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Goal Alignment: Job One for Managers

Two days before Yolanda’s performance review, she sent a 26-page PowerPoint deck intended to summarize her accomplishments for the year. She’d clearly spent hours on the deck, perhaps more than a day packaging and positioning accomplishments. She’d even asked four colleagues to write emails lobbying for her promotion. Although she’d only been on my marketing and strategy team for 18 months, Yolanda had been in the same role at the same level for more than 5 years.

In her mind, this was her year to get ranked at the top of the team and get promoted — the performance model at the company. The 26 pages of presentation and emails were intended to seal the deal.

The goal to get promoted had become the one and only goal.

Her promotion goals eclipsed Yolanda’s efforts to achieve her group’s goals or add value to the organization. Her focus became skewed to getting her contributions “on the record” rather than making great contributions — often consuming team time and draining rather than adding value in the process.

Inevitably, she did not rank among the highest performers on the team. She’d forgotten that career rewards come as a result of value creation and goal achievement, not time in job, positioning and lobbying.

Achievement is The Fastest Path to Advancement

While I respected Yolanda’s desire to advance her career, she would have been better off investing her energy in four key disciplines rather than on self promotion and her outcome at the expense of the organization’s:

1. Align goals up, break them down to actions.
Make sure you understand the strategic and economic goals of the organization and the specific goals and metrics for your team. Work with your manager to set ambitious, measurable goals that align upward and have real impact; break them down into actionable elements and defined tactics for each quarter and month.

2. Know your progress against goal.
Time flies, as the saying goes. Work the list of actions that achieve the defined goals and do a weekly check point on your progress. You own your achievements; don’t rely on others to ensure you get there.

3. Focus on value creation.
Have an unwavering focus on creating value for customers and the organization above all else. Work with this as your genuine purpose every day. Take a minute to assess your commitment to value creation and whether it calibrates with the career success you’d like.

4. Let results do the talking.
Deliver what you committed and then some. If you achieve and exceed measurable goals consistently, you create real value for the organization. Results like that speak for themselves and for you.

Alignment and Accountability Are The Leader’s Job

As Yolanda’s manager, I fell short too. Like many managers according to Harvard Business Review, I avoided hard accountability discussions. I could have helped her be more successful for our team and in her career aspirations over the course of the year by being more consistent in four key areas of management:

1. Keep goals and priorities visible.
To make it easier for Yolanda and others to stay aligned with the team’s goals, I should have kept specific, measurable goals and status of their achievement more consistently visible to the team. Beginning and end of quarter aren’t sufficient in organizations with tens of thousands of people and millions of emails.

2. Track actions and have clear ownership for each deliverable.
To avoid confusion about responsibilities and ensure goal achievement, I should have over communicated expectations and ownership of deliverables. The clarity on actions reinforces what to focus on and provides an accomplishment roster at year end.

3. Use regular status reports to assess progress and create feedback opportunities.
By getting a regular status update on the specific actions and deliverables required to achieve goals, both Yolanda and I would have the same fact base on her results and impact. This creates a specific trigger to note great progress, identify performance gaps on deliverables for goal achievement and establishes strong follow through in the 50 weeks between goal setting and performance review.

4. Give more continuous feedback.
By providing more regular and specific feedback on work product, I could have reduce the gap between Yolanda’s perception and her actual execution. It’s natural to want to avoid difficult conversations but performance conversations just get more difficult with time. Feedback tied to the work product and actions needed to achieve defined goals is essential throughout the year.

These are fairly obvious best practices but difficult to sustain in complex organizations, particularly with the global teams and travel complexities I had at the time. It is incredibly time consuming to compile and communicate the performance fact base and my days were already three time zones long. Email archiving and fractured productivity tools made matters worse by breaking the business narrative into a thousand tiny pieces (lists of deliverables in Excel, dashboards in PowerPoint, endless document revisions in SharePoint and the discussion of status and quality in email and email archives). Without transparency and management efficiency, accountability is hard to achieve on a distributed team.

Recalibrate Now

The human and business cost of goal and expectation gaps are high, and this is a perfect time to reset for the year. Commit to transparency, accountability and achievement as fundamentals in your management model and sustain them in practice. Recalibrate with team members to make sure goals are well understood, close gaps in execution or expectations, and give course-correcting or rewarding feedback where needed. Your performance and your team’s will go up in the second half — you and your Yolanda will be happier!

The 5 Dynamics of Low Performing Teams

High performing teams seem to generate their own energy and elevate everyone on the team to their full potential. Despite achieving more, work on these teams seems less taxing, the workday shorter and less frustrating. Low performing teams are plagued by dysfunction and produce more frustration than progress.

