Tuesday, August 19, 2014

10 Powerful Ways to Develop Your Employees

I know, you've heard it a zillion times before: the importance in taking the time and effort to develop your employees.

So why aren't you?

Read my latest post over at About.com Management and Leadership for 10 Powerful Ways to Develop Your Employees.

How many of these are you engaged in for each of your employees?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Leadership and Management Lessons from Fantasy Football!?

I, along with approximately 36 million other knuckleheads, am a fantasy football addict. I've been playing in a league for few years now and love it!

Are there any leadership or management lessons to be gleaned from fantasy football? May a few, but read my latest post over at About.com Management and Leadership to find out

Why You Shouldn’t Lead Your Real Team Like You Manage Your Fantasy Football Team.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Leaders: Tame the Brain’s Fight-or-Flight Response and Give Helpful Feedback

Guest post by Anna Carroll:

Almost every boss recognizes the need to give honest and frequent feedback to their employees about what they are doing well and what needs improvement.  Yet, according to my research with over 1100 leaders at all levels, almost half of all leaders avoid feedback altogether, and over 80% don’t do it all that well. Less than 5% are delivering super-helpful feedback on a regular basis.

Big Impact
Employees, especially young and hard-to-retain workers, complain that their bosses deprive them of feedback. HR professionals spend a lot of time preventing or dealing with the damage that occurs from avoiders, and companies lose big when talent isn’t developed and mistakes go uncorrected. 

So 95% of all leaders have room to grow in the feedback department. Why is this such a pervasive problem for organizations of all shapes and sizes?

Fear and Stress
There are a number of reasons given for the feedback gap. But the most common and hard-to-budge problem experienced by leaders is the fear and stress they experience when attempting to talk honestly to an employee or colleague about the need to improve, why they need to improve, and how they can improve.  Being asked to give feedback is similar to being asked to physically harm another person. So no one really wants to go there.

The Emotional Brain Rules
If it sounds irrational that leaders skip over something as important as feedback, it quite literally IS illogical. MRI studies of feedback givers’ brains trace which parts of the brain “light up” as they attempt to give feedback. The task of giving feedback triggers so much fear and trepidation that brain cells rush from the frontal cerebral cortex where the brain’s reasoning ability is coordinated toward the emotional parts of the brain where cortisol and other emergency chemicals are shot off to fight or escape the feedback “enemy.”

Calm Your Brain for Success with Feedback: 4 Steps to Success
You are already ahead of the game by simply knowing the effects of feedback on your brain. If you take conscious actions that will tame your brain, you can become one of the top 5% of great feedback-giving leaders.

Step #1: Recognize your brain states as a natural human tendency and notice when you are experiencing emotional responses as you prepare for giving feedback. Take a few deep breaths and continue observing your own thoughts.  Imagine a picture or symbol—such as a blue ribbon or a smiling, successful employee to focus on each time you feel a surge of stress during a feedback conversation. Know that at first, there will be an ebb and flow of stress, but that with practice the stress will lessen.

Step #2: Reframe the meaning of feedback. Remind yourself why you wish to give excellent, helpful feedback and what it will do for each of your team members. De-sensitize the old associations you have with feedback and fears that people will be hurt by it.

Step #3: Redirect your feedback actions so that it creates more positive associations by you and your employees. In the past, you probably waited too long to discuss issues which could have been more readily resolved. Now your team members can trust that you will initiate a helpful feedback conversation right away.

Step #4: Revel in your success. This sounds goofy but there is a scientific basis in reveling. MIT researchers and others have discovered that the brain’s neuroplasticity can be activated subconsciously through the experience of success. After you and your employee benefit from the feedback experience, the brain takes note of what it did right and increases your motivation to give even more helpful feedback in the future.

You have begun a virtuous cycle. The more comfortable you are with giving feedback, the more effective you will become as a feedback giver. Less and less negative associations will be present to trigger fight or flight brain chemicals. Your fear will transform into enthusiasm for great feedback conversations!

About the author:
Anna Carroll, MSSW, is an author, speaker, and organization consultant who specializes in workplace trends and leadership excellence. In her recent book, The Feedback Imperative: How to Give Everyday Feedback to Speed Up Your Team’s Success, she helps leaders at all levels overcome their obstacles to giving feedback. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How to Manage Your Boss So Your Boss Won't Micro-Manage You

What is “managing up” and why is it so important? Managing up means establishing and maintaining a positive and productive relationship with you manager so that your manager’s needs are met and you get what you need from your manager.

Read my latest post over at About.com Management and Leadership to find out how to manage up.

