Category Archives: Management

Emotional Intelligence: Not Just a Buzz Word

The concept of emotional intelligence has been around since Aristotle. He wrote:

“Anyone can become angry – that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not easy.” ~ Aristotle

Even back then, the great philosophers understood the importance of managing your emotions.

Some people seem to have it to a greater degree and some people, well, not so much. We have all known a few bullies at work, yes? People, who when they are having a bad day, seem determined to pull everyone else down with them.

Leaders especially need to be in charge of their emotions. Take the time to raise your awareness on this important topic. If you master it, every area of your life will improve.

Emotional Intelligence is known as EQ (Emotional Quotient) and it is more than just self-regard or self-esteem.

It is also not about being nice or smiling all of the time. It is not about expressing every emotion you are feeling either.

A person with high EQ has the following qualities and awareness:

  • Empathy: The ability to pick up on emotional and social cues and respond appropriately. The ability to read body language and non-verbal communication to understand others better.
  • Self-honesty: The ability to know and accept your own qualities, faults, limitations and be able to recognize patterns of behavior that either help or hinder situations. (But don’t beat yourself up.)
  • Consciousness: Recognize that emotions you may be feeling can get in the way of accurately assessing emotions in others. Be aware of when you may be projecting your feelings onto others.

The way you work on and improve your EQ is to:

1.    Manage your feelings. You can begin with positive self-talk. Tell yourself that you have great coping skills. Tell yourself that everything is okay and not an emergency. Accept that: a) you have a choice, b) you make a difference, and c) you are an important part of the situation.

2.    Develop social behaviorsRespond to people’s needs instead of reacting and don’t take anything personal. When others are behaving or acting poorly it may have nothing to do with you. Build conflict resolution skills and be open to feedback.

3.    Identify and prioritize what is important. Understand why you may be feeling the way you feel and weigh your decisions based on what is really important (not the urgency you feel in the moment). Separate your feelings with your reaction. You can still be angry but react kindly. By doing this, sometimes we realize we are getting upset over nothing and it’s just NOT that important.

A few words about optimism . . .

“A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities; and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.”

~ Reginald B. Mansell

Educate yourself and grow your EQ to increase your happiness, manage life’s challenges and be a better leader.

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This article was written by Maureen Ross Gemme, Senior Consultant with Learning Dynamics. Visit her personal profile page to learn more about Maureen’s career and expertise.

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Learning Dynamics offers an  Emotional Intelligence program designed to maximize the value of EI with leaders who are entrusted with motivating staff. Contact us today to learn how we can help your organization develop your supervisors and managers into EI conscious leaders.

Performance Management: Beginning the Discussion

How many of us have heard…or uttered … these phrases in our professional lives?

“I haven’t had a performance review with my boss since I got here.”

“She couldn’t really tell me why I got the performance rating.”

“It’s not fair.  I know I did better than he says I did.”

“He said, I should ‘be happy’”

Are these the comments that stellar organizations and relations are built upon?  I think not.  If this is, or has been, a part of your journey, how can we as leaders make change?  Some believe that change can only occur from the top of an organization.  There is a grass roots component that I believe can enhance your work place and potentially have an impact on the larger organization.  It begins with first level leaders understanding key themes about managing employee performance to better the organization.  I have always thought of these as the key components of understanding outstanding employee performance management:

1.  WHY

2.  WHO

3.  WHAT

4.  HOW

5.  WHEN

Let’s address each of these in successive posts, starting with WHY.

WHY IS PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT IMPORTANT TO THE WORKPLACE?

1.  Critical to Business Success.  Employees must have expectations for performance excellence tied to goals.  Without employee performance expectations aligned with company vision and mission, employees and leaders struggle with focus.  When employee expectations are aligned and met, it is a simple progression that leads to enhanced engagement.

2.  Improves Colleague Engagement.  Simply doing without understanding why limits employee engagement.  Imagine the motivation when an employee actually gets it.  Think of how that employee feels about him/herself and the work required on a project, when they are clear on the importance of how their role relates to the end product.

3.  Drives Individual Employee Development.  As the leader assigns goals and/or objectives, it can be done with an eye toward stretching the ability of the employee.  In so doing, a business-complementary stretch objective is introduced; the employee senses trust on the part of the leader and can more easily align with growth/development opportunities.  Success for both parties is derived from employee growth and business success. Of course, employee accountability for performance is an important part of development and growth.