What undermines the performance of groups and teams? Poor leadership and low self awareness from team members.

The Leader’s Role In Dysfunction

The most common leadership failure points are the hardest part of a leaders’ job: getting the wrong people off the team, holding people accountable and giving direct feedback. These aspects of management and leadership push us into uncomfortable territory. Sometimes managers don’t have support resources or skills in these areas and in large organizations, there may appear to be a high social price as well.

Building and exercising management skills are essential because great performers will leave the team for better places to work and the rest of the team will disengage (as more than 70% of employees have!) — the doomsday cycle for teams, companies and careers. The five dynamics of low performing teams stem from what leaders don’t do and the vacuum from what is missing:

1. Freeloaders

Teams with freeloaders consistently under perform. About 2 in 10 employees are actively disengaged in their work and undermine value created by their peers, according to Gallup. Less destructive freeloaders benefit from the results of the group but contribute nothing to it, demotivating their peers. While it’s one of the least pleasant aspects of management, avoidance compounds rather than corrects the problem.

2. Vague Goals

Without clear goals and objective or, worse, with a goal de jour, there is little chance of great achievement. because great performers will leave the team for better places to work and the rest of the team will disengage (as more than 70% of employees have! When team members don’t know what they’re working toward, the resulting vacuum of purpose is unsatisfying at best and chaotic at worst. The absence of progress on a meaningful goal devalues and frustrates team members. This goal kit can help establish goals and rally the team toward their achievement.

3. No Transparency

Without discipline and systems of transparency, the team wastes its time and effort trying to figure where it is and where it’s going — mind-numbing status meetings and cadence calls are the result. Everyone feels busy, but nothing important gets accomplished. Develop a transparency discipline so goals and actions to achieve them are visible. This is the substrate of achievement and accountability.

4. No Accountability

Half of all managers are “terrible” at driving accountability, according to Harvard Business Review. Fear of being the bad guy and lack of discipline hold people back. Without accountability, mediocrity rules and careers suffer. Not holding people accountable for under performing does them no favors, misleading them or implicitly validating their performance — until review time surprises. On the best teams, members hold themselves and each other accountable. Engage your team in defining a shared accountability standard and use committed actions week over week to sustain it.

5. Feedback Fear

No feedback is actually worse than negative feedback team members want it, managers hesitate to provide it! Get over the discomfort and make it a habit to provide regular feedback. Young people do 70% of their learning on the job so positive reinforcement is most effective (and among managers’ highest priorities). Experts with mature skills benefit most from constructive feedback to advance those skills. In fact, 57% of employees say constructive critique and feedback helps them improve; a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative works best.

The Individuals’ Role in Dysfunction

It is easy and tempting for team members to blame team dysfunction on leaders’ failure to lead. Not so fast: Teams are a collection of people who can choose to work well together — or not. Each person contributes to the chemistry and function of the team, and everyone is responsible for their own contribution. I’ve found it even more important to raise my self awareness on lower performing teams. In the same way great teams elevate everyone’s performance, dysfunctional teams tend to degrade each individual’s performance.

Doing a gut check on the deadly sins helps me align my actions with my unwavering intentions for great performance. And I will confess that fear and defensiveness are my sins when I’m not at my best or when I’m reacting rather than acting with awareness! When I take responsibility for those I not only feel better, I perform better and help elevate others.

The Five Things Great Bosses Do

Study after study has shown that when you’re great at your job it turns into high employee engagement, which in turn leads to higher profits, better customer service, and happier and healthier employees.

Great managers make great contributions to the bottom line:

  • The most engaged, motivated teams are 21% more productive and 22% more profitable
  • Those disengaged teams have a 37% higher absenteeism rate, 25% higher turnover, and 41% more quality defects

Managing is hard work, no matter what level of management you’re at. There are expectations to meet from above and below, and plenty of pressure. Driving accountability and delivering results aren’t easy (in fact, most managers experience higher stress than non-managers and it increases the more senior they are).

Since today is Boss’ Day, we wanted to acknowledge the hard work and celebrate the great managers of the world! We compiled this fun infographic to celebrate great bosses and the five things they do that make their teams and their organizations very successful:

  • Engage and inspire their teams — Communicate consistently and often how employees’ work contributes to the organization’s strategic goals and initiatives.
  • Provide coaching and feedback — Over 70% of employees believe their performance improves with feedback, and 75% of Millennials want more coaching.
  • Recognize and reward people for accomplishments — Over 80% of employees say that recognition is more important than compensation to them. It increases motivation and keeps valued employees contributing to the organization longer.
  • Set goals and hold people accountable for achievement — When employees have written goals, the likelihood they achieve them increases 46%. When they have written and transparent action commitments, achievement jumps to 64% and adding regular status reports they achieve their goals 76% of the time.
  • Get the tools and training they need to be more skillful and consistent — Recognize that managing people and results — especially over distance — is a real work. Great managers build their own skills and find the most efficient ways to communicate goals, get transparency and drive accountability.

