Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Keeping the Devil’s Advocate in Check: Conflict Resolution for Small Groups


Business leaders have long been taught the benefits of cultivating diverse teams made up of individuals with unique backgrounds and perspectives. It has been well documented that diversity breeds creativity and innovation, and diverse teams are usually more productive and more efficient than homogenous teams. However, diverse teams can often experience conflict. In many cases, conflict can be very healthy for a group. In some cases, however, conflict can impede productivity and decision-making.  In order to ensure that diverging opinions do not become a roadblock for success, leaders should take a creative approach to conflict resolution.
Read the rest of Beth Armknecht Miller's guest post over at About.com Management and Leadership to find out how.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

8 Meeting Commandments that we all Need to Follow

This post recently appeared on SmartBlog on Leadership:

We all like to complain about meetings. Meetings are a waste of time, boring, inefficient, run too long, nothing gets accomplished, etc., etc., etc. Complaining is easy, but never makes things better.

The solution to bad meetings? How about a day of meeting training? How about if we improve our meeting process? Maybe it’s the leader’s fault, and they need to learn how to run better meetings. Their agendas are too long, or they don’t know how to facilitate a discussion. Maybe it’s the uncomfortable chairs or the cramped, smelly dark room, or the bagels are stale.
While any or all of those reasons can result in a bad meetings perhaps the one thing we have the most control over fixing is our own meeting behavior.

Maybe, just maybe, if we all did an honest self-assessment of our meeting behaviors and upped our own game the time we spend in meetings might get better.
Here’s 8 things that anyone can do or stop doing to make meetings a little more tolerable, and maybe even more productive!

1. Show up on time. Showing up on time is probably the easiest thing to take responsibility for and fix, yet it has remained on the list of annoying meeting behaviors since the dawn of time, when cavemen would go hungry because their tribe mates arrived late for the wooly mammoth hunt.  I sometimes wonder if people think they look more important when they arrive late? It’s as if their time is more important than anyone else’s, or they are busier than everyone else. In fact, what it really does is delay the start of the meeting, waste the time of others in getting them caught up, makes them look stupid when they try to contribute and they missed an important information at the beginning of the meeting, and shows a lack of respect for the meeting leader and everyone else. If you are arriving late for meetings more often than not, then do yourself and everyone else a favor and make a resolution to leave 10 minutes earlier for every meeting until your curb the bad habit.
2. Keep your status updates brief, to the point, and upbeat. Status updates are a regular agenda item for most meetings. Don’t be “that guy” who consistently takes way more time than everyone else and drones and whines on and on about every little detail of their work. Prior to the meeting, jot down a few items to share that would be of interest to everyone in attendance. Keep it to 2-3 minutes tops. Offer to go first, that way, you set the example and pace for everyone else. Put some enthusiasm in your updates, even a little humor, and it will raise the energy level and lighten the mood.
3. Pay attention to your body language. Next time you go to a meeting, try observing the body language of everyone around the room. Are they paying attention, making eye contact, leaning forward, and taking notes? Or are they slumped in their chair, rolling their eyes, checking their emails, or daydreaming? Great meetings are all about the collective energy level of every single person in the room. Your appearance can add energy or can suck the life out of the room. Others will feed off you, either in a positive or negative way.

4. Stop with the side comments. When someone else is talking or presenting, seeing someone make a side comment to their neighbor can be incredibly distracting and annoying. You wonder what they are saying and usually assume the worst. If you have something important to say, then wait for the appropriate time and say it to everyone. The same goes for texting – it’s childish and rude.
5. No hand grenades. A meeting hand grenade is when someone has to leave the meeting early, or the meeting is just about to end, and they toss an incredibly complex issue on the table or say something controversial or rude without leaving time for anyone to respond. If you’re going to bring someone like that up, consult with the meeting leader ahead of time and ask to include it on the agenda with ample time to address it.

