Archive for April 2011

Prepare To Lose Your ‘A’ Players

April 30, 2011

Many industries and sectors are reporting increased sales and healthier business prospects.  Similarly, hiring activity had increased and the demand for top talent is as strong as it’s been in years.  Whether you realize it or not, you are in jeopardy of losing your ‘A’ Players.

How prepared are you for your top performers to leave unexpectedly?  Most leaders are ill equipped to handle the sudden departure of their ‘A’ Players and, worse, elect not to deal with it until it happens.  The chances of it happening now are greater than ever.

Create a succession plan for your direct reports.  The plan should include:

  • cross-training functions and assigned tasks (who’s going to do what when the star leaves?);
  • key job function documentation (how does the star do their work?);
  • sourcing options to back-fill the position (how are you going to replace the star?).

Empower yourself to create a succession plan for your key direct reports and you’ll sleep better knowing you are prepared for the unthinkable.

Take Care Of Your ‘A’ Players Or You’ll Lose Them

April 24, 2011

After two down years, we are now seeing hiring activity as strong as it’s ever been.  Companies are getting more and more aggressive attracting ‘A’ players.  And whether you believe it or not, your ‘A’ players are probably listening.

What are you doing to keep your ‘A’ players?  An occasional pat on the back and a consistent pay check will no longer keep them around.  In fact, when asked, employees indicate that lack of recognition and feeling undervalued/unappreciated are among the top reasons for leaving their employer.

Regular and constant positive feedback are essential.  Not once in a while, not weekly, but daily.  Superstars warrant and deserve some positive affirmation each day.

Feedback must be timely, specific (not just “good job”), and relative to their behavior.  For example,  “The amount of preparation you put into that meeting was evident and the way you were able to facilitate input from all the participants to actually reach a consensual decision demonstrated great leadership skills.”

Empower yourself to praise your ‘A’ players and know you’ve made a huge step in ensuring their success and that of your organization.

It’s Time For Quarterly Performance Reviews

April 16, 2011

With the first quarter of the calendar year having just finished, now is a good time for performance reviews.  Students receive performance grades each semester which typically lasts three months.  Public companies are required to report their performance each quarter.  Why do most leaders review performance of direct reports annually or semi-annually?  This is particularly troublesome when studies have shown the typical leader writing a review only recalls performance over the previous six weeks.

The two biggest reasons given for avoiding quarterly reviews are: 1) leaders don’t have enough time to write the review, and 2) their performance review form is too difficult to use.  We recommend simple quarterly reviews for at least three of the four quarters in which the leader has the direct report fill out a one page sheet of paper (5×7 cards work too) answering these four questions:

  1.  What did you accomplish last quarter?
  2.  What are you going to accomplish next quarter?
  3.  How did you demonstrate our core values?
  4.  What are your personal development plans?

Benefits: the leader spends little to no time writing the review and is not encumbered by any form; the direct report receives a review of performance quarterly and direction for the next quarter to stay on track with the leader’s expectations.

Try simple quarterly reviews to empower your direct reports for success

Invest In Quality Time With Direct Reports And Watch Your ROI Grow

April 10, 2011

Sometimes leaders are disappointed with the performance of a direct report who was expected to be a superstar but didn’t pan out that way.  Sometimes a mediocre hire can slip through the cracks when shooting for a great hire; but other times the reason for a new hire not reaching their potential is best found looking in the mirror.  Even the hires with the greatest capabilities, need some quality time with their leader to reach their full promise.

If you have an expensive hard asset like a large copier or other piece of equipment, you’re likely to invest in on-going maintenance to avoid unforeseen mishaps or negative surprises; interestingly enough, we’re willing to make these investments despite the fact that those assets will only depreciate over time.  When you think about a human asset which should appreciate over time, why wouldn’t we invest in similar performance maintenance to ensure the highest level of performance?

When it comes to accelerating the performance of direct reports leaders should invest in weekly one-on-one time, provide on-going and timely course corrections and positive feedback, deliver quarterly performance reviews, discuss goal alignment, and encourage personal development.  If you’ve fallen out of the habit of those activities, start them back up.  If you’ve never tried them, try it for a month and watch your investment grow.

Empower your direct reports by investing some quality time with them then watch the ROI grow on your original hiring investment.

Any Strength Carried To Extreme Can Be A Limitation

April 2, 2011

“Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What’s a sundial in the shade?” — Benjamin Franklin

Whether it’s the strengths based books from Marcus Buckingham and Tom Rath, your high school sports coach, or your grandmother’s cagy advise, we’ve all heard the maxim “use your strengths for success.”  Many leaders go as far as to assess their direct reports to determine their strengths and encourage them to capitalize on their unique abilities.  But what happens when those strengths are taken to an extreme?

An excess of anything can result in undesirable consequences.  Leaders need to be aware how this might impact their team.  One of the more common workplace challenges is the domineering associate recognized for delivering results and overcoming obstacles who, when taking their strength to the extreme, alienates those around them.  Another is the deep thinking, reflective associate successful for their profound problem solving abilities who, when getting too wrapped up in collecting and crunching data, fails to meet deadlines.

Empower your direct reports to identify, leverage, and capitalize on their talents.  Praise them when they succeed in this approach; but be prepared to offer course corrections if the behavior becomes too extreme.