While finding time to provide feedback, tie work to goals, and coaching may seem tough, just remember that it makes a real difference in people’s motivation and lives, and helps makes you the awesome boss you are!

Being Great Means Being Grateful

It’s Friday and you’ve probably had a long week and a long day. Maybe you’re ready to call it a week or you’re bogged down in how much work you’re going to take home for the weekend. Either way, NOW is the perfect time to experience gratitude.

It’s the ultimate win/win: we feel great when we experience gratitude and, when we share it, other people feel great too.

If you’re a team leader, valuing your team is an essential part of your job; our teams do their best when they know they’re valued and get regular feedback (and so do we). But if you’re human, you know it’s often more natural to focus on what needs to be done than on the progress we make each day and the qualities each person brings to the group.

Valuing people we work with isn’t just for team leaders. As team members, sometimes it’s easy to think we should be thanked but not give thanks. That’s worth rethinking because work is a team sport and our successes – and happiness – are intertwined. And feeling gratitude is an essential ingredient in happiness.

While studies show that 88% of employees found praise from their manager highly motivating and 76% found peer praise very motivating, we don’t need surveys to know that thanking someone for the work is a good thing to do – our own experience tells us that.

End your week and your team’s on a high note with simple actions.

1. Take the time to identify and celebrate successes with your team.

What did your team achieve this week? Whether they were crowning glories or small steps forward in a blizzard, acknowledge the progress and effort. If there’s still time in your day, pull the team together for an impromptu celebration of the week’s successes. It doesn’t have to be complicated – it’s the thought that actually counts here. (Avoid the temptation to clutter the feel-good-Friday with remarks about the work facing the team next week!)

2. Pause and consider the endearing qualities of each person on the team.

What are the unique business contributions or human contributions of each person individually? Set aside a few minutes before you leave the office to think about each person for a full 90 seconds to bring that contribution into focus. Now, enjoy the sensation of appreciation and affection that you get from this simple exercise. Repeat it for each member of your group; notice how your stress level drops and your happiness level increases as you progress. When you’ve covered everyone, you’ll be renewed and relaxed. The sensation of gratitude makes us happier, according to Harvard Medical School research.

3. Now tell each person that you appreciate him or her.

Take 15 seconds more and send a brief note to each person with your appreciation. It can be very specific or a general comment like, “Just wanted you to know how much I appreciate your contributions to the team this week and every week.” Whether you send it via email, chat or you use a nifty Workboard badge, it will feel at least as good to write as to receive! It’s an excellent way to close the day.

Let’s redefine what’s so great about Fridays.

About the Author: Deidre Paknad is currently the CEO of Workboard, Inc.  Workboard provides apps for managers and their teams to share goals, action items, status and feedback and to automate status reports and dashboards.

photo credit: bru76 via photopin cc

The Executive’s New Clothes

We have all read Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”  Wikipedia explains the story in a succinct and cogent matter:

A vain Emperor who cares about nothing except wearing and displaying clothes hires two swindlers who promise him the finest, best suit of clothes from a fabric invisible to anyone who is unfit for his position or “hopelessly stupid.” The Emperor’s ministers cannot see the clothing themselves, but pretend that they can for fear of appearing unfit for their positions and the Emperor does the same. Finally the swindlers report that the suit is finished, they mime dressing him and the Emperor marches in procession before his subjects. The townsfolk play along with the pretense, not wanting to appear unfit for their positions or stupid.  hen a child in the crowd, too young to understand the desirability of keeping up the pretense, blurts out that the Emperor is wearing nothing at all and the cry is taken up by others. The Emperor cringes, suspecting the assertion is true, but continues the procession.

In many workplaces, those who tell the leader what they want to hear are rewarded for their loyalty. Those who tell the leader what they may not want to hear are banished for being the bearer of bad news.

Surrounded by toadies, the executive proudly displays his new ideas. The swindlers who sold him the silly ideas for a small fortune are reinforced by the ministers, his senior management team. The townspeople, the rank and file, go along, too. But not everyone. There is always an adult mature enough to play the role of the child and say what no one else will say: the leader, the executive, has no clothes, clothes being a metaphor for good ideas.

The top is a very lonely place to be. It is human for the leader to surround him- or herself with those who are loyal to him or her. It is understandable but regrettable.

Hearing criticism is generally unpleasant. But it is far better than parading naked in your workplace.

