for input. Ask again and again and again. Employees may eventually believe that you really want their input.
  3. Ask for input in different ways – in-person roundtable discussions, email, and surveys.
  4. Ensure there are no negative consequences for speaking up. You can coach employees on how they spoke up and make suggestions for diplomacy, but reward the courage it took to speak up.
  5. Share what you learn after gathering data. Don’t be a black hole. Give more information than you think you need to.
  6. Tell employees the ideas you’re accepting and those you’re rejecting and why. It’s ok not to accept and act on all feedback. But close the loop and explain the rationale for decisions.
  7. Be human. Admit failure, fear, worry, and wins. People trust leaders who are human, and humans have feelings and make mistakes. I’ll follow a humble leader further than a polished and seemingly perfect one.


How to Give Feedback – Be Yourself

Many people worry about giving feedback because they’re concerned, they don’t have the ‘right’ words. They’re concerned they’ll say ‘it’ wrong and damage their relationships.

Feedback is hard enough to give without worrying about saying everything perfectly. Worry less about having all the right words and more about whether or not people trust your motives.

When people trust your motives – why you’re giving feedback – you can say almost anything. When they don’t trust your motives, you can say almost nothing.

Getting negative feedback is hard. It’s easier to listen to feedback when we trust the person who’s giving us the feedback – we know their intentions are to help versus to judge or hurt us.

Speak from the heart, be authentic, and worry less. Be yourself. If you’re nervous to say what you want to say, tell the other person you’re nervous. If you’re struggling to find the right words, say so. If you’re worried you’ll damage the relationship or that it isn’t your role to give the feedback, say that. Authenticity goes a long way.

Hear are some examples of how to start a feedback conversation:  

How to give feedback phrase one:  Consider saying, “There’s something I need to talk with you about, but I’m concerned that I won’t use the right words and will damage our relationship.”

How to give feedback phrase two: “There’s something I want to talk with you about, but I’m concerned how it will come across. Is it ok if I say what I need to say?”

How to give feedback phrase three: “I want to give you my thoughts on something, but I’m concerned that it’s not my place to do so. Is it ok if I share my ideas about _________?”

Other people aren’t expecting you to be perfect. But they do want to know they’re working with a human being. And human beings are fallible. We have fears. We make mistakes. And sometimes we don’t say things perfectly.

You don’t have to be perfect; you just have to be real.


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.


Want More Innovation In the Workplace? Make It Safe to Tell the Truth

You’ve either seen the video or heard about the group think that happened before NASA’s Challenger exploded in 1986. One engineer felt strongly that there was a defect in the Challenger’s design. He spoke up, others disagreed. He continued to speak up, until it became very uncomfortable to do so.

Most employees don’t even get that far. Many employees are afraid to speak up at all, feeling that it’s not ok to have a counter point of view, and that those who disagree with ‘management’ are eventually fired. I honestly am not sure where this comes from. It hasn’t been my experience, and yet the fear of speaking up is pervasive. I hear it in almost every organization with which I work.

innovation

If it’s not ok to express different opinions, your organization will deliver the same-old products and services you always have. If staying the same works in your industry, great. But stagnation is detrimental to most organizations.

If you want more innovation in the workplace, you have to make it safe to speak up and offer a different point of view. Saying new, different, and even controversial things must be encourage and rewarded.

Five Ways to Encourage Innovation In the Workplace:

  1. Ask for new ideas and different points of view.
  2. Wait until you get both. Don’t allow a meeting or discussion to move on until you get new, opposing, and different points of view.
  3. Positively acknowledge people who risk and say something new or different from the norm.
  4. Ensure people with new ideas and different points of view are allowed to finish speaking before they’re interrupted or before someone else tries to negate their ideas.
  5. Create a few new awards in your organization and announce winners publicly and with great fanfare. You get what you reward.

Create Awards to Encourage Innovation In the Workplace:

  1. Acknowledge the person who fails massively trying something new.
  2. Award the person who brings new ideas to the table, regardless of what happens to those ideas.
  3. Celebrate the person who willingly gives you the worst news.

