How In The World Do People Even Work Together?

I've been working on myself for a long time. Professional development, personal exploration, books, classes, coaches, therapists. I've had more than one conversation about traumatic childhood experiences. And the better I get to know myself, the more astounded I am that strangers are able to work in the same environment and get any results. Or that people leaders are able to do anything to manage performance and morale. We're all just real people walking around with our childhoods in our shoes. That time when I was 10 and I pissed off the wrong girl and she and her friends chased me and threw rocks? Yeah, I know that happened but it took me a long time to understand the influence it had on me as an adult. Mainly, don't say anything that might bother someone else . Guess how that guided me in my first boss role? I was nice but when "bad" news had to be delivered, I bungled it. The first couple of groups I managed did NOT like working for me. No help from my bos

Aarrgh, Performance Evaluations!

Annual reviews don't have to be "aarrgh" but most people I've worked with react to them with distaste, if not downright abhorrence.  The chief complaint from leaders seems to be that they take too long to write. There's a cure for that. The cure is, do the work throughout the year and don't wait until it's time to write a review to figure out what to say. Here is a fundamental framework for good performance management. Practicing this has many benefits, not the least of which is no-surprise reviews that are easier on everyone. 1. Set expectations and goals up front. You should have a performance planning period, usually aligned with organizational planning and budgeting for the year. Define the big results you need for the year and who is doing what. Get agreements about what "good" looks like. 2. Provide necessary support and guidance - as in, tailored to the individual - such as mentoring, training, providing resources, acting as a sounding boa

Realistic Job Title: Meeting Attendee

Good grief! When did a normal person's workweek become a series of meetings that prevent any actual work getting done? The real tragedy is not the time spent in meetings. The real tragedy is that great things can be accomplished in meetings, real work can get done in there, and people really can come out feeling better than when they went in. Alas, too few stories start with "I just got out of the best meeting!" There's a cure for that. Make them "working meetings." Not "open discussion meetings" or "update meetings" or "everyone go around the table and tell us what you're working on meetings." Why should I have to sit through an hour to pick up a clue about something that affects my work? Here are some tips for creating working meetings: 1. Have a clear purpose and at least one clear desired outcome for your meeting. Is it decision-making? Do we need to come together to solve a problem? Does the leader need input on somethi

Don't Waste Your Money On Training

Bold statement, I know. But after twenty years in the corporate training game, I can say with confidence that training without reinforcement is a waste of time and money. Here's a familiar story. It goes something like this: "We did all this management training, rented hotel conference rooms, brought in lunch, took people away from their jobs, and we don't really see a difference." There are a few reasons for this and all of them are fixable. 1) The only result that was measured was the immediate reaction of the participants. It has been called a "smile sheet" - the survey at the end of the training to ask how people liked it, what they would have liked to be different, do they think they'll use it, etc. This isn't all that useful other than to see how people felt about the facilitator.  2) The training isn't supported in practice by the culture or the leadership. I can teach people all day long how to be effective managers, but if the organizati

What Do You Mean?

I saw a video recently of a young woman who had been admonished by an older man to remove her hat indoors. When she asked him why, he said it was a matter of respect. When she pressed him to explain what he meant, he couldn't explain it other to repeat the word "respect." It got me thinking about word usage and its impact on people. PS you can't define the word using the same word. Bosses, please use words that mean something. I had a client whose supervisor said, "We all need to be accountable" on the regular, but when someone finally asked what he meant, the supervisor simply repeated that accountability was key. Huh. Cleared that right up. I see it happen when leaders attempt to define good performance. They'll say they want excellence but they don't say what that looks like. When there's a dispute over whether or not excellence was delivered, sometimes what the leader really wanted will be revealed, but by then it's too late.  We live in

Making Performance Evaluation Easier

Some of my clients are in annual performance evaluation season and they tend to fall into two camps: Spending a lot of time they don't have cleaning up on the back end, or spending less time because they did the work on the front end. I'm not a big fan of most formal evaluation instruments and managers tend to echo this. But it doesn't matter what the format is, if you're prepared. Certainly, before you write a review, you'll want to prepare yourself by gathering information: employee files, notes you've kept, examples of work products, emails, and more. I like to have clients do a quick sketch of the top two or three aspects of the person's work that really shine, and at least one thing the person could do better or more of. All of this helps with the writing. Hopefully you're writing and not just assigning a score. A score or rating without substance to support it is meaningless. But the real preparation starts at the beginning of the performance perio

The Expert in the Room

A colleague shared a story about running a management workshop and how one of the participants positioned himself as an expert on the topic. This included answering questions that had been directed to the facilitator. It's one of the many challenges of working with groups, but this post isn't about that - it's about expertise. Working with people over the past twenty years has taught me that leaders have a tricky and sometimes conflicting role. They frequently gain their leadership positions because they've developed expertise and have shown an ability to use it for good results. Next thing you know, they're put in charge of a group of people. Sometimes they also have expertise in leading people, but that's more the exception than the rule.  So then what happens? If my expertise is valued and I'm strong in it, this is my sweet spot. I have to use it, have to. But I can't be everywhere, doing everyone's jobs, speaking all the words. I can't always