If you are a leader, assume your subordinates will tell you what you want to hear. It is your job to convince them what you want to hear is what they think you don’t want to hear.

Talk openly with your team. Tell them that you appreciate their support. Make clear that includes telling you when you are missing the mark.

Be even more direct. “I don’t want to be the Emperor in the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes.’ Tell me what everyone is thinking but no one has said, yet.”

When such feedback is explicitly elicited, the leader may end up a successful executive after all. But that’s only because he or she had the strength to be non-imperious and hear what a weaker person would avoid.

This article is not legal advice and should not be construed as applying to specific factual situations.

Follow me on Twitter at:  Jonathan__HR__Law.

photo credit: Kaotiqua via photopin cc

#TChatHoliday: Sharing Warm Wishes, Community-Style!

The holidays are a perfect time to reflect upon the past year’s experiences, and look ahead to new opportunities — something the TalentCulture community does continuously.

But earlier this week, Kevin W. Grossman joined me for a brief hangout to compare notes about what it has meant to connect with all of you this year, what our holiday plans are, and best of all, why we’re so excited for 2014!

Of course, we’re not the only ones with ideas, plans and goodwill to share with the community. We’d love to hear from you, too!

Just leave a comment below — or post a tweet, photo or video from Vine or Instagram, and include the hashtag #TChatHoliday. As we roll into the New Year, we’ll curate and share your greetings, memories and aspirations for all to see.

THANK YOU for being part of our growing, thriving, continuous world of work conversation! We appreciate everyone who is helping us explore this new form of community building.

We hope that you enjoyed Hanukkah and Thanksgiving holidays. And we wish you a Merry Christmas, Heri za Kwanzaa and Happy New Year!

Looking forward to our next #TChat on January 8 — but until then, make the most of this time to catch-up with those who matter most to you. Stay safe, and be merry!

Image credit: Kirkland’s

Should Work Be Fun? Really? #TChat Preview

(Editor’s Note: Looking for a complete recap of this week’s events and resources? Read the #TChat Recap: Fun Times! Work, Games and Culture.)

Work and fun — do they fit together? Or should we save good times for vacation and weekends?

Traditionalists might say that work is serious business. However, one of the most creative and productive minds of the Industrial Age seemed to think otherwise:

“I never did a day’s work in my life; it was all fun.”
-Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison

Learn more about Thomas Edison

It’s impossible not to admire Edison’s enthusiasm. But these days, with global employee engagement stubbornly stuck at 30% or less, companies everywhere are looking for ways to inject more of that spirit into their organizational cultures.

That’s why the principles of gaming are gaining appeal as a way to improve workforce commitment, development and performance.

But how can we create environments where work is naturally more engaging and enjoyable, without losing sight of business objectives?

That’s the topic we’ll explore this week at #TChat Events, with two innovators in workplace culture development:

•  Dan Benoni, Co-Founder & Product Director at Officevibe, a social employee engagement platform
•  Mario Coculuzzi, Eastern Canada Regional Director at Microsoft.

Dan and I spoke briefly in a G+ Hangout, where he suggested that successful approaches don’t focus on the work, itself, but instead focus on three essential human factors:

Also to help us prepare for the discussion, TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro, wrote a related article at Forbes.com. Read “5 Fresh Trends to Fuse Fun and Work.”

This topic promises to be great fun — and helpful, too. So please plan to join us this week to share your ideas and opinions about why and how game-oriented tools and techniques make sense in the world of work.

#TChat Events: Should Work Be Fun, Really?

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Listen to the #TChat Radio show

#TChat Radio — Wed, Oct 23 — 6:30 pmET / 3:30 pmPT

Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman talk with Dan Benoni and Mario Coculuzzi about why and how “fun” can be an effective way to improve employee energy, drive and focus. Follow the action LIVE online this Tuesday afternoon!

#TChat Twitter — Wed, Oct 23 7pmET / 4pmPT

Immediately following the radio show, we’ll move this discussion to the #TChat Twitter stream for an open chat with the entire TalentCulture community. Everyone with a Twitter account is invited to participate, as we address these questions:

Q1: How often do you see healthy company cultures? Examples?
Q2: Why is engagement key to creating/maintaining a vibrant culture?
Q3: Can “fun” team challenges and other activities really help?
Q4: How can leaders improve employee well-being and retention?
Q5: How can HR drive adoption of recognition and engagement platforms?

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed and on our LinkedIn Discussion Group. So please join us share your questions, ideas and opinions.

We’ll see you on the stream!

