Friday, May 20, 2011

10 Ways to Get More Candid Feedback (and 5 ways if you really can’t handle the truth)


feed•back/ˈfēdˌbak/Noun

Information about reactions to a product, a person's performance of a task, etc., used as a basis for improvement.

We all know how important feedback is, right? It’s the breakfast of champions and all that. However, it’s awful darn hard to get. People generally aren’t good at giving it. It’s hard to do; people often get defensive, and we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

However – if you really want feedback, there are ways to get it. Just make sure you can handle the truth.

Looking beyond the obvious, here’s 10 ways to get more candid feedback:

1. Ask a recruiter. Good recruiters make their living sizing candidates up quickly. They can take a look at your resume and after a 15 minute phone screen, have a pretty good idea about your strengths and weaknesses. However, you have to ask them for a candid, constructive, brutally honest assessment. Then, just listen, keep your mouth shut, and say thank-you. In fact, that’s a good formula for how to receive any kind of feedback. There will be a test on this later.

2. Take a multi-rater assessment. These are basically a survey, often administered by a third party for a fee, that asks your boss, peers, and employees (if you have them) for ratings and comments regarding your behaviors and or skills. Although some reports are self-explanatory, it’s usually better to have a certified feedback giver help you sort through the results.

3. Try Feedforward. See Marshall Goldsmith’s explanation. It’s actually an alternative to feedback, but you get the same constructive information.

4. Try the 10/10 Technique. First, identify something you want to improve – say leading a meeting, delegating, listening, or conducting a one on one. Then, at the end of an interaction with someone, (it only takes about 10 minutes), ask the question: “On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate my listening skills?” Usually the answer is not a perfect 10, because you already know it’s something you need to get better at. If it’s anything less than 10, ask the follow-up question: “What would I need to do for you to rate me a 10?”
It works well because it gives you very specific ideas for improvement, in terms of what’s important to the other person. It opens up dialog in a non-threatening way, builds trust, and creates a win-win developmental partnership.

5. Watch yourself on video. This used to be a terrifying way to learn about yourself, although in the age of YouTube, perhaps we’re getting used to seeing ourselves on camera. It’s even better if you have a coach or trainer watch with you to point things out and offer tips for improvement. Better yet, have a bunch of friends over and break out the popcorn and beer.

6. Have someone conduct a stakeholder assessment for you. You can read the full explanation, but it’s kind of like hiring an investigative reporter to interview people to find out what you’re like to work with.

7. Take a validated, reliable personality assessment. Try the Hogan, MBTI, DISC, or others and again, have someone help your interpret the results.

8. Interviews. Again, like with getting feedback from a recruiter, you really have to ask in a nice way, and make sure you do what? That’s right, listen, keep your mouth shut, and say thank-you. Even if you’re not looking for a job, it’s a good idea to go on a practice interview every so often.

9. Ask your boss this question: “Not that I’m going anywhere, but if you had to replace me, what would you look for in the ideal candidate?” It’s a little risky, because you don’t want to give your boss any ideas, but if you have a lot of confidence, you could pull it off. I did this once and was able to drag some very useful information out of my manager that helped me identify some areas I needed to shore up.

10. Ask your teenage kids. I saved this one for last, because it’s the most brutal kind of feedback of all! It’s only for the very brave-hearted and thick-skinned.

I once had a VP tell me "I hate feedback". I had to admire his honesty. Actually, a lot of us do, we just won't admit it. So, if you really don’t want to find out about your weaknesses, and would prefer to keep your head blissfully buried in the sand, then use any or all of these 5 methods:

1. Ask your co-workers, friends, or family members. They can always be counted on to tell you exactly what you want to hear. Thank God for that – after all, who wants to surround ourselves with people that do nothing but criticize us?

2. Performance appraisals. These are usually a candy-coated pack of lies. Yes, if you read between the lines you might be able to pull out a nugget, but managers have gotten really good at covering up what they really think with useless weasel words.

3. Take a strengths finder assessment. People love these things because they make them feel good about themselves. Better yet, take them as a team and you can all feel good about each other. Kumbaya.

