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An expensive lesson March 28, 2009

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Fixing performance problems, Grow your skills, Keeping Your Customers, Performance issues.
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You do not want to do this! This story is definitely not a Big Dogz story — it is about a learning opportunity I personally experienced. I hope you will learn from my mistake.

 

A client gave me an opportunity to lead a two-day workshop in the UK. This was an important engagement for me since this was my first workshop for this company and there was the possibility that I would get more work with them if I did well. I worked hard to prepare for this engagement. I created a couple of new exercises that I thought would add significant value to the experience. I felt well prepared and confident of success. The results were disastrous from my perspective.

 

About an hour into the first day, I was debriefing the opening exercise — having the participants introduce themselves and identify the top three challenges facing them in this topic area. One of the participants noted that in his group people were trying to solve the challenges instead of performing the assigned task of identifying the challenges, He noted this behavior detracted from the effectiveness of the group. This is where I started to get into trouble!

 

My response to his observation was a flip “Yes, that is one of the things about you Brits that irritate us.” Now why I would say such an idiotic thing is beyond me. It must have been the result of a dysfunctional synapse in my brain. After 16 years leading workshops on interpersonal skills, one would think that such words would never come out of my mouth. I have been working internationally for my entire business career spanning 39 years. I know such utterances are not effective. Nonetheless, I, in fact spoke those words. Now that incident was just the introduction to my lesson.

 

During the break, an observer from the HR department (yes, I said that in front of a person from the HR department) let me know that what I said was insulting to the participants. I agreed and I expressed my appreciation to her for bringing it to my attention. Even though I said those words, I did not actually remember saying them until she told me. Even I was appalled that I would say such a thing only 90 minutes into my workshop. Now is when I made the major mistake that caused the disaster. I know that the most effective action in this situation is to admit the mistake, apologize for it and ask for forgiveness.

 

Did I do that? No! I engaged the participants when they returned from the break and got caught up in the excitement of moving forward. They were asking questions and participating. The apology slipped my mind. As the rest of the workshop unfolded, I was very pleased with the engagement and learning of the participants. The engagement level was very high, there appeared to be a very positive rapport between the participants and myself. If there were any signs that people were insulted or offended, I missed them. I made a decision that an apology was no longer necessary and might even be counter productive.

 

At the end of the two days, I experienced a very warm close to the workshop. Many of the participants approached me personally to shake my hand and to thank me for helping them in the topic area. I felt very good about the workshop. In fact, I sent an email to the account executive telling him of the success of the workshop. The participants would do the workshop evaluations online in the next few days.

 

About a week later, I received an email from the account executive informing me that the client thought the workshop was successful, but I had offended some of the participants with my comments about British culture. As a result, I was no longer welcome as a facilitator at this company. I was looking forward to hearing about how pleased the customer was with the workshop; instead, I received this horrible news. You can imagine how that felt. After I recovered from the shock of this news, I decided to take action.

 

The first order of action was to admit to myself that this incident was a result of my actions and therefore my responsibility. There were no extenuating circumstances that I would blame. I did it and I did not recover like I knew I could have. Next, I sent an apology to the customer contact. You are reading the third action I took. If someone of my experience can make a mistake like this, then there must be a lesson that I can share with others.

 

The key lesson I learned in this experience is to stay focused on everything I need to do to be effective. I focused solely on making the workshop successful in terms of the participant learning but I lost focus on my interpersonal responsibility to respect the participants. That last sentence was really hard for me to write!

 

I paid a very high tuition for this lesson and I hope that you will take advantage of my learning opportunity. I know that I will never make this mistake again!

 

 

 

 

 

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Feed the Big Dogz March 21, 2009

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Coaching, Feedback, Fixing performance problems, Getting what you want, Management, Performance issues.
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Do you want to get even more from your top performers? The Big Dogz know that it is very effective to spend your coaching time with the Big Dogz rather than the low performers! However, some managers tend to spend their precious coaching time with the low performers trying to get them to perform at the acceptable level. Although this strategy may sound effective, it does not represent the optimum use of your time and energy. Just where am I supposed to focus? Let’s look at the range of performers you may have to manage, and then map an effective approach to investing your coaching effort with each of those performers.

 

Star performer — this is your go-to person. The star is highly motivated, willing to learn and is ambitious. The star performer is always looking for ways to improve productivity in your team. Normally they are self-starters and need little of your time. Just the kind of person you want on your team.