4.  Enhances Rewards and Recognition Program.  With a clear, established performance program, employees understand what is happening to them.  Comments like those that opened this blog can be reduced and eliminated.

We may even get solid suggestions and recommendations from our employees concerning rewards and recognition.  Talk about engagement!

5.  Incentivizes Employees.  Now we have employees who understand and participate in the organization’s rewards and recognition program. They are bought-in to their individual development objectives. They are engaged because there is clarity and understanding about what they are doing and why.  Because they see the alignment with overall business vision and goals, these employees are now leaning forward, looking for additional opportunities.

Once we have clarity about WHY performance management is valuable, we need to next look at WHO is involved in our performance management process. That is the topic for our next blog.

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This article was written by Gary Steele, Vice President with Learning Dynamics. Visit his personal profile page to learn more about Gary’s career and expertise.

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Learning Dynamics offers several customizable leadership development programs including Coaching for Results. Contact us today to learn how we can help your organization develop your supervisors and managers into leaders.

Five Steps to Conference Call Success

Meetings that Drive Results is a popular training program with Learning Dynamics clients as many are working to find ways to have more effective meetings, fewer meetings, and different ways to communicate across teams. Conference calls are one option toward that end.

A participant at a recent session asked, “How do I help other managers who don’t trust the effectiveness of conference calls? This person wants to have in-person meetings, even when they are inconvenient for many. He doesn’t think conference calls work. He says that people don’t pay attention and no work gets done.”

While there are many ways to make conference calls more effective, we offered a five-step strategy to get everyone engaged in the calls and to ensure that work is accomplished.

Prepare an Agenda. This should be a part of every effective meeting, whether in-person or virtual, and it is especially valuable for conference calls. Let your participants know the start and end times, the topics to be discussed, and who is presenting what information. A compelling agenda will help get people on your call on time, ready to collaborate.

Track Participation. After you have taken attendance at the beginning of the call, keep a tally of who participates. Is Bob lurking in the shadows and staying quiet? Call on him for his insights and opinions. You will only have to do this a few times before people realize they can’t just dial in and go quiet.

Get Commitments. Make task assignments and clarification of next steps a non-negotiable part of every call. You cannot afford to let a call end without having a clear plan for what will happen next.

Follow Up. When the call is over, send out notes and a summary of commitments. Follow up individually with participants at appropriate times to ensure they are staying on track with their work.

Celebrate. Starting with the second conference call, recognize and celebrate the work accomplished to which your participants committed during the previous call. This positive feedback loop will help everyone understand the value of the conference calls and will keep them striving to fulfill the commitments they make during them.

While conference calls are not always ideal (sometimes the technology can be a big challenge!), they can save a lot of time and expense. The trick, of course, is to plan for the calls to be productive and successful, and then take the steps above to make the plan reality.

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Do you even need to have that meeting? Read this to decide for yourself.

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Learning Dynamics has been delivering customized employee training and development solutions to its clients for 35 years. Meetings that Drive Results is just one of many training initiatives that can help your organization improve efficiency and effectiveness. Contact Learning Dynamics today to learn more.

The Thoughtful Leader

As leaders we often insert ourselves into situations to drive decisions.  Once engaged we want to solve them, quickly extricate ourselves, and move on to the next challenge.

If we haven’t thought these situations through – our involvement, the desired end state, and how we will get there – we can find ourselves caught in the ever-tightening grip of our problem.  How might we better manage our challenge?

WHY THE RUSH?

Are we victims of our push for speed?  For the great majority of situations we encounter, the “standard” speed to solution will work.  Certainly there are times when we must make fast decisions…and we do.  I heard a phrase once that goes, “If you want it bad, you’ll get it…BAD”!  How many times have we seen things get redone because of the pressure applied to reach a fast decision?  Time, people, resources, and profitability can be wasted.

A POSSIBLE SOLUTION

To create a framework for success, what can we do?  We pause, analyze, consider, decide, and execute.  If one thinks about all elements of a situation (WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY) perhaps one might not find themselves imprisoned by their own good intentions.

Many years ago I learned a tool primarily used to create a document for the effective planning and execution of military operations.  I learned it as the Five Paragraph Field Order.  It consists of five paragraphs within which a leader captures the basic elements of a plan to successfully accomplish a mission.

Here is a quick look at the five elements:

SITUATION.  Before diving into creating a solution, the situation at hand must be accurately described.  This includes all positive and negative factors impacting decisions.

