Archive for January 2016

Cognitive Abilities Can Be Used To Overcome Technological Distractions

January 29, 2016

There are varying degrees of steadiness. Some people are focused, unyielding, and highly frustrated by distractions. Some are flexible, multi-tasked, and enjoy distractions. Some are a little of both.

How does the ubiquity of technological distractions today impact our ability to be productive? How do the super-steady types avoid getting frustrated with all the interruptions? And how do the easily distracted types garner enough focus to finish anything?

The answer is: we adapt to the situation for short periods of time. Our ability to adapt is largely a function of our cognitive abilities. We must continuously adjust our natural style and what feels comfortable; we must either block out the interruption or respond to it. Those with strong cognitive abilities are likely to be most successful in adapting to today’s work environment.

Leaders should encourage their direct reports to develop their cognitive abilities and screen new-hire candidates for their thinking abilities.

Empowered direct reports focus on their critical thinking skills and are more successful.

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

January 22, 2016

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 leaders have an expensive hard asset like a large copier or other piece of equipment, they’re likely to invest in on-going maintenance to avoid unforeseen mishaps or negative surprises; interestingly enough, they’re willing to make these investments despite the fact that those assets will only depreciate over time.  When you think about a human asset that should appreciate over time, why wouldn’t leaders invest in similar operations 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.  Leaders who have fallen out of the habit of those activities should start them back up.  If they’ve never tried them, try it for a month and watch the investment grow.

Leaders who empower their direct reports by investing some quality time with them then watch the ROI grow on their original hiring investment.

Personal Development Is More Than Intellectual

January 15, 2016

Leaders are responsible for challenging their direct reports to personally grow and providing resources for their development. Leaders are not responsible for teaching, just the inspiration.

On-going personal development can be of the mind (intellectual), body (physical), heart (relationships), or spirit (values).  Too often development is just focused on the intellectual (mind). There is nothing wrong with encouraging direct reports to grow in all parts of life.

Taking an aerobics class (physical), spending more time with the family (relationships), or attending a spiritual retreat (values) are all effective personal development activities that can make direct reports more productive.

The leader’s job is to empower their direct reports to develop. Their continued growth and development – in all aspects of their life – will lead to everyone’s success.

Avoid Availability Bias In Performance Evaluations

January 8, 2016

Cognition, the act or process of thinking, enables us to process vast amounts of information quickly. As we are consciously thinking about one specific thing, our brain is processing thousands of subconscious ideas. Unfortunately, our cognition is not perfect, and there are certain judgment errors that we are prone to making, known in the field of psychology as cognitive biases. They happen to everybody regardless of age, gender, education, intelligence, or other factors.  For leaders, these errors often impact their leadership effectiveness.

One of the challenges leaders face is availability bias when conducting performance evaluations.  Availability bias is the tendency for a direct report’s recent positive or negative action to “spill over” to other areas the evaluator’s perceptions of them. This bias happens a lot in employee performance evaluations. For example, if a direct report has been late to work for three days, leaders may remember this and conclude that they are lazy and don’t care about their job. There are many possible reasons for this; perhaps their car broke down, their babysitter did not show up, or there has been bad weather. The problem is, because of one negative aspect, they may assume that the direct report is a poor worker and that may unfairly influence the overall evaluation of them.

Empowered leaders document all the behaviors of their direct reports for the whole performance evaluation period. They review those notes when preparing their performance evaluations and try not to let recent or singular events influence their evaluation and develop more successful direct reports.

Opposites Don’t Attract

January 4, 2016

Have you ever heard the phrase opposites attract? It’s wrong. It makes sense to us, but it’s still wrong. The data on relationships are completely convincing – people who are like one another tend to be attracted to one another.

The problem with this “opposites attract” mentality is that leaders are naturally attracted to hiring people who are like them. And, if they only hire people like them, they will end up with a team of people who have all of their strengths, and all of their weaknesses.

What’s the danger in that? If a leader makes a mistake, the other people like them on their team are less likely to catch it. In fact they’re likely to not even notice it is a mistake.

The best way for leaders to solve this problem is to benchmark their jobs and determine the specific profile to be successful in the job and then hire against that profile.  This unbiased, objective job matching approach reduces the chance a leader may hire against their own personality profile.  If very early on in the selection process, they’re “totally in love with” a candidate, chances are the candidate is similar in style to the hiring manager. They may work out fine, or they may be adding to their weaknesses in a way that they don’t expect.

Hiring managers should add empowering behavioral tools to the selection process for future success.