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Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

Manage Up to Give Feedback

Employees are often afraid of the most senior people in organizations, simply because of their titles. The better the title, the scarier people are. And if employees are scared of organizational leaders, they’re not going to give those leaders negative feedback. The most senior people in an organization get the least information of anyone.

No one likes to be told that he is wrong. Negative feedback tells the person he did something wrong. But there is more than one way to give feedback. Asking questions can be equally as effective as giving direct feedback.

If you want to give a senior person negative feedback, but you’re afraid of the consequences, manage up by asking more and saying less.

Here are some ways to manage up by asking questions:

Rather than saying, “I disagree, I think you’re wrong, or this is a mistake,” consider managing up by asking questions like:

  • We’ve chosen to invest a lot in this software. I wasn’t here when the software was chosen. What’s the history of this initiative?
  • What were the criteria for selection?
  • What are you concerned about?
  • What are you satisfied with?
  • What else have we tried?
  • What are your thoughts about…?
  • What if we tried…?

Asking questions gets the person involved in a discussion, during which you can eventually express your point of view. When you ask questions, you say very little, and definitely don’t call the person’s decision-making into question.

Human beings are wired for survival. Receiving negative feedback kicks the need to defend oneself into gear, hence why people become defensive when they receive negative feedback. Negative feedback calls survival into question. If you don’t want people to become defensive, don’t require them to defend themselves. A discussion, during which you ask questions, is much less threatening than overtly disagreeing with someone’s point of view.

Asking questions takes more time and more patience than giving direct feedback. But it also takes less courage, and the quality of your relationship doesn’t have to be as good. You need a pretty good relationship to give direct feedback. If you don’t have that relationship, manage up by asking questions instead of being so direct.

If you do choose to ask questions, watch your tone. If you can safely add the words “you dummy” to a question, you aren’t really asking a question, you’re giving feedback, which is likely to evoke the defensive response you’re seeking to avoid.

It’s important to be able to express your point-of-view at work. Staying in a job or organization in which you can’t speak up, doesn’t feel great and doesn’t leverage the best of what you have to offer. But if you’re concerned about giving direct feedback, manage up by asking questions.  Say less. Ask more.


Employee Engagement Surveys – Why Not Do Them Live?

Surveys are a great way to gather data. They’re not a great way to build relationships. In addition to sending out employee engagement surveys, ask questions live. Employees want to talk about their experience working with your organization. And employees will give you real, honest, and salient data, if you ask them and make it safe to tell the truth.

Here are a few methods of gathering data, in addition to sending employee engagement surveys:

Managers, ask questions during every one-on-one and team meeting with employees.

Managers, consider asking: 

  • What’s being talked about in the rumor mill?
  • What do I need to know about that you suspect I don’t?
  • What makes your job harder than it has to be? What would make your job easier?
  • What meetings are not a good use of time?

Listen and be careful not to defend. Employees want to be heard. Respond if you’re able, but don’t deflect the feedback you’ve received.

Leaders, conduct roundtable discussions with small groups of employees throughout the year. I’d suggest discussions with groups of six employees. Have lunch or coffee. Keep the meetings informal.

Leaders, consider asking:

  • What’s a good decision we made in the last six months? What’s a decision we made that you question?
  • What would need to happen for you to be comfortable referring your friends to work here?
  • What’s something happening in the organization that you’re concerned about?

How to Get the Truth:

  • Share as much information as you can. Trust your employees.
  • Ensure there are no negative consequences for people who tell you the truth.
  • Give positive attention to the people who risk and give you negative information.
  • Tell employees what you learn during these discussions and what you will and won’t be doing with the information.
    • You don’t need to act on every piece of data you receive. Just acknowledge what you heard and explain why you will or won’t be taking action.

Employees are loyal to managers and organizations they feel connected to, and connections are formed through conversations. So in addition to sending employee engagement surveys, ask questions during every conversation and make it clear that you’re listening to the answers.

Employee Engagement Surveys


Send Fewer Employee Engagement Surveys – Talk with Employees Instead

Lots of organizations send out employee engagement surveys with the desire of improving employee engagement and retention; unfortunately they often damage both in the process.

There are a few employee engagement survey pitfalls that are luckily easy to avoid.

Here are three practices to follow when sending out employee engagement surveys:

  1. Shorter is better. I hate to say this, but no one wants to fill out your employee engagement survey. It’s time consuming, employees doubt the survey will yield results, and employees worry that their feedback isn’t really confidential.