Monday, August 11, 2014

5 Fatal Flaws Managers Make When Setting Annual Employee Goals

While no employee goal setting process is perfect, there’s one that I would recommend that seems to address most of the flaws of others.

Read my latest post over at About.com Management and Leadership to find out.

Friday, August 8, 2014

How to Create Persuasive Presentations with PowerPoint

Guest post by Laura Brown:
According to one estimate, 30 million PowerPoint presentations occur every day throughout the world, and most of us are pretty jaded by now. PowerPoint was originally conceived as a persuasive tool; in a 1986 marketing report for its predecessor, an early program called Presenter, developer Robert Gaskins writes enthusiastically about the "very large number of businesspeople" who regularly make presentations to "persuade others to make a decision, to approve a course of action, or to accept a result."i In the wrong hands, however, PowerPoint can become a real demotivator, as anyone who's ever experienced "PowerPoint hell" or "death by PowerPoint" can attest. All is not lost, though. These tips can help you create a truly engaging PowerPoint and harness the persuasive power of the world's most popular presenting tool.

  • Think from your audience's point of view, and build your presentation from there. You may be really excited to tell your listeners all about your new idea or product, but you'll serve your audience better if narrow your material based on their needs. Put yourself in your listeners' shoes as you consider length, scope, and level of detail. How can you solve their problems? What questions are they likely to have? Be willing to trim content if necessary. Focusing on the needs and expectations of the audience can transform the way you plan and build your presentations, and it can mean the difference between a presentation that's engaging and persuasive and one that makes your audience want to jump out the window.

  • Be very clear about what you want your audience to do. Presentations are often used in the sales process, but ask yourself this . . . do people make the sale with the presentation alone? Typically not. If the presentation doesn't clinch the sale or the decision, what exactly is it doing then? How does it move the decision process along, and what is the next step you'd like the audience to take? Is there a demo to try, customization options to explore? A persuasive presentation contains a call to action, even if it's just to invite the audience to learn more about the product or idea. The clearer you are about the role of the presentation in your overall process, the more successful you'll be at creating a presentation that persuades your audience and inspires them to act.

  • Create memorable slides. Your slides have two purposes: to act as prompts for your presentation (see the bullet below), and to reinforce the points you want your audience to remember. Choose four or five main points from your talk that you want your audience to retain -- studies show they are unlikely to retain more than that, so be judicious. Then create graphically clean slides that effectively frame and reinforce your chosen points. The eyes of your audience should be able to light on your slides and register the meaning instantly without any conscious effort at processing the information -- and without diverting their attention from you. Don't clutter your slides with lots of content. You want your audience to remember having seen your concepts as well as heard them: experiencing the content visually aids in retention. Slides that are heavy with text and images are harder to take in than streamlined slides that feature lots of white space. If you have detailed information that you want your audience to have, you can create a leave-behind version of your deck with more complete content.

  • Engage with your audience, not with your slides. When it comes time to give the presentation, your attention should be focused on your audience, not on the screen behind you. Never, ever stand there and read your slides. Your audience can read faster than you can speak; they will read ahead of you and lose interest waiting for you to catch up. Use the content on your slide as prompts for your talk, to keep yourself organized and on track. A presentation is a kind of performance: to succeed, you must rehearse and become thoroughly familiar with your material rather than leaning heavily on your slides for information. If you take the time to get truly comfortable with your content, you'll exude confidence and form a real bond with your audience, rather than limping along constantly looking back over your shoulder. It's the dynamic human connection, even more than the quality of your information that creates real persuasive engagement during a presentation.
Thirty years ago, a software genius named Robert Gaskins had a vision of helping millions of business people create persuasive presentations easily and inexpensively, and PowerPoint was born. Despite its misuse over the years, PowerPoint still has terrific potential to engage audiences because it can combine both verbal and visual information with real live human interaction. Creating and delivering slides with your audience's experience in mind can help you exploit that potential and move your listeners to action. 

Author Bio 
Laura Brown, PhD, author of How to Write Anything: A Complete Guide, has taught writing to just about everyone -- from corporate executives to high school students. She has more than twenty-five years' experience providing training and coaching in business writing, and she has also taught composition and literature at Columbia University. Her expertise encompasses instructor-led training, individual coaching, classroom teaching, and e-learning development. She has worked with clients such as Morgan Stanley, AOL Time Warner, Citigroup, DHL and MetLife. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Please Don't Make me Wear a Funny Hat at Work in the Name of Having "Fun"!

I’m all for creating and maintaining a work environment where people can feel like winners, have a high degree of autonomy, and enjoy the people they work with. Coming to work should not feel like going to the dentist to get a root canal. Work should be challenging, engaging, energizing, and maybe even enjoyable (at least more often than not).

