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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.

 

 

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Giving feedback to your manager December 12, 2008

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Feedback, Management, Managing up, Performance issues.
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The Big Dogz always welcome feedback. Even when the Big Dogz are in a management position, they openly request and value feedback. Giving feedback is easy when the manager asks you for it. Not all managers are like the Big Dogz! Sometimes it is difficult to give your manager feedback, especially when they are not open to the notion of getting feedback.

 

The problem may be the way you deliver feedback. Most people are reluctant to receive ineffectively presented feedback. Most people are happy to receive constructive feedback. Effective feedback is about a result or a behavior that affects a result. It is not personal. When you give feedback, be specific and cite examples. Avoid labels — both positive and negative labels. Statements like “You were really professional in that presentation” or “You looked unprepared in that presentation” are not useful and do not tell the recipient exactly what is your feedback.

 

Examples of effective feedback are:

  • Our objective was to address the objections of the customer. In the presentation you made to the customer, I saw you use sarcasm in response to a question the customer had. You said …
  • I know you are working to be an effective coach. In our last session, you identified three specific actions I could take to improve my performance. I appreciate your focus on helping me.
  • Our relationship is important to me. I get frustrated when you raise your voice when correcting me. Yesterday when I showed my progress report, you shouted at me.

 

Here are three ways to approach your manager if you have effective feedback for them:

 

Ask them directly if they want feedback.

Before you approach the manager, make sure you have at least one positive piece of feedback to deliver. The first step is to get the manager alone and ask, “Would you like some feedback?”  Pay special attention to how the manager answers your question. If you get an uninterested or frustrated “Yeah, what?” kind of response, deliver your positive feedback and move on. Obviously, this manager is not really interested in getting feedback from you. If you are fortunate and work for one of the Big Dogz, they will respond in a positive and eager way, encouraging you to provide the feedback. When you get this response, give the positive feedback then any corrective feedback you may have.

 

Ask them for feedback on how you are contributing to the manager employee relationship.

If you are not comfortable asking your manager if they want feedback, then ask them to give you feedback about your relationship. An example of this question is “I value our relationship as manager and employee and I want to make sure I am contributing to that relationship. Could you please give me some specific feedback on how I am doing?”

 

The manger will undoubtedly have some feedback for you. Some of it will be positive, some of it corrective. Whenever the manager gives you the feedback, listen to what they say and respond with “Thank you”.

 

Once the manager is complete, thank them for taking the time to help you. If your manager is paying attention, they will ask you for feedback on how they are doing. Now you can deliver your feedback.

 

Ask them to coach you on a behavior you think they need to improve.

This is an effective technique to use with a manager not open to feedback. You identify a specific behavior you want the manager to change, and then you ask them to help you avoid the behavior. Your manager may be constantly interrupting you in meetings. Using this approach, you would ask the manager to help you reduce interrupting others in meetings. Ask the manager to give you specific tips or techniques that will help you to reduce this behavior. If the manager keeps interrupting you, go back and ask for more coaching — ask them how they would stop interrupting. It may take awhile, but this technique will work with your dedication.

 

Giving feedback to someone who does not request it is difficult. The Big Dogz know if they are flexible in process, they will eventually succeed in getting that feedback to the manager. Try these approaches and let me know how it works for you. Email me rbronder@gmail.com

 

 

Handling feedback from your manager December 5, 2008

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Coaching, Feedback, Managing up, Performance issues.
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Ouch! Getting corrective feedback is not always pleasant. The Big Dogz know that corrective feedback is the most powerful feedback — it helps you grow! So how do we handle feedback from our manager? Here is the Big Dogz view on feedback.

 

First, we must understand there are two types of feedback — performance feedback and behavior feedback.  The former is most easy to deal with. When your manager gives you a performance objective, ask your manager to provide a SMART objective.

Specific

Measureable

Actionable and aligned

Realistic

Time phased

In addition, make sure you can check on your progress without having to interact with your manager. With these conditions, you can assess your progress on the task and seek help or coaching when needed. These feedback sessions will not be a surprise to you. The Big Dogz take responsibility for their performance on an objective and keeps everyone informed of the progress.