Make your employee engagement survey easy to fill out by making it short. And by short, I mean 10 questions or fewer.  You’ll get a better response rate to a 10-question survey than a 65-question one. And do you really need more information than the answers to ten well-written questions?

  1. Provide employees with survey results quickly. Most organizations ask for too much information. Leaders are overwhelmed by the survey information, so they spend months and months reviewing it, while employees comment on yet another employee survey with no communication.

Send out a communication sharing the top few learnings – the good and the not-so-good — within a few weeks of sending out the survey. You don’t need to take action at the same time. Simply keep employees in the loop by communicating a quick summary of what you learned. If you wait too long to share the feedback, it often never gets communicated. And the next time you send out a survey, employees will remember the absence of information and be hesitant to fill it out.

  1. Within 90-days, tell employees what you will and won’t be changing, based on the survey feedback, and tell them why. Employees don’t need or expect all of their input to be utilized. Closing the loop with clear communication about what you are and aren’t changing, and why, is often sufficient.

All of that being said, I’m going to recommend you send out fewer surveys. Employee engagement surveys are a good way to quickly collect lots of information. Engagement surveys are not a good way of building trust and relationships with employees, which is what leads to employee engagement and retention. Employees don’t feel closer to an organization’s leadership team after filling out an employee engagement survey. Trust isn’t built. Instead of sending out so many surveys, I’d suggest cutting the number in half and have leaders and managers hold roundtable discussions with groups of 6-8 employees a few times a year instead. Roundtable discussions achieve several goals at once—they give leaders visibility, which builds trust, they help leaders build rapport and relationships, and gather the same data that a written survey provides.

When leaders participate in our Be a Best Place to Work program, we teach the five things leaders need to do to engage and retain employees. Holding roundtable discussions and asking these questions is a key recommendation of the training. Sending out written surveys is not. Engage and retain employees by talking with employees. Ask employees for their input. Listen. And watch your employee engagement survey scores sky rocket.

employee surveys leader cards


That’s Not My Job – Four Words You Should Never Say

There are three reasons people say “that’s above or below my paygrade” or “that’s not my job” –they don’t feel empowered to make decisions, they think they’re being unfairly compensated for the challenges at hand, or they aren’t particularly motivated (read lazy).

“That’s not my job” (aka, I don’t do things that are outside of my job description) is a mindset, and if someone has it, I’d suggest not hiring that person. People who think they should only have to do what’s on their job description aren’t utility players, and your organization is likely too lean to afford employees who only want to perform in a narrow box.That's not my job

“That’s not my job” can also be an outcome of leaders and managers who can’t let go and let employees take risks and make decisions. If that’s your management style, hire people who will follow directions and don’t want to create new things and solve problems. Problem solvers will be frustrated if they only get to follow instructions.

Here are six steps to steer clear of “that’s not my job” syndrome and advance your career, regardless of your current role in your organization:

  1. Never say the words “that’s above or below my paygrade” or “that’s not my job.” Even if it’s true.
  1. If you don’t have the latitude to solve certain problems, ask the people you work for how they want you to handle those types of issues when you see or hear about them. That’s a subtle way to provide feedback that you don’t have the latitude you need to solve certain problems.
  1. When you see an impending train wreck, say something. I see lots of very capable employees see the train wreck coming, comment to themselves or others who can’t do anything about the problem (aka gossip), and then nod knowingly when the *&#@ hits the fan. Don’t be that person. Look out for your organization and the people you work with.
  1. If you see a broken or lacking process, raise the issue with someone who can do something about it, and offer to take a stab at fixing the problem. One of managers’ biggest complaints is employees who dump and run – “I’ve identified a problem. I’m leaving it for you to fix.”
  1. Go out of your way to do the right thing, even if you are uncomfortable or don’t want to. If it’s easier to email someone, but you know the right thing to do is to pick up the phone, pick up the phone. If an internal or external customer expresses concern and you can’t solve the problem, find someone who can. There are lots of ways to make an impact.
  1. Ask more questions. Find a non-judgmental way to ask, “Why do we do this this way?” “Have we considered…?” “Would you be open to trying…?” Status quo can be the right thing and what’s necessary. It can also be the death of organizations.