How To Skip The Negative Feedback "Sandwich"

I’ve never fully understood the logic behind the “sandwich” method of delivering performance feedback. (I’m sure you’re familiar with this concept: Open a discussion on a positive note, then insert a negative piece of news, followed by another positive.) We like to think that we’re softening the blow by offering several of bits of positive feedback around a central negative message. However, we’re doing no such thing.

Actually, this approach may be a disservice to both categories of information — each of which plays a unique and highly valuable role in shaping performance. Overall, we need to pay close attention to the “cascade” of emotions and behavior that we initiate when delivering feedback, but also be careful to retain the value of the message.

Performance Feedback: Open Dialogue

Processing negative performance feedback is quite challenging for most of us — even though on a very basic level, we realize that accepting “where to improve” is critical to our careers. While positive feedback serves to motivate and energize our work lives (we all need this on a regular basis), the “negatives” can also provide useful information about where we should direct our attention. To remain competitive, we certainly require both categories of information — and I am not debating the value of either. Rather, I’d like to open a discussion about how negative information can be presented and approached, to afford the most progress possible.

When considering negative feedback, we must acknowledge core human characteristics; including self-efficacy (the belief that individuals can actually impact their situation) and goal orientation (some individuals focus on learning, others focus on demonstrating competence, and others focus upon avoiding negative judgement). To properly deliver negative feedback, we should carefully consider and frame the delivery, so potential damage to an individual’s psyche is minimized and progress is emphasized.

Developing A Constructive Approach

There’s truly an art to presenting information about performance deficits of any kind. When managers practice the sandwich method, I fear that once the “meat” of the sandwich is delivered — the “downside” of performance — we really don’t remember much of anything that follows. (Attempting to “hide” the information doesn’t address the issues.) We can certainly do a better job of moving the conversation to more neutral ground, where performance improvement can follow. But how? Here are some ideas:

3 Behavioral Considerations

1) How humans are “wired” to perceive bad news. We are likely predisposed to pay more attention to negative information, possibly a leftover evolutionary survival mechanism. As a result, we’re likely to become hyper-focused on the negatives. This clouds our “lens.”
2) We sorely need the positives. We should all be allowed to absorb what we are doing well at work. That’s not possible when information about our successes is delivered in conjunction with information about shortcomings.
3) We “digest” slowly. It takes time to process negative information properly. Initially, when you hear information you might not not want to hear, negative thoughts can spiral, leading to responses such as panic and denial. There are stages in this process that cannot be skipped.

5 Ways To Avoid “The Sandwich”

1) Build resiliency. Performance management should never be a once a year, “live or die” event. Ultimately, it’s a continuous process. Provide positive feedback concerning small successes along the way to provide balance. This helps difficult information become easier to absorb.
2) Address self-efficacy. Some individuals have the tendency to believe they cannot impact their performance or build a needed skill set. Explore this predisposition, to encourage a more hopeful perspective.
3) Focus on learning. Research has shown that in contrast to performance goals, learning goals can increase problem solving in relation to performance problems, possibly limiting the “sting” of negative feedback. Setting the tone to “learn from failure” can prove more effective in motivating and directing behavior.
4) Never “drop a bomb.” It’s wise to address negative feedback when it is delivered. Allow enough time to help control anxiety, and at least begin to discuss a plan for improvement.
5) Support the digestion process. After sharing negative feedback, be sure to provide plenty of support. Be highly accessible as an employee works through the information and begins to take logical steps forward.

How do you present negative performance feedback? What are your “best practice” strategies? How have these strategies helped you develop others in the workplace? Share your thoughts in the comments area below.

(Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared as a LinkedIn Influencer post. It is republished with permission.)

Image Credit: Kitsa Sakurako/Flickr

How To Skip The Negative Feedback “Sandwich”

I’ve never fully understood the logic behind the “sandwich” method of delivering performance feedback. (I’m sure you’re familiar with this concept: Open a discussion on a positive note, then insert a negative piece of news, followed by another positive.) We like to think that we’re softening the blow by offering several of bits of positive feedback around a central negative message. However, we’re doing no such thing.

Actually, this approach may be a disservice to both categories of information — each of which plays a unique and highly valuable role in shaping performance. Overall, we need to pay close attention to the “cascade” of emotions and behavior that we initiate when delivering feedback, but also be careful to retain the value of the message.

Performance Feedback: Open Dialogue

Processing negative performance feedback is quite challenging for most of us — even though on a very basic level, we realize that accepting “where to improve” is critical to our careers. While positive feedback serves to motivate and energize our work lives (we all need this on a regular basis), the “negatives” can also provide useful information about where we should direct our attention. To remain competitive, we certainly require both categories of information — and I am not debating the value of either. Rather, I’d like to open a discussion about how negative information can be presented and approached, to afford the most progress possible.

