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HOW do I improve my team’s productivity & engagement?

September 24, 2009 Leave a comment

I’ve ranted before about “employee engagement” and how the buzz word drives me bonkers (see previous posts!). But even though I disagree with all the hype surrounding the “importance” of employee engagement, I do agree that it’s a vital ingredient for high-performing teams.

CEOs and company leaders are giving orders to “build employee engagement” in an effort to increase sales and profitability.

The question managers (ie: the people responsible for making that a reality) have is: HOW do we get more productive, engaged employees?

You increase productivity and employee engagement when you have good supervisors.  Productivity and engagement go hand-in-hand, and neither happen with a crappy supervisor. So what we need to do is put people in supervisory roles that have the aptitude to actually get the job done.  Here’s some criteria that define the characteristics of a supervisor that can manage high-performing teams.

Credit to Wally Bock — This is an excerpt from his article, “Not Enough Employee Engagement? Blame Your Boss“.

Does he or she like helping other people succeed? A supervisor’s job is to help the team and its members succeed.

Has he or she demonstrated a willingness to talk to others about employee engagement and performance? This is a key part of any supervisor’s job. We can give someone the tools to do it better, but we can’t make them willing to do it.

Has he or she demonstrated the willingness to make decisions and take responsibility for results? How many supervisors have you seen who simply don’t decide? They buck the issue up the chain. Or they decide not to decide. Or they dump the problem back in a team member’s lap, then walk away with their hands in the air.

We need to give them training in supervisory skills. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, less than 10 percent of training budgets are spent on first line supervisors. Most of that is spend on how to fill out forms and classes on prophylactic HR. That’s not good enough.

New supervisors need some training in basic role identification. They need skills training in communication and confrontation skills. And they need help understanding their transition.

We need to support them in their work. Support means more training. The transition period, which takes 12 to 18 months, is the time when lots of small training sessions are needed. New supervisors also need to identify role models and mentors and learn self-critique skills.

After that, some form of peer support is vital. That can be a formal program in a large company or a joint program among smaller companies. In many cases, mentors and coaches are part of the mix.

We need to help them develop. One of the great things about supervision is that there’s always something more to learn. We need to help bosses create development plans and then follow them. We need to provide resources and point them to more resources.

The best way to leverage employee engagement is to have an engaged boss. There are “great places to work” with “pockets of awfulness.” There are horrid slave ships with beacons of excellence.

~Kristin

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Do You MBWA Effectively?

September 4, 2009 Leave a comment

Learn how to Manage By Wandering Around at the Three Star Leadership Blog: How to wander effectively

Excerpt:

The reason that “Management by Wandering Around” (MBWA) gets such good press is that it works when it’s done right…  The fact is that MBWA is about as easy to mess up as it is to do well.

Why Doctors and Companies Get Sued

September 3, 2009 Leave a comment

From our very own, Mr. Anderson: Why Doctors and Companies Get Sued

Excerpt: “For many of us, our workplace responsibilities have increased because of layoffs and re-orgs.  Those who are left behind have become the working wounded.  How do we help the wounded heal?  As a leader in the company you can make a huge difference by also practicing being a human being.”

All Things Workplace: Four Ways to Help People Learn

August 12, 2009 2 comments

All Things Workplace: Purge The Victims and Villains Syndrome

Coaching Staff — Part V

The 5th Installment of Coaching Staff from the Brilliant Leadership Blog. Share other topics you’d like to learn about! ~Kristin

Coaching Staff — Part V
The Brilliant Leadership Blog
So far in this series we’ve looked at how to provide clear instruction, effective demonstrations, enable practice in a safe environment and the under-rated element of observing this practice. In this section we’ll be looking at how to make an effective coaching intervention and provide feedback to the staff member.

In fact, the very phrase, provide feedback to the staff member is wrong. This implies that feedback is a one way process whereas it really should be a two way discussion. Wherever possible, the staff member should be encouraged to review their own performance or progression in the task or skill area with a view to identifying what has worked well and what can be improved. The coach’s role is to ask great questions and listen actively. In Brilliant Leader I recommend the use of the communication funnel as a key coaching technique for such interventions.