Make stuff happen. Don’t pass the buck. And if you are going to pass the buck, don’t announce it. It only makes you look disempowered and uncommitted.

that's not my job


Send Fewer Employee Engagement Surveys – Talk with Employees Instead

employee engagement surveysLots of organizations send out employee engagement surveys with the desire of improving employee engagement and retention; unfortunately they often damage both in the process.

There are a few employee engagement survey pitfalls that are luckily easy to avoid.

Here are three practices to follow when sending out employee engagement surveys:

  1. Shorter is better. I hate to say this, but no one wants to fill out your employee engagement survey. It’s time consuming, employees doubt the survey will yield results, and employees worry that their feedback isn’t really confidential.

Make your employee engagement survey easy to fill out by making it short. And by short, I mean 10 questions or fewer.  You’ll get a better response rate to a 10-question survey than a 65-question one. And do you really need more information than the answers to ten well-written questions?

  1. Provide employees with survey results quickly. Most organizations ask for too much information. Leaders are overwhelmed by the survey information, so they spend months and months reviewing it, while employees comment on yet another employee survey with no communication.

Send out a communication sharing the top few learnings – the good and the not-so-good — within a few weeks of sending out the survey. You don’t need to take action at the same time. Simply keep employees in the loop by communicating a quick summary of what you learned. If you wait too long to share the feedback, it often never gets communicated. And the next time you send out a survey, employees will remember the absence of information and be hesitant to fill it out.

  1. Within 90-days, tell employees what you will and won’t be changing, based on the survey feedback, and tell them why. Employees don’t need or expect all of their input to be utilized. Closing the loop with clear communication about what you are and aren’t changing, and why, is often sufficient.

All of that being said, I’m going to recommend you send out fewer surveys. Employee engagement surveys are a good way to quickly collect lots of information. Engagement surveys are not a good way of building trust and relationships with employees, which is what leads to employee engagement and retention. Employees don’t feel closer to an organization’s leadership team after filling out an employee engagement survey. Trust isn’t built. Instead of sending out so many surveys, I’d suggest cutting the number in half and have leaders and managers hold roundtable discussions with groups of 6-8 employees a few times a year instead. Roundtable discussions achieve several goals at once—they give leaders visibility, which builds trust, they help leaders build rapport and relationships, and gather the same data that a written survey provides.

When leaders participate in our Be a Best Place to Work program, we teach the five things leaders need to do to engage and retain employees. Holding roundtable discussions and asking these questions is a key recommendation of the training. Sending out written surveys is not. Engage and retain employees by talking with employees. Ask employees for their input. Listen. And watch your employee engagement survey scores sky rocket.

employee surveys leader cards


That’s Not My Job – Four Words You Should Never Say

That's not my jobThere are three reasons people say “that’s above or below my paygrade” or “that’s not my job” –they don’t feel empowered to make decisions, they think they’re being unfairly compensated for the challenges at hand, or they aren’t particularly motivated (read lazy).

“That’s not my job” (aka, I don’t do things that are outside of my job description) is a mindset, and if someone has it, I’d suggest not hiring that person. People who think they should only have to do what’s on their job description aren’t utility players, and your organization is likely too lean to afford employees who only want to perform in a narrow box.

“That’s not my job” can also be an outcome of leaders and managers who can’t let go and let employees take risks and make decisions. If that’s your management style, hire people who will follow directions and don’t want to create new things and solve problems. Problem solvers will be frustrated if they only get to follow instructions.

Here are six steps to steer clear of “that’s not my job” syndrome and advance your career, regardless of your current role in your organization:

  1. Never say the words “that’s above or below my paygrade” or “that’s not my job.” Even if it’s true.
  1. If you don’t have the latitude to solve certain problems, ask the people you work for how they want you to handle those types of issues when you see or hear about them. That’s a subtle way to provide feedback that you don’t have the latitude you need to solve certain problems.
  1. When you see an impending train wreck, say something. I see lots of very capable employees see the train wreck coming, comment to themselves or others who can’t do anything about the problem (aka gossip), and then nod knowingly when the *&#@ hits the fan. Don’t be that person. Look out for your organization and the people you work with.
  1. If you see a broken or lacking process, raise the issue with someone who can do something about it, and offer to take a stab at fixing the problem. One of managers’ biggest complaints is employees who dump and run – “I’ve identified a problem. I’m leaving it for you to fix.”
  1. Go out of your way to do the right thing, even if you are uncomfortable or don’t want to. If it’s easier to email someone, but you know the right thing to do is to pick up the phone, pick up the phone. If an internal or external customer expresses concern and you can’t solve the problem, find someone who can. There are lots of ways to make an impact.
  1. Ask more questions. Find a non-judgmental way to ask, “Why do we do this this way?” “Have we considered…?” “Would you be open to trying…?” Status quo can be the right thing and what’s necessary. It can also be the death of organizations.