4. Customer surveys and comment cards. You’ll rarely get useful information from these methods. In fact, a lot of companies actually incent and punish their service givers to try to avoid getting any constructive feedback at all costs.

5. Your own self-assessment. People are generally blind when it comes to how they come across to others.

What do you think? What are your best and worst ways to get feedback?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Lead Like You, Only Better!

Here's a guest post from Emma Wilhelm:

When you find a new leadership resource—a clever quotation, the latest book by your favorite guru, or a great case study—what’s the first thing you do? If you’re like me, you immediately want to apply it to your own leadership repertoire. “No problem,” you think, as you attempt to assimilate what you’ve read or seen. Of course, if this was always easy, you’d soon reach that elusive point of satisfaction—your full leadership potential (cue laugh track).

We all know that personal development isn’t always easy. In fact, it’s rarely easy. As they say, “If it was easy, everyone would do it.” My father is very fond of reciting that line to me. So what makes it difficult to take a list of five or ten desirable leadership qualities and make them your own? Well, all too often, we fail to address the role of personality.

Show me two leaders, and I’ll show you two people who likely face entirely different challenges when it comes to adopting a specific leadership quality—say, to be more approachable. Take, for example, Ellen. She’s an analytical, logical leader—what we call Deliberate—who has an innate skepticism of others’ ideas. This makes her seem unapproachable to others, even though she’s not a particularly forceful leader. On the other hand, consider Brian. He’s an outspoken, entrepreneurial leader—what we call Pioneering—who has an underlying desire to be important. This desire causes some intimidating behaviors that make him seem equally (but differently) unapproachable.

The question is: How can you use knowledge about your personality to become a more effective leader? My colleagues and I have found that by showing leaders how to identify their “default settings” through self-assessment, we can help them explore the psychological drivers that may be holding them back. While it’s important for leaders to understand their areas of strength, many people report that their early-career mistakes were a direct result of their leadership “blind spots”—those areas that come much less naturally to them personally.

We all know the shock of seeing another car in the rear-view mirror—just in time—while trying to change lanes. And there are times when we don’t see the car at all until someone is honking wildly at us. Sometimes, we simply can’t see what’s there, and this is definitely the case when it comes to the greatest challenges we face as leaders.

Learning about your personality as a leader—even the complex, less-than-desirable aspects of it—could be the most important step you take in your personal development. What you don’t know can hurt you as a leader, and these days, there are many great assessment tools out there. By harnessing the power of psychological research and self-assessment, my colleagues and I have developed some simple tools to help you create a more efficient path to better leadership. The goal is to lead like you, only better!

*****
Emma Wilhelm, M.S., is senior writer and product developer at Inscape Publishing, where she helps to develop innovative training and development products. Along with Jeffrey Sugerman, Ph.D., and Mark Scullard, Ph.D., she is coauthor of The 8 Dimensions of Leadership: DiSC Strategies for Becoming a Better Leader (Berrett-Koehler, 2011).
Emma left the corporate world for several years to pursue a career in higher education. She enjoyed her time on small college campuses coaching athletic teams, teaching undergraduate courses, and advising student leadership groups through NCAA and YMCA programs. Emma holds a B.A. in English Literature from Carleton College and a M.S. in Exercise and Sport Studies from Smith College.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How to Evaluate a Training Program


Since the dawn of time, when early trainers were training their clan members how to improve their hunting and gathering skills, training organizations have struggled with how to measure the impact of their training programs.

Since then, thanks to pioneers on the training field like Donald Kirkpatrick and Jack Phillips, we now understand that training evaluation needs to be more than administering “smile sheets” (“did you like the food?”) after a program.

Ask any training professional at a training conference how to measure training, and most of them will be able to recite the industry standard “Kirkpatrick Four Step Model”. Kirkpatrick taught us that we should measure:

1. Reaction. These are the old “smile sheet” questions, i.e., “on a scale of 1-10, please rate the instructors, materials, food, pre-work, etc….”. These kind of questions are still important – they are a measure of client satisfaction. Let’s face it, a hot, noisy room can kill even the best training program. Instructors love getting these too, because most instructors have huge egos and want to read about how wonderful they are, and a few of them even use them to make improvements.