6. Add value. If you are invited to a meeting, then you are not only there to soak up everyone else’s contributions – you are expected to add value. Set a goal to make at least one constructive contribution to every meeting. Suggest a solution to a problem, offer to take an action item, support one of your co-worker’s ideas, or ask an intelligent question.
7. Come prepared and follow-up on your commitments. This one is my personal pet peeve. When we all leave a meeting with action items, there is an expectation that everyone comes to the next meeting with completed homework assignments. When the same person either consistently “forgets” their assignment, makes lame excuses, or tries to b.s. their way through, I want to reach across the table and slap them. Don’t make your responsible co-workers want to slap you – keep your commitments.

8. Bring food. When all else fails, bring yummy snacks to your meetings. Your co-workers will thank-you and maybe even cut you some slack for occasionally violating any of the above commandments. Don’t be that little piggy who devours everyone’s else’s goodies but never contributes anything.
If everyone followed all of these commandments, our time spent in meetings way less painful and we might even get some real work done. Then we’d have to find something else to complain about, like performance reviews.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Women Need to Embrace Office Politics to Get Ahead


"Office politics can make or break your career. This is especially important for women to understand. Women avoid politics due to their belief that it’s dirty and underhanded, and it’s a waste of their valuable time. Unfortunately, our avoidance of the workplace dynamics makes us vulnerable to being blindsided and passed over for promotions. We need to embrace office politics to get ahead."
Read the rest of Bonnie Marcus's guest post over at About.com Management and Leadership to learn the importance of politics, power and culture in getting ahead.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

How Leaders Can Get People to Tell the Truth


Guest post from Peter Romary:

Harry S. Truman once said, “My definition of a leader . . . is a man who can persuade people to do what they don’t want to do, or do what they’re too lazy to do, and like it.” If we can be generous enough to overlook the sexist element of that quote, and disregard for a moment the notion of labeling anyone as “lazy,” we can learn a lot from the crux of Mr. Truman’s insight. We can even learn the secret behind a skill that any leader would do well to master: getting people to tell the truth.

If a leader is someone who can persuade others to do what they don’t want to do and like it, what we have found is that he can tap that quality to convince a person to reveal truthful information, even when that person has a very good reason to want to conceal it. No doubt, this is a feat that almost everyone considers to be extraordinarily difficult to accomplish—the art of getting someone to disclose information that he is strongly incentivized to withhold is the stuff of crime thrillers and spy movies, and very few of us can easily identify with characters who are challenged with that task. But think about it. As a leader, you’re faced with that challenge every day. Is that job candidate being truthful about his claim that he instituted processes for his previous employer that saved the company millions of dollars? Is that manager being honest with you when he says he never engaged in the harassment that your employee is alleging? Does the CFO of the company you’re looking to acquire really have confidence in the revenue numbers he’s projecting?

In our new book, “Get the Truth: Former CIA Officers Teach You How to Persuade Anyone to Tell All,” we outline a methodology, born in the secretive world of the CIA and practiced throughout the intelligence and law enforcement communities, that’s inextricably linked to Mr. Truman’s definition of a leader. It’s a methodology that compels a person to do something he doesn’t want to do—disclose truthful information that he has a reason to want to withhold—and to feel good about doing it. It’s all about getting the person in a state of mind that we call “short-term thinking mode.”

To understand this concept, consider that people tend to conceal information for a very simple reason: They fear the negative consequences of disclosing it. The trick to getting the information is to diminish that fear by distancing the person from the perceived negative consequences. We can accomplish that by shifting his focus from those consequences, if only temporarily, to a focus on why it’s OK to tell you the truth—and why he should be happy with that choice. If he’s no longer thinking about the long-term consequences, and is instead thinking about the sensible reasons you’re giving him to tell the truth, human nature will likely prevail, and he’ll base his actions on what’s immediately in front of him. To get him in that state of mind, here are some of the key elements you’ll need to incorporate into your game plan:

·    Understand that up until the point when the person demonstrates a willingness to tell you the truth, you don’t want his lips moving. The more you allow him to articulate a lie or a denial, the more psychologically entrenched he will become, and the more difficult it will be do persuade him to reverse course.