MISSION.  After understanding the situation, the leader can intelligently articulate the objective or goal.  This is a thoughtfully composed planning component that includes the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, and WHY.

EXECUTION.  Here is where the leader clearly lays out how he/she sees the operation unfolding to accomplish the mission.

ADMINISTRATION AND LOGISTICS.  This incudes the leader’s guidance on the use of all available resources for mission accomplishment.

COMMAND AND COMMUNICATION.  It is important that all involved parties are clear on individual and group responsibilities.  All must understand “who’s responsible for what,” and how we will communicate status.

In any environment – civilian, military, for profit, and non – collaboration and delegation must play a part, too. An intelligent leader will take the time to understand if she or he is even needed. Can the employees handling the situation do it on their own? Can we create a developmental opportunity through which others can learn and grow? Sometimes the top person doesn’t need to be involved at all.

FINDING THE BALANCE

Not every challenge faced by today’s and tomorrow’s leaders will necessarily require something of the magnitude of the Five Paragraph Field Order.  It is up to us, as thoughtful leaders, to discern the level of planning and execution required to drive our organizations to success. What’s important is that there is a thoughtful process used to navigate challenges.

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This article was written by Gary Steele, Vice President with Learning Dynamics. Visit his personal profile page to learn more about Gary’s career and expertise.

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Learning Dynamics offers several customizable leadership development programs including Coaching for Results. Contact us today to learn how we can help your organization develop your supervisors and managers into leaders.

Sprint or Marathon?

Have you read the New York Times piece on the tough work environment at Amazon? There has been a huge amount of coverage about the article itself and the responses by CEO Jeff Bezos and his lieutenants. Stress, tears, and very long work hours – along with hefty compensation for top performers – are all part of that company’s culture, and it can be argued that it has worked for them.

The bigger questions raised by this discussion are important. What is the culture you want in your organization? What must your organization do to compete and thrive? What do you and your top leaders want the company to be known for?

While the Amazon story gives a clear description of a tough, combative work environment – some might label it a cold meritocracy – it also is one that gets results. If you are competing against Amazon – and that includes most every organization that sells and ships anything – its intense focus on taking market share is one that should cause concern. Your customers are likely buying from them sometimes. What can you do? Do you need to transform your organization by adopting the Amazon culture, or can you get results some other way?

The short answer is this: You can get results however you would like, but your team needs to understand expectations. This starts with the hiring and selection process, through onboarding, and during the employee’s entire stay with your company.

Is your company one that encourages long tenure and values loyalty? Will it settle for 90% effectiveness rather than demanding – often demonstrated with midnight emails and text messages – 110% over months? Do you see your organization made up of a team of people running a metaphorical marathon? If so, then create and nurture a performance management and rewards systems that is consistent with that desired culture.

Is yours an organization that runs at a flat-out sprint? Does it bring in people for a relatively short time, work them hard, and reward them well, fully prepared for short tenure and a constantly active hiring team? Then be sure all of the elements – selection, training, compensation, executive messages, and exit protocols – are consistent with that paradigm.

In the end, there are not necessarily any right or wrong ways to run your business. If everyone is honest, ethical, and in compliance with the law, it is your choice as a leader as to which way lead. Just be clear and consistent, ensuring  all know what to expect. Anything less is dishonest and a path to trouble.

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Learning Dynamics can help your organization inspire great performance from its people. Visit us today to learn about our leadership programs that allow you to invest in people who will give you great results. Contact us today for more information.

Time Management Starts at the Top

HourglassTime management – or task management, depending on your perspective – is a perennial hot topic in employee performance conversations. How can we get more productivity from the team? How can we deliver this huge project without adding people? How can we get more done with the resources we have?

These are all valuable questions, and success at improving productivity using smarter time management techniques can pay big rewards. Keeping talented team members engaged in the important, rather than diving into the trivial, is a big part of the discipline. It must be said that senior leaders have a critical role to play, as well, by giving teams every opportunity to succeed. Here are some points to consider about how you and your organization’s executives lead, and how they might be hurting results.

Meetings. Everyone complains, “We have too many meetings!” Yet, we all continue to have them, and they are not all worthwhile. To be more direct, many are a waste of time, burning mountains of money. One estimate places the tab at $37 billion in lost salaries spent on bad meetings in the US alone. Before you have a meeting, ask yourself some questions. Do we need to have it? What if we don’t have a meeting? What will happen? Is there a better and more efficient way to communicate?