 

It is the behavioral feedback that catches us by surprise. Of course, there are two types of behavioral feedback — positive and corrective. We sometimes associate the words compliment and criticism with these types of behavior. The first thing the Big Dogz do when getting behavior feedback is to look at the feedback as a positive event. Whenever your manager gives you behavior feedback of either type, try to associate the feedback to some objective or goal you are trying to achieve. Do not take it personally!

 

For example, if your manager told you that you were effective in answering question at your steering committee presentation, relate that feedback to your desire to gain positive visibility in the organization. If the feedback was corrective, for example, your responses to questions were ineffective; this feedback affects the same goal.

 

Not everyone is competent at giving behavior feedback. Be tolerant of managers who blurt out stinging remarks. They just do not know how to deliver feedback. Do not let their lack of competency impact the value you can get from feedback. In any feedback event, ask your manager to provide specific examples.

 

Stay calm and do not get defensive. Make sure you understand the examples. You do not need to agree that the examples are either positive or corrective! This is the best part of getting behavior feedback. Whatever the feedback, you now know how to respond to questions when your manager is present!

 

After you get this type of feedback, thank your manager for taking the time to help you grow. Go back to your cubicle or quiet place and reflect on the feedback you received. In most cases, the feedback has a great deal of truth associated with it. Try to find this truth and identify how you will be more effective in the future.

 

If you have an opportunity to be in a similar situation with your manager again, ask them to provide you with feedback after the event. With the right preparation, you can turn a corrective feedback into a positive feedback.

 

Although it is sometimes painful to hear behavior feedback, the Big Dogz always ask for it. In my own situation, I have learned to value corrective feedback more highly that positive feedback! It seems that I intuitively know when I engage in successful behavior. When I engage in ineffective behavior, I tend to shift responsibility (blame) to other factors like the timing, the environment or the other person. When I learn that I contributed to the ineffective result, helps me avoid those situations in the future.

 

Be one of the Big Dogz! Start asking for behavior feedback today.

Inaction breeds poor behaviors August 14, 2008

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Changing behavior, Diagnosing performance problems, Effective meetings, Feedback, Getting what you want, Management, Management Principle, Performance issues.
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p5130012.jpg  Are people consistently violating your policies? The Big Dogz know that it could be caused by inaction. This is the principle the Big Dogz follow:

 

If you allow it, you encourage it!

 

Here is an example of allowing a behavior, resulting in encouragement. Let’s say you make an announcement that all team members will be in attendance and ready to participate at the scheduled start of team meetings. Rick casually strolls in 3 minutes late. You do not want to appear inflexible, tyrannical or picky, so you let it go. You have just sent the message to all the people who were on time, that it is OK to be late. You can be sure others will be late the next meeting and the degree of lateness will increase.

 

Overlooking an infraction because it is minor or because you don’t want to ruffle feathers is a sure fire way of seeing that action more frequently. This principle does not require you to make a big deal of the situation or to mete out Draconian punishment. A gentle reminder to the person that the behavior is not appropriate will work. Say something like this, “Rick, please make an effort to be on time to our meetings.” Don’t get into an argument about justification. If need be, have a conversation about his lateness outside the meeting.

 

If the reminder does not work, then you will need to escalate your actions. Most of time, people do not want to violate your policies. Give them the opportunity to learn! If you do not take action on this policy, people will start to think you are not serious about your other policies. Now, you can get into some serious trouble!

 

In the One Minute Manager, Ken Blanchard talks about “Catching them doing something right.” That concept applies doubly in this situation. First, we want to catch them when an infraction occurs. Bring it to their attention, publicly if appropriate. Encourage them to behave in the way you want. When you see them make an effort to adhere to your policies, take the time to thank them. In the above scenario, I might give Rick a compliment for making the effort to be on time. At the next meeting, he is there, on time and ready to go. I would walk by him and in a low voice say “Thanks for being on time.” Again, no need to make a big deal of it since it may embarrass him.