·   Since you’re the one doing all the talking, start by ensuring that you maintain a very calm, low-key tone and demeanor. Success in taking the person’s mind off of those perceived negative consequences will require him to listen to you, and he’s much more likely to do that if what he’s hearing from you is a sense of understanding, empathy, and sincerity.

·   Give him compelling reasons why it makes sense for him to tell you the truth. If he has committed an act of wrongdoing, for example, rationalize the behavior by assuring him that everyone is human, and that sometimes good people just make bad decisions. Minimize the seriousness of what he did by pointing out how important it is not to blow it out of proportion. Socialize the matter with the observation that people in all walks of life have found themselves in the same situation he’s in. Project the blame for his actions so he doesn’t feel so alone—also at fault might be the economy, the system, management, political enemies, unsupportive parents.

·    Choose your words carefully. Remember that implicit language is more valuable to you than explicit language—when you say you want to “resolve” the issue, let the person infer that that might mean a slap on the wrist, when you’re thinking more in terms of firing him. Never use language that invokes consequences—the money wasn’t “stolen,” it was “taken.” And since you’re the one doing all the talking up until the point at which the person is prepared to tell you the truth, don’t hesitate to repeat yourself. Repetition is a powerful tool—the more frequently a person hears something, the more likely he will be to accept it, or to at least open the door to the possibility of accepting it.

This methodology has been used to remarkable effect to get the truth from terrorists, spies, and criminals, and to equal effect in dealing with the situations that leaders encounter every day in their professional and personal lives. As Mr. Truman’s insight suggests, a strengthening of these skills will yield stronger, more influential leaders.

Peter Romary is general counsel and a partner in QVerity, Inc., a Greenville, N.C.-based company founded by former CIA officers that provides training and consulting services in the detection of deception, critical interviewing, and elicitation. He is a contributor to the book, “Get the Truth: Former CIA Officers Teach You How to Persuade Anyone to Tell All,” to be released by St. Martin’s Press on March 24.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How to Prepare for a Performance Review so it won’t Feel Like a Root Canal : Employee Version

The annual employee performance review is an important opportunity to get feedback from your manager in order to make sure your performance is meeting expectations and to learn what you need to do to improve. Performance reviews can be used to justify raises or promotions, so it’s important to make sure you performance is accurately documented.

However, the annual workplace ritual been compared to a trip to the dentist to get a root canal.
Read my latest post over at About.com Management and Leadership to learn how an employee can prepare for an annual employee performance review in order to make it a productive and painless discussion.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

7 Ways to Prepare for a Performance Review so it won’t Feel Like a Root Canal: Manager Version

The annual employee performance review is an essential human resource process for documenting how well an employee performed throughout the year, an opportunity to provide feedback to the employee, and serves as a springboard for setting performance and development objectives for the coming year.

However, the annual workplace ritual been compared to a trip to the dentist to get a root canal.
Read my latest post over at About.com Management and Leadership to learn how a manager can prepare for an annual employee performance review in order to make it a productive and painless discussion.

Monday, March 23, 2015

10 Ways to Get Brutally Candid Feedback


Read my latest post over at About.com Management and Leadership for 10 ways to get candid feedback.

Just make sure that when you do, you listen, keep your mouth shut, and say “thank-you”!

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Art of Giving Critical Feedback: 10 Tips

Feedback can be one of the most powerful ways to develop employees and improve performance.

It doesn't cost anything. Most employees say they want it and yet they don't get enough of it. So why are many managers so hesitant to give it?

Read my latest post over at over at About.com Management and Leadership to find out why and to get more comfortable in giving feedback so your employees will be receptive to receiving it.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Work with Who Your People Are, Not Who You’d Like Them to Be


Guest post from Dan Gregory and Kieran Flanagan:

Traditional models of leadership have a rather judgmental flavor to them – they tend to favor the triangular shape and place those of us who are leaders at the top, with increasing numbers of obedient minions beneath us as we track down through the layers of the hierarchy to the poor wretches who support us at the bottom.