The fear of speaking up and saying something new or different will destroy your innovation efforts. It will also squelch your employees’ ambition and ability to be creative. Make it safe to tell the truth, even when the truth is hard to understand or unpopular, and see what happens to innovation, creativity, and employee productivity and morale.


Candid Culture Turns 15!

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 15 years since I left my corporate job to launch a not-yet-fully-formed business.

People ask me regularly, “Who do you typically work with?” Even after 15 years, the answer still surprises me. Our clients are incredibly diverse. Candid Culture clients range from small family-owned businesses to school districts, towns and cities, associations, universities, hospitals, not-for-profits, and huge, global corporations. The things all of these organizations have in common – the organizations’ leaders want to create a work environment in which employees can speak freely without fear. They want to create a place where people genuinely want to work and can do their best work.

So, what are a few things I have learned these past 15 years?

I’ve learned that almost-worldwide people are afraid to say what they really want to at work (and in life). Almost universally, people feel like they will be disliked and disapproved of for providing feedback others don’t like.

When I started Candid Culture, it was with the premise that it’s hard to speak up in most relationships because we haven’t set the expectation that it’s ok to do so. We haven’t laid the groundwork, letting people know we genuinely want their input and there won’t be a negative consequence for saying unpopular things. My views on this haven’t changed. If you’ve read How to Say Anything to Anyone you know that the book’s title makes it seem like the book is about feedback, but it really isn’t. The first eight chapters are how to create environments and relationships in which it’s safe to speak up.

I’ve learned to let people save face. Negative feedback is hard to hear, it bruises the ego. Say just enough to get the desired actions. Give small amounts of feedback at a time, saying just what you need to. And never give feedback when you’re upset. The time to fix a problem or a relationship is when nothing is wrong, aka, no one is upset.

I’ve learned that people really are doing the best they can. If they knew another way, they would do it that way. But that doesn’t mean a person’s approach is good enough (for me). I can request more from a person or walk away from a relationship and still grant the other person grace.

I’ve learned it’s ok to renegotiate. “I know I said I would do this, but I’m realizing I can’t in our agreed time frame. Here’s what I can do.” Being upfront is scary in the moment but feels better than silently disappointing people.

The last thing I’ll say is that I’m still working on and will probably forever be working on feeling ok making requests. I tell myself regularly, it’s ok to ask for help, to ask for what I need, and to ask for a change. Asking will always be easier than giving negative feedback. And it’s ok to ask.

What do I hope for in the next 15 years? I wish us all the courage to ask for what we need and know that we deserve to have those things.


Achieve Your Goals – Good Things Happen to Those Who Pursue Them

When I was growing up, my dad rarely said no to anything I wanted to do. He just refused to pay for it. I wanted to do a 10-day, residential program for middle schoolers over the summer. He said, “Ok, but I’m not going to pay for it.” I wanted to study abroad. “Ok,” he said, “how are you going to pay for that?” I wanted to travel around the country. He said, “Ok, how are you going to make that happen?” He wasn’t going to stand in my way, but he wasn’t going to pave the way either. As a result, I became very resourceful.

Summers in college, I went to work for that residential, summer program so I got the experience. I got a job as a teen-tour counselor and got to travel around the country. And I found the least expensive study-abroad program that gave credit for travel. I figured it out.

My dad’s philosophy, “If it’s to be it’s up to you” must have come from my grandfather who I remember saying, “You can have anything you’re willing to work for.”

My takeaway: If there is something I want, there is always a way.

Sometimes people will say you can’t make something happen. Friends, family, and coworkers might say things like, “That will never work.” “Is that a good idea?” “Are you sure about that?” Or a manager at work might say, “That will be too costly. It’s too difficult.”

If you really want to make something happen, there is always a way.

Recently I was talking to someone with an ambitious sales goal. I asked her how she planned to meet the goal. She said she was putting her intention on the phone ringing. She was visualizing people calling her. I told her that was great, and perhaps she might want to make some calls.