 

Spend most of your coaching time with this performer. It is effective to schedule very frequent coaching session to develop the contributions of this performer. It would not be an ineffective use of your time to meet with this person 2-3 times per week to provide coaching. Give them effective feedback and provide opportunities for them to develop and contribute. These performers will take up more than 50 % of your coaching time and effort. Coaching this performer will most likely stretch your coaching skills to the highest level and you will grow in your capability to coach. So, there is some personal benefit for you by spending time and energy with this performer.

 

 

Rising star performer — this performer is also highly motivated, willing to learn and ambitious. What makes this performer different from the star performer is the level of skill and experience. They really want to do whatever it takes; they just need some guidance. The rising star has some ideas about how things could be better, but is reluctant to come forward. And, by the way, this person will seldom ask you for help. Having performers like this on your team is an opportunity waiting to be developed.

 

This performer is your next highest ROI (Return On Investment) for using your coaching time. Encourage them to come to you for advice and support. Meet with them as often as you can; at least once per week. Have a detailed agenda on what topics you will coach this performer. Use a consistent coaching model to have them perform self-reflection on the coaching focus areas. Identify learning opportunities for them and provide encouragement. Look for opportunities to pair them with a star performer on a team activity. These performers are generally the easiest to coach. They want to learn and be successful.

 

 

Solid performer — this performer is motivated, somewhat willing to learn and is not overly ambitious. The solid performer is a person you can count upon to deliver quality work in a reasonable time. The solid performer has the process figured out and will accomplish what needs to be done. They do not feel it is their responsibility to make changes to the work process. However, they always have ideas on how things can be done more effectively. You can count on them to deliver what they say they will deliver. Having people like this on your team can allow you the opportunity to develop the stars and rising stars.

 

These performers are not necessarily interested in making larger contributions, nor are they slackers. They may have other higher priorities in their lives. Meet with them on a regular basis, perhaps 2-3 times per month to discuss development activities.

 

This performer is a good source of ideas for development opportunities for your stars and rising stars. The solid performer sees things that could be changed or improved, but is not motivated sufficiently to actually make the changes.

 

Some mangers try to convince the solid performer to make the effort to become a rising star. I know this because I was one of those managers! Do not take this approach. It will just irritate the solid performer and frustrate you. If the performer does express an interest in raising the performance level, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity. Often management has neglected and taken the solid performer for granted. Value the solid performer and appreciate their contributions. This performer is usually self managed and will allow you time to coach the stars and rising stars.

 

 

Struggling performer — this performer is not well motivated, wants things done the way they have always been done and is not ambitious. The quality of their work is low and it takes them longer than the performers above to get something done. They complain about the process of getting work done and have many excuses why they are not able to perform. They often give the appearance of “trying hard”. Having a struggling performer on your team is a major drain on you and the other members of your team.

 

This performer may have been mis-managed in their career. Probably, this performer is frustrated in their job. For almost every situation, they will explain to you why they cannot be successful. It is always someone else’s fault. Helping a struggling performer to become a solid performer is hard work and one of the most difficult coaching tasks. If you are not successful, then move them out of your team. Do not invest in regular coaching session with this performer. Effective coaches use a one time coaching approach to help the performer improve. The first step in this coaching process is to determine the source of the performance problem. Is it ability or motivation?

 

To find out if it is ability, ask the struggling performer what they are doing to accomplish their work. If they obviously do not know how to do it, then arrange for a development opportunity for them to acquire the skill. Monitor this process closely to insure the person has the opportunity to acquire the skills necessary. The time allocated to this activity will be in the 30-60 day window. If they cannot acquire the skills, then you will have to move them into a position where they can be successful or move them out of the business.

 

To find out if it is motivation, ask them how they feel about working in your team. If they have the ability to do the job, why aren’t they doing it? What motivates them? If you can, set up an environment where they will receive the motivation they need. If this is not possible, then you clearly state the consequences of poor performance. In most situations, you would put them on a 30-60 performance improvement plan. Work with your HR professional to help you meet statutory requirements.