When considering negative feedback, we must acknowledge core human characteristics; including self-efficacy (the belief that individuals can actually impact their situation) and goal orientation (some individuals focus on learning, others focus on demonstrating competence, and others focus upon avoiding negative judgement). To properly deliver negative feedback, we should carefully consider and frame the delivery, so potential damage to an individual’s psyche is minimized and progress is emphasized.

Developing A Constructive Approach

There’s truly an art to presenting information about performance deficits of any kind. When managers practice the sandwich method, I fear that once the “meat” of the sandwich is delivered — the “downside” of performance — we really don’t remember much of anything that follows. (Attempting to “hide” the information doesn’t address the issues.) We can certainly do a better job of moving the conversation to more neutral ground, where performance improvement can follow. But how? Here are some ideas:

3 Behavioral Considerations

1) How humans are “wired” to perceive bad news. We are likely predisposed to pay more attention to negative information, possibly a leftover evolutionary survival mechanism. As a result, we’re likely to become hyper-focused on the negatives. This clouds our “lens.”
2) We sorely need the positives. We should all be allowed to absorb what we are doing well at work. That’s not possible when information about our successes is delivered in conjunction with information about shortcomings.
3) We “digest” slowly. It takes time to process negative information properly. Initially, when you hear information you might not not want to hear, negative thoughts can spiral, leading to responses such as panic and denial. There are stages in this process that cannot be skipped.

5 Ways To Avoid “The Sandwich”

1) Build resiliency. Performance management should never be a once a year, “live or die” event. Ultimately, it’s a continuous process. Provide positive feedback concerning small successes along the way to provide balance. This helps difficult information become easier to absorb.
2) Address self-efficacy. Some individuals have the tendency to believe they cannot impact their performance or build a needed skill set. Explore this predisposition, to encourage a more hopeful perspective.
3) Focus on learning. Research has shown that in contrast to performance goals, learning goals can increase problem solving in relation to performance problems, possibly limiting the “sting” of negative feedback. Setting the tone to “learn from failure” can prove more effective in motivating and directing behavior.
4) Never “drop a bomb.” It’s wise to address negative feedback when it is delivered. Allow enough time to help control anxiety, and at least begin to discuss a plan for improvement.
5) Support the digestion process. After sharing negative feedback, be sure to provide plenty of support. Be highly accessible as an employee works through the information and begins to take logical steps forward.

How do you present negative performance feedback? What are your “best practice” strategies? How have these strategies helped you develop others in the workplace? Share your thoughts in the comments area below.

(Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared as a LinkedIn Influencer post. It is republished with permission.)

Image Credit: Kitsa Sakurako/Flickr

Employee Communication: 4 Ways to Engage

A Too-Familiar Story

Let’s say you’re trying to buy a jacket online. There’s a problem with your purchase, so you call customer service, and they put you on hold. (Waiting…) Finally you reach a robot voice informing you that the call center is closed. You really want the jacket, so you persist.

Hours (or perhaps even days) later, you connect with a live representative who is unable to offer the assistance you need to resolve the problem. What seemed like an easy problem to fix has become a headache, a time-suck, and a shadow over your relationship with the company. Not only is this jacket transaction in jeopardy, but the next time you’re in the market for clothes, you’re likely to shop somewhere else.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

So, what really happened in this scenario? The company failed in a critical way — it did not provide clear pathways of communication and support to resolve your issue, at the moment of need. The brand has lost credibility with a “ready-t0-buy” customer, the company has damaged its relationship with you, and the outcome will translate into lost revenue now and perhaps in the future.

How does this customer experience story translate to the human resources side of business? The audience may be different, but the takeaway is identical: For both customer and employee engagement, communication is vital — especially when issues arise. Just like customers, employees want the ability to ask question, discuss problems, offer constructive feedback and propose suggestions. They want to feel that their concerns and ideas are heard and addressed.

These are the fundamentals of employee engagement. It is HR’s job to support engagement in the workplace, from end-to-end, and clear lines of communication are the most effective way to accomplish that.

4 Workplace Communication Strategies

When I think about my own experiences, both as a customer and as an employee, it’s easy to remember the times when I felt I was heard — or not. Based on those experiences, here are my top four communication strategies for boosting engagement:

1) Be Available:  To improve the way an organization works, employees need a champion — someone on the inside to share suggestions with. It doesn’t matter whether this ambassador is a manager, an HR representative, a colleague, or event a group of peers. What matters is that there is clearly a door through which individuals can bring questions, concerns and opinions.

