Archive for the ‘Performance Acceleration’ category

Through Preparation, Then Through Trust

October 13, 2017

One sign of a controlling leader is they become ineffective when they or their cohorts are not around to use external controls.  It’s not uncommon to hear a leader say, “I can’t go on a two week vacation, the place will fall apart if I’m gone that long.”

Going away for two weeks is a perfect way to test for empowerment; however, leaders cannot just dump and run.  Here are some actions leaders can take to ensure they and their direct reports feel confident while they are gone:

  • Document the critical aspects of the leader’s position;
  • Identify direct reports who are capable of these aspects (they need not all be carried out by the same person);
  • Train and/or cross-train;
  • Have a direct report do the aspect of the work as a trial run before leaving;
  • Finally, enjoy the time away.

By empowering direct reports to perform aspects of the leader’s job while they’re gone and entrusting them to make decisions in their absence, direct reports will successfully increase trust, confidence, engagement, and productivity.  Leaders may even find that allowing the direct report to continue that work upon their return opens new options up for them.

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Direct Reports Should Be Challenged To Continuously Develop

October 6, 2017

In his book “The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains”, Nicholas Carr argues that our reliance on the Internet is changing how our brains operate.  As we become more reliant on the Internet, and electronics in general, our brains are required to do less memorization and deep reading.  With facts and data being just a few keystrokes away, why tax our brains with memorization?  Why read a complete article or book, when with a few clicks several summaries and reviews give us what we need to know?

The Internet has made things much easier for our brains.  But the brain is like any other muscle and needs to be exercised or will atrophy.  Leaders must ask themselves how they are challenging their direct reports to exercise their brains.

One leader asked each of his direct reports to read the first chapter of a popular personal development book and send him a brief review of what they read and how their executive team could be more effective.  The direct reports enjoyed the exercise, the leader enjoyed the improvements, and the team became stronger.

Leaders who empower their direct reports to develop their brains will enjoy success too.

The Most Effective Leadership Practice

September 8, 2017

When it comes to leading others within an organization, the most effective leadership practice is weekly one-on-one meetings between a leader and their direct reports.

It accelerates performance because the one-on-one is all about the direct report and their needs.  Specifically, the leader should ask:

  • What is going on at work and in life that might impact performance or effectiveness this week;
  • What activities are the direct report focused on this week;
  • What obstacles have they run into;
  • What resources are needed?

When the direct report believes this simple 30 minutes each week is completely dedicated by the leader to focus on their success, the engagement and passion for results is unbelievable.

Additionally, these meetings create trust between the direct report and the leader.  When a direct report knows their leader will share information, trust soars.

This is not the time for the leader to micromanage; the focus of the one-on-one is on the direct report and their needs – the leader is the resource, not the solution.

Leaders who empower themselves and their direct reports to hold weekly one-on-one meetings experience much more success.

Think Empowerment When Delegating

August 25, 2017

One of the most difficult decisions for successful leaders is delegating an important task.  Once the leader finally decides what to delegate, they then need to decide how to delegate.  When delegating, the leader can take a controlling or an empowering approach.  Think empowerment.

Empowerment does not have to mean surrendering control.  Effective, empowering leaders establish borders and boundaries around the delegated task. There are four areas to be established and communicated when empowering direct reports:

  1. Describe success;
  2. Specify restrictions (non-negotiables, budget, authority);
  3. Define time frames (hours to dedicate, milestones, checkpoints/updates, completion date);
  4. Identify available resources (people, information, training, processes).

Whether it’s empowering a direct report to purchase the organization’s next computer system or empowering them to plan the holiday party, leaders experience much more success when they and their direct report discuss the borders and boundaries associated with the delegated task rather than micro-managing all the details.

Conduct Simple Quarterly Performance Reviews

August 11, 2017

Students receive performance grades each three month long semester.  Public companies are required to report their performance each quarter.  Then 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) the performance review form is too difficult to use.  Use 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, is not encumbered by any cumbersome form, and the direct report has committed to the next quarter’s expectations.

Leaders who use simple quarterly reviews to empower direct reports have more success.

Establish Success Factors For Direct Reports

August 4, 2017

Success: (noun) the accomplishment of an aim or purpose – The New Oxford American Dictionary

How do leaders know success when they see it?  In athletics, a look at the scoreboard or standings shows who’s successful.  In school, report cards indicate success.  Businesses use the balance sheet or income statement to determine success.  The pursuit of success inspires hard work, sacrifice, and a commitment to improve.  Leaders must put in measures for their direct reports’ success.

A job accountability matrix defines a job’s accountabilities and corresponding success factors.  Without measurable success factors, direct reports do not know if they have accomplished their aim or purpose.  Documented success factors inspire direct reports to work hard, sacrifice, and improve.

Some common success factors are:

  • Zero voluntary turnover of ‘A’ players
  • Continued reduction of processing errors
  • Attended meetings on-time, prepared, and engaged
  • On-going increase in add-on sales
  • Weekly status reports submitted on-time and accurately
  • Positive (lack of negative) customer feedback

Leaders who empower their direct reports by establishing and updating success factors experience more accomplishments.

Opinions Are Not Feedback

July 28, 2017

When asked what they would like more of their supervisor, most workers want additional feedback.  Leaders are generally pretty good at giving positive or affirming feedback (though most leaders could give it more often).  However, many leaders make a mistake when giving course correction feedback by offering opinions instead of describing observed behaviors.  When giving negative feedback, recount the behaviors actually observed.  Five common behaviors for feedback are:

  1. The Words They Said – “Tim, I appreciate your candor but calling Steve a ‘jerk’ makes you appear unprofessional to others.”
  2. How They Said Them – “Sally, I’m concerned that when you yell ‘WELL, GET MOVING THEN’ at Mike, he and others hear that as an aggressive, condescending comment.”
  3. Their Facial Expression – “Lisa, you have gained so much admiration through your work efforts but rolling your eyes when Kay gives her report chips away at all the professionalism you’ve worked so hard to personify.”
  4. Their Body Language – “Carl, I’m grateful for your passion but slamming the door when Diane leaves is an improper behavior.”
  5. Their Work Product – “Barbara, I’m happy you completed the report on time but the spelling errors reduce your credibility.”

Leaders who empower their direct reports by giving productive, actionable course correction feedback based on observed behaviors and not opinions are more successful.