Schedules. Some organizations have moved to a work anywhere, anytime model, or at least flexible scheduling that respects employees’ lives and priorities. Are your people spending their best times – prime time when they are most mentally on – commuting or working a schedule that does not meet any business need other than “that’s the way we’ve always done it”?

Technology. This might seem like a no-brainer, but is worth a moment. Does your company have the technology – hardware, software and infrastructure – to be as efficient as possible? Conversely, are you clinging to old technology to save the capital expense, when an investment today can pay dividends for years to come.

Prioritization. Do your performance evaluations and management actions keep employees focused on the most important things? Do your senior leaders have a clear vision of what those things are? Do they explain the reasons for priorities to get buy-in from followers? Sometimes, realignment of priorities can get talented people moving more directly toward the goal. Try this: ask an employee at random, “What are you paid to do here?” Listen for the first response. Is it what you expected? Did the employee struggle? If you aren’t happy with the answer, look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Why doesn’t my team know what is important?”

We could generate a much longer list of time management traps, but this will get you started. Look at time management success as a priority for leadership and consider how your top people can make everyone more productive. It will be worth the effort.

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Learning Dynamics offers custom learning and development programs on topics including time management and effective communication. Contact us today or visit our programs page to learn more.

Performance Reviews Are Coming: 5 Ways to More Value

2014 Review Score ImageAs the office holiday parties roll on, and wishes for happy holidays and the new year are shared, that can only mean one thing. Year-end performance reviews are just a calendar page away for many companies. Just like last year, it’s possible that you and your team look forward to them for only one reason: the money that comes from bonuses and merit increases.

Shouldn’t there be more to it, though? Shouldn’t there be some lasting value from the time invested in writing and delivering them? The answer, obviously, is yes. Last year at about this time, we shared some ideas on making the process better. Here are some others that can make this a performance-enhancing time, rather than just a performance-reviewing one.

Allow Time. Do you give your team enough time to prepare their self-review section? Do they even do one? Many workplaces (outside of retail, delivery services, travel and other seasonal industries) experience a little downtime during December. Encourage your team to reflect on the year now while there is some time to think before the January 2nd resumption of regular business rhythm.

Expect Specifics. If you are not doing this already, improve your review process by including a conversation and documentation about specific performance metrics from the year. Encourage your team members to review their own scorecards, dashboards and other reports as they evaluate themselves. The slower weeks in December can be a good time to pull that information.

Have Balance. While numbers are important in every business, there are also some intangibles that should be part of the conversation. These might include exemplifying company values, volunteerism and corporate social responsibility efforts, developing and mentoring others, and representing the brand.

Look Forward. Reviews are helpful in recording past results, and provide an opportunity to celebrate victories, thank employees for their efforts, and challenge them to improve. Be sure to include a look toward the future so progress in key results areas continues. See our related SMART goals story for more about this.

Collaborate on Goals. Nobody likes a goal given to them. Consider using a coaching approach to ask your employee about the goals she or he would like to set, and how it will be done. If you and your organization are clear communicators of mission and overall strategy, a competent employee should be able to articulate at least some goals for herself. Encourage and allow it to happen.

Reviews do not have to be drudgery. Instead, they can be valuable and contribute to improved performance. Work on it now and your annual review process can be an important part of your overall performance and talent development program.

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Learning Dynamics offers several customizable programs to help managers be more effective at giving performance feedback. Learn about Honest Appraisal™ and other programs at our Programs page

7 Tips for Emotional Conversations

Emotional Conversations

How do you prepare for a potentially emotional conversation? Many inexperienced leaders –  and others, too – struggle with this common scenario. Some avoid it. In most every case, reticence to have these discussions leads to stress, anxiety rooted in procrastination and fear, and lost team productivity and effectiveness.

It is in everyone’s best interest to handle these conversations as quickly as possible. Here are some tips that you can use yourself, or to coach others as they prepare.

Have a Plan: Detail everything about the conversation. What will be discussed? When and where will it happen? What is the goal of the conversation?

Deal with it Now: Unnecessary delay has many negative effects. Continued poor performance, the stress that comes from artificial team harmony, and the opportunity cost of spending time thinking about something that should have already been addressed are just the beginning. Deal with it and move on.