Make stuff happen. Don’t pass the buck. And if you are going to pass the buck, don’t announce it. It only makes you look disempowered and uncommitted.

that's not my job


Manage Up to Give Feedback

Most employees are afraid of getting fired. As a result, employees are often afraid of the most senior people in organizations, simply because of their titles. The better the title, the scarier people are. And if employees are scared of organizational leaders, they’re not going to be Manage Upinclined to give those leaders negative feedback. The most senior people in an organization get the least information of anyone.

No one likes to be told that he is wrong. Negative feedback tells the person he did something wrong. But there is more than one way to give feedback. Asking questions can be equally as effective as giving direct feedback.

If you want to give a senior person negative feedback, but you’re afraid of the consequences, manage up by asking more and saying less..

Here are some ways to manage up by asking questions:

Rather than saying, “I disagree, I think you’re wrong, or this is a mistake,” consider managing up by asking questions like:

  • We’ve chosen to invest a lot in this software. I wasn’t here when the software was chosen. What’s the history of this initiative?
  • What were the criteria for selection?
  • How do you think it’s going?
  • What are you concerned about?
  • What are you satisfied with?
  • What else have we tried?
  • What are your thoughts about…?
  • What if we tried…?

Asking questions gets the person involved in a discussion, during which you can eventually express your point of view. When you ask questions, you say very little, and definitely don’t call the person’s decision-making into question.

 Human beings are wired for survival. Receiving negative feedback kicks the need to defend oneself into gear, hence why people become defensive when they receive negative feedback. Negative feedback calls survival into question. If you don’t want people to become defensive, don’t require them to defend themselves. A discussion, during which you ask questions, is much less threatening than overtly disagreeing with someone’s point of view.

Asking questions takes more time and more patience than giving direct feedback. But it also takes less courage, and the quality of your relationship doesn’t have to be as good. You need a pretty good relationship to give direct feedback. If you don’t have that relationship, manage up by asking questions instead of being so direct.

If you do choose to ask questions, watch your tone. If you can safely add the words “you dummy” to a question, you aren’t really asking a question, you’re giving feedback, which is likely to evoke the defensive response you’re seeking to avoid.

It’s important to be able to express your point-of-view at work. Staying in a job or organization in which you can’t speak up, doesn’t feel great and doesn’t leverage the best of what you have to offer. But if you’re concerned about giving direct feedback, manage up by asking questions.  Say less. Ask more.

manage up


Employee Engagement Surveys – Why Not Do Them Live?

Employee Engagement SurveysSurveys are a great way to gather data. They’re not a great way to build relationships. In addition to sending out employee engagement surveys, ask questions live. Employees want to talk about their experience working with your organization. And employees will give you real, honest, and salient data, if you ask them and make it safe to tell the truth.

Here are a few methods of gathering data, in addition to sending employee engagement surveys:

Managers, ask questions during every one-on-one and team meeting with employees.

Managers, consider asking: 

  • What’s being talked about in the rumor mill?
  • What do I need to know about that you suspect I don’t?
  • What makes your job harder than it has to be?  What would make your job easier?
  • What meetings are not a good use of time?

Listen and be careful not to defend. Employees want to be heard. Respond if you’re able, but don’t deflect the feedback you’ve received.

Leaders, conduct roundtable discussions with small groups of employees throughout the year. I’d suggest discussions with groups of six employees. Have lunch or coffee. Keep the meetings informal.

Leaders, consider asking:

  • What’s a good decision we made in the last six months. What’s a decision we made that you question?
  • What would need to happen for you to be comfortable referring your friends to work here?
  • What’s something happening in the organization that you’re concerned about?

How to Get the Truth:

  • Share as much information as you can. Trust your employees.
  • Ensure there are no negative consequences for people who tell you the truth.
  • Give positive attention to the people who risk and give you negative information.
  • Tell employees what you learn during these discussions and what you will and won’t be doing with the information.
    • You don’t need to act on every piece of data you receive. Just acknowledge what you heard and explain why you will or won’t be taking action.