However, as anyone who has endeavored to manage people in the past decade can attest – this model of leadership rarely shows up in the real world - certainly not in the modern age of business.

But these flat models of organizational culture are not merely the result of political correctness taken to ridiculous extremes, they in fact reflect the new employee, one who is more demanding and critical of the performance and capabilities of their leaders.

In other words, if we wish to lead, it is we who need to lift our game.

So what does this really mean for the leaders of today? Are we all doomed to be the buddy-leader, the father figure or matriarch who’s “more like a friend than a parent”, or is there something more significant in play here?

We’d suggest that this is an opportunity for greater leadership, not less. In other words, leadership today is less likely to be positional or organizational and more something to be earned. This, we contend, is rather a good thing.

In many ways, the freedom and increasing professional promiscuity of modern workers means that titles like “the boss” are less to be relied upon than merit. Not that true meritocracy is at hand, but it certainly looks increasingly like a nod in that direction.

So how do we become the kind of leaders modern workers will follow?

Leadership in this new paradigm requires a greater understanding of what drives human behavior, what makes us buy and buy in. Of course, leaders have always relied on their charisma as one of the tools of persuasion, but persuasive intelligence alone is not enough, today’s leader must also possess mental agility and deftness with behavioral strategy.

In other words, rather than leaning on traditional tools like motivation and discipline, leaders must learn to embrace process and systems design that create a bias towards success.

Gallup’s Global Workforce Engagement Study reveals that virtually half of the workforce is not engaged in the work that they do – almost 20% are actively disengaged. This kind of research is the kind of thing that sends HR managers into a panicked frenzy as they try to bolster internal morale and lift engagement scores.

But if we’re completely honest about it, a very large proportion of the workforce will never be engaged in the work that they are doing. For many, a job is just a job!

But this is not necessarily as disastrous as it initially sounds. What it does mean, is that we need to design the work we do in such a way that employees can deliver the results we want, regardless of their engagement levels. After all, even our best employees have off days, get sick, have fights with their significant others or worries about their children, parents or pets.

But we seldom take these human factors into planning our strategies as leaders, instead planning for ideal conditions when average conditions are more likely.

So, what are the nuts and bolts of this kind of leadership?

1. Firstly, ensure that there is a clear articulation of ‘What’s in it for them’
Human beings are rather more driven by self-interest than we’d like to admit. And yet, most leaders and managers are too busy outlining what they want, what they need, what they require, that we forget to create buy in by anchoring our goals in line with the values of those we lead.

2. Understand that fear drives us
On either side of action there is fear. Change, even good change can seem threatening to our staff and our ability to allay fears and create confidence and certainty is a benchmark for all effective leaders.

3. Make failure more difficult
We’re all familiar with the acronym, K.I.S.S. But true strategy doesn’t just make things simple, or even easy; it also makes failure more difficult. What this requires is an understanding of the friction and breakage points in our processes and a willingness to make the path to productivity smoother.

Rather than simply expecting our teams to be more effective and productive, today it is incumbent on those of us who lead, to make success more achievable.

Dan Gregory & Kieran Flanagan are behavioral researchers and strategists, specializing in behaviors and belief systems–what drives, motivates and influences us. They have won business awards around the world for Innovation, Creativity and ROI working with such organizations as Coca-Cola, Unilever, News Corp and the United Nations in Singapore. They are passionate advocates for the commercial power of creativity and a return to more human engagement, cultures and leadership. Published by WILEY, Kieran and Dan’s new book Selfish, Scared & Stupid is available in paperback RRP $22.95 from www.selfishscaredandstupid.com.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Leadership Styles: How to Dress for the Occasion

While some leadership styles may be more naturally comfortable than others, effective leaders need to adapt their style to the needs of their employees and the situation at hand.

Read my latest post over at About.com to find out why and how.