2. Learning. We need to measure if the participants learned anything. Learning could be knowledge or skills.

3. Transfer. Did they participants actually behave differently back on the job?

4. Results. Did the training have an impact on business results, i.e., improved customer satisfaction, increased revenues, reduced cots, etc…

However…… if you ask these same trainers how much of this stuff they have actually implemented in their organizations, that’s when someone shifts the discussion to whether leaders are born or made.

Why not? Why the gap between knowing and doing? I believe there are two main reasons why organizations are not implementing this model:

1. It’s hard to. It takes a lot of effort, time, and resources to administer all this stuff. You’d pretty much need a full time person or department. Most training teams, when faced with the choice of using resources to measure training vs. actually doing training would rather do.

2. You can get away with not doing it. Most executives don’t ask for it, and if they do, it’s probably too late to do anything about it anyway. Training evaluation is one of those things that help you win training awards, but it’s not top of mind for most line managers.

I happen to believe it’s important to measure the impact of training….. but not that important. That is, let’s do it right, but not overdo it by spending a lot of money, time, and resources.

Here’s a relatively simple, yet effective system that I’ve seen work and that more and more companies are using:

1. First of all, trainers should not design or administer their own courses, in order to remove any conscience or unconscious bias. However, they should be doing ongoing “plus deltas” at the end of each course, perhaps even every day, especially for new courses.

2. All courses should be evaluated using a common platform, centrally administered (one person), with some questions being standard, so comparisons can be made. Either buy a software program, or create your own, using a tool like Survey Monkey or Zoomerang. Some Learning Management Systems have measurement build into their platforms as well.

3. Questions should address all four levels of evaluation: level 1: participant reaction; level 2: learning; level 3: transfer; level 4: business results (Kirkpatrick model)

4. For level 1, use the basic same questions for all courses (instructors, food, conference center, materials, etc…).

5. For levels 2 and 3, ask participants to estimate their estimated increase in the knowledge or skill the course was designed to improve (i.e., 10%, 20%, etc..). I know, I know, it’s not the same as a test, but for higher level skills like “ability to see the big picture”, it’s a reasonable measure.

6. For level 4, identify a list of key business results (i.e., speed to market, cost reduction, client satisfaction, etc…). For each course, pick out the business results the course was designed to address and ask participants to project how much attending the course will enable them to influence each business results.

7. Administer these questions to participants immediately after the course (online).

8. Administer the same survey to participants 90 days later, but instead of asking them to project their learning, behavior change and business result impact, ask them to look back and estimate actual results.

9. Administer the same 90 day survey to the participant’s managers, asking them to assess the trainings impact on their employee.

Although this may sound complicated, it’s really fairly simple to design and administer. With a good techie geek, you can use the data to produce some pretty slick training dashboard reports. With the level 4 questions, you can begin to show training’s impact on business results, something that’s historically been very hard to do, other than things like sales training. Of course, you would want to compare participant’s and manager’s estimates with actual business results. If the number don’t match up, that’s often an indication that training is not the problem, that there may be other factors coming into play.

Has anyone used a system like this, or something better? What do you think, is it worth the bother?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Hitting the New England HR Conference Circuit

One of the responsibilities of my new role as Director of Executive Development Programs at the Whittemore School of Business (shameless plug) is to get out and schmooze with the local HR folks in the New England region. While I’m not a great schmoozer, I like HR pros and usually can find something to talk about.

Last week, I attended the Granite State (New Hampshire) Human Resources Conference in Manchester, New Hampshire. Unfortunately, I was just getting over a cold and lost my voice at about 1:00pm. It’s kind of hard to schmooze when you can’t talk. However, I was able to use hand signals and nod my head and listen, so all was not lost. I kind of liked the keynote speaker, Aman Motwane, who taught us how to ask good questions.