Things might just land in your lap, but most likely they won’t.

Here are six steps to pursue goals when the world tells you not to or when what you want seems too big, too hard, and out of reach:

  1. Get very clear on what you want. It’s very difficult to attain a vague goal.
  2. Know the why behind your goal. Why you want something will keep you going when things get hard or feel impossible. For example, you want a job with international travel because you want to see the world. Or you want a job with less travel because you want to take your kids to school.
  3. Don’t listen when people tell you that you “don’t really need that” or “it’s not that important”. Only you know what you really need.
  4. Don’t talk about your goals with people who are unsupportive or questioning. The people in your life care about you and want to protect you. In doing so, they may be discouraging. It’s ok not to share what you’re working on until you’ve made it happen. All of a sudden you have a new house, a new job, or a baby on the way. The people in your life don’t need the play-by-play.
  5. Take small, regular steps towards your goal. Creating what you want will likely take time.
  6. Expect setbacks. Bumps in the road will happen. Setbacks are discouraging. It’s ok to take breaks and feel frustrated. Then pick yourself up and start again.

When there’s a will there’s a way. And there is always a way. Good things come to those who pursue them.


Want a Better Workplace Culture? Gossip Less.

People have a tendency to talk about us, not to us. If you haven’t been gossiped about, you just need to meet more people.

If you have something to say, say it directly to the person involved. If you’re not going to speak to the person directly, say nothing at all. As we all know, this is easier said than done. Gossip will destroy relationships, organizational cultures, and careers faster than anything else. And we are all tempted to gossip.

Most of us consider gossip to be saying something bad about someone else when that person isn’t there. But what if we say something good?

The strictest definition of gossip is talking about another person while she is not present. But for our purposes, let’s say gossip is talking about another person so as to alter how others think about that person.

Several years ago, I took a year-long class with about eighty other people. The class met one weekend a quarter over twelve months and had a few ground rules, one of which was no gossip. Participants couldn’t gossip anywhere, at any time, during the class’s entire duration. No gossip with friends, family, or coworkers for a year.

When the class started, I assumed the no-gossip guideline would be no problem for me. Then I started to notice my behavior. At the time, I was a director in my organization and had one friend at work who was my typical confidant. Most of us have “our person” at work—someone we confide in and complain to. The two of us would sit in my office with the door closed, talking about all the bad decisions the leaders of our company had made. The moment I began paying attention to the no-gossiping rule, I realized that not only did I gossip, but I was good at it and even enjoyed it. (Oh, come on, admit it—it’s fun.)

The problem is that gossiping breaks trust. If a coworker gossips with you about someone else, he will talk about you to someone else. You are not special or different. (Well, you are, but you know what I mean.) You are not exempt.

As you rise in an organization, you have exposure to more and more sensitive information. You know about employees’ performance ratings, the organization’s financial results, and impending layoffs. One criterion of promotion is being able to be trusted with sensitive information. If the senior people in your organization think you’re a gossip and can’t be trusted to keep confidences, your career is going nowhere.

People will never stop gossiping. It’s one of those human things. We all do it, and we aren’t going to quit. The best we can hope for is to reduce the amount of time we spend talking about other people behind their backs.

I won’t suggest you stop gossiping. I merely suggest you bring attention to the gossip circulating throughout your organization. Bringing attention to the gossip circulating in your organization will raise awareness, and reduce the gossip, just a little bit.

** This blog is an excerpt from the book How to Say Anything to Anyone.


Virtual Team Building – Start Now

It’s easy to forget about team building when you’re working virtually, or to think that team building can’t be don’t virtually, or to decide to wait to do team building until your whole team can get together in person. My advice; don’t wait.

Often the most meaningful aspects of work are the people we work with and the relationships we build. When you leave a job, you leave your laptop and take your friendships. You can build team work virtually, you just need to make the time.

