Thanks and keep up the great work!
I love questions like this one, because it’s so real and typical of what new (and old) leaders are asking for. They want pragmatic solutions to everyday challenges. They all don’t have the time and inclination to read volumes of textbooks.
1. Review and clarify expectations
Here’s an abbreviated version of one of my favorite stories on the power of clarifying expectations (unfortunately, I don’t remember who I heard it from, so I can’t give credit):
A consultant was hired by a CEO to “fix” one of his managers who was about to be fired. The consultant asked the CEO to write down all of his expectations for this manager. When he met with the manager, the consultant gave him the list. A few months later, after the manager’s performance had dramatically improved, the CEO was congratulating the consultant for his brilliant work. “How did you do it?” he asked. “I gave him your list”, said the consultant. The CEO slammed his fist on the table and said, “I knew it – you cheated!”
Try using the same exercise with your employees. It’s even better if you both create your own lists, then get together to compare.
While clarifying expectations is a great way to improve performance, agreeing on specific goals and measures is even more powerful. Here’s a quote from Steve Kerr, courtesy of Derek Irvine: “If something isn’t measured, you can’t give people feedback about it, so they can’t improve. You can’t reward the people who are doing it well, and you can’t improve or admonish people who do it poorly. Measurement also signals that something is important; if no one is tracking it, it will take a backseat to things that are being scrutinized. … Things that aren’t measured can’t be rewarded and they very likely won’t get done.”
See “How to Write a Great Individual Development Plan”. A career discussion is part of this process.
We can’t get better if we don’t know how we’re doing. It’s especially important when we have behavioral “blind spots”, and no one has cared enough to point them out.
There’s a reason the coaching field is hot. It works. Managers can learn to coach too.
Another classic training story:
Once upon a time there was a woodcutter who was very busy cutting a tree with an axe. He seemed very tired and exhausted, the tree was big, but he was a great worker and not wasting a minute of his time was focused on his job of cutting the tree. Another wise woodcutter was passing by and he noticed this woodcutter at his work. He said “Hello there, good morning.. I see that you are working hard at your job, why don’t you take a break for a while, sharpen your axe a little bit” To which the wood cutter said “I don’t have time.” and continued to work harder at cutting the tree.
Everybody wants – and deserves – a little praise now and then. Try asking everyone on your team to write down what kind of recognition and reward means the most to them. Then tailor your approach to each individual. There are over 1000 ways to do it, and almost as many excuses for not doing it.
Most people thrive when faced with a new challenge. However, make sure it’s true delegation, not dumping of some mundane task you don’t want to do.
It’s more of a short-term shot in the arm, but it’s energizing when your manager asks for your opinion on some high level issue or decision.
10. Provide a mentor or coach
A mentor or coach can provide a fresh perspective and help someone get over that hurdle that’s holding them back..
Readers: is there anything you would add to this pocket guide?