This week, it’s a drive up the coast to Portland, Maine, to attend the sold-out Maine Human Resources Convention, at the swanky looking Samoset Resort on the ocean. It’s one of the largest state HR conferences in the country, with over 700 participants. I’ll be there for just a day on Thursday, so I’ll have to skip the golf outing.

To round out the Lobster HR conference circuit, I’ll be speaking at the Northeast HR Association (NEHRA) Spring Conference in Boston the week of May 23rd. The theme of the conference is called "Rethink HR: People Practices and Tools for Today's Reality". I’m giving a presentation called “Using the 9-Box Performance and Potential Matrix to Assess and Develop Talent".
There’s still time to register for this one - and if you do, please sign up for my session! I'll be giving out autographed IDPs. (-:

If you’re planning to attend either of these conferences, please send me an email so we can maybe connect.

Oh, and one more thing….. what are your least and most favorite networking questions?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Age-old Problem: Stereotyping Creates Generational Workplace Tension


Guest post by Sharon Daniels, CEO, AchieveGlobal.

(This post focuses on AchieveGlobal’s study about age-based stereotypes in the workplace, and its report “Age-Based Stereotypes: A Major Cause of Intergenerational Tension.” The complete report is available online.)

It’s natural, our tendency to organize ideas into mental boxes. It’s the way we make sense of the world. It’s how we sort our surroundings. But it’s not always productive or correct, especially when these assumptions are about co-workers.

In our study on age-based stereotypes in the workplace, AchieveGlobal found that despite a prevalence of articles and commentary on the topic, there is little solid science supporting the well-known assumptions on age and employee behavior. Instead, these stereotypes appear to be rooted in generalization from too few examples, biased research methods and widespread prejudice toward older and younger employees.

The study found that though people are more generally aware about the dangers of ageism, employees of all ages, levels and regions still revert to age stereotypes. Particularly alarming was this trend: the higher the organizational role, the more likely it is that someone will endorse popular age stereotypes. The truth is, when we characterize an individual based on the age group he or she represents, the stereotypes we accept at face value often lead to discrimination and decreased productivity.

To prevent diversity and productivity issues, it’s important to remember that we need to treat people as individuals, focusing on needs we all share. Regardless of their age, all employees seek respect, competence, connection and some degree of autonomy.

Ensuring that employees of varying ages work together is a simple way to help prevent ageism. The study identified five best practices for collaborating across generations:

1. Challenge Stereotypes: Move past labels and understand each person’s unique experiences, preferences, and interests.

2. Find Common Ground: Invest time discovering what you share—needs, goals, interests, points of view—with individuals from other generations.

3. Find the Talents in Everyone: Respectfully ask about the abilities and experience of others to enhance their sense of competence and encourage them to contribute to a shared effort.

4. Mix it Up. Working across generations helps realize the tremendous value of diverse perspectives, which often spark creativity and innovation. Make sure to partner with those of different generations often.

5. Expect a Lot: Low expectations due to age stereotyping wreak many forms of havoc, in particular the self-fulfilling prophecy. Expect more to get more.

Our hope is that companies will find ways to remove these harmful blind spots. The long-term success of any organization depends on contributions from employees of all ages. Employees who apply these practices to see one another as they really are, not as stereotypes, can help support a motivating, collaborative and productive workplace.

Do you find that age stereotyping is relevant in your workplace? Do you think you’re unfairly judged based on the year you were born? I would love to hear your stories on how prevalent age-based stereotyping is in your office.

The multiphased AchieveGlobal study evaluated generational research since 1985 and collected current data from leaders and employees through focus groups and an international survey. For more information and to access the complete study (“Age-Based Stereotypes: Silent Killer of Collaboration and Productivity”), visit http://www.agestereotypes.com/.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Leadership Development Carnival - May 1, 2011 Edition

Welcome to the May 1, 2011 edition of Leadership Development Carnival!

I thought it might be a good time to provide an overview of what this Carnival is all about and how it works.