 

Whatever actions you allow on your team, the more of those actions you can expect to see. Over the next 30 days, look around at your team and decide what actions you want to reduce or eliminate. Now start holding people accountable in a firm supportive way. The Big Dogz know you will see a significant improvement.

 

Please let me know how this suggestion has worked for you.

Group Process Feedback September 18, 2007

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Feedback.
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p5130012.jpg  Wasted time! How much time is wasted in meetings by people engaging in non-productive behavior? Have you seen people on your team interrupt each other, be critical when an idea is proposed, belittle others in the group or engage in side conversations? These actions drain the energy and effectiveness from teams. Unfortunately most leaders do not know how to reduce these non-productive behaviors. The Big Dogz know how to address this issue. They use a technique called Group Process Feedback. Group Process Feedback is effective because it provides feedback about a behavior, not a person.  Most people who are engaged in hindering behavior are not aware that their behavior is having a deleterious effect on the performance of the group. Sometimes this behavior is defensive or it may even be a behavior that the person feels is needed to move the team forward. Here is an example: Jim is constantly interrupting people. Sometimes, he finishes their sentences for them. You feel this behavior is keeping the team from being more effective. Let’s take a look at how we might handle this outside of Group Process Feedback. You approach Jim and inform him that his behavior is not very professional and you think he should stop it. Imagine the response you would get from Jim with that approach. Next, you might consider discussing Jim’s behavior with another team member to see if they feel it is irritating as well. Together, you decide that Jim’s behavior is not effective and you wish he would stoop. Ahhh, you both feel good about this exchange. Unfortunately, Jim does not know that his behavior is adversely affecting the team. The probability that Jim will change this behavior is slim or none. Now, let’s use Group Process Feedback. It is my turn to speak and I say “I observed someone interrupting others and it hindered.” Jim may or may not know I am talking about him. But, for sure he knows someone is doing it and it is hindering the team. Sooner or later, Jim will realize it is him interrupting others; and since he does not want to hinder his team, he will attempt to reduce this behavior. No one wants to hinder their team from being successful. In addition, others on the team will realize this behavior is hindering and will avoid it or reduce it. You will see a reduction in this particular behavior from everyone in the team. Group Process feedback is not just for identifying hindering behavior. It is a useful tool for highlighting behaviors that help make the team more effective. Whenever someone says “I observed someone keeping track of the time and it helped.” you will see more people volunteering to perform that function. It is a form of group recognition. Helping behaviors will increase. With this increase in helping behaviors and a decrease in hindering behaviors, you can expect your team meetings to be more productive.  Here is how you can do a Group Process Feedback:

  1. Announce you will be using a tool for team effectiveness you learned from Running with the Big Dogz; this process will take 5 minutes.
  2. Announce you will ask each person to identify specific actions or behaviors they observed that either helped or hindered the team. No names permitted; just the action and whether it helped or hindered.
  3. During the last 5 minutes of your meeting, give them 2 minutes to write down actions they observed during the meeting. This is done independently.
  4. When the 2 minutes are up, stop them and ask them to share their observations using the construct “I observed someone action and it (helped or hindered).” There is no discussion about the statement made. Others may say “Check” if they had the same behavior. They are observations about behaviors. Limit the making of observations to 3 minutes. This way you will get the most important behaviors since each person may get to make only one or two observations. Each person compiles a list of all the actions that were stated.
  5. Ask each person to bring their list of the results to the next meeting.
  6. At the beginning of the next meeting, ask people to take out the list of actions from the last meeting. Spend 30 seconds silently reviewing the list — no discussion. You may want to have a copy for each person since people may forget their lists.
  7. Repeat this process every meeting until you see a significant change in effectiveness. Then you can use Group Process Feedback whenever there is a change in effectiveness.

 A key to the success of using Group Process Feedback is that the feedback is about the behavior, not the person. As the leader of the team, you are responsible to ensure that this feedback stays focused on the behavior. Group Process feedback is a powerful tool used by the Big Dogz to facilitate productive team meetings. Experiment with Group Process Feedback and see if it doesn’t improve your team dynamics.