But should work be “fun”?

It depends. Read my latest article over at About.com Management and Leadership to get my take on fun at work.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

What Exactly is a "High Potential"?

Organizations will often use labels to such as ‘rising stars”, “fast trackers”, or “high flyers” to classify employees who are seen as promotable to the next one or two levels, or the having the capacity to grow significantly – above and beyond their current role.

The most common label I’ve heard used is “high potential”, or sometimes “Hipo” as an abbreviation.

Read my latest article over at About.com Management and Leadership to find out how to spot a Hipo.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The August Leadership Development Carnival

The August Leadership Development is up!

This month's Carnival is all about Motivational and Inspiring Leadership. It's hosted by Shawn Murphy and his team over at Switch and Shift.

You can find it right here.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

To Enhance Productivity, Stop Doing Something!

Guest post from Willy Steiner:
It was recently announced that the national unemployment rate went down to 6.1%. I was an Economics minor in college, many moons ago, and full employment was considered to be around 6%. By the time the Dot-com boom hit its peak in 2000, full employment was thought to be closer to 4%. I never got the memo as to when they made that change but it seemed to make sense given the hubris of the times and how wealthy many Internet startups made their founders.
Economists today say the full employment number is between 5 and 5.5%. Again, I missed the memo but the reason I bring this up is that we may be approaching a real tightness in the labor markets and finding ways to retain our employees will be critical to our future success.

“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials.” - Lin Yutang

Companies must continue to find ways to improve their productivity and during the last several years there have been significant investments in software and systems to assist in that. But what’s missing is an ongoing reevaluation of all the work that’s being done.

Who gives someone permission to stop doing something that is no longer needed? In today’s environment, it appears employees are fearful of speaking up about that. So I would encourage all managers to find a way to stop doing at least 5% of what’s currently being done to enhance productivity.

In a 40 hour work week, that means you’ll be finding two hours per week per employee to do things that are more important, to stay more organized, or to plan and prepare for new opportunities.
Here is a model for doing just that:

·        Announce that you are asking everyone to eliminate the bottom 5% of their tasks so they can focus on more important things.
·        Ask everyone to identify three tasks to eliminate, put it in writing, and bring it to a meeting to discuss it with the whole team. If your team is too large, you may have to break it up into groups but it will be important that everyone hear other ideas about what can be eliminated. It may encourage different or new thinking on the part of others when they hear these ideas. That’s called “piggybacking”.

·        Have each member of the team review their list out loud. Others may ask for them to clarify the task they have identified, but they are not allowed to argue with them about whether or not it can be eliminated at this point. Have each member of the team identify which of those three tasks they feel strongest about and would commit to. Do Not Debate – just get things on the table.

·        Now have each member of the team repeat the key task they want to eliminate and have the group rate it as follows:
o   “Duh!!!” - Of course we should stop doing that.
o   Probably no problem, but there may be a couple things to check on first.
o   Since there have been some concerns raised, let’s put that on the “to be considered list” for later.
o   NO, we can’t stop that - and here’s Why…
·        If a team member has a suggested task rejected based upon the collective wisdom of the team, have them go to the next task on their list.
·        Combine the list of the “Duhs” and “Probably no problem…” tasks and send that list to the entire team. Make a separate list of the “To be considered” tasks for later review. At this point everyone has committed to trying to eliminate the task they have identified.

·        The manager must reinforce that if anyone runs into a problem or an unintended consequence of stopping to do a certain task, they should inform the manager as soon as practical.

·        Have a brief meeting at the two-week mark to report in on any things that have been learned about stopping these tasks. Talk about the time that’s been freed up and any concerns that may exist.

·        At the one-month mark, review the status of each task that has been stopped and see if any adjustments may need to be made. Ask each member of the team what lessons have been learned from the exercise and record this.

Saving everybody two hours a week is a reasonable and modest effort that should free up time for more important tasks. It may also identify other process bottlenecks that exist and require further study. Once you feel this exercise has been productive, repeat as needed, but commit to doing so at least once a year.

Ask yourself:

1.     Do I really need anyone’s permission to do this with my team?
2.     Am I willing to follow-through on things once we’ve started?
3.     Can I get members of my team to help track progress?

I look forward to your suggestions and comments. 

About the author:
Willy Steiner is the President of Executive Coaching Concepts, an executive leadership firm dedicated to assisting senior executives in taking their individual and organizational performance "TO THE NEXT LEVEL". He has provided valuable counsel to executives and teams throughout his career with General Electric, RCA Corp., Galileo International and for hundreds of other clients in a wide variety of industries in the US, Canada, Europe and Asia.