What's a blog Carnival?
A Blog "Carnival" is a kind of blog community. Blog Carnivals typically collect together links pointing to blog articles on a particular topic. A Blog Carnival is like a magazine. It has a title, a topic, editors, contributors, and an audience. Editions of the carnival typically come out on a regular basis (e.g. the first Sunday of the month). Each edition is a special blog article that consists of links to all the contributions that have been submitted, often with the editors or contributors opinions or remarks.
I started this Carnival about 3 years ago, and share the hosting duties with other leadership bloggers every other month.

How do they work?
Every Carnival has submission guidelines, and here are mine:
"The Leadership Development Carnival accepts posts related to leadership, management, and executive development, leadership, management, coaching, human resources, succession planning, and organizational development. Irrelevant posts will be automatically rejected. Please include a post on your own site promoting the Carnival with a link back. Please submit only one recent (last 2 weeks) post along with a brief (1 line) description."

Blog owners can submit posts using the Carnival Submission Form on the sidebar of my blog, or sending me an email with the name of the blog with URL, name of the post with URL, submitter;s name, and email address.

I maintain a blind copy distribution list for regular contributors and send out a reminder about a month ahead of time.

While I do screen out the spam, irrelevant and poor quality posts, I don't always take the time to carefully read each post and add my own editorial comments. Even for a basic edition, like this month's, it usually takes me about 2 hours on a Sunday to organize, publish, and promote it. If the weather's decent, that's when I get lazy. My excuse for today is I'm fighting a nasy cold. But - I've never missed an edition. (-:

What are the benefits of running a Carnival?
For me, I use them to maintain a network of like-minded leadership bloggers, provide my readers with a a monthly easy-to-read "best of" series of leadership development posts, and it's a great way for other bloggers to get exposure to new audiences (contributors are expected to pitch in to promote it via their social media channels).

So, all are welcome to contribute and I'm always looking for new hosts.

There were some suggestions after the last Carnival, hosted by Sharlyn Lauby, that perhaps the Carnival is due for a shake-up. That's fine with me, so if you have any ideas, please leave a comment or email me.

Here's the May edition - I hope you enjoy it!

We'll start off with a post from Jennifer Miller, called "8 Ways for CEOs to Tap Thier Insiders", posted at The People Equation, saying "Management by walking around gets a fresh look with this research that touts productivity gains for CEOs who build relationships with company insiders".

Next up is Wally Bock, with "You don't "build" people, dammit!", hosted at his Three Star Leadership blog, saying "People are living things. You don't build living things, they grow."

Steve Roesler presents Real Change: Add Behavior to Your Vision posted at All Things Workplace, saying, "Leading Change means getting beyond the vision and impacting behavior."

Mary Jo Asmus presents Reflecting On Your 360 Degree Feedback posted at Mary Jo Asmus.

Art Petty presents Trying Not to Fail Is Not the Same As Striving for Success posted at Management Excellence.

Sharlyn Lauby presents If You’re Not With Us posted at hr bartender, saying, "Part of management is being able to help employees manage their workload."

Mark Stelzner presents Will I Fit In? posted at Inflexion Point.

David Burkus presents The Designful Leader posted at LeaderLab.

Anne Pershel gives us Power: How to Build it over Time & Lose it Overnight, posted at Germane Insights, saying "I learned the hard way to respect the dynamics of power in organizational life. In this post you will read the story and lessons learned."

Eric Pennington presents The Giving Up Thing posted at Epic Living - Leadership Development , saying, "In this post I address the crossroads of "giving up." The reasons we're tempted to give up and the key reasons to keep going are addressed in this timely piece."

William Matthies presents A Macro Business Plan? posted at Business Wisdom: Words to Manage By, saying, "Life guidance will hopefully be grounded in positive ethics."

Bret L. Simmons presents Employee Empowerment: Why It Matters And How To Get It posted at Bret L. Simmons.

Mike Henry Sr. presents a post from Deb Costello called "Inspiration vs. Perspiration" posted at Lead Change Group Blog, saying, "You are a leader in your work whether you have that title or not. People see you do your job. Do you do it joyfully or are you working for the weekend?"