Choose Your Setting: Potentially emotional and negative conversations must be held in private. No exceptions. Ensure that privacy is a top priority. Avoid distractions like phones, computers and visitors.

Have a Clear Goal: What does the supervisor expect to change as a result of the talk? While this is part of the plan, it is worthy of its own bullet here because it is that important.

Have Your Facts Ready: Are you having a performance discussion? Use the reports and other tools that you need to make your case. Preparation will lead to an efficient and effective conversation based on facts, rather than a painful and vague discussion built on the sands of assumption.

Don’t Take it Personally: Keep the conversation professional and as dispassionate as possible. People can be naturally defensive, so expect it. This isn’t about you; it’s about the other person.

Keep it Focused and Concise: Don’t try to ease into the conversation with small talk. Greet the person, invite her or him to sit down, and explain why you are initiating the conversation.

Recognize that tough conversations are a part of all our work experiences. Learning how to manage them effectively and calmly can make this unwelcome part of our work lives less onerous.

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Learning Dynamics offers learning and development solutions to help your team members become better communicators. Contact us today to discuss your needs.

 

 

L&D Secret Ingredient: Executive Endorsement

Why do some learning and development initiatives flourish while others founder and fail? Why do some generate monstrous ROI while others are a waste of time and money? There can be many reasons, but a common one is executive endorsement and follow-through, or lack of it. The boss sets the tone and focuses energy on priorities. Training is one of those things that will get the attention it deserves or not based on leadership urgency.

At a recent conference, members of the Learning Dynamics team took part in conversations with training managers and other learning and development professionals from around the country. When the topic of conversation came around to obstacles to effective training, lack of leadership’s commitment was a too-common comment.

With that in mind, what can an organization do to not just eliminate executive roadblocks, but engage and energize the most senior managers to make training outcomes a top priority? Here are some ideas.

Get executive buy-in early. Senior leaders need to understand the need for training and what they can expect from the effort and expense. What is the ROI? Paint the picture of better financial and customer service results and anything else that is important to the organization.

Ask for support. Learning and development advocates must enlist support. A conversation starting with, “If this training investment is going to make sense, we will need your help with…” Fill in the blanks by asking for specific support on key messages and expectations of behavioral change.

Take a stand on outcomes. Do your learning and development advocates have skin in the game? Are they willing to commit to some level of performance improvement? If they don’t believe in it, the top people likely will not either.

Celebrate success along the way. If the training initiative is important, it deserves internal publicity. Recruit an executive champion (cheerleader, perhaps?) to give it the air time and attention it deserves. Celebrate incremental improvements that can be tied back to the L&D effort.

Document the effort. After your training program is complete and the results are in, recap the results. Prepare a concise executive summary to explain the outcomes of the training. Can you show causality from the training to the performance improvements? Take nothing for granted. Document it.

What ideas do you have to get executive endorsement? We would love to hear them. Share your ideas here.

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Learning Dynamics can help your company create a comprehensive learning and development program that includes executive tools to reinforce the effort and improve its effectiveness. Contact us today for a free consultation.

People and (not “or”) Machines

people and machinesToyota is taking tasks back from the robots. A compelling piece on Quartz explains that the carmaker’s executives realized that people still play an important role in production and that something is lost when employees do little more than feed the machine. Humans use their creativity and wisdom to envision new and better ways of doing a job, while computers and robots simply follow their programs. It’s a big difference. Toyota’s quality and efficiency have improved as a result.

There is something to be learned from this for all business leaders. While computers and robotics have helped us make giant improvements in quality, reliability and safety, and they handle many monotonous mind-numbing tasks that people don’t want to do, people still contribute in a special way. Creativity is part of it. Intuition, inspiration and joyful experimentation make a difference, too.

Have you ever seen a technology implementation deliver less than expected? How about a new process or an outsourcing initiative to failed to achieve its goals? Is it possible that the best people have had their roles reduced or eliminated and something has been lost?

Maybe the sweet spot is somewhere in the middle. A strategy where the best, most talented people are engaged and inspired to create, while the machines do the heavy lifting, should be explored. Until the day when computers can think for themselves – and that is still a long time away (we hope) – the spark and serendipitous discovery that only happen when people have a part will make a critical difference.

What is your organization doing to train, inspire and retain its best people, those who can “master the machines”? Who are your masters, or who will be with enough time, training and development.

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Learning Dynamics offers a wide range of training and development solutions for progressive, forward-looking organizations.