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Discovering a performance issue in a global team July 6, 2009

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Coaching, Diagnosing performance problems, Fixing performance problems, Global communication, Global leadership, Leading globally, Performance issues.
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The Big Dogz know that the biggest problem with managing performance of a remote worker is to identity that there is a performance problem.  Time, culture and technology can mask the signs that a remote employee is having a performance problem. The effective global leader is aware of potential performance problem signals. What do you look for?

Here are some specific signals your global team member may send you:

  • Does not respond to email or voice mail
  • Does not make regular contact with you
  • Deliverables are late, does not notify you
  • Other members of your global team complain to you about the work products or delivery schedule
  • Does not participate in team conference calls
  • Misses status reports
  • Tries to redirect the performance conversation
  • Turns off the IM software
  • Is absent unexpectedly
  • Becomes defensive about questions
  • Updates are unclear or poorly worded
  • Claims computer systems problems keep from getting the work done
  • Describes problems in email rather than a phone call
  • Spending more time surfing the internet
  • Tell you everything is going “great”
  • Productivity is dropping
  • They are excelling at mundane tasks — ignoring major project tasks
  • They do not have awareness of project or company news

Observing these signs does not guarantee there is a performance problem. A general principle to follow is “Is there something unusual happening?” When you see behavior that is not normal, this is a good indicator that something is awry. If it is not a performance problem, then it is probably something you need to become involved with anyway.

The Big Dogz use these signs as guidelines — something to start investigating. As with all performance problems, you will first want to check the person’s ability to do the task assigned. Of course, the Big Dogz do that when they give a SMART objective; but if that assessment was incorrect, now is a good time to adjust. Use the performance feedback process to get the person’s action plan to bring performance back in line with your expectation. Include in your analysis, the workload, the priority in the team for this task and other factors that may affect the person’s ability to perform. Help the person to take action to fix these issues.

If the cause of the performance issue is not ability, then explore the willingness or motivational component of performance. They may have a confidence issue relative to the task. Perhaps you will have to increase your relationship activity with this person, such as encouraging them.

Responding to remote performance issues requires the use of the same techniques and approaches you would use with a co-located performance issue. Of course it will take more time, require the use of technology and adaptation to some cultural issues. The Big Dogz know that paying attention to the potential performance issue signs will pay off in the long run.

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Key cultural patterns for global team leaders June 9, 2009

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Global communication, Global leadership, Management.
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When dealing with a global team, the Big Dogz know that one needs to take into account cultural differences to be effective.  The Big Dogz have a checklist of key cultural patterns they analyze before trying to interact with global team members. Global team leaders who do not understand these patterns often find themselves confused, frustrated and behind schedule!

 Here are the key patterns to investigate: 

  1. Communication styles — how do people communicate in this culture? Are they more direct, more circumspect or more reliant upon non-verbal or tone cues? How soon can you expect a response to a question? What does silence mean? Is it appropriate to interrupt? What exactly does that English word mean in this culture? Non-verbal signals do not always mean the same thing in different cultures.
  2. Attitudes toward conflict — what is the accept method to deal with conflict? Do people raise issues when they disagree or do they behave in less assertive ways? The Big Dogz learn to recognize the cultural signs that there is a conflict.
  3. Getting things done — what is the pace? How do the people feel about milestones and reporting status? When someone says, “I will do that.” What does it mean? You may be surprised that it doesn’t mean the same thing in all cultures!
  4. Decision-making — how do people expect you to make decisions? Does the leader make all the decisions? Can you expect people to contribute to the decision making process? When there is a decision to be made, will the person make it or wait for you to make the decision?
  5. Information disclosure — how open are people to sharing information, especially information about progress? In their culture, is it appropriate to share new knowledge with someone who is higher in the hierarchy? What if they find out some information that would help you divert a disaster; would they share it with you voluntarily?
  6. View of time — is it appropriate to arrive late for meetings or telephone conference calls? How long is the workday? What parts of the workday are not really for work?
  7. Humor — what is funny in this culture? Why don’t my jokes work? Is my view of something funny offensive to them?

 If this seems like a lot to figure out, do not fear. There is an excellent resource to help you sort through all the cultural differences.

 Try http://www.executiveplanet.com/ for insights on how to do business in many different cultures.

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!