Miki Saxon presents Ducks In A Row: Are You Well-Put-Together? posted at MAPping Company Success, saying, "Based on today's definition, well-put-together is the last thing you want to be."

Erik Samdahl presents Dance With the One What Brung Ya posted at Productivity Blog, saying, "Howard Schultz's focus since returning to the helm of Starbucks has been to remind the company of what made it great from its beginnings and, in effect, re-teaching all levels of the company how to execute against its original brand promise."

Jon Ingham presents John Lewis' Co-Ownership Model and The Royal Wedding posted at Management 2.0 developing social capital.

Anna Farmery presents Connecting Bill Clinton, music, Elvis and business! posted at The Engaging Brand.

Utpal Vaishnav presents Entrepreneurship 30 posted at Utpal Vaishnav, saying, "30 thoughts to know whether Entrepreneurship is for you or not."

Adi Gaskell presents Do entrepreneurs think differently? | Chartered Management Institute posted at Do entrepreneurs think differently?, saying, "New research into the type of behaviour differences between entrepreneurs and managers."

Michael Cardus presents 2 Kinds of Workplaces. 1 of Paranoia 1 of Trust posted at Create-Learning Team Building & Leadership Blog, saying, "The workplace has the capacity to develop paranoia and/or trust. Psychologically when aroused either mechanism in people readily takes over. They magnify and distort the reality that is separate from our perception and experience."

Meg Bear presents Bring your whole self to work posted at TalentedApps, saying, "Encouraging employees to be full and complete people — with a wealth of experiences, ideas, commitments, values and thoughts to offer your company, is a linchpin for most engagement strategies."

Laura Schroeder presents Top Ten Tips for Managers posted at Working Girl.

These posts were all submitted by Becky Robinson:
From Kevin Eikenberry, his most read post ever. "Five Reasons Why Leaders Need a Closed Door Policy." In it, Kevin proposes the idea that leaders can be more productive and more effective if they use boundaries with their teams.

From Guy Harris, "Three Clues You Can Use to Find Out What Motivates Another Person." The key to motivating others is understanding what they view as rewards.

From Becky's own blog, "Share What You Know." Leaders can make a difference by freely sharing their ideas, wisdom, and insights with others.

 Finally, from the Bud to Boss Community blog, this post from featured blogger Phil Gerbyshak: "Communication: Giving Better Directions." In this post, Phil shares some great tips leaders can use to communicate more effectively.

Debbie Owen presents How to Bring About Sustainable Change posted at Online Doctorate Degree.

Chris Edmonds presents The Leader’s Primary Contribution: Discretionary Energy posted at Driving Results Through Culture.

Jason Price presents The Biggest Lie of Leadership posted at One Money Design, saying, "This post shares an important ingredient of good leadership which is most often not what people see when thinking of leaders."

Joe Tichio presents Inspirational Leadership Quotes posted at Inspirational Quotes Blog, saying, "A collection of inspiring quotes on leadership and being a leader."

Robert Tanner presents Leading Change (Step 5): Empower Broad Based Action | Management is a Journey Blog posted at Management is a Journey Blog, saying, "This article provides strategies on implementing Step 5 of John Kotter's Leading Change Model--empower broad based action."

Andy Klein presents A leader's dilemma: What's the best way to influence action? posted at Fortune Group Blog, saying, "Leaders are confronted with two options when trying to influence people to act. To us, picking between the two is an easy choice."

Bob Lieberman presents Nobody Wants To Know Me Anymore posted at Cultivating Creativity – Developing Leaders for the Creative Economy.

Alicia Arnold presents 5 Ways to Get Out of a Creative Slump posted at Daily Creativity, saying, "Around the globe, innovation is cited as one of the top three leadership skills for the future. This article provides easy to implement tips for increasing personal creativity as a building block for harnessing creativity and innovation with the workplace."

That's it for this month's edition. Next Month's edition will be published June 5th, hosted by Jennifer Miller at The People Equation.