Employees are loyal to managers and organizations they feel connected to. And connections are formed through conversations.  So in addition to sending employee engagement surveys, ask questions during every conversation and make it clear that you’re listening to the answers.

Employee Engagement Surveys

 

 


Become a Candid Culture – Make It Easier to Give Feedback at Work

For the most part, people are afraid to speak up at work. Despite the town hall meetings and roundtable discussions executives host, the feedback training offered, the existence of ask-the-CEO email addresses and blogs, and employee satisfaction and engagement surveys, many employees are still afraid to give feedback at work, citing fear of damaging relationships, being fired, and other forms of retaliation.

Those of you who have worked with me, read How to Say Anything to Anyone, and/or used our tools, know that I am on a quest to make it easier to tell the truth at work.

The Candid Culture Vision:

  1. Coworkers, leaders, and managers set clear expectations before problems occur. No one has to guess what is expected of them and what a good job looks like.
  2. Employees ask for and receive regular, balanced and candid feedback and always know where they stand performance wise.
  3. Managers and leaders are open to and ask for feedback. They always know what’s really happening in the organization and can lead accordingly.
  4. People talk to each other versus about each other. Gossip and drama is the exception, not the norm.
  5. Work is a fun place to be. People enjoy working together and produce their best work.

Many of you are taking actions to create the environment I’ve described above. I want to hear from you and want to use this blog to share practices for creating more candid communication at work.

VerticalResponse1.20.14blog

Add a comment and tell us:

  • What you are doing to increase the trust and communication in your organization.
  • The avenues you are using to give feedback on your team, in your department, or in your entire organization.

We’ll enter you to win 50 of our new door tags. The door tags were designed to tell your coworkers that your office is a place they can speak freely, without concern.


Advil Free Performance Appraisal

I’ve never had a performance appraisal that didn’t make me want to quit. Throughout my 15-year corporate career, before starting Candid Culture,I had some great bosses. And I always got good ratings and positive reviews. But there was always some comment or piece of feedback, in every performance appraisal, that frustrated me or impacted my raise or bonus in a way that felt unfair.

And each time I got feedback that felt unfair, I looked for how I contributed to the situation.

Performance Appraisal

Which means it’s our job to ask the expectations of the people we work with and collect their feedback throughout the year, so we’re not blind-sided at year end.

Below are some tips to ensure you give and receive a useful and trauma-free performance appraisal.

If you read my last blog post,you know that your boss may not know all the good and not-so-good things you do on a daily basis. It’s your job to let her know about your accomplishments.

Assemble a list of things you’ve accomplished this year. This list might include emails and feedback from people you work with both inside and outside your organization. Ask your boss’s permission to send her the list. And tell her the information is intended to make it easy to write your appraisal.

If you don’t have feedback from your peers and internal or external customers, ask for it. I define customers as anyone you need to get your job done and anyone who needs you to get their job done. Send a short email to five or six people with whom you work closely, and ask them to send your boss some feedback about your performance this past year. If they’re comfortable sending you the feedback directly, all the better. Guide your customers by asking specific questions. That way you’ll get specific feedback, versus, “Dave did a good job this year.”

Ask questions like:

  • What’s one thing I did this year that made the most difference to you or your department?
  • What’s one thing I could have done differently this past year?

Don’t be scared to ask for feedback from your customers. Most people are so hesitant to give negative feedback that they’ll typically be easier on you than you are on yourself.

Most performance appraisals only contain feedback from the last few months of the year. As managers sit in front of a blank appraisal form, it’s all they can remember. It’s your job to help your manager remember all the good things you did throughout the year. And I don’t know of a manager who won’t appreciate having written, bulleted data from which to write appraisals. Bullets are easier to read than paragraphs. Make it easy to scan your list of accomplishments.

Writing performance appraisals doesn’t have to give you a headache. Receiving appraisals doesn’t have to make you wish you stayed home that day. Plan specific, useful feedback conversations and then move on to planning for 2013.

Managers, here’s a video I created on how to give a useful performance appraisal. And my new book How to Say Anything to Anyoneis perfect preparation for both managers and employees. The book won’t be in bookstores or on Amazon until January, but we have advance copies on our website.

 


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