Apart from being a two way discussion, what are the other aspects of a feedback intervention that we should consider?

1. Positive Reinforcement – It is vital that people understand what they have done well and why. This is much more than simply praising the individual. It is about helping them to understand the positive behaviours they have employed so that they learn when and how to employ these behaviours in the future.

2. Constructive Improvement – When something hasn’t gone as well as was intended, it is important for the staff member to understand what they needed to do differently and how. The key guideline here is that if they were to perform this task again will they be able to exhibit different and more effective behaviours.

3. Support Interventions – Often, a feedback intervention occurs because the staff member asks for help – usually because they encounter something new or different in relation to the task or skill area. In the early stages of the coaching cycle, the coach might simply provide a recommendation or even an instruction. However, as the individual becomes more accomplished, the coach’s role is to challenge the staff member to come up with their own solutions or recommendations. These can then be shaped, if necessary, before being ratified.

4. Timely – Coaching interventions should be timely. The longer it is left after the event before the staff member receives feedback, the less relevant the feedback becomes. This presents particular challenges for those who are coaching remotely. This might involve coaching via the telephone or video conferencing. It might also indicate a need to meet with the staff member more frequently or to involve additional help in the coaching process from those who are on the same site or location.

5. Motivational – While remembering that the purpose of a feedback conversation is for the staff member to learn, it is also important that the environment that is created is motivational and inspirational. This requires that encouragement is provided even when correcting or improving behaviour. The feedback session should finish on the development of an action plan or a summary of key points that will be taken away from the session and the coach should instil a sense of belief in the staff member that they can successfully implement and apply these actions.

The final point to make when considering the coaching cycle is to remember precisely that – it is a cycle and not a straight line process. The cycle will repeat less and less frequently until the staff member becomes fully competent in the task or skill area. This implies that coaching is an ongoing process not a one off exercise. To be clear on this, coaching is a fundamental part of managing and leading people – it is a core part of the job.

This will be an important point to note in the next part of this series we explore how to find the time to coach.

Simon Cooper is chief executive of the Experiential Learning Centre, author of the exciting new book, Brilliant Leader and architect of the Brilliant Leadership workshops.

Coaching Staff — Part IV

The 4th Installment of Coaching Staff from the Brilliant Leadership Blog. Let me know what other topics you’d like to hear about! ~Kristin

Coaching Staff — Part IV
The Brilliant Leadership Blog

So far in this series we have looked at how to instruct staff members in a task or skill area, provide effective demonstrations and enable opportunities for them to practice, ideally in a safe or non-urgent environment. An often overlooked and under-rated aspect of coaching is monitoring and observing how the staff member is developing in the task or skill area. This then, is our focus for the next stage of the coaching cycle.

One of the workshops I run frequently is presentation skills. These are highly practical workshops that involve a lot of practice and feedback. When a presentation has not gone entirely as planned, I will often ask both the group and the presenter how it could have been improved. While they often come up with some useful ideas, they rarely get to the root of the issue. And this is where I have to earn my crust as a coach – by not just observing what everyone else has seen but also, identifying what is happening and why. I have to see the things that other people haven’t spotted in order to suggest one or two changes that would transform the presentation.

This is at the heart of coaching observation. The coach has to observe what is happening and also what is not happening. They must see the things that others can’t and identify why things are happening. This enables them to provide feedback that gets to the root of the issue and enables the staff member to improve, noticeably, when they next try to practice the task or skill.

I believe this is an intuitive part of coaching and as such, it is difficult to be specific on how to develop this aspect of the coaching toolbox. However, I offer the following guidance.

1. Observe what is happening but more importantly, identify why it is happening.

2. Observe what isn’t being applied.

3. Ask the staff member to reflect on what you have observed.

4. Get to the root of the issue.

5. Don’t try to improve too many areas at once. Identify the base learning that needs to take place before building on this to improve the finer details later.

In the next part of this series we’ll be looking in depth at the art of providing feedback to staff with a view to reinforcing what they are doing well and improving things that could be done better.

Simon Cooper is chief executive of the Experiential Learning Centre, author of the exciting new book, Brilliant Leader and architect of the Brilliant Leadership workshops.