 

Coaching the struggling performer takes a great deal of time and is best limited to a one-time effort on your part to help this performer improve. When you are successful in moving them to the solid performer category, treat them like any other solid performer in terms of your coaching time and effort. Many struggling performers are stuck in this category because of poor management and coaching. By paying attention and holding them accountable, you may experience one of the most positive outcomes of this type of coaching engagement. You have a high probability of helping this performer skip the solid performer category and vault to be a rising star!

 

Unsatisfactory performer — this performer is not only personally un-motivated, but is a demotivator for others on your team. Their work products are often incomplete and of poor quality. It is amazing how these people continue to be on the payroll. They show up late, leave early and complain about everything. Having a performer like this on your team makes more work for everyone else and drains your personal power for not handling the situation.

 

This performer has moved from being a struggling performer to a performer who has given up! You may have worked with this performer and they have not responded. They are most likely not skilled enough for the position and have a poor attitude about the job. Usually, when you inform the unsatisfactory performer of their status, they will make an effort to improve. However, this effort does not last, nor is it sufficient. In most cases, unsatisfactory performers lack the ability to do the job. This lack of skill is serious. A reasonable skill development activity cannot overcome this deficiency. The unsatisfactory performer is most likely suited somewhere else.

 

Coaching this performer is also a one-time activity and is usually a much shorter engagement than coaching the struggling performer. Get your HR professional involved because your objective is to get this person out of your team and into the job or profession that suits them.

 

Where are you spending your coaching resource? Are you getting the most effective ROI on your investment of time and energy?

 

Take a quick inventory of how you are spending your coaching time. For the next 25 business days, take a couple of minutes at the end of each day and answer these questions:

 

Whom did I coach today?

How much time did I spend on that coaching engagement?

(Be sure to include any preparation time you spent)

What result did I get?

 

After the 25 days, you will be seeing more improved results with your coaching investments! Remember, feed the Big Dogz.

 

 

Promotion 101: Educate Your Customers March 18, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Buzz Marketing: Lowest Cost/Highest Payoff, Marketing Buzz, Recession: How to Beat It!, Retailer Store Strategies.
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David DirksI always like to review my local paper to see how businesses are handling their display advertising.  I almost all cases, most ads are of the plain vanilla type that your eyes just gloss over.  However, there was one ad that caught my attention.  It caught my attention because it was offering to do something more than sell me something.

What was this ad?  It was from a local paint store called Gervic Paints (www.gervicpaints.com).  They were promoting a seminar called “2009 Colors for Your Home”.   They were promoting something other than the ‘sale of the week’.  They offered door prizes and refreshments.  I later found out that my wife and one of her friends had already signed up for this event.

I’m willing to bet that there will be many interested customers (and potential customers) there and many will walk away with some great insights and ideas for painting their homes.  That’s the idea.  We’ve been telling this story in this blog for a while now.  Sell your expertise in a way that is meaningful and valuable and people will buy your product.

It’s refreshing to see a local business actually promoting itself by promoting it’s expertise.

Announcing change March 2, 2009

Posted by rickbron in Dealing with change, Managing change.
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Most of us do not deal well with change. The Big Dogz make it easier for people to deal with change by giving all the data about the change. They make effective presentations about change and make it easier for people to understand and support the change. The Big Dogz construct effective change announcements by considering these three critical elements.

 

Information

What do you know about this change? What don’t you know? What are the goals and how will we know we are making progress. What systems are changing? Make sure your message is consistent with the message given by your manager. What are the benefits associated with this change? What obstacles might we encounter in implementing this change? Think about what questions people might have about the change. Try to answer those questions in your kickoff talk. The key here is to give as much information as possible.

 

Performance management

What metrics are changing? Does this change affect individual or team performance? What changes are there in how we measure our upstream supplier deliverables? How will our deliverables to our customers be different? What is the impact on compensation? What systems will we use to track results? How soon will we get feedback on our performance? What are the rewards for high performance? What are the consequences of not meeting the new metrics?

 

Training

What training will we get to support the change? When will the training be available? What support functions like FAQ or help desk will be available? What is the training delivery method — instructor face to face or computer based?   Will we have to train others on this change? Who is training our suppliers to adhere to the change?

 

Although these three elements are not the only focal points of a change announcement, they go a long way towards addressing the anxiety people have about change. Before you announce the next change to your group, take a few minutes to sketch out what you will say based upon reflection of these three elements. You will look more professional and your people will appreciate you taking the time to be clear in your announcement.