Even if you’re type A and tightly wound (like I am), spend the first few minutes of meetings on small talk, just like you would if you were gathering in a physical conference room. Ask what people are doing for the holidays. Commiserate over vacations you’re missing and food you know you shouldn’t be eating.

Eat lunch together, virtually. Remember when people used to sit together in the office breakroom or cafeteria? Why not eat together via video? Team building doesn’t have to be elaborate. It can just be spending time together, talking about things other than work.

Humans need people contact and relationships. People are missing other people. Connections with our coworkers make us feel connected to our organizations.

Small talk and group lunches create camaraderie, but they don’t teach people how to work together. In addition to social activities, give people a chance to talk about working style preferences too. You don’t have to do personality assessments and long training programs to build teamwork. Just give people a chance to talk about how they like to work, on a regular basis.

Tell you team you want to help people get to know each other better so work gets done more easily. Start each team meeting with one of the questions below, then move on to your meeting agenda. Do this all year.

Here are a few team building questions you can use:

What are your pet peeves at work?

What time of day do you do your best work?

Do you leave your email, phone, or text alerts on at night? If I text you after hours, will you get a ping?

If I email you on weekends and evenings, do you think I expect a response? Would you prefer I send messages only during regular business hours?

What work do you like to do most?

What work do you like to do least?

What’s an area of our business you’d like to learn more about?

What’s something you’d like to learn to do that you don’t have a chance to do now?

Read a question to the group. Give everyone at the meeting the opportunity to answer the question about themselves. And remember, the meeting leader/facilitator speaks last. People will often follow the most senior person’s lead. You want people to answer authentically rather than providing what they think is the ‘right’ answer.

Team building doesn’t have to take a lot of time or money. Don’t wait until everyone is back in the office or for a future retreat. Help coworkers spend time together formally and informally, getting to know each other better now.

 


Stop Expecting People to Change

I read a quote a few months ago that struck me – “It’s so hard to change yourself, what makes you think you can change someone else?” This seems so true. And yet, how much energy do we invest trying or at least hoping other people will change? We want our not-so-forthcoming manager to give regular and helpful feedback, our Halloween candy stuffed selves to prefer celery over chocolate, our not-so-affectionate partner to become a cuddler.

People are who and (largely) how they are. Even with lots of effort, coaching, and even counseling, it’s hard to change.

work well with others

As someone who leads a training and development company, it feels risky to write this. I’m concerned that my words will be misunderstood. So I want to be sure I’m clear. People can learn new skills. Managers can learn to coach and give feedback. People at all levels and in all roles can learn to communicate differently. Everyone can learn to use new technology. But we don’t fundamentally change who and how we are. People who hate to public speak aren’t likely to wake up tomorrow clambering to give presentations to thousands of people. People who don’t like crowds aren’t likely to want to spend every weekend at large sporting events when they resume.

What I’m really trying to say is, stop trying to get something from someone who can’t give that to you. If you work for someone who never provides feedback, no matter how often you ask, get input from someone else. Lots of people can provide you with helpful information if you ask for it and make it safe to tell you the truth. If you’re chastising yourself for not being more athletic, accept that you like to read, and buy yourself a new book.

Instead of trying to get something from someone who can’t give it to you, get what you can from that relationship and get the rest of your needs met elsewhere. And tell others to do the same. I had someone working for me a few years ago who was extremely sensitive and didn’t do well receiving feedback. I tried to accommodate her needs and preferences, softening my messages, picking my battles, and in the end, giving less and less feedback. And it was exhausting. Eventually, I said to her, “I’m not the right manager for you and this is the not right company for you. It’s not a good fit. You won’t be happy here, and I want you to be happy. Let’s help you find another home.”

I’m not telling you to get a new job. I’m telling you to be realistic in your expectations of yourself and others. The most powerful thing you can do is to be yourself and let others be themselves. And if you don’t like how or who someone is, hang out with someone else.


Sign Up

Career tips
you won't get
elsewhere. Sign up
to get a free
tip card.