2) Listen To My Needs:  Don’t be too quick to dismiss new ideas. Every employee has a unique perspective, and although every suggestion won’t be feasible, each one should be valued. Suggestions reflect your employees’ individual experiences, and therefore, represent part of your company’s culture. Validate ideas by acknowledging contributions, as well as the spirit behind them.

3) Be On My Side:  Every team needs a leader whom they can trust to represent their best interests. And every employee needs a champion who will be their advocate, even in their absence. When you demonstrate support for others, you reinforce their value within the organization. No one likes to feel unimportant — from there it’s a short step to disengagement.

4) Find A Solution:  Not all feedback can be put into action — sometimes for very good reasons. However, leaders and employees can work together to examine the root causes of a key issue, or to integrate appropriate elements of a suggestion, or to brainstorm and investigate other solutions. This follow-through shows employees that their voices matter.

Have you tried these or other communication techniques to improve employee engagement? What worked for you? Share your experiences in the comments area below.

Image Credit:Stock.xchng

Where's The Love? Recognition DIY

Written By Ritika Trikha

Overworked. Undervalued. Now What?

You’re working your fingers to the bone – extra hours, extra projects, extra everything. And yet no extra appreciation is coming back your way. No one seems to notice your hard work. What to do?

No matter why or how you found yourself in this situation, you can turn it around. It’s time to take back control.

As Roxanne Peplow of Computer Systems Institute notes, “You cannot seek praise from others—it has to come from within.” Rather than waiting to be recognized and praised by others, choose to be proud of your accomplishments in their own right. Give yourself the credit you deserve. Shed light on your achievements when appropriate. And look for ways to acknowledge the efforts of others who contribute to your success — those on your team.

“If you feel that you are doing more than what is expected of you and it isn’t being recognized, you are making yourself a victim. When you victimize yourself, it’s impossible to be positive,” Peplow says.

Try these 5 steps to find the recognition you deserve:

1. Look Closer — Then Speak Up

If it seems like you’re swamped, first reexamine your workload. You may benefit from smarter ways to prioritize and minimize work. If that’s not enough, don’t be a hero. Talk with your boss.

“Many employees mistakenly believe their job is at stake if they say they can’t handle one more project. More projects equal less focus and lower quality,” says Steve Duffy, president of ListHere.com. Like many other managers, Duffy would rather have an employee deliver great results than take on too much and fall short.

Tell your manager. He wants to know. After all, his success depends on your ability to perform.

2. Do Something You Love — After Hours

Balance in other areas of life can make or break your workplace happiness. Fast Co.Create suggests that professionals develop a “passion project” outside of work.

Firstborn Creative Director Adam Rubin is also a children’s book author. He told Fast Co.Create that having a side project is not only personally gratifying, but also translates positively back to his work. For him, writing children’s books as a sideline “is an excellent exercise in simplicity and rhythm. It has helped me improve the brevity, clarity and pace of my writing.”

3. Stop Taking On Extra Work From Slackers

If you’re overworked because you’re picking up slack from one or more colleagues, enough is enough. Don’t wait until you’ve reached a boiling point, says Joseph Grenny, co-author of New York Times bestseller “Crucial Confrontations.”

Grenny led a study that suggests 93% of employees work with others who don’t pull their weight — yet only 1 in 10 of us actually confronts underperforming colleagues. If you feel uncomfortable speaking directly to offenders, you have two alternatives: 1) Just say no to helping in the future, or 2) Discuss it with your boss (see suggestion #1).

4. Get Enough Sleep

When you’re overworked, sleep is probably the first thing to go. “Work can keep us up at night, worrying about what is next or staying up because work still needs to be accomplished,” says Chris Ohlendorf, Partner at Versique Search and Consulting.

Realize that the more sleep you lose, the closer you are to burnout. And burnout won’t advance your career.

5. If All Else Fails, Start Searching For The Next Job

If your boss is simply not budging, you have no time to balance your life, and you’re surrounded by slackers, it may be time to reward yourself by jumping ship. Just make sure you’re not job hunting on company time, warns Lida Citroen, personal branding and reputation management expert at LIDA360.

Her advice: “Networking — online and in person — and studying industries, companies and business leaders will help you become more proactive in your career.”

Chalk It Up to a Lesson Learned

ListHere.com’s Duffy also offers some final words of wisdom for those who have reached the point of no return – treat any company the way it is treating you. “Remember that a company only hires you because you can add value to their bottom line.”

If you’re no longer moving forward in your career, accept the lessons learned from this experience, and find a new employer. But avoid repeating past mistakes. In interviews, be sure to ask questions that will help you determine whether or not that company will be a better fit:

  1. How would you describe your management style?
  2. How did this position become available?
  3. What kind of recognition system is utilized here?
  4. Can you tell me about the growth opportunities available to employees?

Take back control. Embrace and celebrate your achievements, while helping others see your value and respect your contributions. You have nothing to lose!

Ritika-Trikha(Author Profile: Ritika Trikha is a writer for CareerBliss, an online career community dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace. When Ritika’s not writing, she’s obsessing over social media (and listening to Jay Z!). Connect with Ritika on Twitter!)

Republished with permission from YouTern.

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Where’s The Love? Recognition DIY

Written By Ritika Trikha

Overworked. Undervalued. Now What?

You’re working your fingers to the bone – extra hours, extra projects, extra everything. And yet no extra appreciation is coming back your way. No one seems to notice your hard work. What to do?

No matter why or how you found yourself in this situation, you can turn it around. It’s time to take back control.

As Roxanne Peplow of Computer Systems Institute notes, “You cannot seek praise from others—it has to come from within.” Rather than waiting to be recognized and praised by others, choose to be proud of your accomplishments in their own right. Give yourself the credit you deserve. Shed light on your achievements when appropriate. And look for ways to acknowledge the efforts of others who contribute to your success — those on your team.

“If you feel that you are doing more than what is expected of you and it isn’t being recognized, you are making yourself a victim. When you victimize yourself, it’s impossible to be positive,” Peplow says.

Try these 5 steps to find the recognition you deserve:

1. Look Closer — Then Speak Up

If it seems like you’re swamped, first reexamine your workload. You may benefit from smarter ways to prioritize and minimize work. If that’s not enough, don’t be a hero. Talk with your boss.

“Many employees mistakenly believe their job is at stake if they say they can’t handle one more project. More projects equal less focus and lower quality,” says Steve Duffy, president of ListHere.com. Like many other managers, Duffy would rather have an employee deliver great results than take on too much and fall short.

Tell your manager. He wants to know. After all, his success depends on your ability to perform.

2. Do Something You Love — After Hours

Balance in other areas of life can make or break your workplace happiness. Fast Co.Create suggests that professionals develop a “passion project” outside of work.

Firstborn Creative Director Adam Rubin is also a children’s book author. He told Fast Co.Create that having a side project is not only personally gratifying, but also translates positively back to his work. For him, writing children’s books as a sideline “is an excellent exercise in simplicity and rhythm. It has helped me improve the brevity, clarity and pace of my writing.”

3. Stop Taking On Extra Work From Slackers

If you’re overworked because you’re picking up slack from one or more colleagues, enough is enough. Don’t wait until you’ve reached a boiling point, says Joseph Grenny, co-author of New York Times bestseller “Crucial Confrontations.”

Grenny led a study that suggests 93% of employees work with others who don’t pull their weight — yet only 1 in 10 of us actually confronts underperforming colleagues. If you feel uncomfortable speaking directly to offenders, you have two alternatives: 1) Just say no to helping in the future, or 2) Discuss it with your boss (see suggestion #1).

4. Get Enough Sleep

When you’re overworked, sleep is probably the first thing to go. “Work can keep us up at night, worrying about what is next or staying up because work still needs to be accomplished,” says Chris Ohlendorf, Partner at Versique Search and Consulting.

Realize that the more sleep you lose, the closer you are to burnout. And burnout won’t advance your career.

5. If All Else Fails, Start Searching For The Next Job

If your boss is simply not budging, you have no time to balance your life, and you’re surrounded by slackers, it may be time to reward yourself by jumping ship. Just make sure you’re not job hunting on company time, warns Lida Citroen, personal branding and reputation management expert at LIDA360.

Her advice: “Networking — online and in person — and studying industries, companies and business leaders will help you become more proactive in your career.”

Chalk It Up to a Lesson Learned

ListHere.com’s Duffy also offers some final words of wisdom for those who have reached the point of no return – treat any company the way it is treating you. “Remember that a company only hires you because you can add value to their bottom line.”

If you’re no longer moving forward in your career, accept the lessons learned from this experience, and find a new employer. But avoid repeating past mistakes. In interviews, be sure to ask questions that will help you determine whether or not that company will be a better fit:

  1. How would you describe your management style?
  2. How did this position become available?
  3. What kind of recognition system is utilized here?
  4. Can you tell me about the growth opportunities available to employees?

Take back control. Embrace and celebrate your achievements, while helping others see your value and respect your contributions. You have nothing to lose!

Ritika-Trikha(Author Profile: Ritika Trikha is a writer for CareerBliss, an online career community dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace. When Ritika’s not writing, she’s obsessing over social media (and listening to Jay Z!). Connect with Ritika on Twitter!)

Republished with permission from YouTern.

